Heritage - St Nicholas


Wigginton is a very ancient place. The name is probably of Norse origin, the suffix “-ton” being found contrary to popular superstition in both Anglo-Saxon and Viking place names. So the old romance about the Wigginton  Anglo-Saxons camping at their “-ton” and glaring across a swamp at the Haxby Danes at their’-by’ is pure fiction. The clue is to be sought in the root of the word concerned, In ‘Wiggin-ton’ it is thought that the root derives from the Norse forename ‘Vikingr’. In a document of the 11th century our village is named  ‘Wicheston’, while in the 13th century a document calls it ‘Wygynton’. Perhaps their spelling wasn’t too good in those days either. domesday_book_survey_of_england_1086

But the origin of the Parish and Church are very obscure. From a very early date the Parish was included in the endowments of Prebends of York Minster. Domesday Book records land at Wigginton owned up to 1066 by Saxford the Deacon. It was granted in the 11th century to the Cathedral Church of St Peter at York, to which it belonged at the time of the Domesday survey. There were then 3 caracutes of land in the manor to be tilled by one plough and also some coppice wood.



 The first specific mention of a church building is in 1424, when the Bishop of Dromore was given licence to dedicate , but there was a chapel at Wigginton in the middle of the 13th century. Like the manor it was among the possessions of York Minster and was assigned to the Treasurer, to whom a pension of 25 pence was paid out in the Parish. In 1247 the chapel was confirmed to Simon, son of Master Richard of Arenhall “as a grant of Robert, the Treasurer of York who gave it to him”. It must have returned to the possession of the Treasurer probably on the death of this grantee, for the advowson, or right of presentation to the benefice, remained in their hands until the dissolution of the office of Treasurer in 1547. The Parish with all its rights, then passed to the Crown, in the 17th century, James 1 gave these rights to the Knyvett family as a reward for their help in uncovering the Gunpowder Plot. Later a Lord Howard of escrick appears to be in control, but the Crown regained the living in 1688 and to this day the Lord Chancellor is patron of Wigginton.

The 1424 church seems to have been built of magnesium limestone, like York Minster and roofed with orange clay tiles, many thousands of which are in the ground around the present church and its foundations. The font from this church was unearthed in the present foundations in 1994 and is now on display outside the church hall.

An interesting glimpse of the running of the Church in the 18th century is provided by the Visitation returns of Archdeacon Herring in 1745. The Rector of Wigginton, Richard Mosley was a very busy man on Sundays. He was already officiating at Holy Trinity, Micklegate and at St Saviours in York. But the Public Services were said at Wigginton “twice every Lord’s Day and the Communion celebrated four times in the year”. He recorded that in the Parish of Wigginton, there were some 32 families, including one of Quakers and one of Roman Catholics – Methodism had not yet beeb born. He also calculated that there were 80 communicants in the Parish, but that the average attendance was inly 40, with 50 at the Easter Communion. Mosley was a graduate of St John’s College, Cambridge.. It thus seems that the status of Wigginton in the 18th century was above that of Haxby, which at that time was still a chapel-of-ease within the Parish of Strensall

The present church of St Nicholas was rededicated in 2008 having previously known as St Mary & St Nicholas although St Nicholas was the original dedication. It was erected in 1860 and consists of a nave without aisles, a quire, a north porch and a western bellcote containing two bells. The style is Gothic of the 13th century. No record has been so far found of the appearance of the old building, which was demolished in 1860.

 The furnishings of the church contain many items of interest. Among the treasures we value are:- a silver cup made in York by William Beesfield in 1695, a London silver patten of 1753 inscribed ‘Wigginton 1754’ and a modern silver flagon of 1866. There are also two pewter plates and a pewter flagon inscribed ‘SB 1697’. These are probably the initials of Samuel Buxton, the Sheriff of York in that year.


St Nicholas' stained glass windowTwo other treasures worthy of mention -  The East window contains a very beautiful little stained glass crucifix of the 15th century which was given to Wigginton by York Minster.

The 18th century chamber organ, made by Robert & William Gray of London in 1790 and bought from the Church of St. Mary -le –Bow. This the type of organ was probably made for the hall of a mansion.

Registers now kept for us at the Borthwick Institute in York are as follows:

1. All entries 1691 to 1753

2 Marriages 1754 to 1811

3. Baptisms & Burials 1754 to 1801

4. Baptisms & Burials 1801 to 1812

On the north wall hangs a list of Rectors from 1249 and on the same wall can be seen a record of the Ann Nicholson charity of 1786.

St Nicholas church

The adjoining Church Hall was built between September 1994 and May 1995 and was designed by Stephen Parry Dipl. Arch., RIBA and was built by Wm Anelay & Co of Osbaldwick.

It was built to match the 1860 church of weathered sandstone with new limestone dressings and plinth. This enabled the church to have for the first time various facilities such as disabled access, running water, toilets and storage space. It was opened and dedicated on the 14th May 1995 by the Most Revd, and Rt. Hon John S Hapgood, Archbishop of York.

 In 1860 when the 1424 church was demolished, the Yorkshire Architectural Society reported in 1861 that ‘ the old church of Wigginton, near York, in the last state of dilapidation, has been pulled down and replaced by a cheap structure in the Early English style, executed by Messrs Atkinson and costing only £700.’

The church family of St Nicholas

                                                            Some members of our church family

The pundits may have thought it cheap and nasty in 1860, but it is solid and durable and now much loved, the centre of the thousand year old work of the Church in the village of Wigginton.

 For further information please contact our Parish administrator