Ancient History of Alford
Alford is situated on a gravel ridge where an ancient track crosses a stream. The road ran between coastal marshland and the arable farmland of the chalk Wolds. When streams were wider and deeper than they are now, and there were few bridges, a ford was used to cross. All traffic converged here. Where people meet, traders would use the place to sell their produce.
Some would supply them with food and drink, others perhaps help the flocks and herds across the water. Markets would then quickly develop.
Anglian invaders possibly established the town around 600 and 650A.D. It was on dry ground on the edge of the marsh and nest to the chalk hills. Later Danish settlers established hamlets side by side with the existing Anglian population. These communities are seen by the large number of local places ending in 'By' and 'Thorpe.'
The name 'Alford' is possibly derived from "Eauford" (the ford across the eau or stream.) In Domesday Book the name is given as "Alforde" The name 'Auford' is found on many old charters and was in use for a considerable period of time. The Alford eau became the Wold Grift Drain when it was turned into a catchwater drain.
The Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names gives the name as "Alrford". The old English name for the Alder was "Alor". "The ford where the Alders are found." Alder trees grow in wet marshy ground.
Alford was small place in 1086, containing about fifty inhabitants. It had no important resident landowner, and therefore no church or priest.
After the Norman conquest two prominent families dominated Alford, the Wells and the Rigsbys. The Rigsby's were at first the most powerful. They had built a church at Rigsby in 1086.
Later William of Well became the Lord of the Manor of Alford and in 1283 obtained a charter for a market in his manor on a Tuesday.
In 1530 Alford was a medium sized market town when Leland the historian visited.He described it as all "thackked and redid and a broke runneth by it". The houses were thatched with straw and reeds and were made of wattle and daub, known locally as mud and stud. They were mainly clustered round the church and market place at this time. It is doubtful it any of them extended beyond the stream.
From the 17th century onwards the standard of living in the town gradually improved and some fine houses of the period still exist.