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Whitwick (pronounced "Wittick") is a village in Leicestershiremarker, Englandmarker and is an ancient parish which formerly included the equally historic villages of Thringstonemarker and Swanningtonmarker. It was an important manor in the Middle Ages, which once included Bardonmarker and Markfieldmarker, parts of Hugglescotemarker, Doningtonmarker l.e. Heath, Ratbymarker, Bocheston, Newtown Unthankmarker and Whittington. As early as 1293, Whitwick had a weekly market and a four day fair. The population of Whitwick, according to the 2001 census is 10,815 persons. 8,092 of these fall into the 16-74 working age range, although only 4,689 are employed.

History

One of the earliest mentions of the place, as Witewic, is in the Domesday Book, the name of the settlement meaning either "The White Farm" or "Hwita's Farm", which may have been a reference to the outcrop of white sandstone found here. It was listed amongst the lands given to Hugh de Grandmesnil by the king. There was said to be land for half a plough and woodland which was a furlong by half a furlong. Its value was two shillings (10 pence).

Castle

Whitwick had a 12th century motte and bailey castle, although no remains are left. This was held by the Earls of Leicester, though it was recorded as being ruinous by 1427. The foundations are said to have been visible at the end of the 18th century and a wall was still to be seen on the north side in 1893. A licence to crenellate the structure was issued in 1320 to 'Henricus de Bello Monte, Consanguineus Regis'. The building work resulting from this licence may have provoked an attack by Sir John Talbot. Beaumont's claim to the land was from wife's inheritance and, it seems, Talbot felt he had a claim to Whitwick. Twenty years later the capital messuage was worth nothing.

The mound retains the title of Castle Hill and is surmounted by a 19th century folly, with a castellated roofline. This was built in 1846 by a local landowner, Joseph Almond Cropper, comprising almshouses for the poor.

Market and fair

From 1838 until within the early 20th century, there was a thriving weekly market held in Whitwick Market Place. As well as the regular local stallholders, there were a number of Leicester tradesmen who attended and it is remembered that old ladies used to bring their butter and other farm produce and line up alongside the gutter. In the years following the First World War, competition from the larger and newer market at Coalville eventually resulted in its discontinuance.

The annual fair, or "wakes", was once a hugely popular event and coincided with the patronal festival of the parish church. At the height of its popularity, earlier in the 20th century, it is remembered that the larger amusements stood in the opening in front of the White Horse public house and there were wild beast shows and even seals swimming around in tanks. The local photographer would take snapshots (on glass) and deliver them while the customers waited. There was also once a 'Cabbage Street Wakes', of rather obscure origin, when cabbages were used to decorate the lampposts in Cademen Street.

St. John the Baptist Parish Church

St. John the Baptist Parish Church, Whitwick.


The parish church of St. John the Baptist is an ancient structure, nestling in a natural amphitheatre, close to the confluence of two streams. A spring, emanating from under the chancel, is also discharged into the watercourse, through a piped outlet protruding from a stone wall at the east end of the churchyard. Interestingly, this spring is said to have been used during the 19th century as means of powering the bellows of the church organ. It is probable that this site was regarded as sacred in pre-Christian times, thereby influencing the choice of location for the church. It has also been pointed out by the historian, George Green of Loughboroughmarker, that a fragment of pre-Norman cross shaft would appear to be incorporated into the chancel wall, thereby suggesting that a church may well have existed on this site in Anglo-Saxon times. The church we see today is mainly of thirteenth century construction. The massive decorated western tower contains a peal of eight bells, four of which were cast in 1628 and in the north aisle can be found a badly defaced alabaster effigy of the knight, Sir John Talbot, who died in 1365. Talbot is said to have been a giant, and this accounts for the exceptional length of the monument.

From 1319 until its dissolution in 1536, Whitwick Church was an endowment of the Benedictine priory of Upholland, near Wigan, Lancashire. Following royal sequestration, the patronage of the living passed to the King and Whitwick Church remains one of forty-two churches nationally which are in the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen (in right of her Duchy of Lancaster).

The church was a victim of aggressive restoration during the 19th century, when the chancel was rebuilt by James Piers St Aubyn, 1848-1849. A crypt is situated beneath the chancel, but is thought never to have been used as a charnel house.Today, the church forms part of a united benefice with Thringstone and Swannington. The registers date from 1601.

The churchyard was closed for burials many years ago. In more recent years, many of the 18th and 19th century slate headstones were uprooted and moved in a line around the periphery of the southern portion of the graveyard; a 20th century concrete war memorial now occupies the centre. Sadly, other stones were taken up and used for paving around the church.

Whitwick Cemetery, off Church Lane, was consecrated on 24 June, 1874 and consists of about four acres. It was divided into three sections: Church of England, Catholic and Nonconformist and placed under the control of a joint burial committee.

Daughter churches and national school

In the 19th and 20th centuries, new churches were built within the vast, ancient ecclesiastical parish of Whitwick as a result of population growth, all of which later came to serve independent parishes in their own right. Interestingly (possibly more by co-incidence than design) these daughter churches are dedicated respectively to the patron saints of Great Britainmarker: St George's, Swannington was built in 1825; St Andrew's, Thringstonemarker was built in 1862 and St David's, Broom Leys was founded in 1933. Christ Church, Coalvillemarker, was also formed partially out of Whitwick Parish in 1836, though the church here stands on land which was originally in the ancient parish of Ibstockmarker, within the chapelry of Hugglescotemarker.

The churches at Swannington, Coalville and Thringstone all owe their existence to the zealous missionary drive of the Reverend Francis Merewether MA (1784-1864), Vicar of Whitwick for more than fifty years, and also Rector of Coleortonmarker. Merewether, a theologian of decidedly 'low church' persuasion, who preached and wrote prolifically against Roman Catholicism, was also successful in getting national schools established in these outlying parts of the parish as well as in Whitwick itself, leaving behind him a small empire of Anglican expansion, wrought in part by a desire to counteract the papist revival that he perceived to be sweeping the district, at the instigation of Ambrose De Lisle of Grace Dieu Manor. Whitwick National School, a stone building in the Early English style still stands in the market place, now a Grade Two listed building. An extension to the school was provided in 1903, with access on silver street. The school was replaced later in the 20th century by a new Church of England school located at the foot of Parsonwood Hill. The old school is now used as a day nursery.

St David's, Broom Leys was, for more than thirty years, served by a small wooden church which had originally served as a chapel at the Mowsleymarker Sanitorium near Market Harboroughmarker, Leicestershire, being brought over to its present site in sections and duly re-erected. This small structure still stands, near to the present day 'futuristic' church, work on which was commenced in 1964. The foundation stone (a piece of Welshmarker slate from St David'smarker in West Walesmarker and presented by the dean of that cathedral) was laid on 26 September, 1964 in the presence of about five hundred people. Above the front entrance of the church is the figure of St David, cast in 'ciment fondu' and coated with a bronze resin. The bricks are a 'Biaby Grey' and the stonework was provided by the local Whitwick Quarry.

Other places of worship

Until the early 19th century, the parish church remained the only place of worship in the village. Then, in the 1820s, the Baptists erected a small chapel on Pears Hill and a society of Wesleyan Methodists opened a chapel on North Street (extended 1879).From its foundation in 1823 until 1855, Whitwick Baptist Church remained a branch of the Hugglescote Church. In 1855, both the Whitwick and Coalville Baptist churches separated from Hugglescote and both churches were held under the pastorate of the Revd John Cholerton. A new Baptist church was built at Whitwick in 1861 at a cost of £318.10.0 by William Beckworth, a local builder, alongside the original chapel. By 1890, the minister was the Revd J. J. Berry. Interestingly, it is recorded that for his payment, he accepted the seat rents and weekly collections.

A Primitive Methodist chapel appeared at the foot of Leicester Road (the present day Vicarage Street) in 1864 and Wesleyan Reform Methodists also opened a chapel on North Street toward the end of the 19th century, and also in New Swannington in 1906. The Reform Chapel on North Street is now a warehouse used by 'Gracedieu Windows'. The Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists united nationally in 1932 and the two societies in Whitwick finally merged together in 1965, after which time the Vicarage Street chapel was used by the amalgamated congregations, the North Street chapel eventually being sold to the Church of England for use as a parish hall in about 1966. In 1972, a new Methodist church was built at the foot of Hall Lane and sadly, the Vicarage Street chapel (perhaps the most impressive example of 19th century non-conformist architecture in the village) was demolished circa 1980, having fallen into a state of disrepair. The site is now occupied by a car park. Due to extensive housing development during the 1960s, a Methodist church was also built at the other end of Hall Lane in 1966, close to the Broom Leys cross-roads. It is noticeable that in more recent years, structural alterations have been carried out to this building to replace the original flat roof with a pitched one.

Due to the residency at Grace Dieu Manor of a zealous and wealthy convert to Roman Catholicism, Ambrose de Lisle, Whitwick became an important centre of Roman Catholic revival. A Cistercian monastery was established within the parish on Charnwood Forestmarker in 1835 and a church (designed by Pugin) was also built on Parsonwood Hill in 1837. A small convent of Rosminian nuns also occupied an old house here for many years until transferring to Loughborough.

The present Roman Catholic Church of Holy Cross was built to accommodate a growing congregation early in the 20th century on the opposite side of Parsonwood Hill, though the cemetery of the old church remains. A school was also built to the rear of the new church to replace the original school at Turry Log, which had been opened in 1843. The Church of Holy Cross, with its seventy-five foot high red brick tower occupies a precipitous site and forms a conspicuous local landmark; this contains a traditional chime of fifteen bells which were presented by Samuel Wilson Hallam, landlord of the Queen's Head, Thringstone, in memory of his wife. The current instrument was installed by Taylors of Loughborough in 1960 and is operated by a baton keyboard, located in the first storey chamber of the tower.

Curious place names within the village

A popular affirmation is that the village of Whitwick contains three 'cities'. The City of Three Waters and the City of Dan are official postal addresses, situated respectively at the foot of Dumps Hill and Leicester Road. Over the years, there have been many contenders for the location of the 'third city', the most popular being The City of Hockley - an area located midway between the Cities of Three Waters and Dan, close to the parish church, and also alongside the watercourse passing through the village. However, older residents have always maintained that this area was known simply as The Hockley, and the prefix of 'city', they suggest, is a retrospective appendage. Even the place-name, 'Hockley', would appear to be a mystery. (It is also interesting to note that the nearby South Derbyshiremarker village of Woodvillemarker has an old lane signposted as, simply, 'The City').

Of equal obscurity is the name of Whitwick's 'Dumps Hill', a steep incline forming part of a staggered cross-roads at the northern end of the village. Many theories have been expounded to account for its origin, including, that the houses built on the righthand side after the old railway bridge were constructed on the site of the old 'Dumblies' pig farm. Sheila Smith, in her 1984 history of Whitwick also suggests that the name may be linked to a framework knitting past as in 1845, one Joseph Sheffield - in his evidence before the Commission into the plight of the framework knitters - makes reference to a type of stocking called 'dumps'. There are several surviving examples of framework knitters' cottages in the village, which can be recognised by elongated first storey windows, designed to allow greater inlet of light. A good example of such a cottage can be found at the foot of the Dumps.

On Loughborough Road, there stands an old public house, built of forest stone and known as 'The Man Within the Compass'. This title is thought to be unique in England, though again, with uncertain origins. The pub is more commonly known as 'The Rag and Mop'; several of Whitwick's public houses developed 'nick-names', some of which - like The Rag and Mop - have origins which can only be guessed at. Other examples are 'Mary's House' (Hare and Hounds) and 'Thripnies' (Crown and Cushion, Silver Street - now closed).

Whitwick Colliery and mining disaster

Whitwick Colliery was opened on the outskirts of the parish by the engineer William Stenson near Long Lane in 1824, precipitating a massive expansion and development of this industry across the north west of Leicestershire. Though coal mining on this scale was only a major concern in Whitwick for a century and a half - a relatively short period for a settlement with a documented history spanning ten centuries - the place is still considered by many to be a colliery village due to the massive physical impact of the industry on the character of the village in terms of homogeneous red brick housing development during the 19th and 20th centuries. With the exception of the parish church, few - if any - ancient buildings survive.

There was a mining disaster on 19 April 1898 in Whitwick Number Five Pit which resulted in the deaths of thirty five men. Patrick O'Mara, one of those killed, was found on his knees with his rosary beads still in his hands. The youngest victim was John Albert Gee of Thringstone, who was aged just thirteen years. A memorial tablet to those killed can be found in the parish church at Coalville.

The pit was closed in the 1980s and the site is now occupied by a Morrisons store. An old winding wheel can still be seen at the foot of Leicester Road, erected as a monument to Whitwick's mining past following the closure of the colliery.

Past industry and commerce

Framework knitting

During the 18th century, framework knitting became an important cottage industry in the village, taking over from agriculture. As early as 1723/24, William Clark, son of William, was apprenticed to Joseph Howe. This apprenticeship was to run from Michaelmas 1723/24 for seven years. By the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, Leicestershiremarker, Nottinghamshiremarker and Derbyshiremarker had become the centre of the British hosiery trade, taking over from London. In 1832, it is recorded that there were some 33,000 knitting frames in use in the Midlandsmarker, of which the majority - 11,200, were in Leicestershire.

In 1844, there were 423 knitting frames in Whitwick and by this time, the cottage industry had been in decline for some years. This appears to have been as a result of a change in fashions and also to the new type of hose being produced, which required fewer skills in the manufacture. From the middle of the 19th century, framework knitting began to be transferred from homes to the factories in larger towns. By 1851, it is recorded that the number of frames in Whitwick had dwindled to 240..

Large hosiery factories appeared on Church Lane and at the top of The Dumps, shortly before the First World War.

Mineral water factories

In addition to the usual village trades, Whitwick also once had three mineral water factories.

The largest of these was the firm of Bernard Beckworth on Cademan Street, which is listed in Kelly’s Directories of Leicestershire from 1904 through to 1941 as ‘Beckworth and Co. Ltd, Charnwood Mineral Water Works’. This firm was established in 1875 and ran until the 1970s.By 1904, the firm of Stinson Brothers had appeared, which was based on Loughborough Road. By 1912, this firm is listed as simply Horace Stinson and has disappeared from the Whitwick Directories by 1928.The firm of Richard Massey appears by 1916 and is listed at 36, Castle Street, Whitwick. Massey’s has disappeared by 1941.

A ‘Stinson Bros’ Codd Bottle appears among lots listed for auction in Barnsley (BBR Auctions) on Saturday 08 January 2006. It is described as: 9 ins tall, emerald green glass codd bottle. Embossed, ‘STINSON BROS/WHITWICK.’ The guide price was £80 - £100, presumably due to the rarity of the glass. Astonishingly, this bottle realised £515! This particular bottle was turned up by a plough in a field opposite A.W.Waldrum’s Coal Merchant's premises on Grace Dieu Road, Whitwick and is the only known example.

There is also known to have existed a ‘Botanical Brewery’, though it is believed that this may have been a part of the Stinson or Massey enterprises, both of which later moved to Hermitage Road. Both firms are listed on Hermitage Road (under Coalville) in a trade directory of 1941. There are also known to have been examples of nineteenth century bottles bearing the title of McCarthy and Beckworth, Coalville.

Collection of late C19th and early C20th Whitwick bottles


Railway

Whitwick station at road level.
Whitwick station at trackbed level.


Whitwick railway station was on the Charnwood Forest Railway which was constructed by the Charnwood Forest Company between 1881 and 1883. This branch line ran from Coalville East (joined to the Ashby & Nuneaton Joint Railway (ANJR)) to the town of Loughboroughmarker, at the Derby Road Station. Passenger services ceased to operate on 13 April 1931, with freight services ceasing to operate on 12 December 1963. Whitwick railway stationmarker still has some surviving structures, the platform and the old station building, now the home of the Whitwick Historical Group, while the railway trackbed towards Coalville has been turned into a footpath.

Local public houses

There were at one time thirty one working public houses, beerhouses or social clubs in Whitwick. However, many of these are now converted or demolished. Here follows a list of those still in business:

The Man Within Compass ("Rag and Mop") on Loughborough Road,

The Lady Jane on Hall Lane,

The Hare and Hounds (Mary's House) in The City of Three Waters,

The Oak (Formerly The Prince of Wales; also known as The Beavers Lodge, 1983 - 89) on Talbot Street,

The Black Horse on Church Lane,

The White Horse on North Street/Market Place,

The Three Crowns in the Market Place,

The Kings Arms on Silver Street,

The Foresters Arms on Leicester Road (closed at present)

The Three Horseshoes ("Polly's") on Vicarage Street/City of Dan. The Three Horseshoes is the only pub in the village still selling Bass Bitter from the Bass Brewery in Burton Upon Trent. Currently Bass is now brewed at Marston`s Brewery alongside Pedigree Bitter, which is also also served at 'Polly's'. It has several awards for serving consistently good beer and has an award from Camra for this effect. It is the only pub in Whitwick to have an entry in the current Good Beer Guide. The interior also won an award for being little changed since construction over 100 years ago.

Other working licensed buildings in the village include:

The Constitutional Club (originally known as The Whitwick and Thringstone Conservative Club) on Silver Street,

The Sports and Social Club (formerly the "Beaumont Arms" c. 1830-1913 and after that, the Labour Club)in the Market Place

The North Street Working Men's Club (formerly the Liberal Club) on North Street, which closed in early 2008. One local source suggests that the owner of the Sports and Social is moving to the former Working Men's Club and that the site of the S&S is to be demolished for housing.

A full list of buildings otherwise demolished or converted are as follows;

The Abbey Inn, Cademan Street. Closed in 1911 and now demolished,

The Blacksmiths Arms, on the end of Hall Lane, closed in 1908 and later demolished. (now the site of the local Methodist Church),

The Boot Inn, on Silver Street, closed as a public house in 1913, premises has been some form of take away for more than 60 years, currently "Whitwick Spice",

The Castle Inn, on Castle Street, closed in 1970, now a house,

The Cricketers Arms, on Leicester Road, closed in 1908 and now demolished,

The Crown and Cushion on Silver Street, closed in 2003 and became a house,

The Crown and Cushion on South Street (South Street was latterly made into an extension of North Street) closed in 1923 and survived as a house until being demolished in the 1970s. The two pubs, curiously, at one point operated at the same time, with the same name and quite close to one another.

The Duke of Newcastle, formerly on North Street, demolished in recent years, now the site of housing development.

The Duke of York, on Leicester Road, closed in 1929 and now demolished.

The Hastings Arms, in the Market Place, was named for the Hastings family.The pub closed in 1961 and was demolished. In 2009 it is the site of a car showroom.

The Hermitage Inn, on Hermtage Road. This was in two locations. The first Hermitage Inn still exists as a house, however the replacement "Hermitage Hotel" which the license transferred too was demolished in 1967 due to mining subsidence.

The Marquis of Granby, near King Richard's Hill. Demolished,

The New Inn, Brooks Lane/Corner of Talbot Street, closed and demolished in 1934,

The Railway Hotel, South Street (now North Street) closed in 1965 to become a Hardware Store, now a B-Warm Windows sales outlet. Built on top of another pub, "The Joiners Arms", whose ground floor rooms are now the basement rooms of the B-Warm Windows outlet. (The road level was raised when the railway was built).

The Royal George, North Street, closed in 1913,

The Talbot Arms, Talbot Street, closed in 1931 and finally

The Waggon and Horses, on Church Lane. This adjoined the Black Horse, but was purchased and demolished by Leicestershire County Council in 1985 to improve the road junction.

Local government

Traditionally, Whitwick and the contiguous electoral wards have been a stronghold for the Labour Party, all having a common coal mining heritage. However, in the 2007 North West Leicestershire District Council elections, the British National Party won both Hugglescotemarker and Whitwick - the first seats to be won by the BNP in Leicestershiremarker. The current councillors for Whitwick are Derek Howe (Labour); Tony Gillard (Conservative) and Ian Meller (BNP).

Mount St Bernard and Gracedieu

Mount St. Bernard Abbeymarker, was established on the Charnwood Forest, within the parish of Whitwick, in 1835 - a Cistercian monastery, which has the distinction of having been the first permanent Roman Catholic religious house to have been founded in England since the Reformation.The current monastery was designed by the great architect Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, a man most famous for his work on the Houses of Parliament.

In 1840, a hoard of two thousand Roman coins was discovered during ploughing operations at the monastery.

Gracedieu Vineyard is south facing and was established in 1995 in Charnwood Forestmarker. Its 'Green Man' wine based on the Madeleine Angevine grape is known for its floral bouquet.

Notable residents



References

  1. Hadfield, CN: Charnwood Forest, 1952, p 47
  2. Hoskins, W G: Leicestershire - A Shell Guide, 1970
  3. Watts, Victor et. al., (2004) The Cambridge Dictionary of Place Names, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. ISBN 0 521 36209 1
  4. Domesday Book: a Complete Transliteration. London: Penguin, 2003. p. 656 ISBN 0-14-143994-7
  5. The Gatehouse Website: Gazetteer medieval fortifications and castles of England and Wales, accessed 03.11.09
  6. ibid
  7. Introduction to Coalville, local publication, circa 1970
  8. ibid
  9. Whitwick church website
  10. A History of the County of Lancaster, Volume 2, 1908, pp 111 - 112
  11. Edgar Hawthorn, 'A Church, A People, A Story' (History of Christ Church, Coalville), 1952
  12. Stephen Neale Badcock, Visitor's Guide To The Parish Church Of St. Andrew's, Thringstone, published 2005
  13. Introduction to Coalville, local publication, circa 1970
  14. Introduction to Coalville, local publication, circa 1970
  15. Smith, Sheila, "A Brief History of Whitwick", published by Leicestershire Libraries and Information Service, Leicester, 1984.
  16. Smith, Sheila, "A Brief History of Whitwick", published by Leicestershire Libraries and Information Service, Leicester, 1984.
  17. ibd
  18. ibid
  19. Franks, D.L., (1975) The Ashby and Nuneaton Joint Railway together with The Charnwood Forest Railway Sheffield: Turntable Publications
  20. Public Houses in Whitwick, Stephen Neale Badcock, accessed 3 January 2009
  21. Elections, North West Leicestershire District Council
  22. C.N.Hadfield, Charnwood Forest, 1952


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