Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire


St Mary, Westwood.

The parish church of St Mary, with the Manor House behind

Westwood was a separate manor from Bradford, but its church became a chapel of the mother church of Holy Trinity in Bradford.

The manor belonged to the Priory of St Swithun in Winchester and was counted as a part of the Bradford Hundred until the 13th century, when the Prior claimed to be free of it. At times and formally from the 16th century, it was considered to be part of Elstub, a hundred made up of the scattered Wiltshire properties of Winchester Cathedral which owned much of the parish until 1911.

Westwood became a separate civil parish in 1876 and was enlarged by the addition of land from Great Bradford and Wingfield in 1885 and again in 1934 when Elms Cross was taken from Bradford. It sometimes appears as Westwood-with-Iford.

The site

Most of the parish is on undulating farmland that is gently sloping towards the east, but this is bound on the north by a steep wooded slope into the valley of the river Avon and in the west by the valley of the River Frome. The village is divided into Lower Westwood which developed around the church and manor house and Upper Westwood, which is strung out along the crest of the ridge above the Avon valley. There are smaller hamlets at Lye Green in the east, Avoncliff in the north, Staple Hill in the west and Iford right on the border with Somerset. The distinction between the Upper and Lower villages has become blurred in the west, where late 20th century housing estates have developed between them.

The name is fairly self-explanatory: Westwuda was the western wood, presumably with reference to being west of Bradford.

A Roman building, of which roofing stones and plaster have been found was situated on the hill overlooking the Frome valley above Iford. King Æthelred II granted two mansae (or hides, perhaps about 240 acres together) at Westwood to one of his thegns called Ælfnoth in 983, but in 987 the king granted it and another half-mansa (bringing the area to very roughly 300 acres) there to his huntsman Leofwine; perhaps Æfnoth had died or had fallen out of favour. Westwood today covers 957 acres (387 ha), including the territory it gained from Bradford. Westwood formed part of the dowry that  Æthelred granted his wife Emma in 1002. King Cnut, who married Queen Emma after Æthelred’s death, confirmed her holding, as did their son Harthacnut. She gave it to the Priory of Winchester in memory of Harthacnut after he died in 1042. The manor lay at the northern edge of the Forest of Selwood (Sealwudu) that stretched across the border of Somerset as far as Dorset and so was subject to forest laws. The last remnants of Selwood Forest were disafforested in 1627.
After the Reformation the ownership of the manor of Westwood continued in the possession of the Cathedral of Winchester until it was sold off in 1911.

Westwood parish, including Iford had 1,163 inhabitants in 2001 according to the Census, rising to 1,220 in 2011. Today it is largely a dormitory village for people working elsewhere. It has a primary school, a shop and two public houses: the New Inn in Lower Westwood and the Cross Guns in Avoncliff. Agriculture is still carried out, but quarrying, which was formerly a major industry is extremely reduced. A mill on the Avon at Avoncliff developed into a major woollen factory at the end of the 18th century. Downside is a flourishing plant nursery in Upper Westwood. During World War 2 the Royal Enfield armaments company employed many people here and later motorcycles were made.

There is a small railway station at Avoncliff and local buses run to Bradford and Trowbridge.

Westwood Wiltshire history