In the Middle Ages, Woodford was part of the royal hunting forest and, in 1248, the manor of Woodford was one of several in the Barony of Stockport. In 1300, the forest stretched from Leek in the south to Marple in the north and was 10 miles wide along the western Pennines. Land was cleared and improved for agriculture in the late 13th century and a corn mill existed by 1296. In the 13th century, Woodford (known as Wideford or Wydeford) was a subordinate manor in Poynton held by the Stokeports. In 1355, land at Woodford was granted to the Davenport family. At this time Woodford was a hamlet on the edge of the Macclesfield Forest.
The Davenports originally lived in Old Hall on Old Hall Lane which is now Old Hall Farm. The date is uncertain, but it was known to be there in 1370, much of the original building having been destroyed by fire. The Davenports built New Hall further down the lane in 1630. Their initials and Coat of Arms appear above the entrance. It was used by the family until it was purchased by AV Roe company in 1924.
Woodford was in the middle of a densely wooded area and, as the name implies, there was a ford where the footpath now crosses the River Dean near to Old Hall Farm, providing a route to Macclesfield.
In the 19th century, in addition to agriculture, many residents in Woodford were engaged in trade and industry. There was a blacksmith, a brick maker and a calico printing mill. Silk weaving was a domestic industry carried on in a number of homes, including some of the old cottages which remain in Woodford today.
In 1837, the Dean Water calico printing mill was built where Wilmslow Road crosses the River Dean. Deanwater House (now the Deanwater Hotel) was built as the manager’s house and cottages for the workforce were built in Kingstreet. The name formerly referred to this hamlet, rather than the road. The mill closed in 1848 and burnt down in 1851. 172 people were employed at the mill, of which half lived in the parish of Woodford.
Christ Church was built in 1841, a primary school was built in 1847 at the instigation of the Bromley-Davenport family. Farms, small holdings and cottages on the Woodford Estate were rented by tenants and many local names appear in the list of tenants, including Hallworth, Worthington, Shatwell, Jepson and Holland. In 1922, the estate was sold by the Davenports and purchased by Arthur Fifette, who put it up for auction in 52 lots. Many former tenants purchased their properties. The sale of the estate allowed new dwellings to appear in Woodford, resulting in small developments along the main streets, such as Chester Road and Moor Lane, which were originally country lanes. The structure, character and community of Woodford reflect that history and descendants of those families still live here today.
The Davenport Arms, known locally as the Thief’s Neck carries the Davenport Coat of Arms, which includes an image of a felon with a rope around his neck. In a Scrap Book of Woodford 1953, members of the WI and friends reported that old inhabitants could recall the current Davenport Arms being built to replace an earlier one, which was a thatched building destroyed by fire.
Woodford Aerodrome was a major landmark. The airfield was created from farmland by AV Roe during late 1924. In the mid-1930s several new buildings were erected prior to the start of the Second World War. Planes manufactured there include Avro Ansons, Lancasters, Vulcan nuclear bombers, civil airliners and the Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft. From 1968 to 2000 an annual air show was held at the Aerodrome, organised by the Royal Air Forces Association. In 1989, 3000 people were employed on the site, but in 2012 BAE Systems closed the site with the loss of the remaining 630 jobs. The site was purchased by Harrow Estates and the buildings have been demolished to make way for houses. The Avro Heritage Museum has been created on site with an excellent display, including a static Vulcan.
Woodford War Memorial Community Centre was built in 1953 on a 4 acre plot on Chester Road as a memorial to those who lost their lives during World War II. The money was raised by interest free loans from members of the community and fund raising activities. Now under the custodianship of the Charities Commission the premises and operation are covered by a constitution, with daily running organised by a committee of volunteers. The roof shape was designed with acoustics for amateur dramatics in mind and, while it is generally acknowledged that the building is not a thing of beauty, the facility is precious to the community.
District boundaries have changed over time. In 1866 Woodford, was part of the parish of Prestbury, in Macclesfield. In 1939, it was incorporated into the district of Hazel Grove & Bramhall, which included the hamlet of Moor End and in 1974 it became part of the Metropolitan Borough of Stockport.
The population of Woodford was around 300-400 in the 19th Century, with a marked increase over the last 100 years. Census data show that the population was 430 in 1851, 392 in 1861, 304 in 1901, 801 in 1931, and 1,211 in 2011. The electoral register in 2014 included 1,157 people in Woodford. The number of dwellings has increased with the population. According to census data, in 1861 there were 83 dwellings (9 unoccupied) in Woodford, compared with 610 dwellings in the Woodford Neighbourhood Area in 2015, as calculated by the WNF management committee
In the present day, Woodford is home to some 1,200 residents on the electoral register. The settlement adjoins suburbia in Bramhall and Cheadle Hulme and comprises ribbon development along the A5102 and A5149, but it still retains some of its village character and farming community, with a network of winding country lanes off the beaten track.
The Neighbourhood Area, which does not include the former Aerodrome site, occupies approximately 1,140 acres. It is predominantly agricultural land which, together with a small amount of recreational land, comprises 885 acres, representing more than three quarters of the area. The built environment (domestic and commercial curtilage and roads) comprises 255 acres, representing less than one quarter of the area.
Farms, small holdings, lanes, hedgerows, trees, old cottages and listed buildings, intermingled with more recent development and roads, reflect the long history of a settlement at Woodford. The openness of the countryside and wide gaps in the housing curtilage provide views across farmland to the Pennine hills to the east. These features contribute to the landscape character of Woodford.
Poor drainage is a feature of Woodford, resulting in many permanent ponds and large seasonal floods in farmland and private gardens (see map of surface flooding below). This is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, permanent and seasonal ponds are an important aesthetic feature of the landscape with high value for wildlife. The most notable in these two aspects is the seasonal pond to the southeast of Church Lane, which is home to a number of red listed bird species. On the other hand, poor drainage creates problems for access because sections of many of the footpaths across farmland and Church Lane are regularly flooded in wet weather. The high water table and propensity for flooding are also issues for any form of construction.
Housing takes the form of ribbon development of varying densities. The highest densities are to be found along the main Chester Road, Wilmslow Road and Woodford Road, which form the spine of the settlement, and Moor Lane and Bridle Road, which branch off them. Frequent gaps in the housing line provide views into the countryside behind. Comprising around 600 houses, the Neighbourhood Area provides a wide range of housing types, including large detached houses with four to seven bedrooms and large gardens, two and three bedroomed semi-detached houses, terraced houses and bungalows, and a small number of flats. Low density housing is to be found along the rural lanes, including Church lane, Blossoms Lane, Old Hall Lane and Kingstreet. The majority of dwellings in Woodford overlook farmland at the rear. There has been incremental growth and change in the form of limited infill, barn conversions, replacement dwellings and extensions. The turnover of houses via market sales (Zoopla website accessed 2017, www.zoopla.co.uk/) in the Neighbourhood has averaged at twenty per year over the last ten years.
A potentially unique feature of Woodford is the recent arrival of a large housing development on the former Aerodrome site, adjacent to the Neighbourhood Area. Planning permission for 920 dwellings plus a 100-unit care facility and commercial premises was granted in 2015 and building work has commenced. This large development offers a different type of housing compared with the Neighbourhood Area, comprising modern executive houses in the range of three to five bedrooms with small gardens, in a “garden village” style setting. The site will also include 15% affordable housing. Therefore, the new development will increase both the number and type of housing in the immediate locality. The population in the parish of Woodford will triple as a result of this development.
The majority of commercial activity is focused along the spinal main roads and includes the Davenport Arms, Olivers Restaurant, the Deanwater Hotel, Budgens convenience store, Chrome of Woodford car show room, Woodford Notcutts Garden Centre, which includes a café, and a small parade of shops. In addition, there are many small businesses and professionals working from offices at home.
Community and leisure facilities include the Woodford War Memorial Community Centre, Christ Church and the Church Hall, located on Chester Road; a scout hut, British Legion premises, and Woodford Cricket Club on Moor Lane; and Bramhall Cricket Club on Church Lane. Although there is no longer a village school, which was once a focus of community interaction, there remains a strong sense of community in Woodford, with social interaction arising as a result of the community leisure facilities and the Church. Local groups include the Woodford Community Council, Woodford Neighbourhood Forum, Woodford War Memorial Community Centre committee, Parish Church Council, Woodford Community Players, the Women’s Institute and many other social groups.
The rural setting of Woodford is one of the most important features to residents and it provides a rich natural environment. The Neighbourhood Area is particularly rich in mature native trees, species-rich native hedgerows and ponds, which provide good habitats and corridors for wildlife connecting to adjacent rural Cheshire and providing ecological links into the more urban setting of Stockport. Detail maps of the locations of these features have been prepared for this Neighbourhood Plan.
Chester Road, Wilmslow Road and Woodford Road currently carry heavy traffic volumes and the lanes have become commuter rat runs at peak times. The impact of relief roads and new housing developments on the traffic through Woodford remains to be seen at the time of writing. Traffic volume and safety in the Neighbourhood Area were key issues raised during community consultation. Increasing traffic on the wider major road network resulting from current and proposed large developments in the surrounding area is also an issue of concern to Woodford residents.
Public transport is limited, with just one bus route (into Manchester) running at half-hourly intervals. The nearest railway stations are Bramhall (0.9- 2.7 miles), Poynton (1.0 – 2.6 miles) and Wilmslow (2.3 – 4.5 miles). Hourly train services operate between Bramhall and Manchester.
Woodford has twenty public rights of way, which provide a network of pleasant short walks connecting one side of the Neighbourhood Area to the other, some passing through green fields and woodland and some with views of the Pennines. They connect with footpaths into neighbouring Cheadle Hulme, Bramhall, Poynton, Adlington, Newton, Wilmslow and Handforth, providing the scope for much longer walks. There are currently no cycle lanes or cycle tracks in Woodford.
SMBC has recently given Church Lane and Blossoms Lane “Quiet Lane” status and a 20 mph speed limit, in order to alert motorists to the high number of vulnerable road users including walkers, joggers, cyclists and horse riders, who use these lanes for recreation and need protection.