Woodford Halse Archive

Woodford Short History

Medieval Times

By 1202, Farndon had already become known as West Farndon. (There were originally more houses to the east of the present hamlet but these were abandoned, perhaps in the 14th century and are now known only through archaeological excavation. The "West" was added to refer to the current part of the hamlet presumably to distinguish from the eastern properties and remained when the eastern part of the hamlet was abandoned. In records of the time, William of Farndon admits before the local Justice that the church at Woodford has rights to eight acres of land at West Farndon.

By 1200, the first stone parish church had also been built – parts of the current building date back to the 1100s. It was the fact that the three settlements all shared one priest, one burial ground and one church (at Woodford) that gave rise to the name of the parish as Woodford-cum-Membris meaning “Woodford and its members” (the settlements of Hinton and West Farndon).

Although the three settlements were joined together in the single parish, at some time in the 12th or 13th centuries Woodford and Farndon became separated from Hinton. In 1329 Lady Matilda de Holand became Lady of the Manor of Halse. Halse, near Brackley, was a major Saxon manor. When Matilda became Lady of the Manor, Halse also included the dependent manors of Brackley, Syresham, Farthingoe, Astrop, Woodford and Farndon. The word Halse was added to Woodford in the 19th century, to distinguish the village from the other Northamptonshire Woodford, near Thrapston.

Woodford and Farndon have at various times been owned by the Earls of Stafford, Shrewsbury and Ellesmere and the Duke of Bridgewater. Hinton passed through the hands of the Catesby family of Althorp (one of whom famously took part in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605), the Drydens and the Knightleys of Fawsley.

Given that Woodford and Hinton were of similar size, why was the parish church in Woodford rather than Hinton? The belief is that the church was built on the site of an earlier burial ground located on higher, well-drained, land. Certainly Hinton was always prone to flooding. In records from 1202 of a dispute about grassland at Hinton, jurors sent to view the site couldn’t do so because of floods.

There is still something to be seen in the fields around the parish from the medieval period. In this time farming was carried out using the open field system, with strips of land of an acre or half an acre each farmed by an individual farmer. The three villages were surrounded by these open fields and the long lines of ridges and furrows that can still be seen in fields around Woodford Halse are evidence of this.

Apart from that, the only visible remains of the medieval period are in the church. The main door dates from the 13th century and the chancel and pews from the 15th. Most of what can be seen of the church today dates from its restoration in 1878, though.

In 1469 a great battle involving perhaps 20,000 men, part of the Wars of the Roses, took place at Edgcote. It is hard to imagine that Woodford Halse was not touched in some way by the event but there is nothing to tell us if it was.

By kind permission of John Williams