The Woodforde Family

A History of the Woodforde Family from 1300



The Northamptonshire Woodforde Family

The pedigree of the Woodforde family of Ansford in Somerset is well documented for two main reasons. First it is the family of the famous diarist, the Revd James Woodforde and consequently has attracted much attention, and secondly many generations of the family wrote diaries and handed on many other manuscripts to their descendants.

The family can therefore be traced back with absolute certainty and adequate documentary evidence to Robert Woodforde who died in the Northamptonshire village of Old in 1574 and who was married to Elizabeth Wymond who died, also in Old, in 1576.   Elizabeth Wymond’s will dated 20 December 1576 instructs that her body `be buried in the churchyard of St Andrew of Old, next to my husband Robert Woodford’ and lists her son Edward and his children, Robert, Henne, Elizabeth, Anne and Margaret.  Additionally, the will of one Gregory Hoyt of Broughton, Northamptonshire refers to a William Woodford as the son of Robert Woodford and Elizabeth Wymond.   

According to a family document written by Alexander John Woodforde of Locking, Somerset, "Robert Woodford came from Leicestershire into Northampton and settled at Scaldwell c.1496 and married one Wymond".

Robert and Elizabeth had four sons – Edward, Thomas, Richard and William.  From Richard (of Thornby) is descended the Woodford family of Welford and later of Creaton; from William is descended a further branch of the family based in Broughton, Northants. From Edward is descended the Ansford Woodford family.  It is not known whether Thomas had any descendants. 

The earliest known Woodford diary is that of a great-grandson of Robert and Elizabeth, namely Robert Woodforde (1606-1654) who was born in Old, Northamptonshire, and died in Northampton.  By virtue of his occupation, this Robert is known to the family as `Robert the Steward'.

Incidentally, the first appearance of a final (e) in the spelling of the family surname is in the Parish Record of the baptism of this Robert Woodforde.  All known descendants of Robert Woodforde through his eldest son Samuel have retained this final (e).  No other branch of the Northamptonshire family has this spelling.  

The more well-known diarist, the Revd James Woodforde, Rector of Weston Longville in Norfolk was one of this Robert’s great-grandchildren.


In Northamptonshire Record Office as NRO: R(K) 470-473.

Northamptonshire Archdeaconry Wills, 1st series Book W Folio 226/227 in Northamptonshire Record Office as NRO: R(K) 470/3.

See for instance the pedigree in D.H.Woodforde, Woodforde Papers and Diaries, Peter Davies, (London, 1932).

Northamptonshire Archdeaconry Wills. 1st series Book A P.148. A copy is in Northamptonshire Record Office under NRO: R(K).470/1.

J.Bridges, History and Antiquities of Northamptonshire, ed Whalley. 2 vols (Oxford, 1791).

 D.H.Woodforde records her father having spoken of this event.

 I.Payne, A Leicestershire Royal Descent: The Woodfords of Ashby Folville and Muston in Genealogists’ Magazine, Ed.F.L.Leeson, Vol 24. No.4.(December 1992), p 257ff.

Cal.Fine.R.1Edw vi. 20 June 1548. Entry 27. De Banco Roll 979 Hilary 22 Hen VII (1507).

Close Rolls. August 3rd 13 Henry VII, Westminster.




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© Stephen Butt 2004 - rev 23/10/05



However, despite the enthusiastic activity of a number of family historians, a link between this Northamptonshire branch of the family and the ancient Woodford family of Leicestershire has not been proven. Some published pedigrees include a John Woodford of Scaldwell, a village adjacent to Old, who is said to be the father of the earlier Robert Woodford (husband of Elizabeth Wymond).  However, John of Scaldwell’s will, dated 8 April 1513, notes that the legatees are his brother Robert, his son Eusebius, and his daughters Katherine, Elizabeth, Mary and Alice, and his wife Agnes. 

The Northamptonshire antiquarian Henry Isham Longden of Lamport devoted much attention to the Woodforde family pedigree, but a card in his handwriting in the Northamptonshire Record Office index for John Woodford of Scaldwell says that “(John of Scaldwell) is said to be the earliest ancestor of the Revd James Woodforde. Of this claim I can find no proof.”

The Leicestershire-Northamptonshire Connection

There are a number of reasons for accepting the proposition that this Northamptonshire Woodforde family is a branch of the ancient Woodford family of Leicestershire. 

Several editions of Burke’s Peerage suggested that Robert Woodforde (1606-1654) was a descendant of Robert Woodford of Bucks, the son of Ralph Woodford of Ashby Folville. The text is as follows: `His (ie: Sir Robert Woodforde’s) great-grandson, Sir Robert Woodfoorde (sic) married in 1489 the daughter and heir of Gate of Burnham co. Buckingham, and was ancestor of Samuel Woodford, DD.’ Samuel was the eldest son of Robert Woodforde, Steward of Northampton. This was revised in later editions to become the simple and more cautious phrase, `the descendant of an ancient family’.

According to Bridges
the Woodford heraldic arms as described in the cartulary could be found in numerous Northamptonshire churches. This same coat of arms is common in churches in Leicestershire and neighbouring counties including Ashby Folville, Edmundthorpe, Stapleford, Sproxton, Wymondham and Ouston.

It is recorded that the Woodforde family of Ansford, Somerset, had in its possession many family documents from possibly the 14th and 15th Century which were lost or destroyed after the death of the Revd Alexander Woodforde in Locking, Somerset in 1909.  It is said that immediately after the death of Alexander, these documents along with many diaries and other papers were accidentally sold as waste and were carted away and destroyed.

The two families were in adjacent counties and there are manorial links between these two families.   A Ralph Woodford received lands from John, Lord Zouch of Harringworth after the latter’s disgrace in 1485 following the battle of Bosworth, and, much earlier, Nichols notes that in 1230 `William la Zouch of Haringworth, co Northampton, knt,. Deceased, held Brentingby, as a member of Thorpe-Ernald.’  Harringworth is in Northamptonshire and in the vicinity of the village of Old.