This website records the history of a family with the surname Woodford(e).   

The name is from Old English pre-7th Century 'wuda' meaning a wood, and 'forda', a shallow river crossing or occasionally a bridge.

There may be many families with the same name because woods and fords are common in the English landscape.  This family takes its name from villages in the Woodford Valley near Salisbury in Wiltshire.  Some of the men who left that village adopted the surname or were described as 'de Woodford'.

The story begins with John de Woodford who left the Woodford Valley at the end of the 13th century, or in the early years of the 14th century, and settled in Brentingby near Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire.

His descendants settled in Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Somerset.  They also emigrated to America in the 17th century.

The River Avon in the Woodford Valley
The River Avon in the Woodford Valley

The Woodford Valley

The Bishop of Salisbury held the manor of Woodford from before the Conquest until 1869 when it was transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.  They sold the land in 1920.  

As the manor was in the ownership of the Church for over nine hundred years, few land or property transactions took place and so few records were created.  This lack of documentation limits research into the people who lived there.

There are prehistoric sites on the higher ground of the parish, but only isolated buildings today.   A bridge at Upper Woodford was in existence in 1370.  The population is concentrated in three villages in the valley: Lower Woodford, Woodford or Middle Woodford, and Upper Woodford.  Until the beginning of the 19th century, Upper Woodford was also known as Great Woodford.  Lower Woodford and Middle Woodford together were known as Little Woodford or Nether Woodford. 


The surname is first recorded in Scotland in the latter half of the 12th Century whilst the first namebearers in England were Daniel de Wudeford, recorded in the 1196 pipe rolls of Oxfordshire, Gilbert De Woodford held lands in 1214, and Geoffrey de Wodeforde in Somerset in the Hundred Rolls of the year 1273.  

The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Joardan de Wodford, which was dated circa 1170, a charter witness at the Abbey of Aberbrothoc during the reign of King William of Scotland.  

William de Wodefaud was returned as a knight of the County of Wiltshire in 1307 but there is no evidence of a specific family styled `de Woodford' existing in the area.  The manuscripts of the Duke of Norfolk include a copy of a grant to an Adam de Wodefolde dated 5 January 1287/8 for `one acress of arable land in Multune (Melton)'.  

The antiquarian historian Francis Peck noted a Robert Wodefaud as a convert in the Hospital of St Thomas in Stamford in 1299.  In the same year, Brother William of Woodford was appointed Abbot of Peterborough.  In some pedigrees, including those reproduced by John Nichols in his History & Antiquities of the County of Leicester,  Brother William is described as a `kinsman' of John Woodford of Brentingby.  

A different William Woodford succeeded William de Melton as vicar of Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire in 1319, resigning in 1323.  A John de Woodford was presented to the same church in 1324.