Wigginton History

Wigginton is in an area of outstanding natural beauty in the Chiltern Hills, through which the Ridgeway Path runs.

The name WIGGINTON has been said to derive from WIC-ING-TON meaning the TOWN by the MEADOW belonging to the WIC (or CHIEF PLACE). The WIC was believed to have been successively a British, Roman and Saxon stronghold, possibly located within the limits of the present Parish. Wick Farm and Wick Wood may well owe the derivation of their names to this source. The same may also be true of the old local references to “Wicked Wigginton”

Wigginton is a long parish, running North and South, with its Western boundary lying along the scarp ledge of the Chiltern Hills . The Church and Village stand on a small spur, which drops abruptly to the North towards Tring from a height of 240 metres (730 feet) above sea level. A larger spur forms a high plateau in the centre of the Parish, with the ground shelving gradually East and South to the vales of Berkhamsted and Chesham.

The great earthwork known as GRIM’S or DEVIL’S DITCH (Grims Ditch or Grims Dyke.Grim is another name for the devil and deep ditches in the British landscape are often attributed to him), passes through the centre of the parish, East and West. It was commonly supposed to be the work of a “diabolical wizzard” and many old superstitions are still held in this connection. The area has yielded remains from the Palaeolithic and Bronze Ages, together with late Celtic implements and coins. The ditch is believed by some to have marked the boundary of the old Kingdom of Mercia , but Berkhamsted ( a favoured residence of the Kings of Mercia) lies on the wrong side of the ditch to support this argument. Possibly the ditch was used by the Celts as a line of defence after the invading Belgic people had established their settlement at Prae Wood, near St. Albans, in 20BC.

Following the Battle of Hastings in 1066, Duke William of Normandy marched North- West to cross the Thames at Wallingford and set up his headquarters at Berkhamsted Castle . Edgar Atheling, chosen king by the English people after Harold’s death, together with Aldred, Archbishop of York, the Earls Edwin and Morcar plus all the chief men of London came out of Berkhamsted and there surrendered to the Normans.

The manor of Wigginton formed part of the vast “fee” which was held in the 11th. Century by Robert, Count of Mortain, half brother of William the Conqueror. An entry in the Domesday Book indicated that it was not part of the King’s original gift, but had been taken forcibly by the Count from Tring. All traces of the Manor House have long since disappeared. Old Parish notes dated 1875 state that “Wigginton Manor is situated in Tring in Brook Street ”. During the English Civil War, Wigginton Common served as camp for some of Cromwell's troops. They used it as a base from where they could bombard Berkhamsted castle. There have been reports of Roundheads, seen on the common in the evening at twilight as the light begins to fade.

In the distant past, it is possible that access from Berkhamsted was along Shootersway, through Champneys and then via Wigginton Bottom to the village centre. Chesham Road , with its uncharacteristically long straight stretch past the Champneys main gate, is a relatively modern re-alignment. The Manor of Champneys is reputed to have been held at one time by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It subsequently passed to the Earl of Norfolk, and later, my marriage, to the Valpy family in 1870. it was sold around 1900 to Lady Rothschild. In the early 1930’s Champneys was established as the first Nature Cure Centre in the country, and today enjoys and international reputation as a leading Health Resort.

The original Church of St. Bartholomew in Wigginton probably dates back to the early 12th. Century. In 1217, Geoffrey de Lacy, Lord of the Manor, sued the Prior of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in England for the advowson (or living) of the Church, claiming it through his wife, Juliana. Soon after 1300 the church became annexed to the Church of Tring . The rectory and advowson descended with those of Tring until 1839, when the Rev. Charles Lacy resigned the advowson of Wigginton.

The west chamber is of the 15th. century and is known as the Weedon Chapel as it is supposed to have been built by the Weedon family of Pendley Lodge in Tring. In the floor in front of the font is a gravestone recording the burial of two members of the Weedon family in 1688. During the time of Charles Lacy, the Parish of Wigginton had much cause to be indebted to the services of the Rev. James Edward Austen, a nephew of Jane Austen the famous novelist. He lodged with his mother-in-law, Mrs. Smith, at Tring Park prior to his appointment as Vicar of Bray in 1852. “As a labour of love he undertook for Mr. Lacy the care of souls at Wigginton for the space of some four years from 1829 to 1832.

In 1857 the work of enlarging and restoration of the church begun. The aisle on the North side of the church was built; an arcade of three arches taking the place of the former North wall. The Baptistry was also built at the west end of the new aisle.

In 1876 the advowson was purchased by Richard Valpy of Champneys, and the following year a new set of silver communion plate and chalice was presented to the Church by the Rev. A.S. Valpy and his wife on the occasion of their marriage.

In 1881, the chancel arch was raised and widened, and a new arch was made between the chancel and the vestry so as to form a chamber for the organ, which had been given to the church in 1879. It was a gift from Miss Hannah Horlock, lady’s maid to an aunt of Mrs. Valpy. To this day, it serves the church extremely well and gives out a glorious sound to the Glory of God.

The Valpy family donated much of the fine stained glass in the Church. In 1890 the window close to the pulpit (which as you look towards the altar is situated on the right hand side, indicating that this holy place missed the desecration of the Reformation) is filled with stained glass in memory of Richard Valpy by his children.

Today, the church is used for a lot more than the regular services. Evening concerts are regularly put on, there are flower arranging classes, craft classes, children's activities, and very recently, St. Bartholomews is also used as the polling station for local and national elections. The church is also used every month for the Wigginton History Society meetings.

Flower Festivals are held every few years to coincide with our Patronal Festival (August 24th). The arrangements are always of an excellent standard and attract visitors from near and far.

Page last updated: 22nd Jan 2017 12:06 PM

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