Courtesy of British History Online
Fleckney is a parish of 1,255 a., about eight miles south-east of Leicester and about seven miles north of Market Harborough. The soil is mainly boulder clay and blue-grey clay with some gravel. A stream flows north through the village to join the River Sence near Wistow Grange. The Grand Union Canal forms the parish boundary on the south-east, and the bridle road from Arnesby to Kibworth on the south.
The oldest part of the village lies near the church, where there are 18th-and early-19th-century cottages in the Arnesby road (now known as Main Street) and in Stores Lane. A larger house, known as the Manor House, is an 18th-century building with an altered frontage. In this area too were the mud-andthatch cottages of the brickmakers, four of which stood in front of the pinfold on the Arnesby road and were demolished shortly before 1956. Others stood in a group round the town pump. One of the brickmakers’ yards, where buildings survived in the late 19th century, could be seen in a field opposite the church in 1956, but it was entirely deserted and had reverted to grass. Several claypits, including that now forming the village pond, were visible. A fine brick barn in Main Street bears the date 1779. Many of the houses are built in whole or in part from the local brick.
The newer part of the village is built along the road running from Wistow to Saddington and its branches. The houses in this part date mainly from the late 19th and 20th centuries, but there is a considerable amount of grazing land to the east of the road. The village retains a rural atmosphere in spite of factory chimneys, and there are three large farms and some smaller ones. The parish is predominantly pasture. There are several factories in the village dating mainly from the later 19th century. In one of the cottages opposite the end of Victoria Street a room was kept in the 19th century for the use of Lady Byron, the lady of the manor, on her visits to the village.
The recorded population in 1086 was 3. There were 71 taxpayers in 1381, and 41 households in 1670. In 1676 there were 114 communicants. Brickmaking and the manufacture of hosiery were chiefly responsible for the great increase in population during the 19th century. The population of Fleckney in 1801 was 348, but by 1901 it had risen to 1,516, the most rapid increase being from 770 to 1,254 between 1881 and 1891. This increase was maintained, until a total of 1,852 was reached in 1911. Since then the population has gradually declined. In 1951 it was 1,490.
Many new houses have been built since the mid 19th century. Gladstone Street was built c. 1885 to house hosiery workers from Leicester. A Fleckney Land Society was founded at the end of the century, and building on the outskirts of the village gradually extended the built-up area. The first house on the Wistow road was built in 1866, and that on the Kilby road in 1876. After the First World War Council houses were built on the Leicester road, and after 1945 34 Council houses were built in Upper Orchard Street, Upper Gladstone Street, and Edward Road. A new road on the south side of Gladstone Street was completed in 1953 and named Elizabeth Road.
A sewerage scheme was carried out c. 1890. Before this the drains emptied into the brook which runs through the middle of the village. Piped water was laid on in 1937, and electricity in 1929. A scheme for supplying water had been proposed as early as 1868.
Fleckney Community Centre, at the end of School Street, was opened in 1958.
Before the Conquest Fleckney was held by 2 tenants, Edwin and Alferd. In 1086 Robert dispensator held 4 carucates of land in FLECKNEY from which the manor afterwards descended. This land passed to Robert Marmion who was holding the 4 carucates c. 1130. In 1279 Philip Marmion was said to hold of the Abbot of Peterborough, but there is no other evidence of any claim by the abbot to be overlord. Philip Marmion’s undertenant in 1279 was John Hastings (d. 1313), who had himself enfeoffed a member of the junior branch of the family, Nicholas Hastings. It seems likely that the Hastings family had been the under-tenants in Fleckney since well before 1279, certainly by 1247 when Nicholas Hastings granted dower there to his mother Amice. Nothing is known of the overlordship of the Marmion family after the death of Philip Marmion in 1291, when John Hastings still held from him, and Hugh Hastings, the son of Nicholas, held from John. John Hastings’s descendants held the manor of Fleckney certainly until 1375 and possibly until 1389, when the last male heir of this line, John Hastings, Earl of Pembroke, died. In 1375 the earl’s under-tenant was Ralph Hastings of the junior branch. The manor remained in the hands of Ralph’s heirs until at least 1475, when William, Lord Hastings, received it back from his feoffees. It is not certain whether he retained it until his death in 1483. In 1541 the manor was sold by John Beaumont of Gracedieu and a William Hastings to Thomas Harvey of Elmesthorpe. Thomas died in 1544, leaving the manor to his widow Elizabeth for her life. At her death in 1553 or 1554 the manor was divided among her four daughters. The eldest, Dorothy, married William Croft, and a quarter of the manor descended to their son Thomas, who was granted in 1565 the share of the third daughter, Lucy, and her husband Thomas Cotton. In 1607 this half share was sold to John Hunt of Great Glen, who died in 1636 leaving it to his son Thomas. Elizabeth Harvey’s second daughter, Joan, married Hugh Hazlerigg and their quarter was inherited by their sons Francis in 1566 and Michael in 1568. This share passed between that date and 1631 to the descendants of Thomas Harvey’s youngest daughter Barbara, wife of John Fowler of Wellsborough, whose daughter Anne, by her marriage to John Noel, brought her quarter share and eventually that of the Hazleriggs to the Noel family, later the viscounts Wentworth of Wellsborough. In 1635 Verney Noel sold this half of the manor to John Day of Leicester, who sold it in 1636 to Edward Smart of Thurlaston and his son Edward, a Fleckney yeoman. The Smarts probably retained this half of the manor until at least 1680, but it is not known when they sold it.
Verney Noel purchased the other half share of the manor from Thomas Hunt in 1656, and the Noel family eventually obtained the Smarts’ half. In 1767 Edward Noel, Viscount Wentworth, was lord of the whole of the manor, and was succeeded by his son Thomas Noel. The heiress of the Noels, Judith, married Sir Ralph Milbanke and the Noel lands at Fleckney and elsewhere passed to their daughter Anne Isabella, who married the poet Lord Byron in 1815. She remained lady of the manor of Fleckney until her death in 1860, when she was succeeded by her son-in-law William, Earl of Lovelace, who had married her daughter Augusta in 1835. The earls of Lovelace remained the lords of the manor of Fleckney until the 1920’s when the manorial rights appear to have died out.
The 7 carucates of land which belonged to the family of Basset of Weldon for the greater part of the Middle Ages are not mentioned in Domesday Book. In 1130 they had come to Richard Basset through his marriage with Maud, daughter of Geoffrey Ridel (d. 1120) and were then held to belong to the Ridel Fee. The Bassets of Weldon remained overlords of this land until at least 1279 and probably until the family died out at the end of the 14th century, when it seems to have passed to the Hastings family and become part of the manorial estate.
The most detailed extant survey of the Basset lands dates from 1242–3. The Basset holding in Fleckney was then divided into four parts. The heirs of Ivo de Fleckney are stated to have held ¼ knight’s fee from an otherwise unknown Burgia de Bendeng, who held from Robert de Tatershall, who held from Ralph Basset. Ivo de Fleckney was the son of Richard de Fleckney and first appears in 1221. He was probably succeeded by his son John who held land in 1262. In 1303 Robert de Tatershall still held land in Fleckney, but apparently in chief. He was succeeded by his son Robert who died in 1308, then holding 1/6 knight’s fee.
The second of Ralph Basset’s tenants in 1242–3 was Rose de Verdon who held 1/6 knight’s fee. Rose was the granddaughter of Bertram de Verdon, who was granted in 1176 a knight’s fee in Leicestershire which included 2 carucates in Fleckney by Geoffrey Ridel, almost certainly the Bishop of Ely of that name. His claim to make a grant of this fee is not known but it presumably came through his kinship with the first Geoffrey Ridel. Rose de Verdon married Theobald Butler and died in 1247. Her descendants, the de Verdons, inherited her property. In 1316 Theobald de Verdon died possessed of 1/6 knight’s fee in Fleckney. This passed as dower to his second wife, Elizabeth de Burgh, who still held it at her death in 1360, when her under-tenant was Ralph Hastings, lord of the manor. The reversion of this land was then said to belong to Margery, the youngest of Theobald’s daughters by his first wife, and her husband John de Croppehull, but no trace of their ownership exists and in 1369 the sheriff was ordered to enquire by what services certain tenements in Fleckney were held from Bartholomew de Bergersh, the son of Theobald’s second daughter Elizabeth. Nothing further is known of this holding, which almost certainly became attached to the manor.
In 1166 Roger de Grendon held 1½ carucate in Fleckney. In 1242–3 Margery Charnel was said to hold 1/8 knight’s fee from Robert de Grendon, who held from Ralph Basset. The Charnels held land in Fleckney until the mid-14th century. The heir of the family, Maud, daughter of Thomas Charnel, was left a minor before 1367. She married Laurence Trussell before 1383 and her property descended to the Trussell family, who had held in Fleckney since before 1327. In 1331 William Trussell was granted free warren at Fleckney, and in 1428 ¼ knight’s fee held by Ralph Hastings was said to have been once held by William Trussell. This holding presumably became united with the manor.
The fourth Basset holding in Fleckney in 1242–3 was 1/12 knight’s fee held by Hugh Peverel and Richard le Venur. Hugh Peverel first appears in 1221, and a Geoffrey venator was still holding from Ralph Basset in 1279.
The probability seems to be that the whole of the Basset Fee became part of the manor of Fleckney with the exception of the land granted to Leicester Abbey in 1338. This grant was made by William le Keu and Robert of the Hall, both of Leicester, who had themselves been enfeoffed by Robert de Mowsley, the son of one of Ralph Basset’s tenants, William de Mowsley (d. 1325). The land consisted of 3 messuages and 3 virgates, and with the site of the windmill, given to the abbey by John, Rector of Willoughby, it remained in the possession of the abbey until the Dissolution. In 1543 it was granted to Thomas Grey, a royal servant, who granted it in the same year to Sir John Harrington, who sold it in the same year to Thomas Harvey.
Of Robert dispensator‘s 4 carucates in Fleckney in 1086, one was waste and valued at 12d. In the other 3 he had one plough in demesne, and 2 villeins and one bordar had one plough. There was meadow 2 furlongs in length and one furlong in breadth. These 3 carucates were valued at 20s. Little can be said about medieval Fleckney. The village seems to have grown considerably between 1086 and the beginning of the 14th century. In 1332 there were 11 taxpayers, and in 1381 there were 71, made up of 25 tenants at will, 5 servants, one free tenant, 3 workmen, a labourer, a smith, 3 men whose surnames were Shepherd, Neatherd, and Thresher and who are given no other occupations, a widow, one man with no occupation, and 30 wives. Again in 1524 a substantial number of reasonably prosperous yeomen paid tax. Among them were 3 Coltmans and 4 Dormans, both families who lived in Fleckney for many generations. A William Derman paid tax in 1381 and Maud Derman in 1332. The Coltmans make their first appearance in 1524 and occur frequently from then onwards. In 1666 28 persons paid tax on 55 hearths. Richard Halford, with the largest house, paid on 6 hearths, but most of the houses had only one or 2 hearths. In 1670 26 persons paid on 51 hearths; 15 persons each with one hearth were excused tax.
Before inclosure in 1769 there were three open fields in the village, Hobrook Field, Quisick Field (Quessork in 1697), and Marr Field (called Gorril Field in 1697). In 1679 there was a West Meadow. There had been little inclosure before 1769, but a New Close is mentioned in a deed of 1634. Three of the freeholders, John Food, John Sharpless, and William Coltman, refused to sign the inclosure agreement, but their land was nevertheless inclosed and allotted. Forty-seven and a half yardlands were inclosed, rather more than 1,100 a. When the allotments for glebe and tithes had been made to the curate and impropriator, the rest of the land was divided into 30 allotments, some persons receiving more than one. No allowance was made for the lord of the manor, Lord Wentworth, who owned none of the actual soil at this time. Only 2 allotments of over 100 a. were made, 5 of over 50 a., 9 of between 20 a. and 50 a., and 11 of between one and 20 a. Only one man received an allotment of less than an acre. In 1801 there were only 166 a. of arable land in the parish.
Fleckney owes its size in the 20th century to two industries, brickmaking and the manufacture of hosiery. The growth of the village in the early years of the 19th century was due to the influx of strangers who came to work in the brickfields. After 1831 there was a slight drop in population but the increase began again with the introduction of the hosiery manufacture. Brickmaking ceased towards the end of the 19th century, although 2 yards were still working c. 1890. Fleckney bricks were well-known and popular building materials, and are to be seen in many of the local farms and cottages. One of the men who made them, William Earp, became one of the most important landowners in the village.
Framework-knitting was probably introduced in Fleckney between 1830 and 1840. By 1844 there were 126 frames in the village. There is a local tradition that the first hosiery factory was established before 1850 in the Old Fen Yard on the Arnesby road by Mr. Wale from Leicester, but this may be the result of a confusion with the brickmaking on the same site. In the late 19th century there were 3 hosiery factories—Walkers’, Deacons’, and Rowley’s.
About 1860 Robert Walker set up 8 stocking frames on the upper floor of a barn which in 1958 stood at the bottom of the Kibworth road. In 1870 he built a new factory in High Street, then known as Mawby’s Lane, to which the business was transferred. He worked in conjunction with the firm of Ann Wood & Sons of Leicester and introduced to Fleckney the manufacture of other kinds of hosiery besides stockings. A strike in 1912 strained relations between the firm and its local labour supply. In 1920 R. Walker & Sons was amalgamated with W. Tyler, Sons & Co. of Leicester to form the firm of Wolsey Ltd. The whole village benefited from the factory’s prosperity. Walker & Sons established a recreation ground for the parish and built a mission hall which was also used as a coffee-house serving light meals. Wolsey Ltd. were largely responsible for bringing electricity to the village. During the Second World War the firm closed its factory in Fleckney. The building, erected by Robert Walker in 1870, was sold to the Landsdown Wallpaper Company. Since 1954 it has been shared by Chalfont Electrical Products and a smelting company. It was damaged by fire in 1957.
Soon after Walker had begun, another small factory, a single-roomed frame-shop on the south side of the Kilby road, was opened. In 1877 it worked 8 frames. The firm was orignally known as ‘Wooding’s’, but later became the property of Messrs. Deacons. It was transferred to a large modern building immediately opposite in 1956.
In 1886 R. Rowley & Co., whose Leicester factory had been stormed by hand-loom weavers in the riots of 1885, moved to Fleckney and built the large factory on the Saddington road. Probably as a protection against further attack, a high screen-wall without windows was built along the street frontage. This feature has earned the factory the local name of ‘the gaol’. Since 1957 the building has been used as a store for Associated Electrical Industries.
About 1890 the brothers N. and C. Furnival began the manufacture of mineral waters in a small farm building in Mawby’s Lane. The firm built a new factory (in use in 1958) in the Kilby road in 1912.
About 1914 the industrial activity of Fleckney began to contract. The population fell, and in 1956 the local industries were not employing all the available labour in the village. Many people were then working in Leicester, and many of the women were again taking hosiery work into their own homes.
The site of a windmill was granted to Leicester Abbey by John, Rector of Willoughby, before the end of the 15th century. No later documentary evidence has been discovered, but a windmill stood on a hilltop in what is still called Mill Field.
Fleckney had no workhouse. In 1802–3 the parish relieved 29 adults and 49 children. Churchwardens’ accounts survive from 1748 to 1843 and vestry minutes from 1868 to 1891. In 1836 Fleckney was placed in Market Harborough Union. In 1894 a parish council was established with a membership of 7 councillors; it had the same composition in 1958.
Fleckney church was originally a chapel of Wistow. The fabric of the building indicates that a chapel existed in the 12th century. In 1220 Fleckney was one of 3 chapels dependent on Wistow, but it had a resident chaplain and unlike the other 2 chapels it had all the rights of the mother church. The patron of Wistow church in 1220 was William de Hastings, apparently an ancestor of the later lords of Fleckney manor, so that it is likely that Fleckney chapel was founded by a member of the Hastings family or by one of their predecessors. During the Middle Ages Fleckney did not gain any greater degree of ecclesiastical independence of Wistow than it had had in 1220. Fleckney was assessed for ecclesiastical taxes along with Wistow, and when Wistow church was appropriated to Sulby Abbey (Northants.) in 1482 the dependent chapel of Fleckney was included in the grant. Fleckney seems to have continued to be served by a resident chaplain: in 1518 there was a house for the chaplain, though it had not been kept in a good state of repair by the appropriators.
It is not known how the medieval chaplains were appointed. In 1543 the part of the rectory estate of Wistow which lay in Fleckney was granted separately to Edward Clinton, Lord Clinton and Say, and Robert Turwitt, who in turn sold it to Thomas Harvey, the lord of the manor. The benefice thus came to be regarded as an impropriate rectory, the impropriators being responsible for the appointment and payment of a curate. In the early 19th century the benefice was described as a donative, presumably because the curates had by then been endowed with a moiety of the tithes and rectorial glebe. From 1864 the benefice was described as a vicarage.
The rectory estate in Fleckney descended with the manor until 1659, undergoing the same division into quarters and moieties. In 1659 Verney Noel granted his moiety of the rectory to the curates of Fleckney in perpetuity, though he continued to claim rights in the appointment of the curates. The other moiety remained in the Smart family until 1680 or later. In 1756 John Cox was impropriator of half the rectory, and by the inclosure of 1769 he was allotted 94 a. in lieu of tithes and glebe. This moiety passed from Cox to the lords of the manor between 1769 and 1830, when Lady Byron was impropriator and patron. The advowson continued to descend with the manor until 1911, when it passed, first, to the Bishop of Peterborough and, after 1926, to the Bishop of Leicester. In 1929 the living was combined with that of Saddington, and the bishop presents alternately with the Lord Chancellor.
Before 1659, the only recorded endowment of the chaplain or curate was the house mentioned in 1518. Apart from this the curate depended for his income on fees and on a stipend from the owner of the rectory estate. All the tithes belonged to the rectory estate: at the inclosure the curate, as owner of half the rectory estate, held exactly half of all tithe, and received in lieu of tithes and glebe an allotment of 103 a. An arrangement for the payment of tithes was recorded in 1637, and in 1697 the curate’s estate included a tithe barn. Of the land allotted to the curate at inclosure 28 a. represented his share of the glebe, but this was all sold shortly before 1956.
The curate’s stipend was said in 1680 to have been £8 in 1635, but during the middle years of the 17th century the amount fluctuated and there were disputes over its payment. In 1638 it was arranged that the curate should receive a stipend of 20 marks a year, and in 1645–6 it was ordered that the stipend should be increased to £32 out of the profits of the sequestered rectory of Shepshed. Disputes about the amount payable to the curate by the Smarts, as impropriators of half the rectory, were finally settled in 1680 when it was adjudged that they should pay a lump sum of £24, and £4 a year.
The disputes between the curates and the lay rectors, which began as early as the thirties and were sharpened by the ill-feeling between William Buckley, the curate appointed after the Reformation, and the Smart family, also concerned the chaplain’s house. The curate was apparently living there in the early 17th century. In 1638 both owners of the rectory were refusing to allow the curate to live there on the ground that it was part of the rectory estate, a claim which the Smarts maintained until 1680. In 1639 the house was out of repair, and a new house was subsequently built, but while Buckley was away ill the Smarts destroyed the building, removing some of the materials and turning animals into it. From then until 1860, when a Vicarage was built on land given by Lady Byron, the curates lived at Kilby Lodge.
The church of ST. NICHOLAS consists of an original nave and chancel, enlarged in the 19th and 20th centuries by the addition of a south aisle, a south porch, an organ chamber, and a choir vestry. The walls are of rubble masonry, in places over 3 ft. thick, and it seems probable that the fabric of the original church, although much restored, has survived from the 12th century. The principal features of the nave are the 12th-century north and south doorways, both round-headed. The north doorway has an arch of two chamfered orders resting on moulded imposts. The hoodmould with much-decayed head-stops may be a later addition. The south doorway, which has been rebuilt, is larger and has attached shafts with scalloped capitals. Both arch and jambs are enriched with chevron ornament. The deep splayed window openings of the nave and chancel may originally have contained single-light windows. The internal reveal of the west nave window is nearly 5 ft. in depth, the external wall at this point being widened to form the base of a bell turret. Although the present bell-cote on the west gable dates from the 19th century, the projection below suggests that some form of turret was an original feature. The west window in the nave and one of the south windows in the chancel appear to be insertions of c. 1300. It is probable that the chancel, which has two plain pointed sedilia, a piscina, and an aumbry, was remodelled at this period. The east window has tracery of the later 14th century and there was formerly a ‘low side’ window in the south wall.
In 1639 the chancel windows were unblocked and glazed. Settlement at the south-west corner of the nave was a recurrent source of trouble: the west wall has been buttressed at various dates. A restoration involving a new roof took place c. 1809. In 1836 the church was in good condition and the chancel arch was described as ‘ancient and handsome’. At this period the floors were of brick while the pews, pulpit, and communion rails were painted white. In 1798 the font (perhaps installed in 1777) was described as a small leaden bowl on a stone pedestal, having a wooden cover. An older font, probably medieval, had been discarded and was lying in the churchyard.
Between 1868 and 1870 the church was restored, refitted, and enlarged under the direction of Charles Kirk of Sleaford (Lincs.). The additions consisted of a new south aisle, a south porch, and an organ chamber to the north of the chancel. Rubble masonry in imitation of the old walling has been adopted for the new work and the windows are Geometrical in character. The nave arcade has four pointed arches on circular piers and the chancel arch has been rebuilt. By 1907 the foundations of the west wall of the new aisle were giving trouble and cracks were repaired. A choir vestry was added to the north side of the nave in 1954, the walls being of polygonal granite masonry. There are no mural tablets in the church but the churchyard contains some good Swithland slate headstones of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
There are two bells: (i) 1604; (ii) 1868–70. The plate includes a silver cup and 2 patens all of 1567, a silver paten of 1863, and a flagon of 1772, purchased in 1863. The registers date from 1638 and are complete, but there are earlier transcripts for scattered years from 1575.
In 1672 George Barfoot was licensed as a Congregational preacher and Richard Iliffe as a Baptist preacher. Dissenting meetinghouses were licensed in 1719 at Robert Carter’s house, in 1724 at Mary Dorman’s, and in 1725 at Thomas Sturgis’s. It seems likely that these all belonged to the same sect, probably Baptist. There was a Baptist congregation in Fleckney in the early 19th century and the first baptisms in the village brook are said to have taken place about 1811. In 1813 the first Baptist chapel was opened. Its building was largely due to the efforts of William Jones, a member of the New Connexion Baptists from Thurlaston. About five years later the Baptists from Smeeton Westerby joined the Fleckney group. As a result of the growth of Fleckney at the end of the 19th century, the chapel, which is on the east side of the High Street, was rebuilt in 1897. The present building incorporates the date-stone of the building of 1813. The Particular Baptist chapel, known as Carmel Chapel, was founded in 1853 by Abraham Deacon, preacher and postmaster (from 1861), a well-known Fleckney inhabitant. It is known to have seated 40 people. A new chapel was built on the same site, in Wolsey Lane, in 1877–8.
In the early 17th century one of the curates taught at the Vicarage; this is mentioned in 1614. In 1828 a day school was opened where 7 boys and 6 girls were being taught in 1833. There was also then another day school, attended by 9 boys and 20 girls. The Sunday school had been opened in 1830 and in 1837 was attended by 41 boys and 55 girls. These private day schools were short-lived and nothing is known of schools in Fleckney until Lady Byron built a small school on the Saddington road. This was known as the Iron School, and was attended by 50 pupils in 1863. It received endowments from John Earp in 1865 and from William Iliffe in 1866. The National school was built in 1873 to accommodate 148 children and was enlarged in 1898 for 330 children. In spite of this, in 1910, when the attendance was 76 infants and 194 older children, the school was said to be overcrowded. In 1952 the school accepted ‘controlled’ status under the local authority. In 1956 the attendance was 166, juniors and infants.
Miss Barber kept a dame school at 11 Main Street until about 1880. The children were mainly occupied with hosiery seaming, but read a verse and wrote a copy each day. The fee was 2d. weekly for reading and 2½d. for reading and writing.
Emmanuel Barfoot, by will dated 1738, left £5, the interest to be distributed to the poor in coal at 4d. a hundredweight. This charity was lost before 1837. Other lost charities reported at this date were 7s. 6d. from land given by an unknown donor before 1786, a rent-charge of 1s. 6d. for bread, and another of 1s., none of which had been paid since about 1776.
Joseph Cooper Moore, by will proved 1876, left £300 in trust in equal shares to Fleckney, Syston, and Thurmaston, the interest to be used for the purchase of fuel, clothes, meat, or bread for the poor at Christmas. In 1956 it was the practice in Fleckney to allow the interest to accumulate for 2 or 3 years, and then to distribute it at Christmas to poor and sick persons in cash. The income was £2 6s. a year from £90 stock.