A History of the County of Leicestershire: Volume 5, Gartree Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1964.
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The parish of Carlton Curlieu, which is 1,406 a. in area, lies nine miles south-east of Leicester. It is bounded on the north by the Gartree road and on the west by one of the head-streams of the River Sence which separates it from the parish of Burton Overy.
The village stands above the 450-foot contour on a patch of sand and gravel overlying the Lower Lias clays which here from part of a ridge of hills making the watershed between the River Sence to the west and streams flowing south-east into the River Welland. The soil of the parish is a loamy clay, chiefly devoted to pasture. No arterial roads cross the parish, but the village is accessible by road from Kibworth Harcourt to the south and Illston on the Hill to the north; the road from Burton Overy to the west is gated. The population of the parish has never been large, and was perhaps larger in the Middle Ages than it has been since: the Domesday Survey enumerated 24 inhabitants, there were 37 taxpayers in 1377, and in 1563 there were 25 households. Thereafter there was a reduction in numbers and in 1670 there were only 13 households. There were 64 communicants in 1676. The population rose to 93 in 1911, and dropped to 61 in 1951. (fn. 1)
The village consists of a few farm-houses and cottages grouped near the church and the Rectory. Most of the houses were built of red brick in the early 19th century; one pair of cottages on the west side is modern. The Rectory stands in its own grounds immediately to the west of the churchyard. The village street, which runs north of the church and Rectory, is part of the gated road from Burton Overy, on the west. Near this road and elsewhere in the parish there are old gravel pits. In the northwest corner of the field in front of the hall is a small rectangular moat still filled with water in 1956.
Carlton Curlieu Hall, the manor-house, stands in its own grounds to the south-east of the church. It is L-shaped in plan and has two stories, attics, and cellars. Facing the kitchen yard on the north the walls, including a massive chimney, are of ironstone, but on the other three sides they are faced with limestone ashlar. The west or entrance front (fn. 2) has three small projecting wings, each of two stories, a roundheaded porch forming the base of the central wing. At attic level is a row of 5 small Dutch gables, and there are 3 similar gables to the south front. An ironstone gable-end overlooking the yard has a date tablet of 1636 with initials I.O. and T.O. The general layout of the house and many of its features suggest that it was built on approximately its present plan at this period. The internal fittings, however, date mainly from later in the 17th century and it is possible that the ashlar facing of the south front and of the attic story, including the Dutch gables, were subsequent additions by a member of the Palmer family. The house contains panelling of the early 17th century, originally in an upper room, and of c. 1680. The oak staircase has heavy turned balusters and ball finials. Other internal details in the Gothic manner, and several of the windows, are the work of the Revd. Henry Palmer c. 1820. (fn. 3) There is a fine collection of family portraits. In 1790, when the house was let to a grazier, it was reported to be in such a bad condition that in rooms seldom used the portraits were in danger of perishing. (fn. 4)
Carlton Curlieu was the centre of one of the bailiwicks of the honor of Leicester. In the early 14th century it contained 25 villages in which the earls had land as of honor. (fn. 5)
In 1086 CARLTON CURLIEU formed part of the extensive estates of Hugh de Grentemesnil. (fn. 6) In 1130, and probably until 1204, it belonged to the honor of Leicester, (fn. 7) and at the death of Roger de Quency in 1264 to the honor of Winchester. At the partition of the earl's estates, completed in 1277, Carlton passed to his daughter Ellen la Zouche, (fn. 8) from whom nearly all the land there was held in 1278. (fn. 9) Alan la Zouche had acquired this overlordship by 1270, when Carlton formed part of 4 knights' fees held from the honor of Winchester. (fn. 10) In 1314 (fn. 11) and 1455 (fn. 12) it was part of a single knight's fee, comprising lands in Great Glen, Carlton, and Rolleston. The overlordship belonging to the Zouche family had passed by 1328 to their descendants, the Holands of Glen, (fn. 13) from whom it descended by 1422 to Maud Lovel, the heir of the Holand family. (fn. 14) It was held by William Lovel at his death in 1455. (fn. 15)
Mesne tenants under the overlords included Roger Martel who held Carlton of Alan la Zouche in 1278 as ⅓ of a knight's fee, John and Peter FitzReynold in 1314, and Reynold and Peter FitzReynold in 1329. Other recorded holders of the subordinate lordship were Henry FitzRoger (fl. 1346), (fn. 16) and Richard Stuckley (fl. 1455). (fn. 17) There is no conclusive evidence that any of the under-tenants of the subordinate lords ever held the status of lord of a comprehensive 'manor of Carlton Curlieu'.
Between 1455 and 1507, when Roger Wigston was holding the manor of John Wyvell, (fn. 18) the descent is obscure. By 1537 Carlton Curlieu had become attached to the manor of Theddingworth, then held by Thomas Wigston. (fn. 19) This was subsequently bought by William Brocas in 1575, (fn. 20) and in the same year John Bale (d. 1621) acquired the 'manor of Carlton Curlieu' from Sir George Turpyn and Bernard Brocas, the father of his wife Frances. (fn. 21) Members of the Bale family were living in the parish by 1524. (fn. 22) John Bale (d. 1621) inherited lands at Carlton bought by his uncle John Bale (d. 1570) in 1549, (fn. 23) and at his death held more than 30 virgates, (fn. 24) equivalent to the greater part of the Zouche estate in 1278. (fn. 25) The manor belonged to the Bale family until 1661, (fn. 26) and was shortly afterwards acquired by Geoffrey Palmer of Carlton (Northants.). It descended in the Palmer family and in 1957 was owned by Sir Geoffrey Palmer, 12th Bt.
Both of the two largest estates held in 1278 by under-tenants of Roger Martel, that of Theobald de Nevill and that of Peter de Weston, comprised land in demesne and land in villeinage, (fn. 27) and both were later described as manors. The Nevill estate in Carlton was acquired as a result of the marriage of Alice (fl. 1262), daughter and heir of Robert Curly (fl. 1253), to Peter de Nevill (d. by 1276), and had previously belonged to William Curly (d. 1253), father of Robert. (fn. 28) It seems probable that Carlton Curlieu became so known as a result of the connexion with the Curly family. The principal estate of the Nevill family was Allexton. (fn. 29) From Theobald, son of Alice and Peter Nevill, the lands passed to John Hacluit, the husband of their daughter Alice, and to William Hacluit, son of John and Alice. (fn. 30) After William's death in 1375 the holding passed to his mother's second husband, Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, who sold it to feoffees in 1377, together with the Allexton estate. At some date before 1428, when Allexton was in the possession of Margaret, relict of William de Burgh, the Carlton lands were separated, probably in connexion with the marriage of Anne, the daughter of William and Margaret, to Theobald Ward. Anne, who before 1428 married secondly Robert Chiselden, died in 1441 seised of a part of the Carlton lands in dower, the inheritance of Ward's daughter by a previous marriage, namely Margaret, relict of John Daunsey. (fn. 31) The estate seems subsequently to have reverted to the Ward family. A John Ward was one of the 6 free tenants at Carlton listed in 1381. Another John Ward paid the greatest amount of tax in the village in 1524 and 1545. In 1542 he bought an estate of 210 a. at Carlton, formerly part of the holding of Thomas Wigston, or possibly the freehold of the same estate. (fn. 32) Thomas Ward, who died in 1598, held more than 320 a. in Carlton of William and Elizabeth Brocas's manor of Theddingworth. (fn. 33) According to Nichols this estate, which he described as a manor, was bought at the end of the 16th century by Thomas Palmer, and subsequently descended in the Palmer family. It was said to have belonged formerly to the Westons. (fn. 34)
The Weston estate, 2 carucates in 1278, (fn. 35) was described as a manor in 1359. A reversionary interest and rent were granted by Simon and Agnes de Weston to Master Thomas Bray in 1323, (fn. 36) and these subsequently passed to the Ferrers family. They were held by William de Ferrers in 1359, when William de Weston was life tenant to his sister. Weston had acquired the manor by 1370. (fn. 37) It was in the possession of a William Weston in 1387 (fn. 38) but may have reverted to the Ferrers family by 1459, when Elizabeth Grey, Lady de Ferrers, held an estate of 6 virgates and a close in Carlton. (fn. 39) The later descent cannot be traced.
In 1278 one carucate at Carlton was held by the bailiff of Carlton bailiwick in serjeanty; (fn. 40) the bailiff in 1322 was Roger de Pickering. (fn. 41) Henry, Duke of Lancaster, at his death in 1361, was seised of 4 views of frankpledge in the bailiwick as part of his honor of Leicester. (fn. 42) In 1482 the College of the Newarke, Leicester, acquired the office of bailiff and the lands in Carlton which were attached to it. Both had formerly been in the possession of John Weston. (fn. 43) The office was afterwards acquired by the Hastings family, and at his death in 1595 Henry Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon, held the bailiship of the Crown as 1/100 knight's fee. His heir, George Hastings, held it at his death in 1604. (fn. 44) The lands seem also to have been acquired by the Hastings family, before 1513 when George, Lord Hastings, entailed his 'manor of Carlton Curlieu'. (fn. 45) Neither the bailiship nor the lands figure in the valor of the college estates made in 1535. (fn. 46) In 1549 the Hastings lands—6 virgates, 60 a. of meadow, and 60 a. of pasture—were sold to John Bale (d. 1570) by Francis, Earl of Huntingdon, son of George, Lord Hastings, and subsequently formed part of the Bale manor of Carlton Curlieu. (fn. 47)
In 1086 and 1130 6 bovates at Carlton belonged to the royal soke of Great Bowden, (fn. 48) and these lands were held in 1278 by various tenants of Richard de Harcourt. (fn. 49) Their subsequent history is obscure.
In 1086 117/8 carucates were enumerated in Carlton. (fn. 50) On the estate of Hugh de Grentemesnil (111/8 carucates) there was land for 7 ploughs. Hugh had 3 ploughs in demesne, with 5 serfs; and 9 villeins, 8 bordars, a Frenchman, and the priest had a further 5 ploughs between them. There were 16 a. of meadow. (fn. 51) Before 1081 one of the villeins in Carlton had been granted by Hugh de Grentemesnil to act as tithe-collector for the abbey of St. Evroul (Orne). (fn. 52) In 1278 Carlton was assessed at 11 carucates, (fn. 53) and at another date at 12 carucates. (fn. 54) The inquisition of 1278 lists 13 separate holdings ranging from 14 virgates to ½ virgate; these included the rector's one carucate, one caracute held by serjeanty, and 3 virgates held in socage. (fn. 55) In 1381 there were 14 tenants at will and 6 free tenants. (fn. 56)
A major change in the land-use of the village took place between 1599 and 1607, when there was conversion from arable to pasture on a large scale. It was presented to the depopulation commissioners in 1607 that before this conversion there were 48 yardlands worked by 13 ploughs, and afterwards only 8 yardlands worked by 3 ploughs. John Bale was said to have converted 4 ploughlands (totalling 150 a.) and to have put out of use 2 farms with barns and stables, his son George Bale 90 a. and a farm with barns and stables, George Ward 20 a., John Raven a ploughland of 40 a., and another freeholder an unknown acreage and a farm with barns, all of which he had since sold to George Bale. The presentment enumerates only 300 a. of converted arable, or say 400 a. to allow for the conversion by the unnamed freeholder, but also states that 40 yardlands (i.e. 10 ploughlands) were converted from tillage and that 10 ploughs had been put out of use. To reconcile these statements it is necessary to postulate a ploughland of about 40 a., which is an unusually low figure for the district but accords with the evidence about the conversions by John Bale and John Raven. The conversion from arable of 1599–1607 affected five-sixths of the arable previously cultivated (40 out of the 48 yardlands, which accords closely with the decrease in the number of ploughs from 13 to 3); thus there were about 480 a. of arable in the parish before 1578, the first year within the depopulation commission's terms of reference. (fn. 57)
This relatively low proportion of arable in the total acreage of the parish suggests that there had been conversion from arable to pasture before 1578. At what period inclosure took place is not clear. It has been assumed that the conversion of 1599–1607 was also a process of inclosure, (fn. 58) and a reference in 1601 to the inclosure of the glebe supports this. If, however, there was conversion from arable to pasture before 1578 it may be assumed that it was preceded or accompanied by inclosure, and the evidence of the depopulation commission does not preclude the possibility of inclosure of the converted land either some time before or some time after the conversion. The inclosure of the glebe apparently preceded the inclosure of the field in which it lay, (fn. 59) and the glebe had by 1633 been 'swallowed up in the inclosure not long since made by Sir John Bale'. (fn. 60) If this refers to the Sir John Bale living in 1633 the inclosure mentioned took place after 1622, when he succeeded his father. (fn. 61) The evidence therefore suggests that the inclosure of Carlton Curlieu, and perhaps the conversion from arable, was a gradual process extending over several years. The amount of arable continued to decrease, and by 1801 there were only 30 a., of which 9 a. were under turnips and 6¾a. under oats. (fn. 62) In 1928 all but about 100 a. of the parish was used for pasture. (fn. 63)
The only surviving record of the parish chest is a modern vestry minute book, 1915–30. (fn. 66) In 1802–3 there was no workhouse and 4 adults and 5 children were given out-relief. (fn. 67) Carlton was placed in the Billesdon Union in 1836. (fn. 68)
Carlton Curlieu church was granted before 1081 to the abbey of St. Evroul (Orne), with 5 virgates of land. (fn. 69) A priest is mentioned at Carlton in 1086. (fn. 70) The chapel of Illston on the Hill was attached partly to Carlton and partly to Noseley in the Middle Ages, but later it depended upon Carlton Curlieu alone. (fn. 71) In 1940 the living was combined with that of Shangton. (fn. 72)
From the early 13th century and probably before, the Prior of Ware (Herts.) made presentations to the benefice on behalf of St. Evroul. (fn. 73) In 1415 the advowson was granted to Sheen Priory (Surr.), which held it until the Dissolution. (fn. 74) In 1552 it was granted to Sir Thomas Wrath, (fn. 75) and was probably granted by him to William Weston, who had been presented to the living by Sheen Priory in 1534, (fn. 76) or to a member of his family. In 1576 Nicholas Weston presented the third Weston to hold the living. (fn. 77) John Bale had presented, perhaps for one turn only, in 1560, (fn. 78) and in 1590 the advowson was warranted to him by Thomas Weston. (fn. 79) Thereafter the advowson descended with the manor, although the Crown presented in 1626, 1628, 1682, and 1684, and Sir Francis North in 1676. (fn. 80) The advowson remained in 1957 in the possession of Sir Geoffrey Palmer, 12th Bt., who presents alternately with the Church of England Trust to the combined livings of Carlton Curlieu and Shangton. (fn. 81)
The rectory was valued at 12 marks in 1217, 15 in 1254, and 26 in 1291. (fn. 82) In 1535 the gross value was £22, and the net value £18 5s. 7¼d. (fn. 83) In 1650 it was valued at £70 and at £420 in 1831. (fn. 84) The church was paying a pension of 4 marks yearly to the abbey by 1220, (fn. 85) and was still paying it in 1535. (fn. 86) The tithes were commuted in 1850 for £43 10s., payable to the rector. (fn. 87)
The glebe was reallotted after the inclosure. In 1637 a survey stated that the glebe consisted of a close of meadow, half of another close called the Long Old Field (100 a.), another close held by Hugh Weston, clerk (30 a.), and 2 closes called Astells Closes (25 a.). These lands had been conveyed by deed to the rector and his successors and acknowledged by fine and recovery by Sir John Bale and other freeholders. (fn. 88) This allotment may have been made as a result of complaints in 1633–4 that the glebe had been swallowed up by the inclosure, (fn. 89) although the glebe terrier of 1601 refers to the glebe 'as it is now inclosed and plotted out within the field of Carlton'. (fn. 90) The glebe had been reduced to 96 a. by 1846. (fn. 91)
The old Rectory stood by the churchyard and was finally demolished by the Revd. T. Thorp (d. 1846), Rector of Burton Overy and of Carlton Curlieu, 1819–46, who built the south part of the present Rectory to the west of the church. The new house was completed in 1846 by his successor, the Revd. C. M. Hesilrige, at his own expense (£1,000). (fn. 92) It is a square two-storied brick house.
The church of ST. MARY THE VIRGIN consists of west tower, nave, chancel, south porch, and combined vestry and organ chamber. Of the 12thcentury church only the lower stages of the tower remain. The belfry stage was added in 1686, and in 1767 the chancel and nave were rebuilt by Sir John Palmer and his sister Catharine. (fn. 93) The vestry dates from 1880–1 when the rest of the church was thoroughly restored.
The two lower stages of the tower, divided by a stone string, date from the 12th century and are built of roughly-coursed mixed rubble, with limestone quoins. There are no buttresses. In the west wall of the lowest stage is a round-headed window and there is a similar very small window in the stage above. Internally the semi-circular tower arch of three orders is enriched with chevron ornament and is supported on scalloped capitals below which the shafts are missing.
There is no record of the appearance of the main body of the early church, but it is known that before its rebuilding in the 18th century it contained a north aisle with a small chapel at its east end. (fn. 94) In 1510 the building was apparently in good condition, the only complaint being that there was no font cover. (fn. 95) In 1639 minor repairs were needed. (fn. 96) In 1686 (fn. 97) Geoffrey Palmer restored the church and added the belfry stage to the tower. This is of limestone ashlar and is surmounted by a plain parapet with ball finials at the angles and a commemorative inscription on its north side. On each face is a round-headed window with curious stone tracery consisting of a flattened circle above two round-headed lights. These windows are similar to those in the church of St. Mary in Arden (Great Bowden parish), which was designed in 1692 by Henry Dormer, (fn. 98) and it is probable that the same architect was employed here.
The old church, with the exception of the tower and north chapel, was demolished in 1767. The rebuilding was carried out in red brick with stone buttresses and dressings, and was in an 18th-century version of the Gothic style. (fn. 99) There is no structural division between nave and chancel, the former being of three and the latter of two bays. The pointed windows in the north and south walls are of two lights, the spandrels between the pointed heads of the lights being pierced by circular openings. The design of these windows dates from 1767, (fn. 100) but the stonework may have been renewed in 1880. The tracery of the east window, which contains 19thcentury stained glass, is of the interlacing type.
In 1880–1 the building was restored, re-roofed, and refitted internally by Sir Geoffrey Palmer. At the same time the north chapel was rebuilt as a vestry and organ chamber. (fn. 101) This structure, which contains the early-17th-century tomb of John Bale, is of ironstone and limestone ashlar, the windows being copied from those already in the church. In the north window are shields of arms of the Palmer family, the 18th-century glass having been transferred from the chancel. (fn. 102) The south porch, which is of timber on a brick base, dates from the late 19th century.
The simple oak reredos with enriched panel mouldings may represent the remains of an altarpiece which was supplied by John Westley of Leicester c. 1767, (fn. 103) but which has now disappeared. The painted royal arms above the tower arch probably date from soon after 1776, in which year these, together with the Creed and Lord's Prayer boards, were stated to be missing. (fn. 104) The other fittings, including the pulpit, pews, and circular stone font, date from 1880–1.
The fine alabaster monument in the vestry bears the recumbent effigies of John Bale (d. 1622) and his wife Frances (d. 1624) (fn. 105) with the standing figures of their children carved in relief behind them. The base has shields of arms and inscribed panels. Also in the vestry are wall tablets to members of the Palmer family (1840–1905). An altar tomb sur mounted by an obelisk and inscribed to the Revd. William Fenwicke (d. 1733) stands outside the north wall of the vestry.
There are three bells, all dated 1732. (fn. 106) The plate consists of a cup and paten of 1686, given by Frances Grantham, daughter of Sir George Wentworth of Wolley (Yorks.), whose daughter married into the Palmer family. (fn. 107) The registers date from 1749 and are complete.
There was no school at Carlton Curlieu in 1833. (fn. 108) The school at Illston on the Hill, erected in 1848 and closed in 1947, was intended to accommodate children from Carlton Curlieu. (fn. 109) Since 1947 the latter have attended school at Church Langton.