“Understanding yesterday, for the benefit of today and tomorrow”
Our chairman, Norman Harrison, introduced the new season which commenced with the Annual General Meeting. The previously issued annual accounts and reports were discussed and approved. The committee was re-
Following this, a film was shown that included some of the footage shot during the production of Michael Wood’s The Story of England but not included in the television series. Aspects shown included: reminiscences of life in both Kibworths before the Second World War, the history of Beauchamp Manor House, and details about restoration of the Congregational Chapel.
The subject of this month’s meeting was ‘Fools & Jesters’. Our speaker, Sally Henshaw, gave a most interesting informative and amusing account of the role of the fool and the jester in history.
The position of the fool originated in the 13th century when the wealthy made fun of the disabled. This changed as people gradually turned the role into an art form, which eventually produced a situation where the fool, and later the jester, was the only person permitted to enter the king’s presence without appointment and able to say things that courtiers would not dare to say.
Such was their importance that. In 1529, Cardinal Wolsey gave his fool to Henry VIII as a gift. Though most were male, a number of women became fools, the most notable Thomasina, fool to Queen Elizabeth I.
By the end of the 16th century, fools and jesters were gradually replaced by players. The last court fool, Geoffrey, was born at Oakham and died in 1682. Muckeljohn, the last court jester, started work in the 1680s and so survived into the 18th century.
However this was not the end of the story for a Guild of Jesters was created in the late 1990s to recreate a piece of history.
Our own current encumbent is Sylvester the Jester of Leicester.
Our speaker this month, Pat Grundy, spoke about the problems of tracing the history of a house . Until relatively recently, houses were not numbered and many streets were not officially named, which makes it difficult to know exactly which house is referred to. However, anyone trying to trace the history of their house, can find information in a number of sources.
Firstly, Pat suggested, talk to neighbours who may have quite a lot of information about the area and previous owners of the house. Look at the style of the house and investigate those nooks and corners that may not have been renovated or restored. Then there are a number of documents and publications that may assist in the quest. Census records go back to 1801 but those before 1831 are limited in their information. Trade Directories provide a lot of information about businesses in the town or village and go back to the early 19th century. Another useful source of information are early ordnance survey maps, the earliest of which were issued in the 1880s.
For older houses, information can be gleaned from a range of documents, such as Tithe maps, Glebe Terriers, Wills & Inventories, Land Tax records and even the Hearth Tax of 1664. All the above sources can be found at the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland, Long Street, Wigston.
Our speaker this month was George Weston, the Society’s Treasurer, who gave a detailed account of the Johnson & Barnes hosiery business.
In 1891 John Thomas Johnson was living in Fleckney, working for R Rowley, hosiery manufacturer. He was encouraged by his employer to rent two knitting frames in a Kibworth shed, making stockings. In 1901 William Barnes joined the partnership of Johnson & Barnes was born. A single-
Johnson & Barnes encouraged sports and social activities in the villages, particularly the bowls and football clubs. The business became a Public Company in 1928 with a share capital of £375,000. William Barnes died in 1932. Although during WWII the factories were given over to production for the ATS, WAAF, and WRNS, the business continued to prosper, and by 1948 a brand new factory was built in Worsborough, Barnsley, in order to relieve the pressure on the other factories. Exports went to Canada, South Africa, and the Scandinavian countries. At the Golden Jubilee dinner in 1951, 150 employees were presented with awards for service exceeding 25 years, with 5 serving for 50 years.
Unfortunately the 1950s saw the hosiery trade begin to be threatened by cheap overseas imports, and this was followed, in the early 1960s, by the introduction of the mini-
At its height, Johnson & Barnes had employed over 400 people in Kibworth and in excess of 1500 in all factories, and contributed, in a very significant manner, to the growth of Kibworth.
George produced a fine display of J&B memorabilia, including a pair of ladies stockings in the original wrapper.
Our speaker this month was Dr Wendy Freer who gave a most interesting and informative talk about the building of Foxton Locks and the Inclined Plane. Building of the canal from Leicester commenced in 1793 and was completed in several sections, the first section taking it as far as Debdale which was reached in 1797, by which time money had run out. When further finance had been raised, the canal was extended as far as Market Harborough. Following the raising of more funds, it was decided to route the canal from Foxton up a set of locks on to a plateau and then down another set of locks at Watford before joining the Grand Junction Canal at Norton Junction. This work commenced in 1810 and took four years to complete.
Dr Freer explained clearly how the locks were constructed and how the use of side ponds allowed boats to pass through the locks using only half the amount of water that would normally be required. This was important since each lock holds 28,000 gallons or 130,000 litres. The ten locks lifted boats 75 feet from the Market Harborough level to the summit and were opened with a great celebration.
Most of the talk dealt with construction of the Inclined Plane which was opened on 9th August 1900. By this time, railways had largely replaced canals as the main means of transporting goods and was therefore a project of great faith and optimism. The Inclined Plane was capable of raising and lowering 200 boats a day but it never averaged more than eight. Consequently, it had a very short working life of only ten years. Most of the infrastructure was removed in the late 1920s and the site gradually became overgrown and forgotten until the Foxton Inclined Plane Trust was formed and started to clear the area in the 1980s.
The Society welcomed Mr John Tillotson to speak at the May meeting. Though not a native of Leicestershire, Mr Tillotson, spent virtually all his working life in Market Harborough as a solicitor. His talk was divided into two parts, the first recalling the history of the village school, the second looking at the life of a country solicitor.
The village school was established following the 1870 Education Act and remained in use until the present school on Hillcrest Avenue was built. Several members of the audience had attended the school and were able to add their own anecdotes of life there. Today the school has a new lease of life as The Old School Surgery.
The second part of the talk was a more light-
Shangton village and church were the venues for this summer evening’s outing of members and friends. After short tours of the village and Manor House, formerly the rectory, everyone assembled in St Nicholas’ Church for the talk. The audience included a good number of Shangton residents.
The Diaries and Times of Henry Packe was the subject of the lecture presented by Norman Harrison (the Society’s Chairman). The Reverend Henry Vere Packe was the Rector of Shangton from 1857-
The lecture gave an outline of local life as found in Packe’s diaries. He met and entertained all classes of men and women, ministering to their different needs. Agricultural activities through the year were depicted and he himself kept animals and was a keen gardener. Packe visited Kibworth very often, so the diaries describe the folk he visited and the range of activities, such as cricket and entertainments. Kibworth station was a popular starting point for numerous journeys by train; north to Leicester and beyond, and south to Harborough and London.
Because of his trusted position, Henry Packe was appointed to various public offices. These included oversight of the Shangton School, being on the Board of Guardians of the Harborough Poor Law Union, serving as an Income Tax Commissioner, being a chaplain at Leicester Infirmary, and secretary to other organisations.
After the lecture, folk inspected the church premises, noting improvements introduced during Packe’s time in Shangton. The original diary transcripts and other memorabilia relating to the village were also displayed.