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Newsletter 44 - Autumn 2005
Fig. 1. Baigens, Chawton.
Baigens in Chawton was named after the Baigen family who lived there for over 100 years in the 18th and 19th centuries. Before that, it was known as Symond’s Farm and Thomas Morey’s Living but none of its names give any indication of its first owners.
In 1495, an inquisition post mortem was held at Alton after the death of John Bonvile, lord of the manor of Chawton. John had no sons and so his three daughters inherited his property. Chawton was acquired by Elizabeth (Bonvile) and her husband, Sir Thomas West, and, as they lived elsewhere, they leased ‘the site of the manor place and farm of Chawton ... and all the demesne lands’ to William Knight and Agnes, his wife, in 1524. It is possible that William was already living here and that this was a renewal of a previous lease.
Agnes was William’s second wife. By his first wife, William had a son known as John the elder who was a clothier. William and Agnes had three children - John the younger, who was a yeoman, Thomas and Richard. After William Knight’s death in 1546, his son John the younger renewed the lease for Chawton manor house and the Knights had bought the house and manor by the time of the death of William’s grandson, Nicholas, in 1583.
In the year before his father died, John the elder was granted a ‘messuage garden croft of land and 15 acres’ by Sir Thomas West, now Lord La Warr, and his wife Elizabeth. The property was said to have been ‘late held by John Ansell’. As a clothier, John would not have been a poor man and would have wanted a house to match his position - that home later became known as Baigens.
Fig. 2. The family tree of John Knight, clothier, of Baigens.
Who John Ansell was is not clear but there was a family of that name in the Headley Tithing of the Manor of Bishop Sutton between the 1450s and 1550s and at least three of them were called John. The farmer of that manor in the early 1540s was a John Ansell who, presumably was one of them.
John Knight the elder enjoyed his home for 12 years before he died in 1559. He left money to his extended family, every godchild (6d each), every servant in his house (12d each), every poor householder in Chawton (12d each) and 10s for mending the highway. To his wife, Jone, he bequeathed £20 of his own proper goods, her own apparell and her own goods that she brought to him that were expressed in an inventory. Sir Thomas White was the overseer and received 40s ‘for his oversight and counsell towards’ Henry - John and Jone’s only child. Henry, who was sometimes known as Harry, was the executor and received the residue of his father’s estate.
In 1564 Henry, who was also described as a clothier, added more land to the property he had inherited. Sadly, he does not seem to have had a good head for business. By 1582 he was said to be a yeoman of Alton and owed William Russell of Ashe £400. A year later, Henry was of Badshott in Surrey and, in 1586, he was a prisoner in the Fleet Prison.
While living in Badshott, Henry Knight sold his ‘mansion house where Thomas Morey then lived’ at Chawton and the barns, stables, gaterooms and other buildings, orchards and backsides together with 60 acres of arable in Chawton common fields and 20 acres of pasture and meadow to William Symonds, citizen, alderman and, later, mayor of Winchester. Another indication of Henry’s approach to business is a paper that has survived which was a memorandum of William’s to find deeds relating to the premises at Chawton ‘in case the title to them is hereafter in question’.
The occupant of Baigens, Thomas Morey, belonged to a family which had been connected with Chawton since, at least, 1399/1400 when a John Moury witnessed a grant of land. An earlier Thomas Morey owned ‘Morey’s tenement’ (62-66, High Street, Alton) which has been described in a previous Newsletter.
Thomas was the eldest son of Nicholas Morey. It seems likely that Nicholas was living with Thomas when he wrote his will in 1592 as he left Thomas all his furniture, cooking utensils, harness and weapons; and Nicholas was not listed in the Lay Subsidy of 1586 while Thomas’ assessment was the second highest in the village.
Thomas Morey must have been seen as a man of some standing as he was soon to be connected to the new owner of Baigens - William Symonds. When William died in 1606, he left ‘unto the Mayor, Bailiffs and Commonalty of the city of Winchester, and their successors’ all his Chawton property. They were then to grant it on a 99 year lease to Thomas Morey’s son, Thomas, and William’s daughter, Jane, within six months of their marriage. The rent of £20 a year was to be used ‘for the relief of six poor aged people’ of Winchester. It is thanks to the formation of Symond’s Charity that so many documents relating to Baigens have survived.
Six years before the marriage agreement, Thomas Morey the elder had bought some property in East Worldham and he moved there before he died in about 1621. Meanwhile at Baigens, Thomas the younger and Jane had married and their family grew until there were 7 children. In 1622, William Symond’s Charity had an extent drawn up of the Chawton property and it was said to consist of 4 messuages, 4 barns, 2 gardens, 2 orchards, 3 tofts, 70 acres of land, 5 acres of meadow, 15 acres of pasture, 6 acres of wood and common pasture with appurtenences.
Fig. 3. A wall painting from the hall at Baigens (photo: Eric Lane, Historic Resources Centre, Winchester).
As the Chawton parish registers for this period are incomplete, it is difficult to say when Thomas and Jane Morey died but the property seems to have passed to their son - another Thomas. In the Hampshire Hearth Tax Assessment for 1665, he was said to have 4 hearths. This Thomas renewed the lease in 1681 which was just three years before he died. His widow continued to live in the house paying the annual rent of £20 in two instalments.
Nothing more is heard of Baigens until 1736 when the rent roll for Chawton included:-
John Baigen is first recorded in Chawton in 1715 when he married Ann Naish there. This was followed by the baptisms of five children. John seems to have taken an active part in village life being chosen to be one of the 4 vergers of the common fields, Church Warden and Surveyor at different times. He was also admonished at the manor court for ‘not cleansing the watercourses from Carters Leaze to Maiden Lane’.
John Baigen of Chawton, yeoman, died in 1769 and left his good friend Mr William Eames all the property in Chawton that he leased from the Mayor, Bailiff and Commonalty of Winchester. Out of it, Mr Eames was to pay an annuity of £12 a year to John’s son John. After John junior’s death, Baigens was to go to his brother William although William could take the property immediately after his father’s death if he agreed to pay the £12 to his brother, John.
John junior does not seem to appear in the records again and William, who was a yeoman like his father, acquired the lease of Baigens. In his will dated 1785, William gave an idea of the furnishings in the house. He left his wife, Jane, the feather bed, bolster, pillows, bedding, bedstead and furniture, the walnut tree chest of drawers in the Lower or Parlour Chamber and the silver teaspoons, as her own property. It was William’s desire that Jane should live in the farmhouse with his son (William, junior) and family ‘to be therein assisting, as I dare say she will, in managing the Business, Not doubting but my said Son will permit my said wife, his Mother, to have and receive part of the perquisites of the Yard and Garden as now she does as my wife’. Jane was to assign and release to William any interest she had in her husband’s estate. William senior died four years later and his widow was able to ‘assist’ her son for another 23 years before she died in 1812.
In his book ‘St.John’s Hospital and other Charities in Winchester’, John Deverell gives an idea of the state of Baigens in 1824:-
William Baigen renewed his lease in 1827 and remained at Baigens until he died in 1838, aged 73, ‘many years a respectable inhabitant’. William had married twice and the 1841 census shows his second wife, Elizabeth - then aged about 60, her step-son John of about 55, her son James of about 30, and two labourers in the house. It is also possible that the house had been divided into two and that the Gibbs family were living in part.
A short while after the census was taken the Charity Trustees leased Symond’s Farm, occupied by Elizabeth Baigen, to Edward Knight the younger of Chawton House. Elizabeth must have been allowed to stay on over the winter as the sale of all the ‘Farming stock. Household Furniture and other effects’ did not take place until the April 1842. The auction was held on the premises and included ‘all the valuable live and dead stock in Husbandry, Hopping Utensils, Granary on 9 stones, about 15 tons of hay, Household Furniture, Brewing and Dairy Utensils, pork and bacon, quantity of potatoes, fire wood, and other effects, late the property of Mr. W. Baigen, deceased, at Chawton, near Alton. The whole will be sold without reserve, the lease of the farm being expired.’
The Baigen family then left the village after more than 100 years at Baigens and that was the last that was heard of them in the area - except for one tragic episode. Elizabeth seems to have gone to join members of her family in the Millbrook area, dying in 1845. Her only surviving child, James, also moved there after living with his step-sister, Jane Andrews for a while. Said to have been ‘very odd and queer during the time and often in low spirits’ by Jane, the move to Millbrook does not seem to have helped. In late September 1851, James was seen going up ‘Chawton Shrave’ with a gun and umbrella. His body was later found in nearby woodland with ‘part of the head blown away’.
Once he acquired Baigens, Edward Knight seems to have added its farmland to that of neighbouring Pound Farm and used the house for families of agricultural workers. In 1865, the trustees of Symonds Charity had a valuation of Baigens made35 which said that ‘the Farm House is used as two tenements for labourers a part having been newly erected and in an unfinished state, and there requires a wall at the north side, the Hopkiln or Building adjoining [the] house might be turned into a stable by building a wall at the Back & new roof’.
Four years later, Edward Knight bought Baigens and its land for about £6000. In 1871, the house was still being used for farm workers but, by 1881, it was occupied by one family again - that of James Pritchard. He was the village schoolmaster from 1881 until 1919 as well as organist and choirmaster. By the time of the 1901 census, Baigens was home to James, his wife, three children, mother-in-law and an assistant teacher.
James retired as head master after nearly 40 years service and he and his wife, Jane, celebrated their golden wedding in 1928. They seem to have bought Baigens from the Knight family about 5 years later - just 5 years before James died in 1938. The local paper noted that ‘Mr. Pritchard was born on a Trafalgar Day, 63 years ago, died on Primrose Day, and was buried on St. George’s Day. Another coincidence was there were 83 wreaths - one for every year of his life.’ As Mrs Pritchard had already died in 1929, Baigens was now only home to two of their daughters who continued to live there until 1967. The house was then bought by Colonel and Mrs Derek Robson and it was they who, during their work there, uncovered the paintings above the fireplace.
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