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Hoton Parish council versus the Air Ministry

Joan and Peter Shaw

On 28th March 1942, the following letter landed on the desk of Mr N Woods of the Air Ministry Works Directorate at Grantham – the ensuing correspondence gives a fascinating insight into the impact of the new Wymeswold Airfield on the surrounding countryside.

The Post Office, Hoton, Loughborough
Dear Sir
Sir Edward Packe informs me that he spoke to you about the roadside waste between Hoton and Wymeswold, the keeping of which was from time immemorial let by auction annually at the Parish Meeting. At the meeting 25th March, I was instructed to write to you and request the payment of the rent from the Air Ministry as they have made it worthless and impossible to let or graze for the time being. I am to say that the average sum for which this has been let for the last thirty years is 7.11s.9d.[*]
Yours faithfully
W H Walker
Clerk to Hoton Parish Meeting

[*] For the period 1911 to 1941 the land had been let for rents varying from 13.0s.0d. to 6.0s.0d. to the following: A E Clarke, Thomas Hall, Edward Collington, Thomas Jackson, Robert Collington, Albert Allsopp and W H James.

7th April 1942
From Air Ministry to Hoton Parish Clerk
I am directed to enquire as to the legal ownership of the waste land for which you are making a claim. You will appreciate that whereas it is claimed that the grazing value has been curtailed, anyhow for this season, Air Ministry have not taken physical possession of the land in question. If however legal ownership can be proved an agreed amount of compensation could probably be allowed. I should be glad to have the information regarding the total area of the land that has been previously let for an average rent of 7.11s.9d. This no doubt includes an area other than that adjoining the aerodrome frontage to the Hoton – Wymeswold Road.

Hoton Parish Council to Air Ministry
The roadside 'waste' referred to consists of about seven acres and stretches both sides of the road Hoton to Wymeswold, and there is a pond for the stock to drink. The Air Ministry works have rendered the whole of this herbage unlettable – in fact the turf has been practically destroyed. The waste strictly speaking belongs to either the Lord of the Manor or to the adjoining owner, but by custom of at least seventy years permitted usage, the Parish Meeting has let this keeping annually for the benefit of the Parish, thereby acquiring the right, and as I stated in my first letter, the average rental fee for the last thirty years has worked out at 7.11s.9d. If the Air Ministry have not take physical possession of the land, they certainly have taken actual possession.

22nd April 1942
Air Ministry to Hoton Parish Clerk
..... You will appreciate that the Air Ministry have only damaged a very small portion of the total area, eg seven acres, and the area which they have damaged does not include the pond. It is therefore unreasonable, surely, that the Air Ministry should be asked to pay the whole of the amount of the average rental for the last thirty years, eg 7.11s.9d. I should be glad if you would adjust this figure in accordance to the actual area taken, and which, I think you will find on investigation, is of very negligible amount. In point of fact, it is likely that you could obtain an equivalent rental for the area remaining, as I believe there is a good demand for grazing land in the district.

1st May 1942
Hoton Parish Clerk to Air Ministry
I am afraid the conditions on the Hoton to Wymeswold road differ very much from the description given in your letter. As you may well be aware, the stretch of road to which we are referring is about a mile in length, in the whole of this distance I am confident it is impossible to find one acre out of the seven which is undamaged, for three quarters of the length there is not a sign of grass left – deep trenches have been dug on both sides for the laying of pipes and cables – no attempt whatever has been made to preserve the turf. The whole of this area has been run over again and again by heavy lorries and tractors of all descriptions. Parts of the waste have been concreted down where the dispersal runways cross the road, practically the whole of the fences on each side have been removed. You will see from the foregoing that the herbage for the present does not exist, and that it would be impossible to get an offer of any sort for it. As regards the figure of 7.11s.9d in view of the present demand for grazing, there is no doubt that had the herbage been available for letting this year it would have made more than this amount.

4th May 1942
Air Ministry to Parish Clerk
I thank you for your letter dated 1st inst which has my attention.

11th July 1942
Parish Clerk to Air Ministry
I shall be pleased to receive a reply to my letter of lst May 1942 – in the meantime, however, the lane has been rendered more unlettable still, as the pond at which the cattle used to drink has been filled in with rubble and bags of cement. This means that if at some future date the rental value is to be restored to its former figure it will be necessary for the pond to be cleaned out, or some other drinking facility provided.

24th July 1942
Air Ministry to Parish Clerk
Without prejudice. Further to my meeting with you at Hoton yesterday, I wish to point out that no actual requisition has been served in this case due to the fact that the ownership of the land vested in the Parish Council apparently by custom being an unusual one, and owing to the difficulty to establish, it is understood as I pointed out to you yesterday, any offer made by this Headquarters and accepted by you, is subject to the approval by the Air Ministry London. Firstly, I would point out that the portion of land under discussion is to be that which will finally be included within the area of the road which is to be closed, being the Hoton – Wymeswold Road and in past correspondence, you have asked that the Air Ministry agree to pay the Hoton Parish Meeting 7.11s.9d in lieu of rental for the year 25th March 1942 to 25th March 1943, and I understand this is an average yearly rental taken over a period of thirty years. I do not agree that this should be the basis of arriving at a rental, and submit a fair rental to pay, would be that at which was last let ie 6.0s.0d per annum for March 1941 and March 1942 and this figure, subject to the above reservation, is now offered to you to be paid for March 1942. I would point out that in arriving at a fair basis for an annual rental to be paid by Air Ministry, on no account can any increase in value, due to the emergency, be taken into consideration. The question raised in past correspondence with reference to the pond at which cattle used to drink, being now filled in with rubble and cement, this is admitted, but I can assure you that the pond can be reinstated at any time and the whole of this will of course be dealt with under Section 2(1)(b) of the Compensation (Defence) Act 1939 when the time arrives for a claim to be made under this Section.

21st August 1942
Parish Clerk to Air Ministry
Thank you for your letter of 24th ult, I have been waiting until we had a Parish Meeting. A Parish meeting held 19th inst, after noting the information, a resolution was passed accepting your offer of 6.0s.0d per annum for March 1942, as the rental to be paid by Air Ministry to Hoton Parish meeting. I shall be pleased to hear from you in due course to the effect that this figure has been approve by Air Ministry, London. The meeting also expressed satisfaction with your statement regarding reopening the pond.

15th September 1942
Air Ministry to Parish Clerk
This matter has now been submitted to Air Ministry London for approval and on this being given I shall forward the necessary agreement for signature.

21st October 1942
Air Ministry to Parish Clerk
I have now obtained Air Ministry authority to deal with the matter. To regularise the matter, I enclose notice of works on land together with three claim forms No 3, two of which please complete and return to this HQ. It would be advisable to fill up the amount of your claim, as you originally claimed viz 7.11s.9d per annum which we finally settle at 6.0s.0d per annum.

28th October 1942
Parish Clerk to Air Ministry
The forms required to be returned to you are forwarded herewith completed and signed.

10th November 1942
Air Ministry to Parish Clerk
I thank you for your letter of 28th ult with enclosures and now return to you an agreement form signed on behalf of AM for your attention. This matter will now be passed for payment.

6.0s.0d equated to a rate of 2d in the pound and was a valuable contributation to the parish coffers. Payment was made throughout the war and for several years following. However, in 1950 the Air Ministry again wrote to the Parish Clerk – but that's another story.


Wymeswold Aerodrome – actually sited mainly in the parish of Prestwold but named after the largest village in the area – was opened on 16th May 1942 as a satellite to Castle Donington, and remained operational until 1957. For the first two years, it was home to No. 7 Group Bomber Command and not only were hundreds of men trained there, senior aircrew took part in bombing raids, and many unable to get back to their own bases after raids on Germany took advantage of its hospitality – it is said that on one night 25 Lancasters landed safely at Wymeswold. The rumble of , Halifaxes, Stirlings, Wellingtons, Lancasters, and later Hurricanes and Martinets, were a familiar sound in the skies over the Leicestershire Wolds until October 1944 when the airfield was transferred to Transport Command and the fighting planes were replaced by Dekotas. After a two year closure, the aerodrome re-opened in 1949 when 504 Auxiliary Squadron moved in with Spitfires, and in November of that year entered the jet age when the Squadron was re-equipped with Meteors. During its final years, it was used by a number of units flying planes as diverse as Austers and Hawker Hunters.

see also Wymeswold airfield

These transcriptions of Hoton Parish Council records are reproduced by kind permission of the Leicestershire Record Office.

Originally published in WHO Newsletter 1995

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