It is mostly the towns and cities that have their histories recorded, but many Northamptonshire villages have published their records in various ways. Heyford too has a rich historical heritage, and this series of booklets is one way in which we can record some of our local past, both for our own interest, and for the benefit of our descendants.
Heyford was mentioned in the Domesday Survey as `Heiforde – 2 hides and 1 virgate of land’. The mill was also specifically mentioned, ‘rendering 16s’. But even before then the area had been occupied. The Romans were here as was evidenced by the remains of a roman building found in Horestone Field in 1699. Stone axes and flint scrapers have been found, suggesting that earlier peoples also settled in the area. The word `Heyford’ takes its name from either the old English word ‘heg’ meaning hedge or `haeg/hage’ meaning hay. Hence Heyford means either ‘the ford by the hedge’ or ‘the ford over which hay is carried’. The proximity to the river and the fertile land around it means that this has always been a good place for a settlement.
The Church was built in the early 1200s and the first rector was Ralph in 1216. In 1601 it acquired its first two bells. Nonconformists have been here too. During the 1700s there were Quakers living in the village. Then in the early 1800s the Methodist and Baptist chapels were built, both flourishing well into the twentieth century.
The village has been most fortunate in having had a school since 1674. It was endowed by William Bliss of London, a native of Heyford, and has ensured that for more than 300 years the children of Heyford have had the opportunity of a good basic education.
The digging of the canal in the 1790s and the opening of the railway in the 1830s brought new trade to the area. Towards the end of the 1800s the two furnaces were in operation, followed later by the brickworks. This meant that the Furnace Lane area between the canal and railway was a hive of industry. Trade in lime, coal, bricks and iron ore created a flourishing business community.
There have been many meeting places where the business and social life of the village has been conducted. Activities in the Manor House, the Rectory, the Jubilee Hall, the Old Sun and Foresters Arms, the Church and Chapel Rooms, the School Hall and the Village Hall have all played their part in shaping the evolution of our village.
The Green is another important focal point. It has played a central role in the village for as long as anyone can tell. It is very much a public place and has been used for fairs, fetes, sports days, football, cricket, and many other village events. It therefore breathes life into the village and is justifiably called `Heyford’s lung’.
During the 1960s the village changed its character enormously. It became transformed from a rural agricultural community with a stable, but ageing population, into a modern thriving community with good communications and many new faces. It still remains a wonderful place to live, with a rich heritage of which we can all be proud, and which it is our responsibility to preserve for future generations.
Extract from “The Story of Heyford” – Local book series published in the late 1990’s