Episode 27 – Abbot’s Salford, Warwickshire

I have been looking forward to this episode for quite a while, because our tour stop today is in my home county of Warwickshire! It’s also very close to a couple of places we have already visited, being just a few miles south-east of Abberton and Abbots Morton.

We have a really nice hotel to stay at in Abbots Salford, because Salford Hall manor house was converted into a Best Western Hotel a few decades ago. Other than that, the village has few amenities and we’ll need to travel a mile up the road to Salford Priors if we need to go to the shops.

The ‘Salford’ name comes from the Evesham-Stratford road that passes through the two villages, and crosses over the River Arrow at Salford Priors. Merchants used to carry salt from Droitwich Spa all across the country, including along this road. Hence ‘Salt ford’, which became ‘Salford’.

The Arrow ends its journey just beyond the crossing, where it pours into the River Avon. The Avon continues southwards, passing by the east of Abbot’s Salford, through Evesham, and onwards towards the sea.

The ‘Abbot’s’ part was added on when the Abbey of Evesham was founded in the early 700s. Coenred, king of Mercia, was a religious man and gave Salford Major (now Salford Priors) and Salford Minor (now Abbot’s Salford) to the abbey in 708. A year later he would abdicate his throne to go on pilgrimage to Rome, where he became a monk. This was something quite a few Anglo-Saxon kings did.

After the Norman Conquest, Norman lords were grabbing up as much land as they could, and Odo of Bayeux, William’s half-brother, was no exception. William had made him a bishop in 1049, as he attempted to consolidate the Norman lands in what is now France. After they conquered England, he made Odo the Earl of Kent as well.

Abbot’s Salford appears to have been among the lands seized by Odo, but the abbey was able to get it back, and it’s listed under the lordship of Evesham Abbey in 1086 at the time of the Domesday Survey. There were sixteen households, which was about average size, but it only granted a small amount of value in tax. The land was mainly farmland for crops, and there was also a mill.

While Salford Priors would eventually be granted to Kenilworth Priory (hence the name), Abbots Salford remained under Evesham Abbey up until the dissolution of the monasteries.

In the 13th Century, the manor was given to the use of Evesham Abbey’s cook, and in the Taxatio Ecclesiastica of 1291 was valued at £3 5 shillings, or about £3,500 today. Once we get to the dissolution, in 1535, it was worth nearly £11 or £8,600 today.

As we have seen so many times before, the land reverted to the crown. Abbot’s Salford and Salford Priors, like the rest of Evesham Abbey’s land, was given to Sir Philip Hobby, whom we met just two weeks ago at Abbots Morton. He didn’t hold on to the land, but sold it to an Anthony Littleton.

Littleton died without sons, but his daughter married John Alderford. She later died having no children, and he married Elizabeth Morgan. It was John Alderford who started building Salford Hall at Abbot’s Salford in 1602.

After John died, the villages of Salford Priors and Abbot’s Salford were divided, one to each of his daughters. Eleanor Alderford married Charles Stanford, and it would be their descendants who enjoyed living at Salford Hall for the next two centuries.

Charles’s son John Stanford was involved on the Royalist side of the Civil War, and was given a hefty fine for this. But in 1648 he claimed that he was forced into becoming a Royalist and this was accepted by the Parliamentarians. Because of this, his fine was removed. The family had retained their Roman Catholic beliefs even after the Reformation, but even though the Royalist side was mainly Catholic there were Catholics on the Parliamentarian side as well.

John died the next year in 1649 and his son William succeeded him. Thanks to his father getting the debt discharged, this meant William didn’t have financial troubles.

His sister Anne became a nun in 1650. There were no more Catholic institutions in England, of course, so she went to Liege and took the name Anne Tecla of the Assumption. She was fully inducted as a nun in 1652, aged 21, and died just two years later in 1654.

William didn’t have any children of his own, so their other brother John took over the manor in 1690 after William died. John married Mercy Sheldon, the daughter of Francis Sheldon of Abberton.

John and Mary’s heir was William, and he would live at Salford Hall until 1767. During that time he converted a part of the hall into a Roman Catholic chapel, which would be served by Benedictine monks. William and his wife had six children, the eldest son and heir being Robert. Robert died in 1789 but had no heirs, so his widow took over the running of the estate.

As Britain became more tolerant religiously, more and more Catholic orders were able to return to the United Kingdom. Robert Berkeley of Spetchley Park, just east of Worcester, requested that nuns from Cambrai, northern France, be allowed to use Salford Hall as a nunnery. Robert Stanford’s widow agreed.

After she died in 1812 she bequeathed the manor to Robert Berkeley, which allowed the nuns to remain longer-term. They resided at the house until 1838, when they moved to Stanbrook, Worcestershire.

He died in 1845, and passed on the manor to George Eyston. George then passed it on to his son, John, who sold it in 1944.

Though the manor house today has been converted into a hotel, it retains a lot of the stained-glass windows and wall murals that would have been put in hundreds of years before, some even back to the days of John Alderford.

Next time we’re off to Hampshire and the Saxon village of Abbot’s Worthy, where we’ll find a man who was involved with the plot to get William of Orange on the English throne – before he got his head cut off!



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