A History of the County of Leicestershire: Volume 5, Gartree Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1964.
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ILLSTON ON THE HILL
Illston on the Hill lies eight miles south-east of Leicester. It was formerly a chapelry divided between Carlton Curlieu and Noseley, with a small part of the area in the ancient parish of King's Norton. (fn. 1) It later became a chapelry of Carlton Curlieu alone. For civil purposes Illston was an independent parish by the end of the 18th century (fn. 2) and probably by the 17th. The parish is 1,363 a. in area and forms a rough triangle of which two sides are marked by roads. The line of the Gartree road divides Illston on its south-west from Carlton Curlieu, and the road between Market Harborough and Melton Mowbray marks the eastern boundary with Noseley. The soil is mainly clay, with patches of gravel, and the land is mainly pasture. The number of inhabitants has not varied greatly since 1086, when 22 persons were enumerated at Illston. (fn. 3) There were 32 taxpayers in 1381. (fn. 4) In 1563 there were 19 households and in 1670 32; there were 93 communicants in 1676. The population rose in the 19th century to a peak of 311 and then fell. It was 169 in 1951. (fn. 5)
The village itself stands on the spur of a hill over 550 ft. high and consists of a single street running south-west from the road between Noseley and Galby. The line of the street is continued northeastwards as a lane which passes Ashlands and joins the road from Market Harborough to Melton Mowbray. The village street comes to an end south of the manor-house and from this point a bridle way leads to Carlton Curlieu Manor on the Gartree road. Illston Manor House is an L-shaped building of late-17th-century origin, having a lower story of ironstone with stone-mullioned windows. In the centre of the south front is a four-centred doorway above which is a tablet carrying the Needham arms with the motto 'In parvo quies'. The string course flanking the tablet is inscribed 'M.H. 1794', (fn. 6) probably representing the date at which the upper part of the house, now rough-cast, was reconstructed. Gate piers of rusticated stone with ball finials are contemporary with the earlier part of the building. At the north-east end of the street, which divides at this point to skirt a triangular piece of ground, are two farms, one of which, Lodge Farm, has buildings partly of ironstone probably dating from c. 1700. Apart from this the village consists entirely of later brick cottages and farm-houses. In particular there is evidence of considerable rebuilding in the later 19th century. The Oddfellows' Hall, built in 1901, was bought for use as a village hall c. 1950. (fn. 7) A terrace of four Council houses was erected in 1951.
On the road from Market Harborough to Melton Mowbray about a mile south-east of the village is a point known as Three Gates, where lanes from Illston, Noseley, and Carlton Curlieu meet. Three Gates Farm, standing west of the road, dates from c. 1830. Further north on the same road, where it is joined by lanes from Rolleston and Noseley, stands New Inn Farm, formerly a coaching inn, the 'Hazlerigg Arms'. (fn. 8) It was built in the 17th century and is of ironstone with a slightly later rear wing of brick. At the south gable-end a large chimney is flanked on the first floor by so-called 'hiding places', accessible only from the loft above. These walled-in embrasures appear to be fairly common in the district, particularly where the flues were originally large ones of timber and plaster construction. The house was re-roofed and the windows were altered in 1898. (fn. 9) A range of early-19th-century brick coachhouses and stables was at one time used as cottages.
On the boundaries of the parish are three isolated country houses. The oldest, Carlton Curlieu Manor, formerly called Illston Grange, (fn. 10) stands on the north side of the Gartree road and was in existence early in the 18th century. Robert Foster, who married a daughter of John Dand of Galby, lived here. (fn. 11) It was evidently rebuilt in 1777 (fn. 12) and remained a working farm until 1900 when it was acquired by Charles F. P. McNeil (fn. 13) who made considerable alterations to the house. In 1958 it was the property of Mr. J. Brankin Frisby. The other two houses were built in the 1860's, principally as hunting boxes. Illston Grange, formerly called Illston New Grange and later Illston Hall, was built for Col. J. W. Baillie, who, until 1895, was Colonel Commanding the Leicestershire Yeomanry. (fn. 14) The house, which was of red brick, was demolished in 1927 after the death of his heir, Lt.-Col. F. D. M. Baillie. (fn. 15) There had originally been a small farm on the site (fn. 16) and the property is once more a farm. The large stable block with its central clock tower has been left standing and is now used as a riding stables. Ashlands, on the northern boundary of the parish, is a stone mansion in the mid-19th-century Tudor style, also having extensive stabling. It was completed in 1867 for Charles Arkwright (d. 1892) (fn. 17) and was later occupied in turn by R. A. Falkner and Miss H. S. Butler. (fn. 18) It is now owned and occupied by Col. Breitmeyer.
Of the 9½ carucates at Illston recorded in 1086 8¾ were held by Hugh de Grentemesnil. (fn. 19) In 1205 an estate at Illston was confiscated from John de Joy, a Norman, and in 1231, after it had been held successively, as part of the bailiwick of the Sheriff of Leicester, by Hugh de Chacombe, Walter de St. Audoen, Nicholas de Nereford, and John de Nereford, it was granted to the priory (later the abbey) of North Creake (Norf.). (fn. 20) Creake Abbey held the larger part of Illston during the Middle Ages, (fn. 21) and it may be presumed that the abbey's estate, described as the manor of ILLSTON in 1507, comprised much of the land held by Hugh de Grentemesnil in the 11th century. All the abbey's property reverted to the Crown in 1507, after all the members of the community had died in an epidemic, and soon afterwards Illston manor was granted through the agency of Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, to her new foundation of Christ's College, Cambridge. (fn. 22) Creake Abbey's farmer in Illston, Thomas Entwhistle, continued as farmer to the college. All the land belonging to the manor appears to have been held from the abbey (and later from the college) by tenants in fee, paying quit-rents. (fn. 23) The college was still receiving rents in the 18th century, (fn. 24) but sold the manor some time after 1738. (fn. 25)
In 1277 Arnold DuBois died seised of land in Illston. (fn. 26) His heirs were, successively, his sons John (d.s.p. 1290) and William (d.s.p. 1313). William's heir was Maud, daughter of his sister Isabel Lovel and wife of William, Lord Zouche of Haringworth (d. 1352). (fn. 27) Another William, Lord Zouche of Haringworth (d. 1396), held the manor of ILLSTON in 1388, on the death of the overlord Henry, Lord Ferrers of Groby. In 1457, on the death of Edward de Grey, Lord Ferrers of Groby, the manor was held by William, Lord Zouche of Haringworth (d. 1462). (fn. 28) A substantial estate, apparently to be identified with this manor, was conveyed in 1526 by Thomas and Elizabeth Borough to John Jenner and Alexander Villiers, with contingent remainder to Thomas and Elizabeth. At that time George and Mary Kingston were tenants of the estate for the life of Mary. (fn. 29) The estate evidently reverted to Thomas and Elizabeth, for in 1574 Richard Borough died seised of the manor of Illston which he had inherited from Thomas and Elizabeth, as in right of Elizabeth. Richard was succeeded by his son John or St. John Borough (fn. 30) who in 1588 sold the manor to Francis Needham. (fn. 31) The manor then passed from father to son, Francis being succeeded in 1614 or 1615 by his son Edward (d. 1617), (fn. 32) his grandson John (d. 1669), and his great-grandson Edward (d. 1691). (fn. 33) This last Edward was succeeded by his youngest son Edward, his two elder sons having predeceased him. The younger Edward, who secured a private Act enabling him to sell part of his estate in order to pay his debts, (fn. 34) died in 1728 and was succeeded, apparently, by his unmarried daughter or daughters: a Miss Needham died in 1758 (fn. 35) in possession of the manor, which thereupon passed to a member of the Dimock family. (fn. 36) Mary Needham, sister of the younger Edward, had married Charles Dimock before 1678. (fn. 37) Between 1758 and 1790 the Dimock family sold the manor to Mary Heard of Billesdon, (fn. 38) from whom it was inherited by Lt.-Col. John King. King died in 1869 and the lordship of the manor descended to his three daughters, who jointly held the manor in 1890. (fn. 39)
A number of smaller estates existed in Illston in the Middle Ages. In 1086 there were 2 bovates belonging to the king's soke of Great Bowden. (fn. 40) At the same date Robert de Buci held half a carucate (fn. 41) which descended with his other property to the Basset family. (fn. 42) In the mid-13th century Ivo le Chamberlain held land in Illston of Ralph le Chamberlain, who in turn held of Ralph Basset of Weldon, and Ralph le Chamberlain held other land there of Ralph Basset of Drayton, who in turn held of Ralph Basset of Weldon. (fn. 43) Ralph Basset of Drayton died in 1341 holding land in Illston in chief, with Ralph Chamberlain as under-tenant. (fn. 44)
In 1220 the abbey of Croxton Kerrial granted 6 virgates in Illston to Henry de Segrave and his wife Iseult, to be held of the abbot, in exchange for land in Eaton. (fn. 45) The grant was confirmed in 1281. (fn. 46) In 1279 the estate in Illston was held of the abbot by the heirs of Christine de Malure, daughter of Henry and Iseult. (fn. 47)
William de Beauchamp held, c. 1240, 1/5 knight's fee in Illston, which was held of him by the heir of John de Newton. (fn. 48) In 1315 Guy de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, held 2 carucates there, held of him by Hugh of Dalby, and ¼ knight's fee, held of him by William, son of John le Lord. (fn. 49)
In 1755 Sir Arthur Hazlerigg, of Noseley, bought an estate in Illston, (fn. 52) where, it seems, he already held land allotted in lieu of tithe. (fn. 53) In 1788 he was one of the two principal landowners there, (fn. 54) and in 1928 his descendant, Sir Arthur Grey Hazlerigg, owned the largest estate in Illston. (fn. 55)
In 1086 Hugh de Grentemesnil's holding, 8¾ carucates, was reckoned to be sufficient for 6 ploughs; no demesne was recorded, and Hugh's tenants (13 socmen, 1 villein, and 2 bordars) had 4 ploughs. The holding, which included 20 a. of meadow, was said to have been worth 20s. in 1066 and 30s. in 1086. (fn. 56) Robert de Buci's holding, half a carucate, supported one plough with a socman and 2 bordars, and included 2 a. of meadow. It was said to have been worth 2s. in 1066 and 5s. in 1086. (fn. 57)
The proportion of free tenants to villeins and cottagers remained high: in 1381 there were 18 free tenants, 9 tenants at will, and 5 cottagers. (fn. 58) There is no evidence of any medieval demesne farming. Up to the 16th century a traditional open-field husbandry was practised: in 1507 on Creake Abbey's estate there were 20 virgates of arable and only 20 a. of meadow and pasture. (fn. 59) A certain amount of land was converted to pasture during the 16th century; deeds of the late 16th and early 17th centuries in which the figures given are clearly not arbitrary show that there was at least half as much pasture as arable in a normal holding. (fn. 60) Some inclosure took place c. 1614, (fn. 61) and by 1663 much of the Needhams' land had been inclosed. (fn. 62) It is not clear whether any open-field land survived, but further inclosure took place in 1788. (fn. 63) In 1801 there were 174½ a. of arable land in the parish, (fn. 64) and this amount rose only a little in the 19th century. (fn. 65) The conversion from arable to pasture was apparently accompanied by a reduction in the number of separate farms, and by 1848 there were only 8 farmers and graziers at Illston. (fn. 66) In 1928 there were 11 residents described as farmer or grazier, of whom 3 farmed over 150 a. (fn. 67)
No parish records earlier than the 19th century have survived. There was apparently no workhouse, and in 1802–330 adults and 34 children received regular out-door relief. (fn. 70) In the surviving vestry minute book there are accounts of the fortnightly meetings of the select vestry which consisted of 5 or 6 members between 1822 and 1826. (fn. 71) The select vestry appears to have been established under the Sturges Bourne Act of 1819: the select vestry administered the poor law, and the open vestry, at its annual meetings, levied a rate, elected churchwardens, and examined the accounts. In 1836 Illston was included in the Billesdon Union. (fn. 72)
In 1220 Illston chapel belonged half to Noseley and half to Carlton Curlieu. In alternate years each of the parish churches served the chapel, on three days a week. (fn. 73) It is likely that this arrangement persisted throughout the Middle Ages. In the 16th century the rectors of the two parish churches shared the tithes equally. On inclosure c. 1614 it was arranged that Sir Thomas Hazlerigg, as lay rector of Noseley, should be allotted 1/20 of all freehold land in Illston in place of tithes, and that the Rector of Carlton Curlieu should receive 20s. a year from each yardland. In 1667 a dispute about tithe was ended by the decision that the land allotted to Hazlerigg for tithes owed the modus to the Rector of Carlton Curlieu, but the problem of how the chapelry was to be served was shelved. (fn. 74) The chapel was still being served from the two parish churches jointly at the beginning of the 18th century, but by 1763 it had become the responsibility of Carlton Curlieu alone. (fn. 75) The rectors of Carlton Curlieu (since 1940, of Carlton Curlieu and Shangton) have since then served the cure, and no evidence has been found that Illston was ever served by a curate of its own. The tithes of Illston were commuted in 1848 for £100 payable to the Rector of Carlton Curlieu and £101 payable to Sir Arthur Grey Hazlerigg and other landowners as impropriators. (fn. 76)
In 1549 land with which an obit in Illston church had been endowed was granted to Edward Pease and William Winlove. (fn. 77) In 1593 a disputed tenement in Illston was alleged to have been given for an obit in the church. (fn. 78)
The chapel of ST. MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS stands to the west of the village street and consists of chancel, clerestoried nave, south aisle, south porch, and west tower. The oldest surviving features are of the late 13th century but the font may have belonged to an earlier building. The font has a round bowl with traces of incised interlacing circles and a triangular stem with angle shafts terminating in carved masks. The tower is of three stages, the belfry stage having paired lancets of the late 13th century. The chancel is of the same date or a little later. The windows have Geometrical tracery mostly renewed, and attached shafts to the internal jambs. The moulded arches of the piscina and sedilia are supported on similar shafts. The chancel arch and the south arcade of three bays are probably of the 14th century, but the outer walls of the south aisle appear to have been rebuilt a century later when Perpendicular windows were inserted. The south porch was originally of the same date. In the late 15th or early 16th century the nave walls were raised and a clerestory added. The line of the earlier roof is visible above the tower arch. At the same time two tall transomed windows were inserted in the lower part of the north wall. The head of one of these contains a device in contemporary stained glass and in the 18th century the remains of a similar device existed in the other window. (fn. 79) In the thickness of the wall to the east of the windows is a rood-loft stair having square-headed openings at both levels.
The earliest report on the condition of the fabric is of 1776. In this year whitewashing, cleaning, a new north door, and a new gate to the porch were needed. (fn. 80) A churchwarden's inscription of 1777, formerly visible inside the west end of the church, (fn. 81) probably signified the execution of the necessary repairs. A report of 1795 gives an impression of general shabbiness: stonework was decayed and the west end of the tower needed underpinning. (fn. 82) The re-facing of the lower part of the tower and the insertion of a west doorway (fn. 83) may have followed this report. The church was re-pewed c. 1800 and by 1832 the condition of the fabric was held to be good. (fn. 84) The building was restored by Goddards of Leicester in 1866–7 when the whole church was re-roofed, a castellated parapet was added to the tower, and the south porch appears to have been rebuilt. (fn. 85) In 1902 further alterations were made, including the installation of an organ in memory of E. F. Baillie and the renewal of several windows. (fn. 86) The opening of the north chancel window, which had been blocked, (fn. 87) is probably of this date.
The church contains large painted boards, now in the aisle, bearing the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, the Ten Commandments, and a list of local charities. The royal arms are of 1777. The pulpit and seating apparently date from the restoration of 1866–7. In the churchyard are the base and part of the shaft of a medieval stone cross.
At the end of the 18th century the church contained numerous memorials to members of the Needham family, dating from between 1617 and 1758, (fn. 88) many of which have now disappeared. In particular there was a handsome wall tablet to Elizabeth (d. 1639), wife of John Needham, bearing the figures of herself, her husband, and their 6 children. There was also an early alabaster floor slab in the nave, much worn. Memorials still in the church include slabs to John and Elizabeth Needham (d. 1689 and 1639 respectively), to John Needham (d. 1689), and to Elizabeth, daughter of Edward Needham (d. 1758). There are mural tablets in memory of Mary, wife of Edward Needham (d. 1732), and of Henrietta Sophia Butler of Ashlands (d. 1935). Stained glass in the east window by Clayton & Bell is in memory of Mary, wife of John King of Stretton Hall, and that in the south chancel windows by Kempe (fn. 89) (1901) in memory of E. F. Baillie.
There are six bells: (i) and (ii) c. 1600; (iii) 1641; (iv), (v), and (vi) 1946, as a thanksgiving for victory in the Second World War. In 1932 the first three were re-hung and no. (ii) was recast. (fn. 90) The plate consists of a cup and paten of 1758 and a dish and flagon of 1759, all given by Sir Arthur Hazlerigg in 1759 and still in 1958 kept in their original oak box. (fn. 91) The registers date from 1653 with a gap in the entries of marriages from 1751 to 1756.
Thomas Sampson, an Oxford graduate, made his subscription as a schoolmaster at Illston in 1628 and 1629. (fn. 92)
Illston school was erected in 1848 to accommodate children from both Carlton Curlieu and Illston. It received its first parliamentary grant in 1874 when the average number of children attending was 37. (fn. 93) By 1878 average attendance had risen to 84, (fn. 94) but by 1910 had fallen to 20, and in 1911, to fill the places at Illston, the county council prevented children from attending the overcrowded school at Burton Overy. (fn. 95) In 1933 the average attendance was 32, but the number gradually decreased until, when the school was closed in 1947, there were only 3 pupils. (fn. 96) From 1937 the senior children had been going to school at Church Langton. (fn. 97) The former school is a whitewashed building with pointed windows, carrying the date 1848 on its gabled porch. It has now (1958) been converted into a cottage.
In 1800 Mary Heard, by will proved 1803, left £600 for the poor of the parishes of Newtown Linford, Anstey, and Illston. The money was invested and the interest distributed in equal shares between the three parishes. (fn. 98) In 1934 Illston's share of this gift was represented by £347 stock yielding £8 13s. 8d. (fn. 99) At an unknown date before 1818 Catherine Palmer left £100 for the poor of Illston. (fn. 100) In 1934 this gift was represented by £133 6s. 8d. stock yielding £3 6s. 8d. (fn. 101)