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General History of Medbourne

Main Street in the 1950s

The village lies on the main road from Market Harborough to Uppingham, over 14 miles south-east of Leicester, in a small valley on the west side of Nevill Holt hill. The latter, 500ft high, is an outlier of the Northamptonshire ironstone beds and has provided the bulk of the building stone for houses in the district.

Two branch railway lines crossed the boundaries of Medbourne parish. The line into Medbourne itself was closed at the end of the First World War, see The Legacy of the Railway.

The name 'Medbourne' is Anglo Saxon - meadow stream, the name unchanged since the Doomsday Book. The stream and two of its tributaries form part of the parish boundaries to the north of the village. Because of the dangers of flooding the course of the brook was canalised into straight drains, both north and south of the village, at the time of the enclosure of the open fields in 1844 - the last to be enclosed in the county. Medbourne continued to flood until the 1980s when flood defences were implemented, see When Medbourne used to Flood.

The centre of the village used to be a large rectangular green partially bounded by the brook. The higher ground on the west side of the brook, where the mosaic pavement of a Roman villa was first uncovered in 1721, appears to have been on the edge of a substantial Roman settlement.

The Packhorse Bridge and Ford early 1900s

The roads from Slawston and Hallaton enter the village from the west, crossing the brook by a low concrete bridge, an 'irish' bridge, which replaced the ford in 1935/36. The road is joined to the churchyard by the old Packhorse Bridge across the brook which was used when floods made the ford impassable (see photo left). This narrow stone bridge has round chamfered arches and triangular cut-waters and dates from mediaeval times. The surface and handrails of the bridge were replaced in 2000.

The road to Drayton runs from the south-east corner of the green, but other lanes running eastwards were driftways leading to open fields. The most northerly, Old Holt Road, was the way to Nevill Holt until the early 1880s when it was blocked by the building of the railway, the 'Medbourne Curve'. The driftway leading to the Manor House was then converted into New Holt Road now Manor Road.

The main road from Market Harborough. Ashley Road, crosses the River Welland outside the village at a county bridge designed by Joseph Vinrace in 1820 and enters the village by a bridge over the brook in the south-west corner of the green.

A very early photo of St. Giles' church

The church of St. Giles stands on the north side of the green in the centre of the village. Originally built about 1000 AD, it was destroyed by fire in 1270AD and a new church completed in 1320 AD. The tower was added about 1370 AD. Extensive renovations were undertaken in the 17th century. More recently, the chancel was rebuilt in 1876, the nave in 1811 and the south transept in 1912. The carved oak pedestal and ironwork in the choirstalls are by local craftsmen. In the south transept, between early English pillars, there are indications that a screen stretched the length of the transept. The north transept was fitted out as the parish school room but abandoned when it was moved into a new building in 1869, after which it was then used as a store room. It became the parish room and vestry in 1963. The nave was rebuilt in 1880 and the pews and furnishings date from that time. The 13th century circular font was placed on a new stem in 1882 and its four shafts attached to the basin, were continued to the base. E.B. Nevinson, cousin of the Rector at that time, designed the beautiful south window. The 'Friends of Leicester Infirmary' gave the east window of the transept to the church in 1940 in recognition of their founder, William Watts, who for many years was curate in the parish. There are six bells, five cast in 1768, the sixth hung in 1952. A former rector, Rev. L.P. Baker, gave the clock in 1852 and by his will he left £100 partly for the repair of the clock and partly to pay the parish schoolmaster's salary. The weather vane was probably made about 1890 and presented by Sir Bache Cunard. The churchyard was extended on the north east side, near the village pound, in 1916 by the acquisition of two cottages, see History in Photos. The parish registers date from 1588.

The Old Queen House

The thatched house, Old Queen House, formerly an inn which closed soon after 1905, stands between Springbank and the brook. It is dated 1733 but part of the lower north wing probably belonged to an earlier structure.

The village shop and post office on Springbank which moved to this location in 1999, retains its original Victorian appearance. It was once Warners grocery shop which later became a butcher's shop.

Pagets Farm in Main Street, opposite Old Holt Road, was built late in the 17th century and heightened around 1800. The walls are coursed rubble throughout with limestone dressings to the windows and doors.

The Crown Inn (left) and the Smithy

The old village hall on Main Street is a plain red brick building erected with money raised by public subscription in 1913. Renovated during the 1970s by grants and village fundraising, it was converted to offices after its function was transferred to the closed village school. The smaller stone houses of the mid 17th century were single storeyed with either half or full attic bedrooms. The heightening of the side walls to provide a more habitable upper floor resulted in a flattening of the pitch of the roof and a replacement of thatch with welsh slate. An example is the old Crown Inn on Main Street, closed between 1926 and 1928. See picture right.

There is a considerable amount of 19th century building in Medbourne, most of it dating from the latter half of the period. The earliest brickwork dates from 1861 and brick was increasingly used in the district to the almost complete exclusion of stone. On Main Street the old smithy and the house to the south of it (now converted into one dwelling) were built in 1875 on the site of the parish workhouse.

The house in Rectory Lane known as the Old Rectory dates mainly from 1830 but preserves, at its north end, a cross wing of the 17th century parsonage and, at its south end, an 18th century addition.

The Old Hall, which lies between Manor Road and Rectory Lane, is similar in plan to Dale Farm but of an earlier date. It was probably built soon after the middle of the 17th century.

The Manor House, on the north side of Manor Road, is the oldest house in the village and probably dates from the late 13th century. It is T shaped in plan consisting of a two-storeyed cross-wing, with later attics and a hall block on its north side, originally one storey. The east slope of the hall roof is original, but the west slope is much flatter, the result of the heightening that probably occurred soon after the insertion of a first floor and the massive axial chimney in the late 16th century. When Sir Bache Cunard became master of the Fernie Hunt in 1878, the house was renovated for the use of the huntsman, because the diversion of the Holt Road through its yard made it impossible to use as a farm. Kennels and cottages on the opposite side of the road were also built by Sir Bache Cunard and include a range of five cottages with tile-hung and jettied gables dated 1818.

Home Farm, towards Nevill Holt, is similar in appearancenand date. At the lower end of Manor Road, on its south side, is Dale Farm, a compact H-planned house of the late 17th. century, with steep hipped slate roofs. The tall symmetrically placed chimney stacks are of limestone ashlar and are contemporary with the house.

The Horse and Trumpet Inn

The Horse and Trumpet is a rubble walled building which dates from the late 18th century. The inn probably occupied this building since 1870 but in 1844 a house of the same name stood close to the site on which the village school was subsequently built. The business has now changed from an inn to a restaurant and bed and breakfast establishment. The building has recently been renovated and the thatch roof restored to its former glory.

In front of the Horse and Trumpet is the bowling green, formerly part of the inn. Thanks to the generosity of the family of the late Jim Price, the previous owner of the Horse and Trumpet and local fundraising, the Parish Council was able to acquire the ownership of the bowling green on behalf of the village.

The Old House to the south of the Horse & Trumpet is contemporary with the Old Hall on Rectory Lane. A gas house in the garden originally manufactured gas for the local stables, cottages and Nevill Holt Hall. The mains are still embedded in Manor Road.

The Old School Village Hall

Beyond the war memorial opposite the end of Manor Road is a row of cottages, School Row, and the old village school. The school and school house were built in 1868/69 in the Gothic style, richly ornamented with fishscale roof tiles, terracotta ridge tiles and cast iron window frames. The school closed in 1981 and is now used as the village hall with teas being served by local groups every Sunday during the summer to raise funds.

The most important building at the south end of the village is Bridgedale Farm which was probably built by John and Mary Goodman in 1709. It has their initials and the date over the central entrance. The house, which was originally T-shaped in plan, is constructed on an artificially raised site as a precaution against flooding.

The former stables in Ashley Road, which have now been converted to houses, were built by Sir Bache Cunard to house the Fernie Hunt until they moved to Great Bowden in May 1924.

The Nevill Arms

The Nevill Arms Inn, facing the brook is a two storey ironstone building built in Tudor style and dated 1863. The Inn was rebuilt by Captain G.R. Nevill, brother and heir of Cosmos George Nevill owner of the Holt estate, to replace the former building which was destroyed by fire.

On the west side of the brook are a number of 17th century ironstone houses including Saddlers Cottage which retains a thatched roof.

Manor Farm and the Ford

The footpath to the side of the brook, known as the 'towpath', leads to Manor Farm, also of mid 17th century construction, which is an L-shaped house of two stories with attics. The large rear wing is an addition made later in the 17th century. Varying window mouldings indicate that the house is a building of more than one period. The front entrance was blocked after flooding in 1980/1. Opposite the house is an orientation table showing points of interest. It was designed and erected by villagers to commemorate the millennium, with funding from the Arts Council.

The majority of later building has been infilling or replacement of earlier cottages apart from the bungalows at Marlow Court in the former station yard and the new houses in 'The Batters' at the top of Old Holt Road. The Batters is the name for the route of the old railway.

The Sports Pavilion

Across the Hallaton Road the footpath leads to the children's play area which is owned by Medbourne Educational Foundation Trust along with a large part of the playing field. The playground was completely refurbished to commemorate the millennium after three years of very successful fundraising and the help of grants from the National Lottery, Medbourne Charities and Harborough District Council. The Parish Council owns the upper part of the sports field, the tennis courts area and the land below the courts. The pavilion, used by all the sports clubs, was rebuilt and opened in 1984 with the aid of local fundraising, grants and volunteers, in memory of a popular local sportsman, Stephen Burrows, who tragically lost his life at a young age.

Behind the pavilion, below the tennis courts, lies the nature conservation area known as 'Medbourne Hollow'. This area was originally a clay pit which had been left derelict to become a rough, marshy area, overgrown and untidy. Local volunteers decided to gather interest and support to excavate two pools and plant trees and shrubs to encourage birds, butterflies and wild flowers. With the help of a Shire Grant, a small grant from Harborough District Council and donations from the Millennium Fund and local residents the area was transformed in the spring of 2000. An all year round bird feeding station was added in 2002 with a notice board and seats being added since then.

Medbourne Bottle Kicking Team 1951

The history of Medbourne is as much about the people and their way of life as it is about the buildings. Medbourne joins with Hallaton every Easter Monday to play out the ancient game of Bottle Kicking. There are parades in both villages with the distribution of the hare pie in Hallaton which precedes the scramble for three wooden barrels (the bottles) of ale. The players from both villages are keen to win this annual event and there is much celebrating before and after the game.

An archive of information, ranging from the church yard gravestones survey to a photographic history of the Nevill Arms and the Horse and Trumpet, is kept in the church room and is available for public viewing by appointment with the church warden. This archive is being continually enhanced as other topics are researched or new information comes to light. This collection of photos, along with many from other sources, is gradually being uploaded to this site; see Medbourne Stories.

The population record for the village goes back to the Doomsday Book when there were 22 workers and their families. The highest population was of 580 recorded in 1861 and it then fell to a low of 352 in 1931. It has climbed since then to 436 in 2004.