The Woodforde family of Ansford in Somerset became well-known when edited extracts from the diaries of the Revd James
Woodforde were published by Oxford
Press in the 1920s.
The continuing popularity of Parson Woodforde's material is encouraged by the Parson Woodforde Society which is dedicated to the understanding of his life and times.
The Ansford Family
The first member of the family to move to
Somerset was Robert (Robin) Woodforde, younger son of Revd
Samuel Woodforde DD and Mary Norton (Samuel's second wife). Samuel was the eldest son of Robert Woodforde (1606-1654) of Old, Northants and his wife Hannah Haunch. In a
distinguished career, Robert served as Treasurer and
Canon Residentiary of Wells Cathedral. Details of his boyhood are provided by his mother's diary which is held at New College, Oxford.
The Ansford family descends from the Revd Heighes Woodforde (1664-1724) who was Robert's half-brother, Samuel Woodforde's eldest son from his first wife, Alice Beale. His son, also Revd Samuel Woodforde (1695-1771) became the Rector of Ansford in Somerset.
His brother, Revd John Woodforde, was rector of the nearby parish of Curry, and a nephew, Revd Francis Woodforde (1748-1836), son of Thomas Woodforde (1707-1800) also became rector of Ansford.
The Revd Samuel Woodforde's eldest Son, also named Heighes Woodforde (1726-1789), became an attorney in Ansford. Samuel's second son, Revd James Woodforde, was the distinguished diarist.
Woodforde's eldest son was William Woodforde, `Nephew
Bill' of Parson James's diaries. His eldest son, another William
Woodforde, became a doctor and worked in the United States. Heighes' second son was the painter Samuel Woodforde RA. His portraits of several members of his family are an important part of the Woodforde legacy.
William's youngest son, George Augustus Woodforde, married
Harriet Leir and followed his grandfather into the legal profession. George Augustus had nine children. His youngest son, the Revd Alexander
John Woodforde, was rector of Locking in
Somerset. He married Elizabeth Laishley on 11 January 1870.
Elizabeth was born in Lausanne, Vaud, Switzerland, on 5 February
1835. Her father was George Laishley.
Another son, George William Woodforde (born 15 December 1844) married Harriet, the daughter of Revd Robert F Lawrence, Vicar of St Mary's, Chalgrove, Oxford. George William died on 27 March 1892 leaving five children, Oswald William Randolph, George Augustus (obviously named after his grandfather), Harriet May Mabel, Helen Gwendoline Neville and Alice Evelyn French.
The Revd Robert French Lawrence
The Revd Robert French Lawrence was a distinguished member of the
clergy. Born in 1807, he was educated at
and was Vicar of St Mary's, Chalgrove, Oxford and St Helen's, Berrick,
Salome, for fifty three years until his death in 1885.
He opened a school for the villagers and taught there himself, but he is best remembered for campaigning for better cottage accommodation for agricultural labourers.
The small thatched cottages he built remain
to the present day. His campaigning on behalf of farm workers who were living in poverty
brought him into conflict with the landowners, including some of the
Oxford Colleges, and he became secretary of the local agricultural
labourers' trade union.
He is mentioned in Bishop Anthony Russell's The Clerical Profession.
The sale of manor lands from the late 17th century gave rise to several freeholds notably that of James Collins (d. 1727), mainly at Lower Ansford, which he left to his second wife Hester (d. 1738). The property later came to Jane (Collins), wife of the rector Samuel Woodforde, and her half sister Martha, wife of Dr Richard Clarke.
In 1771, Ann
Powell sold Ansford rectory with church, churchyard,
house, glebe, and tithes to Thomas Woodforde (d. 1800),
In 1776 it was decided that, although not mentioned, the advowson had passed to Thomas in 1771. Thomas's son Francis left it to his son Francis and son-in-law Thomas Fooks in trust for sale. In 1838 it was sold to the rector, George Chamberlaine, also Francis's son-in-law.
Thereafter it was held by
incumbents or their relatives, including the Colby
family. Aline Spence-Colby of Tarsop House,
Herefordshire presented it to the bishop of Bath and Wells
By 1838 seven members of the
Woodforde family owned 52 acres between them including
the former rectory house and grounds, which they
regarded as a family home and in 1823 exchanged with
the then rector for another house in the village. Two
members of the Clarke family jointly held 51 acres.
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. Street directories at the time listed the Revd Alexander John Woodforde and his brother Randolph as the chief landowners in Ansford.