Displaying items by tag: history

The Mud Cottage,70 High Street, Kibworth Beauchamp, an 18th century thatched cottage was demolished in the late 1940’s.The remaining Mud Wall is a Grade ll listed building. The cottage may have been a farm worker’s home developed from a farm outbuilding on land at the edge of the village.  The 1886 Ordnance Survey map shows the cottage as the last residential property on the north end of High Street. The last occupants of the cottage were Charlie Everitt and his son, Ted.  The cottage was damaged by fire which apparently causing quite a spectacle with many villagers flocking to the scene. 

Mud Cottage1

High Street, Kibworth Beauchamp showing The Mud Cottage on the right.
(photograph published by kind permission of Jennifer Rogers)

Mud Cottage2
Front aspect of the Mud Cottage.

All that remains of the Mud Collage is the front wall.

Mud Wall1
The Mud Wall

The wall is described in the Natural Heritage List for England as the former front wall of an 18thcentury cottage.  It is made of mud with a rubble stone supporting plinth.  A modern corrugated iron coping has been added at some stage in its history, presumably to serve as protection against the elements.

The condition of the wall had been a matter of concern for some time and there have been various attempts to refurbish it. 

Mud Wall2
by 2015 much of the rendering had begun to fall off.

Refurbishment of the wall.

In January 2016 the Kibworth Beauchamp Parish Council's Village Focus Group sought the advice of a local professional who had previous knowledge of the wall.  The late Anthony Goode from Slawston, a recognised authority on the maintenance of early buildings, found that the rendering was modern and had not adhered to the wall causing decay and allowing rainwater to seep between the rendering and the original wall. The wall itself showed no deterioration or of movement.

The refurbishment was undertaken by Anthony Goode and the first task involved removing the damaged and loose plaster and slightly undercutting back around the edges of the remaining plaster to create a key for the new work.   Using a bristle brush all the newly exposed mud wall was brushed and cleaned to remove loose debris and dust before spraying and dampening down with water.

The new lime plaster was mixed several weeks before it was needed and rested to allow it to mature. Goat hair reinforcement was added just before use. The mix was made from a measure of 1 part sharp sand to 2½parts lime putty. The plaster can be applied by a plastering trowel but in this case the plaster was literally thrown onto the wall with a purpose-made rough casting or harling trowel. This is a well-known technique which is known as ‘outside plastering’ and is commonly found in Scotland on masonry buildings of solid wall construction.

The lime plaster was applied in this manner because on a mud wall there is little key so the plaster relies mainly on suction. In the harling process as the plaster mix hits the wall it expels the air and forms a better bond between the two surfaces.  As the plaster firmed up it was rubbed with floats to produce a coarse finish following the contours of the wall. It was then protected by an absorbent material covering to prevent the lime putty plaster drying out too quickly.  Unlike cement, putty lime plaster does not set hard.  The lime needs warmth to carbonate, depending on the time of year and the temperature, this can take several weeks.

In November 2016 the protective cover was removed revealing the refurbished wall for the first time. The refurbishment has successfully preserved a small piece of Kibworth Beauchamp’s Heritage.

Mud Wall3
The refurbished Mud Wall

Postscript: There is another mud wall in Kibworth Beauchamp - between the Manor House and Ridley Lane. This was examined by the Harborough District Council Conservation Officer in 2020 and deemed sound.



I am grateful to Stephen Butt for allowing me to use parts of the article he wrote about the Mud Wall for the Market Harborough Historical Society Magazine.
Jennifer Rogers
The Kibworth and District Chronicle
Joan Spain


Published in Modern

Many local people still remember Canon Edward Fletcher (1902-1933). The antics of his dozen-ish children will also be remembered as they ‘terrorised’ the village for a generation (including air-gun attacks on people as they walked past the church!); several of them achieved distinction in their own right including Anthony, who himself was ordained, spent time in North Africa with the Army during the second world war and finally emigrated to become a fruit farmer in Canada. He recently returned to Kibworth for a visit in 1995 at the age of 85, and he had not been in Kibworth since a brief visit after his father’s funeral in 1937 – 58 years earlier. One daughter became an actress and wrote a book with the memorable title: “Merrily we go to hell”! During Edward Fletcher’s incumbency the highlights were the purchase of Beauchamp Hall (St Wilfrid’s Hall) in 1922 for £250 (borrowed from five PCC members), the planting of the lime tree avenues in the churchyard the same year.  In 1922 the PCC numbered 12 made up of 6 male and 6 female. A motion was carried unanimously at the Annual Parish Meeting as follows: “That the number of male members of the Council be increased from six to twelve at the next election”! This was rescinded in 1928 when the restriction by sex was lifted.

In those days, the church was lit using gas (1924), and heated with a single coke powered stove or furnace apparatus which was fitted for £174 8s 6d (1925) by the British Pipeless Central Heating Co. Ltd of Birmingham but not paid in full until 1927 because it proved difficult to make work efficiently. The church raised £100 towards setting up of the Diocese of Leicester during 1925 and 1926. On several occasions between 1924 and 1933, the question of electric lighting was raised by Church Council members but always there was a majority against. Canon Fletcher died in 1933 after a brief illness.


Photo of Revd Edmund Fletcher standing in front of west door, St Wilfrid's Church (1910) [courtesy Glyn Hatfield 2009]

Henry Eacott (1934-1943) presided over more heating and lighting problems. There was some restorative work on the organ in 1935. The construction of the Belfry chamber (above current choir vestry) with glass screen was during 1935/6 at a total cost of £112 3s. In 1936 the Collection on Good Friday was split between Jews in Jerusalem and Fund for Jews in East End of London. Electric lighting and blower for organ were installed and gas fittings removed in 1937. The War Memorial was built at a cost of £17 12s the same year – it was unveiled by General Jack. Severe woodworm problems were found during 1938. Laid on mains water to National School (now Bell & partners, doctors surgery) in 1939 – grant of £25. Altar rails bought in memory of Mrs Briggs (1939). The Parochial Church Council wrote to all those serving in the armed forces who lived locally every month with a copy of the Parish Magazine (from 1940). He sold all old metal and the parish lawn mower for the war effort (1941). Canon Eacott died in 1943 after illness.

Wyndham Ottaway (1943-1949) was well-loved by parishioners. During his incumbency a new ornate wooden lectern was purchased in memory of Canon Eacott; the old lectern was given to the church in Stretton Parva (Little Stretton). A severe gale in February 1947 caused minor damage to battlements and pinnacles on the church tower and one of the pinnacles fell and destroyed the roof of the west end of the north aisle which had to be replaced. The repairs took several months and part of the pinnacle had to be re-constructed from the same type of stone. He died very suddenly in 1949. The PCC tried unsuccessfully to have his son Rev. Michael Ottaway appointed.

Revd. William Ottaway

Paul Rebbeck (1949-1952) was Rector for only three years. The Silver  Processional Cross used still in all communion services was donated in 1951. An electrical heating system for the church by means of tubes placed under each pew at a cost of £900 in 1951 was rejected by the Church Council. Four gas radiators were installed in the chancel at a cost of £80 the same year. He resigned unexpectedly in May 1952.

Denis Ireland (1953-1978) presided over several major developments. In 1956 the income from a charity set up by James Norman was converted into coal and amalgamated with the coal already being bought by the Trust set up by Revd. Jeremiah Goodman (Headmaster) for better distribution to the poor of the community. The church organ was renovated at cost of nearly £600.  Canon Ireland suffered a long illness in 1958. The church was re-roofed in 1960/61 at a cost of over £5,000. The Wells Organisation was commissioned to run a successful Planned Giving campaign (1960). The church electoral roll exceeded 340 names. The restoration of the choir vestry/bellringers chamber was completed in 1956. The building of a new Rectory was finished in 1965 and the old "James Norman" rectory, grounds and glebe land was sold  to Cox Builders Ltd for the Rectory Lane development.  St. Wilfrid’s Hall was renovated at a cost of over £1,200 in 1964.  New lighting was installed for the chancel at a cost of £263 in 1964. A new storage radiator heating system (Multitherm Ltd) with fans was installed in 1967 for approx. £700 and £150 per year running costs; the old coal furnace was removed by Toc H.  Canon Ireland died suddenly in 1978 leaving his widow, Lucy, who remained in the village and was one of the first occupants of Stuart Court (purpose-designed Supported Housing Scheme of the Church of England Pensions Board) in Kibworth Beauchamp until her death in May 2000 after a brief illness.

Revd. Denis Ireland

Frederick W. Dawson (1979-1994) will mainly be remembered for the sale of St Wilfrid’s Hall (former a Nonconformist Chapel) on the High Street in Kibworth Beauchamp (the subject of a refused planning application by the Co-op store in July 2000 who wished to demolish it to expand their present establishment) and the building of the delightful Church Hall in St Wilfrid's churchyard in 1985 using ironstone donated by local farmer, Brian Briggs.  Fred and his wife Billie had four talented children: Jonathan, Clare, Jeremy and Mary, and the parish was treated to various musical pieces performed by them over the years.  Fred Dawson resigned to take over as Rector of St Michael's Church in Tilehurst, Reading in the Diocese of Oxford in April 1994.


Steven M. Lee (1995-2006) oversaw some major developments during the eleven years he and his wife Sally and three children, Christopher, Nicola and Matthew were in the benefice. 

In the Spring of 1997, Richard White of Smeeton Westerby offered to complete the third (west face) clock face with local support.  The costs were met by the Friends of St Wilfrid's, and Richard completed the new face by October 1997.

In 1999 the back of the church was re-ordered by the removal of the old pews and wooden chairs and replacing them with some modern upholstered chairs. This also allowed room for a new table and cupboards for the new permanent bookstall, CD and tape library as well as plenty of display opportunities on the screens behind which spare chairs, staging and flower arrangers equipment are now stored.  The organ, church lighting and electrical wiring were overhauled and dimmer switches installed for the chancel lighting (later removed as unable to cope with low energy bulbs). 

Several items of equipment were bought including a full sound system with mixer board for use during services, video projectors, large projector screens, a laptop computer and video mixer which are used both within services and for other church activities.  Links with the Church of England Primary School were strengthened considerably, as were those with the High School.

The biggest development costing some £250,000 raised mainly by the parish, was the extension of the church hall, completed in 2006; this involved adding three more rooms, extending the kitchen and changing the toilet arrangements.  The hall extension provides much needed space for the Sunday Clubs, and for holding several concurrent midweek activities. Average Sunday congregations increased considerably during Steven's incumbency, and some popular services were to capacity. 

Before Steven Lee departed in August to take up the position of School Chaplain at St Lawrence College in Ramsgate (later moved onto become Rector of St Giles' Church in Newcastle-under-Lyme), a faculty was filed for installing underfloor heating in the chancel and replacing the remaining chancel pews with the same model of upholstered chairs as already used for the back of church. Both the new heating system and replacement of pews with chairs were completed in 2007 during the interregnum.

Revd Steven Lee with Bishop Tim Stevens after Confirmation Service (2006)

Ludger Fremmer (2007-present) took up the incumbency in September 2007. He arrived from Norfolk with his wife, Ruth, and their two sons, Jacob and Reuben. His initial thoughts were:

"My initial aim is to strengthen and encourage that which is in place so that we can then move on together into what the Lord has in store for us. I am passionate about discerning and knowing God’s will for myself and the Church, because to be in God’s will is always the best place.  Realistically I know that I will not be able to fulfil everybody’s expectations, however we are all seeking to serve the same Lord and to please Him and He is faithful to do more than we can ask or imagine.

I believe that we are called to do the work of God’s kingdom, to call people to true discipleship of our Lord Jesus Christ. I long to see the church grow in the knowledge of God and His word, and to be released in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I believe that the Lord wants us to be holy and united as his representatives, the body of Christ. I am hopeful and excited at the prospect of us making this journey together over the coming years."


In September 2008, the upper section of one of the church tower pinnacles (north-west corner) was observed to have moved slightly. As a precaution, the west end of the churchyard was cordoned off while tenders were sought, a faculty applied for and the work commenced in November 2008 to repair the pinnacle and check the remaining three. All was completed in time for the Christmas services.  However, the internal ladders to the tower were considered unsafe and so safety work was carried out during 2009.

There are two more articles about the history of St Wilfrid's Church incumbents - part 1 (1220-1660) and part 2 (1660-1902)

Published in Contemporary

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)

Published in Modern

The History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester by John Nicholls, Volume II, part II, and published in 1798 gives some fascinating stories about the Gartree Hundred area of South Leicestershire and several detailed accounts of the Kibworths. Copies can be found in local libraries.

The church on Church Hill in Kibworth Beauchamp is dedicated to Wilfrid.  Who was he, and why is our church dedicated to a Romish saint?

Wilfrid was born a Northumbrian noble in 634.  He lived for 75 years after entering the religious life as a 14 year old, studying at Lindisfarne and Canterbury before travelling to Rome in 654.  On his return in 660 he became the abbot of a new monastery at Ripon and later oversaw the building of the original Abbey.  His major contribution to the Christian life of England was at the Synod of Whitby in 664, when he championed the cause of Rome over the Celtic tradition of Christianity, and convinced everyone to adopt the continental method for calculating the date of Easter.  Twelve years later he quarrelled with Ecgfrith, the King of Northumbria, who expelled him and he travelled to Rome again to plead his case to the Pope.  He won his case but the King refused to honour the decree, so Wilfrid spent some time in Sussex , until Aldfrith, the new King, allowed him to return.


In 691, after a disagreement with King Aldfrith, he was again expelled from Northumbria and appointed Bishop of Mercia, which included Leicester , so he would have visited this area.  He appealed to Pope Sergius I, during a third visit to Rome , and was successful again, and after Eadwulf, a new King came to the throne, he was appointed Bishop of Hexham and Ripon in 706.  He died during a visit to Oundle on 24th April, 709. Historians see him mainly as a champion of Roman customs against the customs of the Celtic British and Irish churches.

As the site of St. Wilfrid’s is on a hill, it is a likely location for a religious temple or early church.  Signs of it being important during the Romano-British period were found when excavating the foundations for one of the previous Rectories in the 18th century.  The door frames of the priest’s door and Sacristy in the chancel are the earliest of the church, showing signs of 13th century stone work.

Many of the Rectors of Kibworth during the first 300 years from the start of our church’s records in 1220, were absentees or pluralists - that is they often resided elsewhere and looked after several parishes. The people of Kibworth were given pastoral oversight by curates or vicars appointed by the absentee-Rectors who were themselves appointed, or presented, by various patrons.  In 1220 it is recorded that Hugo de Mortuomari, the Rector of Kibworth Beauchamp until 1239, was assisted by a vicar instituted by Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln.  The patron of St Wilfrid’s in 1220 was Walter de Beauchamp and the patronage remained in the de Beauchamp (or Earls of Warwick) possession until at least 1435, which included the time of the Black Death in the 1350s, but there are few records over this period until the early 16th century.

There was a free chapel in Kibworth Harcourt from the mid 13th century until the early 16th century after which it was never used again and the site has now completely vanished, with its position possibly somewhere around the orchard of the Old House or Beech Tree Close.  St Wilfrid’s Church has a list of chaplains for this chapel from 1262 to 1509.

Although the list of Rectors for the Kibworth benefice are recorded from 1220 starting with H. de Mortuomari, very little is known about the early incumbents as, like many other parishes, the Rectors were absentees and lived elsewhere, leaving the day to day running of the parish to others e.g. curates, while they benefitted from the living raised from the parish.

We begin to know a bit more about the Rectors from Walter Lucas (1510-1534) who was Rector at some stage of the suppression of churches during Henry VIII's reign, and it is recorded that the church was in ruins in 1526 possibly as the result of fire.  The Crown, i.e. Henry VIII, took over the patronage in 1542 after Richard Pates (1534-1541) forfeited his benefice and was attainted (or "outlawed").  It is recorded this was because he failed to "accommodate himself to the varying beliefs of those in authority".  In 1554, the second year of Mary I’s reign, the Rector, William Watkyn (1545-1554), was imprisoned and deprived of the benefice because of his failure to comply with Mary’s Catholicism.  Edward Gregory (1554-1565) was Rector until well into Elizabeth I’s reign. Four members of the Berridge family took turns at being Rector and Patron between 1565 and 1641.  There is a monumental brass to John Berridge in the sanctuary dated 1632.

William Hunt (1641-1645) was presented as Rector of Kibworth by King Charles I, but as a Royalist supporter, he was sequestered (i.e. separated or ejected from the parish) during the Civil War around 1645. In 1647 the Committee for Plundered Ministers established John Yaxley (1647-1660), a scholar of St John’s College, Cambridge and described as a sincere, plain-hearted, humble, pious and "very communicative" man.

In those days the timber-framed parsonage with two fishponds stood near the site of the old railway station (Isabel Lane).  It is rumoured (strongly!) that King Charles I stayed overnight on the eve of the Battle of Naseby in 1645 and is believed to have expressed his gratitude by giving William Hunt an ornate silver snuff box. This was later sold to an aristocratic family by James Beresford (Rector, 1812-1841) to help raise money for the repair of the fallen spire in the 19th century. This same gift can now be seen on display in Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.

In the 16th and 17th centuries the Kibworth parish was a very valuable living for both incumbent and patrons alike. Three Berridges had been Rectors between 1565 and 1641 (William from 1565 to 1601, his son John between 1602 and 1632 purchased the patronage himself, and finally John’s son, William, 1632 to 1641) and they were absentee incumbents leaving the parish duties to their curates. In 1641 the son of the second William Berridge, also confusingly called William, as an ardent Royalist, gave the patronage to King Charles I who then presented William Hunt as Rector. In 1647, the Rev. John Yaxley, a graduate of St John’s College, Cambridge, and a Captain in Cromwell’s Model Army, forcibly took possession of the Rectory and the living, after ejecting Hunt, but was not officially granted possession until 1654. During his ministry the 14th century font, with trefoiled arcading, was removed as being too superstitious and ornate, and used as a horse-trough by a friend before being buried in a field until 1863 (see later). It was replaced with a plain font.

After the Civil War and the restoration of the monarchy with Charles II, William Berridge reported Yaxley’s treasonable preaching.  Accordingly on August 17 1660, Berridge and his friends took the law into their own hands and forcibly ejected Yaxley and his family and had him arraigned for preaching that "Hell is broke loose; the Devil and his instruments are coming in, to prosecute the Saints and godly party" (meaning the King and his supporters would prosecute Cromwellian supporters).

John Yaxley took his case to Parliament and a full transcript of his defence and the reply from the local Justice, Sir John Prettyman, are both given in the History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester Vol. II, part 2, published in 1798 by John Nicholls.

According to Yaxley: William Berridge, with his two colleagues, Richard Clark and John Brian, broke into the parsonage and with drawn pistols and swords roused John Yaxley, his wife and maids from their beds. While Yaxley was watched by Clark, Berridge verbally abused Mrs Yaxley and thrust her tumbling down the stairs at sword point dressed only in her petticoat. After ejecting John Yaxley, the three men bolted the doors and took possession of the parsonage. Mrs Yaxley borrowed a waistcoat from her sister’s maid and returned to the Rectory. She saw Berridge, Clark and Brian in the parlour through the hall window and asked if she could be let back in to retrieve her clothes. She was refused admittance, but then noticing one of her grand-children still in a cradle and surrounded by soldiers, she shouted "You villains, will you kill my child?". Clark then fired at her through the window and the shattered glass went into her face and blinded both eyes. Yaxley commented later that she looked "more like a monster than a woman" and that she later died at a neighbour’s house never having regained her sight.

In his reply, Sir John Prettyman played down the actions of Berridge and his colleagues and stated that Mrs Yaxley had returned to the Rectory with several soldiers and after throwing stones and verbally abusing Clark and his soldiers, calling them "cavalier dogs and rogues", she told them that "if they would not depart they would fire the house on them". At this point Clark discharged his pistol, containing only powder, and caused some minor injury. The rest of Sir John’s reply emphasised that Yaxley had never been properly entitled to the incumbency and that during and after the Civil War he along with 36 other Leicestershire ministers had constantly petitioned that Charles I be tried for treason and had given thanks when he had been executed.

Yaxley was unable to prove his title and never regained possession of Kibworth Parish nor the living. He lived out the rest of his life near West Smithfield in London preaching into his late 70s.

There are two more articles about the history of St Wilfrid's Church incumbents - parts 2 (1660-1902) and part 3 (1902-present)

Published in Medieval
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