Beckford

Although not a large village, Beckford (population 602) is a village of much activity. The Vale Wildlife Centre has its base here and this rescue facility is open to visitors. The village has a post office and stores and is also the home of Beckford Silk. There is also a village club and thriving tennis club.

Beckford village

Beckford village in the early part of the 20th Century

On the edge of the village, alongside the main A46, is the Beckford Inn and Hotel, built in the 18th Century as a coaching inn. The building has been extended and refurbished many times over the years.

Beckford was formerly known as Beccanforda. Reference to the St John the Baptist Church is made in documents of 803AD and it was found to have distinct Saxon foundations when it was restored in 1911. Indeed, the church started its life as a Saxon monastery, like that at Bredon. The church has many fine and unusual early Norman carvings. Its tower houses six bells.

An Iron Age village is known to have existed in a field next to the present village.

Beckford Hall

Beckford Hall

Beckford Hall has catered for three other variants of Christian practice. It stands on the site of a priory founded for the Augustine Canons in 1128. In the early 15th Century the priory became Beckford Manor. From 1551 until 1836 the Wakeman family held the Manor and allowed it to become a Catholic centre of worship. No doubt it was also a secret hiding place for members of the Catholic community during the Reformation and Civil Wars, similar to Woollas Hall. Both buildings have priest holes – places in which Catholic priests could hide from secular law. Its current style is Jacobean, indicating that it was rebuilt in the early 17th Century during the reign of James I.

From 1936, Beckford Hall was used as for young students in the Aslesian Order. The building no longer serves a religious function and has been split into apartments.

Beckford Church and lychgate

Beckford Church and lychgate

There are legends indicating the presence of a short tunnel leading from the Hall to the church. A legend concerning a much longer tunnel exists in the village, however. There is an old tradition of a tunnel leading right through the hill to Elmley Castle, while a legend in Ashton-under-Hill states that a tunnel links the Manor to the priory at Beckford, the remains of which exist, supposedly, in the cellar.

 

 

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