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Chapter TitleNotes


Title :Widhill Chapel and Manor
Author :J. Sadler
Book Type :General History and Topography
Publisher :WANHS
Date :1924
Journal :WAM, volume 42, pages 11-17
By John Sadler

There is, or was, in the parish of Cricklade St. Sampson a chapel at Widhill, which was the subject of a suit in the Exchequer Court in the early days of James I. There was also a manor, of which the early history is wanting.

The suit in the Court of Exchequer was brought by Andrew Lenn, the Vicar of Cricklade St. Sampson, against William Bonde, and alleged that the vicars had not only the cure of souls of that parish - being great and replenished with 2000 people and upwards - and that the tithing of Northwiddell had time out of mind been reputed and taken to be part of the parish, and there was a Chapel of Ease called the Chapel of Northwidhill within the parish of Cricklade St. Sampson, being distant a mile and a half from the parish Church, the which chapel had always been parcel and member of the parish Church and dedicated and employed for the service of God, and that the vicars had always celebrated divine service there, and enjoyed the tithes and glebe. The Dean and Chapter of Sarum, the patrons, had presented complainant about five years previously and he had ever since celebrated divine service and preached in the parish Church and also at the Chapel of Northwidhill and had enjoyed the glebe and tithes, until of late one William Bonde pretending the Chapel of Northwiddhill was a concealed chapel, about June previously procured a grant or lease thereof from the King, by the name of the rectory of Eastwiddhill, and did most disorderly enter the said chapel by force, kept possession, tore up the pews and turned the house of prayer into a private dwelling, and brought actions against complainant and others.

Defendant's answer is not on the file: but complainant's replication says the chapel had always been a chapel of ease and was a rectory or parsonage and not founded or used for superstitious uses. It had been called sometimes the Chapel of Widhill, sometimes the Chapel of Northwidhill, and sometimes the parsonage of Estwidhill, and all were the self-same thing. Iles and Kemble mentioned in the Answer occupied under complainant, and paid tithes to him. [Exchequer B. &A. James I., Wilts 187. P.R.O.]

As appears by the Bill, William Bonde had already brought his action against the vicar and others, including George and Michael Kemble - possibly sons of William Kemble, of Widhill, gent., whose will [P.C.C. 31 Wallopp] was proved 30th May, 1600 - and threatened to take the profits of the glebe and the tithes. He does not seem to have met with much success, as the Court on 21st Oct., 1605, ordered him to remove himself from possession of the chapel; to suffer the vicar to say divine service there, to celebrate the sacraments as had been formerly accustomed, and to take to his own use the profits of the glebe and the tithes, upon bond of £40 to the King to answer to the Court if judgment should be given against him upon the information for intrusion. William Bonde was ordered to set up the pews by him pulled down and to answer the vicar's bill within eight days. [Excheq. Decrees & Orders, 3 Jas. I., Ser. II., vol. 3.]

On 29th November following a further order was made. It appeared that the defendant had not given up possession and a process of attachment had been awarded against him; defendant submitted an affidavit stating that he had then done so and removed his wife and children and household goods and would have done so before if he could have found a house to go to; and that he had endeavoured to put up the pews but could not find a carpenter, but would with all convenient speed cause them to be erected and set up. The Court ordered the attachment to be discharged and the contempt respisted until the trial [for intrusion]; Bonde being required, according to his own offer, to build up the pews again before Christmas, and to leave in Court the costs of the attachment before the discharge was sealed. [Ib. vol. 2.]

In the meantime evidence had been taken on Commission at Cricklade on 23rd September, by Sir Henry Bainton, Sir Henry Poole, and Symon James, gent. The witnesses were only five: Robert Waters, husbandman, aged 70; Alce Dennis, aged 80; Peeter Knight, yeoman, aged 30, son-in-law of Robert Withers, late Vicar of Cricklade; Thomas Withers, yeoman, aged 40, brother of the late vicar; and Jynnyver Slatter, husbandman, aged 90; all of Cricklade, except Robert Withers, who was of Bishops Cannings, and all agreed that the Chapel of East Widhill with the glebe and tithes had always belonged to the Vicars of Cricklade; they had known the parsonage house, but did not know whether there was a parsonage there or not - except in name. Alce Dennis deposed that in Queen Mary's time her father, who was an inhabitant of Estwidhill and paid tithes there, brought an action against Sir John Cockle, then Vicar, for not saying service in the Chapel, and had an order to compel him to serve if he had lived; and said "they used to marrie Christen and Administer the Sacraments theere bothe in the tyme of Supersticon and Sithence." [Excheq Depns., 3 Jas. I., Michaelmas Term, Wilts, No. 45.] These depositions were returned into Court and ordered to be read and used, but counsel for Bonde affirmed that they were taken after the return of the Commission, and they were accordingly suppressed unless good cause to the contrary should be shown. But Robert Pittes, of Kemble, gent, made an affidavit on 9th February [1606] that he engrossed the depositions, which were taken on 23rd Sept., and not on 23rd Oct., as in mentioned in the head and title, and the same was misentered by him in negligence and for no other object. The Court ordered that the date should be amended and the depositions used; and as the vicar was "of small living" and craved a speedy hearing, the case was ordered to be heard the first sitting next term. [Excheq. Decrees & Orders, Jas. I., Serv. II.. vol. 3, fo. 166d]

On 30th June, 1606, the cause came on for hearing, but, as defendant did not appear, it was postponed for a week, and on for hearing, but, as defendant did not appear, it was postponed for a week, and on 7th July it came up again; defendant again failed to appear, and as it was shown by the records of the Court that after commencing his action against the vicar he had not proceeded to trial, but had (as was certified) commenced a suit in the Court of Common Pleas, the Court finally ordered that the said Andrew Lenn and his successors, Vicars of Cricklade St. Sampson, should quietly enjoy the said chapel, glebe, and tithes as parcel for the said vicarage, &c., until on a new bill to be brought by the said Bonde on other and better matter to be showed and proved, it should be otherwise ordered. And it was further ordered that the said Bonde was not to proceed further against the said Lenn concerning the premises, but was to pay 40s. to plaintiff towards his charges for wrongful vexation.


Widehille and Wildehille are mentioned in Domesday, and Canon Jones considered them to be different portions of Widhill, " the name now of some farms in the parishes of Broad and Little Blunsdon"; the first probably North Widhill, which was held of Alured of Marlbrough, and the other he considered to be West Widhill, which was held by Tetbald and Humfrey, two of the King's officers.

I can find nothing definite about the manor until, soon after the lawsuit already mentioned, it came into the hands of Robert Jenner, whom I cannot satisfactorily identify. He was grantee, with his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Longston, citizen and grocer of London, then deceased, of a tenement with garden and orchard, and an inn called the Swan, in Dartford, Kent, from his brother-in-law, Henry Longston, in satisfaction of his wife's portion and of her claim in the estate of her father under the custom of the City of London. Robert Jenner is described as a citizen and goldsmith of London in the indenture of conveyance dated 16th December, 1625. [Close Rolls, 2 Chas. I., pt. 2, No. 18.]

Two years later he figures as a Wiltshire landowner. An indenture of 15th November, 1627, between Thomas Cooke, of Cote, gent., and Robert Jenner, of Widhill [Close Rolls, 3 Chas. I., pt. 19, No. 12.], recites that Thomas Cooke of New Sarum, merchant, by indenture of 23rd May, 28 Henry VII., granted to Edward Tame, of Fairford, all his lands, &c., in Widhill at a yearly rent of £3, which rent had descended to Thomas Cooke of Cote; and Robert Jenner, being then lawfully seised of the fee of the lands, Thomas Cooke sold to him the annual rent of £3. It is not shown how Robert Jenner acquired possession of Widhill, whether by purchase or inheritance, as nothing earlier on the subject has come to light. His dealings in land were not confined to Widhill; he had about this time purchased the manor of Eysey from Sir John Hungerford, of Down Ampney, and Sir Anthony Hungerford, his son, apparently in the names of himself, John Jenner of Crudwell, of yeoman, and William Gibbs, citizen and goldsmith of London; for on 2nd March, 4 Charles I., John Jenner and Wm. Gibbs, in performance of the trust reposed in them by Robert Jenner, conveyed to him all their estate in the manor of Eysey, lately purchased b y him of Sir John and Sir Anthony Hungerford [Ib. 6 Charles I., pt. 7, No. 11]. He did not, however, keep this manor of Eysey long, but sold it 17th November, 1630, and two closes called farmer's Closes, heretofore one, in Eysey and Latton, in conjunction with John Jenner and Wm. Gibbs, to Edmund Dunche, of Little Wyttenham, Berks. [Ib., 6 Charles I., pt 10, No. 32] Some years later, on 14th February, 23 Charles 1. (1648), he purchased the manor of Marston Meysey and all the property there, which had belonged to the Bishop of Salisbury, for £1092 12s. 9d., from the trustees of Parliament for the sale of lands and possessions of the late Archbishop and Bishops. [Ib. 23 Charles I., pt. 11, No. 6] Marston Meysey was then part of the ecclesiastical parish of Meysey Hampton, in Gloucestershire; and according to a petition to Parliament from the inhabitants it appears that there had formerly been a Chapel of Ease there, part of which still remained but had been converted to other uses by the late Bishops and their tenants or farmers, and the inhabitants asked permission to re-build and prayed that the tithes and duties arising locally might be assigned to them for the benefit of a godly and pious divine to preach to them, &c. Parliament by an ordinance in April, 1648, gave permission for building a Chapel or Church where the former Chapel stood, and for the use of the materials thereof: the said Chapel to be a parochial Church called by the name of Marston Mesey; and the bounds and limits as they were known to lie in the County of Wilts to be the bounds and limits of the parish of Marston Meysey: the Church to be a rectory; the incumbents to be from time to time, and at all times "eligible" by Robert Jenner and his heirs and assigns, and presentable only by Robert Jenner, being lord of the manor, his heirs and assigns, as the patron: the two parishes of Meysey Hampton and Marston Meysey to be several and distinct, discharged from all parochial duty, to each other, except that the Rector of Marston Meysey was to pay to the Rector of Meysey Hampton £6 14s. towards the first fruits at such times as they should be due and payable by the Rector of Meysey Hampton. [Lords' Journal, 22nd April, 1648]

Robert Jenner died 7th December, 1651, and was buried in Cricklade St. Sampson's Church, where there is an altar tomb with an inscription to his memory [Sir T. Phillipps], describing him as a citizen and goldsmith of London, and aged 67. It records his gifts of eight almshouses in the Abbie of Malmesbury, with £40 a year for their maintenance, and a free school to "this" parish, with £20 a year for its maintenance; his building of the parish Church of Marston Meysey "at his own Proper Cost and Charge": and his gifts to London - £20 to St Bartholomew's Hospital, £15 to the Goldsmiths' Company, for fifteen of the poorest men of the company, £5 to the poor of St. John Zacharias Parish, and £5 to the poor of St. Leonard's Parish in Foster Lane, all yearly for ever. It will be observed that there is no mention of any family or local connection. John Jenner, of Crudwell, was presumably his brother; He made his will 29th October, 1647 [P.C.C. 114 Pembroke], leaving the residue of his goods, &c., to his kinsman, Henry Ottrig, his exor., and appointing his brother, Robert Jenner, one of the overseers; but he mentions no children. The Visitation of Gluoucestershire 1682 - 3 [Edn. Fenwick & Metcalfe] has a pedigree of Oatridge, of Butler's Court, Lechlade, which begins with Simon Oatridge, of Garsdon, Wilts, who married Jane, sister of Robert Jenner, of Widhill, Esq., and had seven sons, including Henry, Robert, Daniel, and John, and a daughter, Abigail - names which all appear in the will of Robert Jenner. But there were other Jenners in the neighbourhood, as the same will plainly shows [P.C.C. 242 Grey]. By it Robert Jenner left £200 a year and a house in Foster Lane, London, to his wife for life; the manor of Marston Meysie to Robert Jenner, son of William Jenner the elder, of Marston Meysie; the advowson of the rectory there to John Jenner, the younger, son of John Jenner, of Marston Meysie; household goods at Widhill to "kinsman" John Jenner the younger; he directed that his kinsman, Henry Oatridge, should enjoy the lands at Widhill, except the house and two closes until [blank], and that his kinsman, John Jenner, should let "his unckle Henry Oatridge" have possession. The manor of Widhill was settled by deed of 20th May, 19 Charles I., on his wife for life. In a codicil it is stated that Henry Oatridge had been granted a lease of Widhill at a yearly rent of £450, out of which £40 was to be paid to the poor of Malmesbury [? for the maintenance of the almshouses]. It is probable that Robert Jenner had a daughter, as a marriage licence was granted by the Bishop of London on 15th May, 1632, to Thomas Trevor, of St. Bride's, bachelor, aged 20, son and heir of Thomas Trevor, Kt., one of the Barons of the Exchequer, and Anne Jenner, of St. Leonard's, Foster Lane, spinster, aged 15, daughter of Robert Jenner, of the same, who consented. But assuming it to be so, as the description warrants, it is strange that the name of Trevor does not appear in the will, unless the daughter, Anne, died without issue before her father. The window, Elizabeth Jenner, died 23rd November, 1658, and was buried at Cricklade.

John Jenner succeeded to the property at Widhill. He was under age at the date of the death of Robert Jenner, and after a time got into difficulties so great that the property became the subject of many lawsuits, from 1684, if not earlier. John Jenner had to fly from home and was outlawed. He continued an outlaw till his death in 1706.

His only surviving son, Nathaniel, succeeded him, and took action to recover that part of the estate which had been seized under the outlawry. At first, in 1710, he claimed that Robert Jenner was his great-uncle, and that John Jenner, his father, was a very near kinsman and relative to the same Robert [Chancery Proceedings, Bridges, 249, 31]; and two years later, in a Chancery suit concerning the school at Cricklade [Ib. Bridges, 249, 32] he stated that Robert Jenner being minded to settle his estate so that it should remain in his name and blood, and for the better advancement of "his nephew," John Jenner, complainant's father, did by indenture of 20th May, 1643, between himself and John Jenner, of Marston Mesey, in consideration of his natural affection to the said John Jenner the elder, "his cousin german," and to John Jenner, his son, and William Jenner and Robert James, the younger, brothers of John Jenner, the elder, covenant, &c. Unfortunately I have not been able to trace this indenture as enrolled in any of the Courts, but the information is precise though not consistent in itself; and it is late in being brought forward. This bill goes on to state that Henry and Daniel Oatridge, under colour of a nuncupative codicil to the will of Robert Jenner, built a school in Cricklade and placed a schoolmaster there, paying him £20 yearly till John Jenner came into possession; that John Jenner continued the payment for some years, but when he got possession of the deeds, which he could not do at first, he discontinued it under legal advice. Complainant having succeeded his father under the deed of 20th May, 1643, as his only surviving son, was greatly disturbed by defendants, the churchwardens of both parishes in Cricklade, who had taken proceedings for the re-establishment of the school; to which complainant had replied, and the other side had not proceeded; but they had obtained a commission of charitable uses which without notice to him had decreed that he should pay £20 a year and arrears for four years and a half. The defendants in their reply to the bill gave a brief statement of the starting of the school and said that Robert Jenner desired that Mr Durham, who lived at Staunton with Mr. [or Mrs.] Hippisley, should be the first master and teach Latin scholars only. Cricklade boys to pay 4s. yearly, and others what the master might arrange with their parents. Mr. Durham refused the mastership and Mr. Farmer was appointed; he was succeeded by Francis Green, clerk; after him John Jenner, who had come of age, nominated Mr. Nicholas Adee; after him Mr. Edward Davis and several others; the last Mr. John Haugh, who had been master for many years. The executors paid the £20 a year, and John Jenner continued it until, about thirty-two years previously, he absconded. John Haugh having been surety for many of John Jenner's debts, was forced to leave and had fled to Ireland. While John Jenner was outlawed the estate was miserably torn to pieces by his creditors, and the parishioners were unwilling to engage in suits with so many creditors, who during the time were much engaged in suits with one another. Complainant was said to have cut off the entail and refused to appoint a schoolmaster or pay the £20 a year. He did not answer the defendant's bill in the time allowed, and the decision of the Commission for Charitable Uses was given on 8th February, [then] last - 1712.

One of the defendants to the first of these two bills, Henry Morgan, a tenant, said the Mansion House was demolished or fallen down before his time, some of the outhouses were sold by complainant, and part of the stones used by his servants to repair the highway; he had heard of an ancient chapel on the estate, and that it had been down many years. There was, however, a capital messuage included in the sale in 1769.

Nathaniel Jenner died in 1732, leaving a widow, Cahterine, an only surviving son, Nathaniel, and two daughters, Margaret and Mary. He had two other sons, John and Robert, who died shortly before their father. The window was dead in 1754, and so was the daughter, Mary, as administration was granted of the goods, &c., of both in that year to Nathaniel, the son and brother respectively.

Nathaniel Jenner, the second of the name, died 17th February 1764, leaving his only sister, Margaret, wife of Thomas Read, a brazier, of Wootton Bassett, his heir at law. By his will [P.C.C. 144 Simpson], dated 16th August, 1761, and proved 14th April, 1764, he left all his property, real and personal, excepting a few legacies, to Edward Pleydell, Esq., and Richard Kinneir, surgeon, both of Cricklade, in trust for the payment of his father's debt and his own, and surplus was to go to his kinsman, Adye Baldwin, of Slough, Bucks, innholder. What the kinship of Adye Baldwin to the testator was does not appear. The estate was once more the subject of lawsuits; which were settled by a decree of the Court of Chancery dated 27th June, 1766. The real property was variously valued at £500 to £800 a year, and was mortgaged to Thomas Fettiplace for a trifle over £5000. The mortgagee was really in possession, but allowed Nathaniel Jenner to live in the manor house and to take £70 a year out of the rents.

The personal estate had shrunk to the furniture of the house, one horse, some hay, and a few other things of small value; some plate was claimed by Walter Parker, brother of the testator's widow (there is no mention of her in the will), and a few things were taken away by Margaret Jenner, aunt of deceased; Richard Kinneir, the surviving executor and trustee, had in his possession a gold watch, a gold ring, and sleeve buttons, which the widow claimed. The Court confirmed the will and ordered that the estate should be sold. Edward Pleydell, who had proved the will with his co-trustee, had died before putting in an answer to the bill which had been presented by the residuary legatee. Within three years Widhill passed to Lord Folkestone. On 9th March, 1769, by an indenture which included, apparently, everyone having an interest in the property, Walter Parker, of Lisshill, brother of the window of Nathaniel Jenner, and Richard Kinneir, the surviving trustee, at the request of Thomas Read and Margaret, his wife, the heir at law, John Escott and William Wasborough, surviving assignees of the estate of Thomas Read, who was a bankrupt, and Elizabeth Baldwin, the widow of Adye Baldwin, the residuary legatee, sold the manor of North Widdell als. Widhill, to Jacob, Viscount Folkestone, grandson of Sir Mark Stewart Pleydell, of Coleshill, for £18,600. Sir Mark Pleydell had been accepted by the Court of Chancery as the best purchaser but had died before the conveyance could be carried out.

Abbreviations used:
  • WAM Wiltshire Archaeological & Natural History Magazine
  • WNQ Wiltshire Notes and Queries



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