Stoford by Miranda Richardson
This is one of a series of reports on the archaeology of the urban (and formerly urban) areas of Somerset commissioned by English Heritage as part of its Extensive Urban Survey (EUS). The reports were prepared by Somerset County Council in 1994-98. There is a brief history of the town extracted from the report or you can download the whole report and maps in Portable Document Format (PDF).
A brief history of Stoford
The prehistory of the area is not well known, although recent excavation has produced a number of worked flints, probably neolithic and to the north-east of the town bronze age burials have been found. The main Roman road linking Yeovil and Dorchester forms Barwick parish boundary. Several finds of Roman pottery recorded in the SMR attest Roman presence in the landscape although no settlement or structures have been located as of yet.
Neither Barwick nor Stoford appear in Domesday, but the former was probably a Saxon foundation. By the early 13th century the manor of Barwick was in the hands of the de Cantilupe family, who founded the free borough of Stoford. The new town of Stoford was laid out in burgage plots which were let to free tenants. George de Cantilupe died in 1272 leaving no heir which caused a detailed inquisition to be made of the property and income of the estate. This document describes Stoford as a free borough which remained part of the Barwick estate. For a short period the town flourished with a successful weekly market and annual fair. A deed from 1353 refers to the building of a Guild hall in the market area and in 1483 a conveyance referred to the building of an alms house within the town. All that was lacking was a church, no document or remains have been found of a church and it is likely that Stoford residents used the parish church at Barwick. The town was still known as 'Stowford Burgus' in the mid-17th century Hearth Tax returns but by this time was little more than a village with a rural market having lost trade to its prosperous neighbour, Yeovil. The main road to London from the West Country would have passed through Stoford in the medieval period but was superceded by a route passing through Yeovil which took trade away. In 1791 Collinson recorded only 32 houses in Stoford and Harbin has estimated the population of the whole parish (Barwick and Stoford) as approximately 340 at the start of the 18th century.
The railway arrived in Stoford in 1860, dividing the area of the original planned town in half and providing some employment at Yeovil junction station to the north-east.
Twentieth century expansion of housing reflects the town's position on the outskirts of Yeovil which has itself expanded and prospered at Stoford's expense.