A History of the County of Leicestershire: Volume 5, Gartree Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1964.
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The ancient parish of Theddingworth is over 2,700 a. in area, including the hamlet of Hothorpe in Northamptonshire. It lies on either side of the headwaters of the River Welland about five miles west of Market Harborough, spanning the valley between the Laughton Hills in the north and the Hothorpe Hills in the south. The river forms the county boundary. This article deals with the Leicestershire portion on the north side of the river—the present civil parish—which is 1,627 a. in area, and with Hothorpe Hall which has been closely connected with the history of Theddingworth. Other aspects of the history of Hothorpe are reserved for treatment with Marston Trussell (Northants.), in which civil parish it lies.
The village of Theddingworth, which is on the main road from Market Harborough to Lutterworth, stands close to the river along the crest of a small hill, an outlier of Lower Lias rocks, separated from the Middle Lias of the Laughton Hills to the north by a small stream which flows eastwards to meet the river near the eastern boundary of the parish. Hothorpe Hall, with its lodge and outbuildings, is all that remains of the hamlet of Hothorpe. It stands on rising ground on the south side of the river. The Leicester branch of the Grand Union Canal, which runs through the north of the parish close to the Laughton Hills, was opened in 1814. (fn. 1) The railway from Rugby to Market Harborough, opened in 1850, (fn. 2) runs parallel with the Lutterworth road, about 400–500 yds. to the north of it; Theddingworth station was opened before 1855. (fn. 3) A road from the village to Mowsley runs north-westwards over both railway and canal, while a lane branching from it leads to the station and continues as a track towards Laughton. A minor road leading to Gumley leaves the main road to the east of Theddingworth. The present road to Sibbertoft (Northants.), running south-eastwards from the centre of the village and crossing the Welland north of Hothorpe Hall, was constructed in 1830–1 (see below).
Theddingworth village consists mainly of houses strung out along about 900 yds. of the HarboroughLutterworth road, the ground falling away on all sides. The parish church, with the former Vicarage to the south of it, stands on the south side of the main road. The Crown Inn, the only remaining public house in Theddingworth and one of three listed in 1846, stands north-east of the church. (fn. 4) The village school is on the corner of the Sibbertoft road. There are a few buildings at the upper end of Station Road, which forms part of a loop lane rejoining the main road near the west end of the village. Most of the houses are of red brick with slate roofs and many date from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. There are two timber-framed cottages in Station Road, both probably of 17th-century origin. The larger, near the main road, is a thatched building of three bays with plastered walls. An addition to the north was formerly a butcher's shop and there is a small thatched outbuilding with mud walls in the yard. A brick wall between this house and the main road carries a reset date tablet of 1730. The smaller timber-framed cottage, probably part of a longer building, stands further north and has curved principal rafters exposed at one gable-end. A low-built brick house opposite the end of Station Road probably dates from c. 1700; it is of three bays and has end walls of mud and stone. Another house of the same period, near the west end of the village, is now known as Spencerdene. In 1837 it still had a projecting timber porch of two stories and was then a public house. (fn. 5) Manor Farm, immediately east of the church, is a mid-18th-century building with later alterations. Home Farm to the west of the church is a two-storied brick house of c. 1780, with coved eaves, sunk panels above the first floor windows, and a pedimented doorway with a fanlight. To the west of the Station Road turning a large early-19th-century house is set back behind a walled garden, said at one time to have been open to the road as a small green. This house, known as The Beeches, was the home of John Smeeton, a Congregationalist, who built the Smeeton Institute nearby in 1893 as a memorial to his son, S. P. Smeeton (d. 1889). (fn. 6) The institute is a single-storied building in the Tudor style and contains a reading room and a billiard room. The graveyard of the Congregational chapel (fn. 7) lies between the institute and The Beeches. On the road to Sibbertoft there is a block of six back-to-back three-storied cottages, three facing the road and three facing a court at the rear. The walls are of pebbles or 'duckies' with brick dressings. (fn. 8) At a lower level a range of water closets formerly had a primitive automatic flushing system, operated by waste water from the cottages. (fn. 9) A row of four cottages in Station Road, built by Earl Spencer in 1851, (fn. 10) were converted into two dwellings after the Second World War. At the west end of the village a more pretentious range of five houses, known as The Bank, was erected by Earl Spencer in 1860–1. (fn. 11) The fronts have blue-brick decoration and the end houses are treated as cross-wings with front gables and buttresses. A group of Council houses was built in a cul-de-sac on the eastern outskirts of the village between 1948 and 1953.
There are three outlying farms in the parish. Theddingworth Lodge, which stands near the canal, is one of the very few isolated farm-houses in the district which date from before the 19th century. (fn. 12) It has a thatched roof and is a long timber-framed structure of one story with attics above. The north end, of three bays, has a large central stack and probably dates from c. 1625; the south end is a slightly later addition. Internally there are exposed ceiling beams and wide fire-places. Ivy Lodge Farm, due north of the village, dates from the 19th century. Pebble Hall, standing beside the main road at the western boundary of the parish, is of similar construction to the pebble-walled cottages in the village and was built at about the same time. A lean-to addition at the front is of later date.
There were 38 inhabitants of Theddingworth recorded in 1086. Since the 16th century the parish has rarely contained more than 250 people. There were 40 households in 1563 and 205 communicants in 1603. There were 49 households in 1670. (fn. 13) In the early 18th century there were about 70 families. (fn. 14) In 1801 the population was 162, but by 1861 this had risen to 269. Since that date it has declined, particularly between 1881 and 1891 when it fell from 246 to 204. There was a slight increase between 1901 and 1911, but in 1951 the population was only 204. (fn. 15)
The hamlet of Hothorpe had largely disappeared by the middle of the 16th century. A few cottages survived until about 1830 when John Cook of Hothorpe Hall dismantled them and built new houses in Theddingworth for his tenants. (fn. 16) Before this time the road to Sibbertoft left Theddingworth at the west end of the village, opposite where The Bank now stands, and crossed the river by a ford at a point now marked by a footbridge and the remains of a 'folly'. It then passed near the front of Hothorpe Hall where it formed the main street of the hamlet. In 1830–1 John Cook cleared the site and laid out a park round his house. At the same time he constructed the present Sibbertoft road to skirt his grounds on the north-east. (fn. 17) On the river to the north of the house there are indications of a medieval mill site, (fn. 18) with the remains of fishponds nearby.
The first manor-house at Hothorpe of which there is any record appears to have stood nearer the river than the present one. It was a stone building of two stories and attics, having mullioned windows and a principal front of five bays. Two of the bays formed small projecting wings surmounted by gables; the base of one wing served as an entrance porch, the other probably contained the staircase. (fn. 19) The style of the house suggests that it was built c. 1600, possibly by George Bathurst, who died in the middle of the 17th century, but more probably by his predecessor at Hothorpe; both were buried in Theddingworth church where their monuments survive. (fn. 20) Moses Bathurst, George's son, also lived at Hothorpe, (fn. 21) but after the death of his second wife in 1711 the house was let to a family of farmers and graziers called Sims. (fn. 22) In 1788 Henry, Earl Bathurst (d. 1794), sold Hothorpe to William Cook. (fn. 23) John Cook, his son, demolished the old hall c. 1801 and built himself a new house in which he came to live. John's great-nephew Henry Everett sold the estate in 1881 to Sir Humphrey de Trafford. The latter's second son Charles Edmund (d. 1951), to whom it was given, (fn. 24) altered and enlarged the house between 1882 and 1884. (fn. 25) The de Traffords left Hothorpe Hall in 1928 and it was let to tenants until the Second World War. (fn. 26) During the war it was requisitioned for the housing of evacuee children. In 1941 the estate was bought by a timber merchant (fn. 27) and by 1955 the house, which had changed hands again, was about to be sold for demolition. It was then bought by the Lutheran Council of Great Britain for use as a conference centre.
Hothorpe Hall, as it stands at present, consists of the Georgian house built c. 1801 by John Cook, together with the extensions made by C. E. de Trafford in the late 19th century. The original house was an approximately square two-storied brick building with an entrance front of five bays. The central classical porch was of stone and was surmounted by a pediment. (fn. 28) In 1882–4 the house was faced with cement and embellished with Renaissance ornament; plate-glass windows were inserted, a bay window was added to the drawing room, and a service wing to the north was either built or much enlarged. The two-storied octagonal projection on the west front dates from 1895. (fn. 29) Internally several features of mid18th-century character, including a staircase and fire-places, have been introduced. Between 1892 and 1894 a chapel was built in the grounds to the northeast of the house. (fn. 30) The east lodges and most of the outbuildings date from the late 19th century. Since 1955 parts of the stables have been converted into dormitories and a former fishpond has been made into a swimming pool. (fn. 31)
In 1086 there were three separate fees in Theddingworth, as well as part of the sokeland which belonged to the king's manor of Great Bowden. On the last, where in King Edward's time there had been 2 ploughs, William Loveth was the tenantin-chief, (fn. 32) but it is not clear what happened to this holding. The descent of one of the three fees is almost equally obscure. In 1086 Gunduin was holding 2 carucates of the Countess Judith, (fn. 33) and in 1279 2 carucates in Theddingworth were still recognized as part of the honor of Huntingdon held by Dervorguilla de Balliol who had succeeded to the inheritance of the countess. (fn. 34) Alan St. Clare, who in 1346 was assessed for 1/16 knight's fee which he held of the Countess of Pembroke in the honor of Huntingdon, (fn. 35) clearly had some connexion with the descent of this fee, but he was also heir, through his wife, of another fee in Theddingworth, and there may have been some confusion between the two.
The descents of the other two fees are easier to follow. Roger was holding of Earl Hugh of Chester 5 carucates which in King Edward's time had belonged to Earl Harold and which in 1086 were claimed by the king. (fn. 36) Norman was holding 3 carucates which had formerly been held of Earl Aubrey. (fn. 37) There is no evidence to suggest that Roger's fee remained in the honor of Chester for long after 1086. In fact, it appears to have passed into the lordship of the honor of Skipton-in-Craven (Yorks.) by the middle of the 12th century. (fn. 38) Norman's fee seems to have been absorbed into the honor of Leicester. In medieval Theddingworth the most important demesne holdings were those of the Trussell family in the honor of Skipton and those of the Abbot of Leicester and various lay tenants in the honor of Leicester.
Robert de Meulan, Earl of Leicester, granted his land in Theddingworth to Ralph pincerna who before 1150 gave the church there to Alcester Abbey (Warws.). (fn. 39) Probably this was a gift for Ralph's life only, for his son Robert soon afterwards gave it to Leicester Abbey; Leicester appropriated the rectory and retained the advowson until the Dissolution. (fn. 40) In the late 12th century Roger de Camville, in accordance with the wishes of his father Walter, confirmed the gift of 1 carucate and 2 tofts in Theddingworth to Leicester Abbey by William of Kirby Muxloe, which had probably been made before 1156. (fn. 41) The Abbot of Leicester was holding 2 virgates in demesne and 2 virgates in villeinage in 1279, (fn. 42) and he was assessed for 1/8 knight's fee, belonging to the honor of Leicester in Theddingworth, in 1296 on the death of Edmund, Earl of Lancaster. (fn. 43) By the middle of the 15th century the abbey had 4 tenants holding 3½ virgates in villeinage, but the remainder of its property, its grange, and the rectorial tithes were leased to free tenants for money rents. (fn. 44) The rectory was still being leased immediately before the Dissolution. (fn. 45) The principal manor in Theddingworth after the Dissolution was based upon the alienation of the rectory and other former monastic property into lay hands.
The lay tenants of the honor of Leicester had a mesne lord placed between them and the chief lords of the honor. Isabel de Tours was assessed for 1/8 knight's fee in 1296, (fn. 46) and from 1330 until the reign of Henry VII the Wyvilles of Stonton Wyville (fn. 47) were recognized as mesne lords by the officials of the honor, which became part of the Duchy of Lancaster. (fn. 48) The most important demesne tenant in 1279, John de Cranford, held 2 carucates. (fn. 49) Nicholas de Cranford of Ashby Legers (Northants.) was in possession of this holding by 1340, (fn. 50) and his son William was assessed for 1/8 knight's fee in Theddingworth in 1346. (fn. 51) His daughter Juliane was also seised of property in Theddingworth, but by 1347 the family holding appears to have passed to his younger son Robert. (fn. 52) The latter's daughter and heir Emma married John Catesby, (fn. 53) and in 1414 their son Robert Catesby received the seisin of his grandfather's lands in Theddingworth. (fn. 54) In 1467 Robert and his wife Lettice entailed the property on their son William with remainder to their younger son Nicholas. (fn. 55) The Catesby holding may have passed to Roger Wigston (d. 1506), uncle of William Wigston, founder of Wyggeston's Hospital, Leicester. (fn. 56) Roger, who held of John Wyville, was succeeded by his nephew Thomas Wigston (d. 1537), brother of William, who sold the property to Martin Bowes. (fn. 57) It is possible that the estate may have passed by another sale to Sir Ralph Rowlett (d. 1571), who acquired the former possessions of Leicester Abbey.
Outside the honor of Leicester the most important holding belonged to the Trussell family of the neighbouring parish of Marston Trussell (Northants.), who also acquired a fee in Hothorpe. During the 12th century their manor in Theddingworth formed part of the Sanderville fee, held in the honor of Skiptonin-Craven. (fn. 58) It was therefore almost certainly connected with the 5 carucates in Theddingworth held by Roger in 1086. During the reign of Henry II Fulk Trussell was the demesne tenant, and in 1199 his daughter Maud secured recognition of her right to the property from the overlord Robert de Sanderville. (fn. 59) Her right to a knight's fee in Theddingworth was again acknowledged in 1202, (fn. 60) but the extensive subinfeudation which apparently took place during the 13th century makes it difficult to trace the descent of this property. Some parts remained with Maud's direct descendants, the Esseby family of Ashby Legers (Northants.), but others by the early 14th century, either by enfeoffment or reversion, belonged to the male line of the Trussell family.
Maud married twice: first Robert de Esseby, and secondly (before 1208) Wigan de la Mare. Her grandson and heir Robert de Esseby in 1222 recovered seisin of 6 virgates which her second husband claimed had been given to him before their marriage. (fn. 61) Wigan de la Mare was still holding land in Theddingworth in 1252. (fn. 62) Robert de Esseby, Maud's heir, was succeeded by his son William and by two grandsons, both under age. (fn. 63) William, the younger grandson, was outlawed for murder in 1265–6, and the inheritance passed to Joan de Esseby, his mother, and Joan de Bedeworth, who may have been his wife. The two Joans held this fee of the king, as of the honor of Aumale, as part of their dower. (fn. 64) One of them—it is not clear which—married William de Charnells. The latter in 1279 was holding 6 carucates in Theddingworth of the 'Earl of A.' (presumably Aumale), in the right of his wife. (fn. 65) John de Esseby, brother of the William who was outlawed, appears to have enfeoffed Robert de Esseby who married Margaret, the daughter of Roger Imayne of Theddingworth. Robert's daughter Joan married Alan St. Clare who was in possession in 1316. (fn. 66) His right to part of the inheritance of Maud Trussell was disputed in 1323 by William, the great-grandson of Fulk Trussell, Maud's father, (fn. 67) and in 1328 he recovered seisin of ½ virgate claimed by John, son of William Trussell. (fn. 68) Although Alan St. Clare was assessed for 1/16 knight's fee in Theddingworth in 1346, (fn. 69) it is not certain whether the descendants of Maud Trussell made any further claims.
Edmund Trussell, the second son of William Trussell of Marston Trussell, was also assessed for 1/16 knight's fee in Theddingworth in 1346. (fn. 70) A settlement had been made in 1342 by which property in Theddingworth was conveyed to himself and his wife Margery, the daughter of Walter Doseville. Through the latter they also acquired an interest in the manor of Holt and a fee in Hothorpe. (fn. 71) Edmund was succeeded by his grandson Theobald Trussell of Flore (Northants.) who died c. 1368. Theobald's son Sir John Trussell (d. 1439–40) had a male heir, John, by his first wife, and he appears to have been holding property in Theddingworth in 1426. (fn. 72) John died without issue and Sir John's inheritance therefore passed to his second wife Margaret for her life, and to their daughter Philippa. It is not clear how long the interests of the Trussell family survived. In 1510 Thomas Trussell claimed that a third part of the manors of Flore and Hothorpe, which formed part of the settlement belonging to Margaret Trussell, Sir John's widow, should have reverted after her death to the heirs of Sir Alfred Trussell, his greatgrandfather. Philippa, who married twice, appears to have alienated her own share in 1452. (fn. 73) Margaret also seems to have made various alienations under her late husband's seal. (fn. 74)
The manor of THEDDINGWORTH in later times stems from a grant of former monastic property which included the impropriate rectory and the advowson. Sir Ralph Rowlett (d. 1571), who may have acquired the former Catesby holding, (fn. 75) received a grant in 1540 of property in Theddingworth which had formerly belonged to Leicester Abbey and to Sulby Abbey (Northants.). (fn. 76) By 1556 certain lands which had belonged to Catesby Priory (Northants.) had been added to this estate, (fn. 77) which in 1558 was settled upon Margaret, Sir Ralph's second wife. (fn. 78) In 1576 his grandson and heir Sir Henry Goodyere sold it to William Brocas (d. 1601) of Horton Hall (Bucks.). (fn. 79) The latter, by his marriage in 1577 to Elizabeth (d. 1621), the daughter and heir of Thomas Dexter (d. 1574), also acquired the freeholding of the Dexter family in Theddingworth. (fn. 80) William Brocas possessed the advowson and came to live at Theddingworth to farm the impropriate rectory.
This period of village history with a resident manorial lord was short-lived. Brocas left four daughters who divided his inheritance between them. Edward Hazlerigg, who married the third daughter Frances, purchased the portions belonging to the second and fourth daughters, Mary and Susan. (fn. 81) Elizabeth, the eldest daughter, who married Sir Robert Cotton (d. 1631) the antiquary, was still holding 10 yardlands in Theddingworth in 1632. (fn. 82) Edward Hazlerigg was succeeded by his son Bertin and in 1630 by his daughter Frances, the wife of Walter Chetwynd. (fn. 83) In 1632 she sold the estate to John Newdigate of Arbury (Warws.). (fn. 84) The Newdigate family remained in possession until 1714. Sir Richard Newdigate (d. 1678), 1st Bt., succeeded his brother John. In 1714 Sir Richard's grandson, 3rd Bt., immediately after the inclosure of the parish had taken place sold the manor to Dr. Griffith Davies (d. 1722) of Birmingham. (fn. 85) The latter's daughter Elizabeth (d. 1760) in 1736 married Sir Thomas Cave (d. 1778), 5th Bt., of Stanford Hall (Northants.). (fn. 86) In 1744 Sir Thomas and his wife sold the greater part of their property in Theddingworth to Sarah, the Dowager Duchess of Marlborough, only a few months before she died, and this came into the hands of her grandson John Spencer (d. 1746), father of the 1st Earl Spencer (d. 1783). (fn. 87) Sir Thomas reserved for himself and his own heirs the advowson of Theddingworth church. In the late 18th century it was not clear whether this reservation involved the manorial rights, or whether they had passed with the land to the Spencer family. (fn. 88) By 1831, however, the 2nd Earl Spencer (d. 1834) was recognized as lord of the manor. (fn. 89) The 7th Earl was still in possession in 1958.
Little evidence has survived of economic conditions in the Middle Ages, except references to the changes in the ownership of various fees and the records of the lands of Leicester Abbey. In 1086 the tenants of the two principal fees held land in demesne: Norman worked 2 ploughs and Roger one plough. (fn. 90) Their servile tenants and those of Gunduin had another 5½ ploughs, while the 2 socmen and 2 other men on the fee of William Loveth had one plough. (fn. 91) Leicester Abbey was farming its demesne lands in Theddingworth in 1279, (fn. 92) but by the middle of the 14th century these had been leased to the abbey's tenants for money rents. (fn. 93) At the beginning of the 15th century the rectorial tithes of Theddingworth and Hothorpe were still being collected together for the abbey (fn. 94) but by 1477 all the tithes and the 'rectory manse' had been leased for a term of years. (fn. 95) This practice continued until the Dissolution. The farm of the tithes and the lease of the rectory buildings in the 1530's belonged to the Sturges family. (fn. 96) 'Sturgis Close' was still in existence in 1616. (fn. 97) The grant of the abbey's property, which included the impropriate rectory, to laymen in 1540 created the nucleus of the manor of Theddingworth. (fn. 98)
William Brocas (d. 1601), the lord of the manor, was responsible for the first inclosure. He appears to have bought out several other proprietors so that by c. 1576 he owned more than 80 per cent. of the land in the township. About 1582 he came to an agreement with the remaining 7 freeholders to inclose part of his land. About 140 a. were divided into 7 closes and one farm-house was thereby decayed. (fn. 99) A survey of 1691 suggests that by that date no more than 240 a. had been inclosed, and probably less. (fn. 100) The parish remained in three open fields, variously named and spelt: Knannelles or Campshill Field, Gosthill or Gansthill Field, and Saintleys or Sambleyes Field. (fn. 101)
The whole parish was inclosed by an agreement, made in 1713, between the freeholders and the lord of the manor Sir Richard Newdigate. (fn. 102) The latter sold his property a year later. In 1710 arbitrators had been appointed to divide the land between the lord of the manor, the vicar, 9 freeholders, and 3 others. Sir Richard appears to have received at least 65 per cent. of the total area inclosed; 48 a. were allotted to the vicar, and 25 a. to the poor of the parish. The largest allotment after that made to the lord of the manor was 60 a. to Job Cureton (d. 1715), (fn. 103) whose son later moved to Enderby. (fn. 104)
During the 18th century Theddingworth was largely inhabited by yeoman families of graziers who rented their lands. The Sims family occupied Hothorpe Hall. (fn. 105) The Peck family from Fleckney, who also moved to Enderby, had a house here. (fn. 106) In 1670 the largest house in the village belonged to Thomas Peck. (fn. 107) It is probable that Thomas Peck (d. 1756), Clerk of the Peace for Leicestershire, was born at Theddingworth. (fn. 108) John Crick (d. 1730), who was allotted 17 a. in 1713, married the daughter of the Rector of Marston Trussell, and John Crick (d. 1775) married Patience Sims of Hothorpe. (fn. 109) Thomas Crick was still holding 17 a. in 1851, (fn. 110) and a house in Theddingworth was about this time known as 'Crick's Lodge'. (fn. 111)
During the 19th century the pattern of landownership and farming established after inclosure was continued. In 1801 only between 6 and 7 per cent. of the ancient parish was in arable cultivation, and the remainder was chiefly grassland; there were only 90 a. of wheat, barley, and oats in Theddingworth. (fn. 112) The commercial directories throughout the century listed 8–10 graziers in the village. (fn. 113) The 19th-century counterparts of the Sims and Peck families were the Harrises and Smeetons, both of which provided some leading members of the Congregational chapel. (fn. 114) In 1851 at least 40 per cent. of the parish still belonged to Earl Spencer, the lord of the manor, and only 4 other proprietors held more than 100 a. each. (fn. 115) Throsby in 1790 had stated that Charles, Viscount Cullen (d. 1802), was a leading proprietor and Curtis in 1831 named John Nethercote as a landowner. (fn. 116) The latter may have followed Thomas Nethercote at the vicarage house. (fn. 117) By 1846 a little cottage industry existed in the form of weaving silk-plush for the making of hats. (fn. 118)
The hunting season provided considerable employment in the early 20th century. The joint-master of the Fernie Hunt, Cmdr. F. J. Alexander, rented Hothorpe Hall during the 1930's, (fn. 119) and Luke, Baron Annaly, who in 1919 married Earl Spencer's daughter, used 'The Homestead' as a hunting box. (fn. 120) After the Second World War several people found work by travelling to the works of British-Thomson-Houston at Rugby. (fn. 121)
There were 2 mills in 1086, one on each of the two principal fees. (fn. 122) The land on the east side of the new Sibbertoft road in 1830, stretching for a short distance on the Hothorpe side of the river, was still called Mill Close and Mill Holm. (fn. 123)
Throughout the 18th century the parish warden elected at the annual vestry meeting was responsible for raising a rate from the township and for supervising all disbursements from this fund, including the relief of the poor and the maintenance of a workhouse. (fn. 124) A different man was normally elected each year, but from 1809 to 1843 George Harris held the office continuously and presented his accounts alone. After 1843 the accounts were presented in company with the vicar's warden. (fn. 125) Harris also appears to have administered the parochial charities single-handed. George Harris (d. 1873), a prominent Congregationalist who was probably the son of the parish warden, helped with the administration of the charities. When he became vicar in 1873, T. Ellis Everett (d. 1890) began investigations in order to increase the number of people administering parish affairs. (fn. 126)
No relief was given in the workhouse in 1802–3, when 7 adults and 13 children received out-relief. (fn. 127) In 1836 the parish was included in Market Harborough Union. (fn. 128)
Before 1150 Ralph pincerna granted the church of Theddingworth to Alcester Abbey (Warws.). (fn. 129) This was probably a gift for life only, for soon afterwards Ralph's son Robert gave it to Leicester Abbey. (fn. 130) Leicester ordained a vicarage. (fn. 131) The low value of the vicarage has encouraged nonresidence and vicars with private incomes, particularly those fond of hunting. It has been held in plurality by a neighbouring incumbent since 1937. (fn. 132)
The ancient parish of Theddingworth included Hothorpe (Northants.). About 1155 John Maleda, the lord of Hothorpe, confirmed the gift by his tenants of one acre from each virgate to the mother church of Theddingworth for the maintenance of the chapel at Hothorpe. (fn. 133) Nothing more is known about this chapel. It had certainly disappeared from living memory by 1626. (fn. 134)
The advowson of the vicarage belonged to Leicester Abbey until the Dissolution. (fn. 135) It then passed to Sir Ralph Rowlett (d. 1571) who had acquired the impropriate rectory, and from him followed the descent of the manor established by William Brocas (d. 1601). (fn. 136) The Newdigate family, his successors, appear to have alienated the right of presentation for one turn in 1693 to Moses Bathurst (d. 1705) of Hothorpe Hall. (fn. 137) Sir Thomas Cave (d. 1778) succeeded to the manor in 1736 by the right of his wife Elizabeth who had presented to the vicarage in 1723, but when he sold the manor in 1744 he reserved the advowson for his own heirs. The Caves of Stanford continued in possession until c. 1800 when they appear to have sold the advowson to John Cook (d. 1867) of Hothorpe Hall. Cook presented his brother to the living in 1810. (fn. 138) Henry Everett sold the Hothorpe estate in 1881 to Sir Humphrey de Trafford (d. 1886), a Roman Catholic. (fn. 139) The advowson was therefore reserved and later sold by Everett to Henry Merceron (d. 1905) of Tangley, near Andover (Hants). The latter's son F. H. Merceron (d. 1941) presented to the living in 1926, and in 1960 the advowson belonged to J. F. Merceron, of Newbold-on-Avon (Warws.). (fn. 140) Since 1926 all presentations have been made by the bishop through lapse.
In 1291 the annual value of the rectory was £10, from which a pension of 13s. 4d. was paid to the Abbot of Leicester. (fn. 141) In 1535 the gross value was £10. (fn. 142) In 1650 the rectory was valued at £80, but the vicarage was worth only £42 a year 'in the best times'. (fn. 143) In 1713 the vicar was allotted 48 a. of glebe at the inclosure. (fn. 144) In 1831 the profits of the glebe and rent-charges in lieu of tithes amounted to £170 a year, (fn. 145) but by the end of the 19th century the vicarage was considered worth little more than £100 a year. (fn. 146) The vicarage house and barns were always described in late-17th-century glebe terriers (fn. 147) but Throsby in 1790 suggested that Mr. Nethercote's house 'would make a good parsonage house'. (fn. 148) In the absence of resident vicars since 1935, the 18thcentury Vicarage was sold, and in 1961 it was known as 'Tall Trees'. It dates from the late 18th century when it was a simple rectangular building of three stories with a hipped roof. (fn. 149) The principal front faced south and on this side two tall three-sided bays were added early in the following century. Later alterations included the insertion of a wooden balcony between the bays and the building of an east wing.
In 1346 Edmund Trussell endowed a chantry in Theddingworth church with 2 messuages, a virgate of land, and 40s. rent. (fn. 150) A field of 8 a. called Chantry Close belonged to Joseph Hayes (d. 1831) at the beginning of the 19th century. His trustees sold it to John Cook and it was absorbed into the Hothorpe estate. (fn. 151)
The vicars appointed by Leicester Abbey appear to have been resident in Theddingworth, (fn. 152) but soon after the Reformation non-residence was common. The vicar in 1576, Leonard Ward, lived in Oxford, (fn. 153) and in 1619 the vicar's house at Theddingworth was reported to be 'most insufficient'. (fn. 154) All the vicars from 1841 until 1935 were resident. (fn. 155) Thomas James (d. 1863) was responsible for the appeal which enabled the church to be restored in 1857–8, (fn. 156) and both his successors, the Revd. F. H. Sutton (d. 1888), vicar 1864–73, (fn. 157) and T. Ellis Everett (d. 1890), vicar 1873–88, (fn. 158) made further alterations. Thomas Plant, vicar 1913–26, after 1918 also held the vicarage of Lubenham in plurality, but he lived at Theddingworth. (fn. 159) After the resignation of W. G. Merrilees in 1935, the benefice was vacant until 1937 when C. H. Welti, Vicar of North Kilworth, was authorized to hold it in plurality. Similarly in 1954 B. M. Peake, Vicar of Lubenham since 1947, was authorized to hold the benefice of Theddingworth. (fn. 160)
The church of ALL SAINTS, built of ironstone and limestone, consists of chancel, clerestoried nave, north and south aisles terminating in side chapels to the chancel, north and south porches, and west tower with spire. The earliest remaining features are the north arcade, the archway between chancel and north chapel, and the cylindrical font; these date from the 12th century. The north arcade of five bays has round arches of a single order resting on circular piers with square abaci and high 'water-holding' bases. The capitals are all of different design, some scalloped, one having stiff-leaf foliage, and one upright overlapping leaves. The round-headed arch in the north wall of the chancel, which is similar in character to those of the arcade, indicates the existence of a north chapel in the 12th century. It has been suggested that part of the west wall of the north chapel, where it projects beyond the north aisle, and the core of the tower may also be of Norman date. (fn. 161)
The south arcade of four bays is of the early 13th century; it has semi-circular arches of two orders resting on quatrefoil piers with moulded capitals. The easternmost arch extends beyond the west face of the chancel arch, suggesting that, when the arcade was built, it was intended to move the chancel arch further forward. (fn. 162) There are several features in the chancel dating from the later 13th century: the chancel arch itself, a much-restored window in the south wall, and the piscina, of which the base is original. The east window is late 13th century in style but was inserted during the 19th-century restoration of the church. Rubble walling in the external angle between chancel and south chapel is similar to 13th-century walling found elsewhere in the district. (fn. 163)
Both aisles were probably rebuilt in the 14th century. They have moulded plinths of this period and two-light square-headed windows, much renewed, with sunk-chamfered jambs. (fn. 164) The south doorway, with a depressed ogee head and ovolo-moulded jambs, is probably a 17th-century insertion, although this form of arch is sometimes found in work of the 14th century. (fn. 165) The south porch has a semi-circular arch and probably dates from the 18th century. The clerestory is an addition of the late 14th or early 15th century. The windows are of two lights except for the easternmost window on the north side which is circular and has flowing tracery; it may have been used to light the rood. (fn. 166) A rood-loft stair still exists on this side of the chancel arch and the insertion of a rood screen evidently accounts for some defacing of the arch itself.
The tower, of ironstone with limestone dressings, was built in the 15th century and rises in three stages to an embattled parapet. The slender octagonal spire, with two tiers of lights, is of limestone ashlar and has low broaches at its base. There are shallow clasping buttresses up to the belfry stage, which has angle gargoyles and tall two-light openings with transoms. The west window in the lowest stage is similar but has no transom. Internally the tower arch has capitals with typical early Perpendicular mouldings.
The south chapel appears to have been rebuilt in the 15th century. An arch between it and the chancel, if original, is of this date, but its stonework is either modern or much re-tooled. The two windows in the chapel are of Perpendicular character. The north, or Hothorpe, chapel in its present form dates largely from the 16th century. It was formerly partitioned off by wooden screens, both in the Norman opening to the chancel (fn. 167) and in the small arch connecting it with the north aisle. By the end of the 18th century a continuous low-pitched roof covered both the chapel and the north side of the chancel. (fn. 168) The chapel is now used partly as a vestry and contains a Snetzler organ of 1754. (fn. 169)
The church was restored in 1857–8 by G. G. (later Sir Gilbert) Scott. (fn. 170) The whole building was re-roofed and the north porch was built. Other work by Scott includes the sedilia, altar, and reredos; the pulpit is said to have come from Venice. (fn. 171) Two armchairs of c. 1650 remain in the chancel and there are re-used traceried panels and bench-ends of 15thcentury date incorporated in the seating of the nave and aisles. The font had in 1798 a high 'Gothic' wooden canopy; the present elaborate canopy, in a similar style, dates from 1893 and is the work of G. F. Bodley. (fn. 172)
An ancient wooden dug-out chest with iron bindings remains in the north aisle. Nearby hangs a painted charity board of 1785. The tower clock, by Tucker of London, dates from 1871.
Of the two monuments in the Hothorpe chapel, one is a large two-tier alabaster tomb with recumbent figures in late Elizabethan costume. It is said to be, from the arms displayed, the tomb of George Chambre of Petton (sometime owner of Hothorpe Hall) and his wife. (fn. 173) The figures are flanked by Corinthian columns supporting an entablature. Four small figures of children occupy the lower front panel. The other memorial is a mural alabaster monument to George Bathurst (d. 1656) and his wife. It consists of half-length figures each set in front of an oval recess and to the right and left of the inscription are the arms of Bathurst impaling Villiers and Burneby respectively. Kneeling figures of their 13 sons and 4 daughters occupy a lower panel. (fn. 174)
An imposing marble monument in the south chapel is to Griffith Davies, M.D. (d. 1722), and his wife. A large undated monument by R. Hayward filling the west end of the south aisle and portraying the life-size figures of the Revd. Slaughter Clarke (1738– 65) and his widow was erected by the latter in 1772. (fn. 175) Other memorials in the church include a tablet to the Revd. William French Major (d. 1842) by T. Yates of Market Harborough. Stained glass in the chancel east window (1858) is in memory of Thomas and Isabel Lovell; other windows commemorate the Revd. T. James (d. 1863), his wife (d. 1860), and the Revd. T. Ellis Everett (d. 1890).
The churchyard was closed for burials in 1890, except for existing family vaults. (fn. 176) The lych-gate on the north-west side of the churchyard was given by W. S. Sutherland in 1897. (fn. 177) The church plate includes a silver cup and two patens, dated 1720, the gift of Dr. Griffith Davies (d. 1722) in 1722, and a silver flagon, the gift of the Revd. F. H. Sutton, probably in 1866. (fn. 178) Later additions include a flagon of 1915 in memory of W. S. Sutherland. There were three bells in 1790, (fn. 179) four in the 19th century, and a fifth was added in 1873. They are: (i) 1595; (ii) 1615, by Hugh Watts of Leicester; (iii) n.d.; (iv) 1757, by Thomas Eayre of Kettering; (v) 1873, by John Taylor of Loughborough. The third has the shield of Newcombe of Leicester and is of c. 1560. The fifth was recast in 1903 at the expense of W. S. Sutherland and the whole peal was re-hung. (fn. 180) The registers begin in 1635, with a break from 1642 to 1651.
About 1892 Mr. C. E. de Trafford built a Roman Catholic chapel at Hothorpe Hall in memory of his brother Gilbert (d. 1890). (fn. 181) This was in the diocese of Northampton, but Roman Catholics in Theddingworth, particularly tenants and servants of the de Traffords, could attend services there. Theddingworth was in the diocese of Nottingham and served by the chapel of the TurvillePetre family in the neighbouring parish of Husbands Bosworth, (fn. 182) which the de Traffords had attended before 1892. After the de Traffords left Hothorpe in 1928, the chapel was expressly excluded from leases and sales of the estate. It continued in use until 1952 when Miss Hilda de Trafford gave the altar and other fittings to a church at Dunstable (Beds.). (fn. 183) The Lutheran Council of Great Britain which purchased Hothorpe Hall as a conference centre in 1955 use the chapel for their services. It is a cementrendered building in the Renaissance style, standing north-east of the hall. It has an apsidal east end and is elaborately decorated internally with plasterwork of Baroque character.
George Green, instituted Vicar of Theddingworth in 1620, was ejected from the living in 1662 because he refused to subscribe. (fn. 184) There was a conventicle of about 50 Independents 'of the meaner sort' in 1669, (fn. 185) but Green was apparently not their minister. Two other ejected ministers, Clarke and Southam, were licensed to teach here, and in 1672 John Cave's house was licensed as a meeting-place. (fn. 186) John Shuttlewood, the distinguished nonconformist teacher, (fn. 187) was also licensed to teach in Theddingworth. Although only 2 nonconformists were reported in 1676 (fn. 188) and 3–5 in 1705–16, (fn. 189) it is likely that there was an unbroken tradition between the late-17th-century conventicle and the early-19th-century Congregationalist chapel. The house of Thomas Moore in 1817 and that of John Wright in 1823 were licensed as meetingplaces. (fn. 190)
The present Congregational chapel was erected and licensed in 1833 at the cost of John Sims on land given by George Harris. (fn. 191) It was licensed for marriages in 1852. (fn. 192) John Sims, a farmer and grazier, by will proved in 1839, left a rent-charge of £20 for the support of the resident minister; (fn. 193) George Harris, by will proved 1873, and John Smeeton, by will proved in 1913, augmented this endowment. (fn. 194) Harris also established the Congregational school. (fn. 195) The last Independent minister appears to have left Theddingworth about 1925. (fn. 196) The chapel is a simple brick building with pointed windows and a hipped roof; it is dated 1833. The graveyard on its west side contains many memorials to the leading Congregationalist families.
There was a schoolmaster in Theddingworth in 1634. (fn. 197) The present village school appears to originate from the generosity of J. G. Cook (d. 1856), vicar 1810–41, although the building and schoolmistress's house were erected in 1844 after he had resigned from the living. (fn. 198) His brother John Cook (d. 1867) of Hothorpe Hall, the patron of the church, may also have contributed to the cost. The first known trust deed was dated 1856, the year of the vicar's death, (fn. 199) but as early as 1819 he had been paying for the education of 12 children in a small day school of 25 children run by a woman in the village. (fn. 200) The status of this school is uncertain. In 1832 the archdeacon reported that there was only a Sunday school containing 40 children, (fn. 201) but the parliamentary return describing conditions a year later referred to a day and Sunday school for 35 children, educated partly at their parents' expense and partly by charity. (fn. 202) The building of 1844 was extended by the addition of an infants' room in 1902. (fn. 203)
George Harris (d. 1873) about 1870 founded another school in Theddingworth for the children of those attending the Congregational chapel. (fn. 204) In 1880 it was agreed to amalgamate this with Cook's school under the name 'Theddingworth United' on condition that religious instruction was 'simply biblical'. Henry Everett, the surviving trustee of Cook's school, gave his permission for Cook's building to be used, and Harris's trustees agreed to contribute £12 10s. a year towards its maintenance. The management committee consisted of the vicar, the two churchwardens, and three of Harris's trustees. These arrangements lasted until 1904 when it was adjudged that the formation of a united school was a breach of Harris's trust deed, and in 1905 the new managers under the 1902 Act decided to return to the name 'Theddingworth Cook's.' (fn. 205)
The total number of children in the two schools in 1871 was 59, (fn. 206) but the attendance at the united school in 1894 was only 36. (fn. 207) There were 45 at Cook's school in 1910, (fn. 208) and 31 in 1922 when it was decided to move those of senior school age to the neighbouring parish of Husbands Bosworth. (fn. 209) There were 20 juniors in attendance in 1933, and about the same number in 1960. (fn. 210) The school was granted 'controlled' status in 1952. (fn. 211)
Under the articles of agreement by which the parish was inclosed in 1713, a field of 25 a. called Wheybrooke Close, then in the occupation of William Moore, was allotted for the use of the poor. (fn. 212) At an annual meeting of the freeholders, 16 poor cottagers, each paying a rent of 10s. a year to the overseer, were nominated to enjoy the right of pasturing one cow each from 1 May to 30 November and 2 sheep each from 30 November to 25 March. By the beginning of the 19th century the increase in the number of poor had compelled the freeholders to divide the close into 'cow pastures' and 'digging pastures'. The latter consisted of 8 roods under spade cultivation as allotment gardens for 8 cottagers. The remaining 23 a. continued to be pastured by 16 cottagers as before. (fn. 213) The charity is governed by an order of the Charity Commissioners, dated 1880, establishing a body of 6 trustees with the right to let the land in plots. (fn. 214) In 1960 the close was let for grazing and the annual rent distributed with the income from the other charities. (fn. 215)
Dame Juliana Newdigate, the wife of Sir Richard Newdigate, lord of the manor, by will proved 1686 (fn. 216) left £50 to the poor of the parish, and 16 other people at various times gave another £89. These sums appear to have remained in private hands until 1836, and the interest on them was distributed regularly to the poor on St. Thomas's Day (21 Dec.). However, in 1836, as some money had been lost and some lent outside the parish, it was decided to invest the remaining £82 in land. Two houses, a barn, a bakehouse, and a close of pasture were purchased, with the aid of a loan, for £150. (fn. 217) Part of the income from the poor's land was used to pay off the loan. In 1839 the income from this property was 12 guineas a year. (fn. 218) The income from this charity and the Poor's Land constitute what is known as the Parochial Charity. In 1949 16 people received £3 each. (fn. 219)
George Harris (d. 1873) in 1865 gave a rent-charge of £15 for the benefit of the poor, and in 1870 another of £10 for the purchase of coals. The administration of this charity by a Scheme of the Charity Commissioners, dated 1935, was included in the trust established for the benefit of the Congregational chapel. In 1953 18 people were receiving coals and cash. (fn. 220)
None of the charities for Hothorpe appears to have survived, although people in Theddingworth became eligible to benefit from them after about 1830 when most of the remaining cottages in Hothorpe were demolished. (fn. 221) The rent-charge on the Hothorpe Hall estate which provided a sum to be distributed on St. Thomas's Day (21 Dec.) for the inhabitants of Hothorpe appears to have lapsed. (fn. 222) Edward Bathurst, by will proved 1667, left a close of land in Thorpe Mandeville (Northants.) to Trinity College, Oxford, in trust to apply the income every third year to apprenticing a boy from certain named parishes including Hothorpe. It was stated in 1874 that the charity had lapsed owing to a lack of boys. (fn. 223) Similarly, the rent-charge of £5 left by Mrs. Judith Bathurst, by will dated 1704, for apprenticing a Hothorpe boy does not appear to have been claimed within living memory. It was still being paid in 1839, (fn. 224) and also at the time when the Theddingworth charities were inspected by the Charity Commissioners in 1876. (fn. 225)