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Saltford Environment Group
  towards a sustainable future for our village


SEG Home > The History of Saltford

The History of Saltford

Saltford has a fascinating past. Whilst many are aware of Saltford's Domesday Book entry, our timeline reveals a remarkable history unsurpassed by any other English village.

Saltford Environment Group's extensive research has revealed many facts about the amazing past of this Somerset village that remained largely unknown until now.

Project News

Saltford Heritage Centre opens for Saltford Festival

St Mary's Church Hall, home to the Heritage Centre,
during Saltford Festival's "Old Village Day" 11.6.2017.

Saltford's new Heritage Centre was open on the first floor (upstairs) of the Church Hall for the Saltford Festival 2017 on the afternoon of Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th June. The Bath Record Office roadshow was also in attendance for the 10th June showing old OS maps of Saltford, seal presses, and informative displays on the BRO's Saltford records whilst also giving an opportunity for residents to discuss historical research with a BRO archivist.

Visitors including the historic dance group The Farandole Dancers
studying the displays etc. at the Heritage Centre, 11.6.2017.

History was a key theme for the festival. The first opening of the Heritage Centre was preceded by a joint presentation by local resident and SEG's history team member Dick Bateman and Saltford Drama Club in St Mary's Church on "Life in 19th Century Saltford". On Monday 12th June SEG's Saltford Station campaign Chris Warren gave an interesting and well-received talk on "The History of Railways at Saltford" in the main hall at St Mary's Church Hall.

"Admiral Kelly" outside Saltford House, 11.6.2017.

2017 is notable as being the 150th anniversary of the death of Admiral Benedictus Marwood Kelly, Saltford's famous resident. For the "Old Village Day" on Sunday June 11th, Saltford Drama Club member Kelvin Buck dressed up as Admiral Kelly and stood by the Admiral's Blue Plaque in front of Saltford House answering questions about the Admiral's life and directing festival goers to the Heritage Centre and other festival activities.

Some 250+ people visited the Heritage Centre over the two days and the overwhelming reaction to the information displays and Saltford artefacts from the Roman, Medieval, Tudor and later periods was very positive. Old Church and School records were also made available for visitors to see for the launch.

The Heritage Centre is a joint project from SEG and the Parochial Church Council. Now that it has had its first opening consideration will be given by SEG and the PCC as to how this community based project can be developed in a cost-effective manner in a way that is both beneficial and of great interest to local residents. For example, and subject to support from volunteers, the Heritage Centre could be opened for special community events whilst elements of its mobile and flexible display could support relevant events at other venues in Saltford.

Further information on our website can be found from these links:-

June 2017

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Discovering Roman Saltford: Geophysics survey report published

The geophysics survey in Saltford underway again, November 2016.

On 6th February 2017 SEG published the final report complete with expert analysis from our colleagues at Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society (BACAS). SEG assisted BACAS complete the geophysics search for a Roman dwelling in November 2016.

Below is a geophysics image from day 2 of the survey; as can be seen there is evidence of a major building (villa?) measuring up to approximately 70 metres in length and 40 to 50 metres in width that appears to have been discovered. This discovery in the parish of Saltford of a major structure that is probably Roman is a first for recorded history in modern times.


To the left (west) of the building are two large ditches running east-west. These might be for retaining livestock, irrigation or some other purpose.

As described in the final 2016 report, in the north western corner of the field an area of magnetic disturbance appears to indicate a structure but magnetometry has not provided a clear image. A trackway running up the west side of the field is also visible over part of its length. There also appears a pair of short, intense strong lines on the east side of the field, approximately 45 metres in from the field margin. It is not obvious what these represent, possibly the sides of a washing pool.

In the east portion of the field, a series of east - west lines, unevenly spaced, may be part of an earlier field system, perhaps medieval.

One of the LIDAR images from the survey final report.
Processed data shows Coffin Field & surrounding area.

LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) imaging was introduced for the 2016 survey report (courtesy of Andy McGrandle of BigAnomaly). This usefully provides complementary information in the form of landscape archaeology revealing many features of archaeological interest in the surrounding fields including evidence of an earlier and ancient field system, possibly Roman, and other features (mounds and other structures).

SEG is very grateful to the landowner, Adam Stratton, for allowing access to the field, to BACAS for carrying out this geophysics survey, for the assistance of survey volunteers from BACAS and SEG named in the report and to Andy McGrandle of BigAnomaly for the LIDAR imagery.

You can find the final survey report that includes technical data and imaging in the "Roman Saltford" section of our Online Museum.

February 2017

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SEG publishes image of the oldest painting of Saltford

The Miller's House (later Jolly Sailor), c.1728. Courtesy of Carl Say.
A larger version of this image is in our Online Museum.

SEG has published just before Christmas this fascinating painting for everyone to see as part of our history project. Many residents were dismayed to see this painting leave Saltford in 1993 after it had been in the Jolly Sailor for some 265 years.

The original painting itself, oil on wood panel, was over 5 feet wide. We have scanned to a high resolution a small and rare photograph taken of the painting in the 1990s, digitally cleaned and colour corrected it, and the resulting image is now on SEG's website looking magnificent (the image above is a small version).

A larger version of the painting along with information about the background to this historical artefact can be found in our Online Museum on the 18th Century page.

December 2016

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Walking Saltford's history


A new feature launched in October from SEG's History of Saltford is the publication of guided history walks of Saltford. You can view online guides and follow a web page for directions on your smartphone or print off your own pdf version of each walk.

There are 8 walks in the series:-

  • River Avon U Bend
  • Norman Road, northern footpaths and the fish ponds
  • Longwood and a Roman dwelling site
  • Manor Road Community Woodland and an old road to Keynsham
  • Village footpaths, Brass Mill and The Shallows
  • Railway path and the Saltford Straight (River Avon)
  • Swineford and Kelston Mills
  • Saltford's Conservation Area

We also provide links to online guided heritage walks from other organisations. You can find the walks via the history project's A-Z page or directly from this link: Walks of Saltford.

October 2016

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Blue Plaque commemorating Admiral Kelly unveiled at Saltford House, 1 October 2016

The plaque (inset to show detail) on Saltford House gate post.

On 1st October the MP for North East Somerset, Jacob Rees-Mogg, unveiled a Blue Plaque at Saltford House, High Street, Saltford commemorating Admiral Benedictus Marwood Kelly (naval officer, liberator of slaves, benefactor) who lived in Saltford from 1856 until 1867.

Jacob Rees Mogg MP with Saltford Parish Council
Chairman Chris Warren and SEG Chairman Phil Harding
Photograph Jess Godfrey 1.10.2016

Jacob Rees-Mogg said "It is important that local communities celebrate and mark those who once lived amongst them and had made a contribution to important issues such as the abolition of slavery. I, therefore, very much welcome the work by Saltford Environment Group and Saltford Parish Council to celebrate Admiral Kelly and to revive his memory in his local community and further afield so that more people may learn about his remarkable life."

Chairman of Saltford Environment Group Phil Harding, who had carried out extensive research on Admiral Kelly, said: "We were astounded to discover what a remarkable life Admiral Kelly had lived, his contribution to help end slavery, and significant support for the education of children in the 19th Century. His lifetime of serving his country and helping those in greatest need can inspire others. We here in Saltford were delighted that Bath and North East Somerset Council gave planning permission for the Admiral's blue plaque to mark this former resident's important contribution to a better society."

Saltford Parish Council had sought and obtained planning permission for the plaque to be fixed to one of the Grade II Listed stone entrance gate posts at Saltford House. Saltford House was Admiral Kelly's home in Saltford from 1856 until 1867 when he died there. The web page dedicated to Admiral Kelly which carries full details of his remarkable life can be found on SEG's history project web site from this link: Admiral Benedictus Marwood Kelly

October 2016

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A Saltford Heritage Centre?

The Church Hall, then Queen's School, in early 1900s (top)
and St Mary's Church Hall as it is today, 2016 (bottom)

Members may recall that when our history project reached its first anniversary in March we said that we were investigating the options for displaying some of Saltford's historic artefacts either in Saltford, our first choice, or elsewhere.

Discussions are underway between SEG and St Mary's Church PCC on a possible joint collaboration to create a new Saltford Heritage Centre within the church hall on the first floor. This would be part of a refresh and update of the facilities at the hall in Queen Square.

With its location at the centre of Saltford's Conservation Area, close proximity to Saltford's oldest built structure (the Anglo Saxon tower of St Mary's church, about 1,000 years old) and St Mary's desire to increase its involvement within the wider community, this has the potential to provide Saltford with a useful showcase of its fascinating heritage.

Saltford Church of England Primary School has informed SEG it fully endorses the proposed Heritage Centre for Saltford. It sees the proposed centre as a valuable asset to the teaching of history at the school and would be used regularly by all staff and children. The school is already using SEG's History of Saltford project, which contains a wealth of information about the history of Saltford and thus enables "staff to have access to a huge range of quality resources including documents and photographs to allow the children's study of local history to come alive."

This is all very much at an early stage. We now have a dedicated web page about the centre where you can also feed in your views at the early planning stage, click here to see: Heritage Centre. If you want to know more or wish to provide your own ideas do speak to SEG's Chairman, Phil Harding, or to the Rector, Rev. Daile Wilshire.

July 2016, updated September 2016

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History Project Background

As part of its purpose to champion all that's great about Saltford for a better and more sustainable future, Saltford Environment Group decided in early 2015 to research and record the history of Saltford on our website. Only by valuing our history and origins can we gain a better understanding of the importance that we as a community should take care of the land and people that support us all.

This is a significant evidence based project. We shall be recording Saltford's history from pre-Roman times to the 20th Century and make it available for all to see here on our website. We are already uncovering fascinating facts about life in Saltford in past centuries. This is an iterative process, slowly growing and developing in content as we research and discover information.

We are grateful for all offers of materials to help produce this unique record of Saltford but please be aware that if you are kind enough to offer material for us to use, we need to be selective in what we decide to publish and cannot guarantee to use everything supplied to us.

We shall be making periodic requests for assistance via SEG's monthly newsletters. In the meantime if residents are able to lend us old photographs, sketches, historic documents etc. concerning Saltford (the older the better) please contact us (see below).

Please note. This is a continuous and growing project that commenced in March 2015. New content is added on a regular basis.

Production Team

A small Production Team has been established to deliver the project. The results of our research are published here. This is an ongoing process; we shall be constantly adding new information and images.

The Production Team are:-

   Phil Harding (SEG Chairman, website Editor, & Project Leader)
   Debbie Cini (SEG Committee member & website Deputy Editor)
   Andrew Stainer (SEG Treasurer)
   Dick Bateman (SEG Member & Adviser for this project)
   Jon Godfrey (SEG Member & Adviser for this project)
   Roger Vaughan (SEG Member & Adviser for this project)

Various SEG members are assisting the production team on an ad-hoc basis.

Meet the production team

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photograph  photograph   photograph
Phil Harding, Debbie Cini & Andrew Stainer
Dick Bateman, Jon Godfrey & Roger Vaughan

Please see below for how to contact the Production Team.


The production team would like to thank the following who have provided various contributions, research, guidance and other support to this project:-

John Baker, Julian Balsdon, Adrian Betts, Dave Boston, Dave Brennan, Richard Canter, Derek Cann, Marie Carder, Jill Coles, Tony Coverdale, David Cox, Robin Dixon, Sue Dixon, Bunty Dunford, Trevor Ewins, William Feay, Ivor Ford, Malcolm Guthrie, Katie Horgan, Jaye, Steve Johnson, Robert Knaap, Leah, Owen McDermott, Dr Sam Moorhead (British Museum), Bob Mordle, Sam Norris, John Oswin, Carl Say, Alan Sims, Hilary Smedley, Sally Smee, Adam Stratton, Alistair Sutherland, Margaret Stabbins, Richard Stabbins, Dave Taylor, Rob Taylor, Roger Vaughan, Brian Vowles, Chris Warren, Michael Worthington-Williams.

We also thank our spouses and partners who support and encourage us while we work on the project.

Contacting the Production Team

You can contact the Production Team via SEG's Chairman, Phil Harding - please state "SEG History Project" in the email subject heading.

Photographs: A high resolution copy of some of the historic and contemporary photographs may be available on request to Phil Harding via the home page of this (SEG's) website. Where available these can be supplied in return for an agreed donation to SEG to help cover the cost of this online publication.

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Research web links

We use online and other records for our research including:-

Bath Record Office http://www.batharchives.co.uk

Heritage Gateway http://www.heritagegateway.org.uk

Historic England (includes The Heritage List of listed buildings, scheduled monuments etc.) http://historicengland.org.uk

Keynsham & Saltford Local History Society (online records: Births, Baptisms, Marriages and Burials) http://www.keysalthist.org.uk/online.htm

Know Your Place West of England project http://www.kypwest.org.uk

Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) https://finds.org.uk/

SW Heritage Trust: Somerset Archive Catalogue http://somerset-cat.swheritage.org.uk

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, J. A. Giles & J. Ingram (Gutenberg free ebooks) http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/657

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Possible meanings of the Place Name 'Saltford'

Saltford ("Sallford") shown on a 1610 map of Somersetshire
created by John Speede during the reign of Elizabeth I

"A Dictionary of British Place-Names (Oxford Paperback Reference)" by A.D. Mill, Emeritus Reader in Medieval English, University of London, and a member of the Council of the English Place-Name Society and of the Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland, suggests:-

   Saltford, Somerset

   1086   Sanford   (Domesday Book) (link for more info)
   1229   Salford    (no source given)
   1291   Saltford   (no source given)

and concludes: "Probably 'salt-water ford' but the first element may, originally have been 'salh' meaning 'sallow, willow' ".

So, the derivation of Saltford's place name could be one of the following:

1.'Salt-ford', because in those days there were no weirs or locks on the River Avon and water here could have been salty, whereas, the tidal salt water did not reach the riverside village of Freshford, on the Avon to the east of Bath. Sal is also the Latin word for salt.

2. The 1229 entry in Mill's book refers to 'Sal-ford', meaning 'ford of the willows'. That is also plausible - indeed, you will see many picturesque willows along the bank here.

3. The Domesday Book entry for this place was 'San-ford' and that could have come from 'Sand-ford' because the banks of 'The Shallows' are sandy.

4. Another interpretation of 'Salt-ford' held locally by some residents is that the ford could have been named after the salt that may have been carried across the ford as a trade item.


Saltford Environment Group
History project website designed and produced by Phil Harding.
This is a W3C compliant website.

A-Z of pages
& features


TIMELINE (300 BC to the modern age)





Project News

Project Background

Production Team (& Acknowledgements)

Research web links

Possible meanings of 'Saltford'

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SEG wishes to thank the following organisations for the support and/or advice they have given to this project:

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Bath Royal
Literary and Scientific

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Bath & North East
Somerset Council

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Bath Spa University
(School of Humanities &
Cultural Industries)

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(Geophysics survey 2015 & 2016)

The British Museum
has provided advice & guidance on the
Saltford Carthaginian Coin - one of the
oldest coins found in Britain.

Saltford Station (c.1901)

Saltford Brass Mill (2013)

A mill is referred to in the Domesday Book entry for Saltford. Probably on the same site as the Domesday Book mill, Saltford Brass Mill was converted to working brass in the 18th Century.

The Brass Mill is the only surviving building, still with a furnace and working water wheel, remaining from a group of 18th Century mills making copper and brass goods in the Avon Valley between Bristol and Bath. The mill worked brass until 1925.