A History of the County of Leicestershire: Volume 5, Gartree Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1964.
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MARKET HARBOROUGH (fn. 1)
The relationship of Market Harborough to Great Bowden in civil and ecclesiastical matters has been discussed elsewhere. (fn. 2) Little Bowden, which was transferred from Northamptonshire in 1888 and included in the Market Harborough Urban District in 1895, has been excluded from this account. The following sections are concerned with the original township of Market Harborough on the north side of the River Welland.
The land on which the town stands rises from the river to a highest point only about 250 ft. above sea level. The soil is a stiff blue clay, overlain except near the Welland by a thin layer of lighter loam. In 1957 the township was entirely built over. Its area was approximately 59 a. (fn. 3) The course of the Welland has undergone some changes. At Harborough it once ran to the north of its present bed, flowing immediately south of St. Mary's Road. At some date, apparently early in the 18th century, the river cut a new course about 50 yds. further south. (fn. 4) In 1776 the old course still existed as a backwater, (fn. 5) and it has always remained liable to flooding. Since about 1900 various minor alterations have been made to the river. (fn. 6)
The focal points of Harborough are the Square, formerly the Sheep Market, which lies at the south end of the township, and the broad High Street, which runs northwards from the Square to the northern boundary. In the 18th century the town was said to consist of three streets and four lanes. (fn. 7) The streets, presumably High Street, Church Street, and Adam and Eve Street, together with the Sheep Market and the space immediately surrounding the church (now known as Church Square), formed the built-up area at the centre of the town. The lanes, of which three were certainly Bowden Lane, St. Mary's Lane, and Lubenham Lane (now Coventry Road), led outwards from this nucleus. (fn. 8) The town centre still follows the same general pattern, although two new streets have been made in the present century. Abbey Street (1901) runs west from near the middle of High Street, cutting through the site of the former Coach and Horses Inn. (fn. 9) Roman Way (1936-7) leads from the north-east corner of Church Square in the direction of Great Bowden.
To the north of the Square and occupying a prominent position on the east side of High Street, is the church of St. Dionysius. Immediately south of the church is the 17th-century grammar school, near which in the 18th century stood the guard house, the stocks, and the whipping post. (fn. 10) A market cross once stood near the north end of High Street, (fn. 11) but was demolished in 1615. (fn. 12) The spaciousness of the Square and High Street has been diminished by various encroachments. The block of buildings lying between the Square and the street later known as Factory Lane originated partly in encroachments made about 1550 by William Jenkinson, who built stables on land there which had earlier been used by ironmongers for displaying their wares on trestle tables. (fn. 13) Evidently, however, there had been earlier building nearby, for there were three cottages in the same part of the Square before Jenkinson began building. (fn. 14) Immediately to the north of the church a line of buildings grew up in the middle of High Street, which was consequently much reduced in width. Church Street, formerly Little Street, is the street formed behind the new buildings. A shop to the north of the church is mentioned in 1637. (fn. 15) Butchers' stalls in the same area are mentioned in 1636. (fn. 16) These stalls may have been temporary structures, but others in the same area mentioned in 1644 were thatched, (fn. 17) and therefore probably more substantial. The shambles seem to have been sited here since the 14th century. (fn. 18) Some stalls here were converted into brick structures during the 18th century. (fn. 19) In 1737 two brick buildings were erected to house the shambles (fn. 20) and in 1788 these were replaced by the three-story town hall. (fn. 21) Until the opening of the new cattle market south of the river in 1903, (fn. 22) beasts were penned or tethered in the Square and all along High Street. (fn. 23)
Formerly a stream flowed down the whole length of High Street and across the Square to the Welland. (fn. 24) Apparently the street was once divided by the stream with a roadway on either side. (fn. 25) Towards the end of the 17th century a small reservoir, known later as Folly Pond, was built on the stream just outside the northern boundary of the town. Its purpose was to store water in case of fire and before 1760 the stream had been channelled through the town with a simple system of diversions into the side streets. By 1776 this channel had been converted into an underground culvert. (fn. 26) The culvert still existed as a storm-water drain in 1957. High Street and the Square, now level, once sloped downwards to the banks of the stream. An excavation across the stream's course near the north end of High Street revealed the original surface of the clay soil sloping down towards the centre with 'made ground' above. (fn. 27) Something of the ground's original conformation persists outside the Angel Hotel.
There were 200 taxpayers in Market Harborough in 1377. In 1670 there were 159 households and in 1676, 471 communicants. (fn. 28) In 1780 there were estimated to be 300 families in the town, besides 20 or 25 people in the workhouse. (fn. 29) In 1801 the recorded population of the township was 1,700. (fn. 30) By 1871 the population was 2,481, (fn. 31) but it subsequently fell, and by 1921 was only 1,480. (fn. 32) The decline was caused by the growth of residential districts outside the township bounds, and the tendency for Harborough's centre to be increasingly occupied by factories, shops, and offices. There are no separate figures for the population of the township after 1921.
The existence of a ford over the Welland (fn. 33) was a principal cause of the town's growth. A bridge over the river at Harborough existed by 1228. (fn. 34) In 1675 it had 6 arches. (fn. 35) Probably it was then already of the same construction as in 1764, when it had 3 stone arches, and 3 other openings formed of stone piers with timbers bearing the roadway. (fn. 36) The bridge was repaired in 1726 and 1746. (fn. 37) In the 17th and 18th centuries vehicles were allowed to use the bridge only when the ford was impassable, and to prevent it being used at other times a chain was stretched across. (fn. 38) This arrangement, which dates from at least 1615, (fn. 39) gave the bridge the name of the Chain Bridge. In 1814 a new structure of 3 stone arches was built, (fn. 40) and in 1928 this was replaced by the concrete bridge still in use in 1957. (fn. 41)
In the 18th century the chief roads leading into Harborough were turnpiked. The road from Northampton was turnpiked under Acts of 1722 and 1750. (fn. 42) The road running north to Leicester and Loughborough became a turnpike in 1726. (fn. 43) The road running south to Kettering (Northants.) and London was turnpiked in 1752. (fn. 44) An attempt to insert a clause in the turnpike Act providing that there should be no toll gate on the London road within a mile of Harborough was unsuccessful. (fn. 45) The road from Harborough to Coventry, through Lutterworth, was turnpiked in 1755. (fn. 46) A cut from the Grand Union Canal at Foxton to Harborough was completed in 1809. (fn. 47) The first railway through the town was the line from Rugby to Harborough and eastwards to Rockingham and beyond, constructed in 1850. More important was the line from Leicester through Harborough to Kettering and the south, built in 1857. A line to Northampton was built in 1859, and in 1879 a connexion was built running north to Melton Mowbray. (fn. 48) The railway station, which replaced an older one in 1884, (fn. 49) is of dark red brick in the Queen Anne style.
In 1825 the town was provided with street lights, 28 lamps being set up, paid for by subscription. (fn. 50) The gasworks was built by a partnership in 1833. (fn. 51) In 1899 the works was purchased by the Market Harborough U.D.C. (fn. 52) In 1957 the works was still in use. The town was first supplied with piped water in 1890. (fn. 53) Electricity was supplied from Kettering about 1920. (fn. 54) Precautions against fire, like so many functions of local government at Harborough, seem at one time to have been dealt with by the town estate feoffees, (fn. 55) who in 1679 arranged for the maintenance of a fire-engine that they had purchased for the town's use. (fn. 56) The feoffees kept an engine until at least 1707. (fn. 57) In 1744 one of Newsham's and Ragg's fire-engines was bought by subscription, with the aid of the Sun Fire Office, (fn. 58) and this, with a smaller engine also bought by subscription, was kept in the church belfry. (fn. 59) The feoffees seem to have kept an engine in the 19th century. (fn. 60) A public fire brigade was organized in 1870, (fn. 61) but it was not until 1903 that a fire station was built, and not until 1905 that the brigade's manual apparatus was replaced by a steam fire-engine. (fn. 62)
To the north of the Town Hall, High Street is a wide and straight thoroughfare, retaining much the same appearance as at the height of the coaching period. Its width, due to its origin as a market site, was probably determined at a much earlier date. In several places the cast-iron posts to which beasts were tied are still in position. On both sides the fronts of the two- and three-story buildings are essentially Georgian in character, not more than four of them dating from after the middle of the 19th century. Several have considerable architectural merit. On the east side these include no. 42, a stucco-fronted house of c. 1815 with a continuous canopied balcony at first-floor level, and no. 43, a very late 18th-century red-brick house with stone dressings and good detail of the period. No. 44 has a mid-18th-century two-story front, now rough-cast, and the house contains a contemporary staircase. On the west side at the corner of Abbey Street is a classical stone front dating from 1858. This was formerly the entrance to the Corn Exchange, but a new assembly hall was built behind it in 1903. (fn. 63) Next door is an important Georgian house now known as Manor House Buildings. The three-story brick front, which has stone dressings with a central pediment and fluted Doric pilasters, probably dates from the second quarter of the 18th century. The internal fittings, including a fine oak staircase, panelling, and plasterwork, are of the same period. Part of the back wall is of ironstone and appears to have belonged to an earlier house. A reset beam in a back wing is dated 1603. The shop windows facing the street are alterations of 1897. (fn. 64) Other good fronts on this side of the street are the Angel Hotel, faced with early-19th-century stucco, and no. 40, which is of red brick and dated from c. 1760. Facing down the street at its north end is a two-story house known as the Paddocks. This appears to be of similar date with alterations and additions of the early 19th century. Opposite stands the Congregational chapel, its classical façade of 1844 (fn. 65) in keeping with the character of the street. Prominent at the opposite end of this wide stretch of High Street is the Town Hall. It was built in 1788 by the Earl of Harborough to serve as a market hall and assembly rooms. (fn. 66) It is a three-storied rectangular building of red brick with stone dressings, its long axis parallel with the street. Above vaulted cellars the ground floor consists of partly open arcades, having 5 bays to the longer and 3 bays to the shorter sides. The space thus inclosed was intended to accommodate butchers' stalls (fn. 67) in place of the demolished shambles. The north front, facing up High Street, has Venetian windows to both upper stories. The central pediment on the west side carries the arms of Lord Harborough in the tympanum. Internally each floor is occupied by one large and several smaller rooms.
Opposite the Town Hall is the Three Swans Hotel which, like the other inns in High Street, has a long narrow yard running back from the street, entered under an archway at one side of the front range. Parallel with the yard is a narrow rear wing, part of which was originally stables. The 'Swan' at Harborough is mentioned as early as 1517 (fn. 68) and it is possible that the front range, originally timberframed, dates from the 16th century. Close-studded timbering is visible in a gable, now enclosed inside the building but formerly abutting on the yard entrance. In the back wing a first-floor room contains panelling of c. 1700. The inn was largely reconstructed in the early 19th century when the front range was raised in height and flat-fronted bow windows were added. The most notable feature of the street front is the large and elaborate wroughtiron sign, probably of late-17th-century origin. There are indications that the ironwork at the sides, incorporating the two additional swans, (fn. 69) is later in date.
South of the Town Hall the building line on the east side of High Street is interrupted by Church Square, in which stand the parish church and the old grammar school. In this central area, one or two timber-framed buildings can be recognized; others probably exist behind later frontages. At nos. 6 and 7 High Street an early-19th-century stucco front conceals a 17th-century timber-framed house with a steeply-pitched roof. A back wing, remodelled early in the 18th century, is also largely timberframed and contains three smoke-blackened cruck trusses. The wing represents an open hall of medieval origin. This property was occupied by James Symington in the middle of the 19th century and his stay-making business was first started in a cottage behind the house. (fn. 70) In Church Street is an ironstone building which once formed part of the King's Head Inn and earlier was thought to have been a manor-house. It was converted into private houses in the late 18th century. (fn. 71) The old grammar school is a timber-framed building erected in 1614 in accordance with the founder's detailed instructions. (fn. 72) It is 36 ft. long by 18 ft. wide and stands on 10 octagonal oak posts which themselves rest on stones. The ground floor is left open to serve as a covered market. Heavy curved braces spring from the posts to the floor of the schoolroom, which is constructed with diagonal 'dragon' beams. Above the schoolroom there were formerly attics which c. 1800 were being used as rooms for the master. (fn. 73) The gabled roof is surmounted by a turret dating from 1868. This replaced a former turret of different design which itself had been altered in 1789. (fn. 74) In accordance with the wishes of the founder, Robert Smyth, certain specified texts are painted round the building on the lintel above the supporting posts. His own name and the date were added later. The building was thoroughly restored in 1868 (fn. 75) when many of the lower timbers were replaced. The walls above were faced with imitation timbering and decorative plasterwork. At the rear a brick and timber wing was added to contain the staircase, the former stair having been below the north-east corner of the schoolroom. (fn. 76) In 1957 the building was occasionally in use for public meetings and as a robing room for the parish church. (fn. 77) Church Square and the surrounding area are now dominated by R. and W. H. Symington's corset factory which rises high above the older buildings. The original early19th-century factory in Factory Lane still forms the three lowest stories of the south range, which has been much enlarged at various dates. Connected to it by a bridge over Adam and Eve Street is the main part of the factory, begun in 1884 (fn. 78) and much extended later.
At the south end of High Street and in the Square late Georgian fronts of two and three stories still predominate. More rebuilding has taken place than at the north end of the town, however, and many large shop-fronts have been inserted. A car park and two traffic roundabouts occupy much of the space formerly used as a market. Welland House, at the south-west corner of the Square, has a two-story ironstone front for which the material may have been brought from St. Mary's church in 1694. (fn. 79) The other walls of the house are of brick with a few structural timbers exposed where the adjacent building has been demolished. It has pedimented 18th-century doorways, several later alterations, and has recently been restored. There was formerly a range of Georgian houses on the west side of the Square, which included the schoolmaster's house and the Vicarage. (fn. 80) The latter was built in 1769 and re-fronted in the late 18th century. It was demolished in 1875, (fn. 81) when the Venetian Gothic building occupied by Lloyds Bank was erected on the site. (fn. 82) The Peacock Hotel, at the junction of the Square and St. Mary's Street, is an L-shaped ironstone building of c. 1700. It retains original dormer windows and a heavy modillion cornice. Among other alterations the front wing was extended in 1872. (fn. 83)
In the 18th and early 19th centuries the more humble dwellings were built mostly in terraced rows in back streets and in the yards and alleys behind the larger houses. Many of these rows were cleared away between the First and Second World Wars. (fn. 84) Typical examples which remain are Angel Row behind the Angel Hotel and King's Head Place. There are similar small houses in Bowden Lane and at the south end of Leicester Road.
By 1839 there were a few houses on the north side of St. Mary's Road (fn. 85) but in the main the street was built up after the middle of the 19th century when it became the link between the town and the station. Coventry Road, formerly Lubenham Lane, was developed from the late 19th century onwards, as were the streets of small houses to the north of it. The high ground to the north of the town has been the most favoured residential area since the 18th century. The Elms, an important house standing in its own grounds, is thought to have been first built by John Massey c. 1700. (fn. 86) The west side of the building and some of its internal fittings are of this date. The east wing, which has an Ionic porch and a very tall round-headed staircase window, is a late18th-century addition. Apparently the original house was given an extra story at the same time. Further north The Poplars has an impressive late-18thcentury front, flanked by screen walls. In the same area are Fairlawn and Park House, built in the 1880's by Robert and W. H. Symington respectively. (fn. 87) Fairlawn was designed by William Knight and incorporates a variety of building materials and elaborate architectural detail. Park House is a large mansion in the style of the French Second Empire. In 1958 it was occupied by government offices and the grounds were laid out as building sites for bungalows. Further north along the Leicester road are later detached houses. Burnmill Road is developed on similar lines. East of this are the large Council housing estates known as Bowden Fields and St. Mary's, mostly built between the two world wars. Facing the Leicester road at the extreme north end of the town the former workhouse has a dignified brick front of 1836. (fn. 88)
Much of the built-up area of Harborough and several of its factories lie in the former parish of Little Bowden beyond the River Welland, the ancient boundary of both town and county. The Northampton road, running south from Welland Bridge, contains a few early-19th-century terraces and detached houses at its northern end. South of these the development is almost entirely of the later 19th century. Also south of the river and to the west of the Northampton road is the large Southern Estate, begun by the Urban District Council in 1951 and intended on completion to include nearly 1,000 houses. (fn. 89)
In 1642 Harborough was plundered by the royalists under Prince Rupert. (fn. 90) On 5 June 1645 Charles I had his headquarters in the town, but the royalists then marched westwards. (fn. 91) On 13 June the royal army was quartered in the town, though the king himself seems to have slept elsewhere. (fn. 92) After Naseby, fought on 14 June, the parliamentarians pursued the king's forces through the town, and themselves lodged there for the night. (fn. 93) The royalist prisoners were detained in the church. (fn. 94)
To the north-east of High Street are the remains of a rectangular earthwork. In 1957 only a few yards of bank were still visible, and the site was largely built over. At the end of the 18th century, when a plan was drawn, (fn. 95) much more was visible. The line of the entrenchment was then followed in part by the boundary of a field known as the King's Head Close. So far as can be discovered from the available information, the earthwork was approximately square, and about 180 yds. along each side. It has never been systematically excavated, but fragments of 1st- and 2nd-century Roman pottery have been found on the site, which is probably that of a Roman camp.
A rough masonry drain running down High Street, discovered in 1788, was then thought to be Roman, (fn. 96) but a more recent inspection (fn. 97) of what appears to be the same work shows it to date from a much later period, perhaps the 17th century.
In 1086 the king held 9½ carucates in Great Bowden, which had previously been held by Edward the Confessor. These lands belonged to the royal soke of Bowden, which also included land at Carlton Curlieu, Cranoe, Galby, Illston, King's Norton, Medbourne, Shangton, Stretton, Smeeton Westerby, Foxton, Blaston, and Theddingworth. (fn. 98) At the same date the Countess Judith held 3 carucates in Great Bowden, and had subinfeudated them to Robert de Buci. It is not known who was the pre-Conquest holder of this land. (fn. 99) During the 12th century most of the lands outside Great Bowden belonging to the royal soke were granted away. (fn. 100) Harborough is not mentioned in Domesday, and perhaps did not exist in 1086. The Countess Judith's holding, like most of her other lands, seems to have become part of the honor of Huntingdon, as some land at Great Bowden belonging to the honor is mentioned in 1375, (fn. 101) but the descent of the holding has not been traced further.
In 1190 the king granted lands in Great Bowden and Harborough worth £17 10s. yearly to William de Filgeriis, to hold during pleasure. (fn. 102) William remained in possession until 1203, when King John granted them during pleasure to William de Cantilupe. (fn. 103) Cantilupe entrusted the manors to his brother, Roger Orget, who was in possession in 1221. (fn. 104) On Roger's death the lands were seized by the sheriff, and seem to have been in the king's hands in 1227-9. In 1229, however, the king granted them anew to William de Cantilupe. (fn. 105) It is probable that Cantilupe held all the king's lands at Great Bowden and Market Harborough, as the property held by him is described as the manors of BOWDEN and HARBOROUGH. (fn. 106) The question how far Bowden and Harborough ever formed separate manors is discussed below. (fn. 107) In 1237 the manors were granted to Cantilupe's son William de Cantilupe the younger for life. (fn. 108) The younger Cantilupe held them until he died in 1250 or 1251. (fn. 109) By 1251 the manors were again in the king's hands. (fn. 110) In June 1257 Great Bowden and Harborough were granted to a Welsh prince, Gruffydd son of Gwenwynwyn, to hold during pleasure. (fn. 111) Gruffydd had ceased to hold the manors by 1265, when they were farmed out by the king. (fn. 112) In 1267 the manors were granted to Eleanor, wife of the king's eldest son Edward. (fn. 113) After Queen Eleanor died late in 1290 they were held by the king, and in February 1292 were let to farm for £58 13s. 4d. yearly, payable to Eleanor's executors. (fn. 114) In 1299 the manors were assigned to Edward I's second wife Margaret, (fn. 115) and she duly entered upon them. (fn. 116) When Queen Margaret died in 1318 the lands were granted to Isabel, wife of Edward II. (fn. 117) In 1330 Edward III granted them to his brother John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall. (fn. 118) John died without issue in September 1336, and they again came into the king's hands.
In October 1336 the manors of Bowden and Harborough were granted to Geoffrey le Scrope, of Masham (Yorks.), in fee. (fn. 119) They continued to be held by the Scrope family until 1415, when Henry le Scrope, Lord Scrope of Masham, was executed and his lands confiscated. (fn. 120) A few days after the execution Great Bowden and Harborough were granted to William Porter, one of the king's esquires, to hold so long as they were in the king's hands. (fn. 121) Henry le Scrope's brother and heir John claimed the manors on the grounds that they had been entailed. In 1424 an inquiry into his claim was ordered, and it was found to be correct. (fn. 122) John recovered the lands, and died possessed of the manors, in 1456. (fn. 123) The Scrope family remained lords of Bowden and Harborough until the death without issue of Geoffrey le Scrope in 1517, (fn. 124) when his lands were partitioned amongst his heirs. These were his sister Margery, wife of Sir Christopher Danby, and the representatives of two other sisters who had predeceased Geoffrey, Alice, who had married Sir James Strangways, and Elizabeth, who had married Sir Ralph Fitzrandolf. Alice's representative was her son, Sir James Strangways the younger. Elizabeth Fitzrandolf's representatives were her three daughters Elizabeth, wife of Nicholas Strelley, Agnes, wife of Marmaduke Wyvill, and Dorothy, wife of Lancelot Ashe, together with Ralph Dransfeld, son of a fourth daughter. (fn. 125) There is no evidence that Margery Danby or any of her descendants obtained any property at Bowden or Harborough, but the younger Strangways obtained the advowson of Great Bowden and some land there, (fn. 126) and Elizabeth Fitzrandolf's four representatives all seem to have acquired portions of the manors. Ralph Dransfeld died without issue, and his share descended to Christopher Wyvill, son and heir of Marmaduke and Agnes. (fn. 127) In 1557 Marmaduke and Christopher Wyvill conveyed their share of the manors to Sir Edward Griffin of Dingley, the Attorney-General. (fn. 128) In 1541 Robert Strelley purchased Nicholas Strelley's share, (fn. 129) and in 1543 he also bought the share that had fallen to Lancelot and Dorothy Ashe. (fn. 130) Strelley also bought much other property at Harborough and Great Bowden, (fn. 131) and must have accumulated a considerable estate there. He died without issue in 1554, and left property described as two-thirds of the manors of Bowden and Harborough to his wife Frideswide for life, with remainder to his nephew William Saville. (fn. 132) One-third of Robert's property in Great Bowden and Harborough escheated to the Crown at his death, but Frideswide, a lady of Queen Mary's bedchamber, obtained a grant of the third part. (fn. 133) In 1561 Frideswide granted property described as one-third of a half, and one-third of a moiety of a quarter, of the manor of Harborough and Bowden to Edward Griffin. (fn. 134) Presumably this was the property granted to her by the Crown in 1555.
Frideswide evidently retained the rest of the lands once held by her husband, for she continued to hold part of the manors until 1565, when she was succeeded by William Saville. (fn. 135) In 1565-9 Griffin and Saville were joint lords. (fn. 136) Griffin died in 1569 and was replaced by his relict Elizabeth, mentioned in the court rolls as Elizabeth Stonor, who held part of the manor for life. (fn. 137) Elizabeth later married Oliver, Lord St. John of Bletso, and in 1571-3 the manors were owned jointly by Saville and by Lord St. John in right of his wife. (fn. 138) In 1573 Saville was replaced by Edward Griffin, the son of the Sir Edward who died in 1569. (fn. 139) It seems likely that Griffin had bought Saville's share of the manors. Griffin and St. John were still joint lords in 1577. (fn. 140) Presumably Edward Griffin inherited his mother's share of the manors eventually. His son Thomas sold them to John, Lord Stanhope, in 1611. (fn. 141) In 1617 Stanhope granted the manors to the Crown, and received them back to hold as 1/20 knight's fee, and by the payment of £6 6s. 7d. yearly. (fn. 142) His successor Charles, Lord Stanhope, sold the manors in 1656 to John Sprigge, Simon Buttriss, and John Bliss. (fn. 143) In January 1674 Bliss and Sprigge were joint lords. (fn. 144) Later in 1674 the joint lords were Sir William Halford and John Bliss, in 1684 Halford and Philip Bliss, and in 1708 Philip Bliss and John Massey. (fn. 145) Philip Bliss died in 1714, and was succeeded as owner of one moiety first by his relict Jane, then by his son, another Philip Bliss, who died in 1775, and then by his grandson, a third Philip Bliss. (fn. 146) Massey sold his portion of the manors in 1708 to Thomas Durrad, who was succeeded in or before 1722 by John Durrad of Misterton. John died in or shortly before 1726, and was succeeded by another John Durrad, (fn. 147) who was still a joint lord in 1741. (fn. 148) By 1762 the Durrad portion was held by John Sunderland, Dorcas Morris, and others. (fn. 149) In 1776 one-half of the manors was owned by Philip Bliss, one-third by John Sunderland, and one-sixth by Elizabeth Cogan. (fn. 150) In 1785 Robert Sherrard, Earl of Harborough, bought the whole of the manors. (fn. 151) The earls of Harborough continued to hold the manors until after 1854. (fn. 152) In 1867 the lord of the manors was Henry Morgan Vane. (fn. 153) The manors were still held by the Morgan Vane family in 1957. (fn. 154)
The NORWICH manor at Harborough seems to have been a part of the manors of Bowden and Harborough that had been subinfeudated. In 1502 John Norwich held 11 virgates at Harborough and Great Bowden, held of the manor of Harborough by a rent of £1 yearly. (fn. 155) In 1588 Simon Norwich died possessed of a manor at Harborough and Great Bowden, held from the manors of Harborough and Bowden by suit of court and a rent of 19s. yearly. He was succeeded by his son Charles. The Norwich family seems to have retained the manor until it was sold to Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, c. 1740. About 1800 the lord of the manor was Earl Spencer, one of the duchess's descendants. At that date 19s. yearly was paid to the Earl of Harborough, as overlord. (fn. 156) The history of this manor, which had become almost valueless by the end of the 18th century, (fn. 157) has not been traced further.
While the Norwich manor was clearly a separate entity, it is doubtful how far it is true to say that separate manors of Great Bowden and of Harborough existed. It is certainly true that in the 16th century separate courts were held for each manor, (fn. 158) but the property is referred to as one manor or two indifferently, (fn. 159) and it is notable that despite the partitions that took place there never seems to have been any attempt to separate Harborough and Great Bowden, and to allot them to different owners.
The VILLIERS manor is of uncertain origin. In 1471 Richard, Lord de la Warr, possessed land at Great Bowden described as a manor. (fn. 160) From him the holding descended to Thomas, Lord de la Warr, who was in possession in 1493. (fn. 161) After Thomas's death in 1525 the manor seems to have passed to his son, another Thomas, Lord de la Warr, and from him to Edward Villiers and his wife Margaret, who were apparently in possession in 1531. (fn. 162) Subsequently the manor descended to a Richard Villiers, who was holding in 1574. (fn. 163) The subsequent descent of this holding has not been traced.
Harborough is first mentioned in the Pipe Roll for 1176-7. (fn. 164) In that year 7 marks of aid were paid by Harborough and 8½ marks by Great Bowden. (fn. 165) In the next year Harborough paid 3½ marks aid, and Great Bowden 2 marks. (fn. 166) It would seem from this that Harborough was roughly comparable in size to Great Bowden, itself probably a village larger than the average. How long Harborough had existed before 1177 is unknown, but it is possible that it came into being during the first half of the 12th century. (fn. 167)
In 1202-3 Harborough township paid 3 marks to have a market. (fn. 168) No grant of the market is known. In 1219 the king ordered the Sheriff of Northamptonshire to inquire whether a new market at Rothwell in that county was being held on Mondays, as it had been reported that the new market was harming that at Harborough, usually held on the same day. (fn. 169) In 1221, however, the Harborough market was transferred to Tuesday, (fn. 170) on which day it was still being held in 1957. Evidently by the early 13th century Harborough was already a trading centre, though probably only a minor one. The fact that the town never had its own fields (fn. 171) indicates that from the first it had been primarily a trading settlement, though it seems possible that some land in Great Bowden fields was attached to the town. (fn. 172)
In the 14th century there is more evidence for commercial activity at Harborough. Some trading in wool was then carried on. (fn. 173) Stalls in the town, which may have been in the market place, and the shambles are mentioned frequently. (fn. 174) Some estimate of Harborough's relative importance at this period can be made from the 1334 tax assessments. Harborough's assessment, £6 8s., was less than the £7 13s. 4d. levied on Great Bowden, and less than the sums levied on Hallaton and Great Easton. (fn. 175) The poll tax returns of 1381 list 133 persons taxed at Harborough, including 15 described as craftsmen, 14 artificers, 5 merchants, and 8 victuallers. (fn. 176) The annual fair at Harborough is first mentioned in 1416. (fn. 177) No royal grant of a fair is known, but it may have been obtained at the same time as a market was granted. The wool trade evidently continued to some extent, as woolmen of Harborough are mentioned in the 15th century, (fn. 178) and Thomas Gilbert of Harborough, a merchant of the staple, occurs in 1470. (fn. 179)
According to Nichols, (fn. 180) who apparently derived his information from the Harborough antiquary Rowland Rouse, shoes were manufactured on a large scale at Harborough under Elizabeth I. There does not seem to be any evidence for this statement, and it is unlikely that there was any wholesale production of shoes at so early a period. The town's commercial activity probably centred upon its market and fair. The fair was proclaimed yearly on 8 October, and held on 9 October, the feast of St. Denis, and the eight following days. By the 17th century it was already noted for horses, cattle, and sheep. (fn. 181) By 1569 the horses were already being sold on the Horsefair Leas (later George Close, in Fairfield Road), which lay at the north end of the town near the Leicester road. (fn. 182)
In 1637 it was said that Harborough was a 'great thoroughfare and consisted most of inns and tradesmen'. (fn. 183) It is clear, however, that agriculture remained one of the town's chief interests in the 17th century. As Harborough had no separate fields the inhabitants pastured their stock in Great Bowden fields, which almost surrounded the town. The town herd of Harborough, pasturing in Great Bowden fields, is mentioned in 1634 as having long existed. (fn. 184) A serious dispute arose between some of the town's inhabitants and the owners of land in the fields. Two actions were brought in 1626 over the common rights claimed by the inhabitants of Harborough, (fn. 185) and another in 1634. (fn. 186) In all these cases the Harborough men vindicated their claims. (fn. 187) In 1637 a suit in Chancery was begun between some inhabitants of Harborough and the owners of land in the common fields. (fn. 188) It was stated on behalf of the Harborough men that there were 72 ancient cottages in the town, to each of which were attached common rights for one cow and 5 sheep in Great Bowden fields. If the occupant of any cottage was a tradesman, he could also pasture 2 horses, one hackney and one packhorse: if not a tradesman, only one horse. A bull could be pastured with the herd from the cottages, and also a herd of swine. There were, too, in Great Bowden fields 72 separate acre heads, one for each cottage, on which the cottagers could tether livestock. For the landowners it was stated that there were anciently in Great Bowden fields 18 carucates, 3 of which belonged to Harborough and were known as Harborough lands. Most of the 3 carucates, it was said, had been sold to residents of Great Bowden, but at the time of sale the Harborough men had reserved to themselves pasture for 72 cows, one bull, and 300 sheep in all, and also the acre heads. It was stated that while some cottages had two or three heads attached, others had none. It was alleged that the Harborough men had been overstocking the pasture by putting large numbers of horses on it. The case was settled by arbitrators, who laid down that the owner of each cottage might pasture one horse, one cow, 5 sheep, and 4 swine. Under the Great Bowden inclosure award of 1777 small allotments of land were made to the owners of the 72 cottages in Harborough in place of their pasture rights. (fn. 189)
In 1670 hearth tax was levied on 124 houses in Harborough, and a further 35 were exempt from tax because of poverty. (fn. 190) The town was then only a little larger than Great Bowden. In 1699 an attempt, apparently abortive, was made to establish a new fair at Harborough. (fn. 191) During the 18th century the market and fair continued to flourish. In 1750 a new fair was established on 29 April yearly. (fn. 192) In 1772 additional fairs were established on 6 January and 31 July, (fn. 193) and in 1779 a further one on 16 February. (fn. 194) About 1800 three more fairs were set up, on the first Tuesday after 8 December, the first Tuesday after 2 March, and the third Tuesday in Lent. (fn. 195) By 1830 there were also fairs on 19 October, and on Tuesday before 22 November. (fn. 196) A yearly fair was still held in the middle of October in 1957. The road traffic passing through the town must have been a considerable source of profit. The chief roads leading to Harborough were turnpiked in the mid18th century, (fn. 197) and by 1764 there were three coaches daily in each direction between London and Nottingham passing through the town, and three more each way between London and Derby. (fn. 198) In the late 18th century much grain was carried into Leicestershire, then largely pasture, (fn. 199) and in 1798 Harborough was described as an important thoroughfare town. (fn. 200)
From the mid-18th century onwards woollen manufacture grew up in the town. In 1764 it was said that there was a considerable manufacture of fine worsted or 'tammy' in and around Harborough, and that much worsted cloth, with some shalloons and much yarn and jersey, was marketed there. (fn. 201) Similar manufactures developed at Kettering (Northants.), some 10 miles away. (fn. 202) In the late 18th century the town seems to have been prosperous and there was much rebuilding. (fn. 203) A map of Harborough drawn in 1776 (fn. 204) shows the town's buildings nearly all grouped along High Street and the Square, with a few along the rather insignificant side lanes, and indeed during the 18th century visitors described it as consisting of a single street only. (fn. 205) By 1798 the town had already begun to expand outside its own township into Great and Little Bowden. (fn. 206) The construction of a branch canal to the town, completed in 1809, no doubt contributed to its prosperity. (fn. 207)
The tammy manufacture declined about 1810. (fn. 208) It was replaced for a time by the manufacture of carpets, which was carried on in a factory near the town centre. (fn. 209) In 1843 a private bank which had been established in the town failed disastrously, (fn. 210) and this was followed by the closing of the carpet factory. (fn. 211) The building of railways in the Midlands, even before the first line reached Harborough in 1850, (fn. 212) much reduced the coach traffic which had been one source of the town's prosperity, (fn. 213) and in the mid-19th century there seems to have been some unemployment. (fn. 214) New industries, however, were being set up, some of them just south of the Chain Bridge, along the Northampton road. A large brewery had been built there about 1800. (fn. 215) About 1831 William Symington, a young Scotsman who had been selling tea and coffee in Harborough, acquired premises south of the Chain Bridge. (fn. 216) He seems at first to have been chiefly a tea wholesaler, (fn. 217) but in time his business became a large food preparing concern. (fn. 218) By 1839 there was also a coachbuilding works on the Northampton road. (fn. 219) These industrial establishments lay in Little Bowden, but in fact they were an outgrowth of Harborough, and must have given employment for many of the town's inhabitants. By 1846 Harborough also possessed a worsted mill and a silk factory. (fn. 220) The worsted mill was closed in 1861, but in 1866 boot and shoe manufacture was begun in the same premises. (fn. 221) The most important development, however, was the creation by James Symington, William Symington's brother, of a stay-making business. James Symington first came to Harborough in 1830, and established himself as a tailor and draper, (fn. 222) but before long he became, in association with his wife, a stay-maker. (fn. 223) The business was at first small, and it was not until 1850 that Symington first leased a building as a workshop. (fn. 224) The introduction of Singer sewing machines in 1856 led to expansion. (fn. 225) About 1861 part of the former carpet factory was purchased, (fn. 226) and in these premises, and making great use of outworkers, James Symington and his sons built up the manufacture of corsets for the wholesale trade. (fn. 227) The rest of the carpet factory was bought in 1876, (fn. 228) and in 1884 a large new factory was built. (fn. 229) This building, with its subsequent additions, still dominated the centre of Harborough in 1957.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries Harborough was a centre of fox-hunting in the east Midlands. To the south lay the Pytchley country, to the north territory belonging first to the Quorn and later to the Fernie. (fn. 230) This central position, and no doubt the existence of some good inns established to serve the coaching traffic, made Harborough a favourite winter residence for the wealthy followers of the fashionable east Midland hunts, though it never became so great a hunting centre as Melton Mowbray. In 1808 it was already noted that the town was frequented in winter by the followers of the Quorn and Pytchley. (fn. 231) The hunting society of the town as it was about the middle of the 19th century is depicted in Whyte-Melville's novel. (fn. 232) Harborough's greatest days as a hunting centre were perhaps in the years 1900-14, when many houses there were regularly rented by hunting men. (fn. 233)
The growth of Harborough resulted in problems of public health common to most 19th-century towns. In 1864-7 some sewers were laid down by the Board of Guardians, (fn. 234) but as time went on they proved increasingly inadequate. In 1849 the death rate in Harborough was 30 per mille, as against 21 for Great Bowden. (fn. 235) In that year some of the inhabitants petitioned for the 1848 Public Health Act to be applied to Harborough, (fn. 236) and in consequence an inspection was made for the Board of Health. (fn. 237) A very unsatisfactory position was revealed. The walls of many houses, particularly near the river, were very damp. There were a number of back-toback houses and several narrow and unhealthy courts. In some houses the only sanitary conveniences were tubs placed in recesses, and periodically emptied into the Welland. The main sewer was still the covered-in brook which ran down High Street from the Folly Pond to the river. Four public drains, only 1½ or 2 ft. below the surface, were connected to this. Despite this report very little was done, though the vestry set up a sanitary committee. (fn. 238) No local board of health was established until 1880, when a board was constituted with authority over the whole of Great Bowden and Harborough, and over much of Little Bowden. (fn. 239) In 1881-3 new sewers were laid down for the whole area under the board, (fn. 240) and much else was done in 1880-90 to improve the town's hygiene. (fn. 241) An analysis in 1886 of the water from the public and private wells that were the town's main source of drinking water showed that many of them were badly polluted, and only one produced water really fit for drinking. (fn. 242) The need for a piped water supply was clear, and in 1890 water was laid on from wells at Husbands Bosworth and North Kilworth. (fn. 243) The fall in the death rate, from a yearly average of 20 per mille in 1880-5, to 15 per mille in 1890-5, (fn. 244) shows how effective the local board's measures were.
By the late 19th century the town of Harborough was spreading well outside the township. In 1894 it was said that the township was nearly all built over, and then contained 520 houses, with no new ones under construction. In the suburb that had grown up in the adjacent parts of Great Bowden there were 281 houses and 30 more under construction, and in the suburb in Little Bowden there were 222 houses and 12 being built. (fn. 245) In the 20th century this process has continued, and the township has become surrounded by a belt of relatively recent building, much of it in Great Bowden township. The factory of R. and W. H. Symington still remained in 1957 the largest single industrial concern in the town. Amongst other factories are the large food manufacturing works of William Symington & Co. and the works of the Harborough Rubber Co.; the town also produces accumulators, power-driven trolleys, wooden heels for shoes, bent timber, and industrial brushes. (fn. 246) The market still existed in 1957. During the late 19th century there were constant complaints about the nuisance caused by stalls and livestock in High Street on market days. (fn. 247) The market rights were bought from the lord of the manor in 1900 by the Urban District Council, (fn. 248) and in 1903 a new cattle market was opened to the south of the Welland. (fn. 249) A new covered market for retail stalls was built in 1928. (fn. 250) In 1957 a market for livestock was held on the first Tuesday of every month.
A mill owned by the king at Harborough is mentioned in 1176-7, when it was being farmed for 5s. a year. (fn. 251) When land in Great Bowden and Harborough was given to William de Filgeriis in 1190 (fn. 252) the mill was apparently granted to him also, as for 1192-3 and subsequent years the farm of the mill is not accounted for on the Pipe Rolls. A mill attached to the manors of Harborough and Great Bowden, possibly the same one, is mentioned in 1351. (fn. 253)
In 1489 Lambert Joll granted to John March and his wife a horse-mill at Harborough, built into a house. (fn. 254) A horse-mill, apparently at Harborough, and perhaps the same as that existing in 1489, is mentioned in a will proved in 1521; it was evidently used for fulling. (fn. 255) A malt-mill belonging to the Harborough town estate is mentioned in 1608 (fn. 256) and 1637. (fn. 257) A windmill at Harborough, immediately to the east of the town, is marked on a map of 1839, (fn. 258) and a corn miller there is mentioned in 1846. (fn. 259) The windmill was still standing in 1895, (fn. 260) but not in 1899. (fn. 261)
There is no trace of burghal institutions at Market Harborough during the Middle Ages, but the township always seems to have formed a separate unit for civil purposes. Separate churchwardens for Harborough, distinct from those of Great Bowden, are mentioned in 1510. (fn. 262) Separate overseers for the poor are mentioned in 1622, (fn. 263) and it is very probable that from the start of the parochial poor relief system Harborough maintained its own poor separately from Great Bowden. Surveyors of the highways for the township are not mentioned until 1694. (fn. 264) From at least 1606 onwards the town had its own constables, apparently two simultaneously until about 1610, (fn. 265) and subsequently one. (fn. 266) A town lock-up, known as the Cage, existed by 1607. (fn. 267) About 1760 a guard house for the constable was built near the grammar school. (fn. 268) It was pulled down in 1822. (fn. 269)
Under Elizabeth I the court baron of Harborough manor was certainly very active. Many pleas of debt and trespass were heard, property was secured by fines and recoveries closely modelled on those of the royal courts, and wills were proved. (fn. 270) The manor court rolls are only extant for 1562-77, (fn. 271) and it is impossible to assess accurately the court's activity at other periods. Wills were still being proved in the court in 1593, (fn. 272) fines were still being levied there at least up to 1674, (fn. 273) and a recovery was suffered there as late as 1719. (fn. 274) During the 19th century the court leet met at intervals, chiefly to hear presentments for encroachments on the waste, and to appoint a jury which perambulated the township's bounds. (fn. 275) By about 1920 it had ceased to meet. (fn. 276)
An almshouse maintained by the town estate feoffees, and mentioned in 1609 and 1613, (fn. 277) may have been a parish poorhouse, but the town had no workhouse until in or shortly before 1728 the town estate feoffees converted several small houses belonging to the charity. (fn. 278)
The feoffees played an important part in other spheres of local administration. (fn. 279) The workhouse seems from the start to have been maintained from the poor rates, and not at the expense of the town estate. (fn. 280) In 1780 there were about 20-25 people in the workhouse. (fn. 281) In 1793 Joseph Tilley agreed to become the workhouse master, and to bear all the expenses involved, for £4 4s. a week. A year later he renewed the agreement, for £5 5s. a week. (fn. 282) One of his duties was to teach pauper children in the workhouse to read. (fn. 283) In 1796-7 the practice was adopted of paying the master 2s. 6d. a week for every pauper in the workhouse. (fn. 284) In 1796-7 there were usually 15-20 people in the house. (fn. 285) In 1798-9 the master was allowed £6 a week, (fn. 286) but in 1800 the overseers began to pay all the workhouse charges directly. (fn. 287) Some attempt was evidently made to employ the poor in the house, as wool and spindles are mentioned among the house's equipment in 1794 (fn. 288) and four jersey wheels were purchased for the house in 1799. (fn. 289) It seems very doubtful, however, whether any workhouse test was systematically imposed, as large sums were spent on out-relief. In the year ending Easter 1803 £682 was spent on out-relief, as against £283 on the workhouse; 22 people were relieved in the workhouse, and 48 adults and 55 children received out-relief. (fn. 290) In or just before 1801 the workhouse was rebuilt by the overseers. (fn. 291) By 1801 the overseers were also making use of 5 other tenements, mistakenly supposed then to belong to the town estate, to house the poor. (fn. 292) In 1836 the town was included in the Market Harborough Poor Law Union, and in 1837 the workhouse, and the other buildings used by the overseers to house the poor, were given up to the Poor Law Commissioners, (fn. 293) although the workhouse itself had certainly once been part of the town estate. (fn. 294) In 1839 the old workhouse was sold by the Commissioners to defray Harborough's share of the new union workhouse, (fn. 295) which had been built in 1836-7 in Great Bowden township, at the north end of Harborough town. (fn. 296)
Under the Sturges Bourne Act of 1819 (fn. 297) a select vestry was established for Harborough. (fn. 298) It set up ad hoc committees from time to time, such as those created in 1822 to reassess the township for rating (fn. 299) and in 1825 to arrange for the lighting of the town by subscription. (fn. 300) The only permanent committee, however, was the public health committee, set up in 1849, apparently because the vestry was alarmed lest the Public Health Act of 1848 might be put into force in the town. (fn. 301) The vestry continued to impose a church rate until 1866, though from about 1855 onwards there was much opposition to the levy. (fn. 302)
The select vestry was replaced in 1880 by the Market Harborough, Great and Little Bowden Local Board. (fn. 303) A burial board for Market Harborough was formed in 1875. (fn. 304) In 1895 an urban district council was set up with jurisdiction over Harborough, Great Bowden, and Little Bowden, (fn. 305) and in 1957 it was still the local authority for Harborough.
Market Harborough chapel is first mentioned about 1220, when it was dependent upon St. Mary's in Arden, itself a chapel of Great Bowden. Harborough then had a resident chaplain. (fn. 306) From the 13th century until 1546 Harborough seems to have been served by resident chaplains subordinate to the Rector of Great Bowden. The chaplains at Harborough are mentioned several times, (fn. 307) and in 1540 a house was devised for the use of the Harborough curate and his successors. (fn. 308) Sometimes at least the chaplain had the assistance of a second priest. (fn. 309)
When Great Bowden rectory was appropriated to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1546, (fn. 310) no special provision was made for serving Harborough chapel. From shortly after the appropriation until 1613 there seem to have been separate curates for Great Bowden, St. Mary's, and Harborough, and so far as can be seen the curate at Harborough was not in any way subordinate to the one at Great Bowden. (fn. 311) In 1613 the Bishop of Lincoln decreed that for the future St. Mary's should be served by the curate of Harborough, who should receive the income hitherto paid to the curate of St. Mary's. Harborough chapel was to be the regular place of worship for those who had previously used St. Mary's, which, however, was to be kept in repair and to have services celebrated in it on certain days in the year. The chief reason given for uniting the two cures was that the stipend of St. Mary's was so small that no satisfactory clergyman would undertake the cure. (fn. 312) They have remained united ever since.
After the appropriation of Great Bowden rectory Harborough seems to have been considered as a separate benefice, not dependent on Great Bowden. By 1879 it was styled a vicarage. (fn. 313) In 1901 the area in the cure of the Vicar of Harborough, previously limited to Harborough township, (fn. 314) was greatly enlarged by the addition of the whole southern portion of Great Bowden township, previously in the cure of Great Bowden. (fn. 315)
After 1546 the advowson passed through the same hands as that of Great Bowden. (fn. 316)
In 1526 the curate of Harborough and the stipendiary serving under him were both being paid £5 6s. 8d. a year. (fn. 317) Some years after the appropriation of Great Bowden the curate at Harborough was receiving £10 a year, (fn. 318) and in 1603 his stipend was still the same. (fn. 319) From 1621 onwards the curate rereceived an annual payment from Smyth's lectureship, (fn. 320) though this was not strictly speaking part of his salary. In 1638 there were suspicions that the farmers of the rectory were withholding funds that the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church had ordered to be paid to the curate in augmentation of his salary. (fn. 321) In 1662 the curate of Harborough was receiving £36 a year, and this included his salary as curate of St. Mary's. (fn. 322) In 1764 it was stated that the minister at Harborough was paid £36 a year from Christ Church, £26 13s. 4d. from Smyth's charity, and £14 4s. from the rent of St. Mary's churchyard and of various small properties in Harborough, (fn. 323) a total of £76 17s. 4d. These small properties apparently originated in gifts made by Richard Weston and Gabriel Barbor, and perhaps included the house given for the curate in 1540. (fn. 324) In 1769 two houses belonging to the living were demolished, and a parsonage built on the site. (fn. 325) At some date before 1808 the minister of Harborough was allotted about 27 a. of glebe in place of the money payment from Christ Church. (fn. 326) A return made in 1826, when the augmentation of the living was being contemplated, gives the income from the glebe and other property as £76 8s. and the income from Easter offerings and fees as perhaps about £30. (fn. 327) In 1827 the living was augmented by a grant of £200 from Queen Anne's Bounty, and the same amount from the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church. (fn. 328) In 1836 the living was again augmented by grants of £200 from the same two bodies. (fn. 329)
In 1368 Thomas Marshall gave to the chaplain of the Fraternity of the Holy Cross at Harborough a yearly rent of 1d. payable from a house at Harborough, with the reversion of the house after the lives of the existing tenants. (fn. 330) Nothing further is known of this guild.
In 1606 Robert Smyth (fn. 331) gave £100 as the endowment of a lectureship at Harborough. (fn. 332) In the following years Smyth made some alterations in the endowment of the lectureship, but finally in 1621 it was laid down that the lecturer was to be paid £26 13s. 4d. a year, in return for giving a lecture every Sunday and Tuesday. (fn. 333) The lectureship seems always to have been held by the curate of Harborough. (fn. 334) The yearly income was to be paid by the Chamberlain of London, with whom Smyth had deposited a capital sum as endowment. (fn. 335) About 1700 the giving of the lectures was abandoned, but prayers were read instead. (fn. 336) In 1957 the income from the endowment was still being paid to the vicar. (fn. 337)
Richard Weston, who owned property at Harborough c. 1630-40, (fn. 338) gave three tenements and a 'homestead' in the town for the use of the minister who was giving Smyth's lectures. (fn. 339) The exact terms on which this property was given are not known. It came to be considered as part of the endowment of the benefice. (fn. 340)
A parsonage was first built for Harborough in 1769. (fn. 341) This remained in use until 1875, when a new house was built in Lubenham Lane. (fn. 342) In 1956 a new Vicarage was provided on Burnmill Road. (fn. 343)
In the late 16th and the 17th centuries the ministers at Harborough seem often to have been unsatisfactory in character and education. (fn. 344) In the 18th century it was usual for the living to be given to a Student of Christ Church, (fn. 345) and the ministers, though men of better standing, were sometimes absentees. (fn. 346) In 1832 the archdeacon noted that at Harborough there were two full services every Sunday, and a service every Wednesday and Friday as well. Communion was celebrated once a month. The minister resided. (fn. 347) Harborough was thus more adequately served than most churches in the county. Ten years later the same services were still being held. (fn. 348)
The church of ST. DIONYSIUS stands in Church Square, formerly Chapel Yard, and has no graveyard surrounding it. The building consists of a nave and chancel, both with clerestories, north and south aisles, north and south porches, and west tower. The tower and porches are faced with limestone ashlar, the rest of the building being of ironstone with limestone dressings. The tower and broach spire, dating from soon after 1300, are very fine examples of their period.
A church is known to have existed in 1220, (fn. 349) but very little of the present structure appears to be of this date. The responds of the chancel arch have early-13th-century 'water-holding' bases and the foundations of the chancel may belong to the first church. Rebuilding was evidently started at the end of the 13th century and completed about 50 years later. The tower, 154 ft. high to the top of the spire, rises in four stages and has diminishing buttresses at the angles. Above the west doorway is a window with forking tracery of c. 1300. At the third stage are triple niches surmounted by crocketted canopies and pinnacles. The tall belfry stage, divided from the one below by a band of quatrefoils, has paired two-light windows containing reticulated tracery. Above them is another band of quatrefoils and, immediately below the spire, an arcaded corbel table. The spire is tall and slender, with crockets to the angles. There are two tiers of lights, widely spaced. Both these and the broaches are comparatively small and do not interrupt the main outline of the spire. The nave, aisles, and porches were probably built in the early 14th century, but were subsequently much altered. The three large chancel windows on the south side show the transition from early to fully developed Decorated tracery. The north windows were similar but one is now missing. The flowing tracery in the five-light east windows has been replaced, but is said to be a copy of the original. The chancel retains two sedilia, probably re-cut, and a south doorway, now blocked.
The church was much altered in the 15th century when the nave arcades were reconstructed, clerestories were added to both nave and chancel, and the whole building was raised in height and re-roofed. At the same time the aisles were given new windows. An exception appears to be the most easterly window on the south side, which, although square-headed, has mouldings of the 14th century. It may have belonged to a chapel which was already in existence when the aisles were altered. The north and south porches, which are of two stories, were probably raised in height in the 15th century. The whole body of the church has uniform embattled parapets and the general appearance of the building, apart from the chancel windows and the tower, is Perpendicular in style.
In 1518 it was reported that the chancel walls and roof needed repair. (fn. 350) Although small repairs were ordered at the archdeacons' visitations, the church was generally in good condition in the 17th century. (fn. 351) In 1626 it was said that the study over the north porch had been beautified by the townsfolk at their own expense and furnished with books. (fn. 352) Panelling which still lines this room, now a vestry, may have been part of these improvements. A faculty was granted in 1683 for the erection of a gallery at the west end of the south aisle. (fn. 353) Early in 1735 the upper part of the spire was brought down by wind and, when repaired, was shortened by several feet. (fn. 354) A major refitting of the interior took place in the middle of the 18th century. (fn. 355) In 1751-2 the nave was re-pewed and a tall three-decker pulpit provided centrally near its east end. (fn. 356) The chancel screen and rood loft were removed, the access to the latter being walled up. A new chancel arch, on which the royal arms were mounted, was inserted inside the existing medieval arch. It was elliptical in shape and built of brickwork covered with stucco. The alterations were carried out under the direction of Samuel Rouse and the pulpit was the work of Thomas Eayre of Kettering. Five years later the chancel was re-paved, the south doorway was blocked, new altar rails were provided, and the sanctuary was fitted with panelling which covered the piscina and sedilia. In the late 18th century market stalls were built very close to the church and three permanent shops actually adjoined it at the south-west corner. (fn. 357) The shops were removed on the bishop's orders in 1822 and an iron palisade, of which only the west gateway still exists, was erected round the building. (fn. 358)
In the first half of the 19th century the need for extra sittings led to much building of galleries. The tower arch was already blocked and a gallery appears to have existed high up on the west wall of the nave. (fn. 359) In 1819 a faculty was granted for a new west gallery and organ loft. (fn. 360) No organ appears to have been provided, however. (fn. 361) In 1836 large north and south galleries were erected and in 1844 these were extended eastwards to the full length of both aisles. At the same time the tower arch was opened up, the west gallery rebuilt, and an organ installed. (fn. 362) In 1850 the five-light east window was renewed. (fn. 363)
Drastic changes to the interior took place in 1857. Speaking in 1866 and referring to the cost of the mid-18th-century alterations, a local antiquary remarked that 'exactly 100 years later we raised a much larger sum to undo all they did with so much earnestness and self-gratification'. (fn. 364) The pulpit and most of the 18th-century fittings were removed and the box pews were cut down. The north and south galleries were left in position but the organ gallery was cleared away. The organ was erected in a newlybuilt recess on the north side of the chancel, destroying a 14th-century window in this position. At the same time the east window of the north aisle which may also have survived from the 14th century was altered. (fn. 365)
In 1887 the chancel and south aisle were re-roofed but the original timbers were copied. (fn. 366) In 1951 the nave roof was found to be so badly decayed that it was entirely replaced, the original roof being exactly reproduced. (fn. 367) The north aisle roof was partly renewed at the same time. In 1958-9 the organ was rebuilt and moved to the easternmost bay of the north aisle, a new organ case was provided, and a new console was erected on the south side of the chancel.
The fine royal arms in plaster, now above the tower arch, was made in 1660 by Allen of Northampton. (fn. 368) The sundial on the south wall of the tower dates from 1791. (fn. 369) During whitewashing in about 1770 a painting of the Crucifixion and the date 1434 were found above the chancel arch. (fn. 370) Traces of superimposed wall paintings of three dates, the earliest thought to be of the 15th century, were uncovered on the east wall of the north aisle in 1958. (fn. 371) The alabaster pulpit was given in 1860 and the stone font in 1888. (fn. 372) The former plain octagonal font had a fine Jacobean carved cover of two tiers (fn. 373) somewhat similar to that still in existence at Great Bowden. Eighteenth-century memorial tablets include those to Richard Farrer (d. 1772) and to David Kidney and others (1747-70). There are also tablets to the Revd. E. Vardy (1824), the Revd. R. Guiness (d. 1918), and Surg.-Gen. F. F. Allen (d. 1888).
The registers are complete from 1584. The plate includes a silver cup, flagon, dish, and paten of 1753. The cost of this set was largely defrayed by Elizabeth Walker but contributions also came from the parish and from the sale of earlier plate which was melted down. There is also a silver alms dish given anonymously in 1882. (fn. 374) There are eight bells. All are dated 1901 but six of them were recast from older bells in that year. Four had already been recast in 1609-14, probably by Hugh Watts of Leicester. Another, by Thomas Eayre of Kettering, was new in 1740. The oldest bell, dated 1567 and recast in 1841, is traditionally supposed to have come from the church of St. Mary in Arden. (fn. 375)
A Mass centre was established at Harborough in 1859. (fn. 376) Our Lady of Victories' church, a red-brick building with stone dressings designed by C. G. Wray, was built in 1876-7, together with schools close by. (fn. 377) A presbytery was built in 1888, (fn. 378) and in 1898 sacristies were added to the church and a cloister was built linking the church to the presbytery. (fn. 379)
In 1669 there were about 100 Presbyterians of the 'mean sort' at Harborough. Their leader was Matthew Clark, who had been ejected from Narborough rectory in 1662. He was assisted by several other ejected ministers. (fn. 380) In 1672 Clark was granted a general licence as a Presbyterian preacher, and two houses were licensed for dissenting worship. (fn. 381) Clark was said to have a congregation of 500-600 at Harborough in 1690-2, (fn. 382) but this may have included the dissenters at Great Bowden too. A document compiled in 1705-23 states that there were many Congregationalists and Quakers at Harborough, and many occasional conformers. (fn. 383)
When the Congregationalists first built a chapel is uncertain. Buildings were licensed for dissenting worship in 1714, 1719, 1766, and 1776, but all these seem to have been private houses. (fn. 384) An Independent chapel in Bowden Lane was built in 1694. (fn. 385) A drawing shows it as a rectangular building with a modillion cornice and a hipped roof. (fn. 386) In the centre of the front were two tall mullioned and transomed windows, flanked by doorways with small windows above them. There seems to have been a regular succession of ministers, several of them prominent men, from the time of Matthew Clark onwards. (fn. 387) In 1764 there were estimated to be 46 families of Independents at Harborough, and in 1788 about 80 families. (fn. 388) In 1844 a new Independent chapel was built at the north end of High Street, on a site formerly occupied by the manse, (fn. 389) and in 1875 a large hall was built behind the chapel. (fn. 390) The chapel was still in use in 1957. It is a twostoried building of yellow brick with stone dressings designed by William Flint of Leicester. (fn. 391) It is separated from High Street by a small forecourt. In the centre of the facade is a recessed Ionic portico of three bays. A high parapet, raised in the centre, conceals the hipped roof. Internally there are galleries on three sides, supported on Corinthian columns.
In 1764 a carpenter's shop in High Street was being used for Methodist meetings. (fn. 392) There were estimated to be 4 Methodist families at Harborough in 1764, and 6 in 1788. (fn. 393) A Methodist chapel had been built by 1790, (fn. 394) but it had ceased to exist by 1808. (fn. 395) A new Wesleyan Methodist chapel was built in King's Head Place in 1813. (fn. 396) In 1871 this was replaced by a new chapel on the Northampton road, designed by Charles Bell, (fn. 397) and the old chapel, a plain red-brick building, is now used as an ironmonger's store.
A General Baptist chapel was built on the Coventry road in 1831, (fn. 398) and rebuilt in 1906. (fn. 399) There was an Antinomian, or Sandemanian, meeting-house in St. Mary's Lane by 1776. (fn. 400) In 1780 there was one Sandemanian family in the town, and in 1788 two. (fn. 401) The meeting-house seems to have disappeared before 1790. (fn. 402)
Quakers at Harborough are mentioned in 1687, (fn. 403) and again in the early 18th century, (fn. 404) but there does not seem to have been an organized Quaker meeting until later, as the minute books of the Leicestershire Quakers for 1671-1724 (fn. 405) mention no congregation at Harborough. By 1764 there was a Quaker meetinghouse, in the lane still known as Quakers' Yard. (fn. 406) The meeting-house still existed in 1798, (fn. 407) but it had gone by 1808. (fn. 408) In 1852 there was a Quaker meetinghouse near Bowden Lane, (fn. 409) but nothing further is known of it.
Market Harborough Grammar School (fn. 410) was founded in 1607 by Robert Smyth, a poor native of the town who became Comptroller of the City of London's Chamber and member of the Merchant Taylors' Company. (fn. 411) Amongst other charitable gifts to the town he provided £20, later augmented, the revenue from which was to be used for the education of poor children. (fn. 412) He proposed to set up a preaching minister at Harborough whom he wished whenever possible to act as master of the school. (fn. 413) Edward Still was licensed as a schoolmaster in 1607 and was reported to be the curate at Harborough in 1614. (fn. 414) In 1614 a school-house was built, in accordance with Smyth's detailed instructions, on posts in the market place, incidentally providing shelter for the market people. (fn. 415) John Orpin, who had previously been the schoolmaster at Kibworth Beauchamp, was appointed master shortly afterwards. (fn. 416)
The endowment of the school was finally settled in 1617 at £10 paid yearly to a master for teaching 15 poor scholars, and £2 each year to be retained by the City Chamberlain and laid out from time to time on the repair of the school-house. The sum of £2 6s. 8d. was to be spent yearly on bibles for the scholars, and small sums were to be paid to the churchwardens for overseeing the school, and to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford, for an annual visitation. The master was to be appointed by the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London. (fn. 417)
The school's endowments were increased by two further gifts. Christopher Shaw, by will proved 1618, left a rent-charge of £10 from his lands at Chipstead (Surr.) to the Broderers' Company of London, who were to pay £3 a year to the schoolmaster so long as the school should continue. (fn. 418) Thomas Peach, of Dingley (Northants.), by will dated 1770, left a rent-charge of £10 to be paid to the master. (fn. 419) There was also a house for the master, said to have been given by Richard Weston, perhaps c. 1630-40. (fn. 420)
During the 17th and early 18th centuries the school was in general open only to those boys who were Anglicans, could read English well, and required a training in the Classical languages. John Orpin and his successor in 1633, William Coxe, (fn. 421) are both known to have prepared boys for entry to Cambridge colleges. (fn. 422) It is not clear what happened to the school during the Civil War. In 1650 the schoolmaster received an annual grant of £30 from the sequestered estates of Lord Beaumont. (fn. 423) John Berry (d. 1682), who was appointed master in 1653, remained in the school for almost thirty years, (fn. 424) and during his mastership the school was attended by the sons of nobility and gentry of the neighbourhood, some of whom were boarders. It is probable that throughout the 17th century masters accepted feepaying pupils, both day boys and boarders. When the Dean of Christ Church, John Fell, visited the school in 1673 he found about 60 boys, most of whom were the sons of the nobility and gentry, but he did not specify the number of free pupils. The dean implied that all the free places were not filled because not sufficient poor boys had offered themselves. (fn. 425) Thirty-five boys who entered Cambridge colleges from the school while John Berry was headmaster have been identified. (fn. 426) They included an eminent scholar, John Moore, later Bishop of Norwich and of Ely (1646-1714), (fn. 427) Richard Johnson (d. 1721), later headmaster of Nottingham Free School, (fn. 428) Thomas Heyricke (d. 1694), a poet and later master of Harborough school himself, (fn. 429) and many future clergymen and schoolmasters. There are fewer names of boys from Harborough school in the surviving Cambridge registers for the period 1682-1752, (fn. 430) but it is clear that the principal subjects in the curriculum remained Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, and it was generally agreed that no boy should be allowed to enter the school until he could read the Bible well. (fn. 431) Robert Dexter of Desborough (Northants.), writing in 1755, recalled that during his time at the school, 1704-11, there were 83 or 84 boys of whom nearly 30 were boarders. (fn. 432)
George Periam, a Student of Christ Church, Oxford, who was curate of Market Harborough until 1754 and was appointed master in 1752, (fn. 433) was responsible for a change of policy. Instead of assuming the duties of teaching himself, he introduced an usher in his place who was not a graduate and was qualified to teach only reading, writing, and arithmetic. (fn. 434) The school confined itself to the teaching of elementary subjects until the introduction of a new scheme in 1868-9. During the later 18th century the principal secondary school in Harborough was the boarding school run by Stephen Addington. (fn. 435)
In January 1755 several inhabitants complained to the Court of the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London that Periam had neglected his duties. The latter claimed that his actions were in accordance with the wishes of the founder who intended the school to take 'poor children of poor parents'. (fn. 436) When the usher appointed by Periam took up his duties the school was attended by only 14-18 boys and 2 or 3 girls. (fn. 437)
William Harrod, a local printer and stationer, who was the usher appointed by Periam, succeeded him as master in 1780 and remained in the school until his own death in 1806. (fn. 438) Harrod was the first layman to be master. (fn. 439) His successors, William Wright (1806-12), George Sproston (1812-14), (fn. 440) and Thomas Barnes (1814-16) (fn. 441) were also laymen. The next master, John Hinman, who was appointed in 1816, (fn. 442) made some attempt to increase the number of pupils in 1823 when he opened the school, previously confined to Anglicans, to boys of all denominations. But the increase, to between 30 and 40, was short lived, and in 1837 4 fee-payers were the only pupils. Instruction was confined to reading, writing, and arithmetic. (fn. 443) The decline was attributed to the opening of the National school in 1836.
It is not clear when the grammar school was closed, but between 1862 and 1868 the vicar and churchwardens made some provisional arrangements to connect the original foundation with a private school in the town run by Mr. Bere. (fn. 444) This action made Bere's school subject to the Schools Inquiry Commission. In 1867 an inspector discovered that with the help of an assistant Bere taught 14 boarders, and in the evenings after 7 p.m. 24 day boys who each paid fees amounting to £6 a year. He recommended that money from the town estate might be found to re-establish the grammar school, but was not supported by the trustees. (fn. 445) There had been a public meeting on the future of the school in 1859 which was followed by a long series of negotiations. (fn. 446) The result was that in 1868 the Charity Commissioners issued a new Scheme for running the school, and the school-house in the market place was thoroughly restored with funds raised by public subscription. A new board of trustees included the vicar, churchwardens, and townsman, (fn. 447) all ex officio, and it was decided that all pupils should pay fees except the best 3 in each year to whom scholarships were awarded providing free education for 3 years. The headmaster was still to be appointed by the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London. (fn. 448)
Under the new constitution the grammar school survived from 1869 until 1910. It remained in the restored 17th-century building until 1892 when William Bragg, one of the trustees, built a new school in Coventry Road. (fn. 449) The tall gabled building with imitation timbering to the upper floor was in 1958 the H.Q. of the Leicestershire and Derbyshire Yeomanry. There were 35 pupils in 1871 and 40 in 1904. (fn. 450) The curriculum included Latin and Greek and religious instruction according to the doctrines of the Church of England, although the latter was not compulsory. The first masters had no assistant and taught 3 separate classes at the same time. (fn. 451) Francis Hammond (d. 1937), who was appointed in 1887, (fn. 452) moved to become the first headmaster of the new grammar school erected by the county council in 1909. In 1910 the old foundation was dissolved and its income from the Smyth endowment used to provide free scholarships to the county grammar school. Only boys whose parents were Anglicans living in the Harborough Urban District were eligible for the scholarships. All pupils from the old school were transferred to the new institution. (fn. 453)
After 1944 when school fees were abolished, the Scheme for free scholarships was in abeyance. While a new Scheme was prepared, a temporary arrangement sanctioned by the Charity Commissioners allowed the trustees to help former pupils at universities with money to buy books. In 1958 the new Scheme had not been completed, and the assets of the foundation, which included £630 in investments, were used also to provide bibles and keep the old grammar school in repair. (fn. 454)
Market Harborough County Grammar School was opened by the county council in 1909. The original buildings, on a site in Burnmill Road given by the town estate feoffees, consisted of a large hall, 6 classrooms, a laboratory, and rooms for instruction in art, cookery, and handwork. (fn. 455) The architect was H. W. Johnson. (fn. 456) In May 1910 the school was attended by 54 boys and 12 girls. (fn. 457) In 1921 the number of pupils was 210; (fn. 458) by 1945 it had increased to 378, and by 1958 to 469. (fn. 459)
The Independent chapel in Harborough was served in the 18th century by ministers who were closely associated with well-known dissenting academies. Philip Doddridge (1702-51) opened an academy at the manse in Harborough in 1729 but before the end of that year had moved it to Northampton. (fn. 460) Another minister, John Aikin (1713-80), (fn. 461) may perhaps have run a small boarding school in Harborough before he moved to the Warrington Academy in 1758. This is not certain, but it is clear that the next minister, Stephen Addington (1729- 96), (fn. 462) waited until Aikin had moved before he began a boarding school in Harborough, which he maintained until he left the town in 1782. (fn. 463) With the decline of the grammar school, Addington's was the principal secondary school. Addington was also responsible for starting a small spinning-school. (fn. 464)
In 1833 there were at Harborough, besides the grammar school, 11 infants' schools and 6 day schools. The infants' schools contained about 200 children, and the day schools, including the grammar school, contained in all 75 boys and 73 girls. All the pupils were being educated at their parents' expense. (fn. 465)
Coventry Road National School was built in 1836 with the aid of a state grant. (fn. 466) In 1842 it was enlarged by the building of an upper story to serve as a separate classroom for girls, again with the aid of a state grant. (fn. 467) In 1861 the number of children who attended the school for 176 days or more during the year was 73. (fn. 468) In 1878 the buildings drew unfavourable comment from Her Majesty's inspector, (fn. 469) and a new National school, for boys only, was built in the following year. (fn. 470) In 1893 the Coventry Road buildings, which still housed the girls and infants, were condemned by the inspectors of schools, and it became essential to rebuild them in order to prevent a school board from being imposed upon Harborough. (fn. 471) Subscriptions were collected and a new school for both boys and girls was built in 1894. (fn. 472) The former boys' school was used for infants, and the old buildings were sold and used as an adult school hall. (fn. 473) Under the Education Act of 1902 the school came under the control of managers acting under the county education committee. (fn. 474) In 1910 the school was being attended by 231 boys and girls, and by 90 infants. (fn. 475) In 1930 it was decided that the school should become a primary school only, the senior pupils being transferred to Fairfield Road Council School. (fn. 476) In 1957 the school was attended by 307 juniors. (fn. 477)
A British school was built at Harborough with the aid of a state grant in 1838. (fn. 478) In 1878 its premises were described as 'roomy but comfortless'. (fn. 479) They were enlarged in 1886 and 1894. (fn. 480) In 1904 it was arranged for the county to acquire the school, (fn. 481) but this was not done until 1909. (fn. 482) From that time onwards it was known as Fairfield Road Council School. In 1912 an infants' school was built, under a separate headmistress. It had about 110 pupils when started. (fn. 483) In 1957 the school was attended by 109 infants. (fn. 484) In 1930 it was decided that the main school should, as a secondary school, take senior pupils from Harborough and Great and Little Bowden, the junior pupils being transferred to the National school. (fn. 485) The infants' school remained on the site, but in 1935 the secondary school was closed, and its pupils transferred to the new Welland Park senior school. (fn. 486) The Fairfield Road buildings were being used in 1957 as a youth employment bureau, and as extra classrooms. Welland Park senior school was opened in 1935, to take senior pupils from the Harborough area. (fn. 487) The school, a large two-story building, stands in what was formerly Little Bowden parish. In 1956 there were 400 pupils of both sexes. (fn. 488)
The Roman Catholic school, built in 1878, (fn. 489) was being attended in 1910 by 66 boys and girls, (fn. 490) in 1933 by 79. (fn. 491) In 1950 it was recognized as an all-age school with 'aided' status under the local authority. In 1957 the total attendance of seniors, juniors, and infants was 285. (fn. 492) The single-story building of red brick was part of a building scheme designed in 1876 by C. G. Wray.
The origins of the Market Harborough Town Estate are obscure. In 1503 John Jennen (d. c. 1510) (fn. 493) conveyed all his property in Great Bowden and Market Harborough to feoffees. (fn. 494) In 1550 the property was in dispute between his heirs and a group of the town's inhabitants, who claimed the lands as a charitable endowment. (fn. 495) The heirs gave up their claims in return for £160, (fn. 496) and from that time onwards a body of feoffees seems to have held Jennen's property, described in 1550 as 8 cottages, tofts, and gardens, 200 a. of land, 60 a. of meadow, and 100 a. of pasture, in Harborough and Great Bowden. (fn. 497) There is little doubt that Jennen's lands formed a large part of the town estate, but the charity seems to have acquired additional property from other sources. In 1533 feoffees held a cottage at Harborough, given by Richard Berege, which seems to have been part of the town estate. (fn. 498) Joan Richardson, by indenture dated 1541, gave to three feoffees all her land in Harborough, Great and Little Bowden, and Lubenham, to hold to her use during her life, and after her death to the use of her daughter Agnes and Agnes's husband John Francis. If Agnes and John died without issue the feoffees were to use the property's revenues to repair the bridges and highways at Harborough. (fn. 499) Nichols suggests (fn. 500) that John and Agnes in fact left issue, but there is no evidence for this, and during a law suit that began in 1713 a document described as Joan Richardson's will, but which may perhaps have been the above indenture, was produced as the town estate's foundation deed. (fn. 501) Rowland Rouse, who collected much information about Harborough charities in the mid-18th century, thought that Jane Saunderson was founder of the estate (fn. 502) but it seems likely that he misread Joan Richardson's name.
The lands given by Jennen, Berege, Joan Richardson, and perhaps by others who are unknown, all seem to have passed under the control of a single body of feoffees well before 1570. (fn. 503) The property was then described as 5 messuages in Harborough, land called 'the four stalls' there, a messuage in Great Bowden, and arable and meadow in Great Bowden fields. (fn. 504) The arable and meadow is not described, but in 1569 the feoffees let 29 arable 'lands' in Great Bowden fields. (fn. 505) As early as 1606 the estate was evidently considered as the town's property. (fn. 506) In 1655 it was conveyed to new feoffees explicitly chosen at the request and by the appointment of the more substantial inhabitants, (fn. 507) and after this date, if not earlier, the feoffees seem always to have been elected by the townspeople. (fn. 508) During a Chancery suit begun in 1713 it was said that Joan Richardson's will provided for the trustees to be elected in this way. (fn. 509) Under the feoffees the estate was cared for by the townsmen. These officials already existed by 1517, (fn. 510) and until the end of the 17th century seem to have been two in number. (fn. 511) By 1713 there was only one townsman. (fn. 512) During the 17th century the feoffees performed many functions which would normally have fallen to the parish officers. They paid for street cleaning and repair, killing vermin, repair of the church fabric, apprenticing of poor children, the purchase of a fire-engine, expenses connected with the trained bands, and for law suits about the town's common rights. (fn. 513) About 1615 the estate's income was some £35 yearly. (fn. 514) By 1713 it had risen to £120 net a year. (fn. 515) During the 17th century the estate was augmented by a gift from Gabriel Barbor, who gave £40 to be invested in land or fee farm rents, twothirds of the income to be paid to the minister at Harborough, and one-third to be for the relief of the town's poor. (fn. 516) In 1622 the £40 was spent on the purchase of a cottage and close at Harborough. (fn. 517) At an unknown date the property was divided, the cottage being absorbed into the town estate, and a stable and some land being retained by the minister. (fn. 518)
It was no doubt because the town estate feoffees performed many local government functions that the periodic elections of new feoffees were sometimes hotly disputed. There seem to have been disputes about the choice of new feoffees in 1653 and 1686, but the details cannot be recovered. (fn. 519) In 1713 the choice of new feoffees at a tumultuous meeting in the church gave rise to long litigation in Chancery, from 1713 to 1732. (fn. 520) The old feoffees were charged with misusing the estate's funds, but the real cause of the dispute seems to have been a quarrel, over the selection of feoffees, between two parties, one consisting mainly of Harborough tradesmen and including some dissenters, the other formed from the wealthier inhabitants and from some country gentlemen who owned land in the adjacent parishes. (fn. 521) As a result of the suit it was provided that the feoffees should be elected by those inhabitants of Harborough who paid church and poor rates, that the feoffees did not need to be inhabitants of the town, and that there was to be no election of new feoffees until the number of existing feoffees had fallen to three. The purposes of the charity were declared to be the repair of the town's bridges and highways, the apprenticing of poor children, and the support of those poor householders who did not receive poor relief. (fn. 522) Long before the suit was ended the original disputants had lost interest. (fn. 523) The election of new feoffees in 1767, the first after the action had ended, was nevertheless accompanied with some acrimony. (fn. 524)
By the Great Bowden inclosure award of 1777 the town estate was allotted about 84 a. in Great Bowden fields. (fn. 525) The trust also obtained about 3 a. more in the former South Field in exchange for some old inclosures. (fn. 526) In 1803 some property was sold to defray redemption of land tax on the remainder. (fn. 527) In 1837 the charity's property comprised 13 houses, inns, and shops at Harborough, and about 100 a. of land at Harborough and Great Bowden. (fn. 528) In the ten years ending in May 1836 the average annual income of the charity was £614. Of this an average of about £195 yearly was spent on repairing and improving buildings. The expenditure on this account was particularly heavy during the period in question. Other expenses amounted to an average of about £26 yearly, leaving a net income of little more than £390. Of this more than half went in various payments to the poor, mostly in pensions to poor householders not receiving parish relief. The rest was spent on road repairs. (fn. 529) No money seems to have been spent during the period on miscellaneous parish expenses. Some houses in Harborough which had been used to house the poor were given up to the Poor Law Commissioners in 1837, although they seem properly to have belonged to the town estate. (fn. 530)
In 1867 the Charity Commissioners issued a new Scheme, providing that the charity income should be spent on roads and bridges, building and maintaining pumps, relieving the town's poor, apprenticing poor children, and supporting undenominational education. In the late 19th century the net income of the estate was about £800 a year. (fn. 531) After the Market Harborough local board of health was formed in 1880 the estate continued to pay for some street repairs, by an agreement with the board, (fn. 532) but the existence of the local board, and later of its successor the Urban District Council, performing local government functions over an area larger than Harborough township, made it difficult for the charity to carry out some of its functions. From about 1920 onwards considerable sums have been spent in slum clearance and in improving the street lighting. Since 1945 the greater part of the income of the estate has been spent on weekly payments to persons in need of relief, but from time to time substantial payments have been made to the Urban District Council to aid town improvements. (fn. 533) The trust's operations are confined to the old Harborough township.
William Hubberd, by will dated 1785, devised a rent-charge of £1 1s. to the minister and churchwardens of Harborough, on condition that a hymn should be sung once yearly at his grave in St. Mary's churchyard. (fn. 534) In 1957 the hymn was still being sung, and the rent-charge was paid. (fn. 535) Sarah Goodwin, by her will proved in 1832, bequeathed £100, the interest from which was to be distributed by the overseers of the poor and the deacons of the Market Harborough Independent church in coals to the deserving poor. (fn. 536) In 1957 the charity income, about £2 10s. a year, was still being distributed in coals by the trustees, the deacons of the Independent church and three persons appointed by the Urban District Council. (fn. 537) John Bates, at his death in 1874, bequeathed £1,000, the interest from which was to be given to the town's poor in meat, coal, or bread. (fn. 538) The income, about £50 a year, was still being distributed in 1957, under the management of the town estate feoffees. (fn. 539) Bates also bequeathed £300, the interest from which was to be given to the Anglican and Independent Sunday schools. (fn. 540) In 1957 the income was being paid to the two schools. (fn. 541) Thomas Ratten, by his will proved in 1797, bequeathed £125 to the ministers and churchwardens of Harborough in trust. One guinea a year was to be paid to the minister for preaching a sermon annually for the Anglican Sunday school, and the rest of the income was to be used to buy coals for the school's needs. The income was applied in this way in 1957. He also bequeathed £100 to the churchwardens and overseers of the poor, the income from which was to be used to buy coals for those poor inhabitants who were not receiving poor relief. (fn. 542) The income from the £100, amounting to slightly more than £3 a year, was still being distributed in coals in 1957. (fn. 543)
Mary Letts, by will proved 1808, bequeathed £100 for the support of the Anglican Sunday schools at Harborough. Legacy duty reduced the sum to £90, which was invested. (fn. 544) In 1957 the interest from the legacy was paid to the Sunday school. (fn. 545) In 1670 Joan Austin, a widow, conveyed two houses at Harborough to her son William Healey, subject to a rentcharge of £1 4s. a year, which was to be spent in providing shoes for the town's poor. (fn. 546) By 1837 the charity was under the churchwardens' control. (fn. 547) The charity still existed in 1957. (fn. 548) Thomas Dawson, by will proved 1820, left £150 in trust, two-thirds of the income to be given to the Anglican Sunday schools at Harborough, and one-third to be spent in providing bread for the poor. (fn. 549) The charity income was still being expended in accordance with the will in 1957. (fn. 550) About 1880 Thomas Barfoot Saunt gave stock producing £14 yearly to be used to buy clothing for persons over sixty years of age who were not Roman Catholics. In 1957 the charity income was being used to buy blankets for the aged. (fn. 551) Symington's pension charity was set up in 1923 from a half share in Miss Perry Gold Symington's residuary estate. It is administered by the town estate feoffees. Its income, about £176 in 1954, is used to relieve residents of Harborough Urban District. (fn. 552)