Local history articles
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The Wolds Historical OrganisationThe Wolds Historical Organisation (WHO) was founded in 1987 to promote interest in the local history of the villages on the western side of the Leicestershire Wolds, specifically Wymeswold, Burton on the Wolds, Hoton, Prestwold and Cotes.
In the 1980s there were other groups researching the history of Walton and Willoughby but sadly they folded so in recent years the WHO 'adopted' these villages too.
Over the decades WHO members have written a substantial number of articles and transcribed most of the relevant records, such as census returns. There are well over a hundred such 'pages' on this web site, all accessible via links on the left-hand side of this screen. In recent years a significant number of more substantial contributions have been made available as free PDFs. The 'search this site' feature (at the bottom of the left hand column) helps find specific information.
Until 2020 the principal activities of the WHO had been talks on the third Tuesday of most months, with a guided walk in the summer. These will resume as soon as sensible.
All WHO talks postponed
WHO updatesIf you're not already on the WHO's email update list and would like to receive news of what's happening then please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the message 'Add to WHO update list'. Your email address will not be revealed to anyone else or used for any other purpose.
Copies are available to purchase from G.G. Granville's in Wymeswold and Marcol garage in Burton on the Wolds. If you would like a copy posting to you then please email email@example.com – we can accept payment by cheque or PayPal.
As with the previous WHO publication, Discovering the Wolds, there are a variety of articles in roughly chronological order. However, in People and Places of the Wolds a great many of the contributions are about the people who were born or lived in this part of north Leicestershire.
Herein are the 'great and the good' and all types in between. They include a locally- famous schoolmaster-cum-antiquarian; two men who both collected plants and climbed mountains; a soldier involved in the Charge of the Light Brigade; a man transported to Australia; the 'gentry' who built Burton Hall; all the owners and occupiers of one of the manor farms; a Second World War airman who miraculously survived; a once-famous speedway rider; and a girl with a passion for riding horses.
Paperback, 245 x 175 mm, 113 + iv pages, 19 colour photos, 84 b&w photos; 2 maps,
£9.95 (plus £2.00 postage to UK addresses if applicable).
Ironstone Quarries of Leicestershire
A quarry at Woolsthorpe in July 1973, shortly before closure.
The dragline is a Ruston Bucyrus 5W.
September's WHO meeting was scheduled to be the premiere of Bob Trubshaw's talk about the ironstone quarries of Leicestershire. However as this meeting will not take place the talk is instead available online as a YouTube video.
Most of the land either side of the 'ridge road' running from Holwell, through Eastwell and to beyond Belvoir Castle was once a quarry – although not all at the same time. There were other outlying quarries at Sproxton, Tilton and near Nevill Holt. After the band of ironstone had been extracted the fields were restored and now are distinctive for being very level and often a few feet below the road.
These once-extensive quarries were active between the 1870s and 1970s but few traces survive. In this video Bob Trubshaw summarises and updates the detailed research Eric Tonks published in the 1990s, shortly before his death.
A Walk Around Wymeswold
Long-standing WHO members may well recall one the group's early publications, A Walk Around Wymeswold, written by Alec Moretti with superb drawings by Susan Jalland and published in 1994.
Well, it's available again, though this time as a free-to-download PDF and with lots of photographs (mostly taken in April 1987 and October 1993) – many in colour – to add to the historic interest.
I hope this PDF encourages residents and visitors to take a more detailed – and slightly more informed – look at the streets and buildings of Wymeswold.
Sound map of Leicestershire and RutlandStudents at the University of Leicester School of Museum Studies have been working on a digital sound map of Leicestershire and Rutland as part of the British Library's Unlocking Our Sound Heritage Project. The map tells the story of the counties by using a mixture of oral histories and natural and ambient sounds to explore some of the important places and events that have defined life here over the years.
One of Philip Brown's photographs of the Quorn Hunt meeting in Wymeswold
(1890s to 1920s).
Included in the sound map is two minutes of Ellen ('Nell') Smith talking about the Quorn Hunt visiting Wymeswold and the Prince of Wales knowing a law which benefited the original London 'cabbies'.
Hoton war memorial
Was it always intended for Prestwold or did it originally hang in St Leonard's? And the candlesticks and the cross and the vases, were they just quietly and proudly placed on the altar at Hoton one Sunday morning, gleaming in their brand-newness, or were they handed over to the mother church with great ceremony?
Can you remember any of the people, or have you heard stories about them? It would be so much better if they had 'lives' rather than just remaining names on a piece of paper, however decorative.
Contributed by Joan Shaw.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you can help in any way.
Cumberdale 'moved'In several articles on this web site and in the WHO's printed publications I have discussed the survival of 'Celtic' place-names in the Wolds – even though these names must have been coined by the end of the seventh century and probably earlier.
One of the key examples is a twelfth century reference to 'Cumberdale' somewhere in Wymeswold. This translates as the 'valley of the Cymru' – the same word which the Welsh use to refer to Wales and also the origin of 'Cumbria'. In contrast, the incoming Anglo-Saxons referred to the Celtic-speaking 'locals' as wahl, the origin of Wales and Walton in the Wolds.
The old document does not say where Cumberdale was. But as Wymeswold seemingly only has one valley – the upper reaches of the Mantle to the east of the village – then this seemed a sensible match.
Sensible, maybe. But wrong. Ongoing research by Richard Ellison revealed a set of field names referring to Cumberdale. They were all in the very north of the parish, abutting the Nottinghamshire boundary, where a small stream arises and flows northwards towards Church Site Farm and the earthworks of Thorpe in the Glebe medieval village. This must have been where the Cymru settled, probably around the fifth to seventh centuries.
There may not have been any continuity between the Cymru and the 'planting' of a Thorpe (Scandinavian 'daughter settlement') a little further north around the tenth century. But no coincidence that a slightly inferior location – presumably with an unreliable water source – was utilised for both these 'secondary' settlements.
Looking north-east across the dale of the Cymru.
Photograph taken standing in one of the fields whose name continued to refer to Cumberdale. The building on the left in the middle distance is Church Site Farm at Thorpe in the Glebe. The watercourse flows right to left between the hedges and trees
(which include a large willow).
Burton on the Wolds alabaster
The first reference to alabaster being mined in Burton on the Wolds is in William Burton's book on Leicestershire, published in 1622, but written about 1597.
Joan and Peter Shaw have contributed an article about what is known about Burton on the Wolds alabaster.
The 1905 Ordnance Survey map with the location of 'plaster pits' (later filled with rubbish) known from an 1834 schedule.
Part of a sepulchral effigy in Quorn church carved from alabaster.
A brief history of gypsum and alabaster extraction
Point cloud laser scan survey of part of British Gypsum's mine at East Leake showing the 'pillar and room' configuration. source
The medieval cross shaft in Walton churchward.
Louise Jackson has kindly put together a short history of St Mary's Church, Walton on the Wolds.
When buses ran to useful places – using electricity
Back in the 1920s when bus companies had the bright idea of running services to places passengers wanted to go to (sadly it never seems to have caught on… ) this spendid Trent Motor Traction Company vehicle took people from Wymeswold to Ruddington and then Nottingham.
What might amaze people most is that the words underneath the radiator proclaim this to have 'Petrol-Electric' transmission. Such configurations were quite common in the early days of motorised buses as it meant drivers accustomed to horse-drawn vehicles did not have to become proficient at using notoriously-difficult early gearboxes.
The petrol-electric system used an internal combustion engine connected to an electrical generator which provided the power for an electric motor which drove the rear wheels through reduction gears. Unlike modern hybrid electric vehicles there was no battery. Even the petrol engine needed a starting handle, which can be seen in the photograph.
The manufacturer of the transmission and chassis was Tilling-Stevens of Maidstone, although the bodywork was most likely made elsewhere, perhaps at 'The Brush' in Loughborough.
Photograph from John Bennett of the Bus Archive via Richard Ellison.
King George V Silver JubileeSadly this photograph missed a significant anniversary of it's own – on the 6th May it was 85 years since Far Street in Wymeswold looked like this:
Photograph scanned for the WHO by the late John Chesterton; photographer unknown.
Note the petrol pump almost hidden behind the lady cyclist in the foreground.
The enigma of Prestwold's bells
Joan Shaw has kindly prepared a short account of the eight bells of St Andrew's, Prestwold.
However Richard Bimson, one of the bell ringing team at Prestwold, passed on more recent information. Seems some of the bells are lighter than they were – even though there is no record of them being retuned. See the update added to the document above.
Plague in Loughborough 1539–1640
The streets of Loughborough during the reign of Elizabeth 1 (1558–1603) based on a map in Anne Richmond's Elizabethan Loughborough (published 1992), which used evidence compiled by Wallace Humphrey.
During a lockdown clearout I came across a print-out of what must have been one the first articles about Leicestershire local history to appear on the internet – the print out is dated May 1996. As it is a detailed account of the plague in Loughborough 1539–1640 it seemed rather topical. Ian Jessiman's article is no longer online so I have prepared a summary:
Yes, I know Loughborough isn't within the Wolds and I've no plans to go 'off piste' again any time soon!
Romans in WymeswoldPart way through lockdown Richard and Lorraine Ellison decided to rebuild part of their rockery. And immediately revealed a rather large piece of grey pot.
Combined investigations confirmed that this was 'only' the side and part of the rim and there were no 'contents' other than soil. The shape of the rim, colour and texture of the ceramic all said 'Roman' loud and clear. Vessels of this size would be used for storing and cooking food.
To check that there was nothing else of interest the 'dig' went a little wider and deeper. Which revealed red soil to one side, in sharp contrast to the greyer soil associated with the pot. And the boundary was vertical. Digging down further the red soil turned towards the horizontal.
The black arrows indicate the boundary between the red soil (left) and the greyer ditch fill (right).
The greyer soil is almost certainly ditch fill while the red soil is the local glacial till (it used to be called 'boulder clay') into which the ditch was cut. Probably the ditch was Roman too. Which suggests some sort of settlement on this knoll at the east end of Brook Street. Further investigations are being discussed.
This is only the second known find of Roman pottery in Wymeswold village itself. During the construction of the second phase of Orchard Way in June 1990 a three-day excavation recovered a large number of smaller sherds of Roman pottery and an almost-complete late Iron Age pot. In the fields around Wymeswold more Roman sherds were collected in the late 1980s, including a substantial cluster just to the north of Wymeswold Meadow.
Digging Roman ditches the proper way. Leicestershire Museums Service staff at Orchard Way, June 1990.
Richard reported his find to the Portable Antiquities Scheme officer for Leicestershire and Rutland, who promptly uploaded their listing.
Thanks to Richard and Lorraine for sharing this find.
Keep your eyes out!If you come across 'boring grey pot' in your garden too it could well be Roman. If it's boring, brown and easily broken then it may be Iron Age or Anglo-Saxon. Around here the more distinctive types of medieval pots have green glaze on a creamy yellow body ('Stamford ware') or a rather purple shade of glaze on a dark red body ('Midland Purple'). Please let the WHO know if you come across any. Most other pot with glaze on is from the last couple of hundred years so usually of less interest.
The Fox from the airThe recent post (see below) about Wymeswold's pubs resulted in the current owners of the former Fox emailing an aerial photograph, thought to have been taken in 1968.
The WHO are aware of two other aerial photographs taken at the same time – one of the former antique shop on Far Street and one of the Smith's pig farm (later developed as Cross Hill Close).
Can you help?Can anyone confirm which year these aerial photos were taken?
If you have any more of these aerial photos then please let the WHO know as we would like to digitise as many as possible.
This photograph shows William Tuckwood and his family. It was taken outside the Greyhound around 1892, shortly after the death of his first wife Mary (née Wootton). His son John William stands behind him, and he is surrounded by his daughters. Beside him, from the left on the front row, we have Alice Maud Mary (born 1883), Eliza (1874), and Annie (1879), and standing at the back are Elizabeth (1869) and Mary Jane (Ginnie) (1871).
The Tuckwoods were a Willoughby family. Willliam's father moved to the Greyhound in the 1860s, having previously run a public house in Lowdham. William took over after he died in 1877. He and his wife Mary were already living in Burton, he was working as an agricultural labourer but doubtless helped his parents at the Greyhound as well.
The second photograph shows John William Tuckwood during his service with the Leicestershire Yeomanry. The story within the family is that John William was so fond of his horse, which he kept until it reached old age, that when it eventually died he buried it in a grave which he and friends dug at the back of the Greyhound. We wonder if it was John William's horse that gave rise to the tale we have heard about a civil war soldier and his horse being found in Burton Hall park?
Contributed by Joan Shaw
Early seventeenth century constable's accountsEver wanted to know how much your fellow villagers are worth? And how much more – or less – they pay in local 'taxes' than you?
Well, all is revealed. At least for 1608 and 1611. At a time when registers of births, marriages and deaths can be scarce then the Parish Constables' Accounts provide a list of parishoners' names (at least for those who owned land or livestock) and their comparative wealth.
Peter Leadbetter has kindly transcribed two of these accounts for Wymeswold (for 1608 and 1611) and provided a short introduction to the constable's role in early sevententh century rural England.
If any of your ancestors are in the lists please let me know.
Appointing the 1885 village constable in WaltonParish Constables continued to be elected through the nineteenth century. Joan Shaw passed on a notice issued for a parish meeting to appoint the village constable to be held in Walton on 26 February 1885 . One of the signatories is Phil Thorpe's ancestor George Loseby (whose photograph appears on page 64 of Discovering The Wolds).
Thanks to both Phil and Joan.
Burton's most notorious resident?An article by Joan Shaw's originally published in 1998 is now online:
John Wildman of Burton.
Could this seventeenth century resident of Burton have been the infamous 'Leader of the Levellers', Sir John Wildman?
Although given the official office of Postmaster-General in 1689, and not knighted until 1692, in 1654 [Sir] John had been arrested for plotting the overthrow of Lord Protector Cromwell by means of a combined rising of Royalists and Levellers. He seemed to spend most of his life organising 'intrigues' against Cromwell and the monarchs. 'He preferred money-making to fighting and became one of the greatest speculators in the forfeited lands of Royalists, clergy and Papists. His purchases of land, either for himself or for others, were scattered over at least twenty counties.'
There is no proof that the John Wildman who held land in Burton at this time is the same person. But there is an absence of any other people of that name who might have held the land. And plenty of reasons to suspect that the yet-to-be-knighted Sir John could have held the land.
Read both articles and decide for yourself!
Alice Armstrong, District Nurse and MidwifeWhile exloring the updated Loughborough history and heritage web site (more information below) Patricia Baker discovered an article about Alice Armstrong, a District Nurse and Midwife who travelled round this part of Leicestershire on her son's motorbike.
Born in Malta 1941, her maiden name was Eggleston and there is mention of her at Clay Street, Wymeswold, and at Hoton. She later lived on Beacon Road, Loughborough.
Wymeswold pubsThanks to everyone who let me know a copy of T.R. Potter's rhyme about the nine pubs formerly in Wymeswold is now in the pharmacy. Of course… where else?
And make the Three Crowns fly,
Turn the Shoulder of Mutton upside down,
And make the Fox cry.
My White Horse shall smash the Gate,
And make the Windmill spin,
Knock the Hammer and Pincers down,
And make the Red Lion grin.
Once upon a time the Fox…
But where were the Gate and the Red Lion? Hint: Probably not the Rose and Crown (which presumably opened after Potter wrote his ditty) which is shown on some of Philip Brown's photographs two doors to the west of the Three Crowns.
Some online resources for history and archaeologyYou may all be finding plenty to occupy you while staying at home, but if you'd like to explore some archaeological or historical sources online, you might like to dip into a few of these links compiled by Cynthia Brown and Matthew Morris for LAHS Newsletter May 2020.
Earliest WymeswoldiansNick Hando, a WHO member, has resumed fieldwalking around Wymeswold. And discovered several prehistoric flint tools. Most of these are from the Neolithic to the Iron Age – such as the superb example of a scraper shown on the left.
But on the right is something else. It's not a 'tool' but instead the core from which small 'bladelets' were struck. It's the Stone Age counterpart to a box cutter with snap-off blades – just 'break off' a new piece of flint when the old one gets blunt or breaks. Flint cores are usually Mesolithic in date, making them about 11,550–6,500 years old.
Thes finds indicate that for millennia people were camping in the same area (probably a clearing in the woodland) on a hill ridge looking down on the River Mantle – which may have been more like a shallow lake at the time (perhaps enhanced by beaver dam-making activities). An excellent base camp for hunting and fishing. So long as the bears, wolves, aurochs (massive cattle, now extinct) and wild boars which would have lived in the woodland kept away. 'Normal' was different back then…
Many thanks to Nick for permission to share.
Loughborough History and Heritage NetworkSome of you may recall the ambitious Loughborough History and Heritage Network, a collaborative project between Loughborough University and Charnwood Museum. The website went 'dormant' for a while but has now been taken over by Alison Mott who is revitalising and adding new articles and links. Among them is The Tale of the Plague at Cotes by Joan Shaw.
Rev Henry AlfordPhil Denniff recently came across a digitised biography of Rev Henry Alford complied by his wife, Fanny Alford, after his death Life, Journals and Letters of Henry Alford, D.D.: Late Dean of Canterbury edited by His Widow . It is, to put it mildly, 'compleatist'. If anyone fancies writing a summary of no more than a couple of thousand words then please email email@example.com – don't just do it without letting me know else there might be several people working on this, unbeknown to each other.
Alford's own writings included editing an equally comprehensive collection of John Donne's sermons, The Works of John Donne, which appeared in six volumes during 1839. Digitised versions are available online – Phil has prepared this list to help.
Left: Henry Alford Right: John Donne.
Skipwiths of Prestwould, VirginiaThose will good memories may recall Philip White's article about Whatever happened to the Skipwiths of Prestwold and Cotes? in The Wolds Historian No.2 (pages 11–15).
One of the descendents, Beverly Craige "Bev" Skipwith, was caretaker for the Prestwould Plantation in Mecklenburg County, Virginia (named after the family home in England). He was the youngest son of Austin L. Skipwith mentioned at the end of the TWH article.
Bev died in 2015 and a link to his obituary was kindly sent to the WHO by Steve Riggan, whose 10x great grandmother was Diana Skipwith Dale.
Bev Skipwith at the Clarksville Sesquesentenial celebration in the late 1960s, where he won the contest for best beard.
2000 Years of the Wolds
Nearly twenty years have elapsed since the WHO publication 2000 Years of the Wolds appeared in print. Since then many of the articles have resurfaced as pages on this web site. However Spring 2020 seemed a good time to make the original available again. I have made no attempt to update any information (except references to the WHO website) as this booklet is already part of the history of the Wolds villages. However, where possible, black-and-white photographs in the printed booklet have been replaced by the colour originals.
Even if you own a copy of 2000 Years of the Wolds then do download the PDF to 'renew acquaintance' and see many of the illustrations in colour.
Download 2000 Years of the Wolds as a free 10M byte PDF.
RAF Wymeswold post-WWIIA detailed history of activities at Wymeswold airfield in the 1950s and 1960s has been prepared by Richard Knight, who grew up at the western end of the runways.
Most of the information is about the activities of the RAF and Fields Aircraft Services, although there is also lots of previously-unseen photographs taken in the winter of 1944 and during the build up to D-Day, and photographs taken during public open days.
In total there is almost 70,000 words and about 440 photographs. To make this into manageable downloads there are six free PDFs:
There are also four videos about RAF Wymeswold by Richard Knight:
Plus another video by Cerrighedd: youtube.com/watch?v=FTlMQkKvPkI
Sir Julien Kahn at Stanford Hall and a View from the Co-operative College by David Lazell
One of Heart of Albion's earliest booklets, first published in 1993, is now available as a free PDF.
When this booklet was first published in 1993 Stanford Hall was still in use as the International Co-operative College. And Sir Julien Kahn's impressive 'makeover' had been merely fifty years before. Now, after a £300 million transformation Stanford Hall has become the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre.
The idyllic grounds of Stanford Hall look out over the Soar valley near Loughborough (although the Hall is just over the Nottinghamshire county border between Rempstone and East Leake). Bought by the furnishing trade magnate and philanthropist, Sir Julien Cahn, before the War and transformed into a showplace home, the Hall subsequently became the home of the Co-operative College. The contrast between these two owners makes the history of this building full of interest.
David Lazell describes both these eras, drawing upon his own experiences as a student at the College in the 1950s, combined with accounts from various members of staff who helped establish the standards for work and pleasure which went hand-in-hand. He describes Sir Julien's elaborate taste in interior decoration, his fondness for staging conjuring tricks, the names of the long-gone sealions – although their pool still survives – and above all his devotion to cricket. The early years of the Co-operative College, in its transition from Manchester to Stanford Hall, are brought to life with personal reminiscences and previously-unpublished photographs from the collections of the College and the author. They portray a vivid picture of an era of education that, to a great extent, has already been lost.
Download Sir Julien Kahn at Stanford Hall and a View from the Co-operative College for FREE (25 megabyte PDF)
Several of David Lazell's other booklets have also been republished as PDFs, including Spectacular at Stanford Hall, a precursor to Sir Julien Kahn at Stanford Hall and a View from the Co-operative College which contains some 'tales' not in the later publication.
Download Spectacular at Stanford Hall for FREE (3 megabyte PDF)
Download Sound of the Shawm – Recollections of East Leake and other kindly places nearby for FREE (6 megabyte PDF)
Wymeswold Washdyke Community OrchardRichard Ellison has compiled a short history of the development of the Washdyke field into a village amenity. No less than 63 committee meetings, mostly between between 2007 and 2015, involved a wide-range of villagers and funding organisations.
This is available as a free PDF: www.hoap.co.uk/who/washdyke.pdf
Planting day in autumn 2008 – it was very wet!
The minutes of AGMs, copies of questionnaires, spreadsheets about the trees, and a copy of a tree certificate will soon be added to the WHO archive.
Copies of all three books are still available. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
WHO publications as free PDFsThe Wolds Historian
In addition, between 1991 and 2002 an annual WHO Newsletter recorded details of the organisation's activities and research by members. All articles relating to Wymeswold from the WHO Newsletter are included in this Web site (see articles about Wymeswold's history).
In 2004 the WHO Newsletter was replaced by The Wolds Historian which appeared annually until 2008. All issues of The Wolds Historian can be downloaded as free PDFs.
The Especially Sacred Grove
Although not published by the WHO, also available as a free PDF is The Especially Sacred Grove, Bob Trubshaw's extended look at Six Hills and Vernemetum.
Things to do While the WHO's monthly meetings are in hiatus there is plenty to do!
This web site has over 100 web articles going back to 1990 and about 20 PDFs – including all four issues of The Wolds Historian. Simply scrolling down through this page will reveal more recent additions. Use the navigation column on the left of every page or the Google-powered search box to seek out something specific.
If you want to initiate some research then there's transcripts of the registers of who has been 'hatched, matched and dispatched' in Wymeswold. Or search through the WHO archive catalogue. Most of these files are in Word DOC format so use the 'find' function from within your word processing software.
If you need prompting for some ideas for projects then jump to here. We're still seeking recollections of Ivor Brown in his speedway days and shortly after (see below).
Thanks to good 'sleuthing' by Phil Denniff several books written by Henry Alford, Wymeswold's most famous vicar, have been tracked down as available for free online. As has a biography written by his widow. Anyone want to write a short article summarising his life and achievements? Most of Alford's published writings concerned the metaphysical poet, John Donne (1572–1631).
Did you know that there was once an Especially Sacred Grove somewhere along the Fosse Way to the east of Wymeswold? More details here.
And if all that reading is too much then there are YouTube videos about the Wolds and Leicestershire more generally.
Several 'projects' are close to completion. Details will be announced on this web site in the next few weeks and an email will be sent out to everyone of the WHO email list. If you're not already on the WHO's email list then please join.
Stay safe and very best wishes
WHO projects Joan Shaw has picked up preliminary information on some local interest topics. Do any WHO members want to delve a bit deeper? Just the sort of amusement you might be looking for as the evenings draw in! You do not have to be a member of the WHO, or even live in the area, to help.
For further information – without making any commitment! – please email email@example.com