Wormingford: Manors and other estates

Pages 299-301

A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10, Lexden Hundred (Part) Including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2001.

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A manor in Wormingford assessed at 1½ hides and 10 a. was held in 1066 by Godwin and in 1086 by Robert Gernon with Ilger as tenant; one vill- anus had been taken by Raymond Girald and was held by Roger of Poitou who held manors in Mount Bures and West Bergholt. (fn. 1)

Robert Gernon's fief had escheated to the Crown, and Henry I granted it to William de Munfitchet and thereafter the manor of WORMINGFORD HALL was held of the barony of Stansted Mountfichet. In 1267 on the death without issue of William's descendant Richard de Munfichet, the overlordship passed to Giles de Plaiz, Lord Plaiz (d. 1302). (fn. 2) It descended with the barony of Plaiz to John de Vere, earl of Oxford (d. 1513), and with the earl- dom of Oxford until 1582. The overlordship was last recorded in 1612 when Wormingford was said to be held of Sir Francis Hobart (Hubert) of Stansted Hall. (fn. 3)

The demesne tenancy of the manor descended in the Poynings family, through Michael who held it in 1303, (fn. 4) Thomas (d. 1339), and his son Michael, (fn. 5) who exchanged it in 1362 with his nephew William Baud (fn. 6) who died in 1375. His heir was his nephew Richard Poynings, Michael's son. (fn. 7) By 1383 the manor was held by Richard Waldegrave. (fn. 8) He or his heir of the same name held it in 1420, and then it passed to his son Richard (fn. 9) (d. 1435), and to Richard's son Richard (fl. 1455). (fn. 10) In 1480 Elizabeth, widow of Sir Thomas Waldegrave, held the manor with her second husband William Say. (fn. 11) They were followed by William Waldegrave (d. 1526), grandson of Richard, William's son George (d. 1528), and by George's son William (d. 1553). From William's son, Sir William (d. by 1584), it passed to his son William (d. 1610), William's son William (d. 1612), whose widow Jemima held in dower in 1635. Their son William Waldegrave (d. by 1650) succeeded, then his son Thomas Waldegrave. His son Thomas sold the manor with Church Hall in 1702 to John Currance, whose son Clement held it in 1704. The last Currance died in America, and Richard Andrews of Earls Colne bought the manor together with Church Hall manor and the rect- ory. His heir, John Wale, (fn. 12) sold them in 1742 to Samuel Tufnell of Great Waltham, (fn. 13) in which family the Wormingford Hall and Church Hall estates remained in 1995.

Wormingford Hall, south of the Bures Road, is a gabled house with a wealth of carved and moulded decoration inside and out. Much of it was added on old or introduced timber by S. J. Tufnell in the mid 20th century and at the same time panelling and other architectural sal- vage was brought from London and elsewhere. Before those alterations the house appeared to be later 19th century, (fn. 14) but was partly timber- framed. The north end is a substantial, probably 16th-century, parlour cross wing but the original plan of the ranges to the north of it has been obscured by later rebuilding and alteration. Field names suggest there was a park to the south. (fn. 15) Another deer park, mentioned c. 1528, sometimes called Smallbridge park although in Wormingford, opposite the Waldegrave manor of Smallbridge in Bures St. Mary (Suff.), pre- sumably belonged to that manor. (fn. 16)

Before 1189 the manor of CHURCH HALL, or WORMINGFORD, was given with the church by Walter of Windsor and Christine his mother to the nuns of Wix priory. The priory was dissolved by Cardinal Wolsey in 1525, and Church Hall passed with the rest of his pos- sessions to his college at Oxford and school at Ipswich. (fn. 17) On Wolsey's fall and death in 1530 it escheated to the Crown, and in 1531 was granted to Waltham abbey. At the Dissolution the manor reverted to the Crown, and in 1544 Henry VIII gave it to Thomas Mannock and his wife Denise. (fn. 18) In 1578 the Mannocks sold it to Sir William Waldegrave and his wife Elizabeth. (fn. 19) Thereafter it descended with Wormingford Hall manor.

The manor house, Church Hall, immediately north of the church, is of two storeys, timberframed and rendered. The roofs are tiled. It was built, probably in the early 16th century, with cross wings at the north and south ends. A small staircase-wing of red brick adjoins the north wing. The south wing has remains of the original projecting upper storey, now underbuilt. (fn. 20)

The overlordship of the manor or estate of GERNONS or Gerners, later called Garnons, was held, as was Wormingford Hall, as part of the barony of Stansted Mountfichet by the de Plaiz family. (fn. 21)

A younger branch of the Gernon family of Mountfichet were undertenants. From Ralph Gernon (d. 1248) the manor passed to his son William (d. 1258), (fn. 22) whose son Ralph (d. 1274) (fn. 23) briefly forfeited it in 1265 for his support of the barons. (fn. 24) Ralph's son William (d. 1327) (fn. 25) was followed by his son John (d. 1383-4), and by John's granddaughter and coheir, Joan, wife of Robert Swinbourne. (fn. 26) Joan settled the manor on John Helion and his wife Edith, a settlement confirmed in 1433. (fn. 27) Edith, held in dower until her death in 1497 when the manor passed to her granddaughter Anne, wife of Sir Roger Wentworth. The manor descended with Little Horkesley until 1623 when Humphrey Winch, one of the justices of common pleas, (fn. 28) sold it to Frances Alston of Polstead (Suff.), from whom it passed to her son Thomas Alston. (fn. 29) William Hale of King's Walden (Herts.) acquired it before 1685, (fn. 30) and c. 1690 sold it to the Drye family of Milton (Northants.). (fn. 31) In 1791 George Nottidge bought it (then described as a farm called Garners). (fn. 32) He or another George Nottidge died in 1855 and it remained in his family until 1884 when James Inglis bought the estate, no longer described as a manor. (fn. 33)

In 1231 Henry III gave Ralph Gernon ten oaks for restoring his stockade of Gerner which had been destroyed by fire. (fn. 34) That was presum- ably on the site of Garnons, 1¼ miles north-east of the church, which is on a platform over- looking the valley and still in 1996 was sur- rounded on three sides by a moat. It is entered through a single-storeyed porch of the 15th century which formerly led into a cross passage which occupied a half bay of the hall range. To the east of it was a tall three-bayed hall with octagonal crown posts and whose roof timbers are still heavily encrusted with soot. To the west there is a service cross wing and detached to the south-west a low range of one storey and attic, probably 16th-century, which provided additional service rooms. It is not certain when the upper floor was put into the hall and a large stack was built in the former screens passage, but it is likely to have been c. 1600. The parlour wing, which presumably lay east of the hall, had been demolished by the earlier 18th century when the house was refitted. More alterations, including the present main staircase, were undertaken in the earlier 19th century and it may have been then that a passage was cut through the ground floor of the stack. There was apparently a medieval park. (fn. 35)

The land which comprised the manor of WOOD HALL seems to have been part of the estate in Horkesley which Godebold held of Sweyn of Essex in 1086. The manor was held of the honor of Rayleigh in 1333 and the demesne tenants were the Horkesley family of Little Horkesley. William of Horkesley (d. 1332) and his wife Emma (d. 1332) were succeeded by William's nephew, John Roos, (fn. 36) who conveyed it in 1336 to John Rokell. (fn. 37) It was held by Geoffrey Rokell (d. 1467) and then by John Pooley (d. 1487) and then by John's son Richard. (fn. 38) William Pooley held it in Henry VIII's reign, then Alice his widow (d. 1560), then their son John Pooley (d. 1580), and John's son William (d. 1587) and grandson John (b. c. 1557). (fn. 39) In 1633 the estate was bought, appar- ently from trustees, by Sir John Denham (d. 1639), whose son, the poet Sir John, sold it to trustees, and they to Sir Harbottle Grimston Bt. in 1646. The estate descended with West Bergholt in the Grimston family until 1775 when James Grimston, Viscount Grimston, sold it to Thomas Parmenter of Wormingford. On Thomas's death in 1789 Wood Hall was divided between his daughters, Elizabeth, Anne, and Sarah, whose shares were acquired by Thomas Smith between 1792 and 1801. In 1801 Smith sold the estate to Edward Ratcliff (d. by 1808). In 1810 John Ratcliff sold it to William Hobson, whose trustees sold it in 1845 to Thomas Hallum. (fn. 40) Thomas George Hallum was one of the principal landowners in the parish until c. 1900. (fn. 41)

Wood Hall lies within a moat and is approached from the north across a brick bridge. At the centre of the north side there is an early 17th-century cross wing with a jetty bressumer along which runs guilloche ornament. The hall probably lay to the east where there is now a 17th-century timber-framed range which was faced with brick in the 18th century. To the west of the cross wing there is a narrow 16th-century two-bayed range, which extends to the moat, and abutting the north side of the narrow range another two-bayed 16th-century range formerly had a jetty along its east side. The original purpose of the two ranges, which were service and storage in the 19th century, is not clear.

Field names suggest there was a park south of the hall. (fn. 42)

In the 12th century St. John's abbey, Col- chester, was given small amounts of land in Wormingford by Queen Eleanor, and Matthew Gernon, and Robert, son of William of Horkesley. (fn. 43) The abbey held land adjoining Gernons in 1324. (fn. 44)

The rectory, composed of the great tithes, except those of Gerners farm which belonged to the vicarage, was held by Wix priory and descended with Church Hall manor after the Dissolution. (fn. 45)


  • 1. V.C.H. Essex, i. 517; The Ancestor, i. 122, 125.
  • 2. Sanders, Eng. Baronies, 83; Cal. Inq. p.m. iv, p. 81.
  • 3. Above, Wivenhoe, Manors; Morant, Essex, ii. 231-2, 578.
  • 4. Cal. Inq. p. m. iv, p. 81.
  • 5. P.R.O., C 135/3, no. 4; C 135/60, no. 6; W. Farrer, Honors and Knights Fees, iii. 330.
  • 6. Cal. Close, 1360-4, 409, 413.
  • 7. Cal. Inq. p. m. xiv, pp. 240-1.
  • 8. Cal. Chart. R. 1341-1417, 293.
  • 9. Cal. Close, 1419-22, 123; 1422-9, 125-6.
  • 10. P.R.O., C 139/69, no. 27; Cat. Anct. D. iii. D 562.
  • 11. P.R.O., SC 6/1122/8; D.N.B. s.v. John Say.
  • 12. E.R. liii. 21-2.
  • 13. Morant, Essex, ii. 231-2; E.R.O., D/DTu 271.
  • 14. Photograph in possession of Mrs. Tufnell.
  • 15. E.R.O., D/CT 412.
  • 16. P.R.O., E 36/163, p. 155.
  • 17. Newcourt, Repertorium, ii. 685; V.C.H. Essex, ii. 124.
  • 18. Morant, Essex, ii. 232; P.R.O., E 318/16/742.
  • 19. Cal. Pat. 1575-8, 424; Elizabeth I's grant of the manor to Richard Hill and William James in 1572 is presumably an error: ibid. 1569-72, 348.
  • 20. R.C.H.M. Essex, iii. 237; Dept. of Env., Buildings List.
  • 21. Morant, Essex, ii. 232; above, this section.
  • 22. Cal. Inq. p. m. i, pp. 121, 292; Morant, Essex, ii. 181.
  • 23. P.R.O., C 133/5, no. 3.
  • 24. Close R. (Suppl.), 1244-66, 47; Cal. Inq. Misc. i, p. 206.
  • 25. Cal. Inq. p. m. vi, p. 479.
  • 26. Morant, Essex, ii. 179, 232.
  • 27. B.L. Add. Ch. 5253.
  • 28. Morant, Essex, ii. 232; Cal. Inq. p.m. Hen VII, ii, p. 29; above, Little Horkesley, Manors.
  • 29. B.L. Add. Ch. 35288-91.
  • 30. Ibid. 35373.
  • 31. Morant, Essex, ii. 233.
  • 32. E.R.O., D/P 185/1/3.
  • 33. Ibid. D/DQu 129.
  • 34. Farrer, Honors and Knights Fees, iii. 204.
  • 35. E.R.O., D/DTu 264, rot. 3; above, plate 25.
  • 36. Cal. Inq. p. m. vii, pp. 319-20; above, Little Horkesley, Manors.
  • 37. B.L. Harl. Ch. 55.E.28, 29.
  • 38. Cal. Inq. p. m. Hen. VII, i, p. 117, where the manor is said to be held of Wix priory; Beaumont, Wormingford, Short Hist. Ch. and Par. 7.
  • 39. Morant, Essex, ii. 233; P.R.O., C 142/187, no. 47; C 142/217, no. 117.
  • 40. E.R.O., D/DEl T339; Cal. Cttee. for Compounding, iii. 1790-1; D.N.B.; above, West Bergholt, Manors.
  • 41. Kelly's Dir. Essex (1870, 1902).
  • 42. E.R.O., D/CT 412.
  • 43. Colch. Cart. i. 54, 227, 268.
  • 44. E.A.T. n.s. xxiv. 106.
  • 45. E.R.O., D/P 185/1/2; Lamb. Pal. Libr., Porteus Papers 30.