A History of the County of Hertford: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
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Wigginton is a long parish running north and south, the west boundary lying along the edge of the Chilterns. The church and village stand in the north-west of the parish on a small eastern spur of these hills, which drops abruptly to the north from a height of some 730 ft. above the sea-level. A larger spur forms a high plateau in the centre, and east and south the ground shelves gradually to the Berkhampstead and Chesham Vales.
From the heights lovely and far-reaching views are obtained of these plains and the hills and woods beyond. Extensive beechwoods and a common of some 300 acres covered with furze, bracken, and heather lie on the higher ground. The common was inclosed in 1854, (fn. 1) and is now used for a game preserve, and forms part of the Tring Park estate.
There is a small hamlet called Wigginton Bottom near the village, a good many outlying farms, and keepers' cottages, and one large estate in the south called Champneys. The houses are nearly all in good repair, and many of them of red brick and tiles, which look very well against a background of dark woods. There is also a church-house of brick faced with Bath stone. The houses here used to be very poor and overcrowded; open ponds were the only water-supply, and disease was prevalent. About the middle of the nineteenth century a severe drought compelled a new water-supply and rebuilding was begun, so that now there is scarcely a reminder of the old state of the village except in the name, Pest House, on the site of which are now three new cottages.
In 1905 there were in the parish 1,093 acres of arable land, 345 acres of permanent grass, and 101 acres of woodland. (fn. 2) Though the land is chiefly heavy clay it is considerably lightened by the number of loose flints which are mixed plentifully with the soil, and good crops of corn are produced.
Wigginton village is connected with Tring on the north by a very steep road known by the name of the Twist on account of its sharp curves. The same road is continued south to Chesham. The east of the parish is connected with the Grand Junction Canal, and the main line of the London and North Western Railway, the nearest station being Tring, which is a mile and a half distant.
The great earthwork known as Grim's Dyke passes through the centre of the parish east and west. It used to be commonly supposed to be the work of a diabolical wizard, and many of the old superstitions are still held in connexion with it. Palaeolithic, bronze age, and late Celtic implements have been found, and also a considerable number of coins.
Place-names are Hobbyswyke, Maynewood, Pond Moses, Dell Moses, Hag Dell Lane, Steenefield, and Baldicking. There was a mill here at the time of Domesday Survey worth 5s., (fn. 3) but there seems to be no survival at the present day.
A curious custom exists in this and some of the neighbouring parishes called 'Keeping Kattern.' On St. Katherine's Day relations and friends usually meet in social parties, much as a month later they do at Christmas. Of late years this custom appears to have been less strictly observed than was formerly the case. (fn. 4)
The manor of WIGGINTON formed part of the vast fee which was held in the eleventh century by Robert, count of Mortain, half-brother of the Conqueror. From the Domesday entry it seems that it was not part of the king's original gift, but had been taken forcibly by the count from Tring. He appears to have united the two original holdings, which had been formerly held by Brictric, a man of Queen Edith, and Godwin, one of Engelric's men, and to have subinfeudated the entire vill to a certain Humphrey. (fn. 5) The overlordship followed the descent of the honour of Berkhampstead, while Humphrey, the sub-tenant, may almost certainly be identified with the count's tenant of the same name in Little Gaddesden. Here as there he was succeeded by the family of de Broc as early as the first years of the thirteenth century, (fn. 6) and in 1217 Geoffrey de Lucy and Juliana his wife claimed the advowson of the church of Wigginton, as being in the land of Wigginton which Juliana had through her mother Maud, from her grandmother Eva de Broc, the wife of Walter Chesney. (fn. 7) Some time in the twelfth century the manor was held of Eva de Broc and Walter Chesney by William Gernet, and on his death it descended to his elder son Gilbert. This Gilbert was convicted of felony, and his lands escheated to the crown. When they had been held for a year and a day, however, they were restored to Eva and her husband, and were held of them at will by Margaret de Wigeton, sister of the former tenant. (fn. 8)
The manor having passed to the family of Lucy followed the same descent as the property which bore their name in the parish of Little Gaddesden (q.v.), until it came into the hands of the Corbets, on the death of Sir William Lucy in 1466, (fn. 9) when instead of reverting to the family of Vaux, as the manor of Lucies appears to have done, it remained in the family of Corbet, and passed in 1498, after the death of Elizabeth Stanley, widow of Roger Corbet, to her grandson Robert, son of Richard Corbet, (fn. 10) who died in 1513, leaving a son and heir Roger, a minor. (fn. 11) Roger died seised of the manor in 1538, leaving a son and heir Andrew, also a minor. (fn. 12) He as Sir Andrew died in 1578, (fn. 13) and seems to have been succeeded in this manor by his second son Richard, (fn. 14) who died without issue in 1606. (fn. 15) In 1592 John Churchill, sen., Thomasina his wife, John Churchill, jun., their son and heir-apparent, and Mary his wife conveyed the manor to William Palmer and his son Thomas. (fn. 16) The latter died seised of it in 1608, leaving his son and heir William, a minor. (fn. 17) In 1609 Edmund and Richard Palmer filed a bill in Chancery complaining that Thomas Palmer, before his death, had sold the manor to them, and that Richard More, who had been left guardian of Thomas's children, had caused it to be supposed that Thomas died seised of the manor. Richard More had obtained possession of all the charters and deeds, so that Edmund and Richard were unable to prove their claim. (fn. 18) From the fact that Edmund and Richard Palmer held a court for the manor in 1608, (fn. 19) and were possessed of the manor in 1650, (fn. 20) it would seem that they had some right to it. The manor subsequently came into the possession of Sir Richard Anderson, who died seised of it in 1653, (fn. 21) leaving his son Henry his heir. From Henry it came to his son Sir Richard, and in 1659 a settlement was made upon him and his wife Elizabeth Hewitt. (fn. 22) He afterwards married Mary Methuen, and died in 1699, his son Richard having died without issue in the lifetime of his father. (fn. 23) Elizabeth, his only daughter, married Simon Harcourt, eldest son of Vere Harcourt, D.D., (fn. 24) and in 1703 Mary Anderson, widow of Richard, then wife of Brownlowe Sherrard, together with her husband, conveyed the manor to Simon Harcourt. (fn. 25) It passed on Simon's death in 1724 to his son Henry, (fn. 26) who died in 1741, and was succeeded by his son Richard Bard Harcourt. Richard's only son Henry died without issue, and his sister Elizabeth Sophia, wife of Colonel Charles Amadées Harcourt, Marquis D'Harcourt, succeeded to the manor. (fn. 27) Colonel Charles Harcourt died in 1831, and Elizabeth in 1846, and their eldest son William Bernard Harcourt died in the following year. (fn. 28) His only son Charles Amadée had predeceased him, and the manor came to his three daughters, Sarah Mary Sophia, who married William Deedes, Elizabeth Mary Caroline, who married Henry Ralph Lambton, and Alice Anne Caroline, wife of Louis Bertrand, Baron de Langsdorff. (fn. 29) They in 1868 joined in selling the manor to Rev. James Williams, on whose death in 1871 it came to his eldest son Joseph Grout Williams, the present possessor. (fn. 30)
CHAMPNEYS alias CHAMPNEYS and FOSTERS or FORSTERS was held as of the manor of Tring. (fn. 31) In an entry on the court rolls of 1514, afterwards cancelled, it is stated that John Cock held of the lord certain land and tenements called Champneys for a rent of 3d. a year, for which there was due a relief of 3s. after the death of Alan Cock his father. (fn. 32) This so-called manor seems afterwards to have passed to John Cowper of Wigginton, and from him to his kinsman William Cowper. (fn. 33) It would appear that William's widow married Thomas Cheyney, who held the manor by courtesy in 1525–6 and 1541. (fn. 34) William Cowper left three daughters and co-heirs, of whom two, Agnes Adams and Margaret wife of Thomas Carter, in 1525–6 conveyed the reversion of their two-thirds of the manor, after the death of Thomas, to John Bosse, William Lamburn and Edward Lamburn, and the heirs of Edward. Katherine the wife of William Chamber, probably the third daughter, conveyed her third of the reversion in 1541 to John Bassett. (fn. 35) In 1527–8 Thomas Cheyney settled twothirds of the manor upon himself for life, with remainder to John Baldwin and his heirs. (fn. 36) At about this time a lease was granted to Robert Dormer of Aston, (fn. 37) and he afterwards seems to have bought the whole manor, which he settled in 1533 on William FitzWilliam. (fn. 38) William died in 1534–5, leaving the remainder of his lease and the reversion in fee of the manor to his second son Richard. The manor was then said to be held of the archbishop of Canterbury. (fn. 39) In the following year Richard conveyed the manor to Thomas, earl of Norfolk. (fn. 40) In 1538 Robert Halley claimed the manor against Thomas Cheyney, who was ordered to deliver it up to Robert until he could prove his claim. (fn. 41) The conveyance to Thomas, earl of Norfolk, seems to have been made for the purpose of a settlement, for in 1546 Richard Fitz William and Elizabeth his wife sold the manor to Thomas Palmer of Sarratt, (fn. 42) who died seised of it in 1608 leaving his son and heir William, a minor. (fn. 43) William conveyed the estate in 1623–4 to feoffees, (fn. 44) and in 1629 sold it to John Baylie of Wigginton, (fn. 45) though in 1650 the owner of the manor is returned as Mr. Palmer. (fn. 46) John Baylie's descendant, Edward Willett, sold it to Thomas Walters, who held it in 1728. (fn. 47) It later came into the possession of Thomas Egerton, who is called 'of Champneys' in 1739, and who died in 1764, (fn. 48) possibly through his wife Sarah. His descendants appear to have sold it in 1781 to Major-General Russell Manners, (fn. 49) who with his wife Catherine conveyed it in 1804 to John Moore. (fn. 50) In 1839 it was sold by the devisees of the will of William Hamond to Daniel Sutton of Earl's Terrace, Kensington, (fn. 51) on whose death in 1842 it came to his only son Daniel. He died in 1871, leaving a daughter Emily Anne, who married Mr. Richard Valpy. (fn. 52) During the time that she held the estate it was increased by about 200 acres, a great portion of which formerly belonged to the vicars of Tring and Wigginton. (fn. 53) From Richard Valpy the estate descended to Rev. Arthur Sutton Valpy, who sold it between 1899 and 1902 to Lady Rothschild. It is now let to Mr. Alexander Marc, who resides there. The present house, which stands in a large and beautifully wooded park, was built about fifty years ago, the older house being entirely demolished at that time. No courts are now held.
The church of ST. BARTHOLOMEW is a small building with chancel 12 ft. 9 in. by 18 ft. 9 in., north organ chamber and vestry, nave 15 ft. by 35 ft. with north aisle and south porch and bell-cote over the west gable, and a chamber at the west of the nave 12 ft. 6 in. by 19 ft. 7 in.
It stands on the brow of the high ground on which the village is built, the site falling slightly from west to east, and is a picturesque building with flint walls and red-tiled roofs, set off by a well-kept churchyard. At a restoration in 1881 nearly all the old stonework was renewed, and new roofs were put to the nave, chancel, and vestry. There is nothing by which the date of the original building, an aisleless nave and chancel, can be fixed, as so little old detail remains. It has retained its plan unaltered, except for modern additions on the north side, the west chamber, added in the fifteenth century, being at first a distinct building, and not as now part of the nave.
The chancel has a modern east window of three lights, a late fourteenth-century north window of two quatrefoiled lights under a square head, and a similar window on the south, its stonework being chiefly modern. West of it is a blocked doorway, and a low side window with a square head and a flat sill. Near the south-east angle is a piscina with a shelf and a plain arched head, and on either side of the east window are the remains of small niches for images.
The modern vestry and organ chamber opens by an arch to the north-west of the chancel, and the chancel arch is also modern, having been raised and widened in 1881. The nave has two modern two-light windows on the south, and between them a south doorway, with a plain pointed arch and moulded label; its stonework, if ancient, has lost its old face, and with it any indications of date, though the section of the label points to the latter part of the thirteenth century.
The north arcade of the nave is modern, of three and a half bays, and is further lengthened westward as a baptistery, overlapping the western chamber. The west wall of the nave has been replaced by a wide pointed arch opening to the west chamber, which was formerly separated from the nave.
This chamber is an interesting fifteenth-century building, with a modern west doorway, and over it a square-headed window of three lights, with blank tracery in the head, the drip-stones to the labels being in the form of animals. The original entrance seems to have been on the south side, where a blocked square-headed opening is yet to be seen, having to the west a small square-headed window set low in the wall, and to the east a larger window of two trefoiled lights under a square head. The sill of the latter is carried down some way below the glass line on the inside. Against the north side of the chapel is built a shed, and no trace of a north window is to be seen beyond a few stones of a relieving arch. The floor of the chamber is at a higher level than that of the nave, and slopes downwards from west to east. There is no indication of its original arrangement, but the position of the small window in the south wall may point to the former existence of a loft at the west end; the roof, which is in the main original, has tiebeams with arched braces and open tracery in the spandrels, resting on large stone corbels carved as human heads, the greater part being modern. It is to be noted that the axis of the chamber is not in line with that of the nave.
The chancel seats, organ case, and altar rails are of excellent workmanship, of oak with bog-oak inlay and other decoration designed and made by the present vicar and some of the inhabitants of the parish.
The font is modern, standing at the west end of the north aisle, and the plate consists of a cup and cover paten of 1569, with a band of arabesques on the bowl, and a paten, chalice, flagon, alms dish, and spoon of 1877. There is one bell, dated 1813, with no other inscription.
The earlier registers are imperfect, having entries from 1610–33, and a few leaves for 1664–82. The second book contains baptisms for 1705–58, burials 1678–1742, and marriages 1685–1748. The third book has baptisms and burials from 1759 to 1812. There are also books of parish accounts for 1687–1732, and 1822 onwards, also a vestry minute-book from 1832.
The church of Wigginton appears to have been in early times in the hands of the priors of the hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in England, for in 1217 Geoffrey de Lucy, lord of the manor, sued the prior for the advowson, claiming it as he claimed the manor, through his wife Juliana. (fn. 54) The result of the plea is not given, but it would appear to have been in favour of the prior, for in 1229–30 he was again contending for the right of patronage of Wigginton. This time his adversary was Master Nicholas de Evesham, but he did not appear at the trial, and judgement was given for the prior. (fn. 55) The chapel of St. Bartholomew at Wigginton in 1328 became annexed to the church of Tring, but retained parochial rights of baptisms. (fn. 56) The rectory and advowson of this church descended with those of Tring until 1876–7, when the advowson was purchased by Richard Valpy of Champneys, and Emily Anne his wife, (fn. 57) from whom it has descended to the Rev. Arthur Sutton Valpy.
In 1587–8 a cottage called a 'chruche howse' (Church House ?) and a ruined chapel in Wigginton, in the tenure of William Palmer, were granted to Edward Wymark. (fn. 58)
Nonconformist places of worship in Wigginton were registered in 1778, 1799, 1800, and 1818, (fn. 59) but there was no church formed in the parish, and there were no chapels until 1904, when a Baptist chapel was built. (fn. 60)