The name ‘Bashforth’ is part of a group of names derived from one or more place names usually spelled ‘Basford’ in modern times[1]. One can be eliminated immediately. Basford in Nottinghamshire (now part of the suburbs of the City of Nottingham, known as Old Basford) is pronounced ‘Baseford’ and has been since the Domesday Book. It remains the source of Basford and Basforth variants having the long ‘ae’ pronunciation.

There are at least three potential origins for the name, each having the short ‘a’ sound. Basford in South East Cheshire (Berchesford in the Domesday Book) lies approximately four miles due east of Nantwich and two miles due south of Crewe, and within easy travelling distance of both the Staffordshire and Shropshire borders. Basford is a township in the parish of Wybunbury. Nineteenth century place names were Basford Hall, Basford Wood and Basford Station. Basford Hall still remains in modern times. The Domesday book[2] entry reads:

The same William (William Malbank) holds Berchesford. Owine, Erlekin and Leofric held it as 3 manors and were free men. There is one hide paying geld. There is land for 2 ploughs. There 3 radmen and 2 villans and 3 bordars have 1 plough. There is 1 virgate of meadow, (and) woodland 4 furlongs long and 1 wide. It was worth 5s; now the same. They were waste.

At the end of the nineteenth century its 671 acres sustained a very small rural population: 54 in 1891 and 69 in 1901, despite having a railway station.

Basford in Staffordshire (Bechesword in the Domesday Book) is a township of the parish of Cheddleton four miles south of Leek. Among the nineteenth century names were Basford Villa, Basford Bridge, Basford Bridge Farm and Basford Hall. Modern names include Basford Hall, Basford Green and Basford Grange. The Domesday book entry reads:

In Bechesword, which belongs to this manor (Cheddleton), is half a hide. There are 4 villans and 1 bordar with 1 plough. There is 1 acre of meadow, (and) woodland 2 leagues long and 1½ leagues broad. The whole is worth 15s. Godwine held it and he was free. [now held by William of Earl Roger as part of Cheddleton]

At the end of the nineteenth century it was also of low population, though qualified as a village (modern day Basford Green) and had a substantial aristocratic seat at Basford Hall.

The common prefix Berche or Beche appears in many place names the length and breadth of the country. It appears to be of Old English origin and was probably a personal name: hence ‘Beche’s ford’. One can already see in this name some of the variations in spelling and pronunciation that developed over the subsequent centuries. The change from ‘s’ to ‘sh’, from ‘f’ to ‘w’ and from ‘d’ to ‘th’ – all characteristic of old regional English dialects. It is surprising, given the ubiquity of the prefix that there are not more potential centres of origin bearing the same place name. It is equally not surprising that there are a number of very similar name groups, principally the Batsfords and Beresfords, with very different origins but a tendency to occasional overlap.

Although not listed in Domesday Book, there is a third possibility: a suburb of Newcastle under Lyme, also called Basford, in the northern part of the town. Intriguingly, all three places can be found along a common route, on the same latitude, in the space of approximately 25 miles running east-west between Nantwich and Leek. A distance like this would have been considered not unusual for a day’s walking. From Leek there is a route north across the Peaks towards Derbyshire and South Yorkshire.

The most substantial cluster of names and modern settlements is in Staffordshire, but this is not necessarily any guide as to name origins. The Basford group of names could have been related to any of the three places. Neither of the Domesday entries suggests anything in the way of inequality. Both communities lay close to roads used by carriers, especially salters, throughout the middle ages. David Hey has identified at least three well-used routes for the salt trade, respectively via Congleton, Macclesfield and Stockport, any of which would have provided appropriate ways into south Yorkshire via Penistone or Sheffield.[3] Of the two potential sources, Basford near Leek is closer to the Peak District and the routes which lead into south Yorkshire through Derbyshire. However, David Hey has also commented that of the two routes into the West Riding the more northerly route over the Woodhead pass at Salterbrook was the more ancient, and quotes an eighteenth-century source as expressing the view that the Woodhead route was more easily passable for goods than the Winnats pass through Derbyshire[4].

There is documentary evidence in the accounts for Haddon Hall in Derbyshire that mentions a hawker by the name of Basford, but this gives no clue as to the pronunciation of the name or of where he came from. ‘John Basford and Crosse and other hawkers’ were given a seasonal tip or present of ten shillings on 14 January 1565.[5]

We can be reasonably certain as to the general area from which the name originated, along the route from the salt producing area of Cheshire, across the nearby border into north Staffordshire, and onwards into Derbyshire. Exactly how and why it spread to other parts of the country, is largely a matter of speculation. For some ideas, see the ‘Spread’ page.

Note on the name ‘Bashford’

The name ‘Bashford’ however seems to have a different origin, despite the very common misspelling of Bashforth as Bashford in public records and common parlance. Data from the 1881 Census shows a major concentration of this name in the Surrey, Kent and Sussex areas and the southern outskirts of London. There is little or no overlap with either Basford or Bashforth names and their particular patterns of distribution, though a closer examination of the earlier evolution and spread of the Bashford spelling in parish records may throw more light on this.

Following the same principles as above, the most likely origin of the name is the village of Betchworth in the Mole Valley in Surrey. The village lies to the east of Dorking and 3 miles west of Reigate. London is less than 20 miles away. The village name in the Middle ages was listed as Becesworde (Domesday Book, 1086), Beceswrde (12th century) and Bechesworth (13th Century). It is noticeable how similar these spellings are to the place in Staffordshire that is now Basford. In Old English dialects, the ‘w’ was sometimes pronounced as an ‘f’ or soft ‘v’ and the ‘de’ as a soft ‘d’ or ‘th’. It is ironic that the place name spelling remained closer to the earlier origins than the derived surname.

[1] The principle variants are Basford, Basforth, Bashford, Bashforth, Basworth, Bashworth. Older spellings may add an ‘~e’. There can be cross-confusion with Batsford and Beresford variants. The distinction between long and short ‘a’ pronunciations is deserving of separate investigation, but documentary evidence from the past presents obvious problems. There is also a Besford variant which seems to centre on Northumberland around Beresford.

[2] All quotations are from the Penguin composite edition of Domesday Book.

[3] D Hey: Packmen, Carriers and Packhorse Roads, (Landmark Publishing Lts, Ashbourne 2001), see map on page 111.

[4] D Hey: A History of Penistone and District, (Wharncliffe Books, Barnsley, 2002) pp 120-121. It is fair to say that the source quoted, a letter dated 28 January 1723 from Daniel Baker to William Gore is rather more ambiguous. The original letter is quoted in full pp 146-7 of  T S Willan, The Early History of the Don Navigation (Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1965), and the relevant sentence reads: ‘The commodities to serve London and the Fleet as they say, came allways through Barnesley, being the more passable way than the moor towards Sheffield…” One requires a large degree of contextual interpretation to reach Dr Hey’s more specific description, though it seems reasonable.

[5] Quoted in D Hey: Packmen, Carriers and Packhorse Roads, (Landmark Publishing Ltd, Ashbourne 2001) p137, from the Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, XVI (1894) pp 61-85.


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