“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

6th September 2007

The Chairman welcomed everyone to the meeting and gave members an update on Sally Garratt’s continuing improvement.

Following the adoption of reports from the Chairman, Treasurer, and Management Committee, officers were elected as follows: Chairman, Norman Harrison; Treasurer, George Weston; Joint Meetings Secretaries, Bob & Wendy Higgins; Independent Examiner, Sally Garratt. After several years as Secretary of the Society, David Holmes had decided not to offer himself for re-election. As there were no nominations the position of Secretary would remain vacant.

A full and varied programme had been arranged for the current season, and additional copies were available for members to take for friends who may be interested.

In response to questions, the Chairman outlined the current situation regarding the Society’s projects and the initial proposal for a museum within the village.

The meeting closed at 8pm., and was followed by the first talk of the new season, “Freight carrying on Britain’s Canals”.

Nick Hill, who had spent most of his life working on Britain’s canals, gave an interesting talk on the transport that was once the mainstay of the movement of freight of all types and descriptions.

After the piece-meal start of canal building, mainly by landowners who required coal or mineral deposits on their land to be moved for sale, construction spread quickly in the 18th century until there was a network across the country. Boats were originally drawn by horses and this provided a very cheap method of moving cargoes around. It is said that the price of coal fell by 75% in Manchester after the construction of the Bridgewater canal, and helped feed the industrial revolution.

Small boatyards grew up all over the canal system, each with its own style of painting, although few remain today. The decline of the canal system was caused initially by the growth of railways and continued with the spread of the road system. Despite the competition provided by rail and road, many different cargoes were still being transported in the 1950s, and Nick provided a slide show of a journey from Measham to London, via Coventry, Tring, and Aylesbury, showing the movement of coal, road surfacings, paper, zinc, wheat, and limejuice.

Following the decline in the 1950s/60s, the canals have seen a rejuvenation caused by leisure activities, one well illustrated by a visit to Foxton Locks on any summer’s weekend.

4th October 2007

The October meeting featured a return to family history matters with an entertaining talk by Wendy Freer entitled “Making Sense of the Census”.

Wendy explained the origins of the census, from the Domesday survey, through private attempts by individuals in the 17th century, the Government’s failed 1753 bill, to the first decennial census in 1801, organised by John Rickman, and subsequent censuses.

They were initially treated with scepticism by the population who feared conscription and tax increases would follow when the government knew who and how many people lived in the country. The first censuses were fairly basic with ages being taken within 5 year bands and limited occupation information recorded. At each subsequent census additional information was required and in 1841 the census was taken on a single night instead of being spread over a few days. For family historians the 1851 census gives more information and was the first to be presented in landscape style. 1861 saw the introduction of special schedules for boats, including inland boats, and large institutions. By 1871 enumerators, men only and between 18 and 65, were required to be intelligent, literate, able at arithmetic, temperate, orderly, and responsible, although the comment was made that “on the whole, they were rather a poor lot”.  Women were not allowed as enumerators until 1891.

Wendy closed with a list of some amusing occupations extracted from censuses: doctor maker, bull dog burner, nymph of the pave, professional wizard, and a wife, described as head of the household and a mangle worker, whose husband’s occupation was listed as “turns my mangle”.

Although there are many mistakes and omissions within the censuses family historians are fortunate that such a remarkable and informative record of the population of past years still exists.

1st November 2007

The members were pleased to welcome Diana Courtney as the speaker for the November meeting.  Her talk was entitled Christmas Traditions, illustrated by slides, and covered the subject back into Pagan times.

The first celebrations were Pagan, they took place between 17th. and 23rd. December and were known as Saturnalia.  These were preparations for winter.  With the coming of the Romans, it was decided that the celebrations should not be discontinued and the Roman gods of Mithras and Calens were honoured at this period.  The Puritans abolished Christmas and banned the people from any sort of celebration; it is said that ten thousand men of Kent advanced on Parliament and had this edict rescinded.

Traditional food has always been part of the Christmas celebrations – in the Middle Ages Swan and Peacock were the centrepiece of the banquet (for the wealthy!).  The Christmas Pudding is traditionally made before the Christian ‘Stir Up’ Sunday; it should have thirteen ingredients and be stirred from left to right to denote the Wise Men travelling from the East.  It is now estimated that 25 million commercial puddings are sold every Christmas, and 20 million home-made ones made.  Those who stir the pudding should make a wish and not divulge that wish to anybody, if they want it granted.  The mince pies came back with the Crusaders, originally a mix of savoury and sweet meats.

There are a number of customs associated with the Christmas Festival, many of these brought over by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria.  Martin Luther is accredited with seeing the stars in the Heavens through the branches of trees, and wanting to bring these into the house to demonstrate to his children; the Germans made beautiful, fragile glass ornaments to hang on the trees, these were imported by F. W. Woolworth until the beginning of the 1914-1918 war, when it was considered to be unpatriotic.  The giant Christmas tree  (60-70 feet high) in Trafalgar Square is sent by the Norwegians every year to mark their gratitude for the help given during the Second World War.  Carols were songs to dance to and Christingle is a Czechoslavakian custom based on the poor presenting gifts to the Christ child.  

Santa Claus was based on Saint Nicholas, a Turkish saint in 243; it was not until 1903 that he wore red; the colours worn by him until then being blue, green or brown.  The gifts he brings were a Pagan custom, never a Christian one.  For some inexplicable reason Mistletoe is not allowed in any Church except York Minster.

Boxing Day is known only in England, as the day for giving Alms to the poor, also apprentices were given gifts and allowed to go home.

6th December 2007

The Chairman, Norman Harrison, welcomed members of the Society to the annual Christmas Social, which was well attended.  The evening started with a splendid finger buffet prepared by Heather Pickering.

After the supper, the members took part in a quiz prepared by Bob and Wendy Higgins who, together, take over the role of the Programme Secretary.  This involved questions of a festive, historical and local nature, and presented the participants with plenty of head-scratching and the furrowing of foreheads. The quiz was won by Pam & George Weston who received a small prize.

Two superb albums of Kibworth postcards and photographs were on display.  These had been loaned by a South Leicestershire collector just for this occasion so members took this unique opportunity to view the pictures.  The many postcards and photos related to Kibworth in the first half of the 20th century, some being of places, others of people and especially of the Burbidge and linked families.

The Chairman closed the meeting, thanking Bob and Wendy for their hard work organizing the quiz.   He announced that Roger and Sheila York had agreed to become joint secretaries with effect from the New Year. He wished all the members a Happy Christmas and New Year, reminding them that there would not be a January 2008 meeting and the next meeting will be on 7th February 2008, when the speaker will be J. E. Barnett talking on his life as an apprentice at J. E. Slaters in Kibworth.  

7th February 2008

The Chairman welcomed the members and visitors to the first meeting of 2008.  He made special mention of the number of visitors, commenting that subject of the meeting was of special interest to Kibworth people.  Many of the visitors had worked at Slaters, or had relations who had worked there.


The talk ‘My Life as an Apprentice at J.E. Slaters’ was given by John Barnett, he also spoke about J. E. Slater and the business itself.  John lived locally and was offered an apprenticeship at Slaters when he was fifteen years old.  He went into the woodworking side of the company, when he left he went into architect’s office in Ashby de la Zouche.  His interest in the history of Slaters began when he joined an Oxford University evening class and chose ‘J. E. Slater’ as the subject of his first essay.


 J. Slater was born in 1902 in Leicester, the family then moved to Rearsby.  He attended Leicester College of Art following this with a spell working at the Little Theatre.  He was known as a dynamic, fiery and generous man, and a keen artist.  He showed work at the Royal Academy but never became a member, although he did become a member of the Royal Society of Watercolourists.  He chose to use a limited palette of five colours from which he mixed all the colours he required.


In 1932 Slater opened an office in Charles Street, which remained the hub of the Slater Organisation until the late 1970’s early 1980’s.  This office housed a small team of graphic artists for the design and execution of advertising material for a number of well-known companies, Aristoc, Peter England shirts and Raleigh bicycles being but a few.


The works at Smeeton road was a production unit, constructing display units and similar items.   During the war they manufactured dummy tanks, vehicles and aircraft from wood and silver doped silk.  The drawing office where John worked was reputed to be a shed from the Crimean War (either an original or one fashioned from the designs for these). There were stores on Weir Road, and a larger one at Gumley Hall for display units.  The stables at Gumley Hall had Disney cartoons painted on the wall by POW’s.


John said that ‘Slaters’proved a wonderful training ground and during his five year apprenticeship he worked for three months at a time in every department.  His college fees and travelling expenses were all paid by the company, and he had use of the company bicycle!


John was thanked for his fascinating talk, and his travelling from Northampton was much appreciated.


6th March 2008

After a short delay, caused by the traffic conditions in the village, the Chairman was delighted, and relieved, to welcome the speaker for the evening Robert Gregory, a Blue Badge Guide.  Robert spoke on ‘Crime in Old Leicester’.


He began with slides of Leicester Prison on Welford Road.  This prison was built in 1826 at a cost of £25,000.  It is sometimes mistaken for Leicester Castle due to its appearance.  The prison originally housed 177 prisoners one to a cell, since it was extended there are now up to 400 prisoners held there, three to a cell.  When built, this prison was in the countryside, as were the Infirmary and the Cemetery


The wall is 40ft. high and is the highest prison wall in the country.  The top of the wall is six feet deep and the base sixteen feet deep.  Only three people have actually managed to scale this wall and all were swiftly recaptured.  In one of the towers at the entrance can be seen a long window, this was once the door to the death cell, from here prisoners were brought out onto the scaffold constructed across the front, over the gates.  On an execution day, those patients fit enough were allowed to climb onto the roof of the Infirmary opposite to view the proceedings.


In his ‘Rural Rides’, Cobbett spoke of Leicester having five prisons, the only mention he made of Leicester.  The number of prisons reflected the fact that there had to be institutions to hold county criminals and town criminals.  Daniel Lambert was a gaoler at the County Gaol.


In 1873 the Town Hall was built and the Courts were held here.  In number one court there is a ‘High Jury’, this is a raised area for the Jury to sit, unseen by the prisoner in the Dock and the persons in the public gallery.  Being unseen the Jury were protected from reprisals by prisoners and their families.  The Dock was also set high and there have been a number of attempts at escape by the prisoners who tried to jump over the railings.  These attempts rarely proved successful.  Under the Courts are the holding cells, prisoners were brought here from Leicester Prison, if they were acquitted they left the Court and returned home by bus; (one prisoner unsure of an acquittal had no money on him and had to borrow his ‘bus fare home upon being acquitted!) if not they were returned to prison from these cells and brought back the following day for the continuation of their trial.


In the Guildhall Museum is a replica of a gibbet, the bodies of executed criminals were place in a gibbet and hung high above the ground until they decomposed.  The original gibbet is now housed in the Police museum at Rugby.


3rd April 2008

The History Society was delighted to welcome one of its members as the speaker for the evening.  David Holmes spoke on the Kibworth Harcourt Windmill 1265-2008.  David is a member of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, hereafter referred to as S.P.A.B.

The Kibworth windmill is a Post mill, one of only forty mills left in the country and the only post mill in Leicestershire.  The mill is made of oak and the wooden top of the mill revolves on an oak post, a large tree trunk, thus directing the sails into the wind.  These sails drive two pairs of grindstones one of Derbyshire Gritstone and one of a stone from near Paris.

In the year 1265 Merton College leased the mill and an area of land to the villagers, the mill at this period stood on the Leicester Road, just beyond what is now the last house on the right.  From here the mill was moved to the Carlton Road in 1356 and thence to Langton Road, possibly during the sixteenth century.  The mill is shown in its present position on a map in the Merton College archives in dated 1635.

There were two major rebuilds of the mill, one in 1515 when it was a complete rebuild from new, costing £16.19s. 8d. (£16.99p approximately).  The next rebuild was in 1773/75; there is no record as to the cost.  A recent survey taken, to try to ascertain the age of the wood used, was not entirely successful as the wood of the main post was too strong for the surveyors to extract a long enough sample to test successfully.

In 1800 Merton leased the mill, a malt mill and 170 acres to the then Rector, who released it again.  What the ‘malt mill’ was is not known.  The mill was subsequently released to a miller named ‘Smith’ and members of his family.  The brick roundhouse was built to protect the wooden post and to provide some storage space in 1850.  It is not an integral part of the mill and does not affect movement of the mill itself.

By 1912 the mill had ceased to work commercially, when it was closed the machinery was left intact, maybe a little grain was still milled.  The building had deteriorated badly by 1932 and the Briggs family, who were the farm tenants, took an interest in the building and made good the worst depredations.  Only the land round the building goes with it, the tail post has to be kept short as otherwise it is a danger to persons using the farm paths.  The Briggs family spruced up the mill again in 1953, although in 1936 Merton College had gifted the building, free of charge, to S.P.A.B who undertook some repairs.

Leicester County Council put a Preservation Order on the mill in 1966 and in 1971 financed restoration of the building, which was in a poor state.  1989 saw two new sails fitted, of the four original sails two had blown away in high winds.  S.P.A.B now have a plan for continuing repairs to Harcourt Mill, which will, hopefully, keep it as an outstanding landmark for many centuries to come.

1st May 2008

On Thursday 1st May, the History Society was entertained by a short item from Rose Holyoak. As a young girl, exactly 75 years ago, Rose along with three of her cousins walked around the village May garlanding. Mr Bale, a local photographer, was there to record the event. Rose brought along a photograph taken at the time.

The money collected was in aid of the Leicester Children’s Hospital, some people gave a penny or tuppence but one lady gave 2/6d, a princely sum in 1933, in total they collected £1.10.6d .The collection was then presented to the Governor of the Hospital.  

Our speaker for the evening, Mr Norman Pilgrim, then began his talk entitled

‘My Working Life – A Story of Hard Work, Sweat and Humour’.

How did this talk come about? Well, when the day for retirement came, he thought to himself what on earth am I going to do?  He decided to write about his working life. His story begins……

He had a great interest in chemistry; his experiments often contained potassium chlorate and sulphur usually ending in a big bang. Leaving school, at the age of 14 years it was, therefore, not surprising that his first job was in a chemist’s shop. Unfortunately, not one of the most exciting experiences - he was given the task of testing urine samples!

His second job was with an electrical firm, helping to convert gas lit houses to electricity.  On one occasion when working upstairs fitting plugs he was met with screams and was surprised to find the daughter of the house still in bed. Norman now became interested in radio and built his own one valve receiver, this would encourage him to go on to bigger things in the field of radio. During this time he was sent out with a lad to install an aerial in a loft, resulting with the lad falling through the ceiling. When Norman related the story to his boss, his reply was that this always seemed to happen, not to worry, he would send the plasterer around.  

In 1938 he was working for Pye in Cambridge, as a service manager, repairing the more difficult faults. He became interested in short wave radio – it was the start of the ’build it yourself age’ using reclaimed components from old radios. He obtained his transmitting licence, with call sign 2HMM, and began building a transmitter.

War broke out and Norman received his call up papers, but he was into the last 3 months of a City and Guilds course. He managed to get his conscription deferred to enable him to finish his course and take the examinations.

Two days after this he again received his call up papers and soon found himself onboard a ship bound for Hong Kong. During the 4-week journey he volunteered to become an assistant to the dentist. His first task was to hold a patient whilst the dentist used a very large syringe to sedate him and after treatment carry the unconscious person past the other waiting patients!

At the end of the war he returned to his old job.

Norman was now a service manager for a furnishing firm and it is now 1948, television has arrived. He was sent on a course to E.M.I.Regentone Works in Romford, to learn how to adjust the 15 or so controls at the back of the receiver.

In 1949 the B.B.C. produced the famous ‘test card’. In the window of the company shop on High Street, Leicester was a working television, this caused passers-by to block the pavement, and soon the police arrived and asked for it to be switched off.

Then it was off to the Birmingham Branch where they had 370 repair jobs outstanding! He also found himself making up wage packets. This is where he learnt another lesson in life – never seal pay packets as you fill them. The first time he produced the wages he had money left over and had to unseal the whole lot.

After a few years he applied for a job at Marconi in Leicester.  The interview with the Chief Engineer went really well, he was only asked one question – How many wires has a transistor got – ‘three’ Norman replied.  He got the job.

Norman stayed with Marconi until he retired which brings us back to the beginning of this tale.

Roy Bills gave a vote of thanks for an interesting talk.

5th June 2008

The Methodist Church was well filled with members and friends of the History Society to hear Joan Spain tell them about The High Street and Fleckney Road as it was in her youth.  In those days it soon became apparent that the village was a thriving community with a with  large number of shops, some incorporating small businesses.  There were a number of butchers, cake and bread shops, (each making their own supplies), general stores and greengrocers.


Starting at the corner of Weir Road there was a small triangular house attached to the larger house on Weir Road, this has since been demolished.  The owner had a Penny Farthing bicycle; the last proprietor of this shop was a travel agent – Farthing Travel.  A little further up the street where ‘Wedding Belles’ is now situated were two houses.  The nearer one being the Police House, with the gaol behind it.  (A garage now stands here).  The policeman’s wife would take breakfast to any prisoners before they were released; the usual crime being drunkenness.


Behind what is now Leicester Mercury Newsagents stood the old fire station, it is not known whether the building which now stands in the garden of the adjoining house (no. 26) is the original building.  Beyond the newsagent is the ‘Manor House’ dating back to Tudor times, there is believed to be a ‘Priest Hole’ hole here which extends to the Church; whether or not this is true is not known.


Crossing the Smeeton Road, one comes to a row of shops and houses, over the last eighty years these have changed some are still houses tucked in between the shops.  The next building of interest is the ‘mud wall’.  This is all that remains of a cottage that burnt down, many of the villagers turning out to watch the spectacle but unable to save the cottage.


The Scout Hut belonged to Barratt’s Sale Rooms, there would be lantern slide shows shown here and the audience sat on whatever Mr. Barratt happened to have in stock.  Beyond this Mr. Fox of ‘Fox’s Glacier Mints’ lived in what is now the ‘Knoll’.


Continuing along the Fleckney Road, one comes to a shop selling dancewear, it was above this shop that Joan was born.  The shop itself was rented from Billy Bolton, who had built this and a number of other properties in the village.  On the other side of the road Terry Sedgely ran his butcher’s shop, when this changed hands it took over the shop that is now ‘Boo Boo’s’.


Crossing the road one comes to the Working Men’s Club, now the Kibworth Club with more shops alongside it.  One of the shops along here was Maudie Stevens’ sweet shop where, it was said, one could see the mice sitting in the window.


Back on to the High Street one comes to the Co-op, this was Ronnie Welton’s farm until recently; when the house and buildings were demolished to extend the Co-op store.  The next building is the old Church Hall, beyond this a row of houses and shops in which used to trade a cobblers, a shoe shop and a barber.  On a fine day the barber would be sitting outside his shop enjoying the sun and chatting to passers by. 


The offices of the electricity board have now been returned to a house, in the meantime having been transformed into flats.  The current owner had trouble when renovating as all the windows had to be returned to their original size and shape.


On the corner of the Bank was the Miss Hares’ clothing shop, where school uniforms could be bought.  There were a number of ‘Hares’ in the village, another one being the newsagent.


Thanks were given to Joan for a delightful talk, and Norman Harrison was thanked for escorting her round the village to take photographs, which were used to illustrate the talk, also mentioned were all those people who had allowed access to their gardens for the taking of said pictures.


The next meeting will be in the Methodist Church on 4th September 2008.  There will be a short AGM, followed by members speaking on objects precious to them.