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Wymeswold in 1900

Alec Moretti

It would have been interesting to be able to write about Wymeswold as it was 2000 years ago, or indeed 1000 years ago, but there would be little of value to say with certainty and no documents to refer to, but Kelly's Directory for Leicestershire for 1900 gives us a good starting point for some comment on the village a hundred years ago. There are other sources to supplement the information in the directory.

Kelly's Directory describes Wymeswold as a "considerable parish and a large township, " giving its area as 3227 acres and population as 850 with 4. 25 people per house. The present acreage is about the same but the population now is nearly 40% bigger at 1176 with less than 3 per house. The number of inhabitants in 1900 had been declining since about 1840 with people moving to the towns in search of better paid work and living conditions, so it is not surprising to find the Censuses of 1891 and 1901 recording between 30 & 40 unoccupied houses. These were probably small old cottages in poor conditon located in "yards" behind bigger houses or perhaps on the edge of the village eg. London Lane and at the start of Narrow Lane. Many of these have since been demolished or combined to make larger dwellings. Most of the bigger and better constructed houses of 1900 along the main streets are still there.

The chief inhabitants of the village were the Vicar and the bigger farmers, though there was a Lord of the Manor, William Byerley Paget, but he lived at Nanpantan. and leased out his land in Wymeswold mostly to Walter Holwell who lived at Manor House Farm in Far Street farming 120 acres. The Lord of the Manor also owned a dozen or so cottages, mostly in London Lane, which were occupied on a "copyhold" lease, with the tenant paying the Lord of the Manor a small annual rent. These cottages and those at the bottom of Narrow Lane paid 6 pence a year each. The most expensive was one of the cottages at the corner of London Lane whose tenant, Hussey Allen, paid 2/6d a year as copyhold rent.

The biggest land owner was of course Trinity College, Cambridge which had about 1000 acres leased out to five or six farmers. The major tenant was William Hallam who held 403 acres which included Peaseland Farm, and College Farm which he sub let to William Hubbard. John Hallam worked Highthorn Farm with 163 acres. Joseph Mills was the tenant of Turnpost Farm and Dungehill with 266 acres. Other members of the Mills family held about 60 acres as Clay Farm (on the corner of Cross Hill Close). John Burrows owned Stockwell Farm with 169 acres scattered around the parish. The other big farm was Field Farm owned by Rev. A. Sutton and worked by Joseph Eggleston. Kelly's Directory records that there were about 20 farmers (i.e. growing crops) and a similar number of graziers and 9 cottagers, the former owning or renting a small acreage of land under grass, whilst the cottagers might own no land but had the right to graze cattle on the wide verges as along the Melton road.

Less than 750 acres of the total farmland was under crops (mostly cereals), most of the rest being permanent grass supporting about 1000 cattle and a similar number of sheep. There were perhaps about 200 pigs being kept and probably several thousand poultry. There were two cheese makers in the village with Samuel Daft at The Vines in Church St. and John James in Brook St.

The Parish Council had been established some 6 years by 1900, taking the place of the Vestry and the Manorial Court, for general parish affairs. The councillors then were Edward Collington(a cattle dealer ), R. W. Charles, John Hallam, E. Hardy, Walter Holwell (all farmers), Samuel Lamb(a wheelwright), William Whyman(a watchmaker), Joseph Wood( a baker) and the Chairman was the Vicar, Robert Charles Green. The Parish Clerk was H. Dawson who was also a grazier During 1900 they dealt with the repair of the pump in the Stockwell, as well as the fencing of the "waste land" there. They also appointed Mr. James Monk as the lamplighter paying him 9/- a week from October to March. Two more street lamps(presumably oil lamps as the gasworks closed about 1880) were bought and erected outside the Post Office in Church Street and outside Giles shop opposite Hall Field. The Parish Clerk wrote to Simpkins and James of Loughborough drawing their attention to the damage to a street lamp in Brook Street done by one of their conveyances, and holding them responsible for the cost of repair. The council also appointed Constables for the village. They were Fred Jalland, Robert Hames, Samuel Daft and Fred Macer. It is not clear just what their duties were as the County Council had an established Police Force. and Constable Thomas Martin who lived in East Road was the village "bobby. " Another set of appointments were the Assessors and Collectors of Taxes, -- John Smith, J. T. Emmerson, Joseph Eggleston, Robert Collington, John James sen. , Joseph Wootton, Walter Holwell and Samuel Lamb. Presumably they collected the Poor Law rate and county rates. Other matters which sound like present day matters were the maintenance of the Cemetery and reporting the poor state of the footpaths to the District Council. The A. G. M. of the Council had to be adjourned to the following week as only three councillors were present.

The Vestry still functioned for church matters like the P. C. C. today At the meeting in April 1900 the churchwardens for the year were chosen, Mr Hardy by the Vicar and Mr. Hallam by the parishioners. They had difficulties with finance in those days with the accounts showing a deficit of 5 / 14- /1d. The building needed repair with the coke house being reroofed and the pinnacles of the tower still awaiting attention (they were eventually repaired in 1908). The belfry steps were reported as being dangerous. A Sale of Work was considered for Whitsun week to raise money for fabric repairs. The Vicar hoped that a collection for the India Famine Relief Fund might be made and he thought that both the Chapels might do the same.

Besides being the Chairman of the Parish Council and the Vestry the Vicar was active with the village schools which were the Mixed or Junior School with William Bailey as head master and the Infants School where Mrs. Hood was in charge. The Log Book of the Infant School shows the Vicar visiting the school about once a month and checking the registers, damage to desks as well as progress in reading and writing. Other visitors were Her Majesty's Inspectors who recommended an additional teacher, and the Diocesan Inspectors who wrote a report on various aspects of school work especially Scripture. Attendance at the Infant School varied between 53 and 63 though lower figures were the result of bad weather (snow, heavy rain) "children gone to the hayfields" and "whooping -cough. " Half holidays were given for the "Baptists Tea" and the "Queen's Birthday. " and two days off for "Loughborough Fair. "

The Vicar's main responsibility was of course to the church and its congregation and so besides the services he carried out baptisms, marriages and burials. The number of these gives some idea of the growth (or lack of) of the population, with 22 children being baptised, though only 13 were born in 1900, and 19 burials. There were rather surprisingly only two marriages at St. Mary's in 1900, which might suggest that the total population was declining.

Unfortunately the records of the Baptist and Methodist Chapels or indeed the Registry Office are no help in finding other marriages.

Besides the Church and Chapels ministering to the parishes needs there were, according to Kelly's Directory three doctors living in the village. They all lived in Brook Street, with Edward Harman Hicks described as a surgeon living at Dower House; Dr. Bostock possibly lived in The Nook and was a doctor for the Leake district of Loughborough Union. John Heginbotham was the most highly qualified and worked for the Wymeswold District of the Loughborough Union. He was also described as a public vaccinator.

The great difference between the present and 1900 was the number of shops serving the village. There were then 6 grocers or general shops, as well as 4 butchers, 3 bakers. so all daily needs were supplied. Sarah Brown's shop in Church Street was probably the most important as the Post Office was there. She was helped by her sons. and besides groceries they were druggists. There were similar general shops run by Thomas Felstead and Henry Coy in Brook St. , Fanny Ferriman in Far St. , and Rebecca Wood in Clay St. The butchers in Far St were Fred Jalland (opposite the 3 Crowns), and Herbert Orton (at The Bull's Head), whilst John James and William Giles had shops in Brook St. The bakers were Joseph Wood in East Rd. Alfred Sleath in Church St. ( Old Bake House) and Arthur Lockton in Far St( ? at Millers Cottage). Other necessities like clothing and footwear were also available in the village as several of the shops sold boots and shoes and George Wood was a shoemaker living possibly in the copyhold cottage (since demolished) next to Stockwell Stores;also Thomas Braisby living in The Stockwell, There were several dressmakers as well as one tailor (James Branson in Church St. ) catering for local requirements as this was before the days of ready-made clothes.

Then, of course there were the pubs, all seven of them. There had been nine a year or two earlier, according to the rhyme in Potter's History of Wymeswold and the Petty Sessions Licencing records. The Three Crowns was probably the oldest and owned by Miss Toone (of Loughborough; as an investment ?) with Henry Hubbard as the landlord and brewer. The manorial courts used to meet here. The Windmill had recently been bought by Home Brewery and Henry Gough was in charge. The Hammer and Pincers had only a Beerhouse licence with the owner and landlord, Leonard Dexter, being one of the village blacksmiths. Henry Orton at The Bulls Head seems to have been a butcher as well as an innkeeper with Midlands Brewery as owners. The White Horse ( Kelly's Directory called it The White Hart in 1900) had only a Beerhouse licence at that time and was owned by E. J. Collins of Loughborough. The others which have since closed were the Shoulder of Mutton with Arthur Adams as landlord and also one of the carriers of the village; and The Fox (in Brook Street) run by John Smith who was also a brewer.

If these shops did not supply your needs and you had to go to Loughborough there were two carriers, Mrs. Peel and George Hames going there daily. There were carriers, Alfred Adams and Arthur Smith, going once or twice a week to Nottingham and Leicester.

Otherwise you used your own transport, or walked, or went without.

Originally published in the WHO Newsletter 2000.

Copyright the author.

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