Wing Village Mysteries: Part 5

                                                  Wing Mysteries: Part 5

This is my fifth article in a series about Wing mysteries – mysteries concerning; people, places and situations, things that puzzled me during the reading and research I undertook for the book ‘A History of Wing Village and Its Setting 1066-2018’, published late last year, and in this particular case the research I undertook related to ‘The Cuckoo Inn’, published in January of this year.

Having previously covered; ‘The Disappearance of the Sheild family dynasty from Wing’, ‘Lord Henry of Clipstone and the Wing Church Plaque’, ‘The Location of Wing Church School 1718 to 1853’, and ‘Wing Windmills’, this month I’m seeking any information that readers might have on ‘Earl of Gainsborough Landholdings in Wing’.

If you have any information on this mystery or any of the previous topics, please contact me at

Late last year, after the publication of the ‘Wing History’, I was approached by Tom Roberts with an historically valuable bundle of papers related to his acquisition of ‘The Cuckoo Inn’ site, a site now in separate ownerships with three separate houses; 3, a newly constructed property on the site of former Cuckoo Inn outbuildings, 3A, which is Grade II Listed and dated to the early 17th Century, which was known as the Cuckoo Inn and is now the left-hand thatched, extended and restored attractive cottage, and 3B, which is also Grade II Listed and  dated to 1844, built by Thomas Bagley as a “Drinking Club” and is now the right hand restored and extended stylish house.

The bundle of documents were mainly on parchment, hand-written, and in archaic legal language.

It took me a quite a while, but I was able to produce a fifteen page history entitled ‘3, 3a, and 3b, Top Street, Wing, formerly and chronologically; The Red Lion Inn, The Noel Arms and The Cuckoo Inn: Summary of the property transactional history.’ I said in my first article in this series of mysteries that several documents within that bundle, and one in particular, helped to shed some bright light on the disappearance of the Sheild’s from Wing property ownership and to provide detailed written evidence on their financial difficulties as precipitating that disappearance.

 I also said that “this work produced its own mysteries, which I will return to in another article”, and now do that in relation to a puzzle or mystery in connection with Earl of Gainsborough landholdings within Wing.

Why is there a puzzle?

Throughout the 1800’s the Marquis of Exeter is the Lord of Wing Manor and is recorded as the largest landholder, followed in size of landholding by the Sheild family until they divest themselves of Wing lands in 1885, mainly to the Worrall family. (See ‘Who Owned Rutland in 1873?’ T.H. McK Clough, RLHRS Occasional Publication No 9 2010, which analyses the Rutland Entries in the national Return of Owners Land 1873 – the latter being a return required by a Government concerned about the concentration of land ownership). This return required declarations for all land in excess of one acre.

In my reading of Tom Robert’s legal papers on ‘The Cuckoo’ I came across references to Earl of Gainsborough family estate ownership of the Noel Arms in Wing. I had already mentally noted that ‘The Cuckoo’ began life as ‘The Red Lion’, then ‘The Noel Arms’ in Parish Records and that “Noel” was a Gainsborough family name. ‘The Cuckoo’ was a later name for the public house derived from ‘The Cuckoo Cottages’, three cottages, now demolished, that were sited between 3B Top Street – the drinking club of 1844 – and the highway.

Wing Manor was not in the possession of the Earl of Gainsborough who in 1873 was in possession of eleven other local Manors and owned properties in a further three, including Manors abutting Wing. All his Return listings, however, excluded Wing, it being as stated above in the possession of the Marquis of Exeter, something of a puzzle.

It is clear, however, from the Cuckoo papers that the Earl of Gainsborough owned the property in 1860. There is no explanation of how that came about but it invites surmise that all the prior recorded transactions were copyhold transactions – that is right of occupancy rather than ownership.

Some large landholders were not necessarily scrupulous in their returns to government, inventing named individuals as the landholders, presumably to obscure their own involvement. Landholders making the returns were supposed to give their residential addresses, but this was often imprecise for a variety of reasons, including multiple residential addresses and multiple relationships.

In 1860, there is an Abstract of Title on paper. This indicates the transfer of the “Public House, The Noel Arms and garden” from the Honourable H.L. Noel to the Honourable Rev Baptist Wriothesley Noel. There is a ‘Reconveyance’ on paper of the same date. The sums mentioned are £2,300 and £3,200 at £4 percent per annum and confirms Earl of Gainsborough family estate trust ownership at that date. The purpose of the reconveyance appears to be about adjusting the relative security values related to internal family loans which enabled the ‘Release’ of the Noel Arms from the internal security pledges, presumably clearing the way for its external sale.

In 1860, there is also a Conveyance in respect of The Noel Arms on parchment from The Honourable Henry Lewis Noel to William Apps, Gentleman. The background is set out as; in 1852 The Honourable William Nisserton(?) Noel, on the first part, The Right Honourable Charles Noel Earl Gainsborough, on the second part, and Henry Lewis Noel, on the 3rd part, approve a transaction as falling within the family trust discretion for disposals. In 1855, Henry Lewis Noel is identified as first part in a property transaction and the Right Honourable Reverend Baptist Wriothesley as second part. This background may or may not relate to the same intra-family transactions as in the 1860 Abstract but in addition it does clear the way for freehold disposal out of the family trust to William Apps. William Apps allows occupancy of the Inn to his married sister, Sophia Bagley, wife of the builder of the drinking club, Thomas Bagley, and thereafter gifts the property upon his sister’s death to Sophia’s daughter.

In 1877, written on parchment, there is a ‘Conveyance’ from The Right Honourable Frederick Earl Beauchamp, William Lygon Earl Longford, Baron Silchester and The Most Honourable William Alleyne Marquis of Exeter, to Mrs Sarah Elizabeth Barnett (William Apps’ niece). This conveyance sells the cottage/s adjoining the Cuckoo to Sarah after the death of her husband. It required the consents of some very powerful aristocrats because it was part of the Marquis of Exeter’s estate. It contains a plan of the property clearly identifying the cottages as abutting the Inn’s frontage and standing in front of “the drinking club”.

There was also a set of two cottages, called ‘The Nook’ sited to the rear of “the drinking club”, later demolished, but these are only explicitly identified in terms of ownership in a 1948 Abstract concerning the 1885 legal case between the Worrall’s and the Sheild’s, at which time they belonged to the Sheild’s, and so are difficult to attribute to either the Gainsborough or Exeter estates as at 1860.

So, what is the puzzle?

Why did one of the three biggest landowners in Rutland, Earl Gainsborough, hold unrecorded and highly specific land/buildings within the Manor of one of the other two biggest landowners, the Marquis of Exeter?

I cannot help but surmise that the overall site of The Red Lion Inn/Noel Arms/Cuckoo public house and its cottages, outbuildings, stables and workshops, together with the interests of the Earls of Gainsborough, Exeter and Beauchamp, together with those of leading gentry like Sheild, and the known fact of its separate “Club” facility, taken in conjunction with its seemingly chaotic transfer history, suggest that it might have been a drinking AND gambling den.

It may also be surmised that given the state of contemporary property record keeping, and the imprecise exchanges of property within this social context, probably gave rise to ill-defined legal tenure.

Can you cast any further light on this mystery?

David Seviour 3/6/2019

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