The Gibson family and the Waltham Abbey connection

My discovery that Bowes John Gibson, son of Lieutenant John and Mary Gibson and brother of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth, lived in Mile End Old Town, sent me back to Derek Morris’ pioneering study of this London suburb in the mid-eighteenth century. Previously, I’d failed to find any of my ancestors mentioned in Derek’s book, despite my family’s strong association with the area at a later date.

I didn’t find any reference to Bowes John Gibson in the volume, but Appendix 3, a list of Mile End Old Town residents who owned property in Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, caught my eye. Included in the list was one Mary Gibson, a widow, said to own an estate near Waltham Abbey.

Ruins of Waltham Abbey

Mary was the name of Bowes John’s mother, the widow of my 6 x great grandfather Lieutenant John Gibson. Might she have moved to Mile End, perhaps to live with her son, after her husband’s death: or perhaps John and Mary Gibson moved from their home in Tower Hill towards the end of their life? As for the reference to Waltham Abbey, could this be the missing link in the puzzle surrounding my 5 x great grandmother, Elizabeth Holdsworth nee Gibson?

As I’ve mentioned before, Elizabeth Gibson appears to have been married twice: first (in 1753) to John Collins, and secondly (in 1763) to my 5 x great grandfather Joseph Holdsworth. We have my distant relative and fellow family historian Ron Roe to thank for identifying these two marriages, and for making the connection between Elizabeth and the Gibson and Greene families. However, a degree of uncertainty has always surrounded Elizabeth’s first marriage to John Collins. The register of St George’s Chapel, Mayfair, where the ceremony took place, refers to John as a gentleman of Epping and to Elizabeth as being from nearby Waltham Abbey. In other posts, I’ve reported my researches into the landowning Collins family of Epping, and more or less confirmed that John was the son of Richard Collins. But I’ve failed until now to find any connection between the Gibsons and Waltham Abbey: all the extant records have described them as living in Tower Hill.

But Mary Gibson’s ownership of an estate in Waltham Abbey might solve the mystery. I did some more searching online and came across this reference on the Waltham Holy Cross page of the British History Online website (my emphases):

The manor of WOODREDON lay on the eastern edge of the hamlet of Upshire. Its name means a forest clearing and suggests an origin in the extensive assarting which was permitted to the canons of Waltham by the charter of Richard I. A map of c. 1590 shows ‘Woodridden groundes’ as a large enclave in the forest. 

Woodredon belonged to Waltham Abbey at the Dissolution, when it was on lease to Oliver Rigby. It subsequently descended with the manor of Sewardstone until 1660. With Sewardstone it was vested in the Earl of Bedford and his co-executors, but it was not sold with that manor. It remained in the hands of Bedford and his family until 1738 when John Russell, Duke of Bedford, sold it to Mary Greene, who immediately conveyed it to her daughter and son-in-law, Mary and John Gibson. In 1764 John Henniker began to acquire the manor from the Gibsons and their relatives. This process does not appear to have been completed until 1792. Henniker, who succeeded to a baronetcy in 1781 and was created Baron Henniker in the Irish peerage in 1800, died in 1803. By 1801, however, he had been succeeded as lord of Woodredon by his grandson John Minet Henniker, who held the manor until his death in 1832. It was then put up for sale, and was bought in 1834 by William St. John Arabin. He was succeeded in 1842 by Richard Arabin, who built Beech House (now Arabin House) at High Beech in 1848. Richard still held Woodredon in 1852 but soon after it came into the hands of the Buxtons and was merged in the Warlies estate. Woodredon farmhouse is a mid 18th-century red-brick house with a pedimented porch. It probably represents the manor house as rebuilt by the Gibsons. The present Woodredon is a large gabled building which stands 400 yds. to the north-west and dates from 1889. In 1963 it was occupied by Sir Thomas F. V. Buxton, Bt.

The Mary Greene mentioned here is almost certainly my 7 x great grandmother, the widow of London goldsmith Joseph Greene, who died in 1737, the year before his widow purchased Woodredon. Joseph must have died a wealthy man if, as well as bequeathing a thousand pounds to his daughter Mary and her husband John, he also left his wife sufficient funds to buy a manor house and estate for them in Waltham Abbey.

Woodredon House ( via http://randoslondres.wordpress.com)

A Google search for Woodredon reveals that it survives as a care home and equestrian centre, a short distance from the M25 motorway, between Junctions 26 and 27. I must have driven past there hundreds of times, without realising that I was within sight of a property once owned by my ancestors. Elizabeth Gibson would have been five years old when her grandmother bought the estate and presented it to her parents, John and Mary. It seems likely that Elizabeth would have spent at least part of her childhood at Woodredon, even though the Gibsons continued to maintain their home in Tower Hill. This would explain how she came to meet her first husband, John Collins, whose Epping home was only a few miles away and whose parents were also local landowners. Perhaps it also helps to explain how, after John Collins’ death, she came to meet her second husband, Joseph Holdsworth, a tenant farmer in another Essex village, South Weald.

I’ve also tracked down the will of Mary Gibson, which provides a wealth of further details about this fascinating 18th century family: I’ll report on those findings in another post.

Footnote

The house in the photograph above is almost certainly not the one inhabited and renovated by the Gibsons, but a later house built on the estate in Victorian times. The Gibsons lived at what is now Woodreden Farmhouse: I can’t find an image of this online, but it appears to be a listed building (you can see an aerial or bird’s eye view of the farm at this site), described as follows:

Late C17 or early C18 front reputedly circa 1716. Panelled C18 ground floor front room, ovolo mouldings. Close string newel staircase with turned balusters, moulded handrail. Red brick, hipped old tiled roof of 3 ridges. 3 storeys, floor bands, 5 flush windows, ground and 1 t floor sashes under cambered arches,
2nd floor sliding casements with glazing bars. Cornice. Pedimented wooden porch with colonnettes. Single storey and attic 2 sliding casement wing on left with box dormer.

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