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Old Map showing Wenstree Hundred

Old Map showing Wenstree Hundred

About Winstred Hundred

Winstred Hundred Parish takes in the local communities of Salcott cum Virley, the Wigboroughs (Great and Little) and Peldon.  The name of the parish has a long and honourable tradition being founded on one of the original Hundreds of the County of Essex (Wenstree Hundred), although this modern incarnation covers a somewhat smaller area.  Each of the villages comprising the Parish has its own background character.

Being just outside the oldest recorded town in the country it is inevitable that the thought of local history will come to some folks’ mind.  This page gives an insight into the history of the villages comprising the parish and/or historic events affecting them.

Painting of St Marys church at Peldon

Painting of St Mary’s church at Peldon


Peldon is the largest of the villages comprising modern Winstred Hundred and is situated just a few miles south of Colchester.

The village name is a corruption of the original Anglo-Saxon name of Piltondone with the ‘Done’ part of this being a description of the hill Peldon is built upon.  Records documenting the existence of the village date as far back as 950AD and examination of these shows what used to be a thriving rural community with substantial farming and salt-production activities on what were extensive salt-marshes to the south/south-east.

These salt-marshes also fed another thriving local industry with the village (and the Peldon Rose pub in particular) being active in smuggling through use of the large numbers of brooks and inlets in the area. Throughout its’ history, though, the villages main claim to fame is probably for being the epicentre of the strongest earthquake to hit Britain which took place on the morning of 22nd April 1884.

A recent Archaeological study in the graveyard at St Mary’s, was hoped to find some Saxon artefacts, sadly none were found although some Roman pottery sherds were.

Drawing of damage to Peldon Rose

Drawing of damage to Peldon Rose

Earthquake of 1884

The quiet of the county of Essex was suddenly shattered at 9.10am on Tuesday 22nd April 1884 by an earthquake with its epicentre near Peldon. The shock caused widespread damage in Colchester, and even more in the areas to the south particularly at Wivenhoe, Elmstead, Alresford, East Donyland, Fingringhoe, Abberton, Langenhoe, Peldon, the Wigboroughs, Mersea Island and Bradwell.

Twenty Churches and over a thousand 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 affected.

Find out more here.

Great Wigborough


St Stephen’s Church

Just over a mile to the south-east of Peldon, the main part of Great Wigborough is uphill from its sister-village, Little Wigborough with wide views over farmland to Mersea Island.

The history of the village appears to be closely associated with Abbots Hall which was owned by the Barking Nunnery until the 16th century – the farm by the same name is now the HQ of the Essex Wild Life Trust and is also central to pioneering work in managed retreat of coastline.

Little Wigborough

st nicholas church little wigborough

St Nicholas Church

Located just over a mile south of Peldon and between Great Wigborough and the Mersea and Salcott creeks, Little Wigborough is a small village overlooking the salt marshes and the estuary of the river Blackwater.  Little Wigborough is mentioned in the Domesday Book under the name of Wigheberga, with the land belonging to Hamo Dapifer.

The Norman Church is adjacent to Copt Hall, an old Manor House, which is now rather more known for its access to the Copt Hall Marshes  These marshes are a National Trust managed Site of Special Scientific Interest, where headland paths have been created on farmland to give access to the sea walls overlooking the salt marshes which every year are home to large flocks of overwintering wildfowl and wading birds.

L33 Zeppelin in LIttle WigboroughL33 Zeppelin Landing

On the night of 23/24 September in 1916, two German Zeppelins, returning from an air raid on London, crashed in Essex, one was the L33, which had dropped bombs on Bromley-by-Bow, Bow and Stratford, setting fire to a lumber yard and an oil depot while demolishing a row of houses in which six people were killed and a further 12 injured.  This L33 crashed near New Hall Cottages in Little Wigborough where it straddled the lane and was set on fire by the craft’s Commander, Kapitänleutnant Alois Böcker.  The Wikipedia entry says:

In the early hours of 24 September 1916, the German Army Zeppelin L33 was returning from a bombing raid on London, when it hit by an anti-aircraft shell and further damaged by Royal Flying Corps aircraft. It made a forced landing in the village, close to New Hall farm. The crew tried to burn the wreckage but they were only partially successful. They were arrested by the local special constable as they walked away from the scene.  A pen drawing with pencil of the Zeppelin by the Scottish artist Adam Bruce Thomson is on display at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.


Ruins of St Mary's, Virley - copyright Glyn Baker - used under CCL

Ruins of St Mary’s, Virley

The cum in Salcott-cum-Virley signifies the union of two church parishes into one, these being the original parishes of Salcott and Virley.


Lying just over a mile west of the Wigboroughs, Virley is a small village that appears to owe its name to its Norman owner at the time of the Domesday Book, Robert de Verli whose name, as an interesting point of trivia, appears in Edward Marston’s novel “The Ravens of Blackwater” which gives an interesting historical context of the area some 20 years after the conquest..

St Mary’s Church at Virley was one of the buildings most heavily damaged by the earthquake of 1884 with towers, parapets and roofs partially collapsing.

St Marys church at Salcott

St Mary’s Church


Adjacent, and eastward, of Virley, Salcott is located at the head of a navigable creek through the salt marsh to the Blackwater estuary. The village was originally known as Salcott Wigborough, being an outlying hamlet of Great Wigborough, although there is also some evidence to suggest the name is derived from the salt marshes with some historical accounts referring to Saltcott.