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October 2011 meeting

 Bidford - village or a town?


The speaker at Bidford History Society’s meeting was Professor Christopher Dyer. He has made a study of mediaeval towns and villages in Warwickshire, and posed his audience the question “Is Bidford a village or a town, and where does it fit in?” 

Bidford was at the centre of a large and complex area. It sat astride the River Avon, with the parish centred on the river and a Roman Road from North to South running through the parish, carrying trade and travellers over the river, and offering rest and refreshment to those who stopped on their way through.  

The geometry of Bidford suggested a place of some substance, with facilities to match. On a thirty mile stretch of the Avon, the river was straddled by only three towns; at Warwick, Stratford and Evesham, but Bidford also provided a crossing place, with two fords and (from an accurately dated moment the 15th century) a bridge to carry traffic and people across. An ancient Saxon burial ground lay close to the centre, and the boundaries had already been established for some five hundred years.

It was, moreover, a place with royal connections; a trading and milling centre listed in the Domesday Book and the earlier Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and the centre of a great estate.

But the local Minster church was not at Bidford. It was two miles down the road at Salford Priors.  Bidford had a secular standing, a market and some non-agricultural trades but Salford had the religious primacy.

In Professor Dyer’s view, Bidford was always squeezed by the proximity of Alcester to the north, and the neighbouring towns of Stratford and Evesham within easy reach along the south-western axis. Like all settlements it was badly affected by the Black death but did not recover as others did.  In the 15th century the village had an opportunity to establish a hinterland, but the moment passed, and its status remained unchanged. His conclusion was that Bidford was always a village with aspirations, but never managed to establish itself as an equal among its neighbours.

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