The area we now know as Fulford has a long history of occupation starting in the Neolithic period (3500 - 2100 BC) which is indicated by many finds of worked flints around the area. The pollen record also suggests the climate was warmer than today and charcoal deposits point to the use of some sort of ‘slash and burn’ agriculture by a people who were primarily hunter-gatherers.
During the Bronze Age (2100 - 700 BC) the archaeological record suggests more settled agriculture along the glacial deposits of Germany Beck whose course was carved when the last ice-sheet retreated 15,000 years ago. The climate deteriorated around 1000 BC and this farm and woodland was abandoned.
The woodlands around Fulford were reoccupied by those using Iron Age technology who left evidence of a burial barrow south of Fulford School in an area where Romano-British agriculture, settlement and industry subsequently left some small traces of their activity all around the parish of Fulford.
The current parish boundary between Fulford and Heslington, along the western edge of the golf course, is very probably represented by the alignment of a Roman road while the A19 probably runs close to the Roman link to Doncaster.
After the Roman era we can use written as well as archaeological evidence for the evolution of Fulford. The Anglian, Saxon and Norse period of history which followed the Romans as the dominant culture witnessed a clearance of the wooded areas south of York right through to the later medieval period (c1540) using the process known as ‘assarting’ where forests were uprooted and turned into agricultural land with Royal permission.
But the most important event at Fulford was the first battle of the momentous year of 1066. England was under threat from a Norse army from the north as well as the Normans in the south. They lost the battle of Fulford on 20th September but defeated the Norse army under Harald Hardrada five days later at the battle of Stamford Bridge.
Fulford makes another contribution to the bloody history of battle as forces were stationed here during the Civil War. A bridge of boats prevented the besieged Royalists from using the river and allowed the besiegers, based in Middlethorpe and Heslington Halls, to communicate. Substantial evidence of musketry training emerged during the rebuilding of St Oswald’s School.
Fuleford is mentioned in the Doomsday Book 1086. It derives its name from Ford over the beck. According to the Domesday survey of 1085-87, Morcar, Earl of Northumbria, had owned the Manor at Gate Fulford. William 1 gave Morcar’s land to Count Alan of Brittany and his successor gave it to St. Mary’s Abbey in York, some time after 1086. In the 15th century boundaries were drawn between the city and abbey; that for Fulford being marked in 1484 by the Franchise Cross, which can be seen today on Fulford Road.
The location of earlier settlements remains unclear but the plan of a post-conquest village (11th century) of what was Gate Fulford is still clearly visible on the 1759 enclosures map. Fulford was originally two villages: Water Fulford and Gate Fulford, but in 1828 they were given the name Fulfords Ambo, meaning “both Fulfords”. This is one of several names used at various times. The names Folford, Foleforde and Fuletorp appear in the early records and although Fulford’s boundaries changed over time, and at one time even extended as far as the city walls and included what is now known as Walmgate stray, the 11th century village shape remains clearly visible on the 18th century map. On this map Main Street is surrounded by two back lanes that run parallel to it. The Lane that is now called Heslington Lane is visible as well. Main Street is the backbone and has been since earliest times.
Most of the fields and common land of the parish came to be owned by a few large land owners. A large area of what was historically Water Fulford has passed in succession to the Burrell, Marshall, Taylor, Oates, Key and Wormald families. Water Fulford’s main remaining historic buildings are the Hall and Hall Farm.
Over the centuries many individuals, religious and civic bodies had held rights of ownership or usufruct in the commons, fields and buildings of the two Fulfords. These included the city of York which originally needed pasturage for its cattle; but by the late 19thC York’s urban interests predominated. In 1890 the ancient (ecclesiastical) parish was 2,021 acres but the civil parish was only 1485 acres. In 1884 Gate Fulford had been deprived of ca. one- third of its acreage and many residents when all its northern part including ‘New Fulford’, the military and suburban developments along the Fulford Road, were incorporated into the borough of York for civil purposes. (The boundaries of the ancient ecclesiastical parish boundaries were left unchanged.) York also bought Acres Farm in Water Fulford for its new City Asylum in 1899.
The civil parish was renamed Water Fulford in 1895; and then renamed Fulford in 1935. In 1974 it was transferred into the Selby Rural District of North Yorkshire. In 1996 Fulford became part of the York Unitary Authority.