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 nucleus of the ancient parish of Evington lies some 2½ miles south-east of the centre of Leicester. The area of the ancient parish, formerly in Gartree hundred, was about 1,950 acres. The total population of the Spinney Hill ward and the old village, which covered most of the ancient parish, was 30,081 in 1931. (fn. 1) The boundaries of the ancient parish ran along Mere Road, the Willow Brook, Uppingham Road, Spencefield Lane, Stoughton Road, (fn. 2) Evington Brook, and part of Evington Lane. To the east of Spencefield Lane, however, the boundary included a considerable area beyond that road, adjoining Thurnby. The surface soil is largely Boulder Clay, except in the valley of the Evington Brook, where there is Lower Lias Clay and limestone. The village of Evington itself was built on a patch of sand and gravel, close to the south-eastern boundary of the parish and not far from the Roman Gartree road which forms part of its southern boundary. A prehistoric trackway from Tilton passed through the northern part of the parish to the ridge known as Crown Hills. (fn. 3) About onethird of the parish, lying in the north next to the borough boundary, was transferred to Leicester County Borough in 1892 as North Evington civil parish. It was absorbed in Leicester civil parish in 1896. The new boundary between Evington and the borough ran across the fields from Uppingham road to a point near the present Highway Road. Evington civil parish, which had remained outside the borough, was dissolved in 1936. The greater part was transferred to Leicester and the two remaining pieces became parts of Stoughton civil parish and Oadby urban district respectively. (fn. 4)
The character of the village has greatly changed in recent years from that of a village with primarily agricultural interests to that of an industrial and residential suburb of Leicester. In the old village the oldest surviving buildings are probably two thatched cottages dating from the mid-18th century. The hall, built in the 1830's for Henry Coleman, is a stucco house and is now a convent school. (fn. 5) Evington House was built in 1836 (fn. 6) and is a brick house, with some later additions. It retains some of its original glass and a pleasant mahogany staircase. It stands in what is now a public park and is used as a corporation restaurant. The village green still survives as a recreation ground for children. The Cedars Hotel, formerly the home of the novelist, E. Phillips Oppenheim, was opened as a public house in 1937. (fn. 7)
In 1086 10½ carucates of land in EVINGTON were held by Hugh de Grentemesnil and under him by his sub-tenant, Ivo, who was also probably the holder of Cadeby and Ashby de la Zouche. (fn. 8) There was also 1 carucate held from the king by Robert de Buci, which had passed to Richard Basset by c. 1130. After the death of Hugh de Grentemesnil his property descended to the earls of Leicester and became part of their honour. (fn. 9) The overlordship of Evington remained in the hands of the earls of Leicester until 1265 when it was granted after the forfeiture of Simon de Montfort to Henry Ill's son Edmund of Lancaster. Edmund's successors, the earls and dukes of Lancaster, remained overlords of the manor of Evington until the Duchy of Lancaster was merged with the Crown in 1399. (fn. 10)
Before 1239 the manor had been subinfeudated to Richard de Grey, who received a grant of free warren in Evington in that year. (fn. 11) He was a member of the Derbyshire family of Grey of Codnor, and he and his descendants held Evington as sub-tenants until the end of the 15th century. In 1265 the then Sir Richard de Grey, constable of Dover Castle, who had fought for his lord, Simon de Montfort, at Evesham, forfeited his lands to the king. (fn. 12) Evington was restored to his son John at some date before his death in 1271, when he was holding the manor of the honour of Leicester for the service of 3½ knight's fees. (fn. 13) By 1299 the service had been reduced to that of 1½ fee (fn. 14) and by 1346 to only ½ fee. (fn. 15) During the 15th century the manor was held in trust for the Greys at least from 1434, when Henry, Lord Grey, conveyed it to three trustees. (fn. 16) When he died ten years later his heir was a minor, and the service by which he held the manor was unknown. (fn. 17) In or just after 1491 it was acquired by Sir William Stanley, who held it for the service of 1 knight's fee and a yearly rent of 4s. (fn. 18) In 1494 Stanley was attainted for his support of the pretender Perkin Warbeck and his property was seized by the king. (fn. 19) The king leased the manor to Robert Orton, bailiff of Leicester, in 1500 for 40 years at a yearly rent of £50. At an unknown date Orton assigned his lease to the Leicester merchant, Roger Wigston. (fn. 20) In 1510 Henry VIII granted the overlordship of the manor to Anne, one of the daughters of Edward IV and wife of Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, as part compensation for lands claimed in right of her great-grandmother. Provision was made in this grant that the earl was to have no rights in the property and was merely a tenant by courtesy. In 1520 he duly returned the letters patent which had given the land to his wife, who was then dead, and at the same time he released to the king, to the cofferer of the royal household, and to the tenant, Robert Orton, all the actions which he might thereafter bring against the manor. (fn. 21) In 1527 Roger Wigston, as the assignee of Orton, surrendered his lease to the king, (fn. 22) possibly as a result of the grant of the manor again in 1526 to George Hastings, who was created Earl of Huntingdon in 1529. (fn. 23) The Hastings family retained the manor until 1616, when it was sold to William Cavendish, Earl of Devonshire, whose family held it for the next hundred years. (fn. 24)
In or about 1734 it was purchased by Dr. James Sherrard of Eltham. (fn. 25) Under the provisions of his will, dated 1737, the manor was to be divided at his death among his five nieces. When this division was affirmed by Act of Parliament in 1761, the ownership of the manor passed into the hands of five families. (fn. 26) The new owners were Mary and John Edwyn of Baggrave, Christian and Richard Sharpe of Wing (Rut.), Ann and Henry Coleman of Market Harborough, Elizabeth and Samuel Taylor of the same place, and Susanna and the Revd. Samuel Statham of Loughborough. These shares descended to the three families who held Evington in the 19th century: the Kecks, who held the Statham portion, the Burnabys, descended from the Edwyns, and the Colemans. There was in the last century no longer any lord in a position of authority in the village, although the lordship of the manor was divided in 1846 between the three owners, and had passed to the Keck branch by 1877. (fn. 27) In 1916 most of the property in the village belonged to Thomas PowysKeck, (fn. 28) who sold his estate very shortly after the end of the First World War. The chief purchaser was the Co-operative Wholesale Society, which in 1955 still owned a great deal of property in the district. (fn. 29)
In 1086 Evington was assessed at 11½ carucates, of which Ivo, the principal tenant, held 10½. On this land he had 3 ploughs and 6 serfs in demesne; there were also 25 villeins and 2 bordars with 5½ ploughs. There was a mill and 20 acres of meadow, and the value of the manor had increased from 40s. in the time of Edward the Confessor to 100s. at the date of the survey. (fn. 30) The remaining carucate was held by Robert de Buci, who had land for half a plough on his demesne, while his four villeins held land for one plough. His holding was worth 5s. (fn. 31)
The village was small and the inhabitants few, and the extent of land under cultivation remained unchanged until at least 1279, when there were still only 12 ploughlands. Four ploughlands and 1 virgate were held in demesne by the lord of the manor, and a further 4 carucates were held in villeinage. Three free tenants held 1 virgate each and another had a whole ploughland. (fn. 32) In 1265 the manor was worth £30. (fn. 33) In 1298 John Dyve of Baldeston (Notts.) died seised of 4 virgates in Evington, held of William de Bosco; (fn. 34) the land was inherited by his sister, from whom descended the Bussy family, who held land in Evington throughout the 14th century. (fn. 35) In the inquisition made in 1308 after the death of Henry de Grey, the extent of the manor reveals an interesting change. There were then only 12 bovates in demesne (about 2½ ploughlands), with the manor house, a dovehouse, 2 ponds and wind- and watermills. There were no less than 19 free tenants, of whom only 4 paid any sort of rent in kind, and 36 customary tenants who paid a money rent and did only 6 days' service yearly of harrowing and reaping. Twelve cottars paid money rents for their cottages. (fn. 36) The inquisition into the property of Richard de Grey made 20 years later in 1335 shows that the lord of the manor had successfully doubled the money rents of his free tenants and increased the labour services of the customary tenants. Twenty villeins then performed 220 days' work between them during the year, and the cottars no longer existed. All the sources of income in the manor had been made to show a greater profit. (fn. 37)
The lord of the manor had a park at Evington, where deer were preserved for hunting. On two occasions in the 14th century the park was broken into and deer removed. (fn. 38) The earliest manor-house very probably stood on the moated site still visible to the west of the church, where there is also a well. (fn. 39) In 1412–13 payments were made to a carpenter for rebuilding a house outside the gate of the manorhouse, which had been blown down ventu et tempestate. (fn. 40)
The names of the medieval fields of Evington are not known, nor are their exact boundaries. At the end of the 13th century there was a very considerable increase in the amount of pasture in proportion to the amount of arable and the impression given in the few surviving bailiffs' accounts of the 15th century is that a great deal of this meadow and pasture had been retained in the demesne, or was separately leased for a money rent. (fn. 41)
By the nature of its position, away from the main roads or road junctions, Evington remained virtually undisturbed until it was inclosed in the 17th century. The population seems to have remained fairly stable from the end of the 14th century. The poll tax return of 1381, which is not altogether reliable, lists 53 adults who lived in the village and paid tax. (fn. 42) In 1563 there were still only 31 families. (fn. 43) In 1666 32 persons paid tax on a total of 61 hearths; (fn. 44) in 1670 28 persons paid on 56 hearths, and a further 19 were excused on account of their poverty, giving a total of 47 inhabited houses. (fn. 45) In 1608 as many as 48 persons defaulted in some way at a sitting of the court. Of these, 6 were free tenants, 24 leaseholders, 10 tenants in demesne and 6 cottagers. This, although not a complete list of tenants of the manor, suggests that the number of free tenants, as opposed to lease holders, was small; most of the land was apparently owned by the lord of the manor. (fn. 46)
This concentration of the land in the lord's possession facilitated the process of inclosure, which began early in the 17th century. In a survey of inclosed land in Leicestershire made in 1607 there is no mention of Evington, (fn. 47) but from a map of the manorial estate of the Earl of Devonshire which was made in 1627 it is clear that almost the whole of the parish was inclosed by that time, and it seems likely that the inclosure took place after the Cavendish family acquired the manor in 1616. (fn. 48) The Devonshire estate is shown in this map as consisting entirely of closes, some of over 100 acres, the whole totalling more than 1,600 acres, only 350 acres less than the total extent of the parish. The lord had clearly been able to inclose at will, and no legal record of the inclosure exists. Strip farming on the old system was carried on in a small area to the north and east of the church and is clearly differentiated on the map. A few of the inclosed fields in the south of the parish were held by several tenants and jointly farmed, but most of the land was held by the 35 tenants whose holdings are separately marked. (fn. 49)
In 1761, 1,800 acres were divided between the nieces of James Sherrard, some 200 acres more than the Earl of Devonshire had possessed in 1627. (fn. 50) This increase was apparently due to the fact that some of the small freeholders had been bought out, for the number of freeholders who polled from the parish was reduced from 7 in 1722 to one in 1775. (fn. 51) After the division of the manor in 1761, most of the land seems to have been given over to grazing, and by the middle of the 19th century there were several substantial graziers in the parish. (fn. 52)
Early in the 18th century a few of the inhabitants found an occupation in the hosiery industry, and the first reference to a stockinger in the village occurs as early as 1704. (fn. 53) The numbers of those engaged in the trade increased slightly during the 18th century and some framework-knitting was done in the parish, although Evington never became a centre of the industry. (fn. 54) The parish remained predominantly agricultural until well into the 19th century, and farmers and labourers outnumbered those in other occupations. (fn. 55) The descendants of the landowners who came into possession in 1761 became increasingly prosperous. Prominent among these families were the Colemans and the Burnabys; Henry Coleman built Evington Hall about 1830 and the Misses Burnaby endowed the village school in 1841. (fn. 56)
As late as 1881 the population numbered only 450, (fn. 57) but in the next decade there was a sudden increase as the result of the development of the north part of the parish, with a simultaneous change in the type of employment available as new factories were built. The number of farm workers declined rapidly and artisans took their place. The development of North Evington was primarily the work of Arthur Wakerley, a Leicester architect, who devoted the greater part of his working life to the task. His first purchase of land in North Evington was made in 1885 and from then onwards he concentrated on building new roads, houses, and factories, and providing public buildings. In 1892 the market square was laid out and the market hall built. (fn. 58) The new suburb was separated from the old village by a considerable stretch of open country, and this separation was further marked by the detachment of North Evington from the parish in 1892, when it became part of the borough of Leicester. (fn. 59) In 1905 the Leicester Poor Law Institution was built in North Evington near Crown Hills; it was taken over by the City Health Committee in 1930 and is now the General Hospital. (fn. 60) About the same time an engineering factory and a clothing factory, the first of several, were built in East Park Road. (fn. 61)
Meanwhile, the old village was being gradually developed. Some new houses were built and in 1912 the village hall was erected, (fn. 62) but it was not until the 1930's that intensive building began. Since that time a residential district has grown up linking the village with North Evington, although there is still a good deal of open ground around the village, and the Leicester Golf Course lies between Evington Lane and Stoughton Road, partly in Oadby Urban District. It was during this period of expansion that the civil parish of Evington was dissolved and the greater part transferred to Leicester. Development of a commercial kind continued along Evington Valley Road, where chemical and engineering works were built. The Evington House Estate has developed to the north of the village.
Of the two corporation parks in the parish, Spinney Hill Park was purchased from the Burnaby family in 1885 (fn. 63) and Evington Park in 1947. (fn. 64) There are two farms belonging to the Co-operative Wholesale Society in the northern part of the parish, and Evington still remains the most rural of any of the Leicester parishes.
The parish of Evington was formerly a peculiar, at least from 1564 when the vicar had an exempt jurisdiction, attached to the manor. (fn. 65) As most of the earlier records have not survived, (fn. 66) little is known of either peculiar or church. Sir John Lambe doubted the validity of the claim to peculiar jurisdiction in 1633. (fn. 67) The peculiar had ceased to perform any real function by the early 19th century. Appointments of commissaries (nearly always the lord of the manor), registrars (the vicars), and apparitors (the parish clerks) survive to 1846, and the court was sitting yearly as late as 1857, (fn. 68) but there seems to be only one surviving document showing that cases were ever dealt with. (fn. 69) By the 1840's all the fees of the court came from marriage licences and visitations of the church. (fn. 70) The peculiar seems to have disappeared about 1880. (fn. 71)
In the 12th century the rectory and advowson of Evington were granted by Ernald de Bosco and John Humet to Leicester Abbey, (fn. 72) and their grant was confirmed between 1168 and 1190 by Robert, Earl of Leicester. (fn. 73) The church was appropriated between 1209 and 1219. (fn. 74) The abbey held the advowson until the Dissolution, (fn. 75) after which it passed to the king, and was granted by Edward VI to the Bishop of Lincoln in 1547. (fn. 76) It was probably at this time that the peculiar was created, when the lord of the manor seems to have usurped the jurisdiction. (fn. 77) The bishops of Lincoln presented to the living until Leicester became part of the see of Peterborough, when the advowson was granted to the new bishop. (fn. 78) It is now in the hands of the Bishop of Leicester. (fn. 79)
The vicarage was endowed by Leicester Abbey with 6 marks yearly, consisting of various dues, the altarage, small tithes, and corn tithes from a carucate of land in the parish. (fn. 80) In 1217 the living was valued at u marks yearly; in 1254, 12 marks; and in 1291, 20 marks. (fn. 81) In 1535 it was worth £8. (fn. 82) In 1831 it was worth only £47, but received a grant from Queen Anne's Bounty in 1840. (fn. 83) The great tithes were the property of Leicester Abbey and were granted with the advowson to the Bishop of Lincoln, who held them until 1840, when they were purchased by the landowners. (fn. 84) The small tithes were the property of the vicar. In 1678 they included corn from five yardlands, and wool, lambs, eggs, apples, pigs, and other offerings from the 24 yardlands which remained uninclosed. (fn. 85) These seem to have been commuted for money payments by 1698, when the land which was old demesne paid 5s.6d. a yardland, new demesne paid 32s.6d. a yardland, and vacant yardlands 2s. 6d. (fn. 86) These tithes were exchanged at the division of the manor in 1761 for an annual payment of £45. (fn. 87) One acre of land was set aside during the Middle Ages for the repair of the church. (fn. 88) It had apparently been lost by 1837 as it is not mentioned in the Charity Commissioners' Report.
The church of St. Stephen in East Park Road was built to the design of J. Stockdale Harrison in 1897. (fn. 89) In 1904 the parish was created from those of Evington and St. Barnabas, New Humberstone. The Bishop of Leicester is patron. (fn. 90) St. Philip's Church in Evington Road was built in 1913 at the cost of I. L. Berridge. (fn. 91) The architects were the Leicester firm of Pick, Everard. (fn. 92) The patronage is vested in trustees. (fn. 93) The district church of St. Chad, Coleman Road, was built in 1922, from the materials of an iron and brick chapel which was used as a base chapel in France during the First World War. (fn. 94) It serves the Coleman Road estate.
The church of ST. DENYS consists of chancel, nave, north and south aisles, north porch, and west tower and spire. It is mostly built of random rubble in a mixture of local stones. The lower stages of the tower are of roughly squared and coursed stone, and the clerestory in the north aisle is of ironstone. The earliest surviving part of the church dates from the 13th century, when it consisted of a chancel, nave and west tower. The aisles date from the 14th century and the clerestory was added to the nave in the 15th century. The porches, which had also been added, were removed in 1840, the south doorway blocked and the whole church extensively restored. (fn. 95) In 1867 the chancel was rebuilt in a debased Gothic style. (fn. 96) A further restoration took place under the direction of Joseph Goddard of Leicester in 1884. (fn. 97) The north porch was rebuilt as a war memorial for the First World War. The roofs, which were renewed during the 16th century, were repaired in 1840 and some of the original timbers and carved bosses were used again.
The modern chancel is of three bays, indicated on the outside of the building by buttresses on the south side; there is a blocked doorway in the central bay on this side. The roof of the chancel is elaborate, with arched trusses filled in with open tracery, and traceried panels between the rafter feet. The trusses rest on carved stone corbels and short shafts. The floor is paved with encaustic tiles. The unfortunate effect of the chancel is relieved by its monuments, which were replaced after the original chancel was rebuilt. The most interesting is to James Sherrard (d. 1737), a fine marble wall monument erected by his wife, and only spoilt by the cramped insertion of the date of her death at the foot of the inscription.
The nave is of four bays, with arcades of pointed arches. Those on the north side rest on roughly squared blocks of masonry, part of the old nave wall. The lines of an earlier roof may be seen above the tower arch and the blocked door which once gave access to the rood loft in the north wall of the nave. The south aisle is very little later in date, probably of the very early years of the 14th century or the last decade of the 13 th. The doorway in the second bay from the west has been blocked. In the south wall is a piscina with a mutilated basin. The tracery in the windows is of the plainest, and contrasts sharply with that in the windows of the north aisle, which was probably built about 1350, perhaps by a member of the Grey family, whose arms appear in the windows. In the centre of the plain parapet to the east gable of this aisle there is a broken crocketed pinnacle, with a niche below containing a figure of St. Denis, and a grotesque gargoyle at the angle. At the west end there are traces of trefoiled panels in the parapet. The windows at the east and west ends are contemporary with the aisle, and their tracery is of considerable interest. The west window is pointed, of four trefoiled lights with flowing tracery, its hollows richly studded with dogtooth, masks, and ballflower ornaments. Inside the arch is supported on slender columns with foliated capitals. The hollow mouldings of the tracery are studded with ornament as on the outside, but on the mullions, which have been restored, this has not been reproduced. The east window is also pointed, of four cinquefoil lights, its roll moulding forming shafts with foliated capitals and moulded bases to the arches of the four lights. The tracery of this and of the second window from the east in this aisle is filled with fragments of early glass. That in the east window is mainly heraldic, and includes the arms of the Clare, Warenne, Geneville, Giffard, and Grey families. That in the side window, which is less muddled, is clearly in its original position. The quatrefoil panels of the tracery contain figures of angels.
The tower rises in three stages, diminished at each by weathered offsets. The lower stages are built of roughly squared and coursed stone, and there are ashlar buttresses on the north and south corners. Two buttresses were added against the west wall, probably when the aisles were built. There is a lancet window on the west wall, but all but one of the smaller windows which lighted the belfry have been blocked. From behind the battlemented parapet rises the graceful octagonal spire, surmounted by a floriated finial and a weathercock. There are eight windows set around the spire alternately at the foot of each face and half-way up.
The font stands in the south aisle. It dates from the 13th century and has a heavy round bowl, supported upon a thick round column surrounded by four detached shafts with moulded capitals and bases, the capitals distorted to fit under the bowl. The church chest probably dates from the early 16th century and is 7 feet in length. The registers begin in 1601. Some of the earlier entries are almost illegible and there is a gap between 1648 and 1652 (inclusive). The earliest pieces of plate still in use are a silver cup and paten dated 1632. (fn. 98) There are four bells, dated 1605, 1637, 1797 (cast by Edward Arnold of Leicester), and 1906. (fn. 99)
In 1829 it was estimated that there were in Evington 50 Independents and 20 Primitive Methodists, (fn. 102) and it was presumably one of these sects which applied in 1811 for a licence for its meeting-place there. (fn. 103) A further application was made in 1838, (fn. 104) probably for the chapel of the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion, which was built in the same year at the expense of Samuel Davenport of Leicester. (fn. 105) The chapel stands on the green, with the minister's house next door, and is a delicate building in the Gothic style, with slender crocketed pinnacles. The west end, which faces the road, has a crenellated parapet above the door. The chapel is now (1955) that of the Strict Baptists. The Primitive Methodist chapel in Leicester Street was built in 1895 for the North Evington district. (fn. 106)
There was a mill in Evington in 1086, held by the lord of the manor and rendering 2s. yearly. (fn. 107) This was probably on the same (unknown) site as the water-mill which was valued at 20s. in 1308, by which time there was also a windmill, valued at 10s. (fn. 108) The value of the windmill had increased to 20s. by 1335, but the water-mill is not mentioned in the extent of the manor which was made in that year. (fn. 109) There was a water-mill in the early 15th century but no evidence of its existence after 1413 is to be traced. (fn. 110) The stream which forms the present boundary with Oadby was probably never large enough to drive a large mill. Perhaps the most obvious site for the mill would be at the junction between this stream and the now very small one which runs to the west of the moated site near the church.