Ashford, meaning 'ford by the ash trees' grew up on the banks of the tiny River Ash which flows into the Thames nearby. The name of the river is a back-naming from the name of the settlement. Ashford was recorded as 'Exeforde' in the Domesday Survey of 1086, when it was held by the Count of Mortain. In 1227 it was ceded to the abbey at Westminster and it remained in the same ownership until Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in late 1530s. It was variously known as 'Echelford' or 'Echelsford' in 13th and 14th century documents.
Ashford was originally a chapelry of Staines and it is probable that a chapel already existed here in 1086. The first surviving reference to the parish church of St Michael is dated to 1293 and one later source described the church as 'a brick and stone building with some Saxon work' - confirming, perhaps, a long history. The present church was built in 1858.
In 1542 Henry VIII leased the manor of Ashford to Richard Ellis and in 1602 the ageing Elizabeth I granted it to Guy Godolphin and John Smythe. Shortly afterwards Godolphin sold his share to Smythe, who quickly disposed of it to Urias Babington. It then passed through various other hands down the centuries.
The railway arrived at Ashford in 1848 but, in the early 1850s, Ashford was still a rural village surrounded by agriculture and woodlands with a population of only about 500. By the late 1850s changes were on the way. On the 13th July 1857 Prince Albert arrived at Ashford Station, which had been purposely rebuilt for the occasion. He had come to open the Welsh Girls School, later known as St David's, a charity school. Qualification for the school was interesting, to say the least - children had to have been born within 12 miles of the Royal Exchange and have at least one Welsh parent.
By 1871 Ashford's population had more than doubled as streets of houses were developed. The 1901 census showed that the population had risen still further to 4816 but it is now something like 30,000. Ashford was situated in the now defunct county of Middlesex until it became part of Surrey in 1965.