A History of the County of Leicestershire: Volume 5, Gartree Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1964.
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Great Bowden village lies on the south-east border of Leicestershire, about sixteen miles from Leicester. On the south and south-east the ancient parish of Great Bowden was bounded by the River Welland, which was and largely remains the boundary between Leicestershire and Northamptonshire. In shape the parish was compact and approximately rectangular. The ancient parish formerly contained, besides Great Bowden, two dependent chapelries, St. Mary in Arden and Market Harborough. The connexions between the mother church and the two chapels are discussed elsewhere. (fn. 1) St. Mary's chapelry included dispersed houses and their attached lands in Little Bowden township, which was originally in Northamptonshire; the rest of the township lay in the parish of St. Nicholas, Little Bowden. (fn. 2) For civil purposes Little Bowden township seems always to have formed a single unit, and for such matters it had no connexion with Great Bowden. Harborough was a separate township within Great Bowden parish as early as 1254, (fn. 3) and was always independent for civil purposes. (fn. 4) St. Mary's chapelry never formed a separate civil unit. The part that lay outside Little Bowden was included in Great Bowden township, which formed a separate unit for civil purposes comprising the whole ancient parish except Harborough and the lands in Northamptonshire attached to St. Mary's. By 1881 Harborough was considered to be a separate civil parish. (fn. 5)
Under the Local Government Act of 1888 a large part of Little Bowden, including the village, was transferred to Leicestershire by 1891. The part of Little Bowden that remained in Northamptonshire was transferred to Great Oxendon civil parish. In 1895 Market Harborough Urban District was created, to include the whole of Great Bowden ancient parish, including Harborough, and all of Little Bowden that was in Leicestershire. In 1927 Great and Little Bowden were absorbed into Market Harborough civil parish, which thus became co-extensive with the urban district. In 1924 a small part of Lubenham parish was transferred to Great Bowden. (fn. 6) In 1935 two small areas of Market Harborough Urban District, which had formerly lain in Great Bowden ancient parish, were transferred to Foxton and Lubenham respectively, and small areas of Foxton and Lubenham were transferred to Harborough. (fn. 7)
The area of Great Bowden ancient parish, not including the lands in Northamptonshire attached to St. Mary's, was 3,120 acres. (fn. 8)
In 1086 Great Bowden was the centre of a large soke, which included lands in twelve other Leicestershire villages. (fn. 9) The origin of the soke is unknown, but it seems to have existed under Edward the Confessor. (fn. 10) Great Bowden soke is mentioned in 1173, (fn. 11) but not subsequently. Nothing is known of its organization. Part of its territories evolved into a separate entity known as the soke of Stretton. (fn. 12) So far as can be discovered the remaining lands outside Great Bowden parish had ceased to have any connexion with Great Bowden by 1200, but Great Bowden was still said to be ancient royal demesne in 1247. (fn. 13) In 1605 James I confirmed the manorial tenants' immunity from subscribing to the maintenance of the knights of the shire while Parliament was sitting. (fn. 14)
The south and south-west parts of Great Bowden township are mostly occupied by the modern suburbs of Market Harborough, which have spread as far west as the boundary between Great Bowden and Lubenham. The remainder of the township was mostly meadow and pasture in 1957. Much of the township lies low in the Welland valley, but in the west the land rises to over 400 ft.
The underlying soil is mainly a stiff blue clay of the Middle Lias series, with some scattered pockets of gravel. The surface soil is yellow boulder clay, containing many erratic boulders. Along the Welland and along the Langton brook at the northern edge of the township there are stretches of alluvium. In 1957 those parts of the parish which had not been built over were mostly used as pasture for beef cattle.
Great Bowden village lies in the south-east part of the township, about 500 yds. from the River Welland. The village is linked with Northamptonshire by a bridge, probably already existing in 1523 (fn. 15) and mentioned in 1636. (fn. 16) The bridge was rebuilt in 1821 and again in 1900. (fn. 17) The main road from Harborough to Leicester crosses the western part of the township, (fn. 18) but does not go through the village. In 1832 nearly a mile of this road was reconstructed to give an easier gradient at Gallow Hill, (fn. 19) and the old road can be seen alongside it further east. The branch canal from Foxton to Harborough also passes through the township. (fn. 20) Two railways, from Leicester and from Stamford, enter the township from the north and run through it to Market Harborough station. The line then continues southward across the Welland. There is no station at Great Bowden, and although Harborough station is within the township it lies in Harborough's suburbs and serves that town. (fn. 21) North of the station there are marshalling yards.
The recorded population was 49 in 1086. (fn. 22) In 1327 Great Bowden seems to have been slightly smaller, though perhaps wealthier, than Harborough. (fn. 23) In 1377 there were 107 taxpayers. In 1670 there were 96 houses assessed for hearth tax, and 40 were exempt because of poverty. Great Bowden was then still not much smaller than Harborough. There were 363 communicants in 1676, (fn. 24) and 150-60 families in the early 18th century. (fn. 25) In 1801 the population of Great Bowden township was 783. During the 19th century it rose steadily to 2,250 in 1891. In the next twenty years it almost doubled, largely because of Harborough's expansion into Great Bowden. (fn. 26)
Great Bowden seems to have had no street lamps until 1885, when 50 oil lamps were provided by the local board of health. (fn. 27) In 1890 it was decided to install gas lamps. (fn. 28) The first systematic sewerage scheme was carried out in 1886. (fn. 29) Piped water was first supplied in 1890. (fn. 30)
The road linking Market Harborough with Great Bowden is built up for almost its entire length, mostly with detached houses built since 1900. It enters Great Bowden at the south end of the Green, a large open area which forms the centre of the village. North of this stands the church and the glebe house. Dingley Road skirts the south side of the churchyard and leads south-eastwards across the Welland into Northamptonshire. Main Street runs due west from the Green, crossing the railway and leading past Upper Green to the west end of the village. From this point Burnmill Lane, still an open road at its northern end, leads south to Market Harborough. Leicester Lane continues westwards, crosses the canal and finally, as a little-used minor road, joins the main Market Harborough to Leicester road near Gallow Hill. Near the east end of Main Street two roads, Manor Road and Langton Road, lead northwards and later join to form the road to Thorpe Langton. In this area are the remains of some old mud houses, probably those mentioned in 1849. (fn. 31) Knights End is a cul-de-sac at the south-east corner of the Green, mostly built up with early-19th-century brick cottages. Nether Green, a group of larger houses and outbuildings, lies north of the church.
The Green is a large irregularly-shaped open space, intersected by roads which divide it into several subsidiary greens. One of these is still known as Stocks Green from the village stocks which stood there. (fn. 32) Church Green lies to the north. South of it is Pond Green, where a large pond was filled up in 1928. This was supplied by a stream known as Gunsbrook which formerly flowed through the village but which is now enclosed in ditches and an underground culvert. (fn. 33) Near the pond is the former smithy and blacksmith's house, a timber-framed range with brick-filled panels. It was probably built late in the 17th century and was extensively restored in 1958. The houses surrounding the Green are of all periods with early-19th-century brick cottages predominating. As a whole it still retains its village character. On the east side no. 43 has a timber-framed upper story with an overhanging gable-end. The ground floor is of ironstone with stone-mullioned windows and an original doorway. A beam internally is dated 1664 with initials R.B. and S.B. The building contains no original chimney and was probably part of a larger house of which a wing was demolished when the late-19th-century cottages were built next door. Evidently this combination of ironstone and timber was a usual method of building on the fringe of the stone belt in the mid-17th century. Examples exist in Main Street (see below), in Manor Road, and on the west side of Church Green. Old photographs show similar houses with thatched roofs and overhanging gables. (fn. 34) One group to the west of Church Green was demolished in 1900 when Bishop's House was built on the site by John Henry Stokes. (fn. 35) Bishop's House and the adjacent Green Lodge are two large detached residences belonging to the period when many houses in the village were built or altered for use as hunting-boxes. Green Lodge, a particularly ornate example of Edwardian architecture, occupies the site of the former Congregational chapel. (fn. 36) To the north of it is Welham Bush Farm. The farm-house, also at one time a hunting-box, (fn. 37) is a brick house of c. 1800 with an earlier gabled wing of ironstone. At some later date (fn. 38) a second stone gable was built and a covered gateway formed between the two. The village hall, built in 1902, (fn. 39) is on the east side of the Green.
The former glebe house, now known as the Old Rectory, was evidently the most important house in the village before the 19th century. In the late 18th century the tenant was Henry Shuttleworth. (fn. 40) Since 1926 it has been the property of the farmer who occupies it. (fn. 41) The house is of two stories and attics and is built largely of ironstone. It was formerly H-shaped in plan, consisting of a central range with north and south cross-wings, but the east end of the north wing has been demolished. The surviving features do not suggest that the present house was built before the late 17th century, but the base of the walls may be older. (fn. 42) In the angle of the north wing is a massive chimney, beyond which the building has been demolished, and this may represent the oldest part of the house. The entrance front faces west and is flanked by the gables of the two cross-wings. The south wing was remodelled in the first half of the 18th century. Internally it contains a remarkable open circular staircase, supported by a central newel which rises to the attic floor. The south front, facing the churchyard, has seven windows to the first floor and a central doorway with a rusticated surround. Four dormer windows have been removed since the 18th century and the front has been rough-cast. (fn. 43) On the west side several of the 17th-century mullioned and transomed windows have been replaced by sashes, and a late-18th-century fanlight has been inserted. There is a mud wall between the garden and the churchyard, and one of the outbuildings is partly mud-built. Near the house are 18th-century brick walls and gate piers with ball finials.
Nether Green Lodge (a nursing home in 1958) was built c. 1908 by J. H. Stokes for his own occupation. It is a large gabled house of ironstone in the local 17th-century style. The Grange, although it contains a beam dated 1567, was apparently rebuilt in the early 19th century. Nether House was a relatively small residence of the early or mid-19th century, enlarged later but never of impressive proportions. It was occupied by J. H. Stokes c. 1900 when the extensive stabling was built for his horses. (fn. 44) After 1923 it became the residence of the master of the Fernie Hunt. (fn. 45) It was damaged by fire c. 1950 and was later acquired by a firm of brush manufacturers who in 1958 were using part of the outbuildings as a factory. The stables then remained the property of the Fernie Hunt, as did the kennels which were built to the north of the house in 1923-4.
There are a number of old houses between the Green and the west end of the village. The earliest is probably Tudor House in Manor Road, at one time divided into two cottages but restored in 1955 to form a single house. (fn. 46) It is of three bays and contains two cruck trusses, probably medieval in origin. The front is faced with stone, partly dating from 1955, carrying a date tablet of 1746. The features suggest, however, that the stonework is of the 17th century and the tablet a later addition. No. 55 Main Street, known as the Old Bakery, consists of a two-bay range, faced with 18th-century brickwork, and a cross-wing with its overhanging gable-end facing the road. The former may have been a singlestory structure, open to the roof, perhaps dating from the 16th century. Its central truss is of the raised cruck type and has chamfered timbers. The cross-wing is probably of later date and has an ironstone lower story with timber-framing above. It appears that after the middle of the 17th century timber-framed upper stories were abandoned in this district and the houses were built completely of ironstone. Brick came into general use in the 18th century. Stone House in Main Street has an ironstone wing dated 1671 and, at right angles to it, a brick addition of 1773. The walls of the stone wing were evidently raised in brickwork at the later date. Old Hall is an ironstone house of c. 1700 with alterations and additions dated 1864. The WesterbyBasset beagles were kept here in 1958 and the house was occupied by the master. (fn. 47) Upper Green Farm has an ironstone front dated 1674. There are several houses in the village which have been largely rebuilt but contain carved beams of an earlier date. These include a house in Manor Road (1598) and a cottage in Leicester Lane (1638). Upper House at Upper Green is a large residence built in 1879 with additions of 1911. At the extreme west end of the village, adjacent to the canal, is Bowden Hall, of which the outbuildings are said to incorporate the Britannia Inn, which served the former canal wharf. (fn. 48) The house is a stucco mansion built c. 1860, although the style is earlier. It was built by William Hay (d. 1878). His son W. H. Hay (d. 1924) was regarded for many years as the squire of the village. (fn. 49) In 1958 the house was occupied by his daughters.
A row of brick cottages in Leicester Lane is known as Navvies' Row and was built to house workmen at the time of the railway alterations of 1884. (fn. 50) Nine pairs of Council houses were built at Upper Green between 1948 and 1950 and 7 pairs in Harborough Road in 1952.
The manors of Great Bowden and Market Harborough appear always to have been held by the same lords, and the descent of both manors is given below. (fn. 51)
In 1086, the king's holding of 9½ carucates had land for 2 ploughs in demesne, and the demesne was worth 40s.; 13 socmen, 8 villeins, and 16 bordars had 13½ ploughs and rendered 30s. a year. On Robert de Buci's holding of 3 carucates there was 1 plough in demesne, and 4 villeins and 8 bordars had 2 ploughs; there were 15 a. of meadow; the value had increased from 10s. before the Conquest to 20s. (fn. 52)
In the 14th and 15th centuries there were three principal fields in Great Bowden. A fourth and apparently smaller field was mentioned in the 15th century. (fn. 53) The common rights enjoyed, or claimed, by the inhabitants of Harborough in Great Bowden fields are discussed elsewhere. (fn. 54) During the 17th and 18th centuries parts of the open fields were used as leys. (fn. 55) An Act passed in 1776 authorizing the inclosure of Great Bowden was not opposed in Parliament. (fn. 56) Under the award of 1777 (fn. 57) the tithes of the open fields, except those from a small area where the Rector of Church Langton was entitled to some tithes, were commuted. (fn. 58) The total area inclosed was 2,982 a. The joint lords of the manor received a very small allotment, of just over an acre, for their manorial rights. The largest allotment was the 525 a. awarded to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford, as impropriators of the rectory. No other landowner was allotted as much as 200 a. but three were allotted between 100 and 200 a. There were numerous small allotments, including just over 50 of under 5 a. Certainly no single landowner occupied a dominant position. After the inclosure much of Great Bowden was used for pasture, and in 1801 there was less than 150 a. of arable. (fn. 59) Since that time Great Bowden has chiefly been used for grazing.
In the earlier 19th century the condition of the labouring population at Great Bowden seems to have been unsatisfactory. Expenditure on poor relief reached a high level at the beginning of the century. (fn. 60) In 1849 it was reported that there was severe overcrowding in the village, and that there were 42 cottages, mostly of mud, and all unfit for habitation. These had originally been built on waste land by labourers, but had been taken over by the parish when their builders needed poor relief. (fn. 61) There were no public sewers and no adequate water supply. The village's two public pumps had long been unusable. (fn. 62) It is evident that public services in the township were inadequate, though probably no worse than in most other rural areas at the period. No real improvements were made until a local board of health was set up in 1880. (fn. 63) Steps were then taken to provide a piped water supply and a drainage system. (fn. 64) Since about 1900 Great Bowden has to a large extent become a residential suburb of Harborough.
A glue factory at Gallow Hill on the western boundary of the parish was owned by Charles Massey & Son Ltd. from 1904 until the firm's amalgamation with British Glues & Chemicals Ltd. in 1922. The factory was still operating in 1959. The buildings lie beside the canal and on the line of the old turnpike road from Harborough to Leicester. The former Gallow Hill Inn, a brick building of the early 19th century, is used as a house and office by the company. (fn. 65)
A windmill at Great Bowden was amongst the property which John Kelyng was licensed in 1473 to alienate as an endowment for his chantry. (fn. 66) In 1548 the king granted it to Robert and Frideswide Strelley. It was then said to have been blown down. (fn. 67) In 1543 a windmill in South Field was leased by Francis Entwysell to William Beyerley for 21 years. (fn. 68) This was presumably not the mill that had belonged to the chantry. The former chantry mill was sold in 1574 to Edward Griffin by William Saville, Robert Strelley's nephew and heir. (fn. 69) In 1623 John Fish died possessed of a windmill at Great Bowden, held of John, Lord Stanhope, (fn. 70) and a windmill there was conveyed in 1690 by Jeremiah Sprigg to Edward Sprigg. (fn. 71) There was also a horse mill at Great Bowden, once belonging to Kelyng's chantry and granted by the king to Robert Strelley in 1548. (fn. 72)
The churchwardens of Great Bowden are mentioned in 1509, (fn. 73) and the constables in 1541. (fn. 74) The establishment of a workhouse by 1802-3 was perhaps due to the great rise during the late 18th century in expenditure on poor relief, from £207 in the year ending Easter 1775, to £882 for the year ending Easter 1803. There were 7 people in the workhouse in 1802-3, and 66 adults and 77 children received out-relief. (fn. 75) There are surviving churchwardens' accounts for 1849-1915, overseers' accounts for 1718-51, 1756- 62, 1802-14, and 1828-36, and vestry minutes for 1818-83. (fn. 76) In 1885 Great Bowden came under the jurisdiction of the Market Harborough and Great and Little Bowden local board of health, and subsequently it was included in the Market Harborough Urban District. (fn. 77) In 1927 Great Bowden civil parish was absorbed into Market Harborough civil parish. (fn. 78)
The church at Great Bowden is first mentioned in about 1220, when it was said that besides the parish church there was another chapel or church with its own resident chaplain. Dependent on this chapel was another, at Harborough, also with its resident chaplain. (fn. 79) Neither the dedication nor the situation of the first chapel is indicated, but clearly it was that later known as St. Mary in Arden. The history of St. Mary's, and of Harborough chapel, is discussed elsewhere. (fn. 80) Vicars of Great Bowden, presented by the rector, are mentioned in 1237-8, 1258, and 1266, (fn. 81) but no vicarage seems to have been ordained.
In 1546 the rectory was appropriated to Christ Church, Oxford, the rector having resigned shortly before. (fn. 82) It was provided that the cure should be served by a vicar, with a yearly stipend of £13 6s. 8d., and that the poor were to have 10s. alms a year. (fn. 83) In 1556 it was said that there was neither vicar nor rector at Great Bowden, and that the living had long been vacant; (fn. 84) it may have been so ever since 1546. The terms of the appropriation never seem to have been carried out. In the late 16th century there were separate curates for Great Bowden, St. Mary's, and Market Harborough, and it does not appear that then, or subsequently, the curate of Great Bowden exercised any authority over the other two. (fn. 85) St. Mary's and Harborough became virtually separate benefices. (fn. 86)
During the 19th century and before 1879 Great Bowden became a vicarage. (fn. 87) In 1931 the benefice was united with that of Welham, a small village to the north. (fn. 88) In 1901 a considerable area in the south of Great Bowden was transferred to Harborough for ecclesiastical purposes. (fn. 89)
About 1220 it was said that the advowson of Great Bowden belonged to the king, but that he had handed over the manor to William de Cantilupe and that it was not known whether William had obtained the advowson too. (fn. 90) In 1237-8 and in 1247, William's son, also William, who was holding the manors of Bowden and Harborough during the king's pleasure, was in possession of the advowson. (fn. 91) Whether it was ever in the hands of Gruffydd or of Queen Eleanor, both of whom in turn held the manors after the younger Cantilupe's death, (fn. 92) is not known. After the queen's death in 1290 the advowson was certainly held by the king, who presented in 1291. (fn. 93) Subsequently, like the manors, (fn. 94) it was acquired by Queen Isabel, who presented in 1328. (fn. 95) The advowson is not mentioned in Edward III's grant of the manors to John of Eltham in 1331, but it seems to have been included. (fn. 96) The king's grant of the manors to Geoffrey le Scrope, after John's death, in 1336 again does not mention the advowson, but it was acquired by Scrope (fn. 97) and no doubt was considered as appurtenant to the manors. It remained in possession of Geoffrey's heirs until it was forfeited in 1415 by Henry le Scrope. (fn. 98) The king then granted it to William Porter. (fn. 99) Porter presented Robert Felton, who was duly instituted, but Porter's right to present was contested by Scrope's relict Margery, though it is not clear on what grounds. Felton resigned his benefice, obtained a new presentation from Margery le Scrope, and in 1416 was instituted for a second time. (fn. 100) When the next vacancy occurred in 1425, Porter again presented (fn. 101) and this time there seems to have been no opposition. (fn. 102) Subsequently the patronage, with the manors, was recovered by John le Scrope, who presented at the next vacancy in 1438. (fn. 103) The advowson was held by the Scrope family until the death of Geoffrey le Scrope in 1517. (fn. 104) On his death the manors were partitioned amongst several co-heirs (fn. 105) and the advowson seems to have been partitioned too. In 1533 Nicholas Strelley and his wife Elizabeth, Geoffrey's niece, sold a fourth part of it to William Strangways, clerk. (fn. 106) The whole of the advowson seems later to have been in the hands of Sir James Strangways the younger, Scrope's great-nephew. (fn. 107) After Strangways's death the advowson passed to, or was claimed by, Robert Roos, his nephew and co-heir, who in 1543 sold it to Edward Griffin. (fn. 108) Disputes evidently arose about the division of Strangways's property, and in 1543 an agreement was made between his heirs providing that the advowson should go to one of them, Sir William Malyvorie. (fn. 109) This arrangement does not seem to have been carried out, and in 1545 it was delivered to Roos. (fn. 110) Griffin's possession thus for the first time became secure, and four months later he granted the advowson to Thomas, Lord Wriothesley, the Chancellor; (fn. 111) he a few weeks later granted it with other property to the king. (fn. 112) In 1546 the king granted the advowson to Christ Church, Oxford. (fn. 113) This grant leaves no doubt that the advowson belonged to Christ Church, which in fact presented regularly until the 19th century, except for the period of the Civil War and Interregnum. (fn. 114) Nevertheless, the advowson was listed amongst the property which John, Lord Stanhope, granted to the king in 1611, and received back. (fn. 115) The advowson remained in the hands of Christ Church until it was transferred to the Bishop of Peterborough in 1879, (fn. 116) and upon the establishment of the See of Leicester in 1926 to the Bishop of Leicester. After the union with Welham in 1931, however, the bishop presented for two turns, and the Lord Chancellor, formerly patron of Welham, for one. (fn. 117)
In 1254 Great Bowden rectory was assessed at £20, (fn. 118) and in 1291 at £37 6s. 8d. (fn. 119) In 1535 it was valued at £53 8s. 10d. net. (fn. 120) A valuation of the rectory made not long after its appropriation to Christ Church gives its gross yearly value as £54 and its net value, after deducting stipends to curates at Great Bowden, St. Mary's, and Harborough, and other expenses, as £25 8s. 10½d. (fn. 121) In 1614 the rectory was said to be worth £350 in an average year; this was apparently the gross value. (fn. 122)
Great Bowden inclosure award (fn. 123) allotted to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, as rectors, 73 a. in respect of 2 yardlands of glebe, and 452 a. in commutation of tithes from the open fields and from some of the houses and old inclosures. The other houses and old inclosures in Great Bowden and Harborough remained liable to tithe until 1844, when the tithes were commuted for £7 a year. (fn. 124) At the time of the inclosure award there was in North Field a furlong called Towcroft in which the tithes were divided between the Rector of Great Bowden and the Rector of Church Langton. From part of the furlong all the great tithes and half of the small tithes were payable to the Rector of Church Langton, and half the small tithes only to the Rector of Great Bowden, while for the rest of the furlong the position was reversed. Little Bowden was inclosed in 1779 and the award allotted 83 a. to Christ Church in commutation of the tithes from that part of the open fields lying in St. Mary's chapelry, and just under one acre in commutation of the tithes from the old inclosures of the chapelry. (fn. 125) At the beginning of the 19th century the rectory was said to be worth more than £1,000 a year. (fn. 126)
The former glebe house of Great Bowden rectory stands immediately to the north of the church. (fn. 127) In 1510 the Rectory seems to have been on the same site, (fn. 128) and it is possible that some parts of the present fabric date from before the appropriation in 1546. The glebe house is mentioned in 1638. It was then said to have ten bays of building, besides barns, and was evidently a large house, (fn. 129) but how far the existing structure dates from that time is uncertain.
After the appropriation of this rich living the curates appear to have been very badly paid. At the appropriation in 1546 it was provided that the rectors should pay the vicar £13 6s. 8d. (fn. 130) This never seems to have been done and in the late 16th century there was a curate at Great Bowden being paid £10 a year. (fn. 131) In 1603 and in 1614 the curate was said to be receiving the same stipend. (fn. 132) In 1626, and again in 1638, he was said to have a stipend of £20 a year. (fn. 133) In 1662 the curate had £30 a year. (fn. 134)
Great Bowden was augmented in 1776 by grants of £200 from Queen Anne's Bounty and £200 from Dr. Stratford's trustees. (fn. 135) In 1814 it was augmented by a Parliamentary grant of £600. (fn. 136) In 1833 the living was further augmented by a Parliamentary grant of £200 and a grant of the same amount from the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church. (fn. 137) In 1836 Queen Anne's Bounty and Christ Church made grants of the same sum each to the benefice. (fn. 138)
In 1472 John Kelyng, Rector of Great Bowden, obtained a licence to alienate lands up to a yearly value of 10 marks to endow a chantry in Great Bowden church, for a chaplain who was to pray for the souls of himself, the king and queen, and others. (fn. 139) In 1473 Kelyng obtained a second licence, empowering him to grant the chaplain of his chantry a windmill and 120 a. of land at Bowden and Harborough in part satisfaction of his previous licence. (fn. 140) The chantry was set up in St. Mary's chapel in Great Bowden church. (fn. 141) In 1535 it had a net revenue of £8 12s. 2d. (fn. 142) In 1544 the king granted the advowson to John, Lord Russell, and Roger Clarke. (fn. 143) It is not known how the king acquired the advowson. Immediately after this grant Russell and Clarke obtained a licence to alienate the advowson to Robert Strelley. (fn. 144) It is probable that the alienation was carried out, for in 1548 the chantry's confiscated property was granted to Strelley. (fn. 145)
One of the chantry priests, William Sotherey, by his will proved in 1523 left land to the yearly value of 10s. to found an obit in Great Bowden church. (fn. 146) The land was seized by the Crown and granted in 1549 to Edward Pease and James Wylson of London, (fn. 147) who sold it to Robert Strelley. (fn. 148) In 1547 there was a house at Great Bowden forming the endowment of St. Sepulchre's light in the parish church and producing a revenue of 2s. yearly. (fn. 149) In 1549 the house was granted to Pease and Wylson, who sold it also to Robert Strelley. (fn. 150)
The medieval rectors of Great Bowden were sometimes, perhaps usually, absentees. Robert of St. Albans, presented to the benefice in 1291, was a royal clerk and a pluralist, and not in priest's orders. (fn. 151) His successor, John of Melbourn, was only an acolyte when instituted in 1328 (fn. 152) and is known to have been absent for at least 3 years. (fn. 153) Geoffrey le Scrope, instituted in 1365, was a wealthy and well connected pluralist. (fn. 154) His successor was Richard le Scrope, rector 1378-84, a pluralist and later Archbishop of York. (fn. 155) The next rector, John of Clare (1384-91), was also non-resident. (fn. 156) William Wolstanton (1391-1403) was buried at Great Bowden, and may have resided, (fn. 157) but his successor, William Hose or Hussey, was an absentee, (fn. 158) and so were John Kelyng, rector 1463-74, (fn. 159) and John Chambers, presented in 1508. (fn. 160) In 1518 it was reported that the rector, who may then have been Polydore Vergil, the historian, had never been to his benefice, and that the rectory house was very dilapidated. (fn. 160) In 1556, after the appropriation, it was said that the living had been long vacant and without either rector or vicar. (fn. 161)
About 1780 the incumbent of Great Bowden was living at Dingley (Northants.), a few miles away. (fn. 162) In 1832 the archdeacon recorded that services were held at Great Bowden once every other Sunday, and communion was celebrated once a year only. There were weekday services on Fridays in Lent. The minister lived at Stoke Albany (Northants.), about 5 miles away. (fn. 163) Ten years later the position was little changed. The minister still lived outside the parish, though he had a resident curate. (fn. 164)
The church of ST. PETER AND ST. PAUL consists of a clerestoried nave with north and south aisles, a clerestoried chancel flanked by chapels forming continuations of the aisles, north and south porches, and a spired west tower. It is built of ironstone with limestone dressing. The oldest parts of the fabric date from the second half of the 13th century when the main plan of the church was probably similar to the present one with the exception of the north chapel. The chancel and the south chapel are much altered, but were originally of this date, and there is a single window with plate tracery near the west end of the south aisle. The arcade between chancel and chapel consists of two pointed arches resting on a low central pier and moulded responds. The chancel has a 13th-century piscina in its south wall and a blocked doorway beside it. The tower, which is of two tall stages above a high plinth, was probably built fairly late in the 14th century. The lower stage has angle buttresses and above are tall two-light windows with Decorated tracery. The castellated and pinnacled parapet is of limestone and is pierced by cruciform loops. Behind the parapet rises a short octagonal stone spire. Considerable alterations were made to the church in the 15th century when the aisles were raised and the three-bay arcades were rebuilt. Probably at the same time clerestories with square-headed windows were added to both nave and chancel. The north chapel, which has large square-headed windows and is separated from the chancel by an arcade similar to those of the nave, appears to be an addition entirely of the 15th century. It contains some original roof timbers and on its north wall the remains of a large fresco representing the Last Judgement. Most of the windows in other parts of the church are replacements of the 15th century and later.
In 1639 it was said that the west end of the chancel was in disrepair and that the aisles and steeple needed attention. (fn. 165) In 1777 there was a crack from top to bottom of the tower and in the following year, although other defects had been made good, the crack was still there. (fn. 166) New pews were installed in 1790 (fn. 167) and it is evident that much work was done to the church at about this time or soon afterwards. (fn. 168) It included the insertion of a west gallery on which the organ was mounted, the erection of galleries in both aisles, and the addition of a north porch in which a gallery staircase was incorporated. The south porch may be of the same date or somewhat earlier. (fn. 169) The insertion of plaster ceilings to nave and chancel, divided by an elliptical arch, was also probably done in the late 18th or early 19th century. (fn. 170) The low ceiling level appears to have necessitated the blocking of the clerestory windows in the chancel. (fn. 171) Throsby, who visited the church c. 1790, remarked on its well-kept appearance, with handsome pews and a fine stone floor. (fn. 172) In 1795 the archdeacon noted that the building was exceptionally well maintained and that the parishioners had been at great expense in beautifying and repairing it. (fn. 173) In 1832 it was reported that the tower had been cramped with iron. (fn. 174) In 1836 a new east window was inserted (fn. 175) and in 1842 the church was still well maintained. (fn. 176)
In 1886-7 the building was restored under the direction of W. Talbot Brown and Fisher of Wellingborough at a cost of over £2,200. (fn. 177) Except for the north chapel, the church was re-roofed. External buttresses were built against the south aisle wall and a large internal buttress to support the south wall of the chancel. The interior was much altered: a stone chancel arch was inserted and a new arch between the north aisle and the north chapel. The galleries were removed, the tower arch opened up, and a west doorway in the tower blocked. The organ was transferred to the north chapel. The pews were reduced in height, the tall 18th-century pulpit was removed, and new fittings were provided in the chancel. The font was replaced (fn. 178) but the carved oak font cover of two tiers, dating from the 17th century, was retained. Other original fittings include a 17th-century oak chest in the north chapel and a panel bearing the royal arms, repainted in 1778. (fn. 179) The fine carved organ case is of c. 1700, mounted on panelling from the later gallery. A new east window was inserted in 1891 (fn. 180) and a wrought-iron chancel screen in 1892. (fn. 181) The vestry screen in the south chapel was erected in memory of the Revd. H. W. Brutzer (d. 1920), the tower screen dates from 1927, and the reredos from 1932. (fn. 182)
A small brass, taken up from the floor in 1886, (fn. 183) is now on the chancel wall. It commemorates William Wolstanton (rector 1391-1403) by an inscription on the face. The brass plate, which had been reused, bears on its reverse side engraved decoration and a man's figure, thought to have been part of a larger Flemish brass of the 14th century. The church contains many mural tablets of the 18th and early 19th centuries. These include tablets giving details of the John Parsons charity (1716), the John Durrad and Robert Atkins charities (tablet dated 1736), and the James Clarke charity (1755). The most impressive monument is a large marble tablet on the north side of the sanctuary signed 'J. Wing, architect'. It commemorates Henry Shuttleworth (d. 1800) and his two wives and was probably set up soon after his first wife's death in 1787, blank spaces being left in the inscription for his own name. (fn. 184) There are also tablets to Henrietta (d. 1703), wife of Augustine Fish, to James Retchford (d. 1766), and to several members of the Shuttleworth family (1812-51). Later tablets include those to Frederick York Powell, Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford (d. 1904), and John Hales Neal, Principal of the Royal School, Mandalay (d. 1935). Stained glass windows commemorate William Hay of Bowden House (d. 1878), Thomas Seabrooke and his wife (erected 1887), Hugh D. A. Owen (killed in the hunting field, 1903), and those who died in the First World War.
The plate consists of a silver paten of 1704, given by the Revd. R. M. Wotton (d. 1758), and silver cups of 1717 and 1737, one of which had been only recently purchased in 1832. There are also a dish and flagon of silver-plate. (fn. 185) There are six bells: (i) and (ii) dated 1737 and 1739, by Thomas Eayre of Kettering; (iii) 1624; (iv) 1621; (v) 1599; these were re-hung in 1926; (fn. 186) (vi) a treble bell, given in 1955 in memory of John Thomas March (d. 1954). (fn. 187) Painted on a board below the tower is a verse dated 1741, giving rules for the conduct of bell-ringers and the fines to be imposed if these were infringed. The registers date from 1559 and are complete.
Laud's metropolitical visitation of Leicestershire in 1634 revealed some Puritanism at Great Bowden. (fn. 188) In 1669 there were reported to be 200 Presbyterians of the better sort at Great Bowden. (fn. 189) In 1672 Nicholas and Richard Kestian were licensed as Presbyterian teachers at Great Bowden, (fn. 190) and John Heath's house there was licensed for Congregational worship. (fn. 191) In 1714 a house at Great Bowden was licensed for the worship of Protestant dissenters, and in 1718 another house there was similarly licensed. (fn. 192) A document compiled in 1705-23 states that there were fewer than 20 dissenters at Great Bowden. (fn. 193)
A Congregational chapel first seems to have been built in the village in 1801. (fn. 194) It stood in Sutton Road on the site now occupied by Green Lodge, and was a single-story brick building with a thatched roof and sash windows. (fn. 195) The chapel was without a minister of its own and was served from Market Harborough. (fn. 196) A new Congregational chapel was built in Main Street in 1885. (fn. 197) In 1897 the site of the old chapel was sold and the sum obtained used to build a schoolroom adjoining the new chapel. (fn. 198) The chapel and schoolroom were still in use in 1957. The chapel is a rectangular building of red and yellow brick, with a large rose window in the gableend facing the road and round-headed windows elsewhere.
It was reported in 1614 that there was a schoolmaster at Great Bowden, but that he did not teach. (fn. 199) In 1634 Richard Harris of Great Bowden was charged in the ecclesiastical courts with acting as a schoolmaster without having a licence. He stated that he did not teach himself, but that his wife taught a few small children. (fn. 200) About 1735 Robert Atkins, schoolmaster and curate of Market Harborough, bequeathed some land at Great Bowden in trust, part of the revenue to be used to teach poor children English. (fn. 201) John Durrad, by will proved in 1726, left £20 to Great Bowden parish, the interest to be used for teaching children, both Anglicans and dissenters, to learn to read. (fn. 202) How Durrad's and Atkins's charities were employed in the 18th century is unknown. A boys' school existed from 1814 to 1834, (fn. 203) and was probably that noted in 1833 as being attended by 25-30 boys. (fn. 204) It is uncertain how the school was maintained, but it may have been supported by the Durrad and Atkins charities. In 1833 there were three other day schools, two of them each containing 20 or 30 girls. (fn. 205) There were also two Sunday schools, each containing about 55 children. (fn. 206) One of these must have been the parish church Sunday school, whose existence is noted in 1832. (fn. 207) The other was probably attached to the Congregational chapel. In 1837 the money from Durrad's and Atkins's charities was being paid to a dame school. (fn. 208)
In 1839 a National school was built, partly with funds raised by subscriptions, partly at the expense of the feoffees of the town lands, and partly from a state grant. (fn. 209) It stood immediately east of the churchyard and consisted of a central gabled block with lower side-wings. (fn. 210) The school was supported by Atkins's charity, and at times by the feoffees of the town lands. (fn. 211) In 1849 Dinah Wymant, in accordance with the wishes of her deceased husband William Wymant, gave £500 in trust, the interest to be used for the school. (fn. 212) In 1865 a yearly government grant was obtained, (fn. 213) but in 1869 payment was suspended, apparently because the buildings were thought inadequate. (fn. 214) In 1873 the school was enlarged and the payment of the grant was resumed. (fn. 215) In 1866 it was decided that the income from the Wymant endowment should be used for the Sunday school only, (fn. 216) but by 1869 payments from it to the National school had been resumed. (fn. 217) In 1876 the attendance at the school was 99. (fn. 218) In 1903 the school became a voluntary maintained school under the Act of 1902. (fn. 219) There were 85 boys and girls attending in 1910, when the school was overcrowded. (fn. 220) In 1930 it was decided that it should be for primary children only, and the senior pupils were transferred to Fairfield Road school at Harborough, later replaced by Welland Park secondary school. (fn. 221) In 1933 there were 61 children attending Great Bowden school. (fn. 222) In 1948 the school accepted 'controlled' status under the local authority. In 1957 the attendance of juniors and infants was 85. (fn. 223)
The origin of the Great Bowden Town Lands is not known. (fn. 224) In 1635 four feoffees let land described as ¾ yardland for £14 10s. a year. (fn. 225) The deed conveying the property to new feoffees in 1650 states that the revenue was to be applied to the repair of the parish church and of the roads and bridges for the repair of which the parish was liable. (fn. 226) The charity was allotted about 25 a. by the inclosure award of 1777. (fn. 227) In 1837 the land was being let for £33 13s. 2d. a year. This was less than the highest obtainable rent, but the land was deliberately let at a low figure to assist the 8 tenants and prevent them from becoming chargeable to the parish. (fn. 228) In 1837 regular payments were being made to the parish church organist and for tuning the organ. Sums were paid periodically for church repairs. (fn. 229) In 1868 the charity's yearly income was £69. (fn. 230) In 1900 3 a. were sold and the proceeds invested in £1,281 stock. (fn. 231) In 1952 the income was about £100, which, less administrative expenses, was divided equally between the parish church, the Market Harborough Urban District Council for road repairs, and payments to the poor. (fn. 232)
Richard Kestian, by will proved in 1675, left the rent of his house at Great Bowden to the poor, except for 1s. yearly which was to be paid to the ringers for ringing on 17 November yearly in memory of Elizabeth I's accession. (fn. 233) In 1837, when the charity income was 10s. a year, 1s. was paid to the ringers and the rest to 4 poor widows. (fn. 234) In 1957 1s. was paid to the ringers and 5s. each to 2 poor widows. (fn. 235) John Parsons, by will dated 1716, gave £1 4s. a year to the poor of Great Bowden. (fn. 236) In 1837 the sum was being paid as a rent-charge on land in the parish. (fn. 237) The income was distributed in bread in 1951, with Atkins's and Clarke's charities. (fn. 238) The Revd. Robert Atkins, minister of Great Bowden, devised land there in 1736 for charitable purposes. Out of the yearly rent £1 4s. was to be distributed in bread and the remainder applied to education. (fn. 239) The educational part of the charity has been dealt with elsewhere. (fn. 240) Under the inclosure award of 1777 the churchwardens, as trustees of the charity, were allotted about 3 a. (fn. 241) In 1951 the eleemosynary part of the charity was being distributed together with Parsons's and Clarke's charities. (fn. 242) James Clarke, by will proved 1755, left a rent-charge of £1 6s. to be given in bread to the poor of the parish. (fn. 243) The money was being distributed in 1951 together with Atkins's and Parsons's charities. (fn. 244)
Before 1786 an unknown donor gave £3 5s. to be laid out in coals for the poor. The sum was held by one of the churchwardens, and used to buy coal which was retailed at such a price as to ensure the return of the capital. (fn. 245) In 1896 the charity was reported lost. (fn. 246) Mary, relict of Henry Shuttleworth, in accordance with her late husband's wishes, bequeathed by her will proved in 1806 an endowment to produce £5 4s. yearly, half of which was to be given to the poor in bread, and half to be paid to the minister of Great Bowden yearly on condition that he should preach four special sermons, should comply with certain conditions about the conduct of church services, and should forbid any bell-ringing on Sundays. If these conditions were not fulfilled the money was to be paid to the dissenting minister if there was one. If there was not, it was to be distributed to 10 poor householders of the parish. (fn. 247) The minister never fulfilled the conditions, there was no dissenting clergyman, and the money for the second part of the charity never seems to have been paid. (fn. 248) There was litigation over the will and the charity income seems to have been reduced. (fn. 249) By 1868 it received £3 8s. 5d. a year from its endowment of £114 in stock. The two sections of the charity had been merged, and the income was distributed in cash. (fn. 250) In 1934 the interest on the stock was being distributed in coal. (fn. 251) In 1879 Joanna Barfoot Saunt settled £350 in trust for the benefit of the aged and infirm poor and cripples of the parish. The charity was called 'The Gift of Thomas Barfoot Saunt'. (fn. 252) In 1952 the charity's income of £9 9s. was being distributed in coal and clothing. (fn. 253) Benjamin Cort, by will proved 1890, gave £400 in trust to make payments to the poor of 70 years of age or over at Michaelmas. (fn. 254) In 1952 the income of £10 a year was being distributed as laid down by the testator. (fn. 255)
The Lord of the Manors' charity cannot be traced before 1890, and its origin is not known. It is not mentioned in the Charity Commissioners' report. (fn. 256) The endowment consists of £1,000 in stock. The income of about £37 in 1957 was distributed to the sick and poor of the manors of Harborough and Great Bowden. The trustees of the charity are the lord of the two manors, the Vicars of Harborough and Great Bowden, two representatives of the urban district council, and representatives of the two parish churches and other religious bodies. (fn. 257)
ST. MARY IN ARDEN
The church of St. Mary in Arden is first mentioned about 1220, when it had a resident chaplain. Harborough chapel was dependent on it. (fn. 258) The phrase then used to describe it, capella sive ecclesia, (fn. 259) perhaps indicates that its status was doubtful. For the rest of the Middle Ages St. Mary's remained a chapel of Great Bowden, but it is noteworthy that it was often said to be a parish church, even in documents that clearly described the church of St. Dionysius at Harborough as a chapel. (fn. 260) During the later Middle Ages there is no mention of clergy at St. Mary's, which may have been served from Great Bowden or Harborough. After the appropriation of Great Bowden it evidently had a separate curate, as one is mentioned in 1574 and subsequently. (fn. 261) In 1613 the cure of St. Mary's was united with that of Harborough, (fn. 262) partly at least because of scandalous conduct by the curates. (fn. 263) Since that time St. Mary's had remained united with Harborough. The inhabitants of Harborough had been buried at St. Mary's since at least the 15th century, (fn. 264) and probably from a much earlier date. After 1614 it continued to be used for burials, and was in fact little more than a mortuary chapel. (fn. 265)
The area attached to St. Mary's lay, except for the churchyard itself, beyond the Welland, in Little Bowden township. It was consolidated in 1780 into 15 separate parcels totalling 466 a., then in Northamptonshire. The whole chapelry was merged in the parish of St. Nicholas, Little Bowden, in 1892, with the exception of the church and churchyard. (fn. 266)
A churchwarden of St. Mary's is mentioned in 1606, (fn. 267) and the wardens in 1620 (fn. 268) and 1647, (fn. 269) so that the church evidently continued to have these officials after the cure had been united with Harborough. No later mention of churchwardens has been found. In 1653 there seem to have been doubts whether St. Mary's had wardens or not. (fn. 270)
At an unknown date in the late 16th century the curate at St. Mary's was being paid £7 a year. (fn. 271) In 1585 he was receiving £10 a year. (fn. 272) The tithes of all the land attached to St. Mary's belonged to Great Bowden rectory. (fn. 273)
It may be reasonably assumed that the land attached to the church in Little Bowden was once a manor, and it is possible that St. Mary's was once the church of the land in Great and Little Bowden held by the Countess Judith, and later included in the honor of Huntingdon. (fn. 274) In 1382 the church was described as St. Mary's in the fields, (fn. 275) and it evidently stood isolated, as it continued to do until Harborough expanded in the 19th century. It may be assumed that there was once a settlement around the church, and it is possible that the population migrated to Harborough during the 12th century. (fn. 276) This is suggested by the fact that Harborough chapel was dependent on St. Mary's and that the men of Harborough were buried there. Possibly St. Mary's was once a parish church, but became dependent on Great Bowden when the population migrated.
The medieval church consisted of nave, chancel, south aisle, south porch, and steeple; (fn. 277) no mention of a north aisle has been found. Little is known about the date of the fabric, the only surviving features being the south doorway and the south porch. The doorway, which appears to be in situ, presumably formed the entrance to the south aisle. It dates from the 12th century and has a semicircular arch enriched with Norman beak ornament. The porch, which is of ironstone and limestone, is of the 14th century. In 1510, and again in 1518, the chancel was in need of repair. (fn. 278) After the union with Harborough the church was not well maintained. In 1617 the steeple was suspected to be in danger of falling. (fn. 279) In 1626 it was reported that the steeple had been damaged a year earlier by an earthquake, and it was feared that it might be further damaged if the bells were rung. (fn. 280) In 1633 all the buttresses on the north side were said to be in decay, the chancel and south aisle were unevenly floored, the east end needed repair, and the lead roof on the south side was defective. (fn. 281) Several of the same defects were noted in 1639. (fn. 282) Subsequently the church was allowed to decay completely. By 1662 it appears that lead had been removed from the roofs. (fn. 283) In 1682 it was said that the church had been ruinous for some 20 years. (fn. 284) In 1692 the archdeacon noted that St. Mary's was so dilapidated that it gave no protection from the weather when burials were being performed there. Stone and timber from the fabric were continually being stolen. (fn. 285) According to Nichols the church had been largely destroyed c. 1650 by the steeple's collapse during a storm. (fn. 286) In 1692 it was intended to rebuild the fabric (fn. 287) and in the following year a design, estimated to cost £243, was prepared by Henry Dormer. (fn. 288) The rebuilding was probably completed in 1694. (fn. 289) It appears that the new chapel covered only the site of the former aisle (fn. 290) and that parts of the south wall of the aisle, including the doorway and porch, were left in position. Much of the stone (fn. 291) was reused and the surplus apparently carted away as 'rubbish' in 1694. (fn. 292)
The rebuilt chapel is a plain rectangular structure faced with limestone ashlar. It has a continuous moulded parapet and low-pitched gable-ends, the roof being formerly of lead. The north wall contains a central square-headed doorway. The windows, two on the south and one on each of the other sides, are described by Rowland Rouse (c. 1760) as 'wellproportioned and finished with a modern semi circular top'. (fn. 293) The simple tracery consists of a flattened circle above two round-headed lights. (fn. 294) At the end of the 18th century the building was not well-maintained; the floor was partly unpaved and only two of the windows were glazed. The only seating was a pew for the minister and two benches for those attending funerals. (fn. 295) In 1925 the chapel was repaired and refitted so that it might be used for occasional services. (fn. 296) After the Second World War the fittings were dismantled and in 1950 the lead from the roof was removed and sold. (fn. 297) In 1958 the building was standing roofless and derelict.
In the porch is a mutilated effigy, apparently one of three which were lying in the churchyard in 1740 and which probably came out of the demolished church. (fn. 298) Among mural tablets, several of which have fallen, are those to John Holmes and his relatives (1769-84), to the How family (1775-98), and to the Walker family (1786-93). There are also slate floor slabs of the 18th and early 19th centuries. The large graveyard contains headstones from the 17th century onwards, many being of Swithland slate. A number of those erected in the mid-18th century are of limestone and are elaborately carved with designs of cherubs' heads. In 1878 the churchyard was closed for burials. (fn. 299) Four bells from St. Mary's are said to have been lying in the chancel of Market Harborough church in 1682. They are thought to have later been sold, with perhaps one exception, to help defray the cost of rebuilding. (fn. 300) The existing chapel has never possessed bells.