A History of the County of Leicestershire: Volume 5, Gartree Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1964.
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Billesdon is a large village, situated nine miles east of Leicester on the main road to Uppingham. The area of the civil parish is over 2,000 a. but the ancient parish and the modern ecclesiastical parish consist of about 3,600 a. and include the chapelries of Goadby and Rolleston. The highest ground in the hundred, rising to over 700 ft., lies in the northern half of Billesdon parish. It forms part of the western edge of the east Leicestershire uplands, the watershed between the tributaries of the Soar to the west and of the Welland to the south-east. The eastern boundary of the parish is formed by the road from Market Harborough to Melton Mowbray, which here follows the line of the prehistoric ridgeway known as the Jurassic Way. (fn. 1) The road from Oakham to Leicester, part of another ridgeway (fn. 2) which crosses the first at the extreme north-east corner of the parish, forms the north-western boundary. It follows the crest of Life Hill, a western spur of the Tilton plateau terminating at Billesdon Coplow. (fn. 3) For part of their length both these roads form the boundaries of the hundred as well as of the parish. Billesdon Coplow is a wooded knoll, 625 ft. high, and is a conspicuous landmark in east Leicestershire. To the south it is visible for 20 miles. In the extreme west of the parish the ground falls to 450 ft. Here two streams, the Coplow and the Billesdon brooks, meet to form the headwaters of the Sence. Part of the south-west parish boundary follows the Billesdon brook.
On the south side of Life Hill, just below the crest, is an earthwork of uncertain date which follows the contours of the ground and probably represents a promontory fortification. (fn. 4) It has been largely obliterated by quarrying operations. Ironstone quarries in this area appear to have provided building stone for the surrounding district in the 17th and 18th centuries. A small quarry was opened as late as 1864 when the new aisle was added to Billesdon church. (fn. 5)
The main road from Leicester to Uppingham crosses the parish from west to east, passing through the northern end of Billesdon village which has extended along both sides of it. From the village minor roads lead to Billesdon Coplow in the north and to Frisby and Rolleston in the south-west and south-east respectively. The parish church stands on rising ground 300 yds. south of the main road. The two village streets, Front Street and Back Street, leave the main road about 150 yds. apart and curve round to meet at the church. Most of the older houses lie in Front Street and to the north and east of the churchyard. They date mainly from the 17th century and are built of ironstone, a few retaining their thatched roofs. The group by the church includes the Vicarage, (fn. 6) which is of early-17th-century origin, and the old school, (fn. 7) built in 1650. To the north a comparatively small ironstone house of the 17th century has been altered and enlarged and has been known since the 19th century as the Manor House. Near it an old barn has been converted into a cottage. Two ironstone houses, both on the west side of Front Street, retain cruck trusses and are probably the oldest in the village. The more northerly (No. 6) has a steeply-pitched thatched roof which contains original timbers. The other, lying immediately south of the old fire station, (fn. 8) is of three bays with the two cruck trusses dividing them still in position. The roof has been reconstructed and the eaves level raised. To the south of this building is a 17thcentury ironstone house with a cross-wing at its north end. The roof has been altered but several original features, including a four-centred stone doorhead, survive. It is sometimes known as the Old Manor House and is said to have been the home of Miss Mary Heard, a large landowner in Billesdon at the end of the 18th century. (fn. 9) A circular lead cistern which formerly stood outside the house is now in the courtyard of the old Guildhall in Leicester. It bears the initials M.H. and is dated 1773. A brick house to the north of the old fire station has a date tablet of 1769 and is characteristic of its period. It is of two stories, divided by a string course, and has three-light casement windows with keystones, a moulded brick cornice, and gable-ends with parapets.
At the junction of Front Street with the main road is a large open space, partly occupied by a green, which was formerly the site of the market. This forms a second and later village centre, owing its existence to the establishment of the market early in the 17th century. (fn. 10) It developed later with the setting-up of the Leicester to Uppingham Turnpike Trust in 1754 (fn. 11) and the increase in main-road traffic. On the green stands the base and slender moulded shaft of the market cross. The finial appears to have been replaced since the 18th century. (fn. 12) The houses in this part of the village are mainly brick buildings of the coaching period, several being neglected and half-empty in 1959. There are a few earlier cottages with roofs which were formerly thatched and walls built of mud and ironstone. A typical example is Doone Cottage in Long Lane, probably built after the middle of the 17th century. There is one early-18th-century stone house on the north side of the main road and several large late-18th- and early-19th-century brick houses with symmetrical fronts and good doorways. One has a porch with 'Gothic' detail and Potter's Cottage has Gothic windows with four centred heads. There are several bow-fronted shop windows. Some of the houses have ironstone masonry in their lower walls and may have replaced earlier buildings. 'The White Hart' is an early-19th-century coaching inn. The adjoining stables, of the same period, were demolished in 1959.
Ground between Front Street and Back Street is the site of the former kennels and stables of the Quorn Hunt. They were built in 1838 by Lord Suffield, then master of the hunt, (fn. 13) and remained in use until 1847, when Henry Greene of Rolleston ceased to be master. (fn. 14) The stables were used again after 1855 when William Tailby took over the hunting of the southern part of the Quorn country. The kennels are said to have been either demolished or converted into cottages, new kennels being built elsewhere. (fn. 15) The remaining buildings are grouped round a square courtyard, three sides of which are now part of the Manor House property. The west range is approached from Front Street and is known as The Quadrant. It has been converted into several dwellings and has a central gable below which a wide arch formerly gave access to the yard. Facing Back Street is Suffield Terrace, a row of two-story red-brick cottages. These were probably built for grooms and kennel hands in 1838 but may have been part of the kennels themselves.
The village hall in the main road was erected by the Ancient Order of Foresters in 1870. (fn. 16) For a time after the First World War it was in the hands of a limited company but in 1959 it was being managed by trustees for the benefit of the parish. (fn. 17) On the site of the former brick, tile, and pipe works at the north-east corner of the village, hutments were erected for the land army during the Second World War. (fn. 18) In 1959 these were being used as a branch of Glenfrith Hospital. (fn. 19) To the south-west of the village a partly ruinous prisonerof-war camp had been taken over as a training ground by the Leicestershire Division of the Civil Defence Corps. On high ground to the south of the church a large Council housing estate was built after the Second World War.
There are several isolated farm-houses in the northern part of the parish, all apparently built after the inclosure of 1764. Shortly before 1790 John Palmer, who had acquired the large estate owned by Nicholas Simons in 1764, built himself a mansion on the southern slopes of Billesdon Coplow. (fn. 20) Before the surrounding trees grew to their present height its white stucco front was visible from a great distance. (fn. 21) The original building was a square block of three stories with two-story flanking wings. It was extended to the west and partly refronted by Charles Thomas Freer in the 1840's. (fn. 22) The porch bears his crest. Further alterations were made by John D'Arcy Hartley when he acquired the property in 1911. He refitted the interior and built new stables to the south of the house. (fn. 23) Mr. C. Bennion, who bought the estate in 1937, built the two lodges at the west entrance. The late-18thcentury ironstone lodge to the north-east was altered at the same time. (fn. 24)
The recorded population of Billesdon in 1086 was 25. (fn. 25) There were 38 households in 1563 and 134 in 1670. In 1676 there were 277 communicants. In the 19th century the population rose from 751 in 1821 to 1,085 in 1851, and then gradually fell to 543 in 1931. In 1951 it was 717. (fn. 26)
Before 1066 BILLESDON formed part of the estate of the Saxon, Tochi, and had passed by 1086 to Geoffrey Alselin, from whom it was held by a sub-tenant, Norman. (fn. 27) Billesdon does not figure in the Leicestershire Survey and the subsequent descent of the ownership of the land is fragmentary and complicated. Part of Billesdon was said to belong to the honor of Peverel in the 13th century, and part to the honor of Winchester, (fn. 28) but there are only scattered references to such connexions, and the overlordship of the village is even more obscure than the descent of the direct occupiers of the soil. In the 19th century Billesdon was said to be one unit, manorially, (fn. 29) but there are few references which may be safely said to refer to a manor in any earlier period.
The land which was held by the Skeffington family from the late 13th century to the end of the 17th was called the 'manor' of Billesdon in the 16th and 17th centuries and probably descended in the 19th to those who called themselves the lords of the manor.
The earliest reference to the Skeffington family in Billesdon occurs in 1262, when Thomas, son of Robert de Skeffington, paid 40s. to Walter and Denise de Langton for a toft in the vill. (fn. 30) In 1287 Isabel, widow of John Skeffington, sued Richard Ernsby, the tenant of Geoffrey de Skeffington her son, for dower in Billesdon. (fn. 31) This action was still continuing in 1327. (fn. 32) The Skeffington family continued to hold land in Billesdon certainly until the death of William Skeffington in 1606, (fn. 33) and probably until the death of the last male heir of the family, John, who was killed in 1613. (fn. 34) In 1558 William Skeffington received what was termed the 'manor' of Billesdon from John Purfey of Shalston (Bucks.), whose title to it is not known. (fn. 35) In 1586 Thomas Skeffington received the 'manor' by fine from Edward Turville. (fn. 36) In 1606 William Skeffington was said to hold his lands in Billesdon, which were not then described as a manor, from the heirs of Richard Turville. (fn. 37)
After the death of John Skeffington in 1613 his property passed to his two sisters, Mary, wife of William St. Andrew, and Katherine, wife of Robert Barford, her second husband. (fn. 38) Although the Barfords seem to have retained interests in Billesdon for some years, the 'manor' came into the possession of the St. Andrew family. (fn. 39) John St. Andrew, the son of William and Mary, died in 1626 (fn. 40) and his property in Billesdon, which in 1646 brought in rents of £23 a year, (fn. 41) passed to his daughter Barbara, the wife of Oliver St. John of Woodford (Northants.). (fn. 42) Their son Andrew or St. Andrew succeeded to the manor before 1663. (fn. 43) He died in 1701 (fn. 44) and the descent of the former Skeffington estates in Billesdon then becomes obscure, although it seems likely that they did not pass to Thomas Browne, the Skeffington heir. (fn. 45) In 1713 Matthew Simons of Leicester obtained one-third of the manor by fine (fn. 46) and his estates descended to Nicholas Simons, who held a large area at the inclosure in 1764 although no lord of the manor is mentioned in the award. (fn. 47) Nicholas Simons died or disappeared from the parish in 1780, but his widow continued to hold land there until 1788. (fn. 48) In 1789 John Palmer appears as her successor and was said by Throsby to be owner of half of the manor. (fn. 49) By 1799 his lands had passed to a Mr. Holdsworth. (fn. 50) The other owner of the manor, according to Throsby, was Mrs. Bunney of Leicester, widow of Sir Thomas Fowke. In 1791 there were said to be four owners of the manor, Peers Anthony James Keck of Stoughton, Lady Anne Fowke, Edmund Cradock Hartopp, and John Palmer of Billesdon. (fn. 51) Sir F. G. Fowke was described as lord of the manor until his death in 1856, (fn. 52) although he seems to have held no land. His son Sir F. T. Fowke was described as lord until 1881 together with C. T. Freer. (fn. 53) Freer lived at the Coplow until his death in 1882. The estate was bought in 1911 by John D'Arcy Hartley, who lived at the Coplow and was described in 1922 as the lord of the manor. (fn. 54) Shortly after this the manorial rights, if any, seem to have died out.
An action begun in 1201 and completed in 1204 resulted in a declaration by Halanath de Syfrewast, whose family had held land and the church in Billesdon in the 12th century, (fn. 55) that Robert de Crevequer was lord of 1½ knight's fee in Billesdon. In return for this acknowledgement of his better right Robert de Crevequer granted half the land to Syfrewast. (fn. 56) In 1205 Halanath de Syfrewast received from his son William half the vill of Billesdon which William held. (fn. 57) This might mean that Halanath received the whole vill or that the two halves referred to are in fact the same half. In 1216 Robert de Crevequer's lands were temporarily granted to Jolland de Doe. (fn. 58) Hamon de Crevequer held 2 knights' fees in Billesdon in 1236. (fn. 59) In 1261 his widow Alice sued her son Robert for dower in 5 knights' fees in Billesdon, Rolleston, and Halstead. (fn. 60) In 1278 Robert de Crevequer held 4 ploughlands in Billesdon as tenant-in-chief; William FitzBeauchamp held from him and John de Kirkby was the tenant in demesne. (fn. 61) This is the last certain reference to the Crevequer family. A reference to 1½ knight's fee in Billesdon being assigned as dower to Isabel Bardolf in 1306 by Hamon de Crevequer probably refers to the Hamon who was dead before 1261. (fn. 62)
The knight's fee probably passed from the Crevequers to the Bardolf family, although it is not known how. In 1278 scutage for one fee was paid on Crevequer's holding to William Bardolf and Adam de Everingham; the latter's connexion with Billesdon is obscure but he appears again in 1348. (fn. 63) Hugh Bardolf held what is called the 'manor' of Billesdon over John Kirkby in 1293. (fn. 64) He was probably the heir of William Bardolf, perhaps his father or uncle, who died in 1276 seised of 2 knights' fees in Billesdon, Goadby, Rolleston, and Hallaton. William was succeeded by his son, another William, (fn. 65) and he in turn by Hugh. From Hugh the land passed to Thomas Bardolf, who died in 1329 seised of 2 knights' fees in Billesdon, then held by Ralph de Wedon, Thomas de Skeffington, and the heirs of Richard Coleshull. (fn. 66) In 1389 William Bardolf of Wormegay died holding 1½ knight's fee in Billesdon, Rolleston, and Skeffington, held by an unidentified Simon, John Noveray, and William Dalby. (fn. 67)
The John de Kirkby who held from William FitzBeauchamp under Robert de Crevequer in 1278 later became Bishop of Ely and died in 1290. (fn. 68) Billesdon is not mentioned in his inquisition post mortem, but in 1293 he is said to have been the under-tenant of the 'manor' of Billesdon before his death, (fn. 69) and by that date it had passed to his heir, William de Kirkby, who died in 1302 possessed of lands in Billesdon, Goadby, and Rolleston. (fn. 70) Three under-tenants, Geoffrey de Skeffington, John Child, and John Digby, held from William de Kirkby. (fn. 71) William's lands passed to his sister Maud de Houby, whose family still possessed an interest in Billesdon in 1348. (fn. 72)
Geoffrey de Skeffington's connexion with Billesdon has already been mentioned. (fn. 73) John Child was probably descended from the William de Child who appears in 1201, (fn. 74) and was probably the son of Robert Child, whose father John died about 1284. (fn. 75) Both John Child and John Digby appear frequently in documents relating to Billesdon at the end of the 13th and in the early 14th centuries. (fn. 76) John Digby was a member of the family of Digby of Tilton and later of Stoke Dry (Rut.). (fn. 77) The name first occurs in Billesdon in 1272, when John, son of Robert de Digby, received a grant of land from Philip de Gaunt, who was probably the lord of the honor of Peverel. (fn. 78) The family continued to hold land in Billesdon until at least 1510, when their holding was called Digby's Manor, but there is no evidence to suggest that they had any manorial rights there. (fn. 79) In 1466 some of their land was granted to Walter Devereux after Everard Digby had forfeited his lands. (fn. 80)
In 1278 2 carucates of land were said to be held by Robert de Toleho from Theobald de Nevill who held from Robert Marcell who held from the honor of Winchester. The record continues 'et habet regale' which was explained by Nichols as meaning that Toleho held the lordship of the manor. (fn. 81) Although Nichols's interpretation seems doubtful the words presumably mean that Toleho had some particular kind of franchise or lordship. Nothing is known of Toleho or the others mentioned in this extract (fn. 82) and nothing suggests that the earls of Winchester had ever held any land in Billesdon.
Leicester Abbey owned considerable property in small pieces in Billesdon, which had for the most part been given to the abbey by minor landowners in the parish. (fn. 83) In 1341 53 virgates were described as church lands, and this description suggests that they formed the nucleus of the abbey's property there. (fn. 84) Most of the land was cultivated as demesne throughout the Middle Ages and the abbey had a grange at Billesdon. (fn. 85) The abbey's land was valued at £2 2s. in 1535. (fn. 86) Nothing is known of its fate after the Dissolution.
Land in Billesdon was given to the hospital of Burton Lazars in 1252 by Eudo and Agnes de Landa. (fn. 87) In 1272 it was stated that the master of the hospital paid no suit to the hundred court. (fn. 88) This property is not mentioned in the Valor of 1535 but in 1554 it was granted to Thomas Carpenter and William Savage and valued at 27s. 4d. (fn. 89)
Land in Billesdon, which was called a manor in 1547, formed part of the endowment made by Harold Staunton for his chantry in Castle Donington church, founded in 1512. (fn. 90) It was granted to Staunton in 1510 by Robert Brudenell, Chief Justice of Common Pleas, for the foundation by Staunton of a chantry to pray for the souls of himself and his parents, of Robert's parents, Edmund and Philippa Brudenell, and of Robert himself and his two wives. (fn. 91) No further mention is made of the Brudenells' connexion with the chantry. In 1547 this land was valued at £7 18s., and was then let to John Turville. (fn. 92) In 1550 it was sold by the Crown to Robert Catlyn. (fn. 93) He sold it to Turville, from whose grandson Edward Turville of Croft it was purchased by Thomas Goddard, whose son William Goddard of South Croxton sold it to George Ashby of Quenby in 1610. (fn. 94) These lands are probably still to be separately distinguished in 1735, (fn. 95) but nothing further is known of them.
In 1086 7 of the 12 carucates in Billesdon were held by 3 knights, who had 3 ploughs on their demesne. There were 11 villeins and 2 bordars with 2½ ploughs, and 4 socmen, 3 villeins, and 2 bordars apparently held the rest of the land with 2 ploughs. There were 10 a. of meadow. Before the Conquest there had been 12 ploughs and the land was worth 55s. In 1086 it was valued at 60s. (fn. 96)
In 1204 when the vill was divided between Halanath de Syfrewast and Robert de Crevequer some of the individual holdings are mentioned. With the exception of two holdings of 12 and 17 virgates most of the tenants seem to have held their land in amounts of one virgate or less. (fn. 97) A 'capital messuage of the town' is mentioned, the only reference to any sort of manor-house apart from Leicester Abbey's grange (fn. 98) which occurs throughout the history of the village until modern times. Half of this messuage was granted to Halanath and he received the demesne land lying to the north of the house.
Although there seem to be unusually few references to pasture land in the township in any medieval documents it is clear that the pasturing of cattle did take place. Robert Davy, whose stock was impounded by his overlord Hugh Bardolf in 1293, had 33 oxen, a cow, a horse, and a steer and was evidently raising cattle for sale. (fn. 99) Leicester Abbey had sheep and cattle at Billesdon in 1291 and 1335 (fn. 100) and cattle were several times unlawfully detained during the 14th century. (fn. 101) The common in the Middle Ages was presumably where it was in the 18th century, on the high ground around and upon Billesdon Coplow, and to the north-east of the village in the triangle between the two roads leading along the parish boundary to Tilton. (fn. 102) In 1305 it was decided that for each acre of land a tenant should claim as much common as would maintain 2 oxen, 2 cows and calves, 4 horses, 30 sheep and 1 wether, 4 pigs and 2 sows, or 5 geese yearly. A dispute had arisen because it was held that John Digby claimed too much common in respect of his 8½ virgates of land. (fn. 103) In 1609 one 'quartern land' claimed common for 2 cows and 10 sheep. (fn. 104) In 1627 another pasture dispute arose when it was claimed that one of the freeholders, William Bent, had exceeded the number of sheep that he was permitted by custom to pasture. Five hundred and twenty of his sheep were removed from the cow pasture. (fn. 105)
From an early date, as has been noted, there were many small landowners at Billesdon. In 1305 45 holders are named in the sheriff's report on the pasture dispute. Of these, only 3 held any considerable amount of land: John Child (6 virgates), Henry son of Henry (4 virgates), and John Digby (8½ virgates). Thirty-four of the rest held between 8 bovates and ⅓ bovate, most of them with 2 bovates or under, and 8 persons held 3 a. or less. In all about 1,150 a. were held in this sort of way. (fn. 106) In 1381 57 persons paid poll tax. There were 10 free tenants, 13 tenants at will, 7 servants, 3 cottagers, and a cooper. One man is described simply as 'farmer', and their wives bring the number to fifty-seven. (fn. 107) In 1646 there were 17 tenants on the land which had belonged to John St. Andrew. (fn. 108)
There were three open fields in Billesdon. Stonepitt Field lay to the north and east of the village, Portbridge Field, named from the bridge over the Coplow brook about a mile along the road to Leicester, to the north and west, and Mill Field to the south. These were the names by which the fields were known at the date of the inclosure and apparently also at the end of the 17th century. (fn. 109) In 1601 Stonepitt Field was called North Field, and in 1625 and 1674 North Field towards Tilton. (fn. 110) The names of the other fields are not known before the 18th century.
In 1764 Billesdon was inclosed. (fn. 111) Altogether 52 allotments were made, including 2 to parishes, Billesdon itself and Langham (Rut.). The vicar received 108 a. in lieu of tithes and the impropriators 271 a. for the great tithes and 61 a. of glebe. Of the other lay landowners Nicholas Simons received 269 a., the highest lay allotment. There were 3 shares of between 100 a. and 200 a., 2 over 50 a., and the rest were under 40 a. Thirtyfive persons received between 1 and 19 a. of land and 2 less than 1 a. The impression of a village of numerous small landowners is continued by the land tax assessments into the 19th century. In 1781 there were 29 smallholders and in 1832 there were thirtythree. If anything their holdings were reduced slightly in size as the amount of tax paid by each fell from 4s. 7d. to 3s. 9d. during the same period. (fn. 112) By 1832 more people were occupying their own smallholdings than had been in 1775, the first year when a distinction is made in the assessment between owners and occupiers. (fn. 113)
The amount of land allotted at the inclosure was 1,975 a., which was surveyed at 18d. an acre. The surveyor was paid extra for his 'extraordinary trouble and two journeys to stake out the allotments on Coplow Hill, which could not be done on account of the gorse not being cut'. (fn. 114) In 1801 245½ a. were still under the plough, mainly growing wheat and oats. (fn. 115)
The tithe award of 1847 reveals a change in the pattern of landownership. Of 29 owners of houses in the village, 21 let the whole of their property, one occupied one of his houses and let the other, and there were only 7 owner-occupiers, not counting the vicar, and the guardians as owners of the work house. (fn. 116)
The occupations of the inhabitants of the parish have been mainly rural. Some framework-knitting was done before 1800 but this seems to have died out in the early 19th century to be revived for a brief period between about 1850 and 1890. (fn. 117) In 1838 stables and kennels for the Quorn Hunt were built at Billesdon. (fn. 118) Hunting stables, at first of the Quorn and then of the Fernie, and the hunting life which was centred upon them, had a considerable influence upon the village. In 1846 the inhabitants included 3 blacksmiths and a veterinary surgeon. Billesdon was also the home of the wellknown 'rough rider' or horsebreaker, Thomas Tomblin, (fn. 119) and in 1861 another rough rider lived there. (fn. 120) Some brickmaking was also done after about 1846 (fn. 121) but this had died out by c. 1920. (fn. 122)
Billesdon was granted two fairs in 1618 and a weekly market to be held on Fridays. (fn. 123) The application for the grant was apparently made by Sir James Villiers, elder brother of George, Duke of Buckingham. The fairs were to be held on St. James's Day (25 July) and St. George's Day (23 April). The market had been discontinued by the end of the 18th century and only one fair was held, at which brass, pewter, and toys were specialities. (fn. 124) In 1846 the inhabitants formed a committee to establish quarterly cattle fairs, on the last Mondays in February and August and the first Mondays in May and October. The first was held in May 1846; (fn. 125) they were apparently still continued in 1877 but only one fair was held in 1881, in October. (fn. 126) The fairs were discontinued early in the present century. Billesdon Feast, held the weekend nearest to St. John the Baptist's Day (24 June), used to last for a whole week. (fn. 127) It was still held for a day in 1956.
In 1956 Billesdon had reverted from its brief prosperity, which was the result of hunting and the manufacture of bricks and stockings, and had once more become an agricultural village. Some men were employed at a small agricultural machinery factory on the Rolleston road, but for the most part the general employment was farming and Billesdon is noted for its rich grazing land. (fn. 128)
There was a mill in Billesdon probably by 1332, (fn. 129) when Henry le Milner paid tax, and certainly by 1346. (fn. 130) It is not known what type of mill this was. In 1558 is the first mention of the windmill which seems to have existed until 1826, (fn. 131) after which nothing more is known. The windmill presumably gave its name to Mill Field. A cross-roads on the Leicester–Uppingham road is known locally as 'Mill', and may mark the site. (fn. 132)
There was a workhouse at Billesdon before 1776, when £249 was raised as poor rate. (fn. 133) Billesdon had a high poor rate in 1802–3 when the income of the overseers was over £600, representing a rate of 9s. 7½d. in the pound, a large sum in comparison with parishes of comparable size. Out of 36 adults receiving poor relief only 8 were in the workhouse, and 28 children were also given out-relief. (fn. 134) In 1836 Billesdon was made the centre of a poor-law union comprising 36 parishes. (fn. 135) The first union workhouse was at Glen Magna, but in 1846 a large new workhouse was opened at Billesdon. (fn. 136) During the First World War the building was converted into a military hospital. In 1935 it was demolished and a row of cottages was built out of the materials. The workhouse was a large brick building standing on a high bank above the main road and forming a prominent feature at the west end of the village. The front range consisted of a two-story central block with a pedimented gable, flanked by single-story side wings. (fn. 137)
The accounts of the Billesdon churchwardens survive from 1860 to 1902 and various officers' accounts from 1770 to 1812; there are poor-law records for the parish from 1723 in considerable quantities. (fn. 138)
Billesdon church was given to Leicester Abbey by William de Syfrewast before 1162, (fn. 141) and it is clear that by 1220 the abbey had possession of both the revenues and the advowson. (fn. 142) After the Dissolution the rectory was leased to John Turville for 42 years from 1536, (fn. 143) but in 1549 it was sold, together with the advowson, to the Earl of Huntingdon and Thomas Hazlewood. (fn. 144) They were purchased by Thomas Skeffington from Francis Hazlewood in 1586, (fn. 145) and both rectory and advowson descended together until the early 18th century when they seem to have been separated. In 1764 the rectory belonged to William Westbrooke Richardson and Piggott Ince. (fn. 146) In 1765–6 they sold it to James Bellairs of Stamford, a banker, and James Davie of Lincoln. (fn. 147) By 1791 it had descended to James Bellairs of Uffington (Lincs.) and the three heirs of James Davie. (fn. 148) In 1832 the impropriators were a Mr. Linney and a Mr. Ostler of Grantham. (fn. 149) In 1836 Linney had been replaced by a Mr. Stokes of Leicester. (fn. 150) Nothing further is known of the rectory.
At the inclosure in 1765 the rectorial tithes were commuted for an allotment of land. The impropriators were entitled to the tithes, 2 yardlands of rectorial glebe and the attached rights of common, and another 7½ yardlands. At the inclosure they received allotments in lieu of the 2 yardlands and one-eleventh of the rest of the parish in lieu of tithes, a total of over 271 a. (fn. 151) The value of the tithes in 1791 was estimated at £137 15s. (fn. 152)
Presentations to the church were made by Leicester Abbey until the Dissolution. (fn. 153) In 1549 the advowson was sold to the Earl of Huntingdon and Thomas Hazlewood; (fn. 154) Hazlewood's widow presented in 1566–7 (fn. 155) and Francis Hazlewood in 1571. In 1586 the advowson passed to Thomas Skeffington, (fn. 156) who presented Anthony Cade in 1599. The advowson descended with the manor, although Katherine Skeffington was said to own the advowson in 1626 and 1633. (fn. 157) Under the will of John St. Andrew (d. 1626) the reversion of the advowson after Katherine's death passed to a relative, William Bendish, (fn. 158) who made his last presentation in 1660. Christopher Coles was presented in 1638 by a William Griffith who presumably exercised the right of presentation for one turn only. John Ekins presented in 1661 but the advowson had returned to the Skeffington family in 1668. Between 1668 and 1689 presentations were made by Christopher Coles, and one for him by John Smith in 1692. The advowson then passed to the Duke of Chandos who presented in 1730; in 1739 the presentation was made for one turn by Anne Thoroughgood, and in 1758 by John Chamberlain of Billesdon. (fn. 159) Joseph Whittingham, the vicar, was the patron in 1764 (fn. 160) and the advowson descended to his son in 1791. (fn. 161) By 1793 it had passed to Henry Greene of Rolleston and remained the property of the Greene family until the death of the last Henry Greene of Rolleston in 1861. (fn. 162) After this it was obtained by Victor Albert Spencer, Lord Churchill, (fn. 163) who presented until 1927 when the advowson was transferred to the Bishop of Leicester, (fn. 164) who was the patron in 1956.
The vicarage was ordained before 1220, apparently by Hugh of Welles. Charyte declared that the ordination, which does not survive elsewhere, stipulated that the vicar should have all the altarage. (fn. 165) The vicarage was valued at 15 marks in 1217, 16 in 1254, and 24 in 1291. (fn. 166) In 1428 the value had risen to 31½ marks, (fn. 167) but had decreased to £14 9s. 10d. in 1535. (fn. 168) In 1626 it was valued at £60 (fn. 169) and in 1831 at £298. (fn. 170)
Elaborate arrangements for the payment of tithes were laid down in the glebe terrier of 1635 and continued until the inclosure of the parish. (fn. 171) The vicar, besides his house, ½ rood in the North Field, and pasture for 4 cows, a horse, and 20 sheep, was entitled to the corn and hay tithes of those closes which showed no sign of ridge and furrow (i.e. which were not clearly under recent cultivation), the tithes of wool, lambs, pigs, hemp, pigeons from dovecotes, eggs, geese, fruit, and bees, and a yearly rent from Rolleston. Property in Goadby is not described in this terrier, but according to those of 1679 (fn. 172) and 1748 (fn. 173) the Vicar of Billesdon owned a close of 44 a. and a house there, allotted at the inclosure. (fn. 174) Two small tithe account books among the parish records cover the period from 1746 to 1761 and show the receipts of the vicarial tithes paid in kind. (fn. 175) In 1635 the vicar received 4 fleeces for the tithes of 44 sheep, which belonged to a Fleckney man and had been wintered in Billesdon. It was then stated that according to the custom of the parish sheep wintering should be subject to the payment of tithes if they remained in the parish until midday on the day before Candlemas. (fn. 176)
By the inclosure award the vicar received an allotment of 12 a. near the Vicarage in lieu of glebe and as much land as would be worth £55 a year in lieu of the small tithes. (fn. 177) The whole allotment amounted to just over 108 a. The 12 a. near the Vicarage apparently supplemented a large garden or orchard. In 1821 the glebe near the Vicarage amounted to over 30 a. (fn. 178) In 1847 the tithes of the very small area of old inclosure and the village itself were commuted for an annual payment of £2. (fn. 179) The vicar also received tithes from Goadby and Rolleston. (fn. 180) In 1956 the total glebe in Billesdon and Goadby amounted to about 130 a., some having been sold for building purposes in 1945. (fn. 181)
The parsonage lies to the south-east of the church and is entered from the churchyard. It is built largely of ironstone and is said to have been begun by Anthony Cade when he was vicar. (fn. 182) The lower part of the main range, which has a moulded stone doorway and mullioned windows, may be of the early 17th century. The roof was evidently raised c. 1700 when wood-framed windows with mullions and transoms were inserted on the upper floor. A semicircular brick bay at the rear has the date 1770 on the lead roof. (fn. 183) The west wing of the house, also of brick, is an addition of the 19th century.
The north aisle of Billesdon church is traditionally the Rolleston aisle, and in 1607 part of the churchyard was said to be specially set aside for the burial of inhabitants of Rolleston chapelry. (fn. 184) In the 18th century it was said that according to tradition a row of pews was built on the north side of Billesdon church for the people of Goadby chapelry. (fn. 185) This seems doubtful in view of the fact that Goadby chapel had full parochial rights before 1220. (fn. 186) Rolleston chapel had no burial rights and interments from Rolleston took place in the churchyard of the mother church. In 1869 a joint cemetery for Billesdon and Rolleston was set up under the Billesdon burial board, and opened in 1870. (fn. 187)
The church of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST is built of ironstone with dressings and some facings of limestone ashlar. It consists of a chancel, an aisled nave of four bays, a north porch, a south vestry, and a spired west tower. The south aisle and the vestry are additions of 1864 and the tower was rebuilt three years earlier.
The earliest parts of the building are the base of the tower and the north arcade of the nave, both of which were probably built before 1250. Four of the five piers of the arcade are octagonal, their capitals having thin mouldings which include a band of diminutive nail-head ornament. The central pier is composite and has a 'water-holding' base. The capital is crudely carved with stylized foliage and human masks. The arches are of two chamfered orders and have hood-moulds with carved head stops. The tower, which is a copy of the original one, has a lancet window in the west wall of its lowest stage. The two upper stages and the tower arch were probably completed in the second half of the 13th century. The two-light belfry windows contain geometrical tracery. The tower is surmounted by a squat broach spire with two tiers of lights. The circular moulded font may also date from the 13th century. Except for the east window the windows in the chancel have uniform Perpendicular tracery and it may be assumed that the chancel was rebuilt in the 15th century. The north aisle windows are also of Perpendicular character, some being very late in date. The aisle may represent a 14thcentury rebuilding but if so the windows are later insertions. It is almost certain that the church originally possessed a medieval south aisle but the evidence for the date of its removal is conflicting. Traces of a former aisle were found in 1864 when the new one was built, but nobody then living could remember it. (fn. 188) Nichols mentions a south aisle c. 1798, (fn. 189) but confusion may have arisen if his source was Throsby, who apparently refers to the nave as the 'principal aisle'. (fn. 190) If there was no memory of it in 1864 it is unlikely that the aisle was in existence in Nichols's time. It had certainly disappeared before 1832. (fn. 191)
The church was apparently in poor condition in the earlier 17th century. (fn. 192) Extensive repairs were recommended between 1607 and 1633, many of which do not seem to have been carried out. (fn. 193) In 1619 a south porch, which must have disappeared with the aisle, required slating. (fn. 194) The archdeacon reported in 1776 that the chancel and tower were out of repair and that a new south door was needed. In this year 'Mr. Wing' was paid £65 for repairing the steeple and the east wall of the chancel was rebuilt. (fn. 195) A square-headed east window in a wood frame, which still existed in 1864, (fn. 196) may have originated at this time. Repairs were again necessary in 1794. (fn. 197) Throsby, who visited the church in 1790, commented on the mean appearance of the interior. The floor was 'intolerable' and the 'principal aisle' was 'crowded with two shabby galleries, not unlike two large pigeon boxes stuck against a wall'. (fn. 198) In 1832 it was reported that application had been made in vain to the impropriators for the repair of the chancel. (fn. 199) The church was repewed in 1838. (fn. 200) In 1832 cracks were noted in the tower and in 1842 they were said to be dangerous. (fn. 201)
In 1861 Charles Kirk of Sleaford (Lincs.), architect, submitted a report on the fabric. (fn. 202) As a result of his findings the church was temporarily closed while the tower was taken down and the south wall of the nave was shored up. The tower was rebuilt with a facing of limestone ashlar. The position of the staircase door was altered and a window was inserted in the ringing chamber; (fn. 203) otherwise the original tower was copied. Further restoration of the church was held up for lack of funds, but in 1864 work was resumed. A newsouth aisle and south vestry were built, the chancel arch was reconstructed, a new east window was inserted, and the whole building was re-roofed to a steeper pitch. The chancel window which had been displaced by the new vestry was inserted in the north aisle. The aisle and porch were restored. It had originally been intended to build the south aisle entirely of Ancaster stone but in order to save money Billesdon stone from the Coplow estate was substituted for the walls. (fn. 204) Two Perpendicular windows from the former nave wall were used in the aisle and another made to the same design. The arcade is a copy of that on the north side. The interior of the church was thoroughly restored and the old box pews, galleries, and high pulpit were cleared away. Further restorations and repairs took place in 1895–6, 1923, and 1926. (fn. 205)
The oak font cover was probably provided about 1607 when the lack of one was commented on by the archdeacon at his visitation. (fn. 206) Most of the other internal fittings date from 1864 to 1865. The chancel contains memorial tablets to Edward Thomas (d. 1836), vicar, and to another Revd. Edward Thomas (d. 1843). There is a marble tablet to Henry Greene of Rolleston (d. 1861), son of the Revd. Edward Thomas. In the north aisle is a tablet and a copy of a painting by Pinturicchio, both in memory of George Christian (d. 1925), vicar 1906–13. The east window in the north aisle contains memorial glass to Charles Thomas Freer of Billesdon Coplow (d. 1882).
The plate consists of a silver cup of about 1575 and a set of parcel gilt of 1874. There are also two pewter plates and a pewter flagon, the last of 1713. (fn. 207) There are eight bells: (i) and (ii) 1956; (iii) 1932; (iv) 1912, the Edward VII memorial bell; (v) 1628; (vi) 1624; (vii) originally c. 1630, recast 1862 by John Taylor of Loughborough; (viii) 1380, cast by John of Yorke. The registers of baptisms, burials, and marriages date from 1599 and are complete; they were kept for the first 35 years by Anthony Cade. (fn. 208)
In 1719 a Protestant conventicle was held in Thomas Neale's house and in 1779 there was another in Samuel Ireland's house. (fn. 209) In 1791 the vicar declared that with the exception of one Methodist there were no nonconformists in the village. (fn. 210) Registrations of meeting-houses in Billesdon were made in 1811, by Robert Pearson (fn. 211) and by John Lewin for a house called the Red House, (fn. 212) and in 1813. (fn. 213)
The General Baptist chapel was built in 1812 and registered in the same year by its minister, John Deacon. (fn. 214) In 1829 there were 35 Baptists, including a congregation of Particular Baptists formed in 1820. (fn. 215) The General Baptist chapel was registered for marriages in 1879. (fn. 216) It stands east of Back Street and is a plain brick building with a gabled front, repaired and altered in 1861. (fn. 217) To the south is a three-story early-19th-century house, known as the Academy. For a short period in the 19th century it was used as a boys' boarding school. (fn. 218) In 1846 the Salem chapel in West Lane was built for the Particular Baptists and the Independents. (fn. 219) By 1959 the building had been converted into a garage. In 1854 the Wesleyan chapel was established. (fn. 220) The chapel, which was in Front Street, was said to have been formed out of an old building re-fronted and enlarged in 1859. (fn. 221) It went out of use c. 1925 (fn. 222) and after 1940 was converted into a fire station. An unspecified congregation of nonconformists was registered in 1843 in the house of William Randal. (fn. 223)
There was a succession of private schools in Billesdon during the 17th century which prepared boys for the universities. George Villiers, later Duke of Buckingham, probably between 1602 and 1605 attended a private school run by the Vicar of Billesdon, Anthony Cade, who has been described as chaplain and tutor to George Villiers. (fn. 224) The tradition that George Fox, the Quaker, received his early education at Billesdon does not seem to be founded on fact. (fn. 225) But Cade prepared the sons of local gentlemen for Cambridge (fn. 226) and regretted that some of these later became Roman Catholics. (fn. 227) Two pupils of the two schoolmasters who followed Cade, William Scampton (1638) and Henry Trigg (1646), are known to have gone to Cambridge, (fn. 228) but the names of later schoolmasters at Billesdon who appear in subscription books (fn. 229) may not have belonged to private schools of this kind.
In 1650 the present old school building was erected by William Sharpe of Rolleston as a free school for the parish. Several bequests were made to the school between its foundation and 1837, when the Charity Commissioners reported that they amounted to £180, the interest from which, £12, was used for the payment of the schoolmaster. The then vicar, Dr. Thomas, supported the school from his private means to a considerable extent, and the rest of its funds came from the fees of the 18 paying pupils who paid between 7s. 6d. and 10s. a year. The costs of stationery were defrayed by the parents of the children. In 1837 there were 22 free pupils in addition to those paying fees. (fn. 230)
In 1853 the poor condition of the building caused the vicar to raise subscriptions for its repair, (fn. 231) and the money was used in 1856 to repair the school and purchase a harmonium. The architect called in to survey the building in 1853 was William Parsons of Leicester who had himself been educated at Billesdon; he advised the rebuilding of the school, (fn. 232) but this was evidently not done. In 1855 the Leicestershire Archaeological Society was in some apprehension lest the building should be demolished. (fn. 233) The old school remained in use until 1876 when the children were transferred to the new National school.
In 1895 a dispute arose between the vicar and the parish council over the rights of each to the old school building. The vicar claimed that since its foundation the school had been under the control of the vicars of Billesdon and cited several 18thcentury instances of the building being repaired by the churchwardens out of the funds of the church. (fn. 234) The parish council made strenuous efforts to deny this, saying that the building had been erected by William Sharpe for the use of the parish in general and that the vicar had no right to say who should and who should not be able to use it. The school had always been used for vestry meetings and for many years it served as the Sunday school. The vicar also allowed it to be used for general religious, benevolent, or charitable purposes. His claim that the Vicar of Billesdon was ex officio controller of the school was endorsed by the Charity Commissioners in 1908, when a new Scheme was issued for the management of the school building and its assets. (fn. 235) A committee of trustees was set up, including the vicar and elected representatives, to manage both the building and the assets of the school. The money which belonged to the school, stock valued at £329 1s. 2d., was to be used in the first place for repairs to the fabric. If any residue remained of the interest it could be used for the purchase of a school library. In 1959 the old school was again being used by the schoolchildren as an extra classroom, the National school proving too small to accommodate larger classes.
The old school is a one-story ironstone building with a slate roof, which replaced the old thatch in 1856. It has three three-light windows and a squareheaded door facing the road. The stone windows are square-headed with label mouldings, the lights round-headed. The long axis of the building is north-west to south-east and a curious feature is the existence of four sundials, one on each face. In 1958 the structure was restored with the help of the Historic Buildings Council under the direction of the Ministry of Works. (fn. 236)
The National school and the schoolmaster's house were built in 1875 to the designs of R. J. and J. Goodacre of Leicester. The cost, over £850, was raised largely by voluntary contributions and local effort. (fn. 237) The new school was designed to accommodate about 130 children. In 1910 the average attendance was 97, and in 1933 60. (fn. 238) In 1937 the Leicestershire County Council resolved to make it a primary school as soon as the seniors could be moved to the new school at Church Langton. (fn. 239) The attendance of juniors and infants in 1957 was 92. (fn. 240)
In 1833 2 private day schools and one boarding school with 26 boys were reported in Billesdon; these were still maintained in the 1860's. (fn. 241)
Anthony Cade, vicar, in 1638 gave £13 6s. 8d. to the parish, which, with other donations, was used for the purchase in 1706 of the Poor's Close, the rent from which was to be distributed to the poor on St. Thomas's Day. (fn. 242) In 1714 most of the money for the purchase of the land was said to have been given by the ancestors of the Greenes of Rolleston. (fn. 243) The Close was exchanged for 5 a. in Portbridge Field and Under Greenhill at the inclosure in 1764. The land was let as grazing before 1835, when it was divided into 30 allotments which were let to poor labourers and brought in a rent of £14. (fn. 244) In 1895 the management of this land was held to be the responsibility of the parish council under the Local Government Act. (fn. 245) In 1935 the rent was £10, which was divided between 48 poor persons. (fn. 246) In 1956 the allotments had again been converted to grazing ground, the rent from which was still distributed to the poor. (fn. 247)
Richard Woollaston of Whitchurch (Hants), by will dated 1688, left £2,000 to be invested in an estate capable of yielding about £100 a year; one-tenth of the income was to go to Billesdon. In 1836 Billesdon's share amounted to £29, which was spent on bales of flannel and sheeting delivered from Leicester each November for the poor. (fn. 248) A century later it was worth £16. (fn. 249) In 1956 the charity was distributed in the form of vouchers. (fn. 250)
William Ward, by will proved 1773, gave £400 to the vicar, churchwardens, and overseers of Billesdon for the support of 4 poor widows in 4 houses to be provided by the parish within two years of his death. The widows were to receive the interest on the £400 in equal shares. The deed of sale for the houses was apparently not executed until 1791 when the parish paid £21 3s. to Thomas Mitchell for 4 houses already in occupation by the widows, who were appointed by the vicar and the parish officers. In 1837 the houses were dilapidated as the income of the charity made no provision for a repair fund. The widows then received payments of 3s. weekly which were paid partly from the income, which then amounted to £17 10s., and partly from the parish rates. (fn. 253) In 1866 a repair fund was raised for the houses and included a payment from the fairs. (fn. 254)
The revenues of the widows' houses were augmented in the late 18th century by the bequest of £100 in the will of Joseph Whittingham, proved 1793, the interest from which was to be spent on coal for the widows. (fn. 255) Three of the 4 houses were demolished about 1926 and in 1927 the Charity Commissioners issued a new Scheme for their management. Future occupants of the houses were to be in receipt of the old-age pension or other secured income. The cost of the repair and insurance of the houses was to be the first charge upon the income from Ward's and Whittingham's charities, and any residue was to be spent on coal for the widows and payments to them. (fn. 256) The funds were held in the form of £492 stock in 1935, which yielded £12 6s. interest, out of which £6 a year was paid to the widows. A new block containing two houses was built in 1928 on the original site in Back Street. They were opened on Feast Monday 1929. (fn. 257) In 1959 the occupants of two houses were paid £4 a year. (fn. 258)
At unknown dates towards the end of the 18th century John Pippin gave £30 and Mary Heard £200, both for the poor. These charities produced a yearly income of £9 7s. 3d. in 1837. (fn. 259) In 1927 under a Scheme of the Charity Commissioners it was provided that the income could be used for the provision of medical and other help for poor persons not in receipt of poor relief, or for clothing or temporary cash assistance, or for subscriptions to an infirmary or provident club. (fn. 260)
Goadby is a civil parish of 961 a., twelve miles east of Leicester, and is for ecclesiastical purposes a chapelry in the parish of Billesdon. Keythorpe Wood lies on the eastern side of the parish where the ground rises to nearly 600 ft. along the boundary. Goadby village is on a western spur of the same hill, the ground falling away steeply on three sides of it. In the narrow valley immediately west of the village the boundary with Noseley parish follows a small stream which flows southwards and eventually joins the Welland. The village is small and compact. It consists of 5 farms, a few cottages, and 2 larger houses, grouped round a small triangular open space. The church lies on its northern edge. Facing the open space is the former National school, built in 1857 (fn. 261) and now converted into a house. It consists of a single-story schoolroom with gabled side wings of two stories. The front is faced with stone and has elaborate 'Tudor' features, including leaded windows with stone tracery and hoodmoulds. The Hazlerigg crest is above the doorway. Holme Lodge, standing east of the school, was built c. 1900 on the site of the former glebe house. After the First World War it was occupied by Lieut.-Col. T. Hazlerigg (d. 1935), lord of the manor. (fn. 262) East of Holme Lodge is a mid-18th-century brick house which was also occupied by connexions of the Hazlerigg family in the 19th and 20th centuries. (fn. 263) Greenacres, formerly The Laurels, is a farm-house standing in a garden on the west side of the village with a small ironstone lodge at the gate. It is a mid19th-century house of red brick, built by Sir Arthur Hazlerigg as a dower house but never used as one. (fn. 264) To the north of it Hill Farm probably represents a reconstructed medieval house. It stands on an ironstone base, the upper part of the walls being of variegated late-17th-century brick with some diaper work. The roof contains ancient smokeblackened timbers which have been re-used. The house at the Manor Farm also has an ironstone base and appears to have been reconstructed in the 18th century. The Home Farm, lying immediately south of the church, was the property of Lord Berners in the 19th century. (fn. 265) The house dates from 1680 (fn. 266) and is an L-shaped building of ironstone, having two stories and attics. A late-18th-century doorway has been added. A cottage with mud walls, partly replaced by brickwork, survives on the south side of the village. There are two pairs of Council houses on the road to Keythorpe, built in 1951. (fn. 267)
Goadby seems always to have been thinly populated. In 1086 the recorded population was seven. (fn. 268) In 1381 there were 34 taxpayers, mostly tenants at will. (fn. 269) In 1670 there were 11 households, and in 1676 57 communicants. The population rose from 72 in 1801 to a peak of 141 in 1851 and thereafter declined. It was 64 in 1951. (fn. 270)
Goadby was held before the Conquest by Tochi, whose lands descended to Geoffrey Alselin in 1066. In 1086 an under-tenant, Norman, held from Geoffrey. (fn. 271) By the early 13th century Goadby seems to have passed into the possession of the Preston family, (fn. 272) although the Martival family of Noseley held some land there and received a grant of free warren there in 1268. (fn. 273) In 1265 Henry de Preston held a yardland in demesne and two yardlands in villeinage, which he forfeited after Evesham. (fn. 274) The land was restored to his heirs, for before 1282 Laurence de Preston leased the manor of GOADBY to Peter de Welles for life and to Welles's heirs after his death for a period of two years. (fn. 275) Before 1313 the manor had passed into the possession of John Pecche, who granted it in that year to Nicholas and Joan Seaton. (fn. 276) It descended in their family, with its principal manor of Seaton (Rut.), until 1476, (fn. 277) when at the death of Edward Seaton his property was divided between his co-heirs, his daughters Anne and Joan. Goadby formed part of the share of Anne and her husband Eusby Catesby (fn. 278) and was inherited by Anne's son Edward (d. 1535). (fn. 279) His son Michael, a minor at his father's death, (fn. 280) sold the manor in 1579 to Anthony Colly. (fn. 281) Colly sold it in 1593 to Sir Edward Heron, (fn. 282) and in 1611 Heron's son Edward sold it to Thomas Brudenell of Stonton Wyville. (fn. 283) From Thomas the manor descended to his third son Edward Brudenell of Barton Seagrave (Northants.). (fn. 284) On the death of Edward's son, Edmund Brudenell, the manor passed to his sister Frances, and her husband, Joseph Pippin. Joseph's sister and heir was Elizabeth, the wife of John Weston, a tallow-chandler of London. Their daughter Frances Brudenell Weston was in possession by 1784 (fn. 285) and by 1787 had become the wife of Joseph Sibley of Bedford, (fn. 286) in whose family the manor descended until after 1847. (fn. 287) Between then and 1877 the manor was bought by Sir Arthur Hazlerigg of Noseley, (fn. 288) who was succeeded at Goadby by his second son Major-Gen. Thomas Hazlerigg (d. 1915). MajorGen. Hazlerigg was succeeded by his son Lt.-Col. Thomas Hazlerigg (d. 1935). (fn. 289)
In 1086 the recorded population of Goadby was 7: one serf on the demesne, 5 villeins, and 2 bordars. There was a tract of woodland two furlongs by four, (fn. 290) traces of which can probably still be seen in the plantations towards Keythorpe. This wood was valued as a pasture in the Middle Ages. In 1299 Roger Martival stated that his ancestor William had been granted common of pasture in the 'high wood' of Goadby. (fn. 291)
Little is known of medieval Goadby. The threecourse system of agriculture was practised there. In 1601 the three open fields were known as the North, East, and West fields, but they were described in 1625 as the North Field and the fields 'towards Keythorpe' and 'towards Noseley'. (fn. 292) In 1676 a Nether Field is mentioned. (fn. 293) In 1677 the fields were known as the East or Keythorpe Field, the South or Nether Field, and the Rolleston Field, which is presumably the same as the former West Field. (fn. 294) The nomenclature is, however, vague and a North Field is also mentioned in 1677, whereas it does not appear that there were four fields at an earlier date.
Goadby was partly inclosed in the 16th century, although the main inclosure did not take place until 1677. In 1511 Thomas Hazlerigg of Noseley, who had leased 3 farms and 60 a. of land from Edward Catesby, was said to have converted this land to pasture and reduced the farms to the status of cottages with Catesby's consent. (fn. 295) In 1528 Anthony Colly, who leased two closes in Goadby from Edward Catesby, accused Thomas Hazlerigg of breaking into them and pasturing 400 sheep there on 12 April and 700 sheep and other animals on 9 May. This caused a considerable dispute, but it has been suggested that these two closes may be those created by Hazlerigg in 1511, which had then been leased to Colly over Hazlerigg's head. (fn. 296) In 1512 Thomas Hazlerigg was accused of breaking down a close in Goadby belonging to Christopher Neal of Prestwold. (fn. 297)
It seems clear, however, that most of the lordship remained open. On 3 May 1676 articles of agreement were drawn up between the patron of the vicarage of Billesdon (which included Goadby), the vicar, the lord of the manor of Goadby, and four freeholders. (fn. 298) These set out that the whole of the lordship should be inclosed before 29 September 1677 after being surveyed and divided by two independent assessors. Two of the plots were set out in the articles, but it is not clear why two of the freeholders were selected for preferential treatment in this way: they were to be allowed these particular plots for their 'convenience'. One of the bounds mentioned in the division of Thomas Fowler's plot was 'the ash tree in Noseley lordship'. Provision was made in the agreement for the payment of two reserved rents from two holdings, for tithes, and for the display by all those concerned of their title-deeds before 29 September 1678. It seems to have been estimated that there were at least 600 a. of arable for inclosure: the amount of pasture is not stated. The inclosure was regulated by a further agreement in July 1682. (fn. 299) The delay was caused by the resignation of William Coles, the former Vicar of Billesdon. The plots were laid out in September 1677. Edmund Brudenell, as lord of the manor, received 196 a. and the Oldfield, the extent of which is not stated but which was probably formed by one of the 16th-century inclosures. William Whalley received 126 a., Brian Satterthwaite 114 a. Thomas Fowler 97 a., Thomas Woodcock 59 a., and the vicar 44 a. of glebe. A total of 636 a. were thus allotted, leaving rather over 300 which were not dealt with. These were probably already pasture, and some at least must have already been inclosed. Elaborate arrangements were made for the payment of tithes, for payments to equalize the profits made by each freeholder from trees, and for fencing and ditching the new fields. The vicar was given special permission to drive his milch cows through part of Thomas Woodcock's land and to milk them there. Town lands were also laid out although the precise amount of these is not stated. The profits from them were to be used for the repair of the village street and for other public uses. (fn. 300)
Goadby cared for its own poor but had no workhouse. In 1802–3 out-relief was given to 5 adults and 8 children. (fn. 301) No administrative papers of the civil parish survive, except a loose sheet of constables' accounts for 1775. (fn. 302) In 1836 Goadby was placed in Billesdon Union (fn. 303) and in 1871 was created a civil parish. (fn. 304)
For ecclesiastical purposes Goadby is a chapelry of Billesdon. The chapel was first mentioned in the 12th century, when it was granted to Leicester Abbey with the mother church by William de Syfrewast before 1162. (fn. 305) In 1220 it is described as a free chapel with a resident chaplain paid by the Vicar of Billesdon and with full parochial rights. (fn. 306) The great tithes were reserved to the abbey as rector of the parish when the relations of Goadby and Billesdon were regulated by an unidentified R., Bishop of Lincoln (probably Grosseteste). The bishop ordered that the chapel of Goadby was to be attached for all time to the church of Billesdon. The vicar was to find a chaplain at a salary of 5½ marks, and was to take half the profits of the hay tithes and of a virgate of land in Goadby, with half a toft and the altarage, and 4 marks were to be paid to the vicar by the Abbot of Leicester, to whom the rest of the profits were reserved. (fn. 307) By the 15th century it seems that the abbey was no longer drawing anything from Goadby; Goadby is not mentioned in the Valor of 1535, although Billesdon and Rolleston are mentioned as profitable parts of the abbey's estates. This apparent extinction of rectorial rights in the parish led to complications in the 17th and 18th centuries. The vicar's right in glebe and a house at Goadby remained, and the absence of anyone with a rector's rights and obligations in Goadby, coupled with the mistaken belief that the Vicar of Billesdon was Rector of Goadby, resulted in confused disputes in the 17th and 18th centuries about responsibility for the repair of Goadby chapel and churchyard. In 1619 there was a dispute about the upkeep of the churchyard. (fn. 308) Up to 1750 the vicars were apparently content to undertake repairs to the chapel, but in 1753 the vicar took the matter to court and it was found that, Goadby being a chapelry, the repair of the chapel was a charge on the Goadby ratepayers. (fn. 309)
At the inclosure in 1676 the Vicar of Billesdon was allotted a rent-charge of £48 18s. in lieu of tithes from Goadby. (fn. 310) The vicar's own glebe was exempted. In 1821 the payment was £56 11s. 5d. (fn. 311) In 1847 a further tithe award regulated the small tithes which were commuted for £77. In addition the great tithes on land not allotted in 1676 were commuted for a payment of £12 to the landowners. (fn. 312) Nothing further is known of this. In 1787 Thomas Pares as agent for Joseph Sibley received the tithes of Goadby by fine from several other persons whose connexion is not known. (fn. 313)
The glebe allotted by the inclosure agreement amounted to a house and a large close of 44 a. The house stood in 1679 'at the north side of the common street at the corner of church lane'. (fn. 314) The glebe remained in the possession of the Vicar of Billesdon in 1956, (fn. 315) but the house was demolished c. 1900. In the 18th century the chaplains of Goadby held benefices elsewhere, but some evidently lived in Goadby. (fn. 316) In 1863 William Green, the incumbent of Noseley, acted as curate of Goadby and Rolleston, and lived in Goadby. (fn. 317)
The dedication of the chapel is uncertain. It is said to be dedicated to ST. JOHN, but in 1517 the parishioners of Goadby objected to having to pay for wax for the celebration of the feast of St. John the Baptist, because this should, they said, properly be celebrated in 'another church', presumably either Billesdon or Rolleston, the former certainly and the latter probably dedicated to St. John the Baptist. (fn. 318) The chapel at Goadby stands in a small churchyard immediately behind the Home Farm. It seems likely that it was founded as a manorial chapel in the late 12th or early 13th century.
The building consists of an undivided nave and chancel, a south porch, two small transepts, and a vestry. There is a small bellcote at the west end of the nave containing one bell. The nave and chancel formed the original chapel and are built of ironstone with limestone dressings. The nave, which has been heavily restored, probably dates from the early 13th century and retains two small lancets with wide internal splays in the south wall. In the north wall are a wider lancet and a blocked doorway. In the south wall of the chancel is a late Perpendicular window with a four-centred head, the sill being carried down to form a seat. The original east window, which has been replaced, was of three lights with 14th-century tracery and a pointed head. (fn. 319) The chancel contains an aumbry and a restored piscina. The medieval south porch may originally have been partly of timber, but has been rebuilt in stone. Its roof has king-posts, cambered ties, and curved braces and principals. The nail-studded oak door bears a wooden shield inscribed 'William Colinson gave this 1618'. (fn. 320) According to Nichols the south transept was added in the late 17th century at the expense of Brian Satterthwaite who was eventually buried there. (fn. 321) The base is of ironstone but some original diaperpatterned brickwork survives above. In about 1750 the parishioners complained of the poor condition of the chancel. (fn. 322) It was evidently still much neglected in 1776 when the archdeacon ordered repairs and replacements. He also commented on the need for a new north door. (fn. 323) When Nichols first visited the chapel in 1793 it was urgently in need of repair. (fn. 324) In the following year the archdeacon ordered that the west wall of the nave be taken down and rebuilt. This was evidently done and the bell turret was reconstructed in a different form. (fn. 325) In 1832 Archdeacon Bonney said of the bell turret that 'nothing could be more mean' and he reported unfavourably on the structural condition of the building. (fn. 326) The chapel was thoroughly restored and refitted by Sir Arthur Hazlerigg in 1848. (fn. 327) In 1860 the east window was replaced by Lord Berners and it is thought that he was also responsible for reconstructing the south transept in red brick. (fn. 328) The north transept and the vestry, also in brick, were added in 1874. (fn. 329) The chapel was again restored in 1899. (fn. 330) At a further restoration in 1931 two scratch dials were found on the stonework of one of the south windows. (fn. 331)
In Nichols's time there was a pulpit dated 1643. (fn. 332) It was replaced by another in 1848 (fn. 333) which is now missing. The chapel contains stone fonts of 1848 and 1899, the original square medieval font being in the Vicarage garden at Billesdon. (fn. 334) There are mural tablets to Margaret, wife of the Revd. Thomas Davenport (d. 1778), and to Lt.-Col. Thomas Hazlerigg (d. 1935). A slab in the south transept is inscribed to Elizabeth, wife of William Bromley (d. 1778). The single bell is dated 1714. (fn. 335) The plate consists of a silver cup of about 1570, a paten of 1864, and some 17th- or 18th-century pewter. (fn. 336) The registers of baptisms, burials, and marriages begin in 1599 and are complete.
There was apparently a schoolmaster in Goadby in the early 17th century, (fn. 337) but nothing further is known of a school there until the 19th century. In 1824 a Sunday school was opened. In 1833 it educated 9 boys and 13 girls with the aid of voluntary contributions. (fn. 338) A day school had been started by 1842, (fn. 339) perhaps by the Hazlerigg family, for in 1855, (fn. 340) when the first definite information is forthcoming, it was supported by Sir Arthur Hazlerigg, who erected a school building in 1857. (fn. 341) This school was continued until after the death of Sir Arthur Hazlerigg in 1890, but it was subsequently abandoned. (fn. 342) In 1910 the school was reopened with the help of Sir Arthur Hazlerigg (d. 1949) (fn. 343) and in 1922 had an attendance of 14. (fn. 344) It was closed in 1933. (fn. 345)
Rolleston is a civil parish of 1,094 a. lying ten miles east of Leicester; ecclesiastically it is a chapelry in the parish of Billesdon. The parish is roughly triangular in shape and is mostly pasture. About a quarter of the area, at the south-west corner, is occupied by the grounds and park of Rolleston Hall. The western boundary follows the road from Market Harborough to Melton Mowbray which here runs along a ridge mostly at a height of over 600 ft. The ground falls away towards the east where the boundary follows a brook which rises in the parish and further south becomes the boundary between Noseley and Goadby. Rolleston Hall stands in the centre of the parish with the chapel immediately to the north of it. It is approached by three gated roads, one from the west and one each from Billesdon and Skeffington. The grounds, which include a lake and areas of woodland, were improved at a cost of £10,000 in the second quarter of the 19th century. (fn. 346) There are several cottages and estate buildings to the north and west of the hall, mostly built by Lord Churchill c. 1900, a few being added by Lord Michelham between the two world wars. (fn. 347) Lord Churchill's buildings include a large red-brick stable court. There are now no early cottages or outbuildings. These appear to have stood to the east of the church and garden. (fn. 348) An early-19th-century brick cottage in this area has Gothic window-glazing and a very large pedimented doorcase. It is of early Georgian date and may originally have come from the hall itself. The only other houses in the parish are Home Farm, Cranhill Farm, and Rolleston Lodge Farm. These, with a lodge and a few cottages, were built along the road from Harborough to Melton in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The former Rolleston Hall was a stone mansion, said to have been re-fronted c. 1700. (fn. 349) It consisted of a central two-story range, flanked by gabled cross-wings. By 1793 the house had a Georgian doorway and sash windows (fn. 350) but the general layout suggests that it had an early-17th-century origin. There were further alterations in the 19th century. During and immediately after the Second World War the building was used as an orthopaedic hospital. In 1955 it was demolished and a smaller house, mainly in the Tudor style, was built of Clipsham stone to the design of Robert Cawkwell of Sheffield. (fn. 351) It was completed in 1958. The old garden walls and part of the wall of the east wing were incorporated in the new scheme.
In 1086 the recorded population was nine. There were 133 taxpayers in 1377. In 1670 there were 10 householders, and in 1676, 35 communicants. The population, 43 in 1801, remained fairly constant from then until the 1880's, when it rose slightly. In 1951 it was sixty-one. (fn. 352)
Before the Conquest ROLLESTON formed part of an estate in the neighbourhood of Billesdon which belonged to the Saxon landholder, Tochi. After 1066 it passed with the rest of his land to Geoffrey Alselin, from whom Norman was holding Rolleston in 1086. (fn. 353)
The descent of the manor of Rolleston in the 12th century has not been traced, but it seems likely that by the beginning of the 13th century the overlordship had passed to the Bardolf family who had succeeded to the land of Geoffrey de Alselin in Hallaton. (fn. 354) In 1279 the mesne lord paid scutage to William Bardolf and Adam de Everingham for the lands of his tenant in Rolleston. (fn. 355) The descent of the overlordship can be traced from William Bardolf (d. 1276) (fn. 356) to William, Lord Bardolf (d. 1386), (fn. 357) after whom it appears to have lapsed. The Crevequer family are known to have been mesne lords of this fee in Rolleston between 1199 and c. 1280. In 1199 Robert de Crevequer established his right to a knight's fee in Rolleston against the claim of his tenant, Robert de Beauchamp. (fn. 358) Hamon de Crevequer, probably Robert's son, was holding 2 knight's fees in Billesdon in 1236, (fn. 359) and in 1260 was reported to be the tenant of Adam de Everingham for the land of his own tenant in Rolleston, Ralph de Beauchamp. (fn. 360) By 1261 Hamon's son, Robert de Crevequer, was in possession. (fn. 361) In 1279 he was reported to be holding 2½ carucates in Rolleston with 3 virgates in chief, (fn. 362) but by 1292 the mesne lord of this fee was William de Kirkby (d. 1302) who held of Hugh Bardolf. (fn. 363) Kirkby's estate was divided between his four sisters and their respective husbands. (fn. 364) One of these, Maud de Houby, was reported in 1302 to be holding ¼ knight's fee in Rolleston, (fn. 365) but all the heirs of William de Kirkby appear to have retained some interest in the manor; their interest has not been traced after 1342. (fn. 366)
The tenants in demesne of this manor in Rolleston were in the 13th century the Beauchamp family, and in the early 14th century the Wedon family. The first known demesne tenant is Robert de Beauchamp in 1199. (fn. 367) In 1292 the manor of Rolleston was held for ¼ knight's fee by William de Beauchamp from William de Kirkby who held of Hugh Bardolf, (fn. 368) but by 1328 it was in the hands of Ralph de Wedon. (fn. 369) Ralph was assessed for ¼ knight's fee in Rolleston in 1346. (fn. 370)
Between 1365 and 1433 the demesne tenants of the manor of Rolleston were members of the Cheyne family, who secured possession through arrangements which were made by John de Cobham, Lord Cobham. (fn. 371) The latter, who came of age in 1346, was apparently enfeoffed as lord of Rolleston by Ralph de Wedon. (fn. 372) In 1359, before leaving for the war in France, Cobham, who had received the manor for life from the king, enfeoffed Robert Bertram of Bothall (Northumb.), probably as a trustee, and in 1362 the manor formed part of a settlement made for Lord Cobham's mother. (fn. 373) Robert Bertram granted the manor to Robert de Ruddestane, Rector of Bothall, who in 1365 issued letters of attorney giving seisin to Thomas Cheyne. (fn. 374) The heir of Ralph de Wedon quitclaimed any rights he might have in Rolleston to Hugh Cheyne, probably Thomas's son, in 1375. (fn. 375) Hugh Cheyne died in 1390 seised of the manor of Rolleston which he held from John de Cobham. (fn. 376) In 1377 an inquiry had been made into the legality of Cheyne's title, and the jury had agreed that Cheyne was possessed of the manor, although they did not know by what right. (fn. 377) Hugh Cheyne was succeeded by his nephew Roger who recovered the manor from his uncle's feoffees in 1392. (fn. 378) John Cheyne, perhaps Roger's son, was lord of the manor in 1428. (fn. 379)
In 1433 John Cheyne sold the manor to Sir John Popham, (fn. 380) to whom Thomas Wedon, one of the heirs of Ralph Wedon, released his rights. (fn. 381) Popham still held the manor in 1451 (fn. 382) but in 1458 he granted it to the London Charterhouse, which held it until the Dissolution. (fn. 383) In 1546 it was granted by Henry VIII to Richard and Joan Dixon of Illston. (fn. 384) It descended in this family until the death of William Dixon in 1628, (fn. 385) and shortly after was sold to William Sharpe (d. 1658). (fn. 386) It was subsequently bought by Henry Greene (d. 1680), (fn. 387) whose family had held land at Rolleston since the early 17th century (fn. 388) and remained in possession of it until the death of its last member in 1861. (fn. 389) It was then held for a short time by the Heap family of King's Norton, (fn. 390) but about 1890 was purchased by Victor Albert Spencer, Lord Churchill. (fn. 391) Shortly after the First World War it was purchased by Herman Alfred Stern, Lord Michelham, who sold it in 1940 to G. Sonderman. Sonderman's daughter, Mrs. F. W. Eske, succeeded him and owned the estate in 1959. (fn. 392)
In 1086 there were 10 carucates of land in Rolleston, which had supported 6 ploughs before the Conquest. In 1086 there was one plough in demesne, and a knight, 7 villeins, and one bordar had 3 ploughs. There were 8 a. of meadow. The value of the manor had risen from 20s. to 25s. (fn. 393) In 1279 only 8 carucates of land are described, held by 7 tenants, who mostly held in demesne and who included John de Digby of Billesdon and Geoffrey de Skeffington. (fn. 394) In 1332 15 persons paid tax, and in 1381 13 tenants at will, all married, and 2 servants. (fn. 395)
The date at which Rolleston was inclosed is not definitely known. The chapelry was still open in 1658, when each yardland was entitled to common for 4 cows and 22 sheep, and each cottage to common for 2 cows and 10 sheep. (fn. 396) Rolleston is described by Monk in 1794 as old inclosure, (fn. 397) and a letter of about 1750 from the parishioners to the Bishop of Lincoln described the changes that were made in the amount of money paid from Rolleston to the Vicar of Billesdon at or since the inclosure. (fn. 398) Further than this it seems impossible to go. In 1850 only 75 a. were arable, as against 940 a. of meadow and pasture. (fn. 399)
Although Rolleston had no workhouse it cared for its own poor and in 1802–3 out-relief was given to 5 adults and 6 children. (fn. 402) In 1836 Rolleston was placed in Billesdon Union (fn. 403) and in 1871 became an independent civil parish. (fn. 404) Churchwardens' accounts survive from 1782 to 1838. (fn. 405)
Rolleston chapel formed part of the grant of the church of Billesdon with its two chapels which was made to Leicester Abbey by William de Syfrewast before 1162. (fn. 406) In 1220 the chapel was served from the mother church at Billesdon three days in the week. (fn. 407) The chapel has apparently never had a resident curate.
The rectorial tithes from Rolleston were paid to Leicester Abbey until the Dissolution. (fn. 408) In 1551 John Beaumont, Master of the Rolls, was licensed to transfer the tithes to John Dixon, the lord of the manor, (fn. 409) and thereafter the tithes descended with the manor.
In 1850 the tithes were commuted for an annual payment of £4 to Henry Greene, who himself owned 930 a. of the land from which the tithes were due, and £45 to the Vicar of Billesdon for the small tithes. (fn. 410) In 1635 the vicar also received 13s. 4d. from Rolleston for reading prayers there, and was then said to have had this payment time out of mind, (fn. 411) but in 1674 it was said to be paid according to an old composition. (fn. 412) At the same time he received 40s. a year from the owners of the tithes. In 1821 the figure was £35 10s. 10d. a year. (fn. 413)
About 1750 the freeholders of the whole of the parish of Billesdon appealed to the Bishop of Lincoln to make better arrangements for services in Rolleston chapel. They complained that no sermon was ever preached at Rolleston, although since the inclosure the sum paid to the vicar had been increased from £11 12s. to £36 a year. They urged that if services were not said regularly the inhabitants of the chapelry would be more inclined to vagrancy. (fn. 414)
The chapel of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST stands within the grounds of Rolleston Hall. To the south-east of the building is an ancient wheel-head cross, supported on a narrow shaft. (fn. 415) The chapel is built of ironstone with limestone dressings and consists of a nave, a chancel, and a small west tower of three stages. It was largely rebuilt c. 1740. (fn. 416) The semi-circular tower arch dates from c. 1200 and the base of the tower may be contemporary with it. The tower windows are square-headed with stone mullions and are probably of post-Reformation date. One contains fragments of 18th-century glass. The embattled parapet to the abbreviated third stage may be an addition of 1740. In the earlier 17th century there were complaints about the condition of the building and of the fittings; in 1619 the north wall was in a bad state and there were no windows in it; in 1626 the chapelyard was not divided from the roadway and there were no bell-ropes. (fn. 417) The chapel is said to have been thoroughly repaired and refitted by Richard Greene c. 1740 and it seems probable that the body of the church was entirely rebuilt at this period. (fn. 418) It consists of a structurally undivided nave and chancel of three bays, divided externally by buttresses and surmounted by an embattled parapet. Both north and south walls have three tall windows of late Perpendicular type with segmental-pointed heads. The east window has been replaced. The north and south doorways, the latter with a curious shallow stone porch, appear to be of the same date. Internally the tie beams of the low-pitched ceiling are masked by moulded plaster. The 18th-century pulpit, desk, and altar rails (fn. 419) have disappeared, but facing inwards along the north and south walls are four sets of oak pews with carved and scrolled ends. The marble retable is probably also of the 18th century. The building was said to be in perfect repair in 1794 and again in 1839. (fn. 420) It is evident that it continued to be well cared for by the Greene family and their successors at the hall. In 1899 a restoration was carried out by Lord Churchill (fn. 421) and several of the earlier fittings were replaced. The east window was inserted in 1902 in memory of Jane, Lady Churchill (d. 1900), who had been Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Victoria for 46 years. (fn. 422) Queen Victoria, who was godmother to Lord Churchill (d. 1934) and to his son and daughter, is said to have presented the harmonium to the chapel. (fn. 423)
There is one bell, cast in 1629 by Thomas Norris. (fn. 424) The plate consists of a silver cup, two plates, and a flagon, all of 1737 and probably the gift of Richard Greene. (fn. 425) The registers of baptisms, burials, and marriages begin in 1599 and are complete.