A History of the County of Leicestershire: Volume 5, Gartree Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1964.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
The civil parish of Mowsley lies about eleven miles south-south-east of Leicester on the rising ground towards the Northamptonshire border. The village has been the principal settlement in the ancient parish of Knaptoft since the depopulation of Knaptoft in the 16th century. The township of Mowsley was included in Gartree hundred, but Knaptoft and a second township, Shearsby, were in Guthlaxton hundred. The parish church at Knaptoft fell into ruins in the 17th century, and the rector and his curate subsequently lived at Mowsley to serve the chapels there and at Shearsby. The area of the civil parish of Mowsley is 1, 350 a.
The village itself is situated on a small ridge of the hills of south-east Leicestershire which in this parish are called the Mowsley Hills. The highest point in the parish is about 550 ft. and there is little ground below 400 ft. To the east of the village the ground falls to a north-flowing stream which forms the greater part of the eastern parish boundary; to the west of the village is a second, smaller, stream and beyond it ground again rising above 500 ft. as far as the western parish boundary, which is formed by the Leicester–Northampton road and field boundaries. To the south of the village is the chief ridge of the hills, running roughly east–west across the parish, and beyond it an east-flowing stream which forms much of the southern parish boundary; to the north the ground falls gradually to the northern parish boundary, marked solely by field boundaries. The soil is loamy and the subsoil clay and gravel; the gravel gives rise to numerous springs and the village was once well-known for its deep and abundant wells. (fn. 1) The land has been mostly under pasture in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Two roads cross in the parish at the southern end of the village: one from Laughton on the east to the Leicester–Northampton road on the west; the second from Saddington in the north to Theddingworth in the south. A minor road crosses the southern part of the parish, following the main ridge of the hills. The north–south road forms the village street and there is a small 'back street' behind the houses and gardens on the east side of the village.
All the buildings in the village lie on or near the main street. There are disused quarries at each end of the village. The oldest house is Mill Stone House at the south end of Main Street, a medieval timberframed structure containing three cruck trusses. These are now only partly visible at first-floor level, but smoke-blackening on the central crucks indicates the existence of a former single-storied hall with an open hearth. A chimney and a wide fire-place were inserted in the hall at a later date. Externally the house is rough-cast and the gable-ends have been built up in brick; the thatched roof is covered with corrugated iron. Brick stables at the rear contain timbers which came from the former windmill and the mill-stones in front of the house are probably from the same source. (fn. 2) In Chapel Lane, immediately east of the churchyard, there is a timber-framed cottage of 17th-century date; it has exposed framing in large square panels and may represent the central bay of a larger structure. Manor Farm on the west side of Main Street is a two-storied brick house of c. 1720, having sash windows with brick aprons and prominent key-blocks. Adjoining it is a lower range of cottages, including the post office, which incorporates an early timber-framed structure concealed by 18th-century brickwork. A long terrace opposite has been similarly rebuilt in brick and the character of the brickwork in other old buildings suggests that many small cottages were re-faced in the early 18th century. (fn. 3) There are no stone houses in the village. Mud walling was evidently in use for small dwellings and boundary walls in the 18th century. A row of six mud cottages, formerly thatched, still stood in 1961 beside the disused quarry at the south end of the village. Each cottage consists of a single room with an attic, approached by a corner ladder, above it; in some cases later staircases have been inserted. Much of the timber in the row is re-used material from older buildings. Next to the school is a brick house with a date tablet of 1761 with the initials I.H. (Joseph or John Horton). It has a disused 19th-century bake-house in the yard. Nearby a brick stable is dated 1732. The house known as The Hollies was built c. 1870. On the opposite side of the road a group of mid-19thcentury cottages of red and blue brick have been built, together with others further west, round the former gravel pit, their gardens lying in the pit itself. The former Golden Fleece Inn is said to have stood opposite the school in 1791. The present inn, the 'Staff of Life', is a modern building, set back from Main Street on its west side. It replaces an earlier inn of the same name first licensed in 1781 which stood on the street frontage. (fn. 4) A house and smithy at the south end of the village were built in 1883 by G. Holyland. (fn. 5)
The village hall, a former army hut, was opened in 1924. (fn. 6) A bungalow in Laughton Lane and three pairs of Council houses in Saddington Lane date from between the First and Second World Wars. Otherwise there has been no modern building in the village.
The parish vestry laid new drains in the village in 1871 and 1877, and erected the first street lamps in 1892. In 1903 the county council decided to build a temporary isolation hospital at Mowsley; (fn. 7) it was extended in 1914–15 and a chapel added in 1923. (fn. 8) The buildings, which were mostly only hutments, were removed in 1934 and the hospital closed, (fn. 9) but the brick foundations remained in 1958.
Mowsley was a small village in 1086 when the recorded population was 8. (fn. 10) The poll tax was paid by 72 people in 1377, (fn. 11) and 14 householders paid tax in 1524. (fn. 12) There were 20 households in 1563 and 30 in 1670. In 1676 there were 217 communicants. (fn. 13) In 1791 there were 217 persons living in 50 houses in Mowsley. (fn. 14) In spite of a fall between 1801 and 1811, the population rose to 283 in 1831, after which there was a steady decline to 168 in 1891. There were no further increases until after 1911, and part of the increase to 243 in 1931 was due to the presence of the county isolation hospital. The population in 1951 was 157. (fn. 15)
MANORS AND LESSER ESTATES.
Two holdings were recorded at Mowsley in 1086: Gunfrid de Cioches held 3 carucates of the king which Tedbert held of Gunfrid; and Girbert held 4 carucates of the king. (fn. 16) The connexion has not been discovered between this division and the three fees recorded in 1279 which were held under the overlordship of the king, the Earl of Lancaster, and the Earl of Warwick respectively. (fn. 17) It is extremely likely, however, that the Domesday holdings were represented in 1279 by the fees of the king and the Earl of Warwick, while the fee of the Earl of Lancaster was that part of Mowsley which belonged to the manor of Knaptoft. The lords of Knaptoft are traditionally the founders of Mowsley church which was formerly a chapelry in the ancient parish of Knaptoft. (fn. 18) In 1279 all three fees had been so divided by extensive subinfeudation that it is difficult to treat each one separately; the connexion between the evidence of overlordship and the actions of demesne tenants cannot always be proved, and the lords of several important demesne manors owed services to more than one overlord. In this account a general description of overlordship is followed by the histories of known demesne manors.
The two fees which in 1279 were ascribed to the king and to the Earl of Lancaster, as successor of the Earl of Leicester, were merged in the Duchy of Lancaster after 1399. (fn. 19) Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, was apparently holding a court at Knaptoft for the services of his tenants in the district, including Mowsley, in 1316, (fn. 20) and Duchy officials in the 15th and 16th centuries continued to hold regular courts and views of frankpledge at which several farmers in Mowsley paid suit. (fn. 21) The manorial rights in Mowsley during the 18th and 19th centuries were leased by the Duchy to local gentlemen. (fn. 22) The overlordship of the Earl of Warwick, which may have originated from a 12th-century enfeoffment, was connected with Kibworth Beauchamp, the earl's demesne manor. Rents in Mowsley were included in the endowment of the collegiate church of St. Mary, Warwick, by Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, in 1469. (fn. 23) Property in Mowsley was specifically included in the grant of Kibworth Beauchamp to Ambrose Dudley in 1559. (fn. 24) Chief rents from land in Mowsley were still being paid at Kibworth court leet in 1868. (fn. 25)
Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, died in 1296 seised of a knight's fee in Knaptoft and Mowsley which was held by the heirs of Roger de Merley. (fn. 26) Robert de Somerville, who had married Elizabeth, a daughter of Roger de Merley, enfeoffed the Gobion family with this fee, (fn. 27) and in 1355, on the death of Philip de Somerville, the mesne lordship was still claimed to belong to his manor of Burton Agnes (E.R. Yorks.). (fn. 28) Hugh Gobion, who was apparently placed in possession during the early years of the reign of Henry III and certainly before 1234, (fn. 29) died in 1274 seised of the manor of Knaptoft. (fn. 30) His direct descendants were the tenants in demesne and also owners of the advowson of the rectory of Knaptoft until the middle of the 17th century. (fn. 31) Richard Gobion (d. 1300) divided his estate between two daughters, and Knaptoft with part of Mowsley fell to Elizabeth, the wife of Thomas Paynel. (fn. 32) The Paynel family remained lords of the manor until 1417. Margaret Paynel's daughter then married John Turpin (d. 1493) who became seised of the manor. (fn. 33) His son William (d. 1523) was apparently responsible for the inclosure of Knaptoft before 1507. (fn. 34) After the Restoration the manor passed to the dukes of Rutland, with whom it remained until 1869 when the 6th Duke (d. 1888) sold it to J. R. Mills. (fn. 35) In 1934 the Mills estate was sold to the University of Oxford, and the latter in 1953 conveyed it to the Metropolitan Railway Country Estates Ltd., which divided it into smaller lots for sale. Knaptoft Hall Farm was in 1957 acquired by Messrs. Cookes' Farms Ltd., of Bourne (Lincs.). (fn. 36)
Even in the middle of the 13th century when Hugh Gobion was in possession of this fee, the land in Mowsley attached to the manor of Knaptoft had mostly been subinfeudated to free tenants paying nominal rents. For instance, in 1268 the property of Hugh Gobion included a parcel of land in Mowsley held by William Beumys for 4s. a year in lieu of all services, and a carucate held by Roger le Brabazon for knight service. (fn. 37) In 1279, although Richard Gobion's fee was described as 5 carucates in Mowsley, over 7 carucates of land there belonging to the honor of Leicester were held by 16 tenants. Richard Gobion's principal tenants were Thomas de Burso with 2 carucates and Walter de Lubenham and Roger le Brabazon with one carucate each.
The three geldable carucates of the king's fee and the three carucates held by William de Beauchamp of the Earl of Warwick's fee, which probably represented the holdings described in 1086, were similarly divided by subinfeudation in 1279. There were 7 tenants of the king's fee, of whom Robert Knit with 5½ virgates had the largest holding. (fn. 38) It is difficult to discover whether the king's fee or the Earl of Warwick's fee descended from the 3 carucates held by Tedbert under Gunfrid de Cioches which became part of the honor of Chokes. There is no record of land belonging to Leicester Abbey at Mowsley in 1279, and yet the gift of 2 virgates in Mowsley to that abbey from Reynold de Mowsley was confirmed by the lord of the honor of Chokes in the early years of Henry II's reign. (fn. 39) William, son of Reynold de Mowsley, was holding land of the fee of Chokes in Mowsley in 1217–18. (fn. 40) In 1235–6 the advocate of Béthune (Pas de Calais) held ½ fee in Mowsley in the fee of Chokes. (fn. 41)
John de Mowsley (fl. 1190), the son of Ralph, had a daughter Amice, later the wife of Amfrid de Medbourne, who inherited her father's estate, although her rights were contested by Idonea, the sister of John de Mowsley and wife of Hugh Pirramus. (fn. 42) Amice appears to have married secondly Thomas le Brabazon, and perhaps thirdly Robert de Holt. She died about 1277. (fn. 43) The division of property in this family may account for some of the subinfeudation recorded in 1279. (fn. 44) Amice's son, Roger le Brabazon, was then holding a carucate from Richard Gobion and part of a virgate from William de Beauchamp under the Earl of Warwick. The latter's principal tenant was Walter Illing, with 5 virgates, who also held land in Laughton. (fn. 45) There were eight other tenants.
Before 1300 Roger le Brabazon (d. 1317), the son of Roger le Brabazon, the judge, (fn. 46) had apparently replaced William de Beauchamp as tenant of the 3 carucates which belonged to the fee of the Earl of Warwick, (fn. 47) and he continued to hold also part of the fee of Richard Gobion in the honor of Leicester, (fn. 48) but directly from Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, by suit of his court at Knaptoft. Brabazon, who began his career as an official of the Duchy of Lancaster (fn. 49) and established a chantry in memory of Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, (fn. 50) therefore became the principal manorial lord in Mowsley. In 1300 he received a grant of free warren for his demesne lands in Mowsley, Gumley, Garthorpe, and Sibbertoft (Northants.). (fn. 51) On his death his estate passed to his brother Matthew and Matthew's wife Sarah who were the ancestors of the earls of Meath. After Sarah's death in 1325 it was apparently divided between Thomas le Brabazon, William Curzon, and Roger de Oadby. (fn. 52) In 1345 Roger the son of William le Brabazon of Mowsley granted the whole of his lordship in Mowsley with 12d. rent and the homage and services of his freemen to John de Oadby of Stoke Dry (Rut.), (fn. 53) but various members of the Brabazon family continued to hold land in Mowsley until at least the beginning of the 17th century. (fn. 54) The Brabazon holding which came to William Curzon appears to have remained with his family. In 1428 John Curzon was holding ¼ knight's fee in Mowsley which Thomas Curzon had held. (fn. 55)
There is part of the fee of the Earl of Warwick which has not been explained. In 1242–3 among the fees of William de Beauchamp were ½ knight's fee and 1/5knight's fee in Newton and Mowsley which were held by John de Newton. (fn. 56) Furthermore, on the death of Philip Marmion in 1292, there was a carucate in Mowsley held by Robert son of Reynold de Mowsley who held of William Marwood who in turn held of the fee of Marmion. (fn. 57) There may have been some connexion between this and another unidentified fee in Mowsley, ½ knight's fee in Barwell and Mowsley held by John de Hartwell from the Hastings family, which was included in the dower of Joan de Hastings in 1269. (fn. 58) It belonged to John de Hastings in 1313, (fn. 59) and John de Hastings, Earl of Pembroke, in 1375. (fn. 60)
There were other demesne holdings in Mowsley which deserve mention. Walter Illing in 1279 held a virgate in the honor of Leicester, (fn. 61) and 5 virgates in Mowsley from William de Beauchamp. (fn. 62) The Illing family were apparently settled in the adjoining parish of Laughton. (fn. 63) Robert Illing was apparently still seised of land in Mowsley in 1331. (fn. 64) There was also a holding in Mowsley which belonged to successive members of the Saddington family, from the reign of Richard I, when it was held by John son of Godwyn, to 1286, when it was claimed by Roger son of John de Saddington. (fn. 65) Nichols printed the text of an undated late-13th-century deed by which Roger de Saddington, the son of Adam de Welham, granted to his sister Amice a virgate in Mowsley which he had obtained from Alan le Wyce. (fn. 66) This probably refers to another Roger de Saddington who died before 1277 and whose widow Agnes claimed land in Mowsley, Welham, Thorpe Langton, and West Langton as her dower. (fn. 67) Robert de Saddington (d. 1350), the son of John de Saddington, who was Chancellor from 1343 to 1345, was connected with this family. (fn. 68)
William de Mowsley died in 1325 seised of a capital messuage, 77½ a. of land, and various rents held of the heirs of William de Fenys, and 22½ a. of land, 1½ a. of meadow, and 5s. rent in Mowsley held of Margery Gobion of Knaptoft. (fn. 69) But a later inquisition confirmed that a large part of his property was held of the Earl of Warwick. (fn. 70) Robert de Mowsley, the son of William, and his wife Ellen were the principal taxpayers of Mowsley in 1332. (fn. 71) Robert (fn. 72) died before 1338 when arrangements were made to alienate his lands in Mowsley, Fleckney, Laughton, and Knaptoft, in which his wife retained a life interest, to Leicester Abbey. (fn. 73)
Two virgates granted by Reynold de Mowsley in the mid-12th century are the first known gift to Leicester Abbey in Mowsley. (fn. 74) The lands of Robert de Mowsley were first conveyed to William le Keu and Robert of the Hall of Leicester who secured the licence to alienate them to the abbey. These included a mill in Mowsley and over 4½ carucates in Mowsley, Laughton, Fleckney, and Knaptoft, (fn. 75) all worth £3 16s. a year. The abbey received several other grants in Mowsley: 1 virgate from William son of Hugh de Mowsley, 5½ a. from Ada le Brabazon, 3 a. from Hugh de Kilworth, and 1 a. each from Robert Blondus, Ada daughter of Ralph, and William son of Reginald de Mowsley. (fn. 76) The abbey farmed its property in Mowsley in conjunction with its grange at Pinslade in Knaptoft parish. (fn. 77) Its value was greatly increased while in the hands of the Crown after the Dissolution. (fn. 78) Part of the property, which was granted to Thomas and George Tresham and Lord Clinton in 1551, was valued at £5 13s. 4d. a year. (fn. 79) It appears that a messuage and a virgate formerly belonging to Robert de Mowsley had been held by Sulby Abbey (Northants.), and from 1338 until the Dissolution Leicester Abbey paid 3s. a year to Sulby for this property. (fn. 80) Dalby Preceptory (Leics.) also appears to have had some interest in Mowsley. (fn. 81)
After the Dissolution part of the former lands of Leicester Abbey appears to have remained in the hands of the Crown until 1605 when James 1 granted it to William Browne and Robert Knight who immediately sold it to William Burdett. (fn. 82) The Burdetts remained a yeoman farming family in Mowsley during the 18th century. (fn. 83) During the 17th and early 18th centuries there were several transactions in land between local yeoman families which related to socalled manors. For instance, a 'manor' was purchased by William Bugby in 1654 (fn. 84) and sold by another William Bugby in 1716. (fn. 85) In 1754 Gerard Anne Edwards settled a 'manor' in Mowsley with 5½ yardlands on his intended wife, Lady Jane Noel. (fn. 86) This descended to Sir G. N. Noel, Bt. (d. 1838). The Horton family were also prominent in the buying and selling of property. (fn. 87)
The Duchy of Lancaster leased its manorial rights in Mowsley to local gentlemen. Joseph Cradock of Gumley, for example, at the time of the inclosure of the open fields in 1788, received 3 a. as lessee of the 'manor' in compensation for any right to the soil. (fn. 88) Thomas Pares was lessee of the 'manor' in 1846. (fn. 89)
In 1086 Tedbert held of Gunfrid de Cioches 3 carucates on which there were 2 ploughs, one in demesne with 1 serf and one belonging to 4 villeins with 2 bordars, and Girbert held 4 carucates of the king and had 1 villein. There had been 3 ploughs on Girbert's holding before the Conquest, but Tedbert's holding had been formerly waste. (fn. 90)
By the late 13th century there had been a considerable amount of subinfeudation which produced several free tenants with relatively small holdings. (fn. 91) The principal taxpayers in 1332 were Robert and Ellen de Mowsley, (fn. 92) Thomas de Lubenham, Matthew de Lubenham, William Curzon, William Carpenter, Geoffrey de Illston, and Peter de Stretton. (fn. 93) A noticeable feature of the poll tax list for 1381 is that the free tenants, Richard and Alice Hume, John and Agnes Emkyn, Laurence and Amice Perkyn, and William and Maud Green, did not receive the highest assessments. Members of the Horton family received two of the highest assessments: John and Alice Horton (4s. 2d.) and William and Agnes Horton (3s. 9d.); William and Agnes Perkyn also paid 3s. 9d. (fn. 94) There were 58 persons in this list, with a further 10 added on a slip; 4 men were described as labourers, and one each as swineherd, shepherd, and cooper. (fn. 95)
John and William Horton, who were both holders of land at will in 1381, were probably the heirs of John Horton, who was a free tenant of Roger le Brabazon in 1345. (fn. 96) This John Horton was in the third generation of Hortons descended from Henry of Horton (Northants.) who became the free tenant of Hugh Gobion at Knaptoft shortly after 1268. (fn. 97) John Horton was apparently the first of his family to settle in Mowsley. His house in 1345 lay on the north side of the churchyard. In 1761 a house on this site, still belonging to the Horton family, was demolished and a new one built on the other side of the property. (fn. 98) There were still Hortons in Mowsley in 1909. It was then believed that Joseph Horton between 1761 and 1768 had cut off his sons with a shilling each and left his estate to a nephew who had squandered it. (fn. 99) Other branches of the family survived more prosperously. Richard Horton of Smyth Place, Mowsley, was born about 1450 and was probably of the eighth generation after 1268. Richard's grandson, Thomas Horton (fl. 1560), was probably the founder of the Hortons of Saddington and Thomas's grandson, William Horton (d. 1637), of the Hortons of Gumley. (fn. 100) Richard's three sons, William, Thomas, and Richard Horton the younger, in 1524 were assessed for goods worth £50, £12, and £4 respectively and together paid more than threequarters of the sum subscribed by the whole village of Mowsley. (fn. 101) Richard Horton the younger in 1551 was reported to be the tenant of Crown lands in Mowsley which had formerly belonged to Leicester Abbey. (fn. 102) The Hortons were a substantial yeoman farming family in Mowsley, Saddington, and Gumley during the 17th and early 18th centuries, and continued to buy and sell land in the district. (fn. 103) According to the hearth tax returns of 1664 the largest houses in Mowsley were owned by George Bugby, William Burdett, Thomas Langham, Henry Langham, and Joseph Horton. (fn. 104) William and Thomas Burdett appeared as taxpayers in 1603–4, (fn. 105) and William Burdett was allotted land by the inclosure award of 1788. (fn. 106) There was a considerable amount of dealing in yeoman holdings in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, (fn. 107) and 16 freeholders from Mowsley polled in the election of 1719. (fn. 108)
The inclosure of Knaptoft before 1507 (fn. 109) by Sir William Turpin (d. 1523) did not affect Mowsley which remained largely in open fields until inclosed by Act of Parliament in 1788. The glebe terriers of 1606 and 1712 named three fields—Beesick Field, Mill Field, and Swarborough Field. (fn. 110) There were several ancient inclosures in 1788. The close of 6½ a., called Brabazons, may have been the site of the manor of Roger le Brabazon (d. 1317). (fn. 111) Ash Close and Field Close were already in existence in 1680, (fn. 112) King's Close in 1736. (fn. 113) The area to be inclosed in 1788 was 1,194 a. Eighteen separate allotments were made, the largest to Gerard Noel Edwards (later Sir G. N. Noel, Bt.), William Smith, John Hidson, and Robert and Dorothy Wilmot and Edward Sacheverell Sitwell. (fn. 114) There had been a William Smith in Mowsley in 1680, (fn. 115) and his descendants survived into the 20th century; (fn. 116) all the other allotments later changed hands. In 1909 there were 16 landowners, the largest owning 140 a. (fn. 117) In 1788 Joseph Cradock as lessee of the Duchy 'manor' received only 3 a. in compensation for right or claim to the soil. The rector received 41 a. in lieu of glebe and 200 a. in lieu of great and small tithes. (fn. 118)
Soon after inclosure the curate reported in 1791 that not more than 70 a. were kept in tillage and that the remainder of the parish was devoted to breeding sheep and cows, with nearly 400 a. for fattening them. The average value of the land was 19s. an acre. (fn. 119) In 1801 there were 160½a. of arable in Mowsley, including 60 a. of oats, 34 a. of wheat, 30 a. of barley, and 26 a. of turnips. (fn. 120) In 1846 there were 9 farmers and graziers, and in 1861 eleven. In both years there were about 10 people in other crafts and trades. (fn. 121) In 1906 the rector, J. H. Green, regretted the passing of the resident yeomen, and noted that most landowners were non-resident and that only three people in the village had an indoor servant. (fn. 122) There was no large grazier, although the greater part of the parish was under grass, but a number of small occupiers with little capital. Young people left the village to work in factories in the towns and there were few regular labourers. The average wage for labourers was 15s. a week, and the rent of house and garden 1s. 6d. a week. There was a blacksmith, a butcher, and a general shop selling bread which was baked elsewhere. (fn. 123) In 1932, in addition to 4 graziers, 7 farmers, and 2 smallholders, there were 2 carpenters, a draper, a thatcher, and a butcher. (fn. 124)
There was a windmill belonging to Leicester Abbey in Mowsley during the Middle Ages which was probably held by Robert de Mowsley before 1338. (fn. 125) It was perhaps situated in Mill Field, and may have stood on the mound still existing in Mill Close in 1961. Materials from the mill have been re-used at Mill Stone House. (fn. 126)
Various court rolls of the court leet and view of frankpledge of the Duchy of Lancaster, which included suit of court from Mowsley, have survived for occasional years between 1531 and 1679 and for 1825 to 1856. (fn. 127) Suitors to the court came from Mowsley, Knaptoft, Wigston Magna, South Kilworth, Walton, Laughton, Willoughby, Bitteswell, and Theddingworth. In the early 19th century they still met on a mound in the Mowsley Hills called 'the view' before adjourning to the 'Staff of Life' in Mowsley. The last court was held about 1863. (fn. 128) Leicester Abbey also held a court in Mowsley during the Middle Ages for its tenants in Laughton and Mowsley. (fn. 129)
In the early 19th century the vestry owned three lots of parish houses, one at the north end of the village, said to have been demolished in 1937, (fn. 130) one at the south, (fn. 131) and one on the Nook, a piece of land bordering the south wall of the churchyard. A garden made in the plots allotted to the parish for gravel in 1788 went with each house. (fn. 132) In 1861 the houses on the Nook were pulled down, and the land thrown into the churchyard to be used for burials although it had not been consecrated. (fn. 133) Dissenters were buried there, as it was opposite the Congregational chapel. (fn. 134) In 1958 the village hall stood on the western edge of the Nook.
Before the parish joined the Market Harborough Union in 1836, (fn. 135) its workhouse stood at the eastern end of the Nook. (fn. 136) The now-lost overseers' accounts for 1700–71 and 1806–33 showed that the highest recorded rate during these periods was £332 in 1806. In 1768 £48 had been raised, and in 1771, £33. (fn. 137) There was no workhouse mentioned in 1802–3, but 31 children were given out-relief. (fn. 138) The highest rate, including union workhouse and county rates, during the period 1847–61 was £259 in 1857. (fn. 139) Until 1871 the vestry levied an annual church rate which from 1850 to 1859 was never more than 5½d. in the pound, and from 1862 to 1871 never more than 2d. (fn. 140)
The now-lost waywardens' accounts showed that the average annual cost of keeping up the roads of the parish from 1844 to 1855 was £24 (rather less than a rate of 2d. in the pound); £62 was paid to the highway board for the year ending 25 March 1888 and by 1900 the upkeep of the roads cost about £70 a year. (fn. 141)
The church at Mowsley, like that at Shearsby, was a chapelry in the ancient parish of Knaptoft. It has been believed that part of the west wall of Mowsley church belonged to the 12th century, (fn. 142) but the earliest surviving features in the building suggest that much of the fabric dates from the middle of the 13th century. Although the chapel at Shearsby was mentioned about 1220, there was no similar mention of a chapel at Mowsley. (fn. 143) It is probable therefore that a new church was established at Mowsley about 1250, traditionally by Hugh Gobion (d. 1274), lord of Knaptoft. (fn. 144)
The mother church at Knaptoft was allowed to fall into ruins during the middle of the 17th century, and there is some evidence to suggest that it was damaged by fire, although none to prove the local tradition that it was destroyed after the battle of Naseby. (fn. 145) The rectory house at Knaptoft was apparently at the same time involved in inclosures made by the Turpin family and the rector had taken a house at Shearsby. (fn. 146) From the late 17th century onwards the rectors of Knaptoft or their curates have resided at Mowsley, though all the rectors until 1915 were inducted in the north porch of the ruined church at Knaptoft. There had been a resident chaplain at Mowsley during the Middle Ages. (fn. 147) The first induction at Mowsley was in 1933. (fn. 148) In 1928 the ancient parish of Knaptoft had been divided: Shearsby was joined to Arnesby, and Mowsley with Knaptoft to the adjoining parish of Laughton. (fn. 149) Since 1928 incumbents of the new living of Mowsley with Laughton and Knaptoft have lived at Mowsley Rectory. (fn. 150)
The patron of the church of Knaptoft about 1220 was Roger de Merley. (fn. 151) The advowson descended with the demesne lordship of Knaptoft to the Gobion family, the Paynels, the Turpins, and the dukes of Rutland. (fn. 152) After the latter sold their Knaptoft estate in 1869, the advowson came into the hands of the Peake family, (fn. 153) and they were still believed to be patrons in 1900, (fn. 154) although J. Hood had been described as patron in 1896. (fn. 155) Soon afterwards the advowson was acquired by the incumbent, J. H. Green, who presented his own successor in 1915. (fn. 156) After the rearrangement of benefices, the advowson of Mowsley with Laughton and Knaptoft was shared by the former incumbents, D. A. G. Taylor of Knaptoft with Mowsley and A. H. J. Matthews of Laughton. The latter's widow presented in 1933, but the former's widow was unable to make a presentation in 1945 and the advowson fell to the Diocesan Board of Patronage who were the owners in 1958. (fn. 157)
The rectory of Knaptoft was valued at 20 marks in 1254 (fn. 158) and 40 marks in 1291. (fn. 159) The gross annual value in 1535 was £33 3s. 6d., (fn. 160) and the living was considered one of the richest in the country during the 16th century. (fn. 161) It appears that in the 17th century the rector had no glebe at Knaptoft except the site of the parsonage, because the glebe there had been inclosed by the Turpin family who had offered a lease of land at Shearsby in compensation. (fn. 162) In 1606 there were 46 a. of glebe in Mowsley. (fn. 163) A list of the great and small tithes was drawn up by the rector in 1620. (fn. 164) By the inclosure award of 1788 the rector received 41 a. in lieu of glebe in Mowsley, and 200 a. in compensation for all great and small tithes. (fn. 165) The rectory was valued at £624 a year in 1831, with a modus of £10 in Knaptoft, 212 a. of glebe in Shearsby, and 247 a. in Mowsley. (fn. 166) In 1914 the rector's annual income was £520, and he stated that he had received only £70 in rents when he first came to Mowsley in 1876–84, from which he paid about £30 in rates and taxes. (fn. 167)
The rectory house at Mowsley was erected on 6 a. of land which are believed to have been given by an old woman, probably in the late 17th century. (fn. 168) In 1712 it was described as a building of 6 bays, partly thatched and partly covered with slate, with 2 barns and a brew-house. (fn. 169) The present rectory house was built by James Tindall, rector 1817–52. (fn. 170) It is a two-storied red-brick building and the largest house in the village. Many alterations were made by J. H. Green, rector 1876–1915. (fn. 171)
The incumbents of Knaptoft have included John Moore (d. 1619) who published a Target for Tillage in 1612, and his son John Moore (d. 1657) who also preached and wrote against inclosures. (fn. 172) Perhaps the first rector to reside at Mowsley was Thomas Whatton (d. 1670). (fn. 173) His successor Samuel Fuller (d. 1700), the Dean of Lincoln, was not resident, (fn. 174) and there were few resident rectors in the 18th century. Thomas Sawbridge, 1700–13, and William Whatton, 1713–35, were probably resident. (fn. 175) Charles Stokes, rector 1736–76, was chaplain to the Duke of Rutland and died at Stamford; (fn. 176) John Cant, rector 1776–82, owned the Wartnaby estate; (fn. 177) and Richard Watson (1737–1816), Bishop of Llandaff, (fn. 178) preached at Mowsley on the day he took possession 'but never saw the place afterward'. (fn. 179) From 1817 onwards all the rectors have been resident. During the 19th century they continued to have curates. (fn. 180) While curate in Mowsley from 1871 to 1876, T. A. Curties, (fn. 181) later Vicar of St. Michael's, Wakefield, established in the parish the Guild of the Holy Child Jesus, a society which was particularly active at the time of the restoration of the church in 1882. (fn. 182) The Revd. J. H. Green left to the parish the results of his researches into local history: a large bound volume of typescript, 'Notes on Mowsley and Knaptoft'. (fn. 183) Before he accepted this living he was the headmaster of Kibworth Beauchamp Grammar School. (fn. 184)
The church of ST. NICHOLAS is of cruciform plan and consists of chancel, nave, north and south transepts, and south porch. The walling is of coursed rubble, mainly composed of large pebbles, and has limestone dressings. A thorough restoration was undertaken in the late 19th century.
The church was probably built c. 1250, a date which is confirmed by the design of the west window, consisting of three graded lancets under a single pointed hood. Although dating in its present form from 1882 this window is a copy of the original one. (fn. 185) The arched openings from the transepts to the nave each have one chamfered and two hollow-chamfered orders and half-round responds with moulded capitals and bases. Also of the 13th century are piscinae in the north transept and chancel; a third— in the south transept—is probably of the same date. In the chancel are a defaced corbel and a priest's door with a pointed chamfered arch. There was formerly a south door in the chancel. (fn. 186) A door in the north wall of the nave is blocked but like the south door is two-centred with continuous moulded jambs. The base and capitals of the jambs of the south door are original. An internal stoup near the south door is defaced.
The only certainly 14th-century features are the font and a window in the chancel. The font is octagonal with simple decorated panels, each containing a trefoiled arch in low relief. (fn. 187) The window has three cusped ogee-headed lights in a square frame, and is at the east end of the south wall. The square chamfered lights in the south porch may be 14th-century insertions. The former flat-pitched roof was of the 15th century but all that remains is one square boss reset in a beam at the west end of the nave. The roof may have been repaired and lowered in 1721. (fn. 188)
Several alterations were made by P. Wilson, rector 1852–76. He repaired the entrance arch of the south porch in 1854, repaired the west and transept windows, and erected a new bell-cote in 1859 which necessitated the addition of four supporting buttresses c. 1866. (fn. 189) In 1860 he drew up plans for a complete restoration of the church but was apparently unable to raise the money required. (fn. 190)
The Revd. J. H. Green restored the church, under the supervision of the architect J. L. Pearson, in 1882–3. The work cost over £2,000 and a further £1,800 was apparently spent in the next 20 years. The roof was replaced; the external walling was repaired, including a virtual rebuilding of all the gable-ends; the walls were stripped of plaster; the entrance arch of the south porch was restored; and most of the window openings were renewed and the windows re-glazed. The east window to the chancel, consisting of three graded lancets, dates from this restoration. The floor was re-laid in three stages— in 1893, 1899, and 1908. (fn. 191)
During this restoration the font was placed on a new stem and what was probably a pre-Reformation altar top was brought into use after having long lain in the nave. (fn. 192) The old pews were replaced with chairs and a new pulpit and lectern installed. A wooden screen, in the Gothic style, made from old furniture of Kibworth Grammar School, (fn. 193) was erected between the chancel and the nave on the site of an earlier partition; there is no structural division between nave and chancel and no chancel arch. An eagle lectern was presented to the church in 1912, the organ in 1937, (fn. 194) and the altar rails in 1945. The only monument in the church is a mural tablet to James Tindall (d. 1852), rector, in the chancel.
There is one bell: 1856, by John Taylor of Loughborough. (fn. 195) In 1659 another bell which had been cracked was sold and a new steeple erected for the remaining one. (fn. 196) A new bell was bought at Enderby in 1696. (fn. 197) It was recast in 1721 and a new brick steeple erected in 1722. (fn. 198) This bell was cracked in 1858 and replaced by the present one. A new bellcote was built in 1859. (fn. 199) The plate includes a silver cup dated 1663, and a silver paten given by the Guild of the Holy Child Jesus in 1879. (fn. 200) The registers begin in 1660 and record baptisms, marriages, and burials in Mowsley and Knaptoft; Shearsby had a separate register.
Although no conventicle was reported in 1669, (fn. 201) and no nonconformist in 1676, (fn. 202) Joseph Horton's house was licensed as a meeting-place for nonconformists in 1672 and William Burdett was licensed as a teacher. (fn. 203) The conventicle of Anabaptists reported to be in Knaptoft parish in 1706–14 has not been identified with any nonconformists in Mowsley, but it is likely there were a number of nonconformists in the village during the early 18th century. (fn. 204)
Thomas Flude applied to license his house as a meeting-place in 1792 and was supported by Job Smeeton, Jonathan Horton, and William Smith. (fn. 205) Smeeton and Horton supported William Smith's application to license his house in 1804. (fn. 206) Smith in 1817 applied to set apart as a meeting-place a certain dwelling-house which he had bought from John Johnson. (fn. 207) This may have been the first Congregational chapel. Joseph Horton's house had been reported to be a meeting-place in 1794. (fn. 208) John Hunt supported by Thomas Willson and Jonathan Monk licensed his house in 1820. (fn. 209) These may represent another sect. In 1791 out of 217 inhabitants 161 were members of the Church of England, 55 Protestant dissenters, and one a Roman Catholic. (fn. 210)
The present Congregational chapel, a square redbrick building with a hipped slate roof, was erected in 1839 and repaired in 1860 for use by both Independents and Baptists. (fn. 211) J. B. Haddon, by will proved in 1881, left money for the upkeep of the Congregational chapels at Lubenham and Mowsley. (fn. 212)
Miss Blount of Mowsley was collecting circuit missionary money for the Methodists between 1844 and 1853, and the first meeting-place for Methodists which can be identified with certainty, John Gamble's house, was registered in 1860. The Methodist chapel was erected in 1879 at a cost of £222 on the site of 2 cottages which had formerly belonged to the parish for receiving its poor. Matthew Gamble was concerned with this building, but of the 8 families paying pew rents perhaps the most important were those of the grazier John Harris, and of John Knapp of Knaptoft Hall, a farmer. The chapel was enlarged in 1884–5 and an American organ installed, and by 1890 there were 18 families paying pew rents. The chapel was closed in the summer of 1955, and the re-opening in the summer of 1958 lasted only a few months. (fn. 213)
There was a Sunday school in Mowsley in 1833 with 17 boys and 22 girls. (fn. 214)
Mowsley Church of England School was erected in 1864 on the north-west corner of the churchyard, the cost being met by voluntary subscriptions. (fn. 215) In 1871 there were 18 boys and 18 girls in attendance. (fn. 216) The management was vested in the rector and churchwardens, but the vestry in 1872 established a school committee and appointed a mistress at a salary of £22 10s. a year. The cost of running the school in 1892 was £64, (fn. 217) and in 1894 the attendance was sixteen. (fn. 218) Shortly before 1900 Laughton school was closed and its income from Mrs. Humfrey's charity was transferred to Mowsley so that Laughton children might attend school there. (fn. 219) The attendance of children from both villages in 1900 was 22 (fn. 220). A separate room for infants was added in 1924. (fn. 221)
In 1923 children over 11 years in Mowsley and Laughton were sent to the 'Senior Top' at Husbands Bosworth National School. (fn. 222) The 'Senior Top' was closed in 1930 and all senior children in the district were taken to Church Langton. (fn. 223) After 1923 Mowsley school was confined to juniors from Mowsley and Laughton, and the attendance in 1933 was 35. (fn. 224) In 1952 the school accepted 'controlled' status under the local authority, and the attendance in 1958 was 22. (fn. 225)
Samuel Hayford in 1688, John Burdett in 1737, and Anna Burdett in 1749 each left £5 to the poor of Mowsley, and Elizabeth Hunt in 1763 left £10. The churchwardens and overseers were trustees for all these sums in 1786. (fn. 226) By 1837 the total sum of all these bequests, £25, had 'many years ago' been lent to 2 persons who became bankrupt, and the charities were lost. (fn. 227)
Joseph Hugglescoat, by will proved in 1771, gave £20 which was to be invested and the annual interest distributed among the poor at the discretion of the churchwardens and overseers. (fn. 228) The money was held by the parish and £1 was paid annually from the poor rates to be distributed on Lady Day. The charity was believed to be in existence in 1846, (fn. 229) but by 1862–3 it was reported to be lost. (fn. 230)