Salford Priors Population: 1911 = 823; 2001 = 1451
Salford Priors is first recorded as Saltford in 714 because it was a ford crossing the river Arrow on the Salt Way from Droitwich to Hillborough. Another ford crossed the river Avon to Cleeve. A turret on the south side of the church is believed to have carried a beacon for the guidance of travelers crossing the Avon.
The parish is known as Salford in the 1086 Doomsday Book. The names of Salford Priors and Abbots Salford arise from early possession of lands by Kenilworth Priory and Evesham Abbey.
Salford Priors is a large parish at the south-western extremity of Warwickshire. The land slopes gradually down 250 feet from Rough Hill on the Worcestershire border in the eastern extremity of the parish to the river. The higher lands were tree and underwood covered until about 1840. The low-lying ground by the Avon and Arrow was very marshy, field-names such as Broad Marsh, Britain’s Marsh, and Durham’s Marsh occur in 17th-and 18th-century deeds. That whole area was drained during the early 19th century.
The parish is a typical rural village, a spectator at great events. It is probable that the royalist armies of 20,000 men marched through to the Battle of Evesham in 1215 and that both Royalists and Roundheads passed through during the civil war. Many sons of the village died during the wars of the 20th Century.
Owning the Land – The Manors
Salford Major was given by Kenred, King of Mercia, to the Abbey of Evesham in 708. By Edward the Confessor’s time it had passed to the Countess Godiva; In 1122 Geoffrey de Clinton granted it in his foundation charter to Kenilworth Priory.
Salford Minor was included in Kenred’s grant to Evesham Abbey in 708 and, remained in the possession of that house until the Dissolution, it became Abbots Salford. The manor came into the king’s hands at the Dissolution and passed through many hands eventually becoming freehold.
Wood Bevington, Cock Bevington and Dunnington belonged to Kenilworth Priory. After the reformation the land was leased out by the Crown and then sold to St. John’s College Oxford. Some 300 years later the college sold the freehold of the property to the Trustees of the Ragley Estate in 1930.
The Evesham-Stratford main road passed through Abbots Salford and Salford Priors, crossing Ban Brook and the Arrow by the ford from which the village takes its name.
Salford Ford is mentioned in 1654 and may well have been in use until a bridge was built in 1806. The map of 1728 shows no bridge or through road.
It was probably owing to the lack of a bridge at Salford that the Stratford-Evesham road was never turnpiked and was not considered of sufficient importance to be marked west of Bidford on any 18th century map.
The Evesham-Alcester road, which was turnpiked, runs northwards along the ridge through the middle of the parish. The roads off to left and right all date from 1633 or earlier. Other lanes have disappeared and many have changed their names.
For example, the road from Park Hall to Dunnington, across what was once Dunnington Heath, used to be known as Gallows Lane, from the gallows that stood on the Heath in the 18th century. The parish map of 1787 shows a number of roads which have changed their names and a formal crossing of the Arrow.
Salford Priors railway station.
The railway came to Salford in 1866, a section of the Evesham to Alcester line. With the coming of the railways transport of local products to major cities began.
The original station buildings still stand and are now industrial premises. The railway closed to passengers on a ‘temporary basis’ in 1962 because of the poor condition of the track and the line closed completely in 1964.
Most historical records concern the handful of land owning families and give little detail of the population. We know that agriculture was a principal industry, initially for survival.
Bevington, like many Warwickshire villages, suffered from the Tudor enclosure movement. In 1506 William Grey, the tenant of the manor, turned 64 acres of arable into pasture, rendering 40 people destitute and homeless. His son William continued the process and by 1547 180 acres had been enclosed and 6 houses destroyed.
Dunnington Heath, where the tenants of Salford Priors, Cock Bevington, and Wood Bevington enjoyed their common rights, was enclosed by an Act of 1783. Bevington Waste, formerly an extensive tract of underwood, was converted to arable farming about 1872.
In the river fish and eel farming is recorded up to the mid 18th century.
Some mineral extraction was attempted. In the field known as the Vineyard, adjoining the church on the west, are some mounds and ditches which may belong to old gravel pits. There were salt springs at Bevington with a tithe for salt mentioned in the 12th century and a salt spring at Pitchill as late as the 1850s. Some unsuccessful efforts were made at the end of the 18th century to mine coal on the eastern borders of the parish.
Until around 1870 there was a cottage industry in glove-making, supplied from Worcester. From then on the sole occupation was agriculture, largely fruit-farming and market gardening.
Salford Hall in Abbots Salford belonged first to Evesham Abbey, then to Kenilworth Priory until the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Its history is traceable back to 708 AD.
It consists now of three ranges about a rectangular courtyard. The west range probably belonged to a late 15th century house built by the Abbots of Evesham. The north and east ranges in local blue lias, Cotswold oolite, and sandstone were added by John Alderford in 1602. The work of enlargement was completed by his son-in-law and successor, Charles Stanford.
The Stanfords were a Roman Catholic family and early in the 18th century converted the ground floor of the north range to a chapel, which was served by Benedictine monks from 1727 until nearly the end of the century. From 1807 to 1838 the house was occupied by a community of English Benedictine nuns from Cambrai, it is still locally known as the Nunnery.
Within Salford Priors stand a number of ancient timber framed houses. These are the survivors of many properties built with local materials which fell either into disrepair or were destroyed by enclosures.
There is a significant number of properties over 150 years old, many updated.