Walkers have long enjoyed the wild peace and seclusion of the Copt Hall marshes, many will have
popped into the little church of St Nicholas (now sadly closed permanently) with its piece of WW1
Zeppelin mounted on the wall and admired the elegant farmhouse, Copt Hall, which stands at the
eastern end of the church. Built in around 1830 the current house, along with the marshes is now
owned and managed by the National Trust and replaced a much older building, which in turn had
replaced at least one other - the earliest written record of the name Copped Hall is in 1376.
[Reaney Place Names of Essex] Not open to the public Copt Hall is now tenanted.
Wright's History of Essex written in 1830 gives the chain of ownership and Lords of the Manor of Little Wigborough's only manor, variously spelt as Copt, Copped or Cipt.
This estate was conveyed by Mabel, daughter of Robert Fitz Hamo, to her husband, Robert, natural son of king Henry the first: he died in 1147, and this manor was holden under his descendants, successively earls of Gloucester, by Robert de Septem Vannis, or of Seven Fans* ; also written Senaunz and Senance. He died in 1253.
* the Seven fans were in fact winnowing fans which were depicted on the family coat-of-arms.
A later coat of arms for the Septem Vannis family which started out with seven winnowing fans
Robert was his son and heir; whose heir was his nephew John, from whom it passed to some of the same family; and in 1364, William de Septvanz granted this manor to William de Boudon and his heirs
A document called a 'Close Roll' dating to the reign of Edward III and written in 1364, records William de Sepvantz granting the manor to William de Boudon.
He asserts the legal right to enter the house should his tenant be in arrears and requires that
William de Boudon, his heirs and assigns, shall acquit and defend the premises during the said term of all services, rents and demands towards the lords of the fee and all others whatsoever, shall maintain all houses and walls hereof, in roofing, enclosures and other repairs, and shall fell no trees upon the lands thereof but for repair of the said houses if need be and for fuel thereupon.
Wright's History of Essex takes up the chain of ownership
In 1376, William, son and heir of sir William de Septvance, conveyed this estate, with the advowson of the church, to Walter de la Lee, and Robert de Tey, kn[igh]ts. In 1390 it belonged to John de Boys, and Thomas Bataile, who, in that year, presented to the living; and yet, in 1398, Robert Senance had all, or part, of this estate.
The next possessor on record was Richard Buckland, esq., who died 1435, holding this manor, with the advowson of the church, of Richard, duke of York, as of his honour of Clare, by knight's service. The son of his daughter Agnes, Richard Wichingham, esq., was his heir; and after him, Agnes, wife of Nicholas Sharpe, esq., had this estate for life; from whom it descended to Thomas Cotton, esq., and to Joanna his wife, daughter of the said Nicholas and Agnes. It afterwards belonged to the Cotton family
Another ancient document reveals that at the time of Sir Robert Cotton's death in 1517, Copt Hall had fallen into total disrepair. An enquiry commissioned by Sir Thomas More in 1517 to assess how best to tackle rural decline and the resultant shortage of grain reported on the situation at Little Wigborough. [See Domesday of Inclosures Mersea Museum]
The following entry for Little Wigborough is a transcript of the report produced by the Royal Historical Society in 1897 put into modern English; the note is by I S Leadam
Within the Parish of Little Wigborough
Item: we find that there is a farm belonging to Sir Robert Cotton Knight, now deceased, within the aforementioned parish called Copt Hall [Note 1]. Its Manor is decayed and pulled down by the said Sir Robert and no longer inhabited. Where there used to be a good household, farm and ploughed land now there is neither ploughed land nor household in use where there used to be a Farmer and his wife and 18 to 20 people. Now it is returned to pasture and grazing and the tenant and his wife look after it. The farmer is William Hill of Suffolk, a Merchant, and the farm has been down to pasture the last 17 years.
Note 1 Copped-Hall, otherwise Cipped or Cipt-Hall stands near the east end of the church. The incloser was Sir Robert Cotton, of Landwood, in Cambridgeshire, Lord of the Manor, died July 18 1517
Later that century, John Norden's Description of Essex (1594) contains the following much-quoted verse indicating how fertile the soil of Copt Hall's land was:
Baron parke is frutefull and fatt;
How field is better than that;
Copte Hall is beste of them all;
Ye Hubble down: may wayr the crowne.
Baron parke is Barn Hall, Tolleshunt Knights; How Feild is in Layer Marney and Hubble down in Peldon.
Wright gives more detail about the Cotton family who were the last to own the estate before it was taken over by Charterhouse.
Thomas Cotton married, first, Margery, daughter of Philip Wentworth, by whom he had a daughter. By his second wife, Joanna, daughter of the above-mentioned Nicholas and Agnes, he had Robert, John, Leonard, a priest, William, and Etheldreda, wife of John Bassingbourn. At the time of his death, in 1499, he held this manor; in which he was succeeded by his son, sir Robert Cotton, of Landwood, in Cambridgeshire; who, dying in 1517, left, by Alice his wife, his son Thomas, who died in 1526, and was succeeded by his posthumous son, John, who died in 1593, leaving, by Isabel his wife, daughter of William Spencer, his son and heir, sir John Cotton, knt., of Landwood, who died in 1620; and he or his son sold this estate Sir John Cotton, of Landwood, was created a baronet in 1644.
In the seventeenth century the manor was sold by Sir John Cotton to the governors of the Charter-house, London.
Following the death of wealthy benefactor, Thomas Sutton, in December 1611, numerous estates were bought by his executors including that of Little Wigborough which were managed to provide a rental income to finance Charterhouse, most of the leases being for twelve years. Sutton had only just acquired the Charterhouse property in Islington, London, in the May of the year he died and in his will he bequeathed money to maintain a chapel, hospital or almshouse and school there. It was later to become the public school that still exists today. The Governors of Charterhouse were to own Copt Hall for over 200 years.
As a part of its ownership of Copt Hall, Charterhouse used its patronage of the church, St Nicholas, to offer the incumbency to its proteges. Their first incumbent was the Reverend Ralph Parris who was instituted in 1640. The last rector of Little Wigborough presented by the Governors was in 1866, The Reverend J J M Cunningham.
There are comprehensive Court Rolls and leases held by the London Metropolitan Archives covering the entire period Copt Hall was in the ownership of Charterhouse.
In the records is a lease dated 1691 between Charterhouse and Isaac Mazengarb* who took out a lease on Copt Hall for £140 a year. He was to die at only 45 in 1698 but his family clearly renewed the lease, many times, and stayed at Copt Hall for over a hundred years.
* the name is spelt many ways including Mazengarb and Massingarbe
As you wander into and around Little Wigborough church there is a name which immediately catches your eye. You will find it on a stone slab in the centre aisle near the vestry and again on a memorial on the outside of the south wall overlooking the churchyard. The name - MAZENGARB
The family with Comte Antoine Mazengarb as its head, had to flee from France in 1626 because, as Huguenots, they were being severely persecuted by the Roman Catholics. This noble family came from a village in France named Mazengarb, which is situated on the road between Bethune and Lens, near Arras and Vimy, the area of heavy fighting in the First World War. The head of the family is the Comte de Mazengarb, although the present head does not actually use the title. Peldon and Wigborough Parish Magazine April 1983
This article in the Peldon and Wigboroughs Parish Magazine in 1983 was sparked by the impending marriage of Richard Mazengarb whose 6 x great grandfather, Isaac, had first come to Little Wigborough in the late 1600s. It is probably thanks to Richard that the Mazengarb family biographical information was imparted to the author of the parish magazine article.
A noble family from the North of France, the Mazengarbs, Calvinist Protestants, had fled religious persecution in their own country and along with many Dutch refugees and Walloons (natives of Flanders) are referred to as Huguenots. There was such a large influx to England over the sixteenth and seventeenth century it is believed that most of us will have some Huguenot blood!
Although celebrated for their silk-weaving and silver-smithing, many Huguenots were skilled drainage engineers, with the skills to reclaim uninhabitable marshland and this could possibly account for the Wigborough Mazengarbs first coming to this country to a place called Sandtoft in the Fens.
In 1626, the date the family believe their ancestors first came to England, Cornelius Vermuyden, a renowned Dutch drainage expert, entered into an agreement with King Charles I. Vermuyden who had been working in England between 1621 and 1623 at Canvey Island, agreed, at his own expense, to drain the Hatfield Levels (also known as Hatfield Chase) and adjoining flooded land in Lincolnshire. In return he would receive a third of the reclaimed land. To fund his enterprise, Vermuyden sold shares, generally to his own countrymen, those who were rich and in some cases, of noble extraction. Many who bought into the scheme wanted to build their own farms and take up farming in a new country away from the persecution they'd endured in their own.
Vermuyden's first workforce sailed up the Humber and docked just below Doncaster settling in a small village called Sandtoft in N W Lincolnshire where Vermuyden had a small town and a chapel built for his workers.
The Mazengarb family history tells us that they were among the those who settled at Sandtoft, - believed to be over seventy families. The Sandtoft Chapel register which was kept from 1641 - 1681 is now not to be found but from transcribed lists of names from a copy* the names include that of Antoine Massingarbe
* a summary of the register is available in The Rev Joseph Hunter's History of the Deanery of
Vermuyden was knighted by the king for his work in 1629. However, the draining of the fenland set the locals against the settlers, the fen men losing the rights they had enjoyed for hundreds of years wildfowling and fishing. After years of sabotage and eruptions of violence, in around 1642, within a ten day period, local fen men destroyed 82 houses, barns, stables, outhouses, the churchyard and a windmill including the house of Antoine Mazengarb, also destroying his cattle.
they arose in tumults, brake down the fenns and inclosures of 4,000 acres, destroyed all the corn growing and demolished the houses thereon...And about the beginning of February ensuing they pulled up the floodgates of Snow Sewer which by letting in the tides from the River Trent, soon drowned a great part of Hatfield Chase, divers people standing there with muskets and saying they would stay till the whole level was drowned and the inhabitants were forced to swim away like ducks William Dugdale Imbankment and Draining
Antoine Mazengarb and his family fled Sandtoft along with thirteen other families to Thorney Abbey in Cambridgeshire where they were joined over time by other French families. Their previous colony at Sandtoft finally ended around 1650 after a further decade of opposition.
According to Italian historian Gregorio Leti writing in 1683
having been molested by the peasantry of that place, [they] heard that the Earl of Bedford possessed an estate here [Thorney] which was almost uninhabitable and resolving to make their fortune by industry, they asked him to let them rent it... that they might drain and cultivate it.
Wherever they went, Huguenots would form congregations, build churches and appoint ministers. A French congregation is reported at Thorney in 1652. The Register of Baptisms begins in 1654 and ends in 1727. In the first seven pages one of the names that appears most frequently is that of Massengarbe including that of the head of the family, Antoine, whose wife, Michelle Gillot gives birth to their son Ambroise on 20th July 1656, and daughter Susanne on 2nd January 1658/9.
The colony at Thorney, being under the protection of the Duke of Bedford, was much more successful, with less opposition from the locals, and they set about draining the Bedford Level. It is considered the largest civil engineering project seen in this country in the seventeenth century and by 1653 over 4,000 acres of fen land was brought under cultivation. The workforce also included Dutch and Scottish Prisoners of War.
Isaac Mazengarb was the eldest son of Antoine and inherited a considerable portion of his wealth. He eventually married Mary from Sawbridgeworth and after a short time he sold some of the farms at Thorney, left his relatives Daniel, Marc, David and Ambroise in charge of the remaining farms and came on horseback to explore the possibility of buying farmland nearer Sawbridgeworth. He bought a large number of farms including *Foulness Island! He also purchased farmland at the Wigboroughs, as well as Copt Hall. He arranged for Mary to travel from Thorney to Copt Hall. Peldon and Wigboroughs Parish Magazine 1983
* I am unable to verify that Isaac bought Foulness Island but in The History of the Rochford
Hundreds by Philip Benson (1815 - 1898) the author relates an interesting story.
The Duke of Alva (or Alba) persecuted Protestants in Flanders during his governorship of the Netherlands between 1567 and 1573. It is believed he had 18,000 executed. Colchester Borough Council has a painting of Dutch weavers fleeing Alva's brutality, pleading to be allowed to settle and work in Colchester. It is interesting that the name of Mazengarb appears so much earlier in Essex and also in the context of the draining of marsh and reclamation of land, which subsequently, in the early 1620s, Vermuyden should embark upon for Canvey.
Isaac Mazengarb, son of Anthoine and Michelle, was born in 1653, presumably at Thorney (his birth predated the baptism register by a year!) Isaac died in 1698, his wife, Mary née Main in 1713/4 and there is a floor slab in the Nave of St Nicholas's Church, Little Wigborough commemorating them both.
Here lyeth the Bodey of Isaac
Mazengarb Late of Coppit
Hall who derparted this
life the 12th day of November
In the year of our Lord 1698 &
In the 45 year of his age
Here lyeth also the Bodey
of Mary Wife of Isaac
this life the 13th day of
Janowary in the year of
our Lord 1714 & in the 72
year of her age
The entry in the burials register for Mary reads
Anno 1713 Mrs Mary Mazengarb buried January 15th in woolen only according to affidavit given in the same day.
As was required by law from 1666, this records Mary's burial in wool. Only two months later the
burial in wool of her granddaughter, also Mary, at the age of 12 months is recorded.
[See Burial in Wool ]
In an era when infant mortality was high, even amongst educated and well-off families, another stone
tablet commemorates two of Isaac and Mary's great grand children. The barely legible plaque on the
exterior wall of St Nicholas's church states that near this place lie the bodies of Isaac and
Elizabeth the children of Abraham and Isabella.
Isaac and Mary's son Isaac was born circa 1680* and married Susanna Munt in 1708, sadly she died only a year later and Isaac married again, Elizabeth Cooke in 1713.
* I have been unable to find his baptism either at Thorney or Little Wigborough
Isaac and Elizabeth had nine children, five girls and four boys, baptized at St Nicholas In Little Wigborough between 1713 and 1730, sadly three of the girls were to die young. Two boys, according to a family tree on Ancestry, Thomas (born 1725) and Abraham (born 1727) do not appear in the baptism register for Little Wigborough but they are both named in their father's will.
Among the family's marriages, baptisms and burials, the Little Wigborough register records that Isaac was the parish overseer (responsible for the care of the poor and other parish duties) for his signature appears on the page recording the induction of the Rector, the Reverend George Trotter in 1708.
Isaac died in 1730 and in his will he left his farms and land to his children ensuring Elizabeth was provided with a home for life. He left his property to Isaac, his first-born son (who was only 15 at the time of his father's death), John, Abraham and Thomas.
We find Abraham and Isaac some years later witnessing several weddings in the church both able to sign their names in an era when most had to sign with their mark, often a cross.
During the 1790s, Isaac's grandson, also Isaac, is recorded along with his wife Sarah (née Simkin) having their son Isaac Simkin, and daughters Sarah and Isabella baptised at Little Wigborough Church.
In Court Rolls for Abbess Hall Manor [Abbots Hall] during the eighteenth century it is clear the Mazengarbs had acquired copyhold property and lands in Great Wigborough as well as Little Wigborough.
A little insight into the working lives led by this farming family is revealed in an advertisement in a newspaper in 1775 where Abraham offers two horses for stud.
To COVER this Season,
At FIVE SHILLINGS a Mare and ONE SHIL-
LING the Man, at Mr. ABRAHAM MAZEN-
GARB'S, at Copped-hall in Little Wigborough, Essex,
The noted BLACK HORSE, call'd
T I N K E R .
His is 16 Hands and a half high, has a hand-
some blaze on his forehead, 9 years old, as
sound as when foaled, and is remarkable for getting
as good foals as any horse in Essex, either for the
coach or collar. The strain of this horse has been
in the possession of Mr Mazengarb, and his family,
upwards of 40 years. He attends no markets, but
will be always at home as above.
There is likewise a Four-year-old Horse of
TINKER'S getting, that will cover at the said place.
And in 1784 the Chelmsford Chronicle advertises the sale of property and land in Great Wigborough also by Abraham Mazengarb. The properties are not named.
To be SOLD by AUCTION
by NATHANIEL BARLOW
On Wednesday the 2d Day of June next, at the Sign of the
Three-Cups, in Colchester, between the Hours of Eleven
and One o'Clock in the Forenoon, the Two following
Estates, in separate Lots (if not disposed of before by Pri-
vate Contract, of which Notice will be given in this Paper.)
LOT I. A COPYHOLD MESSUAGE, Barn, Stable,
and other conveniences, and 100 acres (more
or less) of exceeding good arable land, lying in Great Wig-
borough, in the County of Essex, now in the occupation of
Mr. Abraham Mazengard, the proprietor.
Lot II. A Copythold Messuage, and 18 acres and upwards
of good arable land, lying in Great Wigborough aroresaid,
now in the occupation of John Foakes, tenant at will.
Further particulars may be known by application to Mr
Sudell, attorney, at Colchester, or to the said Mr. Mazengarb.
The family tree is continued in the Peldon and Wigborough's parish magazine.
Isaac and Elizabeth's first-born son was named Isaac in 1715, who named his son and heir Isaac in 1755, and the process continued in 1790. Henry was born at Woodford in 1834, Joseph in 1862, Joseph in Ilford in 1882 and Richard the present head of the family in 1916.
Now Richard Mazengarb, whose wife was tragically killed almost a year ago, is to marry Mrs Betty Victoria Willett, the widow of his great friend, on Thursday 23rd June  in Little Wigborough Church. The Archbishop of Canterbury has given permission, and once again the name of Mazengarb will appear in the church registers of Little Wigborough, as history repeats itself. We wish them both every happiness in their future together. Peldon and Wigborough Parish magazine June 1983
With the family repeatedly using the same Christian names for their children it makes the genealogist's job difficult. My research does differ from that above and I believe the family line that leads to our 1983 groom, Richard, comes via Isaac and Elizabeth's son, Abraham, not Isaac.
The daughter of Eva Gray, the churchwarden of St Nicholas at the time of the wedding between Richard and Betty, tells me her mother had a hand in the flowers for the church which included posies on the end of every pew and a pedestal arrangement.
Little Wigborough Church on the day of the wedding between Richard Mazengarb and Betty Willett
The wedding attracted the attention of the local newspaper who published a brief history of the family and revealed that Richard Mazengarb had relatives still living in the area.
A photo of the wedding in St Nicholas looking out on Copt Hall where the groom's family had first moved nearly 300 years before.
Sadly Richard was to die only three years after his wedding and his widow in 2004. Both died in Grantham in Lincolnshire, near where his ancestors had first arrived.
The 1983 Parish Magazine article on the Mazengarbs sparked a memory in an old Peldon resident, Luther Smith, who served in WW1 at the village of Mazengarb in France and his memories were published in the July issue
It was the scene of heavy fighting during the First World War and Luther recalls having to transport ammunition through the village when it was well in range of the German guns. It was all rather 'dicey'.
The link with the place in which the Mazengarb family had settled so long ago remained a strong one and in 1986 Ernest Frederick Mazengarb, Richard's uncle, who died in Southend-on-Sea at the age of 84 was buried in Little Wigborough's churchyard. His wife who died in 1979 was commemorated also on the headstone.
22ND APRIL 1986
AGED 84 YEARS
6TH AUGUST 1979
AGED 79 YEARS
Although the name Mazengarb peters out at Copt Hall at the end of the eighteenth century (by this time many Mazengarbs had spread into other areas) the bloodline continued locally via the female line when widow Mrs Mary Clarke (formerly Mary Mazengarb) married Edward May of Mersea in 1793. Mary had lived near her family home of Copt Hall with her first husband, John Clarke, whom she had married in 1783, and their children. She and her second husband Edward subsequently lived at Copt Hall.
Edward May's name appears in the Land Tax Redemption Records in 1798 as being a landowner in Little Wigborough as well as a tenant of other land. He also had farms in West Mersea and Peldon. He died in 1808. Mary's gravestone is behind the church at Little Wigborough, while Edward was buried in his family's vault at West Mersea. Edward's will leaves the lease of Copped Hall to his brother, John.
Other Mazengarb female descendants were to marry, Isabella married Edward Clay, yeoman, in 1784 and they raised their family in Inworth. Rebeccah Mazengarb married John Golden, also of the parish of Little Wigborough in 1803.
The final entry of the Mazengarb name (until Ernest's burial in 1986) is in the burials register when Jacob Mazengarb, resident in Peldon but buried in Little Wigborough, died in 1813 aged 42 years.
The Mazengarb line at Copt Hall disappears with Edward and Mary May's deaths and the Beans (related to the Mays by marriage) and the Harveys are subsequent occupiers.
Charterhouse moved to Godalming in 1872 which seems to be when they gave up the estate at Little Wigborough.
Copt Hall within Living Memory
In the Second World War the War Agricultural Committee, in an attempt to get all farmland into full food production proposed putting 7,000 acres of grassland locally to the plough. This land lay in Little and Great Wigborough, Peldon, Salcot and Virley and Layer Breton, Layer Marney and Langenhoe. In this area there was only 1,000 acres of arable acreage compared with the 7,000 of grassland. The Farmers Weekly of 9.2.1940 wrote
At Wigborough all the land was put down to grass owing to the low price of corn in 1821. In the nineties many farms failed and were left derelict
This included the 700 acres at Copt Hall.
Coming to Copt Hall, probably just before the Second World War, William E Burrill and his wife, Marjorie, also owned New Hall in Little Wigborough. They were to eventually move back to Masham in Yorkshire, the Burrill family home.
An owner of Copt Hall in the 1960s and 1970s was J.A. Sampson, known as Sammy he was celebrated locally for being a crew member on MORNING CLOUD, Sir Ted Heath's yacht..
Little Wigborough farmer, Sammy Sampson, Commodore of West Mersea Yacht Club ... [has] been sailing with Ted since 1969. He began in the Hobart race in 1969 and is seen on the water aboard 'Morning Cloud' almost every weekend. A big man with six children, he was at Cowes again this weekend. If you ask him what he does on 'Morning Cloud' he'll tell you he's just a team member - but does sometimes take over from Mr Heath as helmsman. Currently, Mr Sampson and his skipper are keyed up for the Admiral's Cup international yacht racing in which 'Morning Cloud' represents Great Britain Colchester Express 8.7.1971
The Centennial Chronicle published by West Mersea Yacht Club described him as a formidable sailor becoming Commodore in 1970 for three years. During his time as Commodore
the Club's activities increased and spread with the acquisition of moorings, the formation of Mersea Haven, the development of the boat park and the beginnings of Mersea Week, the Round Mersea Island Race and the co-ordination with the Dabchicks Sailing Club
John Anthony 'Sammy' Sampson died in 1986 and his grave is in the churchyard at Little Wigborough.
In 1989 the National Trust took over Copt Hall, its farmland and marshes and has managed the 400 acres for wildlife ever since.
British Newspaper Archive
A History of the Bean Family
The Parish of Little Wigborough
The Domesday of Inclosures 1517
If you are a descendant of the Little Wigborough Mazengarbs and have more information about the family please do get in touch.