Railway Sign

disused railway station 




This short history draws heavily on Brenda Courtie’s “The Story of Woodford cum Membris” and on Jim Anscomb’s “Woodford cum Membris and the Great Central Railway”. It covers the most important parts of Woodford Halse’s history but much more is known about the village, its history, its buildings and people that is not mentioned here. 

To locate buildings, modern street names have been used, although these may not have been used when the buildings were constructed. 

The Bull family were one of the oldest in the next-door village of Eydon, being amongst the first names listed in the church registers of 1540 and continued living in the village for the next four hundred years. The last baptisms are recorded before World War-1, with the older people dying out just after World War-2.  

Somewhere along the way the Bull family must have “overflowed” to Woodford Halse, for it was from here that Susannah Bull met and married Thomas Chamberlain of Preston Capes, 17 October, 1831. 

Prehistory & Roman Times 

Almost nothing has survived from the people that would have lived around Woodford Halse in prehistoric and Roman times. Some Bronze Age flint tools found to the west of West Farndon show that people were here around 3000 years ago but we just don’t know whether they lived on these hills or were only passing travellers on the Jurassic Way between the major prehistoric centres in Peterborough and Wiltshire. Certainly nothing has been found to show signs of permanent settlement from that period. 

Even the Roman period seems to have left no real trace beyond a few pieces of pottery from the second and third centuries AD found near to West Farndon. However, with the major settlement on Borough Hill near Daventry and the Roman town of Lactodorum (Towcester) nearby it is likely there was farming in the area. 

Saxon Wodeford & the origin of village names 

From about 600AD, Northamptonshire was part of the Saxon kingdom of Mercia and it is from Saxon times that we have the first mention of the settlements that would come to make up Woodford Halse. Collection of the Danegeld (a tax to fund "protection money" paid to deter Danish invasion) in 991AD was arranged through groups of settlements called "Hundreds" and Waredone Hundred (Chipping Warden) included the settlements of "Farendone", "Hintone" and "Wodeford". 

These names originated from local features and people. Hintone came from "Higna Tun" (Higna's Farm), Farendone from "Feren Dun" (Fern Hill) and Wodeford presumably from "Wood Ford", a crossing of the River Cherwell. 

Norman Times 

Less than 100 years later, Saxon England was over-run by the Normans after their invasion in 1066. In its aftermath the great assessment of the lands of England carried out By William I and recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 provides our first real insight into Woodford, Hinton and Farndon. 

Woodford and Hinton were of similar status, both having two hides of land (once thought to have been 120 acres, a “hide” is a measure of value, representing the land that generated £1 income each year.) with five ploughs and a mill and both valued at sixty shillings. Even then, Farndon was the least important of the three. It was valued at only five shillings, with a quarter of a hide with only a single plough. 

The three manors of Woodford, Hinton and Farndon were held (along with 100 or so others across England) by Hugh de Grentesmaisnil, a French nobleman, one of only 15 individuals named in contemporary accounts as taking part in the invasion alongside William. 

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 dispute records from 1202 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

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. 

Enclosure, Farms & Manor Houses 

In the 17th and 18th centuries, many open fields across England were enclosed by land owners. Enclosures began in Northampton-shire in 1727, reaching Hinton in 1753, Woodford in 1759 and West Farndon in 1761. At the same time as fields were enclosed, public roads were identified to make it easier to travel between villages where the fields had been enclosed. These public roads are the basis of the network of lanes in and around Woodford Halse today. The word “lane” is a memory of the enclosure of the open fields; it means “hedged on either side”. 

Around the middle of the 17th century many of the old houses of Woodford Halse—probably originally built with cob walls (made of earth, cow dung, straw and lime) on a shallow foundation of stones and with thatched roofs—would have been rebuilt in stone. It is still possible to see what may be the original foundations for cob as shallow plinths at the foot of some of Woodford’s old stone buildings. 

By the end of the 17th century, Woodford was made up of a number of houses along what is now School Street, High Street, Quinton Lane and Parsons Street. Between the Church and High Street was an area of glebe land belonging to the church. 

Hinton too was a cluster of stone houses around Pool Street and Hinton Road while West Farndon would have been larger than it is today, with houses clustered around where the farms are now. 

There were a few larger houses. Some were the house of farmers—Jaffe House, Vicarage Cottage, Top Farm, Tews Farm and Pool Farm all date from the late 17th century. There was certainly one manor house. Hinton Manor—at the junction of Phipps Road and Hinton Road—was begun in 1695 and was intended for the use of the Lord of the Manor although it was never finished as intended. Woodford Manor, a grand building on School Street dating from the 17th century was never occupied by a Lord of the Manor since Woodford and Farndon were still part of the Manor of Halse. Perhaps a steward responsible for the village was housed in the house that preceded it. Before Woodford became part of the manor of Halse it would have had its own manor house but so far it has not been identified. Equally, Manor Farm in Farndon may have housed a steward for that part of Halse. 

Woodford’s farming was a mixture of animal rearing and crop growing. Farmers would often butcher their own animals but for grinding corn they would rely on one of the mills in the parish. In 1786 there were at least two mills nearby; records show a Thomas Jessop took out insurance policies on his mills at “Farnton” (later known as Woodford Mill at the foot of Barnett’ Hill on the road between Hinton and Eydon) and at Burnt Mill (actually in Eydon parish). These were both water mills. There were also windmills, probably wooden built post mills. One was at Woodfordhill on the road towards Canons Ashby and the other on the Farndon Road from Hinton just before where the railway bridge is now. 

Church and Chapel 

From the reign of Henry VIII onwards, St Mary's church weathered the changes from Catholic to Protestant back to Catholic and finally to Protestant again. Its fortunes evidently waxed and waned—records talk of broken stained glass, missing and loose seats in the chancel, the need for a bell and parts of the church needing paving. In 1706 the churchwardens repaired the roof and in 1749 they were repairing the church bells.  In the 18th century other places of worship also began to appear in Woodford Halse. 

First came a community of Moravians, protestant Christian evangelists that trace their origins to persecuted protestants in Bohemia and Moravia. In 1788 William Hunt licensed the property now known as School House as a Moravian preaching place. The congregation grew so that only 21 years later, they were able to build a chapel and minister's house in Parsons Street. A new chapel was built after the community’s 100th anniversary and opened in 1906. This building and the minister’s house (“The Manse”) next door are still standing. 

In the early 19th century, Methodism reached Woodford. In 1808 a Methodist preaching place somewhere in the village was registered and in 1813 a second. In 1820 a building at Farndon Mill was registered as a preaching place. Other Methodist preaching places are known in Hinton and by 1879 the first purpose-built chapel (together with a stable and coach house to accommodate the visiting preacher’s transport) had been built near the junction of Phipps Road and Hinton Road. A new chapel—the one still in use today—was built alongside it and opened in 1902. 

In 1917 the Roman Catholic Church of St Joseph opened its doors. Built beside what is now the Social Club on the site of three cottages, the church ceased to be used and is now a private house. Today, Catholics from the village worship either in Aston Le Walls or in Daventry. 

St Mary the Virgin Church


 Historical Family
1. Ancient Beginnings
2. English Family
3. Parliamentary
4. Coming to N.Z.
 Persons of Renown
Sir John & Sir William Chamberlayne
Sir Roger Chamberlayne
Sir Leonard Chamberlain
Sir Thomas Chamberlayne I
Sir Thomas Chamberlayne II
Major Thomas Chamberlain III
Edward Chamberlayne
Thomas Pardoe
John Chamberlain
Gen. Joshua Chamberlain
Col. Thomas Chamberlain IV
Henry Bowland
Joseph Chamberlain
Giles E. Chamberlain
Sir Austen Chamberlain
Neville Chamberlain
Gertrude (Burford) Rawlings
Isaac Sykes
Owen Chamberlain
Robert E. (Bob) Chamberlain
 Particular Places
County Down
Preston Capes
Woodford Halse
 Supplements, Historic, Biblical
Mail Box
The Reason Why?
Destiny's Lodestone
The Feud For Zion
What A Difference A Name Makes
 No Simple Passage
 Preston Capes
 Wilton Family
 Genealogy Software
No Simple Passage
The Journey of the "London" and her passengers from England to New Zealand in 1842. Thomas & Susannah Chamberlain, together with their four children sailed aboard the London on this voyage to Port Nicholson. The author is Jenny Robin Jones a descendant of one of the passengers. The book was published in 2011 by Random House ISBN 978 1 86979 510 8
Wiltons Galore

The Pioneer Story of Robert Wilton and Elizabeth Denman from Montacute, Somerset, England and continued through their children and grand-children in New Zealand. Mary Wilton married Arthur Joseph Chamberlain, and this is the story & record of her family.
This book was compiled by descendant Jo Wilton and published in 2007 by Colin Watson & Colin Liddell
ISBN 978 0 473 11318 6

Petticoat Pioneers
Petticoat Pioneers 

Stories of New Zealand's North Island women of the colonial pioneering era compiled and recorded for us by author Miriam Macgregor. Two of the women featured in this book are Susannah Catherine (Bull) Chamberlain and her daughter -in-law (Catherine McKenzie) Kitty Chamberlain.
This book was published in 1973 by A.H.& A.W. Reed, Wellington, New Zealand.
ISBN 0 589 00771 8

Paddy the Wanderer
Paddy the Wanderer 

The true story of an Airedale dog who captured the heart of the city of Wellington during the dark days of depression. Also captured here is Paddy's association with Blue Taxicab manager, Merlin Chamberlain. The author is Dianne Haworth, a dog-lover and editor of Animal's Voice, who lives and works in Auckland.
The book was published in 2007 by HarperCollins NZ.
ISBN 978 1 86950 625 4

On the Trail of
Parker & Walker

Parker-Walker Families

This 2015 self-published family history has been put together by Marjorie Prictor on the trail of Parker and the Walker families who came to New Zealand in the 1860s. Marjorie is a descendant still living in the Northland district of Port Albert where each of these families settled.

Douglas Family Reunion

A family history of the Douglas Family in Australia, compiled in 1981 for a family reunion by sisters Grace Douglas & Rosalie Vanstan of Bendigo, Victoria.
Downloadable as file-093 from the Supplements Page.