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BIGGS FAMILY HISTORY

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The Manor of Aldington

In the year 703, according to the Chronicle of the Abbey of Evesham, Offa, king of the East Angles, included Aldington (Aldintone-Ealda's town) amongst the local lands which he then presented to the Monastery at Evesham, and it appears again in the doubtful Charter of Cenred and Offa in 709. Although it is not mentioned in Bishop Egwin's statement of the lands of the Monastery in 714, it occurs as such in Domesday Book, in 1086, where it figures as a berewick, or outlying portion, of the manor of Offenham.

Its small tithes were for many years assigned to the Refectorer at the Monastery as a part of his income with which to provide the spoons, cups, salt-cellars, and other utensils employed in the Refectory, and for the provision of twelve lamps there, with oil for them. In those times Aldington did not pay annually to the Manciple at the Monastery the three hundred eggs which all the other local dependencies were accustomed to pay, but payments were made to the Almoner to relieve the infirm, the afflicted and the poor, from Aldington Mill and crofts, and ninety eggs were also supplied from there for these purposes annually. During the period of his rule at Evesham (1214-29) Abbot Randolph, according to the Chronicle, bought the mill and built a grange at Aldington, which seems to have superseded an earlier one, and later on Abbot Roger Zatton (1380-1418) replaced it with "a great grange."

It is not clear when Aldington became separated from Offenham, but the change had evidently taken place during the 12th century, when it had become connected with Bretforton, as appears from contemporary documents, from which we also gather that, in 1291, Aldington had become joined to Badsey.

In 1535 the clear annual value of Aldington with Badsey annexed (Valor Eccl.) is given as 8 5s. 4d. Together they rendered yearly to the Monastery at Evesham 18 qrs. of wheat, 26 qrs. of barley, and 10 qrs. of peas and beans. At the Dissolution the Manor of Aldington was granted to Richard Pygyon, a member of an important Badsey and Aldington family for many years. In 1562, Oueen Elizabeth granted the Manor, with that of Badsey, to Sir Robert Throckmorton. It does not appear how or when Richard Pygyon's lease terminated; he probably continued to hold from Sir Robert Throckmorton as he had formerly held from the Monastery and afterwards from the Crown, or he may have been then deceased.

The manor then followed the descent of Badsey (see Badsey Churchwardens' Accounts, p. 31 published in 1913) until 1598, when it was conveyed by Richard and Margaret Griffin to Philip Bigge, second son Thomas Bigge, of Lenchwick. Philip Bigge held the manor until July 13, 1615 when, jointly with Hester, his wife, he conveyed it to William Courten and John Mounsey, apparently for the use of the former, who afterwards held it.

Sir William Courten or Curteene—he was knighted in 1622;was born in 1572 and died in 1636. His elder son, Peter, died in 1625, and William, the younger, succeeded to his embarrassed estates. Sir William has his place in the Dictionary of National, Biography (Vol. xii.) and a very full account of him is given in the Biog. Brit. (Kippis), chiefly drawn from Sloane MSS. in the British Museum. The Calendars of State Papers (Domestic and Colonial) for the reign of James I. and Charles I. supply a few additional details. Besides numerous petitions for redress to the English Privy Council and to the East India Company of the Netherlands, and accounts of Sir William Courten's commercial misfortunes, published in Charles II's reign, chiefly from the pen of his friend, George Carew, who apparently lived at Aldington for many years, there appeared in 1681 a pamphlet entitled, " 'Hine illae lacrymae,' or an Epitome of the Life and Death of Sir William Courten and Sir P. Pindar," by Carew, and in 1683 " 'Vox Veritatis,' or a brief Extract of the Case of Sir William Courten," by Thomas Brown, of Westminster. Other accounts of the litigation are to be found in Addit. MS. 28957 f. 116 and Egerton MS. 2395, f. 602. Courten was one of the most prominent merchant-traders of the period, and belonged to the Company of Merchant Strangers. He incurred, heavy losses by the failure of his attempt to colonise Barbadoes, which had been granted to him, his colonists being expelled by the Earl of Carlisle in 1629. He also lent large sums of money to James I and Charles I which were never repaid. During his prosperous days he plunged extensively in purchases of landed property including, as we shall afterwards see, several manors in this county. Of Sir William and Peter Courten, Habington says that they "leaft to Mr. William Courteyn, who now succeedthe them, yea, to us all, suche an example of bounty and pietie in being more like parentes than landlordes to theyre tenauntes, as all must needs prayse, and I wish all able gentelimen would imitate."

In 1633 a marriage was arranged and took place between William Courten the younger, then 24 years old, and "the Lady Katherine", one of the daughters of the Rt. Hon. John, Earl of Bridgewater, Viscount Brackley and Baron Ellesmere, Knight of the most noble order of the Bath, Lord President of His Majesty's Councell established in Wales and the Marches thereof, and one of His Majesty's most honourable privy Councell. "A competent sum of money" being paid to the Earl and the two Courtens "as the marriage portion of his daughter and for a competent jointure to be had for the Lady Katherine in case she shall happen to overlive the said William Courten the son," the Courtens grant unto the Earl certain specified property in the county and elsewhere, which it is not necessary to detail here: suffice it to say that locally it included lands etc. at Great Hampton, the Manor of Bengeworth, "and all the seyte of the late dissolved Monastery of Evesham with the rights, members, liberties, appurtenances thereof in the county of Worcestershire and all that house and tenement called or known by the name of Almery House with the appurtenances And all that park and enclosed ground and tenement with the appurtenances called the Parke in Evesham aforesaid. And all that house, tenement, and Inn with the appurtenances called or known by the name of the Crowne lying in Evesham aforesaid, all of which were purchased by Sir W. C. and W. C. the son of Sir John Woodward. knt., by indenture dated 22nd Nov. 1625 And all the Manor of Aldington alias Aunton, co. Worc., and all other the manors etc. of Sir W. C. in Aldington alias Aunton and Badsey co, Worc."

These were indeed the days of patentees, projectors, and monopolists, and great fortunes were made; and oftentimes lost; in a very short space of time.

In the very early days of the Commonwealth, on 1 Nov. 1649, an indenture was made between Sir Edward Littleton, of Pillerton Hall, co. Stafford, and George Carew, whose name now becomes associated with the property for the first time, from which it transpires that Sir Edward had become bound in great sums of money to divers persons for the proper debt of William Courten, late of London, esquire," and that in 1643 he had received for security thereof the Manor of Aldington and that of Pirton, near Pershore. A certain Thomas Coppin also has an interest in these manors for satisfaction of some debt due to him by Courten, and whereas the manors are settled on Dame Katherine Courten as her jointure, this indenture witnesses that Sir Edward for 2,000 paid to him by Carew discharges him for the reason that Carew has given up the bond whereby Sir Edward stood bound with Courten in the penalty of 3,000 for the payment of 2080 to William Walton, of London, on May 25, 1638; and he leaves Pirton and Aldington to Carew for 99 years, and agrees that he may compound with Coppin for satisfaction of the debts due to him.

On 25 Jan. 1653, articles of covenant were drawn up between George Carew, of Gray's Inn, London, gent., John Culpeper, of Riverhead, co. Kent, and Thomas Shenton, of Gray's Inn, of the one part, and William Gerrard, or Jarett, of Aldington, gent. They recite that William Courten, esquire, leased to Gerrard the Manor of Aldington for 21 years at a yearly rent of 180, of which there are six years yet to run; and whereas Carew claims an estate in the manor, for the term of 99 years or thereabouts, and one William Courten hath likewise an estate in it of 50 per annum, and the reversion is now vested in Culpeper and Shenton in trust of several deaths owing by Courten, these trustees, so far, as concerns the interest of Courten, confirm the lease to Jarett until the 21 years are completed. Giles Pigeon is one of the witnesses to the agreement. The next year the same parties agreed to further extension of the lease for an additional 15 years.

In 1651 a Commission had found that Courten "hath used Marchandizing and thereby hath endeavoured to gett his living by buying and selling for several years last past in London and elsewhere in the parts beyond the Seas," and is indebted to one John Pettyward and other's to the sum of 25,000 and upwards and is bankrupt. Courten then made over his interest in the manor to Pettyward and Thomas Birkhead, citizen and armourer, of London. Birkhead is since deceased, and the whole estate so granted comes to Pettyward. But it has since been discovered that before he become a bankrupt, Courten, in April, 1643, had sold the manor to Sir Edward Littleton. Courten is also since deceased, and claim is now made, to the manor on behalf of his son and heir by virtue of a former settlement. The title of the Commissioners and of Pettyward is therefore questionable, and "the manor cannot be sold to the best improved value, at least 2,000." However, by indenture dated 29 March, 1656, Pettyward, for the sum of 2000 paid to the Commissioners for the use of the creditors of Courten; being also the consideration mentioned in an indenture of Bargain and Sale of the same date made between the Commissioners and William Bagott and Benjamin Lloyd; grants to the latter parties all the manor for ever. There are several other documents connected with this transaction into which many names come and the business seems to have been very involved, as indeed the whole settlement of the younger Courten's affairs must have been. His father's losses had brought him into great difficulties, and all his efforts to secure repayment of the sums lent to the Crown were unavailing. Finally he withdrew, almost penniless, to Italy and died at Florence in 1655, leaving a son William.

On 15th December, 1657, an indenture was made between George Carew and William Bagott, and Henry Scobell, of Westminster, and William Baldwyn, of the Inner Temple, London, by which the manor was granted to Scobell and Baldwyn. On the same day another indenture was made between the two last named parties, George Carew and Joane Cole, late of Wickhampton, co. Dorset, Carew was shortly to marry Joane Cole, and the indenture concerns the marriage portion he is to have with her.

On 15 March, 1664, an indenture was made between Carew, Baldwyn and John Whitfeild, by which they sell to Whitfeild "all that manor of Aunton or Aldington" for 3,500. John Whitfeild was of Maidenhead, co. Berks, and of Middle Temple, London, and his will, which is long and contains some interesting features, is amongst the documents. The item of present interest contained in it runs as follows:-

"Imprimis I devise unto the hono'ble and my most honoured worthy and reall Friend William Willoughby esquire, and my Brother William Cherry; gentleman, and to their heires for ever the Manor of Aunton alias Aldington in the Countie of Worcester to bee by them or the survivors of them sold for the paym't of one Thousand pounds to Sir William Powell Bar't Which is the Remainder of Sir Paule Pindar's debt to Sir William Powell which was the caunse of my purchasing the said Manor ..."

This reference to Sir Paul Pindar recalls another name famous in the number of Merchant-Adventurers of that day.

By an indenture dated 6 June, 1665, " William Courten, esquire, deceased, Samuel Baldwyn, George Carew, William Willoughby, of Hunsdon, co. Hertford, esquire, and William Cherry, of Maidenhead, co. Berks," sold to Thomas Foley, of Witley, co. Worcester, esquire, "all that Manor of Aldington alias Aunton, and all that farm called Aunton Farm now in the tenure of William Jarrett, gentleman," and all other messuages, etc., which Sir, W. Courten, grandfather of the aforesaid W. Courten, purchased of Phillip Bigge on 13 July, 1615. Foley, who was a celebrated ironmaster, continued the lease to Jarrett. The manor remained in the Foley family for nearly 150 years; in 1806, some time after the death of Thomas, fifth Baron Foley of Kidderminster, his property in Aldington, at that time comprising about 250 acres, was sold to several persons. The Manor was purchased by George Day, of Evesham, who speculated considerably, and it appears disastrously, in local properties, and he apparently leased it to William Preedy. In Michaelmas Term of 1808 the manor was purchased from Day by Mr. James Ashwin for 12,000.

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