|THE PARISH OF ST. NICHOLAS, LITTLE WIGBOROUGH
Little Wigborough is a small village overlooking the salt marshes and the estuary of the Blackwater River, 8 miles south of Colchester between Peldon and Great Wigborough. Being so close to the sea, it is appropriately dedicated to St. Nicholas, the patron saint of the sailors. There has probably been a church here from Norman times, the list of rectors going back to 1272.
The parish is now united with Great Wigborough.
The church was in all probability built and maintained by the Lords of the Manor of Copt Hall, which stands near to the church.
The present building consists of chancel, nave, and west tower, and had probably been re-built in the late 15th century. It is all in the perpendicular style of that period. Much restoration work had to be done between 1885 and 1888 following the severe damage caused by the local earthquake in 1884, especially to the tower.
Little Wigborough church after the 1884 earthquake
The church has a chancel screen and a piscina.
In the nave is a floor slab to Isaac Mazengarb, 1693, and his wife Mary, 1714. On the wall, there is a recent plaque to Zeppelina Williams, born the night the Zeppelin crashed nearby. The church has one bell - 17" in diameter, dating from 1820. Also, in the church is the roll of rectors from 1272. The registers go back to 1586.
By 2018 the church was once again suffering from subsidence and was closed. The last service held in the church was November 2017.
The future looks bleak. At the Winstred Hundred Parish Council meeting 11 February 2020, it was said "Little Wigborough Church is in a poor state and the Wigboroughs church wardens are proposing to transfer the building to the Diocese of Chelmsford and it is with great sadness that the parish council backs this proposal as repairs to the church to bring it up to a usable standard would be enormous."
The population of Little Wigborough was 95 in 1821, 123 in 1831, 124 in 1871, and in 1905 about 50. A school was built in 1875 with room for 50 pupils, average attendance 20, schoolmistress Miss Ada Whatham. It was closed by 1932 and all trace has now gone, save for occasional bricks that turn up in a ploughed field.
The 1884 Earthquake
The quiet of the county of Essex was suddenly shattered at 9.10 am on Tuesday April 22nd, 1884, by an earthquake with its epicentre near Peldon. The shock caused widespread damage in Colchester, and even more in the area to the south, particularly at Wivenhoe, Emlstead, Alresford, East Donyland, Fingringhoe, Abberton, Langenhoe, Peldon, the Wigboroughs, Mersea Island and Bradwell. Twenty churches and over a thousand other buildings were damaged, but no lives were lost. Little Wigborough church was badly damaged. The roof was completely stripped of its tiles, and several pieces of masonry fell from the tower. Many houses in the parish were also damaged. A Mansion House appeal fund was opened by the Lord Mayer of London, and Little Wigborough received £200 from it. The rector, the Rev. F. Watson, reporting to the Mansion House Appeal meeting said: "Little Wigborough church is perfectly riddled. The body of the church has separated from the tower, and I cannot think of ever having any more services in it."
Rebuilding plan from 1886 after the Earthquake.
With thanks to Lambeth Palace Library ICBS 8988
Little Wigborough's other claim to fame relates to the German Zeppelin L33 which crashed in fields at 1am on Sunday, 24th September 1916. This was the first airship to fall on English soil in the First War. The countryside was suddenly lit up by the flames from the huge gas-bag as the commander fired his ship. Nearby cottages narrowly escaped being hit or burnt.
The only fatality on the night the Zeppelin came down was Alfred Wright from Grove Farm, who died following a motor cycle accident as he went to fetch help. He is buried in Little Wigborough churchyard.
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1905 description of the Parish of Little Wigborough
The Parish of Little Wigborough by James Seddon c1980
The Earthquake of 1884
Zeppelin L33 at Little Wigborough
Pictures of Great and Little Wigborough village
The Parish Registers of Great and Little Wigborough, Mrs P.A.F. Stephenson, 1905
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments Report (on the wall in the church)
Kelly's Directory 1882
Wright's History of Essex
Winstred Hundred Parish Council Minutes