The old centre of Kibworth Harcourt lies 200 yards east of the present main road where the principal street, known as Main Street, leads into Albert Street and has remained much the same since mediaeval times and is the main part of The Kibworth Harcourt Conservation Area.. The principal route along Main Street was bypassed by the present A6 Leicester Road in 1810. (see Modern/ TheTurnpikeRoute through Kibworth Harcourt).
Main Street runs from Leicester Road in in an easterly direction until it reaches The Old House (see Early Modern/The Old House) when it turns right to return to the main road near the old Rose and Crown Hotel. The dog leg pattern of roads by the present Main Street and the Nook existed in 1484.
Main Street was very much the heart of Kibworth Harcourt and as one travels along the road from the old Rose and Crown Hotel the historical significance of the road becomes apparent.
Taking a walk down Main Street from The Rose and Crown the first section of the street was formerly known as the King’s Highway, or Berry’s Hill and used to have several shops and Inns (see Modern/A Journey Inn the Past). Berry’s slaughterhouse and butcher’s was at no. 10 and gave this part of Main Street the name Berry’s Hill after ‘Beefy’ Berry, the butcher between the two World Wars.
15 Main Street was ‘The Smithy’, housing the local wheelwright, a vitally important trade in the days of horse drawn transport. The forge was still in service until the 1940s. Legend has it that the wheel of a wagon belonging to the famous preacher John Wesley was repaired here when he passed through the village on one of his evangelical journeys.
Turning to the left this section of Main Street boasted three Inns, thFoxInn at 16, the Navigation Inn at 24, opposite was the Admiral Nelson at 31 which had a skittle alley at the rear and ceased trading in the 1930’s.
No 18 was the Old Bakehouse, this was a baker’s complete with delivery yard at the rear of the building. The end of the Old Bakehouse used to be perfectly square but several coaching accidents occurred at this spot and the end wall was rebuilt at the angle you can see today. At least one accident resulted in a fatality when a coach overturned and several outside passengers were pitched through the windows of nearby houses.
A barn, formerly situated to the rear of 25 Main Street was, it is believed, in the early 19th century, the setting for the Kibworth Theatre (see Modern/Kibworth Theater).
As Main Street reaches the Old House we turn to the left back towards the Leicester Road.
The abundance of Inns continued with The Red Lion at 78 Main Street and at 88 The Three Horseshoes Inn, now trading as Boboli’s, an Italian style restaurant.
The Inn was once owned by Merton College and was sold in 1935 to The Northampton Brewery Company.
On the opposite side of Main Street is the Manor Farmhouse which has medieval origins and is a Grade II listed building. (see Medieval/ Manor House /Manor Farmhouse).
Next we come to Priory Farm at 41 Main Street which is a 16th Century Grade II listed building, formerly known as Ivy Cottage. It is a rectangular house built partly of ironstone with a timber framed upper storey, later faced with brick. The use of differing materials indicates that the house was built in stages over many years.
Continuing towards Leicester Road and on the left is no. 43, The Limes built on the site of an older property. The Limes is an extensive villa dated 1880. In amongst much older buildings, this imposing house, which had extensive stabling and paddocks at the rear, is a good example of Victorian domestic architecture.
Leicestershire’s first turnpike road was a section of the main road between London and West Scotland which is now the A6. The road was built in 1726 and ran through Loughborough, Leicester, Kibworth Harcourt and Market Harborough.
The Turnpike Acts authorised Trusts to levy tolls on those using the road and to use that income to repair and improve the road. Trusts could also purchase property to widen or divert existing roads. The trusts were not-for-profit and maximum tolls were set. In 1726 the first Turnpike Trusts, in Leicestershire were the Market Harborough to Leicester and the Loughborough to Leicester Trusts
The Kibworth Harcourt section ran along the current A6 Leicester Road from Leicester turning left into Main Street then following the dogleg of Main Street back onto the Leicester Road at the Rose and Crown Coaching Inn. At first the turnpike road was surfaced with gravel and small stones, but towards the end of the 18th century granite chippings from Mountsorrel began to be used.
In 1766, a fast public stagecoach service commenced from Leicester to London. Coaching Inns were built along the road examples being the Rose and Crown Inn and the Coach and Horses Inn in Kibworth Harcourt.
Travelers were often fearful of being robbed by highwaymen and the Leicester Journal for 12 December 1775 reported that: ‘On Sunday night last the coach bound for London was stopped by a single highwayman near to the second milestone on the Harboro’ Road. He took from the passengers about £14; told them that necessity obliged him to do that or go to goal’.
The first mail coaches passed through Kibworth Harcourt in 1785 and were apparently quite a spectacle. The carriages had emblazoned arms, the coachmen and guards in scarlet and gold. A blunderbuss slung over the guards’ shoulders, with pistols in their belts.
Examples of Royal Mail Coaches
A report by the Turnpike Trust on the route along the dogleg section of Main Street concluded that; ‘The man who could gallop a four in hand through such lanes must have been hard to find’. This report followed a number of accidents and at least one resulted in a fatality, when a coach overturned and several outside passengers were pitched through the windows of nearby houses. The report resulted in a new turnpike route bypassing Main Street which followed the line of the current A6 Leicester Road between the Main Street junctions. This bypass was opened in 1810 and built at a cost of £1,500.00. Such improvements were funded by the payment of tolls by the road users, Examples of the annual income from tolls for the Market Harborough to Loughborough Trusts are: 1834 £5592: 1835 £6798: 1838 £5911.
In 1822 the whole road was surfaced in tarmac. The volume of traffic began to increase until the railway between Leicester and London opened in 1875 when turnpike traffic dwindled and the Turnpike Trust was wound up in 1878.
The Leicester Journal
Kibworth is the birthplace of two people who changed the course of English literature and English education: Anna Letitia Aikin, who published mostly under her married name, Barbauld, and her brother, John. They were born here, in 1743 and 1747, because their father, the Reverend John Aikin, kept a school in the house now known as the Old House. His son was one of his pupils. Anna Letitia, being a girl, could not enroll in her father’s school, but she learned much on the side, foraging in her father’s library and picking up knowledge from her brother. Eventually she persuaded the Reverend Mr. Aikin to teach her some Latin. She and her brother were very close from childhood until his death in 1822. In a poem addressed to him she remembered that “hand in hand with innocence we stray’d / Embosom’d deep in Kibworth’s tufted shade.” It was in Kibworth too, probably, that Anna Letitia developed a deep lifelong love of History. The passion for History, she wrote many years later, is awakened by curiosity about our own surroundings. One bit of her surroundings that she must have seen many times from her front door was the Munt, a local mystery. Was it Roman? Medieval? A fort? A tomb?
In 1758 the Aikin family removed to Warrington in Lancashire, for the Reverend John had been invited to join the faculty of a new Dissenting academy there. At Warrington Anna Letitia began to write, and from there she published her first book, Poems (1773). The book made her famous overnight. But it might not have come to print without her brother’s urging and aid. John Aikin, having taken a medical degree at Edinburgh, set out to have a literary career and brought his sister along. After her Poems, brother and sister collaborated on a volume of essays, Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose (1773). The two of them went on to be leading names in the literary world of London - and Anna Letitia became a famous name in the early United States as well. She did so through her books for children, published under her married name, Mrs. Barbauld: Lessons for Children (1778-79) and Hymns in Prose for Children (1781), written while she was teaching school with her husband in the village of Palgrave in Suffolk. Lessons initiated treating the child reader as the main character in a story that is completely realistic because it is based on the child’s life. Hymns in Prose encouraged the child reader to love Nature as the work of a loving divinity. Both books are set in country villages like the village of Palgrave where they were written – and like the village of Kibworth, where Anna Letitia herself had learned to love Nature.
Anna Letitia went on to write further poems and essays, to engage in political controversy (a daring move for a woman in the 1790s) on the liberal side, and to work as a reviewer and editor. She could be called England’s first woman of letters, something like the Virginia Woolf of her time. Her brother, John, practiced as a doctor but moved over into literature. He published on many subjects — medicine, poetry, politics, natural history - but was most influential as the editor of a national magazine in the 1790s, The Monthly Magazine, and a multi-volume biographical dictionary, a predecessor of today’s DNB. He and Anna Letitia continued to collaborate; she contributed to his most popular work, a collection of tales and dialogues for young readers, Evenings at Home (1792-96, and many later editions on both sides of the Atlantic).
Anna Letitia and John were one generation older than the writers who are known today as the first of the Great Romantics, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. They knew Wordsworth and helped Coleridge get started: Anna Letitia was among the first to recognize Coleridge’s genius, and John was among the first to publish his poems. John also hired young Robert Southey, Coleridge’s friend and a poet, to write for his magazine. Young Walter Scott avowed that he owed to Anna Letitia his inspiration in poetry. So between them, Anna Letitia and John played midwife to British Romanticism.
Late in life Anna Letitia published her longest poem, Eighteen Hundred and Eleven (1812), a lamentation over the horrors and human waste of the Napoleonic Wars. The poem was badly received by a public that had learned to view war as glorious and the war against France as necessary; today, however, Eighteen Hundred and Eleven enjoys the admiration of literary historians on both sides of the Atlantic. It is respected as one of the major poems of its time.
In 1800 John Aikin revisited Kibworth on a holiday trip, but Anna Letitia never saw her birthplace again after leaving it at age fifteen. After Warrington, John lived in Suffolk and the London suburb of Stoke Newington; he died there in 1822. After Warrington, where she married Rochemont Barbauld in 1774, Anna Letitia lived in Suffolk and the London suburbs of Hampstead and Stoke Newington; she died in Stoke Newington in 1825. She and John are buried there in the graveyard of St. Mary’s Church on Church Street.
Article kindly provided William McCarthy, professor emeritus of English at Iowa State University. He is the author of 'Anna Latetia Barbauld:Voice of the Enlightment' and co editor of 'The Poems of Anna Letitia Barbauld'
On Saturday 11 May 2013 a blue heritage plaque dedicated to Anna Letitia Barbauld and John Aikin was unveiled at the Old House, Main Street, Kibworth Harcourt.
During this festive season of goodwill, we remember the inn at Bethlehem and the inn of the Good Samaritan. Our local innsserve as a resting place where travellers can stay during a journey and people can relax with a pint of ale, communicating with each other and telling their tales. Various functions and activities and many a tangled web is woven upon their premises, but the beauty and attraction is something to be amazed at. We can speculate on the origin of their colourful signs. Above all, these monuments have stood until the present time, surviving the great changes in society.
Let me take you on A Journey "Inn" the Past, back to the 18th and 19th centuries when travel by stage-coach was in its heyday - a far distant cry from the speeding cars and traffic jams of modern day life. Those were the days when only 24 ( or may be 25) stage-coaches travelled along the roads of Kibworth Harcourt and Kibworth Beauchamp. The first stage-coach from London to Leicester passed through Kibworth in 1744, the road having become a turnpike route in 1726. Before we begin our journey it is interesting to note that in the 18th century, the main road came from Leicester and went down hill to the Old House, twisting round and up hill to the Rose and Crown on its way to Market Harborough. This route was by-passed around 1809-10 by the road we now know.
If you are sitting comfortably then we will begin our journey, and just for a while, day-dream, imagining ourselves travelling through Kibworth in a stage-coach during the 1860s. To set the scene as it was, ladies you are dressed in crinoline dresses, accompanied by elegant gentlemen! Our coach, travelling from Leicester, tumbles down Main Street and grinds to a halt at our first inn called The Horse Shoes, where mine-host, George Kimbell and his two sons, Eaton and John, offer us a warm welcome. George is also proprietor of the adjoining shoe-forge.
After drinking our first jug of beer we journey on and turn the corner by the Old House. A gallop around the winding bend leads us to the Nelson Inn (later known as The Admiral Nelson). This inn, kept by William Wright, adjoins the high brick wall of the Old House and is famous for its long-alley bowling and club feasts at Whitsuntide. We dismount from our coach and meander across the road to The Fox, which adjoins the bakehouse. This old fashioned public house, managed by Mr Searank, is attached to the brewhouse and outbuildings.
A tipple here stands us in good stead for the journey up the hill to the Rose and Crown. Our coach rattles into the stable yard; again we dismount to wine and dine and stroll in the pleasure gardens opposite this early 18th century building. Meanwhile servants rush out to change the team of horses. The Rose and Crown, run by Mr Austin, was once a celebrated Posting Inn and one of the finest hostelries in the county. The roomy stables accommodate a troop of horses. Feeling refreshed we travel a few yards down the road to the Foxhound. After quenching our thirst with a mug of frothing beer we leave Kibworth Harcourt.
I hope my fellow passengers are not too featherbrained, for the journey is not yet over! Our coach gently manoeuvres down the road to the Coach and Horses, the first inn in Kibworth Beauchamp. We are greeted by the good landlord, Joseph Coleman and his wife. This very old hostelry has a wooden pump and long trough standing in front of it. The trough not only serves as a watering place for horses, but a handy receptacle for cooling down a drunken mortal! Many waggoners, carrying coal and railway goods from Kibworth Station, stop here to water their horses. Members meet at the bowling alley at the back of the inn next to outbuildings and the harness room.
Once again we mount our coach and continue the journey, gathering up speed as we pass the Church. A sudden bump, and then a bounce, sends us hurtling over the railway bridge at the bottom of Church Hill, straight into the Railway Inn! Behind the inn is a large yard with stabling for 12 horses, pigsties and a blacksmith's shop.
Feeling in fine fettle we clamber into our coach and start to get our voices tuned up, in preparation for the next stage of our journey. Cross bank floats by and the Old Swan appears. A great pub, where we all start singing along with the proprietor, Charles Watts, a popular bass singer in his day. The principal club feasts are held here at Whitsuntide. This seems to be good excuse for getting drunk and picking a fight with an innocent bystander. If the fights gets too big, it is usually adjourned to, and fought out in Baker Innocent's field.
We stagger out of the Old Swan, happy, yet a little sad to be nearly at our journey's end. Feeling brave and singing a festive song, our great team heads for the final destination, the Royal Oak (now Beauchamps). Many free displays of tumbling, juggling etc., take place in front of this house. One of the most amazing performers is Blondin, who stretches a rope from the roof of this house to that of houses opposite. Blondin walks blindfolded; wheels a barrow across; balances a stove and cooks a pancake, which he tosses in the air, all to the gasps of astonishment from the large crowd below.
Unfortunately we are now at the end of our journey, and, hopefully, still in a day-dream and not too drunk! What a good time this is to take up the challenge and follow in Blondin's footsteps!! During the period when these nine inns flourished anyone could buy a licence to sell beer and inevitably Beer shops were set up in front parlour and back rooms. This is one of the reason why our innkeepers had second jobs, basically to keep them going. No doubt this second occupation influenced many landlords to change the name of their inn. The Horse Shoes became The Blacksmith's Arms during George Kimbell's time. So not only did Kibworth boast nine pub but beer houses too! This represents a lot of 'boozers' per head of population! The surviving inns, the Three Horseshoes Inn, the Rose and Crown, The Coach and Horses Inn, The Railway and the Old Swan continue to provide Kibworth with pleasant drinking surroundings. If you want to know more about Kibworth's past may I suggest you read the 'History of Kibworth and Personal Reminiscences' by F P Woodford, available at Kibworth Library Extinct Inns (prior to 1860s) Halford Arms, The Half Moon, The Bird in the Hand, The Crown and Sceptre, The Red Lion and The Navigation. Was this last inn known as The Blue Boar, The Blue Bell, The Sun or even The Moon?!
© Isobel Cullum December1994
Acknowledgements - Kibworth and District Chronicle 1994
Sir Nicholas Harold Lloyd Ridley (1906 – 2001)
Nicholas Harold Lloyd Ridley was born on 10 July 1906 at Little Lebanon, 70 Leicester Road, Kibworth Beauchamp (formerly known as The Gables). Nicholas was the son of Nicholas Charles Ridley and his wife Margaret, née Parker. As a child he met and sat on the lap of Florence Nightingale, a close friend of his mother.
He was educated at Charterhouse School before studying at Pembroke College, Cambridge from 1924–1927 and completed his medical training in 1930 at St Thomas' Hospital, London. Subsequently he worked as a surgeon at both St Thomas' Hospital and Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, specialising in ophthalmology. In 1938 Ridley was appointed full surgeon and consultant at Moorfields Hospital and later appointed consultant surgeon in 1946.
Harold Ridley began to formulate an answer to the problem of cateracts during the Second World War (Cataracts are regions of dead cells which occur in late middle age within the eye lens, turning it hard and opaque. If untreated they can result in total blindness.)
The two Kibworth villages developed distinct identities throughout the nineteenth century, based in large part on their different economic character. Kibworth Harcourt remained largely agricultural with a vibrant service sector based on provisioning the A6 traffic. Kibworth Beauchamp always had a more industrial character, from when the weavers predominated and this continued with industrialisation in the nineteenth century as factory production took hold in the village.
The differing economic chracteristics was also subtley reflected in the more "advanced" politics that developed in Beauchamp in contrast to the Tory dominance in Harcourt. This is evident in the choice of street names in the expanding Beauchamp village, with new streets named after the leading Liberal politicians of the late nineteenth century, such as Gladstone and Melbourne. These political rivalries sometimes also found expression in public bitterness, as evidenced in April 1897, when a suggestion that both parish councils co-operate in planning Queen Victoria's jubilee celebrations was decisively rejected at a Harcourt parish council meeting.
What is evident from reports of the meeting is that there was a general feeling in Harcourt that Beauchamp considered themselves more advanced in their civic efforts. The meeting instead agreed that Harcourt would build something permanent to mark the Queen's jubilee, with perhaps a village hall "emphatically asserting that Merton College, the lords of the manor, would have pleasure in giving the necessary ground." Kibworth-Harcourt-Parish-Meeting-1897.pdf
On an earlier occasion, in 1885, when the new vicar, the ebullient Bangalore-born Merton man Edmund Knox, took on the ecclesiatical parish of Kibworth, the rivalry between the two Kibworths was one of the most striking, and challenging, aspects of his new living.
Beauchamp, he noted, the home of 'stockeners' and predominantly 'radical', was in stark contrast to Harcourt, 'the home of the sporting squirearchy and retired businessmen of Leicester'.
Between the two 'was kept up a half-playful antagonism', with even the most minor disagreement eliciting 'fiery eloquence' poured forth with 'passion such I had never heard in Oxford'.
On one occasion, he recorded:
The vestry debated warmly the plan of a sewer which was to run down a road that divided the two villages [Ed. A6]. 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.