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
Who Were The Beaker People?
The Bell-Beaker culture, sometimes shortened to Beaker culture, Beaker people, or Beaker folk, c. 2900 – 1800 BC is the term for a widely scattered archaeological culture' of prehistoric western Europe starting in the late Neolithic or Chalcolithic and running into the early Bronze Age. They were called Beaker because of the shape of their pottery vessels.
The Beaker People were farmers and archers were also the first metalsmiths in Britain, working first in copper and gold, and later in bronze, given its name to the Bronze Age.
The Burial Ground.
A burial ground of Beaker People was found in 1975 situated to the south west of Smeeton Westerby on Smeeton Hill The hill is 500 feet high and on the west side of the hill lies the Beaker Burial Ground. No trace of a burial mound is visible on the ground but the situation would be ideal for one.
The site was discovered during drainage excavations work when at one point the contractor had to excavate a hole by hand to replace a broken section of pipe. It was during this work that the burial site was discovered and human bones and pottery were unearthed. The drainage work carried on and the burial site continued to be disturbed and some artefacts were removed although the majority were subsequently recovered.
Leicestershire Museums were notified and on 3rd September 1975 a team from the museum attended the site. They enlarged the hole and discovered a crouched burial. A crouched burial was a new form of burial rite, called the Beaker burial which began to appear around 4700 years ago, the burial is crouched inhumation where the body is interred, usually on its side with the hip and knee joints bent through an angle of more than 90 degrees, accompanied by a particular pottery known as a beaker. The burial was removed to Leicester Museum;
Beaker Close in Smeeton Westerby is a reminder of this important archaeological find.
Written by David Adams
R A Rutland, ‘A Beaker Burial at Smeeton Westerby, Leicestershire 1875’
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.)