North side of Defford Church
St James' Church. Defford.

Any one looking for historic records for the Parish of Defford should also include the historic parish of St. Andrew, Pershore in their search. This is because for hundred's of years Defford was a part of the ancient parish of St Andrew and its church was a Chapel of Ease.


Please contact us if you have something to add to the timeline or if you spot any inaccuracies, thank you

Discoveries to date.

The Defford Timeline


Defford was situated in the area known as  Horwell (Harley) Wood.

The Abbot of Pershore held land in the place that we now call Defford.  (it was probably just a clearing in the woodland)

Kings Edgar confirmed, in a Charter, that the Abbot of Pershore had 10 manses in Defford. 

Pershore Abbey would have been the Mother Church for the people of Defford. They would have been expected to go to church in the nave of Pershore Abbey.

Late 10C

This was a time of great unrest,  Pershore Abbey lost control of a lot of its land  - Probably Defford was. included.


On the death of the Earl of Mercia much of the land lost to Pershore Abbey went back into the control of the King, King Edward the Confessor.  He used it to endow his monastery at Westminster - Defford was included in this grant of land so the people who lived in Defford became tenants of the Abbot of Westminster. The Abbots of Westminster organised their local estate into a new manor, the Manor of Binholme.  The administrative centre of this vast manor was situated in Pershore not far outside the abbey lands.


The Abbot of Pershore was not happy!  He would not allow the tenants of Westminster Abbey to worship in the nave of Pershore Abbey, their parish church, so the Abbot of Westminster built a new church for his tenants.  The church was dedicated to St. Andrew.  The small community in Defford found themselves living and worshipping in the Parish of St Andrew.  


Defford was now in :

  • The County of Worcester
  • The Hundred of Pershore
  • The Parish of St. Andrew
  • The Manor of Binholme
  • Around Defford itself there were smaller sub manors each subject to the Manor Court of Binholme.

The freeholders of land in Defford had to attend the Hundred Court which was situated in Calcroft in Pershore near the Abbey. 


The name Defford means "deep ford," this must have been significant for Defford people who had so many reasons to travel from Defford to Pershore!  


The Domesday Book states that Defford was included in the Estates of Westminster Abbey. The Abbot of Westminster let out  land in Defford to tenants.

Two frenchmen held 2 hides but Alcock a monk had some land and this was probably in demense (a sort of home farm)



Circa 1100 the village probably has a church, it was built on the circular mound in the centre of a very small settlement.  The evidence: the current church has a doorways that date to the 12th century. The sculptured head in the south doorway is likely to have come from earlier times.


The Manor of Defford was a part of the great Manor of Binholme in Pershore.  The Abbot of Westminster was the Lord of the Manor.  We think the land of the Manor of Defford was divided into parcels. The Abbot kept one parcel as part of is demense ( home farm) the rest he let out.  Much of Defford was let out to the d'Abbitot family who were subject to his court in Pershore. The d'Abbitots let out a parcel of their land to the Spencer family. Another parcel of land, around Coppins Court was let out to another family. The Abbot of Pershore still kept a grange and a tithe barn; this was probably owned by the Abbey before the estate was split. 



There was work done to the church in the 13th century. Evidence find the north wall north wall and look for the blocked up doorway. 

14th C

The church was extended and improved at different times in the 14th century. Evidence look at the architecture of the buttresses to the 8' square tower  and the shape of the west window. ( Download a copy of the windows timeline)


The Abbots of Westminster were running the whole of the estate themselves.

The porch was added to the church in this century.



In Pershore the monastery was dissolved and any land held by the abbots was sold to new secular owners by Henry VIII but in Defford things were different. The Abbey at Westminster was dissolved like all the other monasteries but the church at Westminster was a royal peculiar and Henry VIII established a new foundation to organise the running of the old abbey church.  To endow it he transferred the lands which provided the endowment to old monastery so the Dean & Chapter of Westminster Abbey became the Lords of the Manor of Binholme and patrons of the abbey's churches. In 1540/41 and 1555 they carried out surveys of the woodland, The documents are still in the Library at Westminster.

By 1579 after several changes one of the parcels of land in Defford was in the hands of Sir Rowland Berkeley.  Another was administered  with land in Birlingham by the Russell family, this ended up as part of the Croome Estate.


When Elizabeth 1 was queen all churches, including Defford were to have communion cups.


A new bell was cast. Henry Farmer.

17th century

Political stability and economic growth led to  a housing boom in the late 17th and early 17th century.  Some of the timber framed houses that were built in these times can still be seen today. Noake Court with its cruck frame construction is probably the oldest. 


An Estate is in the possession of Sir Edward Sebright was in possession of one of the Defford estates.

By this time  there were new windows in the south nave walls of the church - note the shape of the windows.

The religious upheaval that followed the Reformation and the establishment of the Church of England resulted in the establishment of cap els for dissenters, often in remote places, In Defford the dissenters set up a chapel in Woodmancote. 

Not all was well in the Defford Churchas is illustrated in this record of a court case:

From the County Court Sessions The case against Rev Henry Hunt of Defford

" that he is a malicious and contentious person, and useth scandalous speeches without regard to time or place, but even in the church, sometimes before and sometimes after divine service, hath been known to break out into violent swearing before he came forth of the pulpit, taunting and reviling Rvd. Damanne, and throwing stones at him in the field to provoke him to strike him, and threatening to make him so poor with suits that he should be glad to sell his mortuary for twopence;"


Horwell Wood timber was felled during the Civil War.

During the Interregnum the Manor of Binholme was sold to Sir Thomas Culpepper


Ursula Corbett of Defford was burnt at Worcester for poisoning her husband - she had been married 3 weeks!


Horwell Wood is described as waste or common ground.

When did Lord Coventry become a major landowner?


Inclosure Act.  (Priv Act 14 Geo III cap 70)

Defford common fields are enclosed but the common remained unenclosed.

7 acres of enclosed land to 300 acres of common (- not sure what this means.

During the negotiations the Dean & Chapter of Westminster objected to the allotment of 6 acres of Defford Common to the Earl of Coventry on the grounds that it was part of Horwell Wood.

An estate in the possession of Sir John Saunders Seabright.

In the church a west end gallery was installed it still contains some panelling from an old pulpit.

Early 19C

Land is used primarily for general agricultural use there was no special crop.


The Dean & Chapter of Westminster were still the Lords of the Manor

Victorian landowners 

Owner Earl of Coventry. Bigger tenants John Checkett and Thomans  Green.

Owner Sir John Sanders Seebright

Owner Robert Woodward

Owner Chapel Warden

Defford Common - there is a list oc commoners who lived on Defford Common.

Tithe Owners

Reved Thomas Whitaker 

Frances Allsop

Demund Oldacre and Willaim Woodward

The Vicar of St Andrews and the Chapelry of Defford


Population of Defford 463 ( but joke disputes this and says not half as many because there had been 11 public houses 1:16 inhabitants until mid 19C)

Besford population 164. it had no public house or beer shop!

The children went to the National School in Pershore.

The Midland railway line came through Defford and there was a station . Orchards and market gardening  flourished as now produce could be transported quickly to the growing markets in the industrial towns of the west midlands.

Defford and Besford both ancient chapelries of St Andrew's Pershore become their own ecclesiastical district. The chancel was rebuilt and St. James becomes the Parish Church for a new parish of Defford cum Besford.There was a choir and a Sunday School in the church.

In 1862 Defford gets its own vicar and vicarage - Revd George Swinden.  Miss Porter of Birlingham gave the land for the parsonage house. The Patrons  are the Dean and Chapter of Westminster


The Ecclesiastical Commissioners become Lords of the Manor of Binholme.


Parish is made up of 1691 acres. Arable 313 acres, permanent grass 659 acres, woodland 14 acres.

Village is in the east of the parish 100ft above ordnance datum but falls to 50ft at Defford Common.  Brine springs on the common were worked at some time - too weak to be profitable.

Mostly modern but includes a few old black & white houses.

Bristol-Birmingham Branch of the Midland Railway The  station to the south of the village.

Woodmancote is a hamlet - Plymouth Brethren meeting house.


1940 Land is requisitioned from Lord Coventry

1941 RAF Defford build an airfield on Defford Common. The Airfield constructed for the flying experiments for radar that were being developed near Malvern

Telecommunications Flying Unit


Airfield closes because the runways were too short for large jet bombers


The railway closes

Changes on the Croome Estate affect Defford


With the sale of the Croome Estate land becomes available for residential development.  


A new Village Hall is built


Defford Common is still home to one of the radio telescopes that make up the Jodrell Bank MERLIN (Multi-Element Radio Linked Interferometer Network) radio telescope array linking six observing stations that together form a powerful telescope with an effective aperture of over 217 kilometres.