After the Puritan period of John Yaxley (Rector, 1654-1660), Kibworth became a centre of Protestant dissent. In 1669, a 200 member conventicle (or clandestine religious meeting) of Presbyterians and Independents was held in Kibworth Harcourt. The leaders of the meeting were Matthew Clark (who might well have been related to the Richard Clark who helped eject Yaxley) and another ejected minister called Southam. A building, the Meeting House, off the Leicester Road (behind the White House on Leicester Road), was licensed for Presbyterian worship. John Jennings from West Langton moved to Kibworth in 1690 and set up as pastor of the local dissenters. He died on 20th September 1701 and was buried under the nave of St Wilfrid's Church with his wife, Maria, who died on 6th February 1721; a memorial slate tablet is there to this day. His son, also called John, succeeded him and set up the Kibworth Dissenters’ Academy in 1715 in the present White House. This was an important centre for non-conformity in the early 18th century and among the students, and later a minister, was Philip Doddridge, the noted hymn composer. A blue plaque was erected in his memory on the side of the White House (51/53 Leicester Road) by the Kibworth Improvement Team in 2013.
After the Meeting House burnt down, the present Congregational Chapel (or ‘Top Chapel’) on Leicester Road was built in 1759 and licensed in 1761; it is now a private residence. The dissenters of Kibworth Beauchamp also decided to license their own Meeting place in 1787, and by 1824 a building on School Road had been converted into the first Wesleyan Methodist Chapel. The present Methodist Chapel in School Road dates from 1846. A Baptist Chapel was built on the north side of High Street in 1890 and this was acquired by the parish church of St. Wilfrid in 1924, and used as the church hall until the present church hall was built adjacent to the church in 1988.
Little is known about the personal details of St. Wilfrid’s incumbents over the 120 years between 1660 and 1779, save that William Vincent (1704-1741) was also incumbent of Laughton, and in Kibworth there were 2 services every Sunday but only 10 celebrations of Communion a year! In 1788, James Norman (1780-1812), late fellow of Merton College in Oxford built what many older people in Kibworth think of as the ‘Old Rectory’ (see picture below). It stood between what are now Church Close and Oak Tree Close, off Rectory Lane, and was demolished, after the present one was built in 1962, during the incumbency of Denis Ireland (1953-1978).
During the demolition of James Norman’s Rectory, a brass plaque was discovered which read:
Anno Domini MDCCLXXXVIII J Norman BD huius Ecclesius Rector has Aedes a Fundamenytalis erectas, hos hortos muris conclusos nimio forte sumptu posuit. Opera (faxit Deus) seris Successoribus haud ingrata.
Which can be translated as follows:
In 1788 J. Norman BD Rector of this parish built this house from its foundations and enclosed these gardens with walls at perhaps too much a cost. The tasks were performed (by the grace of God) for which his future successors will not be ungrateful.
James Beresford (1812-1841) another fellow of Merton College had published a popular and peculiar book of amusing anecdotes called the Miseries of Human Life in 1806. The book has coloured illustrations and it's flavour can be appreciated from the following examples:
A Misery in the Country: In attempting to spring carelessly, with the help of one hand, over a five barred gate, by way of showing your activity to a party of ladies who are behind you (but whom you effect not to have noticed), blundering on your nose on the other side.
Misery in London: Accosting a person in the street with the utmost familiarity, shaking them long and cordially by the hand, and at length discovering by his cold (or, if he is a fool, angry) stare, that he is not the man you took him for.
His caricature was published in 1807-8 by Robert Dighton and entitled "A view from Merton College, Oxford" and is shown here. Described as a misogynist who vanished into the shrubberies at the sight of a petticoat, he had the high-backed, box-pews replaced by uniform low box-pews in 1813. Originally there would have been very little seating as people stood or knelt to worship. Gradually from the 15th century more elaborate seating was added as sermons became more prominent (and lengthy!).
In July 1825 the church steeple collapsed while being shored up by workmen (see separate web page). The present tower was eventually built between 1832 and 1836 after several years of ecclesiastical wrangling and insufficient funds to re-build the steeple.
During the sorting and archiving of St Wilfrid’s Parish records in 1999, a number of interesting documents came to light. One such document was delivered by James Beresford (1812-1841) to every household in August 1834 throughout Kibworth Beauchamp, Kibworth Harcourt and Smeeton Westerby (the ‘three townships’) and consisted of a tract on "Drunkenness" (see separate web page). Clearly the community must have been suffering from considerable drunkenness for this step to be taken! Imagine what effect such a step would have today!?
William Ricketts (1841-1844) died from an unknown illness only three years into his incumbency, but his name has been immortalised on the dedication plaque over the door of the Old School (now Two Shires Medical Practice on Station Street).
Stuart Eyre Bathurst (1844-1851) had to resign the benefice as he converted to Catholicism after joining the Oxford Movement, which gained ground in the Church of England in the 1840s and 50s. During his incumbency in 1846, plain deal pews were installed (for details see separate article about Pews) to replace the box pews installed during James Beresford’s time in 1813. Correspondence (Oct. 2010) from Jeremiah (Jerry) Twomey (Head of History) at the Stuart Bathurst Catholic High School in Wednesbury, West Midlands stated that Stuart Bathurst was received into the Catholic Church by John Henry Newman, who was beatified on 19 September 2010 at Cofton Park, Birmingham, by Pope Benedict XVI during his Papal visit to the UK.
Montagu Francis Finch Osborn (1851-1884) was the son of Sir John & Frederica (nee Davers) Osborn; he was born in 1824 in London. He oversaw major re-ordering of St Wilfrid's Church. William Slater, a London Architect (1819-1872) and originally from Northamptonshire, undertook this last major restoration of the church between 1860 and 1864. In 1863 Montagu Osborn went with William Slater to find the old 14th century font discarded by Yaxley and had it dug up from where it had been buried in a field. It was then cleaned up and re-instated into its present position in 1864. The 17th century plain font was given to a Christian Missionary Society Church in Zanzibar, Africa, in 1880. The carved oak rood screen was largely renewed in 1868; it appears to be of late 14th or early 15th century origin. The Midland Railway Company purchased a portion of the Glebe land belonging to the original (pre 1791) Kibworth Rectory (positioned somewhere near the present railway station) for £1,530 in order to construct the Leicester to London railway line.
Edmund Knox (Rector, 1884-1891) went on after Kibworth to Aston and then became the Bishop of Manchester. Before he came to Kibworth, as the sub-Warden of Merton College, Oxford he was renowned to be very strict and known as "Hard Knox". Towards the end of his life, he wrote Reminiscences of an Octogenarian (see articles elsewhere on this website) and he devotes a whole chapter to his time in Kibworth with some fascinating insights into country life in the late 19th century. He refers to the friendly rivalry ("half-playful antagonism") between the two Kibworth parishes:
"... the vestry debated warmly the plan of a sewer which was to run down a road that divided the two villages. It was even suggested, with a fine disregard of costs, that two parallel sewers should be constructed, that the sewage of one village should not be contaminated by the waste of the other."
He had four sons who all achieved some distinction: one, Eddie (“Evoe”), became editor of Punch, one, Wilfred, a distinguished Cambridge theologian, one, Dillwyn (“Dilly”), helped break the German military codes in World War I and the last one, Ronald, converted to Roman Catholicism and as Monsignor Ronnie Knox became a household name similar to the ‘Roger Royle’ of the 1930s and 1940s.
Charles Cruttwell (1891-1901) was a Fellow of Merton College and a traveller. Before he took up his ten year incumbency of Kibworth Rectory, Charles Cruttwell went on a trip to America. He kept a detailed diary of his journeys to Canada, United States and Central America and illustrated it himself with simple drawings. There is a story that at one Harvest Supper the Rev. Cruttwell was saying the grace when a servant entered carrying a large pie. Cruttwell stopped mid-grace, to enquire whether the pie was hot or cold. “Cold” said the servant, “… make us truly thankful, Amen.” said Cruttwell!
St. Wilfrid’s churchyard was closed in 1892 and a new cemetery opened on a field on the main Harborough Road. In 1895 Parish Councils were first formed so removing control of the local community from the church vestry. Separate Parish Councils were formed for Kibworth Beauchamp and Kibworth Harcourt and are still separate today. (and long may this continue!).
There are two more articles about the history of St Wilfrid's Church incumbents - part 1 (1220-1660) and part 3 (1902-present)