Wisbech - Wiswell

A Topographical Dictionary of England. Originally published by S Lewis, London, 1848.

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'Wisbech - Wiswell', in A Topographical Dictionary of England, (London, 1848) pp. 625-629. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/topographical-dict/england/pp625-629 [accessed 22 April 2024]

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Wisbech (St. Mary)

WISBECH (St. Mary), a parish, in the union and hundred of Wisbech, Isle of Ely, county of Cambridge, 3 miles (N. W.) from the town of Wisbech: containing, with the chapelry of Guyhirn, 1931 inhabitants. The parish comprises 9483a. 1r. 5p., of arable and pasture land in nearly equal portions; 186 acres are common or waste. The living is annexed to the vicarage of Wisbech St. Peter. The church is principally in the later English style, with a large square tower. At Guyhirn is a neat chapel, built in 1666, of which the living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Vicar. A school is endowed with 21 acres of land.

Wisbech (St. Peter and St. Paul)

WISBECH (St. Peter and St. Paul), a sea-port, borough, market-town, and parish, and the head of a union, in the hundred of Wisbech, Isle of Ely, county of Cambridge, 43 miles (N.) from Cambridge, and 94 (N. by E.) from London; containing 8530 inhabitants. This place is of great antiquity, being noticed in 664, in a charter by which Wulfhere, son of Peada, King of the Mercians, granted to the abbey of Medehamstead, now Peterborough, "the lands from Ragwell, 5 miles to the main river that goeth to Elm and to Wisbece." In the Norman survey it is mentioned under the same appellation, which it retained till the reign of Edward I., from which period till the time of Henry VI. it was invariably written Wysebeche. The name is supposed to be derived from the river Ouse, then called the Wise, and from the Saxon bec, signifying either a running stream, or a tongue of land at the confluence of two rivers: before the diversion of their streams, the town might be described as situated at the confluence of the Ouse with the Nene.

Corporation Seal.

From the date of Wulfhere's charter, little is recorded of the history of the place till the year 1000, when the manor is said to have been given to the convent of Ely, by Oswi, and Leoflede, daughter of Brithnod the first abbot, on the admission into that monastery of their son Ailwin, afterwards bishop of Elmham. William the Conqueror, in the last year of his reign, erected a strong castle here, which he placed under the command of a governor, styled a constable, with a strong garrison, to keep the refractory barons in submission, and to check the ravages of the outlaws, who made frequent incursions from the neighbouring fens into the upland parts of the county. In 1190, Richard I. granted to the tenants of Wisbech Barton Manor exemption from toll in all towns or markets throughout England. This privilege was confirmed by King John, who, in 1216, visited the town, and is supposed to have taken up his residence in the castle, on leaving which the king attempting to cross the Wash at an improper time, lost all his carriages, treasure, and regalia. The greater part of the town, together with the castle, was destroyed in 1236, by an inundation of the sea, but it was soon afterwards restored; and the castle subsequently falling into dilapidation, Bishop Morton, towards the close of the 15th century, erected on its site another of brick, which became a palace of the bishops of Ely. In the reign of Elizabeth, the castle was appropriated to the confinement of state prisoners, and during the protectorate of Cromwell was purchased by Thurloe, afterwards his secretary, who made it an occasional residence. Upon the Restoration, it reverted to the bishops; but it was sold in 1793, and all remains of it have disappeared in the recent improvements of the town, which is at present the most flourishing place in the Isle of Ely.

The town is situated on both sides of the river now called the Nene, over which is a handsome stone bridge of one elliptical arch, 72 feet in the span. The streets are regularly formed, the houses in general well built; and on the site of the ancient castle, which was purchased by an architect and taken down in 1816, a crescent of more than 50 houses has been erected. The town is paved, and lighted with gas. From the late improvement in the system of draining, a great portion of previously unproductive land in the vicinity has been brought into a high state of cultivation, and on every side are seen fertile corn-fields and luxuriant pastures. A building, in the Doric style, was erected for literary purposes, in 1847, at a cost of £3000: it comprises a museum of some years' founding, and a public library established in 1781; the library contains more than 3000 volumes. There is also a theological library, in which are many valuable works of the old divines. In the town are a reading-room, and a neat theatre: assemblies are held in some rooms appropriately fitted up, and a commodious building has been some time erected, in which are hot, cold, and sea-water baths.

About a century since, the principal articles of trade were, oil, for the preparation of which there were seven mills in the town; and butter, of which not less than 8000 firkins were sent annually to London. The importance of the place as a sea-port has much increased of late years, and the trade has been greatly augmented. The main exports are corn, rape-seed, long wool (of which great quantities are sent to the clothing districts in Yorkshire), and timber, which is brought hither from the county of Northampton: Wisbech is now one of the principal places of export for wheat in the kingdom. The chief imports are wine, deals, and coal. The navigation of the river above the town was, many years since, greatly improved by a straight cut from Peterborough, forming a communication with the upland country, and supplying Peterborough, Oundle, and Northampton with various commodities. Below the town, very extensive works have been executed by the commissioners of the Nene Out-fall, which have greatly improved the drainage of large tracts of land in the neighbourhood, and made the navigation to the sea perfect: vessels of large burthen now approach the town, and load and unload at the quay and granaries. In a recent year, tonnage duties were paid on 97,119 tons; the number of vessels of above 50 tons registered at the port is 56, and their aggregate burthen 5200 tons. In 1794, a canal was cut from the river at Wisbech to the Old Nene at Outwell, and thence to the Ouse at Salter's Lode Sluice, opening a way to Norfolk and Suffolk. An act was passed in 1845, for a branch from the Lynn and Ely railway, to Wisbech, 10 miles in length; and in 1846, for a railway from Wisbech to March and St. Ives, 27¼ miles long: another act was passed in 1846, for a railway from Wisbech to the Syston aud Peterborough line near Stamford, in length 22 miles. The market is on Saturday. Fairs are held on the Saturday before Palm-Sunday, and the Saturday before Lady-day, for hemp and flax; also a considerable horse-fair on the Thursday before Whit-Sunday, which is numerously attended by the London dealers; and a large cattle-fair on August 12th, at which as many as 3000 head of cattle have been brought for sale. The market and fairs are held by the corporation on lease from the Bishop of Ely, who is lord of the manor. The market-place is a spacious open area.

The guild of the Holy Trinity, established in 1379, being found at the time of the Dissolution to have supported a grammar school, and maintained certain piers, jetties, and banks, "against the rage of the sea," was in 1549 restored by Edward VI. The king also gave the inhabitants a charter of incorporation, which was renewed by James I. in 1611, and confirmed by Charles II. in 1669. The corporation, however, at present consists of a mayor, 6 aldermen, and 18 councillors, under the act 5th and 6th of William IV., cap. 76; the borough is divided into two wards; the mayor and late mayor are justices of the peace, and the number of other magistrates is 3. The quarter-sessions for the Isle of Ely take place here and at Ely alternately; petty-sessions for the division are held here, and there is a county debtcourt, established in 1847, whose powers extend over part of the registration-district of Wisbech. The townhall is embellished with the town arms, a painting of Edward VI., and portraits of Dr. Jobson, the late vicar, who was a considerable benefactor to the town, and Thomas Clarkson, the strenuous advocate of negro emancipation. The shire-hall is annexed to the gaol, which was rebuilt in 1807. The parish comprises 5750a. 3r. 12p., of which about 2887 acres are arable, and 2792 pasture.

The living is a vicarage, with the living of Wisbech St. Mary annexed, valued in the king's books at £26. 13. 4.; patron, the Bishop of Ely; appropriators, the Dean and Chapter of Ely. The great tithes of the two parishes have been commuted for £1840, and the vicarial for £2175; the appropriate glebe contains 15½ acres, and the vicar's 51½. The church is a spacious structure, partly Norman, but chiefly in the decorated. English style, with a lofty embattled tower in the later style. It has two naves under one roof, divided in the centre by a beautiful range of light clustered pillars with pointed arches, and separated from their respective aisles by low massive pillars and circular Norman arches; the north aisle of the chancel is in the decorated style, and there is a fine window of the same character at the west end of the south aisle of the nave. A handsome chapel, of octagonal form, was erected in 1828, on the opposite side of the river, in the old market, at an expense of £9364. This sum was raised by subscription among the inhabitants, to meet a liberal offer of Dr. Jobson, who conveyed in fee a real estate of more than £5000 in value, as an endowment for the minister, to whom the rents and profits are given in perpetuity. The chapel was opened for divine service on January 13th, 1831, and contains about 1100 sittings, of which 300 are free; the preferment is in the gift of Trustees, and the net income is £200. There are places of worship for Baptists, the Society of Friends, Independents, Johnsonians, Wesleyans, Presbyterians, and Unitarians.

The free grammar school is of very ancient foundation, the appointment of a master in 1446 by the guild of the Holy Trinity being still on record. Its original endowment was augmented by bequests from Thomas Parke and John Crane, for increasing the master's stipend, which, including perquisites, amounts to £200 per annum. Belonging to the school are, four by-fellowships of £10 per annum each, founded at Peter-House, Cambridge, by T. Parke, in 1628; and two scholarships for youths of Wisbech, originally of £8, which are now worth £70 per annum each. Archbishop Herring, and Thomas Clarkson, were educated at the school. There is a national school endowed with lands producing £55 per annum. A fund for lending money to tradesmen free of interest, was bequeathed by John Crane in 1652; it was increased by a gift of £300 from William Holmes. In the town are several almshouses for the poor, and it has many valuable charities. The union of Wisbech comprises 22 parishes or places, of which 13 are in the county of Norfolk, and 9 in that of Cambridge; and contains a population of 31,484. Here was an hospital dedicated to St. John the Baptist, of which no traces are now discernible.

Wisborough-Green (St. Peter)

WISBOROUGH-GREEN (St. Peter), a parish, in the union of Petworth, partly in the hundreds of Rotherbridge and West Easwrith, but chiefly in the hundred of Bury, rape of Arundel, W. division of Sussex, 10 miles (W. by S.) from Horsham; containing 1807 inhabitants. It is bounded on the north by the county of Surrey, and comprises 8276 acres, of which 1220 are pasture and meadow, 4423 arable, and the remainder wood and waste. Several feeders to the river Arun flow through the parish, which is also intersected by the Arun and Wey canal. The village is pleasantly situated on the road from Billinghurst to Petworth; fairs are held in it on the 16th of July and 20th of November, for horses, cattle, sheep, and pigs. The living is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £9. 18. 0½., and in the patronage of the Bishop of Chichester: the tithes here of the Ecclesiastical Commission have been commuted for £1171, and those of the vicar for £440; the former has 19½, and the latter 4, acres of glebe. The church is principally in the early English style, with a tower surmounted by a lofty shingled spire; it contains some monuments to the Napper and King families. At Loxwood-End is a chapel; and there is a place of worship for Independents in the parish. The workhouse here has been appropriated for the children of the union.

Wisby, county of Lincoln.—See Whisby.

WISBY, county of Lincoln.—See Whisby.

Wiseton, or Wyeston

WISETON, or Wyeston, a township, in the parish of Clayworth, union of East Retford, North-Clay division of the wapentake of Bassetlaw, N. division of the county of Nottingham, 5 miles (E. S. E.) from Bawtry; containing 133 inhabitants, and comprising about 930 acres. The tithes have been commuted for £243, and there is a glebe of 12½ acres. The hamlet of Drakeholes or Drakelow, partly in this township, and partly in the parish of Everton, is one of the depôts for the Chesterfield and Trent canal, which passes through a tunnel here 250 yards in length, in cutting which many coins of Constantine, and human bones were found. Wiseton Hall, a handsome mansion consisting of a centre and two wings, is pleasantly situated on an eminence, with a lawn of 30 acres in front, interspersed with beautiful clumps of trees, and commanding fine and extensive views of the surrounding country.

Wishaw (St. Chad)

WISHAW (St. Chad), a parish, in the union of Aston, Birmingham division of the hundred of Hemlingford, N. division of the county of Warwick, 4 miles (E. S. E.) from Sutton-Coldfield; containing 266 inhabitants. This parish, with the hamlet of Moxhull, comprises 1196 acres, all the property of Mr. Noel, with the exception of a few small freeholds. The surface is well wooded, and partly undulated, the soil extremely fertile, and the scenery embraces pleasing views of the surrounding country. The London and Liverpool road, the Birmingham and Tamworth road, and the Birmingham and Derby railway, run through the parish; and the Birmingham and Fazeley canal passes close to Wishaw. The living is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £5. 5., and in the patronage of the Ffolliott and Jesson families; net income, £370. The church is an ancient structure in the early English style, with a square tower. Lady Hacketin 1710 gave £100, directing the interest to be applied to teaching children; and a parochial and Sunday school is supported by Mr. Noel. —See Moxhull.

Wishford, Great (St. Giles)

WISHFORD, GREAT (St. Giles), a parish, in the union of Wilton, hundred of Branch and Dole, Salisbury and Amesbury, and S. divisions of Wilts. 6 miles (N. W.) from Salisbury; containing 358 inhabitants. It is situated on the river Wily, and on the road from Salisbury to Bath; and comprises 1610a. 3r. 11p., of which about 900 acres are arable, 649 pasture, and 61 woodland: the soil is in general chalky. The living is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £17. 10. 7½., and in the gift of the Earl of Pembroke: the tithes have been commuted for £430; there is a parsonage-house, and the glebe comprises 17½ acres. The church, which was repaired, and the gallery enlarged, in 1829, contains an ancient monument to Thomas Bonham, lord of the manor, who is represented in the habit of a pilgrim, lying at full length; also a beautiful monument to Sir Richard Grobham dressed in armour. Sir R. Grobham in 1628 founded an almshouse for four aged men, and endowed it with property now worth £78 a year. Sir Richard Howe, Bart., in 1728 established a free school, and endowed it with tithes which now produce £74 per annum. A fund for apprenticing children, amounting to about £10. 10. per annum, was bequeathed by Daniel Oland in 1735.


WISLEY, a parish, in the union of Guildford. Second division of the hundred of Woking, W. division of Surrey, 2½ miles (N. by E.) from Ripley; containing 155 inhabitants. It is called Wiselei in the Domesday survey, and had a church at that time. The parish is the smallest but one in the hundred, comprising only 825 acres of rateable land: the main road from Ripley to Cobham crosses Wisley heath. The living is a discharged rectory, with the vicarage of Pyrford annexed, valued in the king's books at £40. 19.; net income, £210; patron, the Earl of Onslow: the glebe consists of 61 acres. The church is an ancient edifice in the early English style.

Wispington (St. Margaret)

WISPINGTON (St. Margaret), a parish, in the union of Horncastle, S. division of the wapentake of Gartree, parts of Lindsey, county of Lincoln, 4 miles (W. N. W.) from Horncastle; containing 84 inhabitants, and comprising 1194 acres by computation. The living is a discharged vicarage; patron and impropriator, C. Tumor, Esq. The great tithes have been commuted for £70, and the vicarial for £140; there is a parsonage-house, and the glebe contains 70 acres in this parish, and 30 in that of Stickney.

Wissett (St. Andrew)

WISSETT (St. Andrew), a parish, in the union and hundred of Blything, E. division of Suffolk, 1½ mile (N. W.) from Halesworth; containing 470 inhabitants. It comprises 2240a. 1r. 14p., of which 52 acres are common or waste. The living is a perpetual curacy; patrons and impropriators, the Hartopp family. The great tithes have been commuted for £452. 10., and those of the perpetual curate for £90. The church Us chiefly in the later English style, with a circular tower'; on the north and south are richly-decorated Norman doorways.

Wistanstow (Holy Trinity)

WISTANSTOW (Holy Trinity), a parish, in the union of Church-Stretton, partly in the hundred of Purslow, but chiefly in that of Munslow, S. division of Salop, 9¾ miles (N. W. by N.) from Ludlow; containing, with the township of Cheney-Longville, 1051 inhabitants. The parish is situated on the road from Ludlow to Shrewsbury, and the river Onny flows through. The surface is undulated, and the scenery beautiful: good freestone is obtained. The living is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £18; net income, £764; patron, the Earl of Craven. The church is an ancient cruciform structure, with a tower. At CwmHead is a district church, built in 1845, at a cost of £750: it has a spire. The Wesleyans have a place of worship; and a national school is supported by subscription. About £15 per annum, the rent of land purchased with bequests by Ann Ball (in 1604) and others, are distributed among the poor.

Wistaston (St. Mary)

WISTASTON (St. Mary), a parish, in the union and hundred of Nantwich, S. division of the county of Chester, 2½ miles (N. E. by E.) from Nantwich; containing 355 inhabitants. It comprises 1500 acres, of grazing land; the soil is half sand, half clay. The living is a discharged rectory, valued in the king's books at £4. 0. 3., and in the gift of J. W. Hammond, Esq.: the tithes have been commuted for £200; there is a parsonage-house, and the glebe contains 4½ acres. The church was rebuilt of brick in 1826; it has a square tower, and the chancel window is of stained glass. A day school possesses a small endowment. About £3 per annum, arising from bequests, are paid to the churchwarden by Mr. Hammond.


WISTERSTON, a chapelry, in the parish of Marden, hundred of Broxash, union and county of Hereford, 7 miles (N. by E.) from the city of Hereford; containing 28 inhabitants. The living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £48; patron, W. Vale, Esq.; impropriator, James Beebee, Esq.

Wiston, or Wissington (St. Mary)

WISTON, or Wissington (St. Mary), a parish, in the union of Sudbury, hundred of Babergh, W. division of Suffolk, 7½ miles (N. N. W.) from Colchester; containing 252 inhabitants. It comprises 1485a. 2r. 34p., and is bounded on the south by the river Stour. The living is a vicarage endowed with the rectorial tithes, valued in the king's books at £4. 19. 4½., and in the patronage of the Crown: the tithes have been commuted for £442; there is a parsonage-house, and the glebe contains 1¼ acre. The church has a rich and very curious Norman door, with a north entrance in the same style; the chancel is separated from the nave by an enriched arch.

Wiston (St. Mary)

WISTON (St. Mary), a parish, in the union of Thakeham, hundred of Steyning, rape of Bramber, W. division of Sussex, 1½ mile (N. N. W.) from Steyning; containing 341 inhabitants. In the southern portion of the parish is a magnificent sweep of down land, which rises in one place to an elevation of 820 feet; it commands most extensive views, and its beautiful plantations render it conspicuous from distant parts. Wiston House, a mansion in the Elizabethan style, erected by Sir Thomas Shirley about 1576, has been taken down and rebuilt by the present proprietor, Charles Goring, Esq., with the exception of the ancient baronial hall, a noble apartment having a finely-groined timber roof. The park, the surface of which is undulated, contains some stately forest-trees, and is well stocked with deer. The living is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £12. 13. 4., and in the gift of Mr. Goring: the incumbent's tithes have been commuted for £436, and a rent-charge of £64 is paid to Magdalen College, Oxford; the glebe contains 3½ acres. The church, situated in the park, is chiefly in the decorated style, and consists of a nave, chancel, and south aisle, at the east end of which is a sepulchral chapel; there are monuments to Sir William Shirley, Sir Thomas Shirley and his wife, and several of the Gorings.

Wistow (St. John the Baptist)

WISTOW (St. John the Baptist), a parish, in the union of St. Ives, hundred of Hurstingstone, county of Huntingdon, 3¾ miles (S. S. W.) from Ramsey; containing 490 inhabitants, and comprising 2332a. 3r. 7p. The living is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £10. 17. 8½.; net income, £354; patron, R. G. Woodruff, Esq. There is a glebe-house, and the glebe contains 38 acres.

Wistow (St. Winston)

WISTOW (St. Winston), a parish, in the union of Billesdon, hundred of Gartree, S. division of the county of Leicester, 7¼ miles (S. E. by S.) from Leicester; containing 296 inhabitants. On the night previous to the battle of Naseby, King Charles I. slept at Wistow Hall here, which is now the seat of Sir Henry Halford, son of the late Sir Henry Halford, Bart., G.C.B., the distinguished physician, who died in 1844. The house was considerably enlarged, and the grounds were laid out with much taste, by the late proprietor, at an expense of £20,000. In the library is a splendid clock, ornamented with a bust of George IV., and valued at 600 guineas, which, shortly after the decease of that monarch, was presented by six members of the royal family to Sir Henry, as a tribute to his skill and assiduity as their physician. The church is a mile and a half from the road between London and Leicester by Welford, and about a mile from that through MarketHarborough; and the Leicester Union canal runs through the parish. There is only one house in Wistow, besides the Hall and two tenements belonging to servants of the establishment. In the chapelry of Newton-Harcourt, in the parish, are numerous small dwellings, and about 40 or 50 stocking-frames are at work. The living is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £8. 18. 4.; net income, £92; patron and impropriator, Sir Henry Halford. The tithes were commuted for land in 1771. The church was repaired and beautified by the late baronet, who erected a burial-place adjoining, in which are interred the remains of the late Lady Halford, Mr. Justice Vaughan, and other relatives. There is a chapel of ease at Newton-Harcourt.

Wistow (All Saints)

WISTOW (All Saints), a parish, in the union of Selby, Lower division of the wapentake of BarkstoneAsh, W. riding of York, 3 miles (N. W. by N.) from Selby; containing 756 inhabitants. It comprises 2900 acres; the surface is flat, and the soil loam: the river Ouse passes within half a mile. The living is a discharged vicarage, in the patronage of the Prebendary of Wistow in the Cathedral of York, valued in the king's books at £8; net income, £221: the tithes were commuted for land and a money payment in 1776. The church is an ancient structure, with a tower. There are places of worship for Wesleyans and Primitive Methodists. A school is endowed with £5 per annum; and here is a charity for apprenticing boys, founded by Archbishop Montaigne, the annual value of which is £24.

Wiswell, or Wiswall

WISWELL, or Wiswall, a township, in the parish of Whalley, union and parliamentary borough of Clitheroe, Higher division of the hundred of Blackburn, N. division of Lancashire, 3 miles (S. by E.) from Clitheroe; containing 775 inhabitants. Mention of Wiswell, or the "spring of Wiga," first occurs in the reign of Richard I., when it was vested in the de Lacys. In the 14th of Edward III., Richard Radcliffe held the manor for the manor of Whalley. The Braddylls and Sherburnes were subsequently proprietors; and from the latter the property passed by marriage to the family of Weld, by whom it was sold, in 1830, to Robert Whalley, Esq., of Clerk-Hill. The township is intersected by the road from Whalley to Clitheroe: the village is distant about a mile north-north-east from the village of Whalley. The extension of manufactures, comprising the spinning of cotton-thread and the weaving and printing of calico, has caused a considerable increase in the population within the last few years. Wiswell Hall existed in the reign of Henry V.