Revd Alexander John Woodforde

The Revd Alexander John Woodforde was born in Ansford on 3 August 1839.  He gained a BA degree in Divinity from Hatfield House, Durham University (now Hatfield College) 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.

It is recorded that he also served as curate at St John's Parish Church in Weston-super-Mare, at which time he lived in 'Chittagong Villa' in Shrubbery Walks on the town's Worlebury Hill. 

Revd Alexander Woodforde outside the chancel door at Locking Parish Church (1901)
Revd Alexander Woodforde outside the chancel door at Locking Parish Church (1901)

He was the son of Ansford solicitor George Augustus Woodforde and Harriett Maud Leir, eldest daughter of Revd William Leir, Rector of Ditcheat, 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.

Elizabeth Laishley
Elizabeth Laishley

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 major landowners in Ansford.

He married, on 11 January 1870, Elizabeth Laishley, the only child of George New 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.  She was buried at Ansford.

The Revd Alexander John Woodforde
The Revd Alexander John Woodforde


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

On 27 September 1886, Alexander John 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.

Note by Randolph Woodforde on underside of writing box
Note by Randolph Woodforde on underside of writing box

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

A brief report in the Weston Mercury and Somersetshire Herald records 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.

According to Dorothy Heighes Woodforde, one of his granddaughters, many family papers were lost in 1909 when the family left Locking after his death.

The family memorial in Locking churchyard
The family memorial in Locking churchyard

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

The plaque above the lychgate at Locking Parish Church
The plaque above the lychgate at Locking Parish Church

Miss Gimingham lived in the Manor House in the 1890s.  It is said she was a remarkable woman who was a keen photographer of life in the village, organised a village band, gave generously to the church and held woodworking classes producing carved panels which can still be seen in the church.

Miss Gimingham in the black dress and the Revd Alexander John Woodforde can be seen in this photograph from 1895 taken in the paddock (now the park) in front of the Manor house.

The children of Alexander John Woodforde and Elizabeth Laishley

Alexander George Leslie Woodforde
Alexander George Leslie Woodforde
Robert Edmond Heighes Woodforde
Robert Edmond Heighes Woodforde
Reginald Fielding Marriott Woodforde
Reginald Fielding Marriott Woodforde
Georgina Maud Woodforde
Georgina Maud Woodforde
Harriet Ethel Berkeley Woodforde
Harriet Ethel Berkeley Woodforde
Margaret Cecily Neville Woodforde
Margaret Cecily Neville Woodforde
Katherine Delicia Woodforde
Katherine Delicia Woodforde

Alexander George Leslie Woodforde -  Born 19 September 1873, Died Auckland, New Zealand  4 August 1953.

Robert Edmond Heighes Woodforde -  General Practitioner. Born 23 December 1874 who married Mary Thorne.  Died 2 July 1957, Weston-super-Mare.

Reginald Fielding Marriott Woodforde - Electrical Engineer.  Born 30 November 1880.  Died 6 November 1962, Weston-super-Mare.

Georgina Maud Woodforde - Born 2 November 1870 who married Edmond Clarke. Died 12 September 1950.

Harriet Ethel Berkeley Woodforde - Born 8 April 1872 who married, on 31 October 1905, Revd George Frederick Jackson MA, English Chaplain at Hyeres, France.  Died 28 April 1953.

Margaret Cecily Neville Woodforde - Born 31 July 1876. Died 4 January 1947.

Katherine Delicia Woodforde - Born 26 April 1878. Died 13 September 1904 (suicide).

Ethel Harriet Berkeley Jackson nee Woodforde with her husband, Revd Frederick Jackson and sons, Gerald (left) and Eric.
Ethel Harriet Berkeley Jackson nee Woodforde with her husband, Revd Frederick Jackson and sons, Gerald (left) and Eric.
Margaret Cecily Neville Woodforde (right) with Mona Butt nee Woodforde, 1931.
Margaret Cecily Neville Woodforde (right) with Mona Butt nee Woodforde, 1931.