Sunday, 17 January 2016

Wiverton Hall

Obviously Wiverton Hall is not a village but the history of this place makes interesting reading. 

The house we see today is built on the site of a much older property, a small village with a church.  Early records show the Lords of the Manor took their name from the land: Gervase de Wiveton and his son Richard de Wiveton gave parcels of land away to ensure sufficient Estovers (a life supply of wood) for their families.  Obviously this was a necessity at the time ... it gave you a house, fences, tools, firewood for warmth and cooking.  In this way Wiveton passed to Sir William de Heriz. His daughter's marriage meant the land passed to the Brets.  A couple of generations later Sir John Bret died childless so the estate passed to his sister Catherine.  She was married to Sir John Caltoft who we met earlier at East Bridgford.  Sir John Caltoft's daughter Alice married Sir William Chaworth, so this family inherited Wiverton on Sir John's death in 1352.

Sir Thomas Chaworth became a very wealthy young man (he was around his early 20s) when his father William died in 1398.  When Alice died two years later he inherited again ... he now owned the manor of East Bridgford and the Lincolnshire villages of Allington, Thoresby, Timberland and Toynton.  Alice had also been coheir to Lord Bassett of Drayton who had died childless in 1390.  This passed to Thomas too. He would be the wealthiest man in the whole of Nottinghamshire when he died.

He was obviously well regarded.  In June 1401 King Henry IV made Thomas a Knight of the Royal Body; two years later he attended a great council at Westminster and became Sheriff of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire (a position he would hold three times). Such men of influence at the time were not without enemies.  A Lincolnshire land owner, Sir Walter Tailboys, attempted to murder Sir Thomas in 1411 (Tailboys was a known violent trouble-maker).  Thomas was imprisoned in the Tower of London for a short time .... this may have been political (Thomas supported the view that the ailing King Henry IV should abdicate in favour of his son) or it could have been as punishment for public order offences.

A second incarceration in the Tower in 1414 was far more serious.  This time he had supported Sir John Oldcastle's lollard views.  It is firmly believed that Shakespeare's character Falstaff was based on Sir John Oldcastle.  In real life Sir John did have a strong relationship with the young prince but he was eventually seen as a serious threat once the prince became King Henry V.  Sir John's lollard beliefs demanded the clergy should not be concerned with wealth and position: Church wealth should be used for the poor and needy: religious leaders should not be involved in political life as this distracted them from religion; priests did not have the power to forgive sins so the idea of confession was wrong and all in all the Church needed to be totally reformed!  This didn't go down well with high ranking Bishops.  Lollard followers were viewed as heretics with some of them being burned at the stake.  Sir Thomas Chaworth was imprisoned in chains in the Tower under sentence of death for a time but friends rallied and he gained a pardon.

By 1416 Thomas was married to his second wife, Isabel, daughter of  Sir Thomas Aylesbury.  This was a remarkably lucrative marriage.  Aylesbury died two years later quickly followed by his son then his young grandson ... suddenly Isabel and her sister were coheirs to the fortune.  Wiverton Hall benefitted greatly from this wealth: a house fit for royal visitors was built and a beautiful park.

Thomas lived to be over 80 years of age and died in 1459.  His will covered land in Barnstone, Clifton, Colston Bassett, Cropwell Bishop, Cropwell Butler, East Bridgford, Edwalton, Granby,  Langar, Marnham, Shelford, Tithby and Whatton as well as Wiverton.  He was buried next to his wife at Launde Priory.  His will gave all the contents of the beautiful chapel at Wiverton, the altar hangings, devotional works and plate (which he had acquired from his elder daughter, Elizabeth, when she took holy orders in 1455 following the death of her husband, Lord John Scrope) to Launde Priory. Incidently, we came across the Scrope family at Langar so Elizabeth had stayed close to the family seat.

There are monuments to three generations of the Chaworth family in St Andrew's Church at Langar.  A wall monument to Sir George who died in 1521 and here are effigies of Sir John Chaworth and his wife Mary (she is there honestly! You can just see her feet if you look carefully!  The door to this room was locked so we couldn't get a better photograph) and beyond them is their son Sir George Chaworth, who died in 1589.

It was in 1510 that the first Sir George took the decision to depopulate his parkland and give it over entirely to animal grazing so Wiverton village ceased to exist.  While some historians claim it was a sensible economic decision as the village was in serious decline and only five families were moved, it would have been a devastating economic decision for those five families!

 The Civil War saw more changes to Wiverton Hall.  Sir John Chaworth was a strong royalist and Wiverton became a fortified stronghold.  Charles I wife Queen Henrietta stayed there in 1643 and Prince Rupert, the King's nephew and principle Royalist General, made Wiverton his base towards the end of the conflict.  It was from Wiverton that Prince Rupert wrote to Parliament requesting safe passage for himself and his brother to enable them to leave England.  Unfortunately this led to the destruction of the house ... once the Royalists left the Parliamentarian army arrived to raise the property to the ground.  Only the gatehouse survived.  (Prince Rupert's daughter, Ruperta, married Lieutenant General Emanuel Scrope Howe ..... he is shown kneeling at the feet of his parents on their tomb in St Andrew's Church, Langar).

For the next 150 years the gatehouse was used as a farmhouse but it remained in the Chaworth family until Mary Chaworth married John Muster of Colwick in 1805.  Now Mary is another interesting character ... she was adored by Lord Byron the poet.  (I will save that story for another time!).  Strange really as a previous Lord Byron had been the death of a Sir William Chaworth in a duel in 1765 (see East Bridgford). 

The present house, incorporating the gatehouse, was built in 1814. 

During the 1920s and 1930s the Wiverton estate was let out to tenants but in 1938 John Neville Chaworth Muster sold it to the Crown.  At the end of World War 2 it became the home of Major General Sir Miles Graham and his wife.   Sir Graham was a real national hero!  After Eton and Cambridge Graham served in the First World War where he was wounded twice.  At the beginning of the Second World War he rejoined his regiment from the reserves as part of the administrative staff.  By 1942 he was Montgomery's Chief Administrative Officer in charge of all the logistical strategies necessary for ensuring the British Army, as well as soldiers from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Greece, Italy, Free France and India, were fully supplied and capable of winning the war!
By the end of the conflict Graham had been awarded a KBE, a CB and an MC but tragically he had lost his 23 year old son (he was a navigator in 617 Dambuster Squadron ... his plane was shot down in 1944).

In August 1948 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein paid a visit to Wiverton Hall to see his old friend.

The Hall has recently been up for sale again.  The price tag was £1.5 million.  Click here for details and a mini tour!

Map of Wiverton Hall: Click here.


  1. That was really interesting! Dangerous times the 1400s, evidently.

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  3. The connection between Wiverton Hall and Annesley Hall is interesting - Sir George Chaworth(Knt) married Alice de Annesley, daughter and heir of John de Annesley, c1442. Following the attack on Wiverton during the English Civil War, the Chaworth Family eventually made Annesley Hall their main place of residence and added two wings to the original Aisled Hall in the second half of the 17th century. The Chaworth-Musters dynasty commenced in 1805 when Mary Chaworth married John Musters (Mad Jack)of Colwick. The direct male line in the Chaworth-Muster Family ended in 1992 with the death of Major Robert Patricius Chaworth-Musters, known locally as Major Bob. Useful sources are "A Cavalier Stronghold: a Romance of the Vale of Belvoir" by Lina Chaworth-Musters (1890), Hills of Annesley by Canon Frank Lyons, published in sections in Annesley Parish (1975) and Annesley through the Ages by Denis Pearson, published in 1995.

  4. Thanks to David Amos for pointing me to this fantastic historical summary of Wiverton Hall and adding the more recent information. The photos are excellent and I do have more to share, particularly inside Langar Church

    I live in Vancouver and first visited Wiverton (what is the correct pronunciation?) this past Sept 2015 as well as visiting Colwick, Annesley Hall and old Annesley Church, Felley Priory and Annesley new Church.

    The University of Nottingham Manuscript Dept has considerable information both on-line and in their records, but allow 1-2 days to absorb the information.

    Bob Chaworth-Musters, Vancouver

  5. It is always wonderful to get comments on the blog .... they prove someone is taking the time to read it .... but it was a real surprise to get a comment from a member of the family! Thank you for your kind words. We will be writing about the Chaworths again when we visit Colwick and Annesley so I will keep the research suggestions in mind for the future. :)