A History of the County of Leicestershire: Volume 5, Gartree Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1964.
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The ancient parish of Medbourne, which is 3,034 a. in area, includes the township of Nevill Holt, and this is described in a separate section below. (fn. 1) The following account concerns the civil parish of Medbourne which is 1,856 a. in area.
The village of Medbourne lies over fourteen miles south-east of Leicester in a small valley on the west side of the hill on which Nevill Holt stands. The latter, over 475 ft. high, is an outlier of the Northampton ironstone beds and has provided the bulk of the building stone for houses in the district. The parish is separated from Northamptonshire on the south by the River Welland. Two branch railway lines crossed the boundaries of Medbourne. The first, in the north-west corner of the parish, forms part of the line, opened in 1879, which joins the railway from Market Harborough to Peterborough with the former Great Northern line into Leicester. (fn. 2) The second, which used to be called the 'Medbourne Curve', was opened in 1883. (fn. 3) It left the main line from Market Harborough to Peterborough at a point south-east of Medbourne, and ran diagonally across the parish to join the other branch line south of Hallaton. It was constructed to make possible a Great Northern route between Leicester and Peterborough. There was a station at Medbourne until 1916, but the line was closed at the end of the First World War; the track was later taken up (fn. 4) and by 1927 the course of the railway was thickly overgrown. (fn. 5)
The site of the village is on the Gartree road. (fn. 6) This road is believed to have crossed the Welland at a place in the parish of Bringhurst close to the point where the 'Medbourne Curve' left the main line of the railway, and workmen engaged on the 'Curve' are supposed to have discovered the line of the road. Its course south-east of the village is not certainly known, however, but where it enters the parish on the north-west it has been clearly defined, and there is some trace in the fields of its entry into the Roman station later occupied by Medbourne village. (fn. 7)
The obvious antiquity of the site and the frequent discovery of Roman and Saxon remains led many antiquaries to believe that the place-name was of Roman origin. (fn. 8) Medbourne is in fact Anglo-Saxon- 'maedburna' or 'meadow-stream'. (fn. 9) The stream and two of its tributaries form parts of the parish boundary on the north. Because of the dangers from flooding, the course of the Brook was canalized into straight drains, both north and south of the village, at the time of the inclosure of the open fields in 1844. (fn. 10) The centre of the village used to be a large rectangular green, partially bounded by the Brook, which was also inclosed in 1844. The parish church stands on the north-western portion of the green, and is believed to have been originally surrounded by a moat, formed on the west side by the Brook. (fn. 11) All the other principal buildings of the village were built on the slopes to the north and east of the green. By the end of the 18th century there had been several encroachments on the green. Nichols noted a row of 10 houses, called the 'Guernsey', which formed an island when the Brook flooded. (fn. 12) This may be identified with one of two groups of houses shown on the inclosure map of 1844, probably that on the site where the school was built in 1868-9. (fn. 13)
The village lies on the main road from Market Harborough to Uppingham (Rut.). This crosses the Welland at Medbourne Bridge, a county bridge designed by Joseph Vinrace in 1820, (fn. 14) and enters the village by a bridge over the Brook at the south-west corner of the green. This latter bridge, like the various footbridges, used to be maintained at the cost of the parish. In 1883 Sir Bache Cunard offered to give the bricks if the parish would rebuild it. (fn. 15) The Uppingham road runs across the green and continues along the north-east side of the Nevill Holt hill towards Stockerston. The road from Slawston and Hallaton enters the green from the west; it used to cross the Brook by a ford, (fn. 16) but this was replaced by a concrete bridge in 1935-6. (fn. 17) The road is joined to the churchyard by an old pack-horse bridge across the Brook which was used when floods made the ford impassable. (fn. 18) The narrow stone bridge has three round chamfered arches and triangular cutwaters and is probably a structure of medieval date. Later brick capping may have replaced an earlier parapet wall; the wooden handrail is modern. A road to Drayton runs from the south-east corner of the green, but other lanes running eastwards were driftways leading into the open fields. The most northerly, Old Holt Road, was the way to Nevill Holt until the early 1880's when it was blocked by the building of the 'Medbourne Curve'; the drift-way leading to the Manor House was then converted into New Holt Road. (fn. 19) When the green was inclosed in 1844 it was allotted in small pieces to adjoining occupiers, and at the same time the existing drift-ways were extended westwards to meet the Harborough-Uppingham road, but as private roads. (fn. 20) Rectory Lane, for instance, is therefore divided into two parts, the upper part forming the old drift-way and maintained by the R.D.C., and the lower part a private road belonging to the owners of the Old Rectory and the Old Hall.
The Manor House, on the north side of New Holt Road, is the oldest house in the village and probably dates from the late 13th century. It is T-shaped in plan consisting of a two-storied cross-wing, with later attics, and a hall block on its north side, originally of one story. The hall retains part of the early central open roof truss dividing it into two main bays and supporting a heavy square-set purlin. This is braced from the truss and from each end of the hall by straight or curved braces. All the roof timbers where exposed are heavily smoke-blackened. The east slope of the hall roof is original, but the west slope is much flatter, the result of a heightening that probably occurred soon after the insertion of a first floor and the massive axial chimney in the late 16th century. A passage-cum-dairy formed on the east side of the hall contains the lower part of the central truss principal (a raised-base cruck) which now dies into the low side wall. A four-light window of medieval date in the later wall has close-set diagonal wood mullions. The lean-to at the north end of the hall probably formed another bay containing the dais. Its conversion to a cider cellar and store took place when the hall was floored over in the late 16th century; the present gable wall is probably built on the line of a hall truss (fn. 21) and in the east wall of the store an early splayed window opening, now a hatch, is preserved.
The present entrance hall contains three doorways in the wall between the former hall and the wing; these have two-centred plain chamfered arches with broach stops of c. 1300. Two of the doors are now blocked and the third leads into a large altered parlour of early-16th-century date. The three doors must originally have led to service rooms, that in the centre possibly providing direct access to an external kitchen. All these service rooms are now destroyed. In the wing a stud partition with a Tudor doorhead and a hollow-mullioned gable window, both at firstfloor level, may belong to the late 15th century but part of a curving roof principal at one end of the partition is of much earlier origin. Towards the end of the 16th century ovolo-mullioned windows and attic floors were inserted both in the wing and in the hall block. The original cross-passage, now converted into the entrance hall, lay between the wing and the great hall, occupying part of the south bay of the latter. Of the opposed doors that in the east wall is now blocked and the west entrance was altered when the existing single-story porch was added, probably in the 17th century.
The house was occupied by the Chaworth and Payne families, (fn. 22) and later by a tenant of the Nevill Holt estate. When Sir Bache Cunard became master of the local hunt in 1878, the house was renovated for use by the huntsman, because the diversion of the Holt road through its yard made it impossible to use it as a farm. During the renovations wall-paintings were found which were believed to date from the reign of James I when the Payne family was living there. (fn. 23) Kennels and cottages on the opposite side of the road, also built by Sir Bache Cunard, include a range of five cottages with tile-hung and jettied gables dated 1884. Home Farm, towards Nevill Holt, is similar in appearance and date, while in the centre of the village a stable block near Medbourne Bridge is dated 1880 and includes cottages for grooms at each end of the entrance range.
At the lower end of New Holt Road on its south side is Dale Farm, a compact H-planned house of late-17th-century date, with steep hipped slate roofs. The low farm buildings are partly of later origin. The principal entrance door is placed at one end of the front and has an eared limestone architrave with a pulvinated frieze and cornice. The tall symmetrically-placed chimney stacks are of limestone ashlar and are contemporary with the house. There is a possibility that this may be the Red House which is frequently referred to in the late 17th and 18th centuries and for which a large number of deeds have survived. (fn. 24) The Red House belonged to John Mordaunt (d. 1680).
A house of earlier date but similar in plan is the Old Hall which lies between New Holt Road and Rectory Lane. It was probably built soon after the middle of the 17th century and has gabled service and parlour wings across the ends of a hall block. The building is two-storied throughout with attic rooms and retains an original newel stair of oak in the service wing. The ground-floor hall was partitioned to form two rooms c. 1700, the larger room continuing in use as an entrance hall, heated at one end by a stone fire-place with a four-centred arch, and the smaller room being panelled throughout, probably for use as an extra parlour. Other improvements of the 18th century include the present staircase in the parlour wing. Panelling in the parlour has a pulvinated frieze of c. 1670 ornamented with billets. The original windows have ovolo mullions and the central front doorway is similar to that at Dale Farm. Outbuildings at the rear date from the early 18th century, while against Rectory Lane the present garage building occupies the remnants of a stable range coeval with the house. The Old Hall (formerly known as Medbourne House or Medbourne Villa) in 1844 belonged to Matilda Head. She sold it in 1845 to G. V. L. Braithwaite (d. 1895) of Stackley Lodge, Great Glen. (fn. 25) In 1861 he sold it to Henry Hawes (d. 1892), the grazier, who devised it to Stanley Ward (d. 1918). The latter and his sister Annie (d. 1946), who succeeded him, leased the house to a succession of tenants. (fn. 26) Commander and Mrs. W. L. Murmann owned the house in 1960. (fn. 27) The Old Hall may be the house with seven hearths belonging to Lady Elizabeth Roberts (d. 1679) in 1670. (fn. 28)
The Old House, to the south of the Horse and Trumpet Inn, has been modernized but is contemporary with the Old Hall. A gas-house in the garden originally manufactured gas for the local stables, cottages, and Nevill Holt Hall. The mains are still embedded in New Holt Road. Manor Farm, also of the mid-17th century, is an L-shaped house of two stories with attics to the west of the church. The large rear wing is an addition made later in the 17th century. Varying window mouldings indicate that the house is a building of more than one period. The tall ashlar chimney stacks are of the local pattern. The house was cement-rendered in 1944 by prisoners of war. (fn. 29)
A farm-house in Main Street opposite Old Holt Road was built late in the 17th century and heightened c. 1800; the walls are of rubble throughout with limestone dressings to windows and doors.
The smaller stone houses of the mid-17th century appear to have had a two- or three-roomed plan and were single-storied with either half-attic or full-attic bedrooms. Most of the surviving houses have undergone various alterations, the most common being a heightening of the side walls to provide a more habitable upper floor. The consequent flattening in the pitch of the roof seems to have resulted in the replacement of thatch by Welsh slate. Nos. 25, 27, and 29 Main Street are altered two-storied ironstone houses of c. 1680 with gable-end stacks. No. 25 has mullioned windows and was formerly the Crown Inn, closed between 1925 and 1928; (fn. 30) a brickvaulted cellar remains in the yard at the rear. Southwards from Manor Farm, on the west side of the Brook, Laburnum Cottage, Woodbine Farm, and Saddler's Cottage are all 17th-century ironstone houses, the last containing a ceiling beam dated 1689 and a kitchen wing which may have served as a small byre.
The most important building at the south end of the village is Bridgedale Farm (the property of St. John's College, Cambridge), which was probably built by John and Mary Goodman in 1709 and has their initials and the date over the central entrance. The house, which was originally T-shaped in plan, is constructed on an artificially raised site as a precaution against flooding. It is two stories high with attics and is built of ironstone ashlar with limestone dressings and a modern slate roof. A short rear wing containing the main stair and a dairy leads off the central entrance hall which lies between the parlour and the old kitchen. The present kitchen is a 19thcentury addition. Original features include bolection-moulded fire-places, the staircase, and the large open grate in the former kitchen.
Small houses of 18th-century date continued to employ wooden lintels over door openings and windows, and the practice persisted well into the following century. A thatched house, Old Queen House, which stands isolated between Springbank and the stream, is dated 1733 but part of the lower north wing probably belonged to an earlier structure. It was formerly the Queen's Head Inn which was closed soon after 1905. (fn. 31) The 'Horse and Trumpet' is a rubble walled building that dates from the late 18th century; the inn has probably occupied this building since c. 1870. A house of the same name in 1844 was standing close to the site on which the village school was afterwards built. (fn. 32)
There is a considerable amount of 19th-century building in Medbourne, most of it dating from the latter half of the period. The earliest dated brickwork is of 1861 (fn. 33) and after this brick was increasingly used in the district to the almost complete exclusion of stone. Burnside, between Bridgedale Farm and the Brook, is dated 1861 but also has a reset date stone, much worn, inscribed '1601 Robart Smith R.N. Serve God'. The smithy and the house to the south of it were built in 1875 by William Letts, a local builder then living at Manor Farm, on the site of the parish workhouse bought by Letts from the overseers. (fn. 34) The shoeing shop has a wide round-arched entrance and wrought-iron decoration of smiths' implements in the gable. There are older and lower outbuildings towards the Old Rectory grounds and in the rear garden that may be part of the former workhouse. The smithy is still active but the shoeing of horses ceased c. 1958.
The Nevill Arms Inn facing the Brook is a twostoried ironstone building built in the Tudor style and is dated 1863. A long rear wing has a first-floor club room which was used extensively in the past for village social activities. The inn was built by Capt. G. H. Nevill, brother and heir presumptive of Cosmo George Nevill, owner of the Holt estate, to replace the previous building which was destroyed by fire. (fn. 35) Nearby, three cottages behind Springbank are dated 1852.
The Village Hall is a plain red-brick building of 1913, erected with money raised by public subscription, (fn. 36) and beyond it the premises of the Market Harborough Industrial Co-operative Society were built in 1908. The Council houses in the village represent the bulk of modern building since 1918: 5 pairs have been built since 1945 in Old Holt Road, and others of similar date, including 4 prefabricated dwellings, are sited on the east side of the road to Drayton, together with 8 pairs built in the years between the world wars. This estate marks the southern extent of the village. Three pairs in Slawston Road near to Manor Farm are c. 1920-30 and are said to have replaced older cottages.
Medbourne was a large village throughout most of its history. Twenty-two inhabitants were recorded in 1086. There were 42 households in 1563 and 243 communicants in 1603. By 1670 the number of households was 61 and there were 195 communicants in 1676. (fn. 37) There were about 90 families in the early 18th century, (fn. 38) and 107 households by the end of the century. (fn. 39) After a rapid increase from 420 to 514 between 1811 and 1821 the total population remained steady until the 1850's when it rose from 523 in 1851 to 580 in 1861. The presence of workmen building the railway and of huntsmen and stable boys during Sir Bache Cunard's mastership of the hunt probably accounted for the increase, between 1871 and 1881, from 488 to 556, but the numbers fell steeply again to 428 in 1891 and thereafter declined steadily to 353 in 1931. In 1951 the population was 398. (fn. 40)
MANORS. (fn. 41)
In 1086 Robert de Todeni, lord of Belvoir, held 4 carucates of land in Medbourne, and 2 carucates belonged to the king's soke of Great Bowden. (fn. 42) The earlier descent of the two manors is here described separately, but by the mid-17th century both had been acquired by the lords of Nevill Holt, and the later manorial history of Medbourne will be treated under that lordship. (fn. 43)
In 1188-9 the sheriff was responsible for the farm of the 2 carucates belonging to the king's soke of Great Bowden. (fn. 44) It is not possible to trace the tenants of this property before the earlier 13th century, when three names are known. (fn. 45) In 1262 a rent of 47s. 9d. from the 2 carucates was granted by the king to his steward William Chaundeler, (fn. 46) who subsequently conveyed it together with the advowson of Medbourne church, not mentioned in the grant of 1262, to John de Kirkby, later Bishop of Ely. In 1272 Henry III confirmed this assignment of the rent, the advowson being specifically included, the whole to be held for the service of 1/20 knight's fee. (fn. 47) Kirkby before 1281 had also become an undertenant of the Chaworth manor (see below) and had acquired substantial property in Holt, Drayton, Prestgrave, and other neighbouring villages. (fn. 48) At Kirkby's death in 1290 his heir was his brother William, (fn. 49) who died without issue in 1302. KIRKBY'S manor, which included 47s. 2¾d. rent in Medbourne and 6s. 8d. in pleas and perquisites of court there, (fn. 50) was divided among his four sisters: Margaret, Alice, wife of Peter Prilly, Maud, widow of Gilbert de Houby, and Mabel, widow of William Grymbaud. (fn. 51)
Margaret de Kirkby (d. 1324), the eldest sister, married Walter Doseville and was succeeded in turn by her son Hugh Doseville (fn. 52) (d. 1349) and his kinswoman Cecily, daughter of John Doseville and wife of Guy de Boys, who was childless. (fn. 53) The immediate heir of Cecily de Boys cannot be traced but in 1447 the heirs of one Robert Straunge, who had died in 1390 possessed of 6s. yearly rent in Medbourne held of the king and the fourth part of a view of frankpledge, were then said to be Anne Porter and John Bellers, the respective representatives of Alice Prilly and Maud de Houby. (fn. 54)
The inheritance of Alice Prilly descended through her male heirs (fn. 55) until 1426 when Edmund Prilly was succeeded by his sister Anne, then the wife of John Waver, (fn. 56) who was given seisin in 1447 by which date she was married to Thomas Porter. (fn. 57) In 1542 Sir Thomas Nevill of Holt claimed with apparent success that Richard Waver, a descendant of Anne Waver, had in 1500 granted his rights in Medbourne to Thomas Nevill, the claimant's grandfather. (fn. 58)
Maud de Houby (d. 1311) was succeeded by her son Walter (fn. 59) (d. 1349), (fn. 60) who left at least two sons, Gilbert and Anthony. The line of Gilbert's heirs appears to have died out by 1379 (fn. 61) and presumably the inheritance passed to Anthony's grandson (fn. 62) Anthony de Sutton or 'Howeby', who died in 1422 seised of a fourth part of this manor in Medbourne. His share thereafter descended to his daughter Elizabeth, to her son John Bellers (d. 1476, by which date it had been increased from a quarter to a third), and to his sister Ellen, who carried it to her husband William Roskyn. (fn. 63) Their son Jasper Roskyn or Ruskyn died in 1486 and his share was by 1505 divided between two of his daughters. (fn. 64) The interest of Anne Leeke, the elder daughter, has left no trace. The interest of Margaret Lacy (d. 1529), the younger daughter, was eventually inherited by her younger son Seth, who conveyed it to Thomas Nevill of Holt in 1542-3. (fn. 65)
Mabel Grymbaud, the youngest sister (d. 1311- 12), inherited de facto if not de jure as part of her share the advowson of Medbourne church. (fn. 66) Her heir was her son Robert Grymbaud, (fn. 67) who alienated the advowson and his mother's inheritance in Medbourne to Henry le Scrope of Bolton between 1311 and 1315. (fn. 68) The lords Scrope continued to hold these rights (fn. 69) until 1456 when Henry, Lord Scrope of Bolton (d. 1459), leased his property in Medbourne to Thomas Palmer of Holt for a nominal rent. (fn. 70) The Scropes finally parted with all their rights to Thomas Nevill of Holt in 1565. (fn. 71)
It is possible but by no means certain that the Straunge family held a fee on the king's soke in Medbourne which was not absorbed into the Kirkby manor. William le Straunge was apparently farming the king's manor in the early 13th century. (fn. 72) The last member of the family was Robert Straunge (d. 1390). His holding has been identified with the Doseville share of the Kirkby manor. (fn. 73) In 1406 the court of Robert Straunge in Medbourne was granted to Thomas de Chaworth. (fn. 74)
The CHAWORTH or PAYNE'S manor was held under the overlordship of the family of Ros of Belvoir who had inherited through the D'Aubeney family from Robert de Todeni, the tenant of 4 carucates in Medbourne in 1086. (fn. 75) William de Ros in 1312 attempted to impound the cattle of Thomas de Chaworth in Medbourne for the latter's failure to pay certain services. (fn. 76) The overlordship passed temporarily to the family of Hastings, lords Hastings, after the attainder of Thomas, Lord Ros, in 1461, (fn. 77) but was restored with his other possessions to his son Edmund on the reversal of the attainder in 1485. (fn. 78) It was still recognized in 1507. (fn. 79)
The Chaworth family were first mentioned in Medbourne in 1235-6 when William de Chaworth held this manor of William D'Aubeney. (fn. 80) In 1257 Thomas de Chaworth secured a grant of free warren in his demesne lands at Medbourne and Tugby. (fn. 81) The Chaworth manor at Medbourne descended in the male line of the Chaworth family for 9 or 10 generations until 1485 when on the death of Thomas Chaworth (VII) (fn. 82) Medbourne and other Chaworth lands in the neighbourhood reverted to his cousin Joan, sister of Thomas (VI) and wife of John Ormond of Alfreton (Derbys.). (fn. 83) Her inheritance passed to her three daughters: Joan, wife of Thomas Dynham of Eythorpe (Bucks.), an illegitimate son of John, last Lord Dynham; (fn. 84) Elizabeth, wife of Sir Anthony Babington of Dethick (Derbys.); and Anne (d.s.p.), wife of William Mering. (fn. 85) Thomas Dynham assigned his interest to others who sold it in 1551 to William Payne of Medbourne and Anthony Andrewes of Uppingham (Rut.). (fn. 86) Andrewes later in the same year quitclaimed his interest to Payne. (fn. 87) In 1563 Henry, grandson of Sir Anthony Babington, (fn. 88) sold his rights in the manor to Thomas, the son of William Payne. (fn. 89)
This was thenceforward known as Payne's manor. William Payne (d. 1615), the son of Thomas Payne, held not only this manor but also the Kirkby manor from Thomas Nevill. (fn. 90) In 1602 Sir Thomas Nevill of Holt mortgaged the Kirkby manor to Sir Richard Waldram (1564-1617) (who had married Catherine, the daughter of John Payne), (fn. 91) from whom it passed to Robert Payne, the son of William (d. 1615). Robert Payne sold Payne's manor to Henry Nevill or Smith of Cressing Temple (Essex), heir to the Nevills of Holt, in 1631. (fn. 92)
The higher ground on the west side of the Brook in Medbourne, where the pavement of a Roman villa was first uncovered in 1721, (fn. 93) appears to have been the site of a Roman settlement. Many coins found in the district suggest a late Roman occupation of the site, (fn. 94) and the discovery of Anglo-Saxon remains has also led to speculation about continuity of settlement between the Roman and Saxon periods. (fn. 95) In 1086 the principal manor represented a substantial settlement. Robert de Todeni held 4 carucates of land on which there had been 8 ploughs in the time of King Edward. On his demesne he had 3 ploughs, while 13 villeins and 6 bordars had 4 ploughs. (fn. 96)
The manor of Robert de Todeni, which was held by the Chaworth family, was the most important estate in medieval Medbourne. The other manor, which was established on land belonging to the king's soke of Great Bowden, was merely an alienation by the Crown of the rents of its tenants. In 1290, moreover, Thomas de Chaworth was holding a large part of the former royal manor as a tenant of John de Kirkby as well as his own manor. (fn. 97) The grant by Henry III of a market and fair in Medbourne in 1266 had been made jointly to Thomas de Chaworth and John de Kirkby. (fn. 98) Thomas de Chaworth (d. ante 1315) was a resident manorial lord, and the manor-house may have been built by him. (fn. 99)
His descendants continued to live in Medbourne for most of the 14th century. His grandson Thomas de Chaworth paid the largest amount of tax in the village in 1327 and 1332. (fn. 100) Thomas's grandson Sir Thomas de Chaworth (d. 1370-1) may have been the last member of the family to live in the manor-house. He was certainly there in 1354 when he and his tenants were involved in a dispute with the rector, (fn. 101) but by 1381 it appears that the house was tenanted by Hugh Hemyton, 'franklyn'. (fn. 102) Sir William de Chaworth (d. c. 1398), Sir Thomas's grandson, who received his lands in Medbourne in 1373, may have moved to the family estates in Nottinghamshire. (fn. 103) A surviving court roll (1413) of the manor of Sir William's son, Sir Thomas de Chaworth (d. 1459), does not provide information on the family. (fn. 104) Sir Thomas was apparently enjoying the lands of Anthony Houby, part of the Kirkby inheritance, (fn. 105) and had also acquired in 1406 the court of Robert Straunge. (fn. 106) Throughout the 15th century the Chaworths probably continued to lease the manor to a tenant or farm it through a steward. In 1494 Joan Ormond, cousin and heir of Thomas de Chaworth (d. 1485), leased the manor to John Goodman of Medbourne. (fn. 107)
Soon after 1550 the heirs of the Chaworths sold their interests (fn. 108) and by 1563 Thomas Payne was established in the Chaworth manor-house. His son William Payne (d. 1615) was also tenant of the former Kirkby manor. (fn. 109) The predominance of the Payne family was short-lived. By 1631 all the manorial rights in Medbourne had been absorbed into the Nevill Holt estate. A rental of 1467 shows only a small interest of the Holt estate in Medbourne, (fn. 110) but surviving court rolls of the late 16th century reveal the activities of the Nevills, particularly Sir Thomas Nevill (d. 1571), in buying up small estates in Medbourne. (fn. 111) The Nevill Holt estate remained intact until 1919.
Medbourne in the late 16th and early 17th centuries was dominated by a few interrelated yeoman families of whom the Paynes were the most prosperous. Even after they ceased to be lords of the manor, the family remained in the village as tenantfarmers and their descendants survived into the 20th century. (fn. 112) The lay subsidy lists of 1545 and 1572 include other prominent families, like Barrett, Bowman, Abbott, and Dod, (fn. 113) but 5 of the 7 assessments in 1603-4 were paid by Paynes. (fn. 114) In 1607, of the 5 houses of husbandry which were reported to have been decayed by the loss of their land, 2 belonged to William Payne and Benjamin Payne. (fn. 115) Two yeoman families of Medbourne, the Goodmans and the Marstons, were included in the herald's visitation of Leicestershire families in 1619. The Marstons had intermarried with the Barrett, Bowman, Payne, and Dod families. (fn. 116) The Goodmans entered Medbourne at the end of the 15th century, and by the later 17th several of them were described as 'gentlemen'. (fn. 117) Lady Elizabeth Roberts (d. 1679), the widow of Sir Richard Roberts (d. 1644), was the principal resident in the late 17th century. (fn. 118)
According to the hearth tax returns of 1670, the village contained 6 large houses, including the Rectory, 30 smaller houses, and 25 which were discharged from payment. (fn. 119) By this time the village was responsible to the manorial court of the Nevills, and in 1684 new articles of agreement were drawn up before the court for the regulation of farming in Medbourne. (fn. 120) The records of the court show that there were 94 suitors in Medbourne in 1721 (fn. 121) and 44 freeholders in the late 18th century. (fn. 122) Nichols noted that the greater part of the parish belonged to Cosmas Nevill (d. 1829) of Holt and Robert Green (d. 1791) of Medbourne. (fn. 123) In 1790 Nevill paid 33 per cent. and Green, with his son Robert, 14.5 per cent. of the land tax required from the parish. (fn. 124) Between 1820 and 1830 William, the younger brother of Charles Nevill (d. 1848), acquired four separate estates which together amounted to over 400 a. (fn. 125) At the time of the inclosure in 1844 William and Charles Nevill together held over 800 a., or about 45 per cent. of the total area inclosed. (fn. 126)
The open fields, meadows, and pastures of Medbourne presented a complicated pattern. A portion of the parish on the high ground on either side of the road to Holt appears to have been inclosed when Holt was emparked in the 15th century. (fn. 127) Ground to the north of this was known as Turnip Field, and to the west, further down the slopes of the hill, was Wood Field. There were some old inclosures in the extreme north-east of the parish, close to the spring north-west of Medbourne Grange, and beyond them lay Little Field on the Blaston boundary. (fn. 128) Between these old inclosures and Turnip Field, on ground later occupied by Medbourne Grange, lay the Upper Pastures. The Nether Pastures lay on the north bank of the River Welland on either side of Medbourne Brook. Each tenant of the manor had certain defined rights of common on the pastures, which were fenced so that it was not necessary to 'tent' (fn. 129) each beast. The Upper and Lower Meadows lay alongside the river on either side of the road to Ashley and were separated from the open fields by the Meadow Drain. The extent of these meadows, which appear to have been fenced off into small rectangular plots, (fn. 130) is visible both on the ground and on air photographs. The remainder of the open-field land was divided into three: Bridge Field on the west, Dale Field on the east towards Drayton, and Marsdale Field on the north. Medbourne Brook marked the boundary between Bridge and Dale Fields; Marsdale Field lay partly on the west side of the Brook northwards towards Hallaton and partly on the south side of its tributary north-eastwards towards Blaston. Seventeenth-century references to Mill Field and Mickeldale Field should probably be identified with Marsdale Field, (fn. 131) although 'Mersedale' existed in 1318. (fn. 132)
The farmers of Medbourne pursued two courses of husbandry in the late 18th century. On the higher ground of Marsdale, Wood, and Dale Fields, oats were sown for two years running, and in the third year the ground was laid down with clover and ryegrass. On the lower ground a crop of wheat or barley the first year was followed by beans the second year, after which the ground lay fallow. (fn. 133) John Throsby, who travelled across Bridge Field on the bridle road to Welham about 1790, observed 'a fine, open field, the blades of corn about four inches high, and as free from weeds and filth as the best-managed garden in the kingdom', (fn. 134) but another traveller a few years later emphasized that the country between Market Harborough and Hallaton was largely an area of inclosed pasture land for the fattening of cattle. (fn. 135) The parish of Medbourne during the early 19th century was clearly an exception to the general character of the district. About 1790 it consisted of 14 farms with 10 resident farmers; there were 12 tammy weavers and combers of jersey, 3 linen weavers, 2 fellmongers and 5 malt offices producing over 1,000 qr. of malt a year; and other craftsmen and tradesmen included 8 shoemakers, 5 tailors, and 6 shopkeepers. (fn. 136) The village retained this character on the eve of inclosure. (fn. 137)
The reasons for the fact that Medbourne was the last place in Leicestershire to be inclosed are uncertain, but there can be no doubt that the delay was connected with the manorial regulations of the Nevills. The inclosure closely followed their financial difficulties for there were bailiffs in the hall during the early 1840's. (fn. 138) Furthermore, most of the strips had been consolidated into larger blocks, probably as a result of buying and selling in the 18th century. (fn. 139) By 1842, when the inclosure Act was passed, only on the higher slopes of Dale Field was there a considerable number of strips and green balks. (fn. 140) Thus one reason for the late inclosure was that adequate arrangements had already been made for improving agriculture. The total area inclosed by the award of 1844 was 1,775 a. Forty-seven per cent. of this, or 828 a., was allotted to Charles and William Nevill, and 30 per cent. was divided between another 6 owners-Maria Fenwicke, John Meadows, J. B. Humfrey, the Revd. J. H. Dent, Matilda Head, and Lucy Hodgson. (fn. 141) The commissioners sold certain portions to raise money for paying the cost of inclosures allotted to the poor. (fn. 142)
Before the fields were inclosed, the parish was divided into 865 a. of arable land, 453 a. of pasture, 223 a. of meadow, and 231 a. of common. (fn. 143) After inclosure, during the later 19th century, the economy of the village was largely dominated by the businesses of several large graziers who specialized in beef production. Some were non-resident, like George Berry of Blaston and Robert Berry of Ashley (Northants.), (fn. 144) but others lived in the village. Thomas Hawes and Henry Hawes were at Medbourne House (later the Old Hall) and William Letts at the farm by the packhorse bridge (later the Manor Farm). (fn. 145) Thomas Hextall farmed from the Manor House until c. 1880 when the building of the railway caused the road to Holt to be diverted through his farm-yard. (fn. 146) Members of the Ward family, who succeeded the Hawes, were coal merchants. (fn. 147) Two farms have in the 20th century been acquired by St. John's College, Cambridge: Blood's Farm in 1934 and Mill Farm in 1935. (fn. 148) During the 1920's bus services made it possible for Medbourne people to work in Market Harborough, and since the Second World War several families of Leicester business men have lived in the village.
Before the inclosure of the open fields in 1844 part of the Nether Pastures (fn. 149) by the River Welland was known as Mill Holme, (fn. 150) but no trace of a watermill has been found. There was a windmill in Medbourne belonging to Sir Thomas Nevill (d. 1571) in the mid-16th century. (fn. 151) The windmill standing in the late 18th century, a smock mill, was 60 ft. high, and Nichols thought it worthwhile to publish the details of its exact dimensions. (fn. 152) It was probably this same mill, standing by the road to Slawston, that was described in the inclosure award of 1844. (fn. 153) It was demolished in January 1902, (fn. 154) but the tump on which it stood was still visible in 1960. (fn. 155)
During the 1850's the annual Easter vestry meeting elected a guardian, 2 overseers of the poor, 2 constables, and 2 overseers of the highways. The latter were replaced by a single waywarden in 1863. From 1865 until a parish council was established, two vestry meetings were held each year, one in March under the chairmanship of the guardian, and one at Easter under the rector. The first meeting dealt with all matters relating to the poor law and the highways, and elected the waywarden and overseers; the second dealt primarily with the church fabric and local charities. (fn. 156) There was apparently no parish workhouse until the end of the 18th century. (fn. 157) In 1802-3 the workhouse contained 15 people, and 24 adults and 22 children received out-relief. (fn. 158) It was sold by auction in 1861. (fn. 159) The building stood on the north side of the Old Rectory, a site afterwards occupied by the house and smithy which bears the inscription, 'W.L. 1875' (William Letts). (fn. 160) In 1836 Medbourne was included in the Uppingham Union (Rut.). (fn. 161) In 1888 the vestry meeting passed a resolution to inform the Boundary Commission of its desire to remain in Leicestershire, and in 1894 welcomed the Local Government Act which, it hoped, would transfer the parish to the Market Harborough Union. (fn. 162) In fact, Medbourne became part of the Hallaton R.D. until it was dissolved in 1935. (fn. 163) The parish council, established by an order of 1894, has 5 members. (fn. 164)
There was a church at Medbourne in the late 12th century, on the manor held by the king, of which the advowson belonged to the Crown. By 1220 daughter chapels had been established at Blaston and at Holt. (fn. 165) The history of the chapel of Blaston St. Giles, which became independent of the mother church at Medbourne, except for burial rights and a pension of 5s. payable to the rector, is described under Blaston; (fn. 166) that of the chapel of Holt is described below under Nevill Holt. (fn. 167) The living is a rectory which has never been appropriated. The only substantial grants of tithes were made not on the king's manor but on the manor of Robert de Todeni, the lord of Belvoir, who was holding 4 carucates in 1086. He made grants of tithes from his demesnes in Medbourne to both Belvoir Priory and the abbey of St. Albans, and they came into lay hands after the Dissolution. (fn. 168)
The Abbot of Owston claimed that by a charter of Henry II he had been granted the right of presentation after the death of Thomas Griffin, the incumbent, but in 1216-17, when this vacancy occurred, his right was ignored by the papal legate who ordered the institution of Nicholas de Breaute. (fn. 169) The Crown may have presented in 1231, (fn. 170) but Owston Abbey persisted in pressing its claims by making a presentation in 1237 at the next vacancy, (fn. 171) and in the suit which followed the advowson was adjudged to belong to the Crown. (fn. 172) The king continued to present to the living, (fn. 173) and in 1253 when the grants made to Owston were confirmed, the advowson of Medbourne was expressly reserved for the Crown. (fn. 174) The abbey brought an unsuccessful suit in 1306, and its claims to the advowson were then allowed to lapse. (fn. 175)
In 1262 the grant of the manor of Medbourne by Henry III to William Chaundeler was assumed to include the advowson. (fn. 176) It therefore passed to John de Kirkby (d. 1290), later Bishop of Ely, who was recognized as patron of the living in 1268-9. (fn. 177) Edward I nevertheless made a presentation in 1302 because he had the custody of the lands of William de Kirkby, the bishop's brother and heir. (fn. 178) When the bishop's inheritance was divided between his four sisters, the advowson appears to have been allotted to Mabel, the youngest, who successfully defended her claim against Owston in 1306. (fn. 179) Between 1311 and 1315 Robert Grymbaud, Mabel's son, sold his share of the Kirkby manor which included the advowson to Henry le Scrope of Bolton (Yorks.). (fn. 180) William le Scrope was Rector of Medbourne from 1334 to 1365. (fn. 181) By an action in 1355 brought by Edward III against Richard le Scrope, the Crown recovered the advowson for its own use. (fn. 182)
In 1382 Richard le Scrope (d. 1403), Lord Scrope of Bolton, was able to secure a specific grant of the advowson from Richard II, (fn. 183) and the Lords Scrope remained patrons of the living until the Reformation. Sir Thomas Nevill (d. 1571) of Nevill Holt then contested their claim to the full rights of presentation, and in 1540 successfully presented Thomas Gillam. (fn. 184) He maintained that he had inherited a turn in the advowson through the purchase of the Prilly share of the Kirkby manor in 1500. (fn. 185) Although John, Lord Scrope, won an action against Nevill in 1542, (fn. 186) by 1565 his successor was willing to part with the advowson, (fn. 187) and the Nevills of Holt were the recognized patrons of the living from 1565 until 1706. As Roman Catholics, the later Nevills were barred by law from making any presentations to the rectory. (fn. 188) At the vacancy which occurred in 1696 Henry Nevill (d. 1728) granted this turn to Mary Brudenell (d. 1729) of Market Harborough, (fn. 189) and let it be known that he wished to sell the advowson. St. John's College, Cambridge, bought the advowson in 1706, (fn. 190) and the college was still the patron in 1959. (fn. 191)
The rectory, which was one of the best-endowed in the neighbourhood, (fn. 192) was worth 20 marks in 1217 and 1254, (fn. 193) and 32 marks in 1291. (fn. 194) The net value in 1535 was £35 10s. 1¼d. (fn. 195) The annual income from the rectory in 1650 was £100, (fn. 196) and at the beginning of the 18th century about £180, (fn. 197) but when Thomas Todington entered upon the benefice in 1773, he was able to increase its value to £219 10s., largely by taking a modus from the chapelry of Holt. (fn. 198) His right to this augmentation appears to have been disputed by the Nevill family. (fn. 199) By the time T. K. B. Nevinson accepted the living in 1909, it was said to be worth £625 yearly. In 1911 he calculated its annual value as £542 net. (fn. 200) In 1954 the annual payments from the Church Commissioners amounted to £676. (fn. 201) The total area of glebe land appears to have been between 45 a. and 50 a. In 1773 35 a. were under plough. (fn. 202) A terrier of 1774 describes the glebe as 44 a. but 37 a. by statute measure. (fn. 203) At the inclosure of the open fields in 1844 the rector received over 40 a. in lieu of glebe, (fn. 204) and when the tithes were commuted in 1847 he was allotted rentcharges amounting to £570 a year. (fn. 205) All the glebe was sold in 1920 for £1,500, of which over £1,400 was then invested. (fn. 206)
The parsonage, which was taxed for eight hearths, was the largest house in the village in 1670, (fn. 207) and was then probably new, as the Rectory described in 1518 does not appear to have been in good repair. (fn. 208) The house in Rectory Lane now known as the Old Rectory dates mainly from c. 1830 (fn. 209) but preserves at its north end a cross-wing of the 17th-century building and at its south end an 18th-century addition. The main façade of five bays faces west towards the church, its gabled end bays set slightly forward. The main entrance is asymmetrically placed towards the north end and has a Corinthian porch. The upper story is stuccoed, its windows having eared architraves, and the lower story is rusticated. The interior decoration is mostly of c. 1830, the main saloon having plaster work typical of this date. This room may represent the site of the medieval house. The 17th-century north wing contains a three-light ovolomullioned window in the cellar wall and its firstfloor level does not correspond with that of the later house. Alterations at the east side of the house date from after 1830. The garden towards the church is terraced and a coach house and stable building against Rectory Lane are of the early 19th century. The Old Rectory was sold for £3,800 in 1952, (fn. 210) and the New Rectory, a much smaller house, was erected in the paddock behind it in 1953.
The only medieval endowments were for the maintenance of lights. (fn. 211) They may have been associated with the Lady Chapel and the aisle of St. Katherine, reported in 1518, probably in the east aisle of the south transept. (fn. 212) The Church Land charity, whose origin is unknown, in 1839 consisted of 12 pieces of land in the open fields yielding between £10 and £20 in hay in two years out of three, and 3 other plots let at a rental of £2. The churchwardens carried the income to the church rates. (fn. 213) They were allotted a field of 8 a. at the inclosure in 1844. (fn. 214) In 1954 the income, which was paid into the Medbourne church account, was reported to vary between £10 and £30 a year. (fn. 215)
The considerable value of the living encouraged the appointment of non-resident rectors who left the work of the parish to a curate. While the advowson was in the hands of the Crown during the later 14th century, the rectory was liable to become a sinecure for officials of the Archbishop of Canterbury's household: Nicholas of Chaddesden, Dean of Arches, was rector from 1366 to 1371, (fn. 216) and John of Barton, one of Archbishop Sudbury's clerks, rector from 1371 to 1373. (fn. 217) Thomas Shipton, who was presented in 1438 by the Earl of Salisbury as guardian of Lord Scrope, (fn. 218) was probably not resident since he was a Chancery clerk. (fn. 219) Roger Pysford, rector 1508-19, also appears to have lived elsewhere. (fn. 220) But in the late 16th and early 17th century a distinguished succession of rectors spent the greater part, if not the whole, of their time in residence. Samuel Hill (d. 1639), however, was also incumbent of the wealthy benefice of Church Langton, where he appears to have lived. (fn. 221) Henry Ferne, who was removed from the living in 1646, was raised to the See of Chester after the Restoration. (fn. 222) Thomas Doughty who succeeded him during the Interregnum was involved in the skirmish between villagers and soldiers in 1646. (fn. 223) George Barry, rector 1661-96, was nonresident, (fn. 224) but both his successors, George Staveley (d. 1709) and Thomas Dwyer (d. 1717), were buried in the parish churchyard. (fn. 225) He and all five of his successors (until 1909) were former fellows of St. John's College, Cambridge, then the patron. (fn. 226) Three of them who were non-resident were served as curate by Dr. William Watts (d. 1786), the founder of Leicester Infirmary. (fn. 227) All the rectors have been resident since L. P. Baker (d. 1870) was inducted in 1825. Baker built the Old Rectory and gave much money for charitable uses. (fn. 228) T. K. B. Nevinson (d. 1930), rector 1909-29, left various notes on the history of the parish. (fn. 229) During his incumbency and during the early 1930's the church retained the custom of accompanying the services with music from an orchestra. (fn. 230) It appears never to have had an organ, although there were subscriptions for a harmonium in 1867, and a little later for an American organ. (fn. 231)
The church of ST. GILES, which stands on the north side of the green in the centre of the village, consists of a chancel, nave with south aisle, north transept, south transept with east aisle, south porch, and west tower. The fabric has been so much rebuilt and restored that it is almost impossible to reconstruct its history accurately. The task has been made more difficult by the discovery in 1911 that the sedilia in the south transept had been built with previously tooled stones. Some other stones in the south wall had been subjected to considerable calcination, which led Professor A. Hamilton Thompson to conjecture that the original church had been destroyed by fire c. 1250. (fn. 232) He also expressed the opinion that the early-13th-century church was of a regular cruciform shape with a central tower (fn. 233) but there are no obvious piers for the support of such a tower.
The general impression conveyed by the structure is that an elaborate plan for a cruciform church was begun, but afterwards abandoned. Work from the mid-13th century may be found in the capitals and bases of detached shafts which used to support the inner arches of four windows in the north transept, where there are also traces of wall painting. Although the west walls of the two transepts do not share the same north-south line, each transept is over 30 ft. long from north to south, and the east wall of the north transept is directly in line with the east arcade which separates the south transept from its aisle. If the church used to be a regular cruciform, the former south transept may have corresponded to the north one. If so its west wall was moved about 5 ft. to the east, perhaps during the rebuilding of the nave in the 14th century.
It is therefore probable that a south transept, corresponding in plan to the north transept, was extended eastwards in the late 13th century by the erection of the three-bay arcade of double chamfered arches. The two piers are octagonal, and the responds, which are semi-circular with fillets, display carvings, two little figures on the north and a bearded man on the south. The triple sedilia in the south wall of the aisle, which may have come from an earlier building, has deeply moulded arches and fine leaf capitals. In the south wall of the south transept, a cusped canopy of the early 14th century now houses a mutilated effigy of a priest that has probably been brought from elsewhere in the church. A perfect skeleton was found when this tomb was moved in 1911. (fn. 234) The east wall of the transeptal aisle contains a locker rebated for a door and a piscina. The nave and south aisle were probably rebuilt in the 13th and early 14th centuries. There is ballflower decoration on the arch of the south doorway. The nave arcade of three bays has two circular piers carrying octagonal capitals with nail-head decoration; the capitals were largely re-tooled in 1880-1. The west tower dates from c. 1400. It rises in four stages with angle buttresses and is surmounted by an embattled parapet. On its west side there is a door, and a window at the second stage. The walls are of ironstone ashlar but internally the base of the tower has a north wall made of small rubble which may be a relic of an earlier tower. Later-15th-century alterations to the fabric included the provision of three-light cinquefoiled windows in the south aisle and south wall of the transeptal aisle.
The whole church appears to have been renovated in the mid-17th century. A clerestory was added to the nave, (fn. 235) and the north transept fitted out as the parish schoolroom. For the latter a door was placed in the east wall and a fire-place and chimney stack in the north wall. The replacement of the arched heads of the early windows in the north transept by flat wooden lintels probably dates from these alterations, as do the four windows with large stone mullions. There was a window of similar design in the south wall of the south transept until the restoration of 1911. (fn. 236) The arch between the north transept and the nave has an oak screen with turned balusters of early-17th-century date. The porch over the south door was added c. 1700, probably to replace the one reported to be in need of repair in 1692. (fn. 237) South-east of the porch, in the churchyard, is the partly embedded base of a cross with a truncated worn shaft.
A faculty for restoring the church was obtained in 1873. (fn. 238) The first work consisted of building a new chancel in 1876 at the expense of the rector, C. F. Eastburn, who mortgaged some of the emoluments of the benefice to Queen Anne's Bounty in order to raise £420 in capital. (fn. 239) Of the medieval chancel, the lower courses and the diagonal buttresses at the east end were retained in 1876, but the side elevations were completely rebuilt. (fn. 240) The new chancel, designed by Edwin Dolby of Abingdon in the Early English style, has sedilia and piscina in the south wall. The east window was given by H. J. Grieveson of Nevill Holt Hall and Mrs. J. E. Ord of Church Langton. The nave was rebuilt in 1880-1. (fn. 241) The 17th-century clerestory was removed, and the north transept redecorated. (fn. 242) The restoration of the south transept was not completed until 1911-12, after another appeal for funds. (fn. 243) During the work, which was supervised by the architect, E. B. Nevinson, the rector's cousin, the remains of a wall painting were discovered on the spandrels of the transept arcade, but they were too faint to be preserved. (fn. 244) The principal alterations were the insertion of the south window with Decorated tracery and the setting of various memorial tablets in the west wall. The roofs were renewed, but four of the original braces were retained in the aisle together with a central tie beam spanning the transept. The nave roof probably dates from 1880. The north transept, which was abandoned by the parish school when it moved into a new building in 1869, was used first as a store room and afterwards, until 1936, as a boiler house. (fn. 245) It was restored and used as a parish room and vestry in 1953. (fn. 246)
The pews and furnishings date from the restoration of 1880-1. The 13th-century circular font was then placed on a new stem, and its four shafts attached to the basin were continued to the base. L. P. Baker, rector, gave the clock in 1852, and by his will left £100, partly for the repair of the clock and partly to augment the parish schoolmaster's salary. (fn. 247) In 1954 £10 was spent on clock repairs and the clock fund amounted to £60 10s. (fn. 248) In the nave there are wall tablets to John Wilson (d. 1827), a former curate, his widow Mary (d. 1849), her sister Elizabeth Hodgson (d. 1854), and Thomas Stafford (d. 1837). Wilson was L. P. Baker's step-father. In the south transept there are royal arms dated 1778 and tablets to Edward Conyers (d. 1701), the Revd. Thomas Dwyer (d. 1717), John Goodman (d. 1728), Jane Goodman (d. 1767), John Goodman (d. 1768), the Revd. Thomas Todington (d. 1787), the Revd. William Williams (d. 1826), and the Revd. Dr. William Watts (d. 1786). The east window of the transept was dedicated to Dr. Watts by Leicester Royal Infirmary in 1946. (fn. 249) Two coffin slabs in the south transept, one broken but both with foliated crosses, are of 13th-century date. The churchyard was extended on the north-east side near the village pound in 1919 by the acquisition of two cottages and gardens. (fn. 250)
There are six bells: (i), (ii), and (iii) 1768, by Joseph Eayre of St. Neots; (iv) 1784, by Edward Arnold of Leicester and St. Neots; (v) undated; (vi) 1952, by John Taylor of Loughborough. (fn. 251) The church plate includes a silver cup and paten of 1701 and a silver paten and dish of 1835. (fn. 252) The parish registers date from 1588. The registers of baptisms and marriages are virtually complete; those of burials lack entries from 1753 to 1783. C. M. Rice, rector 1930-50, transcribed all the entries made before 1813 and compiled an index to them. (fn. 253)
Although most Roman Catholics in the ancient parish were centred upon the household of Nevill Holt Hall, where the Nevills maintained a chapel, (fn. 254) there were a few in the township of Medbourne. John Mordaunt (d. 1680) of the Red House was a Roman Catholic, (fn. 255) and various members of the Nixon family were continually being presented for recusancy during the later 17th century. (fn. 256)
Thomas Doughty, who was introduced into the rectory of Medbourne in 1646 to replace the royalist, Henry Ferne, resigned in 1661 before he could be ejected. He afterwards conformed and held two other livings. (fn. 257) No conventicle was reported in this parish in 1669. (fn. 258)
By the beginning of the 18th century there were several Presbyterians or Independents in Medbourne. (fn. 259) Two private houses were licensed as places of worship in 1769, (fn. 260) and in 1798 a new building was purchased and licensed by a group of Wesleyans who wished to establish a chapel in order to retain the services of a former curate of the parish. (fn. 261) The latter appears to have been James Clough (d. 1810). (fn. 262) The chapel which survived until about 1900 stood on a small plot of ground in the north-west corner of the village, down a yard close to the old Queen's Head Inn. (fn. 263) It was renovated in 1857-8. In 1857 the congregation had resolved to remain independent of the Wesleyan Conference, and in 1861 successfully resisted an attempt by the latter to claim ownership of the building which was then vested in 5 trustees. (fn. 264)
The congregation of Independent Wesleyans in 1870 transferred to the Mission Hall on the Uppingham road which was built by Mrs. Bryan Ward (1825-98) of Slawston. (fn. 265) It is a red-brick building with yellow-brick dressings in the Romanesque style. Mrs. Ward also built the manse beside it, but there does not appear to have been a resident minister. The Mission Hall is served by the Leicestershire and Rutland Congregational Union.
The free school in Medbourne appears to have been established in the mid-17th century; by 1692 it needed repair. (fn. 266) It was housed in the north transept of the church which was fitted out for the purpose. (fn. 267) The schoolroom was separated from the body of the church by a lath and plaster partition. In this there was a door through which until about 1780 the children used to pass for prayers twice a week. (fn. 268) Although the archdeacon in 1777 ordered that the school should be held in 'some other more convenient place', (fn. 269) it remained in the church until 1868-9 when a new building was erected and given to the parish by the rector, L. P. Baker. (fn. 270)
The school was unendowed until 1761. Since that date three separate trusts connected with its running have been created, but the history of their management has been extremely confused. The first, the Medbourne Educational Foundation, is governed by a Charity Commissioners' Scheme of 1926, and stems from two original endowments. Sarah Moyses, by will proved in 1761, bequeathed £500 in trust for teaching poor boys and girls in the church school, and Thomas Hawkes, by will proved in 1785, added another £200 for the same purpose. In 1839 these endowments consisted of £1,000 in stock, and the annual income of the schoolmaster was £32. (fn. 271) After 1902 the money from this foundation was not used until the Board of Education, by an order dated 1931, obliged the trustees to purchase 4 a. of land near the Hallaton road as a recreation ground at a cost of £400. (fn. 272) The income in 1926 was £31. (fn. 273) The income in 1960 was spent on the maintenance of the ground and on prizes for those leaving school. (fn. 274) The second trust concerns the school buildings themselves. By 1786 (fn. 275) the endowment of the school included a house and garden for the schoolmaster who also received a rent-charge of £2 a year left at an unknown date by Robert Wade for teaching poor children in the parish. (fn. 276) The latter was included with the Moyses and Hawkes endowments in 1839. (fn. 277) Some land on the green in front of the schoolmaster's house was allotted to the rector at the inclosure in 1844. (fn. 278) He built a new school and house on part of this land in 1868-9, but in 1872 the Local Government Board objected to the manner by which he conveyed them to the parish. A trust deed was therefore drawn up in 1873 to govern the management of the school. (fn. 279) After the 1902 Education Act the schoolroom became the concern of the new board of managers, but the schoolmaster's house remained the responsibility of the old trustees. In 1952 the school was given 'controlled' status. (fn. 280) The third trust, since an order of the Charity Commissioners, dated 1907, has been called the Baker Educational Foundation. (fn. 281) It originated from £100 left by L. P. Baker, rector, partly for the maintenance of the church clock (fn. 282) and partly to augment the schoolmaster's salary. In 1881 this charity was by mistake grouped with the general Medbourne charities, (fn. 283) but in 1893 it was restored to its original purposes. (fn. 284) Its endowment in 1954, other than the clock fund, consisted of £34 10s. stock. (fn. 285)
The school is a gabled ironstone building in the Gothic style with red- and blue-brick dressings. The L-shaped structure has a large schoolroom forming a south wing, with the schoolmaster's house facing Main Street.
There were 42 boys and girls in attendance at the school in 1819, (fn. 286) 54 in 1833, (fn. 287) and 42 in 1839. (fn. 288) Education was free for Medbourne children, but 6d. a week was charged for children from other parishes. The master was allowed to take fee-paying pupils. (fn. 289) The first fees for Medbourne children were charged in 1872, and, after certain alterations had been made, the school received its first parliamentary grant in 1873-4. (fn. 290) Between 1874 and 1876 there were 40-49 in regular attendance, but with the children of those building the railway there were often 60-70 present. (fn. 291) There were 75 in 1906. (fn. 292) An infants' room was added on the west side of the school in 1911. The infants had previously been accommodated in a gallery on the east side of the schoolroom. (fn. 293) After 1929 senior children were taken by bus to Church Langton. (fn. 294) There were 52 juniors on the roll in 1933 and 38 in 1958. (fn. 295)
Valentine Goodman, by will proved 1685, left £800 to be laid out in lands for the benefit of 16 poor persons, 4 of them from Medbourne. An estate was purchased in Bringhurst parish, and in 1839 a fourth of the income from it, namely £20, was divided between 4 elderly poor persons of Medbourne at the rate of 2s. weekly. (fn. 298)
The Revd. John Foulkes, by will proved 1748, gave land in Wilbarston (Northants.) of which the rent was to be distributed in equal shares among the poor. In 1839 it produced £12, (fn. 299) and £20 in 1954. (fn. 300)
The Revd. John Morgan, by will proved 1773, bequeathed £200 stock in trust for the Protestant poor. By 1786 3 unknown donors had given the following rent-charges for the poor: 6s. 8d. from Wade's, later Dale, Farm; 3s. 4d. from Deacon's Farm; and 1s. from Bentley's Farm. By 1839 these had come to be grouped with Morgan's charity, and the income from the four charities was then being distributed to poor persons who had not shared in the charities of Goodman and Foulkes. (fn. 301)
By a Scheme of 1881 all the foregoing charities were amalgamated as the Medbourne Charities and indirect aid substituted for cash doles. A Scheme of 1948 authorized the sale of part of the Goodman estate for £60. In 1954 the Medbourne Charities produced £46; the rent-charges on Dale and Deacon's Farms had lapsed. In that year 12 pensioners received 4s. monthly. (fn. 302)
A recreation ground of 4 a. on the Drayton road was granted to the overseers and churchwardens on behalf of the parish by the inclosure award of 1844. (fn. 303) When the R.D.C. required this ground for a sewerage scheme, they were authorized in 1936 to compensate the parish for its loss by purchasing an extension to the recreation ground opened in 1931 by the Medbourne Educational Foundation. (fn. 304) Thenceforward the parish council and the Educational Foundation shared the profits derived from letting the pasture.
The civil parish of Nevill Holt, which is 1,178 a. in area, includes the small estate of Bradley. The chapel at Holt has been attached to the church of Medbourne since the 12th century. Bradley marks the site of a 13th-century priory founded by one of the lords of Holt. The village used to be called Holt or Holt-on-the-Hill: 'Nevill Holt' originated probably in the late 16th or 17th century and is derived from the Nevill family which settled in the place after 1474.
The lordship of Holt occupies the flat top and eastern slopes of Nevill Holt Hill, the village, which consists of Nevill Holt Hall, the church, Hall Farm, and a few cottages, being close to the highest point. The northern and western slopes of the hill belong to the parish of Medbourne, the southern to Drayton. Holt was probably created by the clearing of woodland during the 12th and 13th centuries. (fn. 305) The eastern boundary of Holt parish follows a stream flowing towards Great Easton, but it is unlikely that this was its original limit, because the lands of the now-lost Prestgrave were shared by the adjoining lordships after its disappearance. (fn. 306)
Nevill Holt Hill has provided a great deal of the local building stone. There were two 19th-century attempts to quarry the stone for use as iron ore, and it was quarried for lime in the 20th century. (fn. 307) In a spinney about 900 yds. east of the village there are the remains of a fountain head built by the Countess Migliorucci (formerly Mary Nevill) over a chalybeate spring discovered in 1728. This was Holt Spa. In the middle of the 18th century, particularly after a treatise on its virtues had been published by Dr. T. Short in 1742, the water from this spring was considered valuable for medicinal cures. (fn. 308) The summer season for drinking the waters lasted from April until October each year, but a house in Blaston was fitted out as a hotel for guests during the winter season. The bridle path from the chapel of Blaston St. Michael led towards Holt by the spring called Goldthorp which feeds the stream separating Medbourne from Blaston parish. This spring was also used by the invalids, (fn. 309) some of whom found lodgings in Medbourne. (fn. 310)
Priory Farm, an early-19th-century farm-house in the northern part of the parish, lies in Bradley, close to the site of the former priory which is now marked by slight mounds and depressions. Near Medbourne Grange on the road to Stockerston is a house believed to have been built with stone from the priory. (fn. 311) America Farm to the south of Priory Farm dates from the late 19th century. Lodge Farm, in the southern part of the parish, has been abandoned and consists only of outbuildings and a pair of derelict 19th-century cottages. A large covered feeding yard of red brick, which stands on higher ground to the west, was described in 1876 as 'model buildings'. (fn. 312)
The small village of Nevill Holt lies immediately north of the church and the hall. Since 1919 Nevill Holt Hall has been a private preparatory school. In structure and setting the hamlet reflects its dependence on the great house. To the west of it a road from Medbourne joins one which runs north towards Stockerston and south to Drayton. Both roads cross the park and pass stone-built lodges of the late 19th century. The hamlet lies off the road and is approached by a drive which skirts the hall gardens and then turns south at Hall Farm to form the only access to the church and to the hall itself. Hall Farm is an altered ironstone house of late-17th-century date; mullioned windows of this period survive at the south end, where rubble walling may represent part of an older house. The farm buildings are dated 1880 and bear the initials of Sir Bache Cunard. Between the farm and the church is an L-shaped thatched building of c. 1700, now the headmaster's house. North of this is a smaller ironstone house in the Tudor style, dated 1850 and having the crest and initials of Cosmo George Nevill. A pair of semidetached houses opposite the east end of the church were built late in the 19th century and a cottage to the west of Hall Farm is of similar date.
Nevill Holt Hall is a stone and cement-faced building of many periods, covering a large area. (fn. 313) The main axis lies east and west, the principal front facing south. The church is immediately east of the house and so continues the line of the long south frontage. A stable block, set at approximately right angles to the church, stands south-east of it. The buildings thus enclose a shallow three-sided court, its long side consisting of house and church, its west end closed by a projecting wing of the house, and its east end by the stable block. At the centre of the front stands a stone-built great hall, having an oriel window and a two-storied porch, both of late medieval date. It is not known how much of the structure of the house, if any, can be ascribed to an earlier period. It has been suggested, however, that the existing great hall was originally of the 14th century and that its front was a later addition. (fn. 314) There was certainly a large manor-house at Holt in 1302 when the property was divided between the four sisters of William de Kirkby. (fn. 315) Mention is made of hall, upper room, kitchen, bake-house, room beyond or above the great gate, chapel, room by the stable, stable, granary, and a long room at the back of the hall with other rooms annexed to it; a louver is listed in connexion with these last rooms. There was also a grange, with attendant buildings, and two dovecots. (fn. 316) No surviving structure is recognizable as the gatehouse, which is thought to have stood near the east end of the buildings. If the early manorhouse occupied much the same site as the present one, it is possible that the 'great gate' formed a connecting link between house and church.
The 15th-century work at the front of the present hall can almost certainly be attributed to Thomas Palmer (d. 1474), whose arms, both alone and impaling those of his second wife, appear above the porch windows. (fn. 317) The porch and the oriel to the west of it have carved detail of very fine quality. The first-floor windows of the former are set at the angles, where they flank a curiously empty central panel; this may have been designed for a heraldic feature which was never executed. Above the window a string course is carved with animals, the whole being surmounted by an enriched parapet, battlements, and pinnacles. The three angles of the oriel window have shafted buttresses supporting heraldic beasts; above these, at parapet level, are wild men of the woods, clothed in leaves and carrying clubs. Internally the oriel is of two stories, the lower forming a stone-vaulted recess in the hall, the upper a small chamber with access from the solar wing. The screens passage, into which the porch opened, crossed the great hall at its east end. Further east the arrangement of the medieval kitchen and service rooms has been obscured or destroyed by later rebuilding. Nevertheless the two ranges at the east end of the front may well be part of the original house. To the west of the hall the original floor levels of the solar wing, and probably the structure itself, have survived. Here a low-built cellar, now altered and divided, occupies the ground floor. Above is a 'great chamber' with a single large window, re-modelled at least three times, facing south. There were spiral staircases in both south-east and south-west corners of the hall. The first, contained in a square turret, led to the screens gallery and the room above the porch; the second, now destroyed at its lower levels, gave access to the great chamber and the upper stage of the oriel. The hall itself has been considerably altered. The north windows are blocked by the insertion of a Jacobean fire-place and by later extensions to the house. The original screens have been removed and the exposed roof timbers are probably 18th-century replacements. Other features in the house which are certainly of medieval date are three stone doorways which have been reset in the west wings. These may well be the doorways which originally led from the screens passage into the service wing.
Many of the additions and alterations to the house were probably the work of Sir Thomas Nevill (formerly Smyth) between 1591 and 1636. (fn. 318) The westward extension of the solar wing, part of which was originally timber-framed, and the projecting wing beyond it both appear to be of the 16th and early 17th centuries. At some such period the service quarters were re-modelled, the block nearest the hall being raised in height and given a front gable. (fn. 319) There is much Jacobean woodwork in the house, but some of this was introduced in the 19th century. The cloister wing on the north front dates from later in the 17th century, probably from after the death in 1665 of Sir Thomas's son Henry. Its ground floor consists of an arcaded loggia with round arches, and there is a single panelled room above. Perhaps this upper room was intended for a Roman Catholic chapel; such a chapel is known to have existed at Nevill Holt from the 17th century onwards. (fn. 320) The stable range was probably built or re-modelled in the late 17th century; its long two-storied front of ironstone has a central pediment, an embattled parapet, and limestone dressings with a mixture of Tudor and Classical details. The clock turret may be an 18thcentury addition and the rainwater heads are dated 1815.
The house appears to have been much altered internally by Henry Nevill's grandson, also Henry, who was in possession from at least 1672 until his death in 1728. In the great hall there was formerly a coved and painted ceiling, representing the 'Battle of the Giants', (fn. 321) which was probably of this period. A westward addition to the west wing originally had round-headed windows, and was, before the 19thcentury alterations, of typical 'Queen Anne' character. This extension was built round a detached structure known as 'King John's Tower'; its function is unknown but surviving features suggest that it may have been a look-out tower or a dovecote of the 16th or early 17th century. Other 18th-century work includes a projecting wing on the north side of the house. In c. 1782, a date which appears on rainwater heads, the great chamber was re-modelled, being given an 'Adam' ceiling and a large Venetian window. More extensions were made at the back of the house in the early 19th century and a large dining room behind the great hall was fitted out in the Empire style. From this time onwards the building was progressively 'Gothicized'. Charles Nevill (d. 1848) employed J. B. Papworth as architect in 1829- 32. (fn. 322) They seem to have been responsible for replacing the window in the great chamber by a Tudor oriel, for altering other windows, and for adding embattled parapets to the stair turret and east wings. (fn. 323) The process was carried on by Sir Bache Cunard, who acquired the property in 1876. His main contribution to the south front was a stone bay window, copied from the oriel in the hall, at the centre of the extreme east wing; this replaced an 18th-century bay on supporting columns. Many alterations were made internally both in Cunard's time and in that of his immediate predecessor (1868- 76). All the new fittings were either Gothic or Jacobean in character. Outside the house Cunard was responsible for extending the stables, for Gothicizing the extreme west wing, and for much other work.
In 1919, at the sale of the Nevill Holt estate, the hall was purchased by the Revd. C. A. C. Bowlker (fn. 324) for use as a preparatory school. Bowlker was Rector of Normanton (Rut.) and master-in-charge of the Lower School at Uppingham. (fn. 325) His action converted the Lower School into an independent venture, but Nevill Holt School has retained close connexions with Uppingham, and uses 1868, when the Lower School was formed, as the date of its foundation. (fn. 326) In 1922 the school contained about 60 boys. When Bowlker retired in 1928, Mr. F. Serrille Phillips became proprietor and headmaster. In 1960 there were about 90 boys. (fn. 327)
There were 14 households in Holt in 1563 and 17 in 1670, of which 11 were exempt from tax; in 1676 the communicants numbered 57. The average population between 1801 and 1861 was 45, and the highest recorded in the 19th century was 88 in 1881. The sudden increase to this number from 28 in 1871 and the subsequent decline to 41 in 1891 may have been due either to the construction of the 'Medbourne Curve' railway or to building work at the hall for Sir Bache Cunard. The population in 1901 was 53. In 1921 the population figure of 128 included the boys of the preparatory school; in 1931, when the figure was 66, the census was taken in the school holidays. In 1951 the population was 42. (fn. 328) The size of the village has thus not changed greatly since the 16th century.
MANORS. (fn. 329)
Holt is not mentioned by name in Domesday Book but the holding from which the manor developed has been identified with the carucate in Blaston which Robert de Buci held of the Countess Judith in 1086 and of which Robert de Todeni had the soke. (fn. 330) The fee of Robert de Buci came into the possession of the Crown during the reign of Henry I who granted the larger part of it to his justiciar Richard Basset. (fn. 331) In 1135 one of the latter's under-tenants Reynold FitzUrse, who had been enfeoffed under de Buci, held 5 carucates in Holt and Blaston. (fn. 332) By 1237 the Basset family had enfeoffed William de Cantilupe (d. 1239) in this fee (fn. 333) from whom it descended to his great-grandson George de Cantilupe, who died without issue in 1273. (fn. 334) In the partition of his estates between his two sisters and co-heirs the overlordship passed to Milisent (d. 1299), then the wife of Eudo la Zouche, (fn. 335) but who retained her first husband's name of de Montalt. Descendants of Milisent and Eudo la Zouche are mentioned as overlords as late as 1503 (fn. 336) but it appears that by 1314 their connexion with Holt was a merely nominal one and that the services formerly owed to them were then rendered to the heirs of the mesne lord. (fn. 337)
John Burnaby and William of Holt were the demesne tenants in Holt in 1260. (fn. 338) In 1279 John Burnaby was described as the tenant of the whole lordship of 3 carucates for ¼ knight's fee; (fn. 339) William of Holt's manor was perhaps considered to centre upon Prestgrave in the adjoining parish of Bringhurst where John son of William of Holt was holding a manor court in 1296. (fn. 340) The two holdings, the manor of the Burnabys, which became known as Trussell's manor, and Holt's manor, will be described separately up to the point of their union under the Palmer family.
In 1285 Milisent de Montalt enfeoffed John de Kirkby, later Bishop of Ely, with the manor in Holt held by the 3 daughters of John Burnaby-Alice, Margery, and Sarah-and their husbands who remained tenants in demesne. (fn. 341) Kirkby was enfeoffed as a mesne lord interposed between them and the chief lords of the fee. (fn. 342) His inheritance passed to his brother William in 1290 and at the latter's death in 1302 was divided between their 4 sisters and their husbands. (fn. 343) In the partition the actual dwelling house in Holt passed to the eldest, Margaret, and her husband Walter Doseville, but was probably inhabited by the Heryerd family, descendants of Robert Heryerd or Herierd who married Margery Burnaby. (fn. 344) In 1314 it was stated that the 3 daughters of John Burnaby held a messuage and 6 carucates in Holt, Drayton, Newton, Prestgrave, and Blaston for ½ knight's fee from Walter and Margaret Doseville. (fn. 345) The latter seems to have enfeoffed her daughter Margery with the Doseville interest in Holt on her marriage to Edmund Trussell, second son of Sir William Trussell of Marston Trussell (Northants.), (fn. 346) at some date between 1327 and 1332. (fn. 347) The interests of the other 3 sisters of John and William de Kirkby-Mabel Grymbaud, Alice Prilly, and Maud de Houby-descended to younger branches of their families but cannot be individually traced beyond 1328, 1343, and 1346 respectively. (fn. 348) Presumably the whole Kirkby inheritance came, during the later 14th century, into the hands of the Trussell heirs. Edmund Trussell was succeeded in turn, as lord of TRUSSELL'S manor, by his son William (d. before 1344) (fn. 349) and his grandson Theobald (d. c. 1368). (fn. 350) In 1416 Sir John, son of Theobald Trussell, alienated a moiety of the manor to William Palmer of Westhall in East Carlton (Northants.). (fn. 351)
William of Holt, the tenant of the second holding in 1260, had been succeeded by 1279 by his son John. (fn. 352) This John is probably identifiable with the John of Holt the elder who was a party to a plea in 1309. He had a son John, mentioned in a fine of land in Holt and elsewhere in 1311, and probably a daughter Sarah, then the wife of Robert Lovet. (fn. 353) At some date after 1332 the male line of the Holts died out and was replaced by the Lovets. (fn. 354) In 1375 William Lovet conveyed HOLT'S manor to John Parker of Olney. (fn. 355) The name of John Olney, as Parker came to be called, occurs in several pleas between 1388 and 1415. (fn. 356) In 1427 his daughter Joan, then the wife of Richard Fox, her second husband, conveyed his property in Holt and Prestgrave to Thomas, the son of William Palmer, (fn. 357) who had already acquired Trussell's manor in 1416. In 1430 William Andrewe, the parson of Tackley (Oxon.), quitclaimed to Thomas Palmer all his right in the manor of Holt and Prestgrave which he had had from Joan (Olney), widow of Sir George Nowers, (fn. 358) and in 1444 Palmer secured another quitclaim of property in Holt from Henry Rydell of Wittering (Northants.). (fn. 359)
The two manors in Holt and other lands in the neighbourhood were settled on Katherine, Thomas Palmer's elder daughter by a second marriage, when she married William Nevill (d. 1497) of Rolleston (Notts.), her third husband, in 1457. (fn. 360) On Palmer's death in 1474 the Nevill family (fn. 361) came to live in Holt and thus gave the place its distinguishing name. Both Thomas Palmer and his father had bought other lands in Medbourne, Drayton, and neighbouring villages. In 1451 Thomas Palmer acquired the lands of William Whirler in Medbourne, (fn. 362) and his grandson Thomas Nevill, the son of William and Katherine, also bought lands there from the Stevens family and in 1500 the Prilly share of the Kirkby manor. (fn. 363) His grandson Thomas Nevill (1501-71) in 1543 bought the Houby share and in 1565 the last rights of the Scrope family in the same manor. (fn. 364) This purchase finally united all the shares of the divided Kirkby inheritance.
Katherine and William Nevill were followed at Holt by their son Thomas (d. 1503) (fn. 365) and his grandson Sir Thomas Nevill (d. 1571). The latter left a daughter Mary and an illegitimate son, Humphrey Blunt or Nevill, upon whom he had settled all his estates in tail in 1564 with remainder to the male heirs of Mary Nevill, (fn. 366) whose first husband, Thomas Smyth of Cressing Temple (Essex), had then recently died. She was married secondly to Francis Harvey who unsuccessfully claimed the Nevill estates in 1571 in the right of his wife. Sir Thomas Nevill had been seriously in debt before his death and had by the same entail in 1564 reserved his estates for a term of 20 years after his death for the payment of his debts and other encumbrances. Meanwhile Humphrey Nevill died childless in 1590, before the end of the stipulated term, and in 1591 the estates passed to Sir Thomas Smyth (d. 1636), the son of Mary Nevill, who took the name of Nevill as required by his grandfather's settlement. (fn. 367) With the acquisition of Payne's manor in Medbourne by his son Henry (d. 1665), in 1631, the consolidation of the manors of Holt with those of Medbourne was complete.
The property eventually passed to Henry's greatgranddaughter Mary Nevill (d. 1742), the wife of Count Cosmas Migliorucci (d. 1726). The latter's son Cosmas Henry Joseph (d. 1763), who took the name of Nevill, was succeeded by his second son Charles (d. 1783) and then by his third son Cosmas Nevill (d. 1829). (fn. 368) Cosmas had 3 sons and 3 daughters, (fn. 369) and most of the Nevill estates descended to his second son Charles Nevill (d. 1848), although William, the third son, acquired some property in his own right. Charles Nevill had been in great financial difficulties during his lifetime, and his son and heir Cosmo George Nevill, who does not appear to have resided at the hall after 1861, (fn. 370) was compelled to sell the whole estate by auction in 1868. It was purchased by Henry John Grieveson, (fn. 371) who appears to have acquired 1,645 a. with a rental of £3,600. (fn. 372) When Grieveson sold the estate in 1876, it was described as 1,267 a. with a rental of £2,980. This time the estate was purchased, probably for £105,000, by Edward Cunard. (fn. 373) His brother Sir Bache Cunard (d. 1925), 3rd Bt., succeeded him in 1877, but by 1886 circumstances compelled him to mortgage the estate to some clients of Peake & Co., solicitors. (fn. 374) His marriage in 1895 to a wealthy American enabled the hall to be maintained, but his wife's decision to leave Holt in 1911 placed him in difficulties again, and the mortgagee foreclosed about 1912. (fn. 375) At the same time a grandson of Charles Nevill (d. 1848), C. F. Nevill Peake, contracted with the mortgagee to buy his interest. He died in 1918; (fn. 376) his executors offered the estate for sale and it was auctioned in lots. (fn. 377) The hall itself was purchased by the Revd. C. A. C. Bowlker for use as a preparatory school, (fn. 378) and the land by various farmers.
In the north-east corner of the civil parish of Nevill Holt stood Bradley Priory, founded possibly by Robert de Burnaby in the early 13th century. (fn. 379) The priory received many small endowments during the 13th and early 14th centuries from the inhabitants of the surrounding villages, particularly Great Easton, (fn. 380) Drayton, (fn. 381) Holyoaks, (fn. 382) and Prestgrave; (fn. 383) these included windmills at Holt and at Great Easton. (fn. 384) The largest endowment came in 1385 from Richard le Scrope, Lord Scrope of Bolton (d. 1403), who gave the priory his manor in the neighbouring parish of Blaston. (fn. 385) Thenceforward the lords Scrope, who also owned the advowson of Medbourne, were the recognized patrons of the priory. (fn. 386) John de Kirkby (d. 1290), Bishop of Ely, who secured manorial rights in both Medbourne and Holt, was prior of the house. (fn. 387) At the Dissolution the demesne lands of the priory were only 118 a., more than half of which had been inclosed for pasture. (fn. 388) The value recorded in 1535 was just over £20. (fn. 389)
The lands of the former priory were granted in 1538 to Sir Thomas Nevill (d. 1571), owner of the Holt estate. (fn. 390) John Kellam (d. 1583), Sir Thomas's cousin and one of his executors, appears to have lived in a house established on the site of the priory. (fn. 391) It was still part of the Nevill Holt estate in 1655- 69. (fn. 392) Bradley appears to have been assigned to Margaret, one of the co-heirs of Henry Nevill (d. 1728). In 1759 Margaret's five daughters and coheirs apparently assigned their interests in the estate, then called the 'manor' of Bradley, to Cosmas Henry Joseph Nevill, son of Mary, another of Henry Nevill's co-heirs. (fn. 393) It probably became merged with the Nevill Holt estate. (fn. 394)
The township of Holt was created in the 12th and 13th centuries from assarts made in the woods east of Medbourne. (fn. 395) By the middle of the 13th century the settlement had been divided between two families, the Holts and the Burnabys. The father of John de Kirkby (d. 1290), Bishop of Ely, was apparently a native of Holt; (fn. 396) the bishop himself was interposed as a mesne lord over the Burnabys in 1285, (fn. 397) and in 1288 he acquired timber for work in the village, perhaps the building of a manor-house. (fn. 398) It seems that the Heryerd family lived in the Kirkby manor-house during the earlier 14th century. Robert Heryerd married Margery, one of the daughters of John Burnaby, (fn. 399) and Margery was one of the principal taxpayers in Holt in 1327 and 1332. (fn. 400) In 1367 John Norwich of Bringhurst was pardoned for the death of Richard Heryerd of Holt. (fn. 401)
The estate of the Holt family was apparently more substantial than that of the Burnabys. John of Holt was the largest taxpayer in 1327 and 1332. (fn. 402) John Parker of Olney, who succeeded to the estate, was the only large taxpayer in 1381 and he served on local commissions. (fn. 403) The earliest surviving court rolls of Holt refer to the manor as 'late Olneys'. (fn. 404)
Thomas Palmer received a licence to empark 300 a. at Holt in 1448, (fn. 405) but no reduction in the size of the village was apparently involved. In 1431-2 there had been 8 free tenants, including the Prior of Bradley, holding over 260 a., and 5 tenants at will. (fn. 406) By 1467 the number described as tenants at will had increased to between 14 and 20, and there were still 6 freeholders. (fn. 407) The greater part of the lordship was then still in open fields. The exact date of inclosure, which took place in the late 15th or early 16th century, has not been discovered. In 1864 there were still 14 families in the village. (fn. 408) However the history of the village from the late 16th century until the early 20th century is essentially that of a group of people dependent on a great house. Similarly since 1919 the history is chiefly that of the preparatory school. Both house and school are described elsewhere. (fn. 409)
The only industry connected with the village has been quarrying in the ironstone hill on which it stands. Workings were opened in 1861 by W. J. Roseby who quickly disposed of his interests to B. Thornton. The latter, rather ambitiously, laid the foundations of four blast furnaces, but ran into financial difficulties and was compelled to abandon the quarries about 1868. Roseby's son re-opened them for a short time from 1871 to 1874. The quarries were served by a tramway with a cable operated incline, leading across the River Welland to the railway from Market Harborough to Peterborough. The course of this tramway was still visible in 1960. (fn. 410) Coopers of Bedford, later 'Agstone', quarried the stone for lime from the beginning of the Second World War until 1960. Their buildings, to the south of the Medbourne-Holt road, were then used as a mushroom farm. (fn. 411)
An early-13th-century charter by which Robert de Burnaby granted land to William de Holt mentions Alexander the miller at Holt. (fn. 412) Bradley Priory owned a windmill at Holt which it had received at the time of its foundation. (fn. 413)
Holt apparently relieved its own poor: in 1802-3 3 adults and 5 children in Holt and Bradley were given out-relief. (fn. 414)
Holt was in 1960 represented on both Medbourne Parish Council and Medbourne Parochial Church Council.
The chapel at Holt, which is attached to the church at Medbourne, appears to date from the mid-12th century. There was a resident chaplain in 1220, (fn. 415) and it is possible that Holt had its own priest throughout the Middle Ages. One of the Medbourne chaplains mentioned in 1526 may have lived at Holt. (fn. 416) Since the Reformation the chapel has been served by a curate from Medbourne or by the rector himself.
The church of ST. MARY consists of a chancel, an aisleless nave with north and south transepts, a south porch, and a west tower with spire. The present structure, which is built of ironstone rubble with limestone dressings, dates from the late 13th century but contains a font which is a relic of an earlier church of c. 1150. At a later date, probably in the 15th century, the church was heightened and Perpendicular windows were inserted throughout.
The chancel contains sedilia and a piscina of c. 1280 under a triple-arched opening which has quatrefoil shafts, moulded caps and bases, and deeply-moulded arches. The hoodmould, which forms part of a continuous string course, has a central stop carved with the mitred head of an ecclesiastic, probably John de Kirkby, Bishop of Ely (d. 1290). A large rectangular opening in the opposite wall, which probably served as a locker, is now blocked. Other work of the 13th century includes the chancel arch and transept arches, all of which have slender semi-octagonal responds. The north transept arch has capitals with stiff-leaf decoration and the corresponding opening in the south transept was altered in its responds to accommodate the late-16th-century railings of the Nevill chapel. In the window at the east end of the chancel the internal jambs of the original 13th-century opening are preserved. Blocked windows of this early date, some retaining their hoodmoulds with stops, are visible in the transepts, nave, and chancel. In the nave, the 13th-century angle buttresses, string course, and north and south pointed doors all survived later alterations, but the string course appears to have been re-aligned with the sills of the later chancel and transept windows. The blocked 13th-century windows nearest the west end in both side walls of the nave are partly cut off by the present west wall, indicating that the nave was shortened at some subsequent period. Extensions to the manor-house, which abuts on the church to the south of the tower, may have been the cause. There is a blocked doorway high up in the west wall of the nave which may have given direct access from an upper room in the manor-house to a gallery in the church. The alteration probably took place in the 14th century. The walls of the tower, apparently of the late 14th or early 15th century, make a ragged vertical joint with the west nave wall, suggesting that the latter was in existence before the tower was built; an interrupted string course tends to confirm this. Externally on the west wall, to the north of the tower, the line of a lower and more steeply-pitched nave roof is visible. This makes it fairly certain that the truncation of the nave took place before the general heightening of the church in the 15th century or later.
The tower, of slender proportions, has diagonal buttresses and rises in three stages to an embattled parapet behind which is set an octagonal spire of limestone ashlar. Prominent gargoyles project from the parapet angles and the belfry stage below has pointed two-light windows with quatrefoil heads. In the lowest stage there is a quatrefoil opening on the west side. The wall to the south of the chancel arch has a quatrefoil opening and squint of late-14thcentury date; another squint from the south transept to the chancel is now blocked. The chancel arch was cut about when a screen and rood loft were inserted; a blocked doorway to the loft is preserved in the north transept above the arch.
At some later date the walls of the church were heightened, a clerestory was added to the nave, and new side windows were inserted in the chancel. Larger gable-end windows were inserted in both transepts and also at the east end of the chancel. The windows are all Perpendicular in style and it seems likely that this work was carried out by Thomas Palmer (d. 1474) who is thought to have made extensive alterations to the manor-house in the late 15th century. (fn. 417) Some work, however, may date from the following century when the south transept was apparently converted into a private chapel by the Nevill family. As a result of the heightening of the church the earlier roofs were superseded by roofs of a flatter pitch and crenellated limestone parapets were added to all the walls. The roofs over the nave and chancel have cambered and moulded tie beams with small king posts to a central ridge piece; brackets from these posts are carved with stylized angels' heads and side wings.
The south porch with heavy crenellations and round-headed entrance was built in 1635 by Sir Thomas Nevill. (fn. 418) An entrance to the Nevill vault through the south wall of the tower was probably made late in the 18th century. The external elevations have dated rainwater heads of 1784 and 1788 which probably indicate repairs carried out by Cosmas Nevill (d. 1829). The re-facing of the north chancel wall is work of 1865 and the parapets and much of the tracery in the larger windows were renewed by Sir Bache Cunard in 1878. Internally the wall above the chancel arch appears to have been rebuilt but the date of this repair is uncertain. The top courses of the spire were rebuilt in 1865 by Goddards of Leicester. (fn. 419)
The Nevill chapel, which occupies the south transept, contains several monuments to members of the Nevill family. The most notable is the large alabaster tomb of Sir Thomas Nevill (d. 1636) which bears his recumbent effigy in armour and over which his sword, helmet, crest, and coat of mail formerly hung; (fn. 420) the last is now missing. The inscribed back panel is flanked and surmounted by carved decoration; the Nevill arms are displayed above it. A mural monument to Jane Thursby (formerly Nevill) (d. 1631) shows her kneeling at a desk under a canopy and between curtains drawn back by angles. Below this is a tomb to Sir Thomas Nevill (d. 1571), (fn. 421) erected by his grandson Sir Thomas Nevill in 1635. Other mural tablets on the same wall and in the chancel are to Cosmas Henry Joseph Nevill (d. 1763), Cosmas Nevill (d. 1829), Charles Nevill (d. 1848), and Ann Nevill (d. 1644). Sir Bache Cunard inserted the stained glass in the east window in memory of his brother Edward (d. 1877), presumably when the chapel was extensively restored at his expense in 1878. (fn. 422) He also gave the organ in the north transept in his brother's memory. (fn. 423) The north transept has one memorial to Cosmo Francis Nevill Peake (d. 1918). Some fragments of early stained glass remain in the quatrefoil at the head of the Nevill chapel window. They include a Nevill cipher and parts of the Nevill arms and may date from the time of Sir Thomas Nevill (d. 1571).
The richly-carved pulpit with back panel and tester probably dates from soon after 1619 when the absence of one was noted. (fn. 424) The present seating was probably inserted in 1878. The Norman tub font has a square base with claws at the angles.
There was a Jesuit, Michael Alford or Griffith, S.J., at Holt from c. 1629 to 1640, (fn. 427) and a chapel at the hall was used as a Mass centre from the middle of the 17th century until 1859. (fn. 428) The first member of the Nevill family recognized as a recusant was Henry (d. 1728), who was regularly presented as such from 1692 onwards. (fn. 429)
During the 18th century Nevill Holt was the residence of the Superior of the Jesuits working in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, and Leicestershire. (fn. 430) The last resident chaplain appears to have left in 1846. The figures given for the total number of Roman Catholics in the ancient parish of Medbourne-8 in 1676, 31 in 1767, 33 in 1780, and 48 in 1829 (fn. 431) -refer chiefly to the township of Holt.
There is a private chapel register for Roman Catholics belonging to the Nevill family. (fn. 432)
The only school known to have existed in Holt is the preparatory school at the hall. (fn. 433)