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History Of Wix Priory

 
The following information and pictures are reproduced by kind permission of Don Budds of Colchester, Essex, UK.

Convent Seal of Wix Priory
Convent Seal of Wix Priory
Wix Priory, dedicated to St. Mary, was a small convent of Benedictine Nuns situated at the top of Abbey Hill, Wix, Essex, between the present parish church and Wix Abbey farmhouse. It was founded in the reign of King Henry I by the sons and daughter of Walter the Deacon who owned much of Wix in the late 11th and early 12th centuries.

There is little evidence of the priory above ground now but an archaeological dig in 1961 did uncover stone foundations on the site. Fortunately, however, there are many ancient documents preserved in the Public Record Office and it is mostly from this source that a history of the priory has been pieced together.

Prioresses' Seal
Seal of the Prioresses Idonea,
Constance and Christina.
Late 12th, early 13th Century
It was a small relatively unimportant religious house of eight to ten nuns but, despite its size, had much influence on the everyday life of the villagers. The priory owned large areas of freehold, copyhold and demesne land in Wix and surrounding villages in Essex and Suffolk. It was also a manor in its own right and tenants of copyhold land owned by the priory had to perform many onerous customary manorial services, as did the tenants of the neighbouring Manor of Wix, Park Hall.

During the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 the discontented villagers attacked the priory and burned many of the manor court rolls which detailed their labour and other services owed to the priory. They soon regretted their action, however, when the Prioress evicted them from their tenancies and extracted a fine from each one before allowing them back to their homes.

Wix Church
Wix Church
The nunnery was in existence for about four hundred years until it was suppressed by Cardinal Wolsey in 1525 together with several other small monasteries in Essex. The priory manorial lands were sold off and became known as the Manor of Wix Hall, alias Wix Abbey, despite the fact that only a small priory had previously existed there.

After its suppression the priory buildings were demolished, together with the convent church which was attached to the east end of the parish church, and the present Wix Abbey farmhouse was built on the site some time before 1575. The only remains of the priory now to be seen are the blocked 13th. century arches which form the north wall of the present Church of St. Mary The Virgin, Wix.

The table below documents some of the spellings for Wix from the Doomesday Book onwards.
 

DateSpellingDocument
1086WicaDomesday
1195WikaFeet of Fines
1198WickesPlace Names of Essex
1200WikesFeet of Fines
1237Wykes BassetFirst Poll Tax
1250WykesInventory of Wix Church Goods 1254
1250WykeEssex Assizes
1402WykesManor A/c Roll
1446WykysPlace Names of Essex
1480WekysPlace Names of Essex
1504WyknyLetters Patent
1592WykesEssex Quarter Sessions
1601WixePlace Names of Essex
1635WixeShip Money Collection
1659WickesMap of Essex
1688WixeMap of Wix
1720WeekesPlace Names of Essex
1772WickesA History Of Essex.
1820WixSale of Wix Abbey
1863Wix or WicksWhites Directory of Essex.
  Then "Wix" to present day

 

KEY DATES IN THE HISTORY OF WIX

Before 1066 Manor of Wix already in existence. Owned by Queen Editha (Edith) wife of King Edward the Confessor
1066 Domesday Book describes Wix (Wica) as a manor of 4 hides owned by Walter the Deacon. (1 hide = the area of land which could be ploughed in a year using one plough and a team of oxen.)
c. 1125 Walter Mascherell, his brother Alexander de Wix and sister Edith founded the Priory of St. Mary, Wix. They were the children of Walter the Deacon.
c. 1145 Alexander de Wix gave the Priory one third of the manor of Wix. This was later to become the Pond Hall estate.
c. 1150 The Wix Manor house (later to be known as the Manor of Park Hall) built on land which is now part of Wix Lodge Farm.
c. 1175 Gilbert Carbonel became first lord of Carbonels Manor now known as Carbonells Farm, Spinnells Lane, Wix.
c. 1180 King Henry II gave permission for Wix Irriory to hold an annual 3 day fair on the eve, feast, and morrow of Michaelmas. Still popular in the 19th century.
c.1200 The Wix Manor house built on a moated site in a field, which on the Wix Tithe Map of 1837, was called Moat Field.
1204 King John granted Wix a weekly Tuesday market.
c 1250 A deer park of some 400 acres created as part of the Wix Manor estate (hence the name Park Hall). It covered an area now known as Wix Lodge Farm and The Dairy House Farm.
1331 The Peasants Revolt. The Villagers attacked the priory and burnt many of the rent documents pertaining to their land holdings.
1525 The priory suppressed by Cardinal Wolsey in order to raise funds for building a college at Oxford and a grammar school with a chapel attached at Ipswich.
1556 John Routh a Wix farm labourer burned to death with 12 others at Stratford Le Bow for their Protestant faith.
c. 1565 The Vesey family built the present Abbey Farm house next to the church.
c. 1650 Park Hall Manor house rebuilt by the Vesey family on a site to the north of Colchester Road, Wix, just behind the present school.
1725 Protestant dissenters built a meeting house in Wix (location unknown at present).
1725 John Garnham of Wix applied for a licence to use his house as a place of worship for Presbyterians (Protestant dissenters).
1731 Robert Clark of Clays Farm Wix left 5 per year in his will for the parson to teach up to 10 poor children of the village to read and write. This became known as Clark's Charity and is still in existence.
1744 Wix church rebuilt and dedicated to St.Michael.
1767 A beer house called The Cock mentioned. James Starling landlord. This is now a cottage in Colchester Road, Wix, until recently called Shamrock.
1767 John Thompson mentioned as landlord of the White Hart public house.
1800 First mention of a schoolhouse at Wix Green, part of a house now known as Cobblers.
1810 First mention of the Wagon and Horses public house. Benjamin Stevens, landlord.
1823 Isaac Everett built an Independent (Congregational) meeting house at Wix Lodge Farm.
1825 The Cock and White Hart pubs reported by the Wix Constable for "keeping an unruly house".
1831 The Wix rate payers were issued with a court writ for refusing to elect churchwardens.
1832 Two churchwardens elected!
1837 Geo Paskell and Son, timber merchants and builders established.
1841 James Baker mentioned as first landlord of the Royal Oak beer house now Oak Cottage, opposite the present Post Office.
1842 A Wesleyan Methodist Chapel built in Harwich Road, Wix. The building still exists as commercial premises.
1842 The National Church of England School built in Harwich Road.
1848 Mary May who lived at Wix was hanged at Chelmsford on a scaffold above the entrance of the jail for poisoning William Constable (alias Watts), her half brother, with arsenic.
1859 Wix Post Office mentioned in Kelly's Directory. Mary Baker Post Mistress.
1869 Churchyard enlarged by 40 perches.
1872 A new Wesleyan School built in 1872 close by the National Wix School.
1880 A Primitive Methodist chapel erected almost opposite Spring Farm, Colchester Road, Wix. Demolished in 1960s.
1888 Wix Church restored and re-seated.
1905 Churchyard enlarged by a further 2 roods and 14 perches, (1 acre = 4sq.roods)
1919 Brothers Dick and Eustace Rooks established Hooks Brothers haulage and carrier service.
1920 War Memorial univeiled at Wix Green on 13th March 1920.
1925 Roy Everson established Eversons Coaches in Rarwich Road, Wix.
1928 Wix Village Hall opened 16th February 1928.
1935 New United Methodist Church opened on 4th September 1935, uniting the Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists.
1935 The present Wix County Primary School (then known as the Wix Junior Council School) opened on 5th January 1931 replacing both the National and Wesleyan Schools.
1939 At the outbreak of World War 2 Roger Paskell of Geo. Paskell & Son formed the Wix Utility Party consisting of an auxiliary fire service and a rescue party. Eustace Hooks of E.O. Hooks formed the Wix Home Guard.
c. 1955 Park Hall Manor house finally demolished.
1958 Miss Edna Moore retires after 30 years as headmistress of Wix School.
1961 Stone coffin found in the grounds of Wix Abbey Farm.
1975 An attempt was made to steal the bell from the bell cage in the churchyard. A new cage was built, free of charge, by Mr. Roger Paskell.

History of Wix Priory Don Budds' book A History of Wix Priory, a history of St Mary, Wix, Essex, including both the Parish and Methodist Churches, is available price £4.95 plus postage & packing from Don at don@budds.freeserve.co.uk

Other books by Don:-

  • The Story of Old Shops, Pubs and Blacksmiths in Wix (£2.50 + p&p)
  • A History of Wix Schools (£2.95 + p&p)
  • Monumental Inscriptions in Wix Churchyard (£3.00 + p&p)
  • New! The Medieval Manors of Wix (3.00 plus 1.00 p&p)

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