A History of the County of Leicester: Volume 4, the City of Leicester. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1958.
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The name Belgrave seems to have been a new one under William I; (fn. 1) the first syllable is probably of Norman origin and the name should therefore be translated as 'fine wood'. (fn. 2) The older name of Merdegrave means 'marten grove'.
Belgrave lies a mile and a half north-east of the centre of Leicester. The ancient parish of Belgrave lay in East Goscote hundred and contained the chapelries of Birstall and South Thurmaston as well as the township of Belgrave itself. Birstall and South Thurmaston became separate civil parishes, apparently in the 19th century, and are not dealt with here. Belgrave civil parish itself covered 1,381 acres in 1881 (fn. 3) and became a local board of health district under an Act of 1877. (fn. 4) This board was dissolved in 1892, when the greater part of Belgrave was transferred to Leicester. Belgrave ceased to be a civil parish in 1896 and became part of Leicester civil parish. The remaining part of the parish was transferred in 1892 to Beaumont Leys and became part of Leicester in 1935. (fn. 5)
The village of Belgrave stands on a small area of river gravel, below which lies red marl, which forms the surface soil in the eastern part of the parish. Along the banks of the Soar there are deposits of alluvium. In 1931 the population of the two ecclesiastical parishes of St. Peter and St. Michael and All Angels, which approximate to the area of the old township, was 22,738. (fn. 6) The small part of the township which is still available for agricultural purposes is mainly pasture and Belgrave is largely an urban area of terrace houses, mostly built in the last century. There are a few large factories. The British Railways (Eastern Region) railway line from Leicester to Nottingham runs through the westernmost part of the parish, although Belgrave and Birstall Station lies just outside the area under consideration. The parish is intersected by the main roads from Leicester to Melton and Loughborough.
The area around the parish church (St. Peter's) and along the Thurcaston road retains the atmosphere of earlier days. Here stand the vicarage, a house in the Georgian style built in 1825, (fn. 7) and the two fine houses known as Belgrave House and Belgrave Hall. Belgrave Hall was built for Edmund and Ann Craddock between 1709 and 1713; (fn. 8) the stable building, which adjoins the house, may be more precisely dated to 1710. (fn. 9) The house is interesting as a small country house of the Queen Anne period, severely plain in style. The only important addition which it has suffered since its erection is the addition, probably between 1820 and 1840, of a large bay window to the drawing-room. Much of the interior retains its original panelling. About 1740 the house came into the possession of William Vann, later High Sheriff of Leicestershire. When the Vanns built Belgrave House they retained the Hall and it was inhabited by various members of the family until the death of the last Mrs. Vann in 1844. (fn. 10) In 1845 John Ellis, Chairman of the Midland Counties Railway, bought the Hall and it was inhabited by his family until the death of his last daughter, Margaret Ellis, in 1923 (fn. 11). In 1937 the house was opened as a museum of the 18th century, having been acquired by Leicester Corporation from the last owner, Mr. T. A. Morley. (fn. 12)
Belgrave House, a Georgian brick building with stone facings, was built by William Vann in 1776 and remained the property of the Vann family until the 19th century. (fn. 13) After passing through various hands it is now (1955) the property of the corporation and is temporarily used as a day nursery.
In Thurcaston Street are the Talbot Inn, the present building dating from the late 18th century, and Cross Corners, an early 18th-century house of great charm, now also the property of the corporation and used for the schools service department of Leicester Museum. The old bridge over the Soar probably dates from the 15th century but has been much altered in modern times.
In the present building of the Belgrave Constitutional Club in the Loughborough Road are some remains of the old manor-house of Belgrave, which is said to have belonged to the Hastings family and then to the Byerleys. The window of the Roman Catholic chapel which was established in the manorhouse is still visible on the north side of the house. (fn. 14)
In 1086 7 carucates of land in Belgrave were held by Hugh de Grentemesnil and one other by his wife Adeliz. (fn. 15) At some date before 1129 Belgrave, like many other Grentemesnil lands, was acquired by either Robert de Beaumont or his son Robert le Bossu, Earl of Leicester. Twelve carucates of land formed the younger Roberts' Belgrave holding in 1130. (fn. 16) When the earldom of Leicester was divided in 1204, Belgrave was divided also, part falling to Saer de Quency and part to Simon de Montfort. (fn. 17) This division and the fact that the whole township was not held by one lord in 1086 strongly implies the existence of two manors in the 11th and 12th centuries, but definite proof of this cannot be given. The descent of the lands which appear to have constituted Simon de Montfort's fee, and which later became Belgrave's and Davenport's manors, will be traced first.
Simon de Montfort probably never obtained possession of his lands at Belgrave (fn. 18) since his English possessions were seized by King John. (fn. 19) Presumably Belgrave remained in the hands of the custodians of Simon's lands until Henry III restored them to his son, the younger and more famous Simon. After 1265 the overlordship of Belgrave was inherited by the successive earls and dukes of Lancaster and it became parcel of the Duchy of Lancaster in 1399.
The history of the tenants in demesne of the Lancaster fee is obscure. On two occasions it was stated that members of the Ferrers family held land at Belgrave from the Earl or Duke of Lancaster. (fn. 20) These statements may be due to a confusion of the Lancaster holding at Belgrave with the manor belonging to the honour of Winchester. (fn. 21) Some of the land in question seems to have been held by a family bearing the surname of Belgrave. A William de Belgrave was among the vassals of the earldom of Leicester whose lands were allotted to Simon de Montfort after 1204. (fn. 22) References to lands held by this family throughout the 14th and 15th centuries are numerous and the family seem to have remained vassals of the Duchy of Lancaster throughout the period. There is, however, no evidence that their holding in Belgrave formed a manor in the Middle Ages.
By the 16th century the descent is clearer for a short time. In 1512 John Belgrave died possessed of a manor in Belgrave (fn. 23) and his family continued to hold it until the beginning of the 17th century, (fn. 24) when after having been mortgaged several times it was sold, probably between 1635 and c. 1645, when William Byerley held it. (fn. 25) After it came into his possession it seems to have become merged in the manor which had belonged to the Davenport family. The manor seems to have been known as the 'manor of Belgrave and Davenports'. (fn. 26) After its acquisition by the Byerley family BELGRAVE'S MANOR, as it was called in the 17th century, descended with Davenport's manor.
The manor afterwards known as DAVENPORT'S MANOR was in existence by 1521, when it came into the possession of William and Elizabeth Wigston. (fn. 27) It seems likely that its possessions were enlarged by the addition during the century of various monastic holdings which were among the properties of Roger Wigston, William's kinsman, when he died in 1609. (fn. 28) The religious houses of Leicester Abbey, Drax (Yorks.), Sulby (Northants.), Gracedieu, Kirby Bellars, and Studley (Warws.) had all held land in Belgrave and these properties were acquired by the Wigstons. In 1589 the manor was granted in reversion to Elizabeth Wigston on her marriage with William Davenport of Henbury (Ches.) (fn. 29) and remained with their descendants until 1641, when it was settled upon William Byerley to pay the debts of the last William Davenport. (fn. 30) It remained in the possession of the Byerleys and their descendants, the Beaumonts, until about 1830. (fn. 31) John Beaumont then sold a considerable part of his property, some being purchased by Henry Harrison. (fn. 32) In 1831 the manors in Belgrave were owned by T. B. Oliver and Henry Harrison (fn. 33) and it seems likely that although Harrison must have bought considerable quantities of Beaumont's lands, Oliver had acquired the lordship of his manor. (fn. 34) It descended from him to the Tempest family (fn. 35) and from them to the Wades, who moved away from Belgrave at the end of the last century. (fn. 36)
It is not possible to give a very satisfactory account of the tenants in demesne of the lands at Belgrave which were allotted after 1204 to Saer de Quency, Earl of Winchester. After Saer's death his lands at Belgrave passed to his son Roger, who died seised of them in 1264. (fn. 37) He had no male heirs and his lands were divided among his daughters. The Winchester fee at Belgrave went to Margaret de Ferrers, (fn. 38) although some of the revenues appear in the hands of John Comyn, the son of another daughter. (fn. 39) Lands at Belgrave continued for long to be held by the Ferrers family of Groby (fn. 40) and by their heirs the Greys. (fn. 41) Roger de Quency had granted a considerable part of Belgrave to Garendon Abbey before his death, surrendering his right to exact suit of court and foreign services. (fn. 42) Another part of the fee was held in 1264 by Ernald de Bosco, (fn. 43) from whom it descended to his son John, who held it in 1279–80. (fn. 44) Richard Burdet held it under John de Bosco and he was probably the tenant in demesne as none of his tenants had more than a few virgates. After the deaths of John de Bosco (fn. 45) and his brother William (fn. 46) the property descended to their niece, the wife of William la Zouche of Haringworth, (fn. 47) and was held by the Zouches until after 1457. (fn. 48) By the 14th century, however, the Ferrers lands at Belgrave had been divided between a number of sub-tenants, (fn. 49) including several religious houses, and it seems that by 1468 the Zouche family's possessions in the township consisted only of the right to hold a view of frankpledge. (fn. 50) In the later 15th century the descent of this manor is lost.
In 1542 it is probably to be seen again in the manor which was granted by the Earl of Rutland to Robert Dalby and Robert Pyne (fn. 51) and which was almost certainly augmented by the lands of Garendon Abbey which had been granted to the earl in the previous year. (fn. 52) Dalby and Pyne held the manor together until 1549, when Dalby died, and it was then held by Pyne alone until 1606. (fn. 53) It seems to have been sold before 1617 to Sir John Pultney, who died in that year, seised of a manor at Belgrave held of the fee of Winchester. (fn. 54) In about 1645 it was still known as PULTNEY'S MANOR and the chief rent from it was payable to William Byerley, the owner of the other two manors. (fn. 55) It seems very likely that this manor continued to have a separate existence until the 19th century and that it was the one held by Samuel Taylor and Henry Colborne in 1654, (fn. 56) by their sons in 1662, (fn. 57) and by Francis Holbeach of Leicester before his death about 1740. (fn. 58) In the lawsuit which followed the probate of his will, (fn. 59) one of the contestants was a member of the Edwyn family, who must have been successful, for in Nichols's day Archdeacon Burnaby, who was descended from the Edwyns, was the owner of part of this manor jointly with a Mrs. Allanson. (fn. 60) In 1831 it had passed into the possession of Henry Harrison, (fn. 61) who probably acquired it when it was put up for sale in 1826. (fn. 62) It remained the property of the Harrison family until at least 1877. (fn. 63)
Although Belgrave is now included in the city of Leicester, its early history is rural and agricultural rather than urban and industrial. Nothing is known of Belgrave before the Conquest. Like so many other Anglo-Saxon villages in east Leicestershire it was built on a small area of river gravel. (fn. 64) In 1086 there were 3 ploughs with three servi on the demesne of Hugh de Grentemesnil. His tenants, free and unfree, had a further 4 ploughs. The lands held by Hugh's wife were all apparently in the hands of unfree tenants. Hugh and his wife held in all 8 carucates at Belgrave and in addition he had 24 acres of meadow which probably lay along the river. (fn. 65) Ten houses in Leicester were attached to the manor and were probably occupied by men whose function it was to make purchases for Hugh's fee at Belgrave. (fn. 66) The woodland is described in the Domesday survey as 5 furlongs in length and 3 in breadth, and probably lay to the west of the village, where the forest still extended as far as the village fields in the 13th century. (fn. 67) During the 12th and 13th centuries the amount of arable land at Belgrave increased, probably through the clearing of the forest, for in the early 12th century there were 12 carucates of land (fn. 68) and in 1279 rather more than sixteen. (fn. 69) The lands adjoining the village fields which Leicester abbey obtained from Simon de Montfort were apparently woodland when acquired, (fn. 70) but in 1341 they are described as an assart. (fn. 71)
Some encroachments were made upon Leicester Abbey's territory, for at an unknown date a certain Lawrence de Belgrave was forced to recognize that he had appropriated some of the abbey's waste where he had apparently inclosed several plots in severalty. (fn. 72) In an attempt to end disputes between the abbey and the village, the abbot and convent granted to the villagers the right to pasture their animals in one of their riverside meadows during the winter months, receiving in return permission to pasture in one of the village's meadows. (fn. 73) It is interesting to note that this agreement with the abbey was made by the community of the village as a whole (tota communitas de Belgrave). (fn. 74) The dispute with the abbey caused serious disorders in 1357 when the men of Belgrave, led by John Lawrence, who claimed certain rights over the abbey lands, threw down the abbot's gallows, which were in a corner of the field called the 'Stokking', (fn. 75) and obstructed the transit of provisions to the abbey. They were fined for these outrages and John was forced to abandon his claims. (fn. 76) It is not known whether the agreement with the abbey mentioned above occurred before or after this outbreak.
Much of the land in the parish changed hands after the Dissolution. (fn. 77) It was not, however, until more than a century later that a drastic change was made in the agricultural life of the village by the inclosure of the open fields. Before the inclosure of 1654 a three-year system of rotation seems to have been practised. Thomas Brewerne, for example, had at his death in 1586 8 acres sown with barley and 8 acres of pease, with no doubt a further 8 acres lying fallow in a third field. (fn. 78) Robert Booth's property, when he died in 1629, included 7 acres under corn, a further 4 acres of barley and 3 acres of oats, with presumably another 7 acres of fallow land. (fn. 79) In 1651 there seem to have been 6 arable fields in the township, Townside Field, Clayland Field, Moor Field, Breach Field, Hadland Field, and Mill Hill Field. (fn. 80) Thomas Brewerne, a member of a family who were yeomen at Belgrave for centuries, may be taken as a typical example of a fairly prosperous yeoman farmer. At his death, besides the 24 acres of land already mentioned, he possessed 4 cows, 9 pigs, and 5 draught animals. His house consisted of a hall, parlour, chamber, and kitchen, with a stable and barn. The total value of his personal estate was £194 19s.
The inclosure of Belgrave was made under articles of 1654, confirmed in Chancery in 1662. (fn. 81) In 1654 there were 23 persons owning land in the open fields and rights in the commons of Belgrave. (fn. 82) Seven of these, who only owned cottages to which rights of common were attached, received 5 acres each under the inclosure agreement. The extent of the lands obtained by the other landowners is not stated in the agreement but it seems clear that by 1657 many of the smaller landowners had disposed of their property. In John Coffin's map of 1657 the land is grouped under six estates. (fn. 83) It is not stated whether those named as holding the lands were owners or tenants, but some at least were probably tenants, as William Byerley owned about 1,200 acres of land in the parish before it was inclosed, and is shown on the map as only holding 323 acres. (fn. 84) The township is shown divided into fields, mostly between 40 and 80 acres in area, except for a group of smaller closes round the village itself, which probably represent old inclosure. The meadows still lay on either bank of the Soar.
Early in the 18th century Belgrave gradually began to see changes which were to alter its position as a purely agricultural village. The building of Belgrave Hall in 1709–13 for Edmund Craddock (fn. 85) marked the beginning of the village's life as a residential suburb for the wealthier of the Leicester tradespeople. The Byerleys, who had come to Belgrave 60 years before, had also originally been inhabitants of the borough. (fn. 86) In 1726 the road from Market Harborough to Loughborough which ran through the village was turnpiked. (fn. 87) The turnpike trust undertook the repair of Belgrave Bridge in 1762, in consideration of £100 from the parish. (fn. 88) The bridge was altered in 1771 and in 1795. (fn. 89) In 1834 the turnpike at Belgrave was straightened. A new bridge was built to the designs of William Parsons, the Leicester architect and surveyor to the turnpike trust, and the new road from Vann's Corner in Belgrave to the foot of Birstall Hill was opened in 1835. (fn. 90)
The construction of the Leicester Navigation in 1791 also affected Belgrave, where a canal was dug to the south of the village and another to the north to provide a passage for barges at two points where the Soar was unsuitable for navigation. (fn. 91) Such improvements in the communications between Leicester and Belgrave probably accelerated the development of the village as a suburb of Leicester and the home of several prosperous tradesmen from the borough. (fn. 92) By 1800, too, industry and trade were becoming more important than agriculture, with the development of the hosiery industry. In 1801 more than 148 persons out of the population of 601 were engaged in trade and industry, while only 55 were employed agriculturally. (fn. 93) Belgrave apparently concentrated on the making of socks. (fn. 94) In 1844 there were 200 frames at work in the village (fn. 95) and in 1831 it was said that most of the population were framework-knitters. (fn. 96) In 1851 out of a total of 1,398 there were 323 framework-knitters. (fn. 97) A map of the township drawn in 1845 shows only three stockingers' shops, (fn. 98) so that the industry must have been mostly carried on in the operatives' own homes.
In 1845 Belgrave, with a population of about 1,200, (fn. 99) was still a village distinct from the expanding borough of Leicester. Houses were concentrated around St. Peter's Church and along Bath Street, and there were a few out along the Loughborough Road, while the Melton Road still ran through fields where it passed through Belgrave township. West of the river there were few buildings except for a number of scattered houses along Abbey Lane. (fn. 100) The buildingup of the village into a suburb took place between about 1870 and 1900. (fn. 101) Streets of terrace houses were built and the population reached 12,000 in 1900. (fn. 102) The outlines of the old village vanished and Belgrave became part of the urban mass of Leicester. The village was lighted with gas in 1864 (fn. 103) and horse trams were established in 1874. (fn. 104) By 1891 lines of houses stretched along both sides of Loughborough Road nearly linking Belgrave and Leicester (fn. 105) and the formal recognition of their connexion followed in 1892 when most of Belgrave was absorbed in the borough.
At the time of the Domesday survey there was only one mill in Belgrave, belonging to Hugh de Grentemesnil and rendering 12s. yearly. (fn. 106) Not later than 1162 the mill was granted by Hugh's successor, Robert le Bossu, Earl of Leicester, to Leicester Abbey. (fn. 107) Later references to the mill pool show that the abbey's mill was a water-mill on the Soar. (fn. 108) 'The new mill between Leicester and Belgrave' mentioned in 1274 was probably the abbey mill. (fn. 109) There were other mills in Belgrave during the Middle Ages. In 1333 Laurence de Belgrave obtained a mill there by fine from Adam de la Wolde and Thomas Davy. (fn. 110) Laurence's son John held the mill at his death in 1398 or 1399. (fn. 111) In the 16th century another mill in Belgrave was held by Grace Dieu Priory. (fn. 112)
The subsequent fate of these mills is obscure. Roger Wigston died possessed of a mill in 1609, which was probably the one formerly belonging to Leicester Abbey, and probably also the one which descended with Davenport's manor to the Tempest and Wade family. (fn. 113) Four mills are mentioned in the 17th century as belonging to this manor. (fn. 114) In 1657 only one was shown on the map of Belgrave, (fn. 115) and it seems likely that from that time it remained the sole water-mill in the village. (fn. 116) At the end of the 18th century it was leased to a Henry Swain but in 1828 the corn miller was Robert Spence, and in 1835 John Biggs. (fn. 117) By 1846 John Tempest, the mill-owner, had taken over. (fn. 118) Before 1863 William Evans leased the mill from the Tempests (fn. 119) and until about 1870 worked it as part of his corn-milling business. (fn. 120) It was purchased by the corporation in 1872 from John Tempest's executors, for use in connexion with flood prevention works, (fn. 121) although it seems to have continued to be leased to a miller. (fn. 122) It last appears in the corporation's accounts in 1895 (fn. 123) and was probably demolished very shortly afterwards. This mill stood on the river near the point at which it is now crossed by a foot-bridge at the west end of Holden Street. (fn. 124)
The Grace Dieu mill was granted in 1545 to William Sheldon and John Draper with other pieces of monastic property, (fn. 125) and may have been one of the other water-mills which were attached to Davenport's manor in the 17th century but which do not appear after that. (fn. 126) This manor also had a windmill at the same date. (fn. 127) In 1558 George Belgrave had eight windmills in Belgrave and elsewhere, (fn. 128) and in 1568 his son Ambrose acquired a horse-mill in the village. (fn. 129) Nothing more is known of these.
Belgrave was governed by the usual parish officers until the 19th century, when the growth of the village necessitated the establishment of a local board of health and later a burial board. Belgrave certainly had a workhouse before 1776, although the first known mention of one is in that year. (fn. 130) The parish expended a considerable amount of money on poor relief in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. (fn. 131) Lack of records makes it impossible to give details of parish administration in the 19th century. (fn. 132) The workhouse was converted into private houses about 1880. (fn. 133)
In 1878, when the turnpike trust was wound up, the local board received £53 12s. 2d. of its surplus revenues and was thereafter charged with the care of 15/8 miles of the former turnpike road. (fn. 134) The last toll gate, at the end of the tram terminus in the Loughborough road, was abolished in 1878. (fn. 135)
Belgrave Local Board petitioned unsuccessfully against the bill to include the township in the borough of Leicester in 1890, though the burial and school boards and the ratepayers were all in favour of the scheme. (fn. 136) The school board, the board of health, and the burial board were dissolved by the Act. (fn. 137)
Birstall and South Thurmaston appear to have been administered along with Belgrave until after 1861, but by 1881 they were separate civil parishes. (fn. 138)
The church of Belgrave with its tithes and eleven virgates was granted to the Norman abbey of St. Evroul (Orne), by Hugh de Grentemesnil at some date before 1081. (fn. 139) About 1220 it was stated that the patron of the church was the Abbot of St. Evroul, and that the two chapels of Birstall and South Thurmaston, which Hugh had also given to the abbey, were still attached to the church. (fn. 140) During the 13th century the rights of patronage remained the property of the abbey, but presentations were made by the Prior of Ware (Herts.), a cell of the French abbey. (fn. 141) A pension of 10 marks was being paid in 1220 by the Rector of Belgrave to the Abbot of St. Evroul. (fn. 142) Owing to the seizure by the Crown of the possessions of alien monasteries the patronage of Belgrave came repeatedly into the king's hands under Edward II and Edward III. (fn. 143) The king continued to act as patron until in 1414 Henry V granted the advowson to the new Carthusian priory of Sheen (Surr.), (fn. 144) which retained possession until the Dissolution; in 1535 a pension of 5 marks was being paid by the incumbent to the Prior of Sheen. (fn. 145) At the Dissolution the advowson came into the king's hands, and he presented when a vacancy occurred in 1541. (fn. 146) In 1547 the advowson of the rectory was granted to the Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, and it was provided that the rectory should be appropriated to the bishop when it next fell vacant. The bishop was to pay the Crown £9 14s. 3¾d. a year in satisfaction of first fruits and tenths, and to appoint a vicar, paying him a stipend of £13 6s. 8d. (fn. 147) The rectory was duly appropriated, but in 1603 it was stated that Belgrave was not endowed with a vicarage but was served by a curate with a stipend of £120. (fn. 148) The rectory was evidently leased in 1633 when Laud made his metropolitical visitation, and the previously satisfactory state of affairs had ended. An unknown Lady Morrison held the rectory and provided only £50 a year for the upkeep of the services and for the payment of the various unlicensed preachers who served Belgrave church and its two chapels. (fn. 149) In 1651, however, Belgrave was again being served by a vicar. (fn. 150)
Belgrave was one of the wealthier livings in Leicestershire in the Middle Ages. In 1217 it was valued at 16 marks, at 30 in 1254 and at 60 in 1291. (fn. 151) In 1535 it was valued at £43 16s. 3½d. (fn. 152) In 1651 the incumbent's stipend was increased. (fn. 153) Between 1790 and 1825 the living was augmented by £1,200, contributed from Parliament and Queen Anne's Bounty, and by a gift of £100 and a yearly payment of £8 from the patron. In 1831 the stipend was valued at £154, and it was increased to £300 by the gift of the commuted tithes in 1847. (fn. 154)
In 1227 Stephen de Lucy and Robert and Gilbert de Birstall were parties in a dispute whether certain lands in Belgrave were free alms of the church of Belgrave. (fn. 155) At the inclosure in 1654 44 acres of the parish were allotted as glebe, although the agreement was made when episcopacy had been abolished in England, and the patron was not a party to the settlement. (fn. 156) In 1846 there were 50 acres of glebe, of which only 20 remained in 1955. (fn. 157)
At the confirmation of the inclosure agreement in 1662 it was agreed that in commutation of tithes an annual rent of £100 should be paid to the bishop or his representatives. Each acre of inclosed ground was to contribute 20d. a year, except for the Poor's Plot which was only to pay 16d. an acre. (fn. 158) In 1845 a new arrangement was made whereby the tithes were again commuted for a rent charge of £456 7s. (fn. 159) The Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield continued to present to the church of Belgrave until the advowson was transferred to the Bishop of Peterborough, probably in 1855 when the rectory was handed over to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. (fn. 160) They sold the whole of the rectorial lands in 1860 to Sir Cornwallis Ricketts, Bart., who was already leasing the rectory from the Bishop of Lichfield in 1846. (fn. 161) The tithe charges had been made over to the vicars of Belgrave and Thurmaston in 1847 in augmentation of their stipends. The rectorial lands were sold by Sir Cornwallis Ricketts to Isaac Harrison and Thomas Allen. (fn. 162) After the establishment of the see of Leicester in 1926 the advowson was transferred to the bishop of the new diocese. (fn. 163)
The chapelry of South Thurmaston was separated from Belgrave in 1841, and made into a new ecclesiastical parish. (fn. 164) The chapelry of Birstall was separated from Belgrave in 1928, when it became an independent district chapelry. (fn. 165)
In 1887 part of Belgrave parish was transferred to the new parish of West Humberstone, and in the following year the parish of St. Michael and All Angels was formed out of the eastern part of Belgrave parish. (fn. 166) The new church had been erected in 1887 on a site given by Isaac Harrison of Newfoundpool. It replaced an iron church erected in 1878. (fn. 167) The architect of the new church was George Vialls of Ealing. (fn. 168) Part of St. Michael's parish was detached to form the new parish of St. Alban in 1906. (fn. 169) In 1933 the conventional district of St. Gabriel was formed and was created a statutory district in 1953; the church in Edgehill Road was built in 1898. (fn. 170) The mission church of the Good Shepherd is now also attached to St. Peter's. (fn. 171)
The church of ST. PETER (fn. 172) consists of nave and chancel, north and south aisles, and porches, west tower, and vestry. It is built of rubble, in some places roughly coursed, of a mixture of local stone and waterworn boulders. The main part of the present church dates from the 13th century, although some features from the 12th-century church have been preserved, including the south doorway and the two lower stages of the tower. The nave and aisles and the present tower arch and lancet date from the 13th century. The chancel was entirely rebuilt in the 14th century, when the 13th-century piscina and sedilia were probably moved to their present position in the south aisle to make way for the more elaborate 14th-century ones at present in the chancel. The clerestory and the upper stage of the tower date from the 16th century.
In 1518, when Belgrave was visited by the Bishop of Lincoln, it was found that the windows of 'St. Mary's chapel', about which nothing else is known, needed repair. (fn. 173) In 1556 the chancel was much dilapidated, (fn. 174) but had evidently been repaired by 1636, when no serious structural defects were noted. (fn. 175) Belgrave church seems to have been reasonably well cared for throughout the rest of the 17th and for most of the 18th century, (fn. 176) although in common with many other Leicestershire churches it was criticized by Archdeacon Burnaby in 1793 as needing considerable minor repairs. (fn. 177) In 1826 the south porch, which hides the old 12th-century doorway, was built by William Bradley in a style different from that of the rest of the building. (fn. 178) In 1832 and 1837 the chancel, which should have been maintained by the lessee of the tithes, was in need of repair. At this time the church had a lead roof throughout and the tower had a low leaden spire. (fn. 179) New pews were fitted in 1857 (fn. 180) and the church was extensively repaired in 1862. (fn. 181) The choir vestry was built in 1877, when the organ and organ chamber were installed, (fn. 182) and enlarged in 1908 when the clergy vestry was built. (fn. 183) The north porch was added in 1912 and the church was again reseated in 1938. (fn. 184)
The tower is in three stages, the two lower ones dating from the 12th, the upper from the 16th century. Each stage is diminished by weathered offsets, and the tower is finished with a battlemented parapet, now much restored. On the west side is a modern doorway, with a 13th-century lancet window above. There is no interior staircase.
The nave is of four bays with a good early-16thcentury timber roof. The arcades are of pointed arches, which are supported on pillars with moulded capitals and bases except for the central pillar on the south side which has a floriated capital. The tower and chancel arches are in a similar style, but the capital on the north side of the tower is carved with three heads with ivy leaves issuing from their mouths, and that on the south is decorated with vine stems and leaves. The pulpit dates from 1882 and the lectern from 1863. The 13th-century font stands in the west end of the nave. It has a circular bowl, supported in six engaged columns separated by dog-tooth ornament.
The south aisle contains a 13th-century trefoil piscina and triple sedilia with graduated seats. Both aisles have similar roofs to that in the nave. The rear arches of the east and west windows in the south aisle have round heads and are probably retained from the 12th-century church, as is the west window in the north aisle. The parish chest stands in the south aisle. It has a small division at one end with a separate lid slotted for alms. The south doorway is from the 12th-century church. The inner order of carving is a plain modern replacement but the outer one is decorated with interlaced ribbed strapwork and the middle one with interlaced ribbed semicircles. The same decoration appears on the capitals.
The chancel is lighted by an east window of five cinquefoil lights. There are three windows on the south side and a small doorway in the centre. The vestry on the north side has been built using one of the north windows and the doorway, leaving a window on each side. In the south wall is a piscina with a trefoiled ogee head, crocketed hood and floriated finial. The triple sedilia which adjoin it have cinquefoil ogee heads to the seats and the decoration in general resembles that of the piscina. The priest's stall is of late-15th-century work, and evidently comes from a row of stalls.
The plate consists of a chalice of c. 1680, a silver paten presented c. 1850, a silver flagon given by the parishioners in 1782, and a pewter plate, probably obtained between 1761 and 1763. (fn. 185)
Belgrave may be regarded as the cradle of the Roman Catholic revival in Leicester. From at least the last quarter of the 17th century until the early years of the 18th, the Byerley family at Belgrave Hall had a Franciscan chaplain, and the Franciscans were probably succeeded by Jesuits. The Dominican mission to Leicester was revived at Belgrave in 1746 and moved into the town in 1777. (fn. 188) There were said to be five Roman Catholics at Belgrave in 1676, and 18 Catholic families out of a total of 60 in 1709, but no figures are available for the later 18th century and there were apparently no Roman Catholics in 1829, although it is possible that they might have been included in the figure then given for Leicester. (fn. 189) The Roman Catholic chapel at Belgrave Hall was still in existence about 1800 although unused. (fn. 190)
After the establishment of the Causeway Lane mission in Leicester in 1777 (fn. 191) there was no permanent Roman Catholic chapel at Belgrave until 1920 when the chapel of Our Lady between Moira Street and Canon Street was begun. The building was completed in 1922, and was a chapel of ease to St. Patrick's, Royal East Street. When St. Patrick's was closed in 1940 the church centre was moved to Our Lady's, which is now the parish church of Our Lady and St. Patrick. The Roman Catholic school in Harrison Road was opened in 1937 when the Royal East Street School was closed. (fn. 192)
There has always been a considerable body of dissenters in Belgrave since at least 1676, when it was reported that there were six 'schismatical recusants'. (fn. 193) In 1709 out of 60 families in the township, 7 were Anabaptist. (fn. 194) In 1807 William Agar's house was used as a meeting-place for Protestant dissenters (fn. 195) and in 1829 it was estimated that there were 20 Methodists and 60 Primitive Methodists, with two chapels. (fn. 196) A Wesleyan Methodist chapel was built in Bath Street in 1834 but about 1880 seems to have become only a church room and lecture hall. (fn. 197) The small Primitive Methodist chapel erected in Claremont Street in 1838 was rebuilt in 1880. (fn. 198) The Baptist chapel in Loughborough Road was built in 1842. (fn. 199) To serve the new residential district in the eastern part of the parish a United Methodist chapel was built in Harrison Road in 1905. (fn. 200) Belgrave Hall, the chapel of the Wesleyan Methodists in Belgrave Road, was built in 1901. (fn. 201) To the west, Beaumont Hall, in Beaumanor Road, was built by the Primitive Methodists as a mission hall about 1894. (fn. 202)
In 1832 there were two Anglican Sunday schools at Belgrave. One, which had been opened in 1787, was maintained by Mrs. Vann and was attended by 30 boys and 30 girls. The other was attended by 92 pupils. (fn. 203) The Wesleyan and Baptist chapels also had Sunday schools in 1846. (fn. 204) The National school was built at the bottom of Mill Hill in 1836, (fn. 205) and was enlarged about 1848 by the addition of an infants' school which was largely supported by the Ellis family of Belgrave Hall. The infants' school existed until after 1871. (fn. 206) In 1861 this National school was replaced by a new building in Loughborough Road. (fn. 207) In 1877 it was attended by about 350 pupils. It was still in existence in 1956. (fn. 208) The first of the Belgrave board schools was that in Mellor Street, built in 1879. (fn. 209) Belper Street Board School was built in 1888. (fn. 210) The Belgrave board schools were taken over by the Leicester School Board in 1891.
Under the inclosure agreement of 1654, 1 acre for each yardland in the township except 2 was set aside to form a pasture for cottagers whose houses had no rights of common. The pasture was known as the Poor's Land (fn. 211) and in 1787 amounted to 53 acres. (fn. 212) In 1837 any of the poor could use it for 4s. a year. Those who did not exercise their rights were paid 12s. a year. A road had been made over the land and the sides of it were used as gardens by the poor. (fn. 213) In 1889 11 acres of the remaining 45 were set aside as a recreation ground; the rest is now used as allotments. (fn. 214)
Before the inclosure there existed three cottages, called the Town Houses. At the inclosure (fn. 215) 11 acres were added to the cottages in compensation for the loss of common rights attached to them. In 1837 they comprised 21 acres and the rent was set aside for church purposes, with the rent from the Talbot Inn and a cottage. The Church Lands, just over 2 acres allotted to Belgrave at the inclosures of St. Margaret's, Leicester, and Humberstone, were also let and the rent was used for church purposes. (fn. 216) The land belonging to the three charities comprised 40 acres in 1947. It has since been reduced by sale to 20½ acres, which with the exception of the recreation ground are let partly as grassland, partly as allotments. (fn. 217)
There are three smaller charities. (fn. 218) William Vann bequeathed stock which would produce £5 yearly to be spent on bread for the poor. James Vann by will proved 1812 left stock producing 10 guineas a year for coals for the poor. William Bradley by will dated 1830 left £500, of which only £250 could be paid, in trust for the provision of bread, coals, and blankets. No distribution had been made by 1837.