Leigh Village

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History of Leigh Manor

Before Leigh, there was Ashton Keynes Manor.

Probably identifiable as the estate given by King Alfred to Ælfthryth, his youngest daughter, and which in 1066 belonged to Cranborne Abbey (Dorset). In 1102 ownership was transferred to Tewkesbury Abbey (Glos). The manor passed to the Crown after the dissolution of Tewkesbury Abbey. In 1548 Edward VI granted away the land of the Leigh as a separate manor, which was briefly reunited with Ashton Keynes in the early 17th century under the ownership of Sir John Hungerford.

Leigh Manor came under the ownership of a William Sharington – a courtier during the reign of Henry VIII who was promoted through the Royal ranks to eventually join the household of Queen Catherine Parr.

He had many strings to his bow: He was from a wealthy background, had all number of Royal connections, was a wool merchant (owning his own ships trading out of Bristol), and a money-lender (the Wonga of his era). He bought Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire following the dissolution of the Monasteries, and a dozen other estates, joined the political ranks in Westminster and was knighted in 1547.

He then became the ‘under-treasurer’ of a new money-making mint in Bristol – the UK’s first producer of gold coins outside London. Sharington was found to have been making gold coins lighter than specified, and making more coins than had been allowed.

If this wasn’t bad enough, he confided his fraud to the First Baron Seymour of Sudeley; Thomas Seymour, who then convinced Sharington to spend his ill-gotten gains on a plot to kidnap Edward VI. They were going to make enough bootleg coins to pay ten thousand armed men a month’s wages, but were discovered and arrested.

Sharington lost his estates (although some were returned to him at a later date) – his comrade Seymour was executed for treason.

So back to the Crown Leigh did go, and over the centuries was bought and sold by a number of wealthy estates in the Hungerford, Dench, Craggs and Eliot families until 1803 when the then owner, Lord Eliot, put it up for sale in lots.

In the last 450 years, the Leigh has grown and it has shrunk as various plots of land swapped ownership between the various parishes.


Sharington information: Wikipedia

Italicised text: ‘A History of Wiltshire XVIII’ used with kind permission © University of London

Village Information

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