The Woodforde Family

A History of the Woodforde Family from 1300



Alexander John Woodforde was born in Ansford on 3 August 1839.  He gained a BA degree in Divinity from Hatfield House, Durham University and served as vicar of Shepton Montague, near Castle Cary, and as vicar of St Augustine's Locking, near Weston-super-Mare from 1894 until his death in 1909. A number of his watercolours of this church and the vicarage (now demolished) have survived.  

He was previously also curate at the Parish Church of St John in Weston-super-Mare, at which time he lived in Chittagong Villa in Shrubbery Walks, on Weston-super-Mare's Worlebury Hill.

He married, on 11 January 1870, Elizabeth Laishley, the only child of George New Laishley of Clarence Lodge, Shirley. Elizabeth was born in Lausanne, Vaud, Switzerland, on 5 February 1835, and died at Lausanne on 5 February 1885 aged thirty five years. 

Their children were:

Alexander George Leslie Born 19 September 1873
Died Auckland, New Zealand 1953
Robert Edmond Heighes General Practioner. Born 23 December 1874  who married Mary Thorne
Reginald Fielding Marriott Electrical Engineer. Born 30 November 1880
Georgina Maud Born 2 November 1870
Harriet Ethel Berkeley


Born 8 April 1872 who married, on 31 October 1905,the Revd George Frederick Jackson MA, English Chaplain at Hyeres, France.
Margaret Cecily Neville Born 31 July 1876
Katherine Delicia Born 26 April 1878. Died 13 September 1904 (suicide).


During the time when Revd Alexander Woodforde was at Locking, the living had a yearly value of 437 including thirty seven acres of glebe.  The Merchant Venturers of Bristol were the lords of the manor and principal landowners. 

In the 1881 Census, Alexander, Robert, Harriet and Margaret are registered as members of the household of Thomas G Wails in Park Row, Castle Cary. Seven children of the Wails family are also listed as well as a governess (Elizabeth Barton of Bradford, Wiltshire) and two servants.  It is assumed that at this time the Revd Woodforde's wife, Elizabeth Laishley, was ill and was being nursed in her home area of Lausanne. Possibly, they took their eldest (Georgina) and two youngest (Katherine and Reginald) with them, leaving the four children of school age at Castle Cary.

A small oak writing box is still in the family's possession which bears a handwritten label stating that it is the property of the Revd Alexander Woodforde but is temporarily in the care of his brother Randolph whilst Alexander is away. 

On 27 September 1886 the Revd Woodforde secondly married Agnes Marie Collett, the daughter of the Revd William Collett. They had one child, Dorothy Cecil, who was born 20 December 1888 and died 8 January 1889.


Revd Alexander John Woodforde

Revd Alexander John Woodforde

The son of Ansford soliticor George Augustus Woodforde and Harriett Maud Leir (eldest daughter of Revd William Leir, Rector of Ditcheat, Somerset), the Revd Alexander John Woodforde, served for many years as the vicar of Locking in Somerset. 

Although being the third son in his family, he inherited the Ansford estate because his elder brothers, Charles Neville and Robert Reginald Augustus, died unmarried and without issue.  The old Elizabethan Ansford House, which had been in the ownership of the Woodforde family for almost two centuries, accidentally burned down in April 1893, but street directories for the period list the Revd Alexander Woodforde and his brother Randolph as the chief landowners in Ansford.

 Revd A.J.Woodforde and his family

Revd Alexander John Woodforde 
and his family c.1895

(l-r: Margaret, Agnes Woodforde nee Collett, Reginald(standing), Revd Alexander Woodforde, Margaret, Robert (standing), Alexander (seated) and Georgina.)   

The following inscriptions are to be found on the monuments marking the family grave in Locking Churchyard:

Reginald Fielding Marriott Woodforde 1880 to 1962

Rev. Alexander John Woodforde died 29 December 1909 aged 70

Winifred Elizabeth Woodforde 1904 to 1983

Agnes Marie, wife of Rev. A.J. Woodforde died 24 December  1920

Catherine Delicia, daughter of Rev. A.J.W. died 1904 Age 26

Margaret Woodforde 1876 to 1947

(Winifred Elizabeth was the second wife of Reginald).


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Locking Parish Church

Locking Parish Church

The Revd Alexander Woodforde was an amateur watercolour painter, and several of his paintings of Locking Church and rectory have survived.

Watercolour of Locking Church by A.J.Woodforde

The same view as painted by the 
Revd Alexander John Woodforde

The Lych Gate at Locking Parish Church, in memory of the Revd Alexander Woodforde, was constructed by local men and boys who attended a wood-carving class held by a Miss Gimmingham, who lived at the Manor House. Members of this group carved many other items for the church.


Lych Gate dedication

Lych Gate dedication

A local newspaper report states that the Revd Alexander Woodforde read the lessons at an Anniversary Service in the Chapel of the West of England Sanatorium on Weston-super-Mare's sea front, on 11 May 1889.


Locking Lychgate

Locking Parish Church Lych Gate

According to Dorothy Heighes Woodforde, a granddaughter of Revd Alexander, many family papers were lost in 1909 when the family left Locking after the death of Revd Alexander Woodforde.  

"He was a great collector of family stories and traditions (inventing not a few himself), and all existing letters, diaries and note books were very carefully kept by him. Immediately after his death all these letters, and many of the diaries, were accidentally sold as waste paper.  

"My father, arriving a day or two later, found a few of these letters of these letters in the stables where they had been dropped by the man who carted the rest away, but very little has ever been recovered." 

Amongst the lost papers, according to Dorothy, was "a great deal of material of a much earlier period which had never been examined", probably 14th and 15th centuries.   

The Tomkins Family

A further colourful side to the family were the five aunts of Elizabeth Laishley including Miriam, Ellen, Eliza and Emma.  They had inherited a considerable wealth from investments in slum property in Southampton, England. They all lived in Worthing, England but regularly visited the Holy Land as they supported the (Christian) Mission to the Jews. 

Their surname was Tomkins.  According to a biography of Revd Alexander John Woodforde by his grand son Oliver Woodford, W.S.Tompkins was the stepfather of Elizabeth Laishley. 

Elizabeth Laishley

Elizabeth Laishley

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Stephen Butt 2004-2005 revised 09/12/06