Arthur Henry Dyson.

Lutterworth, John Wycliffe's town online

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First Published in igij


ARCH. 'OOLOGY spreads a broad net, and
much of its best spade-work has been done
by men who owe their education entirely to
their own industry and perseverance. We have
had a notable instance of this in Leicestershire in
the person of Richard Fowke of Elmsthorpe, the
friend of Nichols, to whom the county historian
was indebted for much valuable information. Another
such a one we now possess in Mr. A. H. Dyson,
one of the best respected tradesmen in Lutterworth.
With an enthusiastic persistence he has accumulated
such a mass of material connected with the history
of his native town as to render the task of the
editorial sieve by no means an easy one. Friends,
however, have not been lacking, and I have to
record my indebtedness to the Earl of Denbigh
for permission to reproduce some of the valuable
portraits in his collection at Newnham Paddox ;
to the Lady Agnes Feilding for the section dealing
with the Feilding family; to Mr. S. Perkins Pick
and Mr. C Bassett-Smith for notes on the archi-


tectural features of the parish church ; to Major
Stoney-Smith for leave to reprint the interesting
reminiscences of William Green ; and to numerous
other friends who have rendered me assistance in
one way or another.

Both Mr. Bottrill and Mr. J. Abbott have already
published excellent cheap handbooks to Lutterworth,
but it has long been felt that the town offered
ample material for a more ambitious work, and
it is hoped that the present book will possess an
interest, not merely for the inhabitants of Lutter-
worth, but for the general reading public and for the
thousands of visitors to the shrine of Wycliffe who
annually traverse the streets of this little midland

As far as my own work is concerned it has been

a labour of love.


Ullesthorpe Court
"^th July 19 13


Preface .......

I. Geographical and Physical Features
II. In the Days of the Romans

III. The Anglo-Saxon Period

IV. Norman Lutterworth and its Early Lords

V. Lutter\vorth from the Fourteenth to the
Sixteenth Centuries .

VI. St. Mary's Church

VII. John Wycliffe

VIII. The Lollards

IX. The John of Gaunt Fresco

X. The Holy Well of St. John

XI. The Rebuilding of the Church

XII. The Fresco over the Chancel Arch

XIII. Wycliffe Relics preserved in the Church

XIV. Lutterworth in the Time of the Civil War

XV. The Feildings, Lords of the Manor of Luttkr
worth ......

XV'I. Administration of Law in Lutterworth

XVII. Trade in Lutterworth









XVIII. The Mills ......

XIX. The Great Storm of 1703, and Destruction of
THE Church Spire .....

XX. Lutterworth, i 750-1 800 ....

XXI. The Last of the Resident Feildings

XXII. The Restoration of the Church and Discovery
of Glass Vial, 1865-70 ....
The Windows— The Bells— The Fonts— The
Organs— The Church Plate— The Lectern
—The Reredos— The Alderson Chair— The
Monuments— List of Rectors

XXIII. Notable Lutterworth Families

XXIV. William Green .....
XXV. Amos Drake Miles ....

XXVI. Sports and Pastimes ....

XXVII. Cricket

XXVIII. The Murder of John Parsons Cook

XXIX. Mechanics Institution

XXX. The Horticultural and Cottage Gardeners
Society .....

XXXI. The Gooseberry Show Society

XXXI I. Local Charities ....

Appendix (a) Brief for Repairing the Church

„ (i) Charity Commission Report

„ (c) Population of Lutterworth .

Index .....











View of Lutterworth from Bridge

Photo, Taunt, Oxford

. Frontispiece



Anglo-Saxon Jewel found at Newton
Glass Vial found at Lutterworth Church . .12

Cromwellian Plate Chest from Lutterworth Church . 12
Plan of Lutterworth Church . . . • 30

By C. Bassett-Smith

Portrait of John Wycliffe . . . . -32

From the painting in the possession of the Earl of Denbigh

John of Gaunt Fresco in Lutterworth Church . . 42

From a drawing by T. C. Barfield

West Arch of Lutterworth Church . . -52

From a drawing by T. C. Barfield

Interior of Lutterworth Church showing Fresco over

Chancel Arch ...... 54

Photo, F. D. Jarrom

Elizabethan Communion Table in Lutterworth Church 56

Photo, F. D. Jarrom

Cole Arms, Laughton Church . . . . .60

From a drawing by T. C. Barjield

Portrait of First Earl of Denbigh . . . .68

From the painting in the possession of the Far I of Denbigh

Portrait of Susan, Countess of Denbigh . . .72

From the painting in the possession of the Earl of Denbigh

Iron Gates at Newnham Paddox . . . .78

Photo, Speight, Rugby

Restoration of Lutterworth Church Spire . , 96

From a drawing by C Bassett-Smith

Two Pairs of Brasses in Lutterworth Church . .128

Portraits of the Rev. Richard Wilson and his Wife . 134

From paintings in the possession of 1 1 ugh (ioudaire, F.Sij.

Feilding Tomb, in Lutterworth Church . . .136

Miniature of John Goodacre, Esq., of Ullesthorpe . 136

In the possession of Hugh Goodacre, Esq.







THE small Leicestershire market town of
Lutterworth stands on an eminence especially
marked as we approach it from the south, and
forms a charming picture with its pinnacled church
rising above the roofs of its houses and the little river
Swift meandering through the meadows in the valley

In spite of the rush of express trains through its
outskirts and the vibration of motor-cars through its
streets, it wears to-day much the same air of somno-
lent respectability which it wore in the early days of
the last century. It is the centre of a rich grazing
district, 13 miles south by west of Leicester, 13 miles
west of Market Harborough, 8 miles north of Rugby,
and 89 miles north-west by north of London, with a
station on the Great Central Railway.

In common with several other places, Lutterworth

claims the distinction of being the central town of the

kingdom ; but, however debatable this may be, there

is one point in connexion with its situation which



admits of no gainsaying : it stands upon one of the
most important watersheds in the British Isles.
This is a fact demonstrable every rainy day, when
the water coursing down the High Street to the
Swift is borne by the Avon to the Severn and out
into the Atlantic, while within two miles north of
the town the water finds its way by a small brooklet
into the river Soar and thence by the Trent into the
Humber and the German Ocean.

At Gilmorton, a neighbouring village, the situa-
tion is accentuated, for here the church stands at the
parting of the ways and the waters on the north
flow northwards, while those on the south follow
the opposite direction.

This phenomenon was known to the poet Drayton
( 1 563-1 651), who described the Swift as "a little
brook which, forsaking her sister the Soar, applies
herself wholly to the Avon."

In olden days there was apparently a further
natural phenomenon which distinguished our town,
for in British Cttriosities in N attire and Art, pub-
lished in 1713, we are informed that Lutterworth
was chiefly remarkable "for that near it is a water
that petrifieth (or turneth to stone) wood and stubble."
This apparently has reference to a spring of water in
a field in the Woodmarket, opposite the residence of
Dr. Fagge, and still known as " Spring Close." It
would seem to have lost its petrifying properties, if in
reality it ever had any.

Having thus defined the geographical situation
of our town and referred to its principal physical
features, we are now in a position to begin our story.



THERE are various ways of beginning a story.
The antiquary sometimes begins at the end.
This may savour somewhat of an Irishism,
yet, for all that, it has much to recommend it when
treating of the remote past, for by working back
from the known to the unknown, and linking certainty
to uncertainty, he is enabled to forge a stronger chain
than by pursuing the reverse process.

But as our book makes no claim to be regarded
as a learned antiquarian treatise, and as our soil has
hitherto yielded no relic of primitive man, we shall
make bold to commence exactly where it best suits
our own convenience, neither at the becjinnine nor
at the end, but at that moment in the history of our
country when the legions of Imperial Rome had
made themselves master of what are now known
as "the Midlands." This was somewhere about the
middle of the first century a.d.

It would be out of place here to enter into a
lengthy consideration of the conditions of England
under the Roman domination, as there is no evidence
of Lutterworth's existence at that date ; on the con-
trary, its very name suggests a later origin. At the
same time, the proximity of the important town of


Ratae (Leicester) and the station Venonae at the
hamlet of Bittesby, in the parish of Claybrook, make
it permissible to picture to ourselves our primeval
woods, still the haunt of wolf, of deer, and of wild
boar, echoing the tread of some stroller from the
great military roads which already traversed this
part of the country.

And of these roads there are two of the first
importance, passing now, as then, within a few miles
of our town, the Watling Street and the Fosse Way.
The former was the great north road of the Romans,
starting at Richborough on the coast of Kent,
passing through Canterbury, Rochester, and London,
and reaching Leicestershire near the village of
Catthorpe. From here it forms the boundary be-
tween Leicestershire and Warwickshire for about i8
miles, and then, crossing the Anker at Witherby,
proceeds on its way to Tommen-y-Manor in Wales,
where it divides into two branches, the one running
by Beddgelert to Carnarvon and Holyhead, and the
other by Chester and Manchester to Scotland. The
other Roman road to which we have referred, the
Fosse Way, was the great highway between the
south-west and the north-east of Britain. It enters
Leicestershire at High Cross, in the parish of Clay-
brook, 5j miles as the crow flies north-west of Lutter-
worth, and, crossing the Watling Street, proceeds in
the direction of Leicester. At the point where the
two roads intersect a monument was erected at the
instance of Basil, Earl of Denbigh, in 1712.

It was long assumed that the station Venonae
was situated at High Cross itself, but Mr. Barnett, in
Leicestershire and Rutland Notes and Queries (vol. i.


p. 37), has given good reasons for believing that this
assumption was incorrect. The Itinerary of Antonius,
in the Second Iter, states the distance of Venonae
from Manduessedo (Mancetta) as xii m.p., the
Roman mile [nii/le pass7is) being about equal to our
own. Now 12 miles along the Watling Street from
Mancetta carries us to a spot about 2 miles beyond
High Cross, and here, in a field still known as "the
Old or Great Township," and which tradition asserts
to be the site of a buried city, have been found in-
dubitable traces of a Roman settlement. Corrobora-
tive evidence is also afforded by the Iter itself, which
places the west station Beneventa at xvii m.p. from
Venonae. Now at precisely this distance from the
Old Township, between Norton and Whilton on the
Watling Street, have been unearthed remains testify-
ing to the former existence there of a Roman station
of some importance.

These discoveries brin"- Venonae almost within
the boundaries of the civil parish of Lutterworth,
and make it allowable for us to include a visit to
the Old Township in our history. Taking the
Coventry Road, in about 2h miles we reach the
Watlinor Street at what is known as the Cross-in-
hand. Turning abruptly to the right, we follow the
ancient way for a little over a mile, when we come to
a level crossing over the Midland Railway, and a
little distance beyond to a gate on the right-hand
side leading to a footpath to Ullcsthorpe. Follow-
ing this footpath, we soon find ourselves in a large
grass field. This is the Old Township, and at the
extreme corner, near the railway embankment, the
uncvenness of the ground discloses what is believed


to be the site of the ancient Venonae. When the
line was in course of construction numerous objects
were unearthed hereabouts ; but unfortunately no
record of their nature or the exact spot where they
were found has been preserved. Many of these
objects came into the hands of the late Mr. Simons
of Ullesthorpe ; but his son, who died a few years ago,
was unable to state what had become of them, nor
could he recall of what they consisted. From the
fact that the railway travels over an embankment at
the point indicated as the site of the buried city, it is
probable that anything unearthed here was found in
excavating for ballast at the side of the line. In an
old newspaper we read that workmen engaged on the
line came upon the foundations of a Roman villa at
Bittesby (the hamlet in which the Old Township is
situated). It disclosed a building of considerable
dimensions, with a beautiful tessellated pavement and
the remains of a bath.

In 1725 some men digging for clay in Lutterworth
are reported to have unearthed sixty denarii and a
few large brass coins. The former comprised coins
of Julius Caesar, Trajan, and Vespasian.

Evidence of the Roman occupation of this part
of the country has also come to light, not merely in
the Old Township, but in the neighbourhood of High
Cross, and, quite recently, a well and part of a paved
way have been discovered at Wibtoft on the Watling
Street between Bittesby and High Cross. In the
small museum at Ullesthorpe Court is a denarius of
Domitian and a little brass imitation of a Roman
coin such as was in circulation in this country after
the withdrawal of the Romans. Both were ploughed


up at High Cross. Slightly farther afield, namely,
at Ashby Parva, a first brass coin of Hadrian was
found in the rectory garden a few years since.
This, too, is preserved in the same collection. It
bears on the obverse the laureate head of the
Emperor with the legend Hadrianvs Avgvstvs
p.p., and on the reverse Hilaritas holding a palm
branch and cornucopia, standing between two chil-
dren, and reads Hilaritas p.r. cos. hi s.c. In
the Luttoivoyth Parish Magazine for April 1865
the late Archdeacon Pownall described a hoard
of Roman coins said to have been found in Lutter-
worth itself in the previous year. Doubtless the
insane laws of Treasure Trove which have wrouijht
the destruction of countless treasures are responsible
for the concealment of the precise provenance. The
coins, which were all of the base metal known as
" billon," consisted of —














Salonina (wife of Gallienus)


Saloninus (son of Gallienus)





Victorinus .






Tetricus, sen.



Tetricus, jun.



Claudius Gothicus



Quintillus .




il .

_ .,


Throsby, the historian, has left the record of
having himself seen a fine Roman urn found at


Bittesby, and the Rev. A. Macaulay, in his History
of Claybrook, quoting from Gough's Camden, says
that " Mr. Lee of Leicester had a Roman urn
found in digging a vault (apparently at or near High
Cross) for the late Lord Denbigh with eleven more,
covered with Roman bricks."



NO history exists which tells of the commence-
ment of our town. All that can be gathered
must be inferred from the general history of
the time to which its name leads us to assign its

Of the three main Teutonic invasions of this
country, that by the Angles was undoubtedly of the
greatest moment, and yet, curiously enough, as Prof.
Church points out, we know less of the Angles than
of either of their forerunners, the Jutes and the
Saxons. Ptolemy speaks of them as inhabiting part
of the left bank of the river Elbe ; but later on we find
them living in that projecting piece of land known as
the Cimbric peninsula containing Holstein, Schleswig,
and Jutland. It is from this country that Bede speaks
of them as migrating in such numbers that their own
homes were left desolate. And just as we know less
of the antecedents of the Angles than of the other
stocks of Germanic conquerors, so there is no part of
the Teutonic conquest of England more obscure than
that of the Midlands by the Mercians. That these
" Men of the Marshes " were Angles from the eastern
parts of the country is certain ; but it is probable
that they contained an admixture of Saxons from


the west. Evidence of this is found in the lack of
unity of feehng and action which characterized the
other states, and may even be traced to a certain
extent in the relics preserved in the district. Prob-
ably we shall not be far wrong in assigning the
first settlement of our Anglo-Saxon predecessors in
Lutterworth to about the close of the sixth or the
beginning of the seventh century a.d.

The chronicler has preserved a terrible picture
of the ruthless pagans who overran our land,
plundering cities and country alike, spreading con-
flagration from east to west. Public as well as
private structures were overturned, priests were slain
before the altars, prelates and people, without respect
of persons, were destroyed with fire and sword, nor
was there any to bury them. Some, with sorrowful
hearts, fled beyond the seas ; others, continuing in
their own country, led a miserable existence among
the woods and mountains, with scarcely enough food
to support life and expecting every moment to be
their last.

But from this chaotic beginning was gradually
evolved the civilization which has made the England
of to-day. As these invaders took possession of the
land their chiefs divided it amongst themselves and,
settling on their possessions with their families and
followers, turned their attention to the cultivation of
the soil. As a rule they avoided the buildings and
walled towns of the former civilization, preferring
to make clearings for themselves in the primeval
forests. These family settlements frequently became
known by the name of the chief to whom they be-
longed, and with a termination descriptive of the nature


of the holding have remained with us to-day as
memorials of our remote ancestors, more durable than
any other which could have been devised. As was
natural in the turbulent days in which they were
erected, many of the dwellings were surrounded by
a stockade, a feature preserved in the suffixes yard^
stoke, and ivorth (Anglo-Saxon wcorthig).

With this information at our disposal it is not
difficult to see how our town originated. It was, in
fact, none other than the fortified enclosure of a chief-
tain whose name, in all probability, is pronounced
to-day as it was thirteen centuries ago, for it is
interesting to note that the name Lutter also survives
in the Duchy of Brunswick, where we find both a
Lutter and a Lutterberg.

Of this Lutter who settled in Leicestershire in
the sixth or seventh century we have no further
record ; but still to him we look with filial veneration
as the first definite form emerging from the shadow-
land of our Past. And then, just as in nature after
the promise of dispersion, the mists again collect and
gloom once more settles down, so after this one faint
rift in the clouds darkness again descends upon us — a
darkness more intense than that which preceded it ;
and when the curtain next rises it is' no longer the
Saxon thane and earl who rule the land, but the
Norman conqueror. Of the centuries which inter-
vened between the coming of the Saxon and the
coming of the Norman we have practically no trace
in Lutterworth (jr its immediate neighbourhood,
and we can only point to a jewel found at Wibtoft,
and now preserved in the Rugby School Museum,
as evidence of the Germanic occupation of these parts.


There is yet one other example of Saxon work-
manship which, although it can hardly be said to
have been found within the immediate neighbourhood
of Lutterworth, may nevertheless, by reason of its
destination, be mentioned here. It was found at
Newton in Clifton-upon-Dunsmore in 1843 with other
articles of the early Saxon period, and passed into
the hands of Mr. Goodacre of Lutterworth, who
owned the land upon which the discovery was made.
This jewel, which was characterized by the late Sir
Augustus Franks as " an exquisite specimen of
Anglo-Saxon goldsmith's work," may be described
as a semi-globe of dark coloured glass set in a circlet
of gold with a plate of gold at the back and loop for
suspension. The delicacy of the beading round the
rim and the wreath-like ornamentation of the loop is
unrivalled. We give an illustration of this object,
which is now in the Ullesthorpe Court Museum.

— X

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WITH the Norman period we come into
touch with written history, and on turn-
ing to the Domesday Book we find that
Ralph de Guader had been possessed of lands here,
and this at once brin^rs on to our stacre an in-
teresting personality of the days of the Conquest.
Ralph de Guader, or, as some of the old chronicles
call him, Raulf de Gael, was a Breton seigneur
who had become Earl of Norfolk. A marriage


was arranged between him and Emma, sister of
Roger Fitz Osbern, Earl of Hereford. For some
reason or other this alliance was distasteful to the
King, who was in Normandy at the time. He dis-
patched an express order forbidding the marriage
to be concluded ; but the parties paid no heed to it,
and the wedding took place at Exning in Suffolk.
Ralph then brought his bride to Norwich, and there,
in the newly erected castle, was held a " bride-ale "
which, as the Saxon chronicler says, proved fatal to
all present. Wine (lowed freely, the tongues of the
guests became loosened, and Roger de Hereford
loudlv censured the refusal of Kinfj William to
sanction the union of his sister with the Earl of



Norfolk. From this the guests proceeded to general
invectives against the Conqueror, and in the end
formed a plot to dispossess him of the crown. The
conspirators were, however, speedily defeated, and
Ralph, escaping to Brittany, left his gallant wife to
sustain the siege of his castle at Norwich. This she
did for three months, until obliged under pressure of
famine to capitulate in exchange for the lives of
herself and garrison. She subsequently joined her
husband in Brittany, and they eventually ended their
days in the Holy Land. Before returning to England
William made an incursion into Brittany in pursuit
of Earl Ralph, but after besieging the town of Dol
was obliged to beat a retreat before the forces of the
King of France. On his return to London for the
Christmas of 1075 the King deprived Earl Ralph of
all his estates, and so ended his connexion with
Lutterworth, which, with his other possessions, re-
verted to the Crown.

From the Domesday Survey which was completed
between the years 1081-86 we gather that the lands
of which Ralph de Guader had formerly been pos-
sessed in Lutterworth (or Lutresurde, as it is spelt)
were then held by one Maino, the Breton. We know
nothing of him ; but in the light of the tragic events
just narrated, the nationality of Ralph's successor
opens up a fruitful field for speculation.

According to the Survey, Maino held of the King
thirteen carucates of land in Lutterworth, or, as
Mr. Thompson in his valuable paper on " The Secular
History of Lutterworth," from which we have freely
borrowed, puts it, " Maino, the Breton, had a tract of
land equivalent to 1500 or 1600 acres." We gather


that there was at the time a population of twenty-seven

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Online LibraryArthur Henry DysonLutterworth, John Wycliffe's town → online text (page 1 of 16)