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Wroxhill Manor

The second estate in Marston listed in Domesday Book was Wroxhill (or Roxhill) Manor. In 1086 the two hides less half a virgate which made up this estate was held by Walter Giffard as overlord, with Hugh de Bolebec as tenant. Hugh de Bolebec himself held substantial estates, mainly in Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire, centred on the manor of Whitchurch (Buckinghamshire). The Bolebec family died out in the male line in 1165 on the death of Hugh de Bolebec II, leaving two daughters, Isabel and Constance as co-heiresses. Isabel de Bolebec married Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford, and in 1253 when a custumal for the manor of Wroxhill was compiled their son, Hugh de Vere, the 4th Earl of Oxford, was the overlord. The customal states that Richard and Mabel de Specheley held the manor of Wroxhill for one knight’s fee by inheritance. As Mabel is mentioned specifically in the document, the inheritance was presumably hers. The Victoria County History (VCH) gives an account of the tenants of Wroxhill Manor but makes no mention of the Specheleys, whose interest in Wroxhill does not appear to have lasted long.  

The earls of Oxford continued to hold Wroxhill as part of their Whitchurch estates until the 16th century. The first tenants mentioned by the VCH are the Marston family. In 1202/3 one virgate of land in Marston was held by Nigel of Marston (de Merston). This passed to John of Marston (held in 1212/3), Ralf (1231/2), Ralf’s son Richard (1305/6), John of Marston (1310/11) and another John (1346). This virgate appears to have been held separately from the Specheley’s land.  

In 1286 Matilda, wife of Richard de Argentein alienated one quarter of a knight’s fee to a John Harmer; it is tempting to speculate that Matilda may have been a daughter and heiress of the Specheleys. John, son of John Harmer held rents and lands in 1306, and in 1346 a John Harmer held by knight’s service in Wroxhill, along with John of Marston, Isabel Weedon and Bernard de Willy. Both the Harmer and Weedon families were mentioned in the 1253 custumal, when John Hermer and Edmund of Weedon both held one virgate from the Specheleys. 

By 1428 the whole estate was held by Bernard Saunderton, whose successor William Saunderton held what was by now called Wroxhill Manor. In 1459 the manor was in the possession of Sir John Catesby, followed by his son Sir Humphrey Catesby, who died in 1504. The manor was valued at more than 10 marks. Under Sir Humphrey’s will the manor passed to his younger son Thomas, but after he died without heirs in 1530 it passed to his elder brother Anthony Catesby. The property remained with the Catesby family for the next century, but in or soon after 1636 they sold their estates. In 1652 the manor was held by William Playdell, who was described in parish records as “a Londiner”.  

A series of deeds held by Bedfordshire Archives provide detail of the descent of the manor of Wroxhill over the next 200 years, although many relate to mortgages rather than to the manor itself [reference X668/41-95]. In 1652 William sold the manor to his brother Edmond, a citizen of London and merchant tailor, for £610. In 1662 Edmond Playdell mortgaged the manor to London merchants Nathaniel Letten and John Letten. The mortgage changed hands a number of times, but it is not clear what happened to ownership of Wroxhill until 1728, when the manor was sold by Jane Blount, a daughter of the late Sir Thomas Hope Blount of Tittenhanger (Herts) to Thomas Reddall of Eversholt. Thomas bequeathed the manor, along with other property, to his nephew Ambrose Reddall (son of Thomas’s late brother William). 

It appears that in 1799 the manor was in the possession of John Bayley, a surgeon living in Marston Moretaine, still with a substantial mortgage attached. A deed of this date indicates that no court baron had been held for the manor since 1782. By 1800 John Bayley had defaulted on various payments and was in severe financial difficulties, causing him to take out a £6000 loan at least partly secured on Wroxhill. By 1802 Bayley had been forced to release Wroxhill Manor for sale to pay his debts In 1808 the lordship of the manor and property in Wroxhill were sold to George Maule of Huntingdon, and then in 1810 to William Coleman of Boughton Malherbe (Kent). In 1819 Henry Whorley of Cranfield, gardener, said in a sworn statement that Baker Coleman, son of the late William Coleman, had died without leaving any offspring. At this time the manor appears to have been either acquired or inherited by John Hubbard of Stratford Langthorne (Essex). What happened to Wroxhill manor over the next century is unclear, but in 1915 the Roxhill Manor estate was put up for sale together with the Milton House estate in Milton Ernest.  

Roxhill Manor Farm may have been the focus for the post-medieval Manor of Wroxhill, but it is not certain whether it was also the site of the medieval manor house [Heritage Environment Record 16938]. A probably infilled moat has been discovered 500 metres to the north west, from which medieval pottery has been recovered [HER 3404].  

Bedfordshire Archives holds a number of manorial records relating to Wroxhill, including an early custumal (list of customs) dating to 1252-53. Other manorial records are held by Northamptonshire Record Office, Staffordshire County Record Office, the National Archives, and All Souls College, University of Oxford. A full list can be found on the Manorial Documents Register available through the online catalogue of the National Archives.