A Brief History of Milford
The meadow-fields and hilltops of Milford have been settled since the earliest of times. Mesolithic flint tools have been found close to the Southampton Road (you can probably hear the roar of traffic...), and the nearby gravel pits have yielded Neolithic axe-heads and hammer stones. Sherds of Bronze Age pottery are turned up by local ploughs.
A Roman farmstead cemetery and numerous known or suspected Romano-British settlements have been found on Cockey Down and on the surrounding Downs. A Roman sarcophagus, presumably associated with an undiscovered villa, was unearthed by builders a few hundred yards from where you are standing.
Milford was clearly at the centre of violently disputed territory during the dark and dangerous years following the departure of the Romans in the early 5th Century. Close to the junction of Petersfinger with the Southampton Road, an early Saxon ‘Grubenhaus’ or ‘pit-house’ was found in 2009. Nearby, archaeologists have examined the graves of dozens of Saxon warriors. Buried with their swords somewhere in the middle of the 6th Century, the deaths of so many fighters may not be coincidental with the battle of Searobyrig, or Old Sarum, in 552. This must have been a terrible and hard-fought death-struggle between the diminished survivors of a disappearing Romano-British world and the Saxon invaders determined to replace them.
The Grade 1 Listed Milford Mill Bridge, Salisbury, dates from the early Tudor period of the late 15th Century. The Bridge, which spans the River Bourne, is of dressed limestone and comprises two pairs of archways linked by a causeway. The western arch is semi-circular, while the other three are pointed. There are ‘cutwaters’ with weathered heads between each pair of arches. There is a roll-moulded and hollow-chamfered continuous string course at road level, with a parapet above with weathered18th Century coping and square piers at either end. Stone revetment walls with weathered coping at either end of the bridge.
The bridge was painted by John Constable in 1826. The bridge and the ford that preceded it are on the medieval route from Winchester and from the now ruinous Clarendon Palace, a couple of miles along Queen Manor Road to the new city of Salisbury – new in the 13th Century. It is likely, too, that the Roman road from the ‘small town’ of Sorviodunum (Old Salisbury) to the New Forest, crossed the river Bourne at this point. It is a fascinating possibility that the great-grandfathers of the 6th Century warriors who lived in the Grubenhaus and are buried at Petersfinger, may have been originally brought here by the Roman authorities as ‘foederati’ or mercenaries at the end of the 4th or beginning of the 5th centuries to guard the River Bourne
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The Deserted Medieval Village
As you stand by the bridge, the meadow to your left hides the Deserted Medieval Village (DMV) of ‘Meleford’, as it was called in the Domesday Book of 1086. If you’re lucky and the sun is casting useful shadows, you might see the ridges and hollows of the original Milford. The men and women who lived their hard lives in the long gone Meleford would probably have seen the bridge being built – and may indeed have provided the labour for the heavy lifting. Also in the meadow, but more substantially in the fields behind you and under the modern housing, pottery kilns dating from the 13th Century have been found – some with green-glazed ‘baluster’ jugs still intact within them.
Much of Milford’s farmland remained unenclosed until the end of the 18th Century. The only older enclosures were chiefly water-meadows along the Avon and the Bourne and small closes round the fringes of the city. But in 1800 the open arable land of the manor was enclosed under an Act of Parliament from the previous year.
Milford has witnessed many changes in recent decades: a great deal of residential and road development; intensive farming methods and profound shifts in population. But as you stand for a few still moments and gaze upon the meadow, resonant and heavy with shadows, or consider the spans and buttresses of our old and beautiful bridge, we hope you will agree that there remains much to make Milford a special and deeply English place.
This new information board has been designed by MPG (Milford Preservation Group). Situated by the medieval bridge on Milford Mill Road, Salisbury, it outlines a brief history of the area.
Many thanks to Wessex Care and Laverstock and Ford Parish Council for sponsorship.