“Understanding yesterday, for the benefit of  today and tomorrow”

Read reports from earlier years © 2005-2018, 2019  All Rights Reserved  Kibworth History Society and W.G.Weston

7th September 2006.

The Speaker, Ian Varey, members and visitors were welcomed by Norman Harrison, then a brief General Meeting was held to vote in the new Management Committee, Norman Harrison was elected as the new Chairman, the other members were re-elected.

Norman then said that help was required with the transcribing of the monuments in the Kibworth Cemetery and asked for volunteers.  A Constitution has now been drafted for the Kibworth History Society, the draft will be delivered to every member by Norman, who will be able to explain the clauses to individual members.

The speaker, Ian Varey, was then introduced, his talk was entitled ‘The Reign of George VIth through the Postal Service’.  He explained how his interest in postage stamps had begun through a competition in a boy’s comic ‘The Eagle’, in which he chose a stamp album with one hundred stamps as his prize.  

The first stamp of George VIth’s reign was produced on May 13th 1936, the day after the Coronation; this was a 11/2d stamp, the letter rate; due to the haste of production some were flawed.  For a further period the stamps produced for the Coronation of Edward VIIIth were used, this was a common practice to save wasting the stamps already produced; George asked that his postage stamps be a little less plain than those of Edward.

During wartime the postal service was a major form of communication, and letters were delivered against all the odds.  The stamps were paler than they had been previously to conserve ink, and the cost of letter post rose from 11/2d to 21/2d.  In the Channel Islands there was a shortage of postage stamps and stamps were cut in half to cover this shortage, thus a one penny stamp became two half-penny stamps.

Slogans such as ‘Dig for Victory’ and ‘Help win on the kitchen front’ were used as postmarks during the war, and slogans such as ‘Don’t waste bread – others need it’ were used during the austerity period after the war, but NOT on overseas mail as it might advertise the difficulties in Britain.  

In 1940 a commemorative stamp was produced for 6th May, this being the anniversary of the ‘Penny Black’, the first adhesive postage stamp.  In 1947 there was no special stamp for the marriage of Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten; but in 1948 stamps were produced for the Olympic Games held in London, but only in four denominations, these were followed by the stamps for the Festival of Britain in 1951.

Norman Harrison thanked Ian Varey and the audience’s attention was drawn to the wonderful display of stamps that had been laid out for them to view.

5th October 2006.

Norman Pilgrim, the speaker for the evening, was introduced, to tell about ‘The explosion that shook Staffordshire – the biggest man-made explosion prior to the atom bomb’.  Mr. Pilgrim had been in the RAF during the 1939-45 War and had not heard about this event until recently.  So secrets are kept!  Details of this event did not become public property until after the ‘thirty years’ period, and even today some of the details have not entered the public domain.

There were gypsum mines at Fauld, near Burton on Trent, this gypsum was used to make plaster, and necessitated the building of a reservoir, to provide the necessary water for the process.  This reservoir was built above the mines on a hillside, it held six million gallons of water, held back by a thirty-foot dam.

During the war, the MOD needed a  ‘bomb dump’, it had to be easily accessible and invisible from the air – the gypsum mine, ninety feet underground,  was ideal.  The mine shafts were well lit, air conditioned and lead to caverns of a large acreage.  There was a railway junction at Scropton, not far away, and from here a two-foot gauge light railway was built to run the bombs to and from the mines, where they were stacked for storage.  There could be 10,000 tons of bombs, as this was the time of the 1,000 bomber raids.

On November 27th 1944, in the morning, there was a rumbling sound and then an explosion that was heard as far away as London and registered in Switzerland!  Ninety feet of earth and debris rose about 2,000 feet into the air, the dam at the reservoir broke and the ensuing landslide completed the devastation.  Local farms disappeared and a Church spire in Burton on Trent had to be removed.  People were killed, injured and, in some cases, they vanished.

The earth-moving, clearing up and body recovery did not cease until January 1945; the worker’s efforts were hampered by the hard winter weather, and the mud.  The crater was 400 yards in diameter, but today is covered by nature.  A granite memorial has been erected.

After a vote of thanks, members were reminded of the next meeting, 2nd November 2006, when Angela Hall will be speaking about a well-known local personality – General Jack, who lived in Kibworth Harcourt.  The meeting will be held at the Methodist Church at 7.30p.m.  All are very welcome.

2nd November 2006.

The meeting on November 2nd 2006 was opened by Norman Harrison, Chairman, who welcomed the members and visitors; amongst whom was Kenneth Jack, elder son of the subject of the evening’s talk.  A brief business meeting followed at which the new Constitution and the Financial Statement were both adopted unanimously.

The speaker, Angela Hall, was then introduced to give her talk on ‘General Jack’, a well-known local personality.   Angela explained that her interests were horses and the First World War, this lead her to General Jack who had similar interests and wrote about his experiences in WW1.  Having visited the battlefields and discovered that little had been researched on General Jack, she decided to do this research herself.  She was fortunate in that the General’s son lived locally and was able to help her.

 James Jack was born in Paisley in 1880, son of a carpet manufacturer.  His mother died whilst he was still very young, and his father brought him up with strictly Victorian values.  From an early age his passion was for horses and fox hunting; these passions were his reason for eventually moving to Kibworth Harcourt after his marriage in 1923, here he was able to be at the heart of ‘fashionable hunting England’.  He rode with the Fernie, Pytchley and Quorn Hunts until the late 1950’s.

It was whilst at  Murchiston Castle School that he joined the school cadet force.  At the age of seventeen he entered his father’s carpet factory, he soon left to join the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders.  In 1901 he was sent to South Africa as a 2nd Lieutenant, from 1904 to 1909 he went to India.   Here in addition to giving his time and energies to his military duties, he was able to indulge his passions with a string of polo ponies, captain the regimental polo team and hunt.

He served throughout the First World War with the Cameronian Regiment.  During this time he kept a detailed diary of the day-to-day events of the war, the misery of the trenches, and of the participation of the Battalion he eventually commanded.  These diaries were expanded into a book, published in 1964, from which Angela read extracts.  In 1917 the General was severely wounded and hospitalised for six months, he did not return to the front until July 1918 and he details his feelings on November 11th 1918 when he heard that the Armistice had been signed.  Often being mentioned in despatches, and awarded medals for bravery and duty, he left the army in 1921, as a Brigadier General.

He held a number of positions locally and in 1931 he was made ADC to George V.  He was an accomplished artist and rode to hounds until the late 1950’s, dying at and advanced age in 1962.

At the start of World War 11, he was asked to raise a battalion of the Market Harborough Home Guard.  Within a few days he had 2,500 members covering a wide area.

The speaker was thanked by the Chairman, and members were reminded that the meeting on December 7th. will be the Christmas Social at the Methodist Church.

7th December 2006

The meeting took the form of the annual Christmas Social, which was, as usual, well attended.  The Chairman, Norman Harrison, welcomed members and their friends, inviting them to begin the evening by partaking of a buffet supper prepared by Heather Pickering, to be followed by entertainment.

After a splendid supper Betty Ward read a poem with a Christmassy theme; followed by a Quiz that David Holmes had prepared about Kibworth and also testing people’s memories of talks the History Society had listened to during the year.  This proved to be very entertaining with members working in pairs and some dissension as to the answers, particularly the time it took the train to travel to Leicester.  David dealt speedily and firmly with any disputes and declared the Quiz setter’s decision final (not allowing for the wrong snow on the railway line or wet leaves!).

The Quiz was won by George Weston and Barbara Ward, with Bob and Wendy Higgins as runners up. Each pair was presented with prizes.

The evening was closed by the Chairman wishing everybody a Happy Christmas and New Year.  He reminded members that there would be no meeting in January, the next meeting is on February 1st 2007, and the speaker will be Stephen Butt talking about the ‘Woodfords of Leicestershire’.   

The meeting will be held in the Methodist Church and starts at 7.30p.m  Members new and old are always welcome.  The Kibworth History Society wishes everyone a very Happy Christmas and a healthy New Year for 2007.

1st February 2007

For the first meeting for 2007 we were delighted to welcome Stephen Butt, a local resident, speaking about his family ‘The Woodfords of Leicestershire’.

Stephen told us that as a child, like most children, he had little interest in education and his lessons, until he opened a school text book and found inside a picture that he recognised as hanging over his Grandfather’s fireplace – it was of James Woodford an ancestor of his Mother’s family.  Stephen’s first employment was working for the BBC in London, from this he moved to Leicester to work for Radio Leicester and came to live in Kibworth.  Whilst walking his children to school he found the name ‘Woodford’ inscribed on a tombstone in the Churchyard.

His research took him to Brentingby near Melton Mowbray (Stephen reminded us that his wife had spoken on the building of her dolls house last year, the interior of this house being based on parts of Brentingby Hall), where John of Woodford bought the hall in 1317.  John married Alice Prest the daughter of a local wool merchant.  Their son William escaped the Black Death and through marriages the family gained wealth and land; between 1400 and 1550, the family’s ‘home manor’ was at Ashby Folville.  There are reminders of the Woodford family to be seen in the Church, notably the Woodford coat of arms.

The Woodford Cartulary, a collection of legal documents setting out the acquisition of property between 1317 and the middle of the 15th century is still inexistence.  It is in a variety of handwritings, the last being that of Robert Woodford of Bucks, the last of the Leicestershire Woodfords.  He was the forebear of Robert of Northampton, who was steward of that county.  This Robert and his wife, Hannah, were staunch Puritans and believed themselves to be immune from the plague.  To ensure the safety of their two small sons however, Samuel aged four and John aged two, they put them into two baskets and sent them on horseback to London.  Samuel became a Doctor of Divinity, and was very high Church, in contrast to his Puritan parents.  He was a founder member of the Royal Society and it was he who was Stephen’s ancestor.

Among other notable members of the Woodford family are Parson James Woodford (1740-1803) – whose diaries about the life of a country parson are still available and well read, and Samuel Woodford RA (1720-89) a well-known painter, many of whose works are at preserved at Stourhead.  

The members were reminded of the outing to the Gas Museum in May, for which names are being collected.

The Chairman also drew member’s attention to the ‘flyers’ on their seats.  These give information about the History Society, and it is hoped that they will be passed onto friends.  Copies will be made available in the Library and other sources of information in order to encourage new members to join the History Society.

The next meeting will be on March 1st 2007 when the speaker will be Diana Courtney, a Blue Badge Guide, talking on Market Harborough.  The venue Kibworth Methodist Church, the time 7.30p.m, all are welcome.

1st March 2007

The members and visitors present at the meeting on March 1st were held enthralled by the talk on Market Harborough given by Diana Courtney, a Blue Badge Guide.  This was illustrated by slides showing the buildings as they are today.  During her talk Mrs. Courtney told of the history of the town and of the buildings in it.  It is not possible to mention all the buildings we were told about, the tour was very thorough and, as it was a wet, cold night this was a pleasant way to ‘see’ the town.

Market Harborough did not come into existence as a town until the time of Henry 11, when he gave it ‘manorial’ status in 1176 and Market Harborough became a Medieval ‘new town’.  Each inhabitant had been allocated a plot of land 15.5 yards wide, fronting onto the High Street, and 220 yards long; inns had plots twice this width.  The area around Market Harborough was known to be the best in the country for the fattening of cattle and sheep.

As we were ‘walked’ down the High Street it was pointed out that many of the buildings were of the Georgian period, these had an almost hidden roofline due to the fact that  ‘downpipes’ were hidden.  Rainwater was collected in gutters and carried by pipe through the roof to the rear of the building where pipes carried it to the ground.

The ‘Angel Hotel, originally the ‘Angel and Mary’, built in the 1740’s had a daily traffic of 26 coaches with 90 horses coming and going.  The ‘Talbot’ hotel lower down the High Street, catered for all the Manchester coaches.  Opposite the ‘Angel’ hotel was the old market cross.  The Non-conformist church, also a Georgian building, was the best in the county.  The Town Hall was given to Market Harborough by the Earl of Harborough -  the ground area was open and housed a butchers’ hall, the floor above was the Assembly Hall.  This did not have civic status but was more a ‘village’ hall; the top floor was a Cloth Hall where merchants could display and buy or sell cloth.   At the ‘Kings Head’ opposite the Town Hall, Charles 1st spent the night before the Battle of Naseby.  5,000 soldiers spent the night camped outside the Old School, only 1600 returned – as prisoners of the Roundheads.

In 1614 Robert Smyth gave the town the Grammar School, originally to teach Greek and Latin, this was extended to English and Mathematics a little later.  The Theatre, opposite, was built in 1935, prior to this there had been a public house ’The Green Dragon’, then the bike sheds for Symingtons factory.  Adam and Eve Street was known as Tripe Alley and medieval mystery plays had been performed here.  Thomas Cook worked in this street, a woodturner and a Baptist minister, he became the founder of the present day tour operator.

Lloyds Bank, on the Square, was the Vicarage and it’s neighbour was a tannery.  The tannery caught fire and the original vicarage was burnt down.  The Building Society headquarters opposite was unique in that the doorway is of pink Ketton stone, this is a rarity as the stone is normally white.

The meeting was reminded of the forthcoming outing to the Gas Museum instead of the May meeting, there is still time to put one’s name on the list.  Gill Noble was thanked for all her hard work providing refreshments at each meeting, a task she has undertaken for many years.  Volunteers are required for future meetings.

The next meeting is on April 5th 2007 at the Methodist Chapel, when the talk will be ‘The History of British Taxation – Why April 5th?’

5th April 2007

John Gibbard and Bhav Chudasama from HM Revenue and Customs Service provided a light-hearted look at the history of taxation in Britain under the title 'Why 5th April?'

Taxation was originally used as a temporary tax by the king as a way of financing wars. In medieval times Domesday Book was prepared by William the Conqueror to find out how much tax he could collect from the barons. In 1799 the government introduced income tax as a temporary means to pay for the war against Napoleon. This temporary tax has been part of life from that time onwards; it still is a temporary tax and has to be approved each year. But why does the tax year start on 6th April? The answer lies in the changeover from the Julian to Gregorian calendar in 1750 when twelve days were lost.

As taxation had previously been collected at the end of March, it was decided that the twelve days would be divided between the two systems, hence the 6th April.

3rd May 2007

The Gas Museum in Leicester, situated in the old gate-house to the gas works on Aylestone Road, is the largest such museum in the world, and is fortunate in having a curator who believes in the history of gas with a passion. Not only is Maurice Martin extremely knowledgeable about his subject but he is also a gifted and amusing speaker.

Members were entertained by Maurice with his “history of gas”, learning that the first gas works in Leicester was on the Belgrave Road, but because of the difficulties of carrying coal across the busy road from the railway station, it was decided to build a replacement on Aylestone Road, complete with its own railway siding. Initially it served Leicester City but gradually acquired other local gas producers including the Kibworth Gas, Light and Coke Company, on New Road, leading eventually to the removal of gas-holders from Kibworth. (A picture of the Kibworth Gas Works can be seen on our website:

The by products of the production of coal gas cover all manner and types of product, ranging from the obvious ones: coke, creosote, paint, and tar, to the less obvious ones: perfumes, chemicals, medicines, dyes, soap, fertilisers, and explosives. The museum has a 1920’s kitchen filled with gas appliances, including: lights, geyser, irons, fans, refrigerator, toaster, copper boiler, cookers, heaters, and such unusual items as a hair drier, hair curling tongs, and, most strangely of all, a gas powered radio. We learnt that the origin of the phrase “in the lime light” comes from the use of white lime blocks that were placed in projectors, powered by gas, that could either act as light projectors in the old music halls of Victorian times, or be used as film projectors. Other sections of the museum are dedicated to different aspects of gas up to the 1960s and 1970s when coal gas was replaced by natural gas.

Although our visit to the museum lasted over two hours, it was not long enough to view and enjoy all of the exhibits and almost all of the members said that they would return to spend more time at Maurice’s fascinating museum. It is a museum that will interest all ages and is well worth a visit.

7th June 2007

The annual “Flotsam & Jetsam” evening of the Society gives members the opportunity to present short talks on matters relating, in some way, to local or family history.

The first speaker was Barbara Ward, who spoke of her experiences working in the Gas showroom on the site of the Kibworth Gas, Light & Coke Company, on New Road. Although the job entailed dealing with customers and window dressing, it also required Barbara to walk around a pile of coke as big as a house and estimate how much was in it, or to fill in a gas production sheet as big as a kitchen table, in a whole new language of incomprehensible terms such as “calorific value”, and mysterious “therms”, which was more daunting. Competitions were run for the best showroom window dressing, always a great challenge and one year, Kibworth won. The showroom sold, and rented, gas appliances, and Barbara can remember families coming to the works with old prams to collect coal. The incredible heat and sulphuric smell of the retort house presented “a picture of Hell”. Three stokers worked there, every day of the year, shovelling coal to keep the house working. Barbara used to see nearly everyone in the village at least once a quarter when they came down to the showroom to pay their bill.  It was a good way of getting to know people and one way and another life at the showroom turned out to be an excellent introduction to village life.  

George Weston then presented a short report on the progress of the Society’s project on transcribing the Smeeton monumental inscriptions. The inscriptions had been recorded, a plan of the graveyard had been produced, and the initial checking had been done.  Following the final checking, the work can be presented for publication. This project will complement the work already completed on the old Congregational Chapel MIs, and the work being undertaken on St. Wilfrid’s graveyard and the Kibworth Cemetery.

Betty Ward gave us “Priory Farm  – Entertaining”. Following WWII, celebrations were regularly organised by the folk at Priory farm, including the Victory celebrations in Main Street when all residents contributed food, and Betty’s brother, Harold, provided the music. The coronation of our present Queen in 1953 saw an open air service, a fancy dress parade around the village, and the very first pram race in the area. Celebrations were also arranged for the Queen’s silver jubilee in 1977 and the wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981. Betty hopes that the village will continue the tradition and organise something very special for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, as it did in 1897 for Queen Victoria.

The final speaker, Norman Harrison, gave us “Kibworth’s Public Libraries”, from the original private penny libraries of G.W.Barratt, at the Empire Hall, now the Scout & Guide Hut, and Alan Timson’s shops, originally next to the village hall, and later at 47 High Street.

In the early 1950s, Eddie Welton was in charge of the Primary School, and, having a concern for learning, he obtained a couple of boxes of books from the County Library Service, and opened the school for public lending on Friday afternoons, after school. This venture grew and moved to the Oddfellows’ Hall in Paget Street, opening on Tuesday and Friday afternoons. The library continued to grow in popularity, and eventually, a new library was opened on 26th June 1968, stocked with over 5000 books. Eddie’s wife, Doris, worked in the library, remaining there until her retirement in 1983.  Another well known local lady, Mary Carter, has provided the WRVS’s “Books-on-Wheels” service to housebound readers since 1972. The library, as we know, has been recently refurbished and continues to provide a useful and valuable facility for the area.

The final meeting of the current season closed, with the chairman, Norman Harrison, reminding members that the new season would commence on 6th September 2007. An interesting and varied programme has been arranged for 2007/8 and new members/visitors are welcome to attend.