Displaying items by tag: Smeeton Westerby
THE GRAND UNION CANAL - LEICESTERSHIRE LINE
The Leicestershire line of the Grand Union Canal meanders from Leicester to Market Harborough passing through the Parish of Smeeton Westerby from a point southwest of the Smeeton Road Bridge (No. 70) to Debdale Wharf.
In 1793 an Act of Parliament was passed enabling the construction of the Leicestershire and Northamptonshire Union Canal. This new section of canal was intended to link the Soar Navigation near Leicester to the River Nene in Northamptonshire.
Debdale Wharf Inn
In 1799 James Barnes, an engineer working on the Grand Junction Canal (stretching from Braunston in Northamptonshire to the River Thames at Brentford), was asked to find a route for the to reach the Grand Junction Canal at Braunston in Northamptonshire. In 1802 he produced a proposal, to route the rest of the canal to Norton on the Grand Junction Canal, with a branch to Market Harborough. Another engineer, Thomas Telford, was asked for his opinion and he proposed a change of destination to Norton Junction for the join to the Grand Junction Canal. This route was agreed and in 1805 finance was raised and construction resumed. In 1809 the canal reached Market Harborough when once again construction was suspended.
By this time the Grand Junction Canal from London to Braunston in Northamptonshire had been completed and opened. A route for joining the Grand Junction and Grand Union Canals was discussed and it was decided that a separate company ‘The Grand Union Canal Company’ should be formed. A Bill was put before Parliament to authorise a new canal, known as the Grand Union Canal.
The Act of Parliament received Royal Assent on 24 May 1810. The Act was ‘An Act for making and maintaining a navigable Canal from the Union Canal, in the parish of Gumley, in the county of Leicester, to join the Grand Junction Canal near Buckby, in the county of Northampton.’
The canal link from Braunston to Foxton was completed and opened by 1814. This provided a direct route for the transport of industrial products and coal from the East Midlands to London.
The Grand Union Canal was never a commercial success and so with the development of the railways, trade using canals from the1830’s declined. In the years following, several proposals were made to speed up travel on the canal including the building of the Foxton Locks Inclined Plane.
During the 1950s and 1960s freight transport on the canal system declined rapidly. The Transport Act of 1962 transferred the canals to British Waterways. The 1960s saw the canal leisure industry begin to grow and this was acknowledged with the Transport Act 1968, Part Vll and Schedule 12, Part ll, ‘Cruising Waterways’. This Act required British Waterways to keep the waterways fit for cruising. This included the Leicester Line section of the Grand Union Canal. An example of the growth of the canal leisure industry can be seen at the Debdale Wharf Marina which has been operating at Debdale since 1974.
The Canal and River Trust
THE GREAT FAMINE AND THE BLACK DEATH
The 14th century was a difficult period for Kibworth Beauchamp, Kibworth Harcourt, Smeeton Westerby and indeed the whole country. 1314 saw the start of the Great Famine, followed by The Black Death in 1348, with both leaving a trail of death and economic problems for the three villages.
The Great Famine 1314 to 1317
During 1313 severe gales caused havoc in the villages damaging buildings, hedges and trees. Hard frosts in the first months of 1314 persisted until April followed by a hot dry summer which baked the ground resulting in a poor harvest. Autumn brought torrential rain and this extreme weather persisted throughout 1315 and 1316 leaving crops rotting and dying in the fields. Livestock suffered through the lack of animal fodder. This resulted in a severe shortage of food stocks and increased prices adding to the hardships engulfing the villagers. These food shortages persisted into the next decade. The death toll from the famine was approximately 10% of the population along with a severe damage to the economics of the villages.
The Kibworth Harcourt accounts for 1315 to 1318 show increasing rent arrears with the number of poverty-stricken tenants forced to give up their land increasing from 6 to 40 a year.
The Black Death 1348 t0 1553
The Black Death was a bubonic plague, caused by the bacterium now identified as Yersinia pestis, which originated in Asia around 1346 spreading across Europe to reach England in the summer of 1348. The plague spread throughout England very quickly leaving a trail of death in its path.
During that summer rumours, possibly through Kibworth Harcourt’s association with Merton College, Oxford, began to circulate in Kibworth of a terrible pestilence. Later that year the plague reached Leicestershire and arrived in Kibworth at the beginning of 1349.
The first deaths were recorded in Kibworth Beauchamp in April that year. The Kibworth Harcourt court rolls, held at Merton College recorded the first deaths in the village on 29th April 1349.
Image used to portray the disposal of bodies during the Black Death
The court roll only recorded deaths of landholders and tenants. The deaths of women, children, labourers and those not owning any land were not recorded.
Kibworth had the heaviest known losses from the Black Death of any English village and whilst the figures are not absolutely accurate, with some records lost, the death toll for Kibworth Beauchamp, Kibworth Harcourt and Smeeton Westerby was about 500. The mortality rate from the Black Death in England was estimated at 40% and when compared to the estimated mortality rate in Kibworth Harcourt, at least 70%, indicates that the village was far more severely affected than most. There appears to be no explanation for the disparity in these mortality figures.
The Kibworth Harcourt court rolls from this period, held at Merton College Oxford, give an indication of how the villagers tried to keep things running as near normal as possible, vacant tenancies were filled, new village officers appointed, and children whose parents had died and were too young to tend their parent’s land were[D1] [D2] [D3] [D4] cared for.
With the heavy death toll disposal of the bodies was a problem and open mass graves known as ‘Death Pits’ or ‘Plague ‘Pits’ were utilised.
By the end of 1350 The Black Death had begun to abate. However minor outbreaks of the disease appeared over the next few years and continued into the early years of the 15th century.
Having to cope with the deaths of so many relatives and friends had a large impact on the people who survived the disease. This coupled with the damage to the economies of Kibworth Beauchamp, Kibworth Harcourt and Smeeton Westerby, had a severe effect on village life over the next few decades.
The Story of England by Michael Wood
The BBC Magazine 11th June 2020, ‘On how pandemics shape society’ by Michael Wood
Britain Express, The Black Death in England 1348-1350’ by David Ross
Demographic Changes In Kibworth Harcourt Leicestershire In The Later Middle Ages by David Postles
SMEETON WESTERBY MANOR
1086 – 1888
Before the Norman Conquest of England there is no record of holders of land in Smeeton Westerby.
The Domesday Book first draft completed in 1086 contained the following entry for Smeeton Westerby:
Land of King William.
10 villagers. 73 freemen. 32 smallholders
Land and resources
Ploughland: 2 lord's plough teams. 26.5 men's plough teams.
Other resources: Meadow 36.5 acres.
Annual value to lord: 10 pounds 2 shillings and 5 pence in 1086; 1 shilling when acquired by the 1086 owner.
Tenant-in-chief in 1086: King William.
Lords in 1086: Robert of Tosny: King William
Lord in 1066: King Edward.
Lands of Hugh de Grandmesnil
6 villagers. 4 freemen. 3 smallholders. 3 slaves.
Land and resources
Ploughland: 4 ploughlands. 1 lord's plough teams. 3 men's plough teams.
Other resources: Meadow 8 acres. Woodland 3. 3 furlongs. 1 mill, value 1 pound.
Annual value to lord: 2 pounds in 1086; 1 pound when acquired by the 1086 owner.
Tenant-in-chief in 1086: Hugh of Grandmesnil
Lord in 1086: Hugh of Grandmesnil
Land of Hugh of Grandmesnil
1 villager. 2 freemen. 3 smallholders.
Land and resources
Ploughland: 3 ploughlands. 1 lord's plough teams. 1 men's plough teams.
Annual value to lord: 1 pound in 1086; 1 pound when acquired by the 1086 owner.
Tenant-in-chief in 1086: Hugh of Grandmesnil
Lord in 1086: Robert of Bucy
Land of Robert the bursar
2 villagers. 3 freemen. 1 smallholder.
Land and resources
Ploughland: 1 lord's plough teams. 1 men's plough teams.
Other resources: Meadow 1 acres.
Annual value to lord: 10 shillings in 1086; 10 shillings when acquired by the 1086 owner.
Tenant-in-chief in 1086: Robert the bursar
Lord in 1086: Robert the bursa
NB When the Domesday Book refers to a number of ploughs it is referring to the taxable amount of land that can be ploughed by a team of eight oxen. Thus, land ‘for half a plough’ (or ‘for four oxen) means half a ploughland.
Hugo de Grandmesnil died and was succeeded by his heir Ivo de Grandmesnil. Following a disagreement with the King Ivo was fined and forced to seek help from Robert de Beaumont, Count of Meulan, 1st Earl of Leicester.
Ivo de Grandmesnil died and his lands were held by Robert de Beaumont. The lands should have been returned to Ivo’s two sons, Ivo ll and William however Robert de Beaumont deprived them of their inheritance. The land was held by Robert Bassett from Robert de Beaumont. Bassett also held the land of Robert de Buci.
The land, which had been held by Richard Bassett from Robert de Beaumont was by now possessed by Robert de Beaumont, 2nd Earl of Leicester. The manor remained with the Earls of Leicester.
Robert de Beaumont, 4th Earl of Leicester died without children. His lands in England were divided between his two sisters. Margaret, the youngest daughter of the late Robert de Beaumont, 3rd Earl of Leicester inherited land which included the Smeeton Westerby manor. She had married Simon de Montfort, a French Nobleman who was appointed 5th Earl of Leicester by King John.
It is not known when, but some of these holdings at Smeeton Westerby had been acquired by Ivo de Neufmarche, Lord of Braybrook.
His lands including some passed through Ivo’sheirs, Henry de Senlis and Robert Ledet, Baron of Braybrook. They decided to divide lands between them. Robert Ledet, Baron of Braybrook’s share included land at Smeeton Westerby. In 1208 King John confirmed Robert de Braybrook held land in Smeeton Westerby from Ralph Turville. There is little doubt that this was the land previously held by Richard Bassett from the Earl of Leicester.
Robert Ledet, Baron of Braybrook died and was succeeded by his son Walter Ledet.
Walter died, his co-heirs were his daughters Alice and Christiana. Alice married William Latimer and her sister Christiana, married William Latimer’s brother John. William and John Latimer had possession of land in Smeeton Westerby from their wives
Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester died. Following his death King Henry III granted all de Montfort’s lands to Edmund Crouchback Henry III’s eldest son. Edmund Crouchback was given the title Earl of Leicester and shortly was also appointed Earl of Lancaster. The land at Smeeton Westerby was held by the Duchy of Lancaster.
At some stage the Duchy appears to have retained some of the land at Smeeton in demense. (land attached to a manor by the owner for their own use) The remaining land was subinfeudated. (the granting of a portion of an estate by a feudal tenant to a subtenant, held from the tenant on terms similar to those of the grant to the tenant). The position of the under-tenants of the Smeeton Westerby manor holding is not clear and it is not known what happened to Richard Bassett’s holdings.
However, it does appear that some of these holdings at Smeeton Westerrby which had been acquired by Ivo de Neufmarche, Lord of Braybrook. This land passed through de Neufmarche heirs to Henry de Senlis and Robert Ledet, Baron of Braybrook who decided to divide lands between them. Robert Ledet, Baron of Braybrook’s share included land at Smeeton Westerby. When Senlis and Ledet received the land is not clear.
John Latimer died, his lands were inherited by his heirs, the Latimer family of Braybrook who held the land from the Duchy of Lancaster.
William Latimer died and his lands were inherited by Nicholas Latimer.
Nicholas Latimer died he was succeeded by his son John.
John Latimer died and his lands were inherited by his son, Nicholas who was still a minor. There is no record of what happened to the lands after this.
Edward Latimer of Braybrook died and the lands in Smeeton Westerby were held by John Griffin, grandson of Edward Latimer’s sister Elizabeth who had married Sir Thomas Griffin. The land passed through the Griffin family.
Nicholas Griffin, 10th Baron Latimer of Braybrook died and it was believed that he had held the manor from the King as part of the Duchy of Lancaster. He was succeeded by his son Sir Thomas Griffin. Sir Thomas was in possession of the manor in 1550 however what happened to the manor after this is uncertain.
Charles 1st granted the Smeeton Westerby manor to Charles Harbord, Christopher Favell and Thomas Young.
Harbold, Favell and Young conveyed the manor to William Lewis.1654
William Lewis conveyed the manor to John Lewis. (there is no hard evidence to support these transactions)
H H Hungerford was Lord of the Smeeton Westerby manor.
Sir Henry Halford had acquired the lands from Hungerford. After this date there are no records of any person being Lore of the Smeeton Westerby manor.
It appears that the manorial rights had lapsed.
NB I have used the spelling of Hugh of GrandmesniI from the Doomsday Book although British History On-line spells it Grentemesnil.
The Domesday Book
The National Archives
Domesday Book Glossary
British History On-Line
On the weekend of 25th and 26th July 2009 two hundred villagers, volunteer diggers and professional archaeologists worked together to open fifty test pits in the villages of Kibworth Beauchamp, Kibworth Harcourt and Smeeton Westerby in south Leicestershire.The event was organised by Michael Wood and his production team from Maya Vision International as part of their new BBC TV series the “Story of England” and under the direction of Access Cambridge Archaeology (ACA).
Big Dig volunteers outside the Coach and Horses Inn
Andrew Southerden (pub licensee), Michael Wood and Prof. Carenza Lewis in foreground
The volunteers gathered in Kibworth Grammar School Hall on the Saturday morning to receive a briefing from Professor Carenza Lewis, a British archaeologist who became famous as a result of her appearances on the Channel 4 television series “Time Team”. Stockpiles of tools including mattocks, trowels, tarpaulin and sieves were available as well as detailed instructions on how to record finds.
Throughout the weekend archaeologists were available to respond to calls from the pit sites to give advice on articles found. The digs were also filmed by three roving film crews. The exercise was co-ordinated from The Coach and Horses Inn where the restaurant was equipped with aerial maps, wireless broadband and relevant printed histories and documents relating to the area. This enabled the teams of experts to quickly attend any of the test pit sites where their expertise was required. The licensee of the Coach and Horses Inn, Andrew Southerden, dug a test pit in the corner of the pub car park (there is now a plaque on the wall behind the site of the pit).
During the course of the Dig over 2500 finds were recorded and labeled, and are now at Cambridge University for analysis by Carenza Lewis and her team. The finds included:
The pit at The Coach and Horses Inn produced early/middle Saxon pottery (450-650AD) and a stratified fragment of an incised patterned early Anglo-Saxon bone comb from undisturbed deposits. There appears little doubt that it revealed the site of the earliest Anglo-Saxon settlement of Kibworth, with at least 20cm of undisturbed deposits of that date. It appears to have fallen from use before the Viking invasions, and not occupied by people since.
Early-Anglo-Saxon bone comb from the pit at the Coach and Horses Inn
Roman pottery was found in two test pits, one in Kibworth Harcourt, the other in Smeeton Westerby. Neither pit produced more than a few sherds. The pit in Kibworth Harcourt also produced forty sherds of St Neots Ware (c.875-1100AD) and six of Stamford Ware (c.875-1200AD) indicating intensive use of this plot during these periods.
Only one of the pits, more than 1km to the south of this find, produced any pottery of middle Anglo-Saxon date (650-850): a single small sherd of Ipswich Ware (700-850) weighing just 6g, although small this was noted as the first find of Ipswich ware in Leicestershire, and as such is of considerable interest, possibly indicating a site of some status in the vicinity.
Four pits in Smeeton Westerby produced Stamford ware (c.875-1200AD), three of which were sited close together along the west side of the main street. Although these produced smaller amounts of pottery (none yielded more than four sherds), they do seem likely to indicate settlement in this area in the late Anglo-Saxon period.
In Kibworth Beauchamp only about half of the pits excavated produced medieval pottery, whether this indicates less intensive settlement here or it is simply due to sampling bias across a small number of pits where there were far less dug.
In the medieval period, the pattern is very different, with most pits producing significant numbers of sherds dating from 1100-1400AD. These include nine of the twelve pits along Main Street, Kibworth Harcourt, indicating the possibility that there was settlement along this street in the High Medieval period, quite possibly arranged as a regular planned row either side of the street.
Smeeton and Westerby also produced large amounts of pottery dating to 1100-1400AD and activity here appears to have increased significantly in the centuries after the Norman Conquest.
Only two of the five pits excavated in Kibworth Harcourt produced later medieval pottery, also in minimal quantities. Documentary evidence suggests that the population of Kibworth Harcourt dropped by around 40% in 1348-9 (The Black Death) and, after a weak rally in the 1360s and 1370s, dwindled further throughout the first half of the fifteenth century to less than a quarter of the pre-Black Death level, almost to vanishing point. The pottery evidence from the excavated test pits clearly seems to reflect this, it seems that those few families who lived in the former villages in the fifteenth century must have done so in an otherwise almost deserted landscape. In the post-medieval period, however, there is a marked recovery, with nearly all test pits producing material of sixteenth to eighteenth century date.
The pit in Jubilee Green, Main Street, Kibworth Harcourt (the site of the old village market (see Early Modern/ Kibworth Harcourt Village Centre)) was dug by a team of pupils from Kibworth High School and they un-earthed a stone cannonball from the English Civil War (1642 to 1651).
Photograph reproduced by kind permission of Maya Vision International
All the volunteer diggers were very enthusiastic and many were rewarded by their finds, the artifacts below were recovered from a pit in Smeeton Westerby much to the delight of the amateur archaeologist who found them.
Finds from Smeeton Westerby pit