A History of the County of Leicester: Volume 4, the City of Leicester. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1958.
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Humberstone lies 2½ miles north-east from Leicester and was formerly an ancient and civil parish in East Goscote hundred and Billesdon union. In 1892 445 acres of the parish were taken into the borough of Leicester as West Humberstone civil parish. This new civil parish was dissolved in 1896 and absorbed in Leicester civil parish. The remainder of Humberstone (1174 a.) was transferred to Leicester in 1935. (fn. 1) The old village stands on an island of glacial sands and gravels in the Boulder Clay to the north-east of Leicester. (fn. 2) The British Railways (Midland) line runs to the west and the line from Leicester to Melton Mowbray runs through New Humberstone to the south. There is a station on this line at New Humberstone.
Little of the old village remains. Of the two manorhouses only Humberstone Manor at the west end of the village survives. It dates mainly from the 17th century, although parts of the building may be older. This house now forms part of the Towers Hospital, as does the early-17th-century barn, reputed locally to be a tithe barn. (fn. 3) The barn is built of brick and is a fine building of ten bays with a slate roof. It was restored in 1954. (fn. 4) The other manor-house is probably represented by the homestead site in what used to be known as Swan's Orchard, a little to the east of the church in Steins Lane. Excavation of this site was carried out in 1955 for the Ministry of Works and revealed traces of a 13th-century building and of Tudor cottages.
Of the other houses in the village, Humberstone Lodge, on the north side of Main Street, is a late18th-century house of three stories. The Grange, on the south side of the street, is a smaller house of the same date and style, although substantially altered. No. 106 Main Street is the single cottage of any interest; it is of brick with a timber and thatched porch and thatched roof.
The name of the parish is possibly derived from 'Hunbeorht's stone'. A stone called the 'Humber' stone stands near Thurmaston Lane in the parish and is the object of a certain amount of legend and tradition as a supposed sacred site. (fn. 5)
In 1086 Hugh de Grentemesnil held 9 carucates of land and 12 acres of meadow in HUMBERSTONE as socland of his manor of Earl Shilton. (fn. 6) Although the Earl of Leicester is not returned as the owner of Humberstone in the Leicestershire Survey of c. 1130, it seems very probable that the manor did descend from Hugh to the earls of Leicester since between 1190 and 1204 the Earl of Leicester confirmed a grant of property at Humberstone made by Hugh to St. Evroul Abbey. (fn. 7) Humberstone belonged to Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, at his death in 1296 and passed to the Crown with the rest of the Duchy of Lancaster in 1399. (fn. 8)
In c. 1130 three men were returned as holding land in Humberstone, Roger de Ramis, who held 8 carucates, Walter de Musters, who held 1, and Ralph de Martival, who held 3. (fn. 9) It seems likely that they were the Earl of Leicester's tenants in demesne. The holdings of Walter and Roger cannot be traced subsequently. Later in the 12th century land in Humberstone was held by John Humet, who made grants to Croxton Abbey and Leicester Abbey. (fn. 10) John Humet's grant to Croxton was confirmed by Richard de Grey, (fn. 11) the owner of Evington manor, who had married Humet's daughter, Lucy, and a small quantity of land in Humberstone continued to be held as part of the manor of Evington. (fn. 12) Farnham suggested that the Grey family were the mesne lords of the manor called Hotoft's manor, and although there is no direct evidence of this, in 1376 John de Grey claimed the marriage and wardship of one of the Hotoft heirs. (fn. 13)
Two manors held in demesne from the Duchy of Lancaster existed in Humberstone from at least the beginning of the 14th century, although the date of their separation is not clear. The first, called HOTOFT'S MANOR, was returned as the property of Robert Hotoft in 1316. (fn. 14) An earlier Robert Hotoft had held land in the parish some time before 1288. (fn. 15) This manor descended in the same family until it was sold between 1475 and 1485 to Thomas Keble. (fn. 16) He was a wealthy sergeant-at-law, descended through his mother from Richard (d. 1451), the last male Hotoft, and he had already purchased a considerable estate for himself in the county before his purchase of Humberstone. His brother John (d.1485) also held land in the parish (fn. 17) and his son Walter acquired Hesilrige's manor from Thomas Hesilrige in 1519. (fn. 18)
The holding later known as HESILRIGE'S MANOR was the property in 1316 of Roger de Martival, the descendant of the Ralph de Martival of the Leicestershire Survey. (fn. 19) From the Martivals the manor descended to Robert de Saddington, who was Chancellor 1343–5, through his marriage with the Martival heiress, Joyce, probably the daughter of Anketil de Martival. (fn. 20) Saddington's great-granddaughter, Isabel Heron, married Thomas Hesilrige of Fawdon (Northumb.), and Noseley and the manor of Humberstone thus passed into the hands of the family from whom it came to be named. (fn. 21) In 1519 Thomas Hesilrige sold it to Walter Keble and from that time both manors descend together. They were confiscated for a time because of the recusancy of Henry Keble's wife Jane, and were sold to Sir Henry Hastings in 1614 by Margaret Bowes, the daughter and heir of Henry Keble. (fn. 22) The Hastings family retained the manors until 1687, in spite of the heavy fines imposed upon them for their support of Charles I. (fn. 23) Shortly before his death in 1697, Henry Hastings sold the Humberstone manors to Thomas Sutton, a Londoner (fn. 24) who was connected with an old Humberstone family, the Bales, which had formerly held land there. (fn. 25) In 1755 Thomas Sutton's son, another Thomas, sold the manors, which still bore their old names, to William Pochin, M.P., of Barkby Hall, (fn. 26) whose descendants are still the principal landowners.
The house known as the Manor House was sold by Mr. V. R. Pochin in 1933 to the tenant, Mr. Stafford Fox, together with a plot of 2 acres of grass-land, known as the Cunnery, which marks the site of the former fishponds and which is mentioned in the inclosure award as an ancient close. (fn. 27) This estate was sold to the Leicester Corporation in the same year (fn. 28) and since 1948 has formed part of the land attached to the Towers Hospital. It is not clear to which of the manors this house was attached.
There were four open fields in Humberstone, South, Middle, North, and Mill fields. (fn. 29) The glebe terrier of 1601 names Stayne and North meadows, but by 1788 the names of these meadows were Marston and South meadows; there were also in 1788 two cow pastures. (fn. 30) Little early inclosure took place. In 1607 it was reported that the house of a husbandman was in decay and the vicar, Thomas Wilson, was said to have seized the land belonging to another. (fn. 31) In 1788 only eight existing closes are mentioned. The designations of occupations given in the parish registers indicate a community of small farmers, husbandmen, yeomen, and labourers.
The parish was inclosed in 1788 and in addition to the lord of the manor, the impropriator, and the vicar, 17 freeholders received allotments under the award. Of these 17, 8 received less than 5 acres and one other less than 10 acres. A schedule of tithe payments on house sites and gardens is appended to the parish copy of the award. (fn. 32) This list contains the names of 11 owner-occupiers, 19 occupiers who did not own their houses, and 7 owners who did not occupy their houses: none of these names, except that of the vicar, appears in the award. Some families appear constantly in the parish register from the middle of the 16th century to the 19th, but of the proprietors of 1788, only nine belonged to families of long standing in the village. Of these, the name Hawes first appears in the register for the year 1558. Several members of the family held the office of churchwarden in the early 17th century and the family holding is referred to in the glebe terrier of 1601. (fn. 33) Entries relating to the Bright family occur in the registers from 1562 onwards. Two members of the family paid subsidy in 1628 (fn. 34) and Thomas Bright paid tax on one hearth in 1670. (fn. 35) The Bright allotment in 1788 was seven acres. The first mention of the name Norman in the register is in 1659: the alternative name for Thurnby Road in the inclosure award is Norman's Lane. Two members of the family received small allotments (8a., 2a.) in 1788. The family of Hartopp, represented in the award by E. Hartopp Wigley, the impropriator, had lived in the village since the end of the 17th century.
About five-sevenths of the land allotted in 1788 went to half the landowners, the bulk to Marmaduke Tomline, William Pochin, E. Hartopp Wigley, Thomas Allsopp, William Tailby, and John Dudley, in that order. More than a third was allotted to nonresidents, Pochin, Allsopp, and Tomline. The rest was divided into the small allotments of the husbandmen. No great changes in land ownership followed the inclosure. One small owner had disappeared by 1792 and another by 1797. (fn. 36) By 1805 the greatest single landowner, Tomline, had disposed of his property to William Haseldine, but in 1821 fourteen owners named in the award still appear, and ten were still there in 1832. From 1816 Thomas Paget, the Leicester banker, began to buy land in the parish, where he already lived and where his son John had been born in 1811. (fn. 37) By 1829 he was a very considerable landowner. In 1922 the three principal owners were still called Pochin, Paget, and Hartopp. (fn. 38)
Humberstone seems always to have been a fairsized village. Twenty-five persons paid hearth tax in 1670 and a further 23 were excused as poor. (fn. 39) Fortyeight paid tithe at the time of the inclosure. (fn. 40) Thereafter the number of inhabitants increased sharply as Humberstone became a centre for framework-knitting and gradually a suburb of Leicester. Framework-knitters and hosiers are not mentioned in the parish registers until 1782, except for the baptism of a hosier's child in 1703, but we know from other sources that they were there from the early years of the 18th century. (fn. 41) Between 1812 and 1833 22 different names of framework-knitters appear and in three of these families a second generation was living in the parish and carrying on the same occupation; some of the second generation, on the other hand, had moved into Leicester and some were beginning to be termed 'operatives' or 'hosiery hands'.
In 1821 the population was 415. This figure more than doubled during the next 40 years. (fn. 42) The borough lunatic asylum, now known as the Towers Hospital, was opened in 1869. (fn. 43) New Humberstone, first men tioned in the parish registers in 1880, comprised that part of the parish which bordered on the borough. Leicester tradespeople and manufacturers were building their houses there, especially along Overton Road and Victoria Road. When the parish was divided in 1892 the depleted village outside the borough, with a population of only 365, still retained the marks of a true rural community. Though there ceased to be a miller in Humberstone between 1855 and 1863 (fn. 44) and though the last mention of the village cabinet-maker is in 1849, (fn. 45) the Humberstone of 1895 still had its own carpenter, blacksmith, bootmaker, and maltster. (fn. 46) The building up of the village of Humberstone was completed in the 1930's, though there is still some agricultural land to the north of the old village.
The organization of the parish of Humberstone presents no singular features. The village had its own workhouse by 1776. (fn. 47) No parish records dealing with civil affairs survive from the days before Humberstone was placed in the Billesdon union under the new Poor Law. (fn. 48)
No church is mentioned in Humberstone until the early 13th century, when the advowson was held by Leicester Abbey, to whom it had been granted by Ernald de Bosco and Jordan Humet, (fn. 49) either of whom may have been responsible for its foundation. In 1217 the living was worth £5. (fn. 50) In 1329 the abbey received a licence to appropriate the church although this was not done until about 1351. (fn. 51) Before the appropriation the rector gave half a mark yearly to the abbey, and the monks of St. Evroul in France had two-thirds of the tithes of corn from two halls and one virgate under a grant of Hugh de Grentemesnil. (fn. 52) The abbey continued to present to the vicarage until the Dissolution, when the rectory and advowson passed to the Crown. In 1254 the vicarage was valued at £15 and at £24 6s. 8d. in 1291, but in 1535 it was valued at £8 net. (fn. 53) In 1582 Sir Christopher Hatton sold the advowson and rectory, which had been granted to him in the same year by the queen, to John Chippendale, D.C.L., of Humberstone. (fn. 54) The descent of the rectory is obscure after this date, but the rectorial tithes were still attached to the vicarage in 1696, when they were granted to William Noble. (fn. 55) In 1788 the lay impropriator was Edward Hartopp Wigley, who received two yearly sums of £284 10s. and 8s. 5½d. in lieu of tithes at the inclosure. (fn. 56) John Chippendale's granddaughter passed on the advowson to her husband, Valentine Bale, on their marriage in 1628 and it remained in the Bale family's possession for the next fifty years. After passing through various hands it came into the possession of Isaac Dudley, who presented in 1761 his brother John in succession to their father, Paul Dudley, who had been vicar since 1715. (fn. 57) John was succeeded by his son, another John, a miscellaneous writer of some note, who inherited the advowson and held the living until his death in 1856. (fn. 58) He sold the advowson before 1846 to Halford Adcock, whose son was the curate in charge of the parish. (fn. 59) After passing through the hands of various clerical owners, the advowson came into the possession of the Leicester Diocesan Board of Patronage. (fn. 60)
The living was augmented in 1787 by two grants of £200 each from Queen Anne's Bounty and from Isaac Dudley and a William Stevens. (fn. 61) By the inclosure award 120 acres of glebe were allotted to the vicar, who also received a yearly sum of £110 15s. in lieu of the small tithes and a further 8s. 5½d. in lieu of tithes from a separate 2 acres, probably old inclosure. (fn. 62)
A new church, ST. BARNABAS, New Humberstone, was completed in 1886, from the plans of Joseph Goddard, of the Leicester firm of Goddard and Paget. (fn. 63) The parish was formed in 1887 out of those of Humberstone, Evington, and Belgrave and includes the Towers Hospital. The presentation was originally in the hands of the Bishop of Peterborough, but has since passed to the Bishop of Leicester. (fn. 64)
Two chapels, Swan's chapel and Keble's chapel, are mentioned in 1637. (fn. 65) In 1535 the chaplain of Keble's chapel received a salary of £5 6s. 8d. from money left by Thomas Keble. (fn. 66) Nothing further is known of the foundation or subsequent history of either.
The parish church of ST. MARY consists of nave, chancel, north and south aisles, south porch, vestry, and west tower. Of the original 13th-century church, little remains but the tower and parts of the outer walls, more especially in the chancel. In 1518 the visitation of the Bishop of Lincoln revealed that the image of the patron saint was putrifacta et senex, that there was no bell, that the chancel and the gate of the churchyard were in bad repair, that the rain leaked through the church roof upon the pyx, and that various pieces of church furniture were scattered about the village in private houses. (fn. 67) In 1637 the roof leaked in many places and the east window was broken. The chapels, Keble's chapel and Swan's chapel, needed paving, and it was also complained that 'the Clarke doth not goe'. (fn. 68) Repairs had evidently been carried out before the end of the 17th century: in 1692 the church was reported to be in good condition. (fn. 69) In 1779 the chancel needed repair again and a considerable number of minor matters were brought to the notice of the archdeacon. (fn. 70) Twelve years later it was stated that the church was damp and decayed, with bricks and rubbish inside it and weeds and moss growing out of the walls. (fn. 71) Before 1836 the parapets had all been replaced and the chancel had been reroofed. (fn. 72) In 1857–8 the nave, aisles, and porch were all rebuilt in the style of 13th-century Gothic and the interior of the chancel was refaced with alabaster. (fn. 73) The tower was restored in 1869 (fn. 74) and a complete redecoration took place in 1950.
The rebuilt portions of the church are of ashlar while the chancel is of rubble with worked stone dressings and plain stone parapets to low-pitched, lead-covered roofs. There is a clerestory, lighted on each side by five windows. The tower rises in four stages, diminished at each by weathered offsets and crowned by a broach spire. The tower parapet was originally decorated with quatrefoil panels, of which only the lower parts remain. Below its base moulding there is on the south side a carved frieze with two effigies; on the east side are quatrefoil panels, two decorated with a star and crescent; on the north are grotesque animals, separated by panels each containing a cock; and on the west there is foliated scroll-work. The tower doorway and the windows to the ringing- and bell-chambers are original.
The roofs were rebuilt during the restoration of 1857–8 but a few pieces of 15th-century timber were used. The roof bosses and carvings were gilded in 1950. The font dates from the last century and stands at the west end. The Early English font was destroyed in 1857–8 but was pieced together and, after standing for a short time in a Humberstone garden, was taken in 1911 to Little Dalby Hall. (fn. 75) The six bells were rehung in 1948. The earliest is dated 1620; the rest date from 1628, 1673, and 1743 (the last by T. Eayre). One is undated but was cast by Eayre probably about 1740. The sixth was cast by Taylor of Loughborough and was the gift of T. T. Paget about 1870. (fn. 76)
In the north aisle is a table tomb with an alabaster top, bearing the figure of a man in armour. The marginal inscription is to Richard Hotoft (d. 1547). The tomb was restored in 1852. There are several 18th-century stone slabs in the floor, and one wallmonument. (fn. 77)
The main series of registers dates from 1557, but there are isolated entries from 1552. There is no ancient plate.
Members of the Keble and Bowes family, in which Humberstone manor descended, (fn. 78) were convicted as recusants in the late 16th century and early 17th. (fn. 79) They may have maintained a private chapel. After the departure of the Bowes family in 1614, there was no Roman Catholic chapel until the chapel of St. Joseph, Goodwood Road, was established on the site of a disused farm in 1938, and the buildings were converted to a chapel by voluntary labour. The parish of St. Joseph was created from part of that of Sacred Heart in 1942. (fn. 80) The convent school at Evington Hall, run by a community of the Sisters of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is in this parish. It was opened in 1939, when the school was moved from St. Peter's parish, where it had been established since 1918. (fn. 81)
Anabaptists are mentioned occasionally in the parish registers from the beginning of the 18th century, and in 1712 a Quaker living in the parish was buried in Leicester. (fn. 82) About the same time it was reported that a Quaker and two Anabaptists were living in the parish, and a few years later there were one Presbyterian and one Anabaptist, and Quaker and Presbyterian ministers. (fn. 83) By 1829 a congregation of 20 Wesleyan Methodists had a meeting-house; (fn. 84) their chapel was built in 1841. (fn. 85) A second Wesleyan chapel was built in Overton Road in 1882. (fn. 86) There is a Baptist chapel in the same road (built in 1881). (fn. 87) There are Methodist chapels in Uppingham Road (1925) (fn. 88) and Edgehill Road (1901), (fn. 89) and a Congregational chapel in Abbots Road (1851). (fn. 90)
The National school was built in 1857 by Halford Adcock. Twenty years later it was attended by about 70 pupils. (fn. 91) In 1935 it was transferred to the Leicester Education Committee and is still (1955) an infant and junior school. There was a school board at West Humberstone which built the Bridge Road Board School (1889) and the Overton Road Board School (1881). (fn. 92)
The inclosure award allotted just under an acre of land to the church and the poor in respect of the Town or Church Land. It was leased in 1837 for £3, but nothing further is known of it. The rent of £3 and a further £7 from 1½ acres called the Orchard were divided in 1837 between the upkeep of the church and the poor rates. (fn. 93) The Orchard was sold in 1931. The income from the proceeds, now amounting to £52, is divided between the poor and the church. The land, a triangular patch bounde by Humberstone Drive, Thurmaston Lane and Gipsy Lane, was lately known as the Crow Orchard. (fn. 94)
Two further charities, one of £35 from an unknown donor and one of £20 from Hugh Botham, had been lost for over 40 years before 1837. (fn. 95)