“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

2nd October 2008    Kibworth Methodist Chapel

The History Society meets in the Methodist Church, so members were interested to learn about the history of the building. The speaker was Eileen Bromley, who has been a long time member of the church and, in 1997, was responsible for writing its history to celebrate its 150th anniversary. Eileen said it was not known exactly when Methodism came to Kibworth; dissenting worshippers had been recorded in the village since 1669. The founders of Methodism, John and Charles Wesley passed through Kibworth a number of times but never preached here. The first authenticated reference in Kibworth is in 1787 when John and Richard Markham registered their house as a licensed meeting place.

The first church opened in 1824 when an existing building was converted for religious use. This soon proved to be too small so a new building was commissioned in 1846 and erected on the same site. It opened in 1847 and is still used today. Records provide information on those early worshippers, such as John Allen (a butcher) and Job Woodcock (a baker) who lived at the corner of Weir Road. Alterations and improvements to the building have been made at regular intervals. In 1874, some alterations were made and new Sunday School rooms added. In 1893, the church was refurbished and a new harmonium installed. Improvements have continued up to the present day with the installation of a new ceiling this year.

Eileen mentioned many other items that were important to the grwoth of the church, from the Haymes and Paget trusts, which provided financial assistance, to the Band of Hope that gradually evolved into the church’s programme of youth work. This was a fascinating talk which enabled the audience to better understand the history of the building in which they regularly meet.

6th November 2008    The History of Gartree Prison

The speaker this month was Dick Callan who gave members an insight into the history of Gartree prison.

The prison was built on part of the old Market Harborough airfield that was constructed in 1942/3 and was decommissioned in 1947.  The idea of establishing a prison in the Market Harborough was first discussed in 1960 but it was not opened until 1966.  It was designed on modern lines with four wings.

When opened, it first accommodated short term prisoners.  Following a review of prison requirements in the country, Gartree became a dispersal prison in 1968, taking prisoners of different categories including category A.  This heralded a period of discontent during the 1970s and 80s; many of the audience remembered the reports of riots and roof top protests and the most notorious event in December 1987 when a helicopter landed on the sports field, for only 23 seconds, and two prisoners escaped.  The difficulties of this period prompted a rethink in its use; it came out of the dispersal system in 1992.  

Today, the prison has been refurbished and an extension added.  It only accommodates men serving life sentences.

This was a serious yet humorous look at how the prison has evolved over the years by one who has spent much of his working life in the prison service and written its history.

4th December 2008   The Christmas Social

The Chairman welcomed everyone to the Christmas social  and informed the members that he had been to visit Hilda Hawkins, a former member whose health prevented her from attending meetings, and that she had sent her best wishes.

Members then enjoyed a delicious buffet before embarking on the quiz prepared by Roger and Sheila York. The quiz featured local and general history, and some seasonal questions. The quiz was won by Jean Chapman and Pat Thomas.

The next meeting, 5th February 2009, has a most topical subject: “Panic in the High Street” - the story of the Harborough Bank.

5th March 2009   POWs in Leicestershire during WWII

Dr Margaret Bonney, Chief Archivist of Leicestershire and Rutland was the speaker at the March meeting. There were 30 members present with 8 apologies for absence.

Dr Bonney gave a very interesting talk on 'Prisoners of War in 1947'. There were many purpose built camps in the county with various other building used as hostels. The first P.O.W.s to arrive were Italians, followed by Germans. These camps were later used by displaced persons. One of the camps was in Shady Lane, Leicester another on Farndon Road, Market Harborough and on the Hillcrest Road area in Kibworth. The entrance to that was opposite where Raitha's now stands. The head camp was in Stoughton.


On arrival, the prisoners were screened to find any that may have useful technical knowledge and those that had were sent to work in America. (In case Britain fell to the enemy of course).


They were catagorized by the strength of their political beliefs and there was a colour code to define them. Those thought to have strong Nazi tendencies were graded as Black and were imprisoned separately from those graded Grey or White, so as not to be able to influence or intimidate them.


P.O.W.s were set to work farming, brick-making, digging sewers for new housing estates and even clearing deep snow in the severe winter of 1947. To distinguish them from other workers they wore colour patches on the shoulder and leg of their uniforms - red, blue or green circles for the Italians and black diamonds for the Germans. Many prisoners working on the land stayed with the farmer's family during the week returning to the camp at weekends.


There was plenty of leisure time for them so they had football teams, amateur dramatics, concerts and at least one camp had a very successful printing press where they produced their own newspapers. They made good quality hand crafted goods with they either gave as gifts or exchanged for other items. They were encouraged to go to the cinema, visit places of interest and had their own services in local churches.


It is surprising that P.O.W.s were still here so long after the war. A poster for a farewell dance is dated May 1948! There was a severe shortage of manpower at the time and it was government policy to keep them here as long as possible. It was only when the Russian authorities began releasing their prisoners that ours were finally sent back to their homeland.


There appears to have been a good relationship generally between P.O.W.s and the local population. Many became friends for life, some married local girls and others chose to stay - especially if their part of Germany was under Russian rule. In later years some ex-prisoners who had good memories of their enforced time spent in Britain, came back to visit bringing their families with them.

2nd April 2009   Life in the Workhouse

Our speaker, Dr Wendy Freer gave a most interesting talk on the origins and development of the workhouse.  She first explained how the concept of looking after the elderly and very poor originated in medieval times when religious orders provided food and shelter.  Dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century removed this support, which was soon replaced by the Poor Law Act of 1601, which required each parish to look after its very poorest citizens.  By the 1820s, it was felt the system required modernisation to cope with changing times; a new Poor Law Act was passed in 1834.

Dr Freer’s talk dealt mainly with the means by which the new act put into effect.  She explained how the country was divided into administrative districts based on the larger towns; Kibworth was in the Market Harborough district or union.  Unlike the earlier system, where each parish could have its own workhouse, the new Act required each union to build one large workhouse as this was considered to be more efficient and would be cheaper for the rate payers.  Many workhouses were built to a design similar to prisons; men were segregated from women, boys from girls, husband from wife.  Rules and regulations controlled every moment of an inmate’s life.  It was as if poverty was to be punished.  The stigma of the workhouse and fear of ending one’s days there continued long after they were abolished in 1930.  Though officially abolished in 1930, many institutions continued to operate until 1948.  The talk was illustrated by clippings  from several interviews with people who had experienced life in a workhouse.   

Many workhouses still exist throughout the country though one would not necessarily recognise them today.  Buildings have been extended and altered to suit modern requirements.  For example, St Luke’s Hospital is situated on the site of the Market Harborough workhouse and has incorporated some of its buildings.  

7th May 2009   The Kibworth Band

Members listened to Ted Smith who gave a fascinating talk about the history of the Kibworth Band.  Ted joined the band in 1945 at the age of nine and has been involved with playing and organisation of the club ever since.  He started by providing some information about bands that existed in the village during the nineteenth century.  A local band had played at the opening of Smeeton Westerby church in 1848 and there are records of a band playing at a meeting of Kibworth Freehold Land Society in 1864 when lots were drawn for plots of land in New Town.  The band also played during Kibworth Feast week.

However, the band as we know it today, was formed in 1905 as the Kibworth Temperance Band.  At that time they practiced in a building on Paget Street until moving to their present site on Halford Street about 1923.  The present building replaced the original wooden hut.  In 1926, the name was changed to Kibworth Silver Prize Band, then to Kibworth Silver Band and in 1990, the present title was adopted.

Competition has always formed a major part of the band’s work.  Members practice several times a week when preparing for a competition.  Ted recounted a period during the 1960s when Bill Scholes was conductor and the band played a number of times at the Albert Hall in London, culminating in 1968 when they was judged to be sixth best band in the country – no mean achievement for an amateur village band.

The band has always been involved with the local community, playing at types of event such as carolling round the village at Christmas.  Ted explained that this has become more difficult in recent years as many members do not live in the village and are not available at all times.  For many years the band has raised money for many reasons, whether it is for new instruments or to give a Christmas gift to elderly residents.

The future of the band depends on attracting and training young musicians and it has recently established a junior section of the band.  Looking to the future, Ted explained that land has been acquired on Smeeton Road to build a new hall, which is necessary if the band is to develop to meet future needs.  A decision is awaited from Harborough District Council.

4th September 2008   AGM and Members’ Evening

On Thursday 4th September 2008, Norman Harrison welcomed members of the Kibworth History Society to the Annual General Meeting.  He drew the attention of those present to the medals awarded to Rose Holyoak and Betty Ward for their service as members of the Land Army during World War 11.

The AGM was opened and the minutes of the previous meeting were signed as correct, these having been distributed to members in advance with the Treasurer’s Report, which was adopted unanimously.  Despite the increase in speaker’s fees the subscriptions will remain at £8 for the next year.  The Officers were re-elected unanimously.  A vote of thanks was given to the committee for their work during the last year.

The speakers for the evening were introduced, each being a Society member who would speak on some personal object dear to them.

Celia Pemberton – had brought a tiny bear, given to her Mother in 1892 by her Grandmother when a pet monkey had bitten the nose off her favourite doll.  This bear had been precious to Celia’s Mother and has remained so to Celia.

Joan Exley – Joan had brought a collection of ancient dental instruments, found by her husband, Ken, when he opened his first shop in Leicester after the War.  The shop had belonged to Mr. Wilby who had performed extractions in a back room.  Other items found had included a book dated 1864.

Barbara Ward – delighted her listeners with a beautiful, miniature chest of drawers.  This chest had been made for her Grandfather in 1868, by an inmate of the Workhouse at Southwell, near Nottingham.  Surprise was expressed that such a craftsman had ended up in the Workhouse, able to make such an object from nothing.

Dennis Clarke – two beautiful pieces of silver, an inkwell and a mirror, were passed around the audience.  These had belonged to ‘Aunty Lucy’ who was born in 1872.  In 1885 she had been sent to work at the home of the local squire, Sir Philip Pain who obviously came to value her highly and had made these gifts to her.  Later in her life, Lucy went to work for Sir Philip again, this meant that her pet Siamese cat, Nippy, had to be fetched to live with Dennis’ family in Fleckney Road, the first night he escaped and three days went by before he re-appeared, causing much distress to the family, who feared reporting his loss to Aunt Lucy, who eventually died in 1947.

David Holmes – this unusual item was ‘a life preserver’ or ‘heaving line lead’, another beautifully made item, being a wooden stick with a lead weight bound to one end and a loop at the other.  It had belonged to David’s Grandfather and Great-Grandfather, being of early Victorian manufacture.  Its purpose was to be attached to a long line, either to be thrown around the legs of a miscreant to trip him, or to measure the depth of water under a boat.

Joan Spain – showed us all a fascinating clay jug, known as a ‘puzzle jug’.  This jug had a pattern cut out round the sides and three spouts from which to drink.  The puzzle being which spout to drink from and how to get the contents past the pattern cut through the sides.  This jug was a gift to Joan’s grandparents who were innkeepers in Leicester, it is 144 years old, the date being inscribed on it, and has passed down through the family to Joan.

John Tyers – has a great interest in transport and in maps.  The map he brought with him was dated between 1832-1840, and it showed the Nanpanton to Loughborough railway, one of the earliest in existence.  This railway was built to carry coal.  The map also shows in detail ‘turnpike roads’ and mail coach routes through Leicestershire.  He spoke of canals and David Holmes was able to tell him where to see part of a canal that never opened due to its leaking water.

Roy Bills – from a bag, Roy produced a small builder’s trowel and delighted everyone by asking what to tell a young man before he left home.  The young man in question was a forebear of Roy’s wife and the trowel was the tool he took to London with him, being sure that work would be available there, although there was none locally.  The young man moved into Rowton Houses, in London.  These being dormitory houses built by a philanthropist called Lord Rowton, for those with no home.  Bed, baths and food were available for a working-man, as represented by the little trowel.

Rose Holyoak – brought with her the clothes she had worn as a ‘land girl’.  These were commented on by many, exclaiming at the fact that they were still wearable.  She then told of her Father’s friend, Bix, who had gone to war in 1914 and had lost an arm and a leg.  She talked about the silver salad servers he had sent, in a presentation box, for her parents Silver Wedding Anniversary in 1944.

Thanks were given to all the speakers, and the Membership was reminded to sign up for the Christmas Social on 4th December 2008 at a cost of £6.50.