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Village life in nineteenth century Hoton

Philip White

Hoton has long been linked with the Packes of Prestwold, who owned most of the village until recent times. At the end of World War II there were ten farms with large dairy herds, now just two remain. Today Hoton has a population of over three hundred, living in a hundred houses, almost all privately owned.

Hoton's early history

Hoton, meaning 'settlement on a heel-shaped hill', dates from Anglo-Saxon times. After the Conquest its 1300 acres were shared between Normans Robert de Jort, with four ploughs and two villeins, and Earl Hugh. Later landowners included the de Prestwolds, the Poutrels, the Neles, the Skipwiths and the Packes.

Hoton was sparsely populated with eleven households in the 1300s, nine in 1564. By the time the 1666 hearth tax list was drawn up there were nineteen.

Farming was by the open field strip system, with three fields of 400 acres: one corn, one peas, and the other fallow. There was common grazing land, and no hedges or fences. Following the 1760 Enclosure Act a pattern of small fields was established, and farming methods changed. There was a large increase in population and by 1788 seventy households were recorded. In 1737 a turnpike road from Cotes to Nottingham was constructed, passing through Hoton. Completion of the Soar Navigation in 1785 coincided with the growing Industrial Revolution.

Changes in population and occupations during the nineteenth century

At the beginning of the nineteenth century life in Hoton was still centred on agriculture, although later census returns and parish records show a drift from the land. In 1821 Hoton suffered an upheaval and further increase in population when Charles James Packe II bought the Manor of Hoton, with the Rose and Crown alehouse, farm buildings and cottages, and many people were re-housed there after the original village of Prestwold was cleared. By 1830 Hoton's population included blacksmiths and framework knitters, a carpenter, tailor, baker, butcher, miller, and shoemaker, in addition to farmers and labourers. There were two girls' boarding schools, two alehouses and an inn.

Charles William Packe succeeded his father in 1837.

The 1841 census listed 460 residents, living in 94 houses. There was a windmill, two inns, and a Wesleyan chapel. By 1881 there were only 308 people in 81 houses, with 11 unoccupied properties. The 1891 census recorded a further fall to 294 people living in 78 houses.

Surprisingly, with agriculture declining in 1891, 57 percent of the sixty-five male heads of family worked in, or were close to farming. They included drovers, shepherds, market gardeners, an estate foreman, a miller and a corn merchant. Another 19 percent were in supporting trades, i.e. blacksmiths, carpenters, carters, a wheelwright and a groom, with 14 percent general labourers. The remaining 10 percent were a bricklayer/mason, a brickmaker, a tailor, an innkeeper, a traction engine driver and the vicar. Family members included an engineering draughtsman (James Clarke), a sewing machinist (Alice Harriman), a nurse (Millicent Trigg), an auctioneer's clerk (Henry Bamber), a bank clerk (William Clarke), a pupil teacher (Julia Trigg) and dressmakers (Anne and Esther Hinds). Boys as young as eleven worked as plough boys or cow boys, including Byron Trigg, John Smith, William Plummer and George Bowley, and Catherine Shepherd, aged twelve, was a domestic servant.

Of the sixty-five male heads 36 percent were born in Hoton, 38 percent were from elsewhere in Leicestershire, 15 percent from Nottinghamshire and 11 percent from afar (Ireland, Hampshire, Huntingdon, Lincoln and Cumberland). Almost 70 percent were born within a five mile radius of Hoton (Burton, Prestwold, Cotes, Barrow, Rempstone and Loughborough). Only 28 percent of their fifty wives were born in Hoton, 34 percent were born elsewhere in Leicestershire, 22 percent came from Nottinghamshire and 16 percent from Scotland, Cumberland, Devon, Lincoln, Derby and London. Their birthplaces were more widespread but nearly 60 percent were born within a five mile radius of Hoton (Costock, Willoughby, Wymeswold, Seagrave and East Leake). Families were larger than today's. Shoemaker Thomas Thornton had ten children. Several men, including farmer Herbert Hollingshead and parish clerk Haines Walker, had seven, many had five or six but two to four was more usual.

Longevity is difficult to assess, but market gardener Henry Spencer was 91, dressmaker Ann Hinds 86. Other long-lived men were aged sixty-seven to seventy-eight with women sixty-nine to seventy-nine. Infant mortality was much higher than today.

Parish affairs, housing and living conditions

From Elizabeth I's time until well into the 1800s care of the poor, policing, and maintenance of roads was in the hands of the parish who levied an annual rate. Parliament decreed that able-bodied men give between four and six days' free labour in repairing roads (turnpikes were paid for by tolls).

In the early 1800s the parish clerk lived in a cottage by Hoton House. William Sharp held the post in the late 1840s and Haines Walker is listed as parish clerk in the 1861, 1871 and 1881 censuses. The versatile Haines was a tailor but later became a servant and waiter, and in the 1890s, a grazier and sub-postmaster. In 1867 Mr Cooke was the collector of parish dues. Hoton's unique mix of properties show the changes in building design and materials over the centuries. Entering from Wymeswold, one passes a cluster of timber- framed farmsteads, converted farm buildings and cottages, some Tudor and one thatched. A medieval church tower overlooks the turnpike road lined with fine Georgian houses (see views of older buildings and street plan).

Hoton's farmers and minor gentry, in their substantial houses, had very different living standards from the farm labourers. In the early 1800s cottages were often badly thatched, ill-furnished hovels with earth floors, open fire cooking, no running water and primitive sanitation. C.W. Packe replaced many mud and lath cottages with good brick ones with slate roofs, and refurbished others, including converting the workhouse into cottages. His father had improved the dilapidated coaching inn 'The Marquis of Granby', renaming it 'The Packe Arms'. Allotments were provided, so workers could grow potatoes and other vegetables, perhaps keep hens or a pig, all important in the hungry 1840s. Clean water was a problem, but parish meetings in 1854-55 decided to build outside privies and sink a well. Cottages then would have flagged floors and stone sinks, with oil lamps replacing candles.

Sanitation and medical services improved, but childbirth was hazardous, depending on a self-trained midwife. There were still cases of typhoid, diphtheria and ringworm in the 1880s.

Church and school

Hoton church was the survivor of three chapelries of Prestwold church (the others were Burton and Cotes). It was called St Anne's until well into the nineteenth century and was subsequently rededicated to St Leonard. In 1800 there was just one service a year, but in 1810 Benjamin Rowland of Hoton House paid for services every second Sunday. In 1830 the Bishop became alarmed about the validity of marriages solemnised by licence at Hoton Church (penalty for default, transportation). Rev Charles Williams assured him that baptisms and marriages were solemnised only at Prestwold Church but by 1831 he had left the village.

Weekly services were restored in 1838, after C.W. Packe carried out repairs, built a granite chancel and installed a new bell and clock. Hoton House became the parsonage. There was no fixed parsonage until 1875 when Colonel G.H. Packe provided a house on South Street. Hoton also had a thriving Wesleyan Chapel.

Most Hoton children had no regular 'free' schooling until C.W. Packe built a girls' school on Prestwold Lane in 1837 and a boys' school at the Burton-Prestwold boundary in 1840. In 1887 Hussey Packe enlarged the latter for both boys and girls and the old girls'? school became a Sunday school. Truancy was a problem especially at harvest time.

Scholars were invited to Prestwold Hall each summer for tea and games, and also collected new boots and clothes from there each Christmas.

Hoton had two boarding schools, each with six to twelve girls, run by the Misses Potter and the Misses Cooper. Fees were about eighteen guineas a year.

Street scenes

In 1840 Hoton was described as peaceful but bustling, with fourteen or fifteen stagecoaches rumbling through daily. The turnpike road was surfaced with broken granite bonded together by the weight of passing wheels. Minor roads were dirt and gravel, rutted and muddy in winter and dusty in summer.

Hoton map

As well as shoppers, horse riders, farm carts and delivery wagons, there would be carriages from the finer houses. Herds of cattle would pass through for milking or going to pasture. In later years one might meet a crocodile of young ladies led by Anne or Letitia Potter (listed in 1861 and 1871 censuses) or the vicar on his rounds (Rev John Killick in the 1881 census). Sheep could be seen in the fields with shepherds William Painter and Thomas Marson mentioned in the 1891 census, and there would be the familiar sounds of horses being shod at the smithy.

Anne and Letitia Potter retired to Weeping Ash Cottage. Among other interesting residents of the Georgian houses were Evelyn Faulkner, once Lord Byron's tutor, and Hacker Parkinson, who was descended from Cromwellian regicide Colonel Hacker.

Dimly-lit streets would not deter visits to alehouses, with wagoner William Phipps and labourer Joseph Bramley perhaps frequenting the Rose and Crown, and more prosperous drinkers such as George Thirlby, corn merchant, and Estate foreman Henry Walker opting for the Packe Arms.

In 1868 Hoton's main street was observed to be quiet, railways having ousted stagecoaches, with telegraph wires now a feature.

Holidays were rare but the two annual wakes were celebrated, St Anne's feast day on 26th July and the Calf Wake around 9th October, as well as victories at Trafalgar and Waterloo and Queen Victoria's Coronation and Jubilees.

There would be visits to Loughborough Fair and religious festivals, especially Christmas, would be enjoyed. Imagine carollers with lanterns in the snow. Red-coated Quorn hunters might gather at the Packe for a stirrup cup.

Meeting more of the local people

Church warden and land tax assessor William Gill was a colourful man. He owned the Bell Inn, built Rose Cottage and was married three times although two of his sons died in infancy. When he died in 1827 he left his five surviving children several hundred pounds each. His grandson Thomas employed six men and four boys on his 300 acre farm with the large holly tree in front (Hollytree Farm).

Holts farm, with 100 acres, was almost certainly named after William Hoult who was there until 1879. Henry James, a long-time resident, was convinced of this derivation. John Lacey owned Pear Tree Farm in the early 1800s. His son Henry rented the Hollies with 200 acres, and in 1871 Robert, Henry's nephew, farmed Pear Tree Farm with 550 acres, employing fifteen men, eight boys and a girl.

Miller, Edward Watkin, built a windmill in Hoton in 1823. In 1891 descendants Edward and family were living at the Thatch, children Edward, William and Elizabeth continuing there in old age after the mill was destroyed by fire.

Robert Sim still farms at Hoton Hills where John and Mary Sim came from Cumberland in 1874.

The Packe Arms landlord in 1881, Simpson Allsop, was quite a character. He used to bribe the drivers of the steam traction engines that shook up the beer in his roadside cellars with a gallon of ale to drive on the far side of the road. One driver may have been Joseph Booth from Vine Tree Terrace.

Descendants of several old families still live locally, or have lived locally until quite recently. Several Triggs are listed as agricultural labourers in the 1881 and 1891 censuses: George, Samuel, Henry, William, Isaac, Joseph and Byron. Others were Noah Lockwood and Edward Plummer. There are still Abels in Hoton. Joseph Abel was a wheelwright, Frank and Frederick were blacksmiths, as were Joel Hardy and John Wood. Joseph Smith, Charles Knight and Thomas Shepherd were all carpenters.

Market gardener Henry Spencer, born at the start of the century, remarkably was still listed in 1891. Bartholomew Hall was working with him.

Thomas Thornton, a cordwainer (or shoemaker), was born at Swithland in 1812, and married to Elizabeth Stevenson from East Leake. In the 1851 census six children, Ann Mary, Elizabeth and Martha (born between 1840 and 1843) and William, John and Thomas (born between 1837 and 1848) are listed. In the1861 census four more boys are named: Herbert, George, Frederick and Walter (all born between 1854 and 1859). About 1872 Colonel Packe built a house for Thomas at the corner of Prestwold Lane and South Street. At the time of the 1881 census only Herbert and Ann Mary were still at home. By 1891 Herbert, later a married farmer, was living with his sister and widowed mother, his father having died in 1889 aged 77. Their neighbours at that time were farmer Henry Bennett and Prestwold vicar Rev Frank Sheriff.

In 1871, Martha, by then a widow, was a hotelier and living with her children in Merthyr Tydfil. Her brother Walter was living with them. Walter later moved to Edgbaston, then Southwalk. In 1881 Thomas Thornton Jnr was a boot and shoe salesman in Doncaster. He died in 1884 and his widow and her family moved to Leicester. Elizabeth Thornton married Stephen Simpson, a licensed victualler living in London. By 1891 John, George and Frederick were living in Market Harborough, Oakham and Lincoln, all married with children. No trace can be found of William after 1851 but eight of the others were still alive in 1901.


  1. The Doomsday Book 1086. Penguin Classics 2003
  2. T. R. Potter Walks Round Loughborough 1840, Rambles Around Loughborough 1868.
  3. Rachel Flynn. Hoton. A Stroll Round a Conservation Village published by the author 1992.
  4. Daphne Evans. The History of Hoton Church (unpublished).
  5. England Census Returns 1841/1901. Wales Census Returns 1871/1891 Public Record Office.


I am grateful to Mrs Jean Thatcher for help with the census returns.

Originally published in The Wolds Historian No.3 2006

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