THE WISTON ESTATE: A Thousand Years of History
One thousand years ago the Wiston Estate comprised about 1,500 acres, a quarter of its land holdings today. The Domesday Book entry of 1086 lists 24 tenants at Wistanestun, as well as five ‘slaves’. These were bondsmen – farm workers tied to their manorial lord. In the early 1300s there were 53 tenants, but only eight were left after the Black Death (1348-50), a grim time for the estate and its owners. From the 1440s the Sherley family were in possession and in the 1570s courtier Sir Thomas Sherley built much of the Wiston House we know today. From 1622 there was a new estate owner, the Lord Treasurer of England, and he was followed by a royalist supporter in the English Civil War. In 1649, just three months after Charles I was beheaded, a young parliamentarian, John Fagge of East Hoathly, purchased the estate.
John’s grandson Robert married Christian Bishop of Parham in 1696 – their stormy marriage is a tale in itself – and he took over the estate in 1715. One of their daughters, the 37-year-old spinster Elizabeth Fagge, inherited Wiston in 1740. She married widower Sir Charles Goring of Highden, Washington three years later and their only son Charles planted the trees on Chanctonbury Ring in 1760. Harry Goring, the present owner of the Wiston Estate, is the Ring-planter’s great-great grandson.
This illustrated talk encompasses some of the ups and downs of the estate ownership over the last millennium.