The Landowners at Ockbrook


Little is known about the early years of the Piggin family, before it obtained freehold property in the village of Ockbrook in Derbyshire in 1583. It is probable that the Piggins had already been substantial farmers in the area well before that date.

A man named Oliver Piggin had taken holy orders in the Diocese of Lichfield about 1490, before the Reformation, and became vicar of Heanor, several kilometres north of Ockbrook. He is documented holding that office in 1536 and had probably been there since much earlier. A William Piggin was a member of the city council of Nottingham in 1577, and a John Piggin was a substantial taxpayer in London in 1582. All of these men could well have been close relations of the Ockbrook Piggin family.

It is conceivable that the Ockbrook Piggin family may have profited from the first dissolution of the English monasteries by King Henry VIII in 1536, which led to the suppression in 1538 of nearby Dale Abbey and gave the king direct control over the tithes, or church taxes, in Ockbrook. As will be seen below, the Piggin family later purchased partial control of the rectory of Ockbrook, and they appear to have taken over one of the farms that had been run by the monks and had supplied Dale Abbey with food, Little Hay Grange (picture). This appears to have been sold again in 1635: a deed names the acquired property as Little Haie Grange alias Piggins Grange (Cameron, Place-Names of Derbyshire, page 488, reference to the Trusley Collection, which is privately owned).

In 1583, John Piggin ( -1594) was affluent enough to purchase one-tenth of the manor of Ockbrook from Lord Frederick Windsor in combination with other yeoman farmers.

Frederick Lord Windsor, in 1583, conveyed [the manor of Ockbrook] to the principal freeholders, namely, John Piggin, Thomas Battell, the elder, Thomas Fowke, William Colubell, Richard Saunderson, Thomas Adams, Edward Adams, Richard Cowper, William Windley, the younger, and William Hibbard. The lands were divided, but the manor continued in undivided shares.
The deed dividing the manor of Ockbrook into ten parts: Deed of bargain and sale from Frederick Lord Wyndsore to John Piggen, Thomas Battell the elder, Thomas Fowke, William Columbell, Richard Saunderson, Thomas Adams, Edward Adams, Richard Cowper, William Wyndley the younger, and William Hibbarde alias Hubbard the elder, all of Ockbrook, husbandmen, of the manor of Ockbrook and several messuages and lands in Ockbrook

Although John, as part-squire of Ockbrook, would have qualified to obtain a coat of arms, neither he nor his descendants appear to have ever sought a grant. Joseph Tilley in Old Halls, Manors and Families of Derbyshire lists all the arms awarded under the Repton and Morleston Armoury, and enters "Piggin, of Ockbrook" at page 159 of volume (IV?) with a blank.

John's enjoyment of his land and manor was not to last for long: only eight years later his health must have been declining. In 1591, he transferred his principal assets to his second son Robert. The remainder of this valuable farming property passed to Robert when John died in 1594. No will of John has been found, so it would appear that this living gift was complete.

Settlement of a messuage and farm in Ockbrook, four lands in Abbey Field in Ockbrook and a cottage in Borrowash, John Piggin of Ockbrook to his second son Robert
Deed of gift of lands and tenements in Ockbrook and Borrowash, John Piggen of Ockbrook to his son Robert
Deed of gift and transfer from John Piggen of Ockbrook to his son Robert, of all his goods, chattels and personal possessions
Indenture accompanying valuation of property in Ockbrook inherited by Robert Piggin from his father John

Robert Piggin I

Robert was possibly a witness to the Shelford-Stanhope feud. He must have prospered along with the expanding economy of Jacobean England. He conducted the farming business for 28 years.

Robert Piggin named as one of the inhabitants' representatives in a lease of two common closes in Ockbrook from the churchwardens and inhabitants of Ockbrook to William Lowe and Austin Fayrbrother
Original will of Robert Piggen of Ockbrook
Robert Piggen Ockbrook Will 1619
September 27, yeo. [See also Phillimore Calendar, page 316]
long inventory, very fragile and faded
Lichfield Record Office
Robert PIGGIN 1619 DBY

17 James I, Derbyshire

Robert Piggin II

The heir, Robert Piggin, was still under age when he came into the estate, and his mother was initally appointed his guardian with authority over the family business affairs until he turned 21. The presence in the Pares papers of a deed (not yet seen) involving land at Loscoe suggests that the Ockbrook Piggin family may have still had some cross-interests with its cousins in Loscoe during Robert's lifetime.

Indenture granting wardship of Robert Piggin, son of late Robert Piggin, to Katherine Piggin of Ockbrook; with accompanying valuation of property in Ockbrook
Conveyance of house and land in Loscoe (Piggin-Piggin)

By early middle age, Robert of Ockbrook appears as a trustee in various relative's wills and is continuing to enlarge the estate after the Civil War period (1642–1646 and 1648–1649).

Robertus Piggen of Okebrooke mentioned in 1633 list
Copy will of Richard Osborne of Ockbrook naming Robert Piggen as trustee
Settlement of a messuage in Ockbrook, Richard Osborne to two trustees (one of whom is Robert Piggin)
Bargain and sale with feoffment of property in Ockbrook (Battell-Piggin) ... comprises four lands in the Upperfield in Ockbrook, a piece of meadow ground in the Wyacres, a piece of meadow ground in the Upper Meadow, and a cow pasture in the Horse Croft Pasture
Two parts of a final concord of houses and lands in Horscroft [Horse Croft], Ockbrook and Borrowash (Battell-Piggin)
Conveyance of a cottage in Ockbrook (Osbourne and Bourlie-Piggin)
Bond to perform covenants, Robert Osborne of Donington (Leicestershire) and Thomas Bowlie of Ockbrook to Robert Piggin
Two copies of bargain and sale with feoffment of a messuage in Ockbrook and a close of meadow called Peccadell Close in Spondon (Osborne-Piggen)
Miscellaneous document, mentions lands in Spondon, and author's sister Rachell, wife of Richard Piggin
Bond from Henry Smith jr of Ockbrook to Richard Piggin of Ockbrook relating to a bond to John Harrison of Allestree
Bond to indemnify the parish of Ockbrook if Thomas Foule or any member of his family should need poor relief, William Soare of Allestree and William Foule of Sandiacre to Robert Piggin, Christopher Storer, Thomas Cowper and Joseph Stevens of Ockbrook
Robert Piggin senior and Robert Piggin junior named on list of freeholders in Ockbrook and payments for foot soldiers
List of names and monetary values, including Robert and Richard Piggin
Probated will of Robert Piggin of Ockbrook
Robert Piggin Ockbrook Will 1671
April 7, yeoman
son Robert Piggin.
Supervisor: Richard Piggin of Ockbrook
Signed R.B. [?]
Christopher Bentley, etc.
[Inventory £344:18:8d]
by Richard Piggin (X), John Piggin, Tho. Piggin (X), etc.
Lichfield Record Office

Robert Piggin III

The estate then passes to Robert Piggin III, who becomes involved in various lawsuits, beginning with an effort to dun money from a member of the Chamberlain family, perhaps because they had allegedly owed money to his father, Robert II.

Appointment of attorney by Robert Piggin to collect debts from Elias Chamberline
Summons to Robert Piggin, Robert Holland and Thomas Sanderson to attend court in Derby in a case between James Osbourne and Edward James
Feoffment of a messuage in Ockbrook (Morley-Piggen), with accompanying bond to perform covenants
Bargain and sale with feoffment of a meadow in Ockbrook called the Little Thackmeadow (Osbourne-Piggin)
Robert Piggin named as one of the overseers in a bond to indemnify the overseers of the poor of the parish of Ockbrook against payment of poor relief, by John and Elisha Coxon of Ambaston, as sureties for William Coxon and his family (newly arrived in Ockbrook)
Articles of agreement relating to sale of a one-third share in a house and property in Ockbrook (Burton-Piggin)
Draft deed relating to property of Robert Piggin in Ockbrook

There was also a conflict over entitlement to the tithes, or church taxes, at Ockbrook, and a court battle with a neighbouring farmer, Thomas Sanderson (owner of the Saunderson tenth?), over a land transaction at Ockbrook. The significance of the tithes is made clear in the note on Ockbrook in the Bulmer Derbyshire directory (about 1880, pages 570-571): "Ockbrook remained a chapelry to Elvaston till after the dissolution of monasteries when the tithes passed into lay hands. The living is now a vicarage, worth £250 per annum, with residence, in the gift of E. H. Pares, Esq."

Copy royal grant of Rectory of Ockbrook, referring to previous grant by King Henry VIII
W Wightwick [see below] to Robert Piggen, 28 Sep 1693
Letter, Alex Stanhope to Robert Piggin, concerning the rectory at Ockbrook
Robert Piggen to [Philip Stanhope, 2nd] Earl of Chesterfield, 5 Mar 1693 [1693/4]
Confirmation of purchase by Robert Piggin from the Earl of Chesterfield, of Ockbrook tithes
Part of legal case, Rev. William Whightwick v Robert Piggin, over presentation to the parish of Ockbrook
Henry Gilbert to [Mr] Piggen, 17 Nov 1673
Bargain and sale of a selion of arable land in the Upper Field and a moiety of a piece of meadow ground in the Upper Field (Sanderson-Piggin)
Final Concord (2nd part): Piggin v. Sanderson and others. Locations: Ockbrook and Derby, Derbyshire; Trinity Term 1689
Promissory note by Edward James to produce for Robert Piggin senior a deed relating to a sale by Thomas Sanderson of Ockbrook of house and property in Ockbrook

Other transactions during this period appeared to involve the complex web of kin in Ockbrook and nearby places such as Spondon to the west and Long Eaton to the west:

Bond to perform covenants, James Osborne of Ockbrook to Robert Piggin
Settlement by lease and release of various closes of meadow, six selions of arable land in Draycott Field and four cowgates in the common pasture of Ockbrook, James Osborne to trustees Robert Piggin and James Holland, to his own use for life and then to his daughter Gertrude, wife of James Holland, and her heirs
Bond for repayment of £20, Thomas Piggin and Robert Piggin jr of Ockbrook to Elizabeth Bennet of Spondon
Receipt for money paid by Robert Piggin to James Motteram
Note from Samuel Heathcote of Derby to Robert Piggin the elder of Ockbrook, arranging a meeting
Bond for payment of £170, John Piggin of Ockbrook to Robert Bonsall of Long Eaton
Evidence about Robert Piggin's property
Draft letter to 'Brother Piggen'
Agreement and associated bond, John Dakin and Thomas Dakin his father to the overseers of the poor (Thomas Piggin named as one of the overseers) for the parish of Ockbrook, indemnifying the parish against expenses relating to Anne, bastard child of Sarah Phipps

At the same time, Robert oversaw the affairs and estates of several of his Ockbrook relatives as they died.

Richard Piggin Ockbrook Will 1679
May 9
  • to only daughter Catherine Piggin - sole exec
Wm Bennet, John Piggin, Pascha Piggin X
[Inventory £92:2:2d]
by Robert Piggin, John Piggin
Lichfield Record Office
William Piggin Ockbrooke Adm 1681
[Grant 1681-08-15]
to Tho. Piggin, brother
X Tho. Piggin, Robert Piggin
[Inventory £107:8:8d]
by William Bennet, Rob. Piggin, John Piggin
Lichfield Record Office. Also noted in the following index: Probate Accounts of England & Wales K - Z, BRS Vol 113 page 438 - 442: Piggin, William of Ockbrook, Derbyshire 1683, LJRO/B/C/5/1682/5 (LJRO refers to Lichfield Joint Record Office).
John Piggin Ockbrook Will 1695
April 26, yeoman, land in Spondon
son John Piggin - exec.
Brother Robert Piggin and kinsman Henry K----, overseers
(illegible) and Jane Piggin (X) and John Johnson
[Inventory £249:4:2d]
by Robert Piggin senior, Robert Piggin junior and John Johnson
Lichfield Record Office
Thomas Piggin Ockbrook Will 1696
Oct 16, yeoman Brother Robert owes him money from their father's legacy
[Inventory £120:00:4d]
by John Piggin, Robert Piggin, Tho. Bingham
Lichfield Record Office

Hopwell Hall Acquires Piggin Lands

The owner of the palatial country house Hopwell Hall expanded his estate at the start of the 18th century by purchasing Piggin land, probably from the aging (and childless?) Robert Piggin III. This transaction has proved fortunate for later scholarship, since a large collection of family papers was probably acquired at the same time by the purchaser, Henry Keyes, and were preserved by Hopwell's later owners, the Pares family, and donated in 2000 to the Derbyshire Record Office. Whereas most pre-Civil War documents about Derbyshire have vanished forever through incineration, rot or negligence, this jumbled stock of papers was kept safe and has now been skilfully catalogued by Records archivists to reveal who was who. Hopwell Hall itself, by then used as a school, vanished in a fire in 1957 (though Nottingham County Council built a new Hall of steel and concrete on the site as a special school for delinquents and this has since been converted into a vast and evidently tasteless private home).

Settlement by lease and release of a share in the manor of Ockbrook, one messuage or farm, three cottages and the moiety of a cottage, the Rectory and advowson of Ockbrook and lands in Ockbrook and Borrowash (Piggen-Kayes)
Rectory and advowson settled to the use of Henry Kayes the younger and his heirs; the rest of the estate settled to the use of the Piggin family of Ockbrook with remainder to Henry Kayes the younger
Release of the Manor, Rectory and advowson of Ockbrook and other premises in Ockbrook (Piggen-Kayes).

Robert died childless, thus ending his line. His will appears to have triggered a considerable amount of litigation.

Robert Piggin Ockbrook Will 1701
July 4, yeoman
nephew Robert Piggin - exec
[Inventory £805:6:2d]
by Rob Rowland, Fr. Goodwin, Steph. Grongnet vic. Ockbrook (Note: There is a book about this vicar: A French Parson at Ockbrook, Stephen Grongnet 1694-1733, by Marion Johnson.)
Lichfield Record Office: Further copy and related documents in Derbyshire Record Office bundle D5336/2/22
Probated will of Robert Piggin of Ockbrook
Accounts of the executors of the late Robert Piggin
Inventory of the goods of the late Robert Piggin of Ockbrook
Schedule of debts owed to the late Robert Piggin
Schedule of debts of the late Robert Piggin
Comprises long list of names including Robert Piggin

Control of the estate passed to Robert Piggin IV, apparently a nephew who had been born about 1680, but his enjoyment of these riches was to be short, as he died only five years after inheriting. As a freeholder with land exceeding 40 shillings in annual value, Robert had the vote at the December 1701 election for two Derbyshire seats in the House of Commons. From a letter written to Thomas Coke (1675–1727) of Melbourne Hall, Derbyshire, Piggin would appear to have been a Whig, as he attended a political meeting which was organized by a Mr Pole of the losing faction. The winners, Thomas Coke and John Curzon, were Tories, and Coke employed agents to collect intelligence about the opponents.

1702 January 24 (new style): (Kings Newton) — Robert Hardinge to (Thomas Coke). Wednesday last Mr. Pole held a Court of Information at Phillip Bisse his house in Derby. John Cantrell was to have been one, but timely prevented. The faults were Edward Wilne's and William Racon's: both would have been justified if he had gone. They are very industrious, going to every town, and informing themselves by any that gave them a vote. Mr. Turner tells me that the difference of the poll is but 13, not 19, as the Sheriff's scrutiny was. You had best be armed with a true pollbook, signed by the Sheriff or Deputy; and you must expect that there will be in it by mistake of clerkship several bungles or mistakes of names. As for Jefferyes, I find no such thing in the book I have inclosed, a subscription for a Common Hall at Derby. The gentlemen at this meeting was only Pole. Mr. Wilmot was sent for, but whether or not there, I cannot tell. There was Webster of Caldwell, Cantrell of Hartshorne, Sa: Stone of Stenson, Robert White of Breaston, Piggin of Ockbrook, two Gisborne's, two Cromptons, Sir Charles Pye's man, William Cope of Windley, Pegge, Mr. Shaw's brother, and three or four shabby fellows, that I suppose were their knights of the post. So that you must expect a thousand lies. They had another meeting at Brassington: Mr Bagshaw was there, who else I know not. If the subscription be not dangerous, the sooner the better. They have set out the Pool, but cannot get them to a rent: some of Melbourne hang off. I have drawn out articles which they seem to like.

The testamentary disposition of Robert IV also triggered litigation against his executors. Thereafter, the only remnants of the Piggin family were at nearby Spondon.

Robert Piggin Ockbrook Will 1706
May 21
my wife and cousin Robert Wilson executors
Cousin Edw. Buxton the elder and Richard Lewis supervisors
[Inventory £791.14.4½d]
Lichfield Record Office
Inventories and valuations of the goods of the late Robert Piggin of Ockbrook
Addition to schedule of debts of Robert Piggin
Note of agreement between John Johnson, his wife Jane and Robert Wilson (Jane and Robert being executors of Robert Piggin) and Abraham Bennet, for monies collected by Bennet for Piggin
Answers to queries by Mrs Piggin on Robert Piggin's inventory
Petition of Mary Piggin (widow of Thomas and mother of Robert Piggin) to the Lord Chancellor, relating to a case arising from Robert Piggin's will
Bill and answer in Chancery case relating to dispute over late Robert Piggin's property
Robert Piggen to Mr Lowe, received 25 Feb 1705 [1705/6]
Bond to abide by an arbitration, John Johnson to Marie Piggin of Radford (Nottinghamshire), widow

This will established the Piggin charity at Ockbrook, which as far as we know has been consolidated into other charities since that time. It is for example referred to in the late 19th century Bulmer Derbyshire directory entry relating to Ockbrook:directory:

CHARITIES—Robert Piggin, in 1706, left 40s. yearly, payable out of a farm at Chaddesden, to be distributed amongst the poor of the parish on Good Friday (page 571)
John Piggin Spondon Will 1726
October 4, yeoman, will made 14 March 1723/4
  • wife Catherine
  • daughter Catherine
  • Servant Mary Dickson
Robert Wilnot senior, Robert Wilnot junior of Chaddesden and John Johnson of Oakbrook trustees
William Sheperdson, Mary Standley senior X, John Braddock
Lichfield Record Office
Final concord of two messuages and land in Wilne, Shardlow, Aston upon Trent, Borrowash, Spondon and Ockbrook, Johnson and Piggin (plaintiffs) v. Harrison (deforciants)
Item relating to messuage and land in Ockbrook, messuage cottage and land in Spondon and persons named Willoughbey, Bingham, Piggin and Mundy, 1744, enrolled Jan 18 Geo II [1745]
Francis Goodwin Spondon Will 1761
October 13, yeoman
  • son John Piggin Goodwin
  • wife Katherine [Piggin?]
Researched by Liz Reading, personal communication 2005.
John Piggin Goodwin Spondon Administration 1798
April 24, farmer
Farmer of Spondon, Derbyshire
The National Archives: Abstracts of administrations and probates of wills; reference IR 26/353

From that time onwards, the only evidence to remain of the Piggin family's existence in Ockbrook was Piggin Wood, a patch of forest north of the village, apparently named after the family. One of the earliest Ockbrook maps, the enclosure map of 1773 at Derbyshire Record Office (Q/RIc 27), is likely to give some idea of its original bounds, since the map covers the entire parish.

© Jean-Baptiste Piggin 2000-2009. This page may not be copied, published or placed online elsewhere without express permission from the author.