Habitation in the vacinity of the present day Beckford can be traced back to around 60AD...
A brief Village History
The village of Beckford stands on the site of a Romano British settlement. Excavations at two points above Court Farm disclosed barrow loads of Roman pottery and poorer quality English pottery. No doubt there were Roman homes in the neighbourhood between about AD 60 and the middle of the 4th century. Also discovered were coins bearing the superscriptions of following emperors:
Vespasian AD 67 – 79
Hadrian AD 117 – 138
Severus AD 146 – 211
Gallienus AD 260 – 268
Crolius II AD 268 – 270
Maxetius AD d. AD 312
Constantine I AD 306 – 337
Constantine II AD 337 – 340
Valens AD 364 - 378
With the withdrawal of the Roman legions in AD 409, Beckford succumbed to the Saxon invasion. These Saxons, in due course, were converted Christianity and we know that there were monasteries which were virtually mission stations at Beckford, Berkeley, and Cheltenham. In the Saxon Chronicle of Worcestershire, the church is referred to as Beccanforda.
The religious house and church built in AD 750, if not earlier, were doubtless of timber and yielded fruits to Weremund, Bishop of Worcester about that time. Hence we can say that, although the foundation was later than Gloucester Abbey, it was prior to Deerhurst, Cirencester and Winchcombe and long preceded Tewkesbury.
There is record of a dispute between the bishops of Worcester and Hereford concerning the procurations (payments made by the incumbents to their bishops) of Beckford. This dispute was settled by the Council of Cloveshoe in AD 803 which indicates that there was an established church in Beckford from early Saxon times. This was reinforced in 1911 when the present building was restored and distinct traces of Saxon foundations were discovered.
It is clear therefore that the village has had a church on the same spot for over 1200 years.
Beckford also appears in the Doomsday Book of AD 1085, the entry reading:
“In Tetboldstane hundred; Rotlese the Housecarl of King Edward held Beceford”
In the reign of Henry I, the Chamberlain of Normandy, Rabellus, gave the manor of Beckford with Ashton to the Monastery of St Barbe in Auge (St Martin and St Barbara) in Normandy, which had been founded as a house of Augustinian Canons in 1128. A Prior, believed to be Robert Fitz-Alan and one or two Canons were sent over to occupy Beckford, which was called a “Cell”. In 1247 the Abbot, and Convent of Corneilles let the parish church of Beckford with the chapel at Ashton for rent of 60 marks, to the Prior and Convent of St Barbe in Auge. This arrangement was recognised by Walter Cantilupe, Bishop of Worcester in 1248. When the alien priories were seized by Edward I, Edward II and Edward III, the Prior seems to have retained his possessions on payment of a ‘ferm’ to the Exchequer.
In the reign of Richard II however, the custody was granted first to one of the King’s clerks in 1379 for a rent of 100 marks a year and in 1383, for life, to a knight named Sir John Cheyney. In 1399 when Henry IV restored many of the alien priories which were conventual, Sir John argued that the manor of Beckford was not a conventual priory and had no spiritualities attached to it, and thus he succeeded in obtaining confirmation of the grant of Richard II in 1383. Beckford came under the act of 1414 for suppression of alien priories and the church then passed the care of the secular clergy and was known as the Manor.
The fruits of the Priory were bestowed by Henry VI on the “Kings College of our Ladys of Eton”, but King Edward IV transferred the gift to Fotheringay Collegiate Church shortly after the dissolution and later, in 1547, King Edward VI granted the Manor and park to Sir Richard Lee from whose family it was purchased in 1586 by Richard Wakeman.
The Wakeman family held Beckford from 1551 until after the middle of the 19th-century, a period of 300 years. Up until 1836 it was an important Roman Catholic centre and stronghold becoming the centre of worship for Roman Catholic families in the area. After the death of William Wakeman in 1836, Beckford passed out of Roman Catholic hands until 1883 when the Ashton Case family acquired it. In 1936 they sold it to the Salesian Fathers as a house of novitiates for their young students.
A more detailed history of Beckford can be found at... the British History website. This is well worth a visit for anyone interested in local history.