Wymeswold, which probably started life in the late Saxon period (AD 700 - 900), derives its name from "Wymund's Wald", meaning 'Wymund's Wood'. Again, we have no information about who Wymund was but the name implies a possible link with 'Wymund's Ham' (Wymondham) in the east of the county.
The 19th century writer and antiquary Potter maintained that Wymund was the son of Wichtlaf, Duke of Wicci and was married to Alfleda, a Mercian Princess. But as with most of Potter's's stories, there is next to no evidence and his conclusions should be regarded as highly dubious!
Wymeswold is situated to the north east of Loughborough in open countryside at the northern boundary of Leicestershire. It is a typical wolds village, built in the hollows of the undulating landscape. It is a conservation village and has many fine Georgian buildings, some of which are thatched. The northern boundary of the parish forms the county boundary with Nottinghamshire and also divides the Sees of Canterbury and York. The eastern boundary is now defined by the Fosse Way (A46) but prior to 1974 the true border was Kingston Brook. The River Mantle, which has its source close the parish boundary, flows through Brook Street. Half of the parish land is devoted to arable farming and there are few major industries.
There is little evidence of the area being occupied before the Roman occupation, except for a few iron age and bronze age relics, found west of the village. The closeness of the present village to the Fosse Way and the ancient Salt Way meant that this area probably came much closer to regular contact with the Roman invaders than most of the rest of the Borough. Also, the Roman town of Vernemetum was just north of the present parish. Almost certainly the earliest habitation of the Wymeswold area would have been farms rather than an actual village.
A Saxon burial ground was discovered in Wymeswold, containing four bodies - one with a knife. There have been many other Saxon items which seem to indicate that this was an important area in Saxon times.
Prior to 1066, Wymeswold was divided between two manors held by two brothers. These were later amalgamated into one Manor. Domesday Bookshows that in 1086 the village was divided in four parts. Chief landowner, as with so many other Charnwood villages, was Hugh de Grantesmaisnel and the other three were Durant Malet; Roger de Busli and Robert de Jorz. Domesday Book also records that the village consisted of:
"1 serf and 11 villeins with four sokemen and four bordars and nine French sergeants have ten ploughs between them all".
The remains of the landscaped terrace gardens of the now demolished Wymeswold Hall lie to the south west of the village. There is a raised terrace walkway at the back of the level platform, together with old enclosures and a small pond to the south. These enclosures may be an old orchard. The sites of garden plots are visible here and a prominent rectangular hollow may indicate the site of the cellars attached to the Hall itself.
In the 1338, Edward III granted a charter to hold a weekly market on Wednesdays and an annual fair on June 28th and 29th ("the eve and feast of St Peter and St Paul"). but this was soon eclipsed by that of Loughborough. Both market and fair were probably held on The Stockwell, a small open area to the south west of the church and named after the village spring. The village also had a Market cross at the north end of Clay Street but this had disappeared by the eighteenth century. The village still has a small amount of common land.
There is a two feet high markstone at the north east corner of the churchyard. An old resident remembered that this used to be twice as high but was broken when it was moved from the south west corner. When in its original position, it may have marked the position of "The Stockwell", a spring which has now been culverted. The combination of the spring and the mound on which the Church is built indicates that the site was probably sacred for many centuries before Christian times.
Wymeswold is one of eight parishes which radiate out from Six Hills like spokes around the hub of a wheel. Before Parish boundaries were "tidied up" in the nineteenth century, this relationship was much more clearly seen. The other seven parishes are Willoughby on the Wolds in Nottinghamshire and Burton on the Wolds, Walton on the Wolds, Seagrave, Ragdale, Old Dalby and Thrussington, all in Leicestershire.
It has been suggested that his unusual position points to Six Hills having been a MOOT site, possibly that of Goscote Hundres, the site of which has never been conclusively established.
A Primitive Methodist Chapel was built here in 1830 and General Baptist Church earlier in the 1790s. The latter was considerably enlarged in 1847. Two years after, the Wesleyan Chapel was built at a cost of £700.
The population of Wymeswold in 1801 was 788. By 1821 this had increased to 1,061 and by 1861 the number was 1,209.
The Wymeswold Gaslight and Coke Company opened in the village in 1859 at a cost of £1,000, the money for which was raised in shares of £5 each. Despite lighting the streets of the village, the company closed down in the 1880s. It is thought this was because the pipes used to carry the gas were made of asbestos. This is now known to be bad in itself but at the time the pipes quickly began to rot away and the escaping gas was both smelly and dangerous.
A gazetteer of 1863 lists Wymeswold as having 17 farmers; 8 inns and beerhouses; 7 shoemakers; 6 grocers; 6 tailors; 5 shopkeepers; 4 builders; 4 bakers; 3 butchers; 3 blacksmiths; 2 millers; 2 drapers; 2 druggists; 2 saddlers; 2 wheelwrights; 2 bricklayers; 1 surgeon; 1 lace agent; 1 parish clerk; 1 cattle dealer; 1 plumber; 1 confectioner; 1 highway surveyor; 1 Baptist Minister; 1 vicar; 1 hosiery manufacturer and 1 rate collector.
The church of St Mary was originally built in the 13th century and is a central feature of the village. Built on a raised mound, it is believed that a Saxon church once stood here but there is no evidence of this. By the 14th century, the church was in a very bad state of repair and the present church was built then, in the Perpendicular style.
In 1835, Reverend Henry Alford became the first vicar of Wymeswold to actually live in the village since 1776. Dismayed at the state of the church, he called in help from some of his old college friends, including AW Pugin, to restore St Mary's. As well as restyling the porch, Pugin, also designed the furnishings and much of the stained glass. The interior is attractively Victorian and Pugin's work probably makes this one of the finest churches in the diocese. One of the windows commemorates Alford's son, who died as a child. Alford himself later became Dean of Canterbury and the first editor of "The Contemporary Review". The church was further restored in the 1950s to counter damp and further treatment was needed in the 1970s.
Alford also built a new vicarage, now called Alford House, on the edge of the village.
St Mary's Churchyard is also justly renowned for it's slate tombstones. "Of Graves and Epitaphs" by K Lindley says of it:
"The proximity of Swithland and its beautiful slate and the genius of native craftsmen have made Wymeswold churchyard one of the finest in England".
Many of the finest headstones date from the 18th century, as do some of the most notable epitaphs. The best work is probably that of William Charles and family of Wymeswold, who were working between 1700 and 1730. The following is by Willian Charles Junior, and is from the grave of John Shepherd who died in 1758:
"This monumental Stone when you have read - Consider well the slipp'ry Path you tread. In Life's short span, or Time's more spacious round, Nothing of certainty there's to be found. Some chance unseen, some stroke unthought by thee, May end thy life and lay thee low as me".
THE QUAKERS IN WYMESWOLD:
The Quaker movement in 17th century Wymeswold centred on the Fox family. Although not, in fact, related to the movement's founder George Fox, he and his family became some of the most prominent Quakers in the area. The group is first recorded as meeting in Fox's own home in 1665 and by the 1670s there was a strong movement in the village. In 1677, George Fox himself visited the community. All of this activity was highly dangerous as the Conventicles Acts of 1664 and 1670 made dissenting meetings punishable by fines or imprisonment. With the assistance of one John Smith, an informer living in Hoton Fox was fined for attending meetings in 1679, 1680 and again in 1683. As was usual with Quakers, Fox refused to pay the fines. Smith, his assistant Thomas Warner, the constable of Wymeswold, the churchwarden and the overseer of the poor therefore entered Fox's general store with a warrant and took away any goods they could take away with them.
In 1684, the persecution of the village Quakers got much worse. On December 2nd of that year, the authorities again attempted to seize goods to recover an unpaid fine. But this time Fox objected top the warrant. The full story is given in the "Record of ye Sufferings of ye People called Quakers in ye County of Leicester and Rutland":
"In a rage (Smith) snatched it out of his hands and called him the son of a whore and kicked his hand, so Thomas Warner soon came with more officers, a cart and a horse... they left little of any value except one bed that his wife was in, she being not well and had a young child as sucked on her,,, they took both meat and drink... they took up the matting and wrenched up the bench that was fixed in the house... They took his cows, hay and swine troughs and a horse trough... They were ransacking his house and carrying away goods till about the eighth hour of the night... It being the cold season... his whole family... was forced to lodge in the town having neither bed nor bedding left in the house... The children and most of them got such colds that they were very ill for a great while".
After this, the persecutions seemed to lessen and in 1717, when John Fox died, he left provision in his will for the purchase of a house on The Stockwell as a permanent Meeting House. The history of the Wymeswold Quakers ends in 1802 when, most of the family now having left the village, Fox's grandson sold the Meeting house and it's adjoining land. Ironically, this is now the site of the Methodist Church Rooms.
INDUSTRY IN WYMESWOLD:
This started life in 1910 in the old Primitive Methodist Chapel on London Lane. It was run by Emberlins of Leicester and JM Nuttall and Co before being sold to the Milk Marketing Board in 1962. The dairy was famous for it's Stilton, at one point producing 500 cheeses a day. In the late 1970s, a new cheese - Lymeswold - was to have been produced here but expected demand meant that production was switched to Somerset. Originally to have been called "Wymeswold", this was a mild blue soft cheese and the label bore an unmistakable picture of the village, even after the name change. But the expected demand did not materialise and the cheese went out of production fairly quickly. The dairy itself closed down in 1987 and the site was redeveloped first as retirement flats and ultimately as a nursing home.
The last two and a half centuries have seen three windmills in Wymeswold. The last to disappear was on Wysall Lane which was demolished in 1950. The other two, one also on Wysall Lane and the second on Burton Road, had long gone by this time.
This was never as dominant in Wymeswold as in other parts of the Borough but it did provide an alternative employment to agriculture - albeit with notoriously low wages. In 1844 there were 10 frames in the village while Shepshed had 1,209. This number went up to 60 in 1851 and by the 1870s, manufacture had moved from the home to purpose built small factories. The house at 9 Brook Street, known as the Wye Building, is a good example of one of these early buildings.
This was opened in May of 1942 and occupied land in Hoton and urton on the Woldsas well as Wymeswold itself. Until 1944, the airfield was used for training air crews of Bomber Command who would go on to fly Lancasters, Halifaxes, Stirlings and Wellingtons. After 1944, it passed under the control of No 44 Group Transport Command to train aircrew for Dakotas to transport forces overseas.
After the war, the airfield closed until 1949, when it housed auxiliary and reserve units until it closed down in 1957. However, runways were still used by the RAF until 1970 for some training exercises. The buildings were taken over by commercial aircraft repair firm Field Aircraft Services until they transferred to Castle Donington in the late 1960s.
Some of the land has since returned to agricultural use and the buildings became a small scale industrial park. A major row broke out in 1986 when Costain Homes sought permission to use the site for a new village of some 2,500 houses. This was fiercely opposed by many local residents who started a vociferous "Stop the Blot on the Wolds" campaign. Planning permission was finally refused in April 1990.
Wymeswold seems to have been a centre for witchcraft in Charnwood! Nicols in his 1795 "History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester" says:
"It is commonly believed.... that, about 80 or 100 years ago, here were several witches of whom the old inhabitants relate strange stories"
THE WYMESWOLD WITCH STONE:
This was probably a perfectly natural stone which had been kept in a Wymeswold dairy until 1852, when it was given to Leicester Museum.
The stone has since been lost but its museum label is described by C J Billson in his 1895 work "County Folklore: Printed Extracts No 3 - Leicestershire and Rutland":
'Witch Stone from Wymeswold - This has been preserved for many generations in our family, and till within the last few years great virtues were attributed to it. It has prevented the entrance of fairies into the dairy, preserved the milk from taint, kept off diseases, and charmed off warts etc. Presented by TR Potter Esq', 1852."
The drawings on this page were created by Paul Gent for the project 'Where We LIve and What We Know' supported by Rawlins Community Trust