Wimbish the Name

The Name of Wimbish - The Village (compiled by David Corke)

As a place name, the name of our village appears to be unique and there is no convincing explanation as to its origins. There is good evidence that the name is very old.

The first mention in historical documents is from Edward the Confessor’s time (1042) when the gift of the parish by Thurlstan to Christ’s Church, Canterbury is recorded in surviving Latin and Anglo-Saxon documents under the name of WINEBISC. (source: Morant’s History of Essex, 1760-1768)

In 1086 Domesday Book lists Wimbeis [that is how it was spelt in the original Latin version of Domesday) as having been the property of Ralph (Baynard) (a Norman: he took the place of Aethylgyth who held the manor before the conquest).

Around 1270 The Knights Hospitallers owned land in Wimbish (and in many surrounding areas). Several documents survive and have been published in the Cartulary of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem in England. These documents contain the first references to people whose name was based on the name of the village:

Simon of Wimbish [Simoni de Wybisse & Symone de Wymbig] was granted 2 acres of land and also witnessed another document in 1275. John of Wimbish [Iohanne de Wymbis] was mentioned in a document dated 1273. Click here for information on Wimbish as a family name

The Knights Hospitallers were dedicated to fostering the crusades against the "infidel" in the Holy Lands. The Knights Hospitallers were abolished by Henry 8 in 1540 and their lands confiscated & sold. Sadly, Wimbish still has a link with the conflicts between nations of Muslim & Christian traditions. The Army regiment based at Carver Barracks are the biggest employers, by far, of Wimbish residents. Tragically, two Wimbish soldiers,  (Sapper Luke Allsopp, and Staff SergeantSimon Cullingworth) were amongst the earliest casualties in the war in Iraq and are now buried in Wimbish churchyard.

William Harrison (The rector of Radwinter who also doubled as the vicar of Wimbish) who wrote "The Description of England" in 1587 may have got it wrong when he implied that "Wimbish" was a corruption of "Gwinbach" and was associated with the then name of the River Pant. His explanation is rejected as mere speculation in the definitive book on Essex place-names: “There is little likelihood that this is anything more than the philological speculation of an antiquary.”

Harrison's book is still in print. To quote him:

"there is a pretty water that beginneth near unto Gwinbach, or Wimbish, Church in Essex, a town of old and yet belonging to the Fitzwalters, taking name of gwin, which is beautiful or fair, and bache, that signifieth a wood, and not without cause, sith only the hills on each side of the said rillet but the whole parish hath sometime abounded in woods; but now in manner they are utterly decayed, as is the like commodity everywhere, not only through excessive building for pleasure more than profit, which is contrary to the ancient end of building, but also for more increase of pasture and commodity of lords of the soil through their sale of that emolument, whereby the poor tenants are enforced to buy their fuel and yet have their rents triple enhanced. This said brook runneth directly from thence unto Radwinter, now a parcel of Your Lordship's possessions in those parts,....

Beside this, the said Pant, or Gwin, receiveth the Chelm, or Chelmer, which ariseth also in Wimbish aforesaid, where it hath two heads, of which the one is not far from Broadoaks (where Master Thomas Wiseman, Esquire dwelleth), the other nigh unto a farm called Highams in the same parish,...."

Thomas Wiseman was a prominent catholic at a time when this was illegal (or at least unwise) in England: Broadoak’s has a secret “priest’s hole”.

Incidentally, Isabel Wiseman of Broadoaks wrote a history of Wimbish in the 1950s (copy in town library) and was presumably a descendent of Thomas and a relative of the current Wiseman's who own a major part of Wimbish still (but not Broadoaks).