Wigmore is a village and parish in the northwest part of the county of Herefordshire, England. It is located on the A4110 road, about 8 miles west of the town of Ludlow, in the Welsh Marches. In earlier times it was also an administrative district called a hundred.
It should be noted that, although Roman remains have been found in the area (near Bury Farm, to the east) on the western branch of Watling Street (which crosses Wigmore Moor), the town was not sited in relation to the road and thus it probably owes its existence more to the Norman castle on the hill above the church and village.
It is sometimes suggested that Wigmore is associated with Winingamere, a fortification built by king Edward the Elder in 921, but recent research has shown that Winingamere was, in fact, in Newport, Essex.
FitzOsbern built Wigmore Castle, as it became known. Although it was probably initially only built of earth and timber, it was to become one of the main English border castles along the Welsh Marches during the 13th and 14th centuries.
However, FitzOsbern's son Roger de Breteuil took part in the Revolt of the Earls; after the Earl's subsequent defeat William I seized the castle and gave it to another of his supporters, Ranulph de Mortimer. From this time on Wigmore became the head of the barony of the Mortimers, Earls of March.
Wigmore is one of very few Herefordshire boroughs recorded in the Domesday Book. Although Hereford was the only borough in the county in 1066, boroughs were attached to the castles of Clifford (also built by FitzOsbern) and Wigmore by 1086.
Wigmore, at the time situated in the Hazeltree hundred, is mentioned three times in the Domesday Book. The first entry is under the lands held by Ranulph Mortimer and records that he holds Wigmore Castle, which Earl William built on wasteland that was called Merestun, which Gunfrid held before 1066. It also records that there were two hides that paid tax, two ploughs in lordship and four slaves. The borough of Wigmore is recorded to have paid £ 7 - "bergu qd ibi est redd vii lib". Secondly, in the section recording the lands of the king, Merestone is recorded as being a part of the manor of Kingsland which Ranulph Mortimer held for the king. A third section mentions that Ranulph Mortimer holds Wigmore, which Alfward held, and that there is half a hide, which Wigmore Castle is situated upon. If a rental of 12 d per burgage (as was customary with other rental properties at the time), the money paid by the borough may represent about 140 burgages.
Although it is not considered to have been a failed borough, as it was a fairly prosperous small market town during the 13th and early 14th centuries, Wigmore does not seem to have flourished as much as others in the region, such as Bromyard.
There are two 14th-century extents (assessments or valuations of land for taxation purposes) preserved in the Public Record Office which include the settlement. In the one of 1304 it was recorded that there were 102 tenants who held 140 and a quarter burgages. It was also recorded that there was a weekly market and a fair, which was held on the feast of St Andrew.
The importance of Wigmore as a market town was at least partly due to the influence of the Mortimer family and their castle, which probably attracted much local and regional business to the town. However, Wigmore's prosperity probably waned somewhat in the mid-14th century when the Mortimer family moved its administrative centre to Ludlow Castle, which they had inherited through marriage in 1314.
However, Wigmore Castle still remained the family's official seat for the next 250 years, until the demise of their house; when the male line of the Mortimers died out in 1424, the castle passed to the crown. It was maintained throughout the 16th century, partly as a prison, although the castle was already in decay. The town of Wigmore shared the fate of the castle and it declined to village status by the 16th century. The castle was finally dismantled in 1643 to prevent it being garrisoned during the English Civil War.
In 1870 - 1872 it was recorded in the Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales that Wigmore village was a seat of petty-sessions and that it had a post office, a police station, two Methodist chapels and a national school. Fairs were held on 6 May and 5 August. The parish included part of Limebrook and was in the Ludlow district. The size of the village was , it had a population of 499 and 104 houses. Regarding the Wigmore hundred, it was recorded that it contained 14 parishes and 5 parts. It had a size of , a population of 6,309 and contained 1,234 houses.
The Gazetteer of the British Isles of 1887 showed that the village of Wigmore had not changed much in fifteen years - indeed, the number of inhabitants had declined slightly: contained a population of 417. Similarly, the Wigmore hundred's contained a population of 5,665.
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