St Augustine's Parish Church, Locking
St Augustine's Parish Church, Locking

Locking, Somerset

The village of Locking in Somerset became part of the Woodforde story when the Revd Alexander Woodforde was appointed rector at St Augustine's in 1894.

Alexander John Woodforde was born in Ansford on 3 August 1839. He gained a BA degree in Divinity from Hatfield House, University of Durham, 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 rectory (now demolished) have survived.

He was previously 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.

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 inherited the Ansford estate because his elder brothers, Charles Neville and Robert Reginald Augustus, died unmarried and without issue.

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

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 at the door to the chancel, Locking Parish Church
Revd Alexander John Woodforde at the door to the chancel, Locking Parish Church

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

"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 from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

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 for the period list the Revd Alexander Woodforde and his brother Randolph as the chief landowners in Ansford.

Revd Alexander John Woodforde with (L-R) Katherine, Agnes Marie (née Collett), Reginald,  Alexander John, Harriet, Robert, Alexander George (sitting) and Margaret. c.1899
Revd Alexander John Woodforde with (L-R) Katherine, Agnes Marie (née Collett), Reginald, Alexander John, Harriet, Robert, Alexander George (sitting) and Margaret. c.1899

The Tomkins Family

Another colourful side to the family were the five aunts of Elizabeth Laishley including Miriam, Ellen, Eliza and Emma Tomkins. 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.

The children of Revd Alexander Woodforde and Elizabeth Laishley

The Lychgate at Locking erected in memory of Revd Alexander John Woodforde
The Lychgate at Locking erected in memory of Revd Alexander John Woodforde

Alexander George Leslie - Born 19 September 1873, died Auckland, New Zealand,1953

Robert Edmond Heighes  - GP, 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).

Stephen Butt, the author of this website, is the grandson of Reginald Fielding Marriott Woodforde, being the son of Reginald's daughter Mona Gertrude Woodforde.

In the churchyard are buried Katherine Delicia Woodforde, Revd Alexander John Woodforde (1910), Margaret Cecily Nevil Woodforde (1947), Agnes Mary Woodforde (1920), Reginald Fielding Marriott Woodforde (1962), Winifred Elizabeth Woodforde (1983), and Robert Alexander Woodforde (ashes, 2018).