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The history of Whitwick

Early history

The story of Whitwick since the Norman Conquest of 1066, is inextricably linked to the Lords of the Manor and seems to be one of exploitation, absentee landlords and underage heirs, although it's history goes back in time to an Anglo-Saxon second stage settlement about 700AD. The name is most likely derived from the Anglo-Saxon word "hwita" meaning white and 'wic' meaning outlying farm possibly started as a forest clearing known as an assart.

RuinUnusually, the Doomsday entry for 1066AD does not tell who administered the land before the Conquest, but clues point to the powerful Earls of Mercia. Lady Godiva of Coventry, wife of Earl Leofric, reputedly rode naked through the streets to save the people from excessive taxes. Lady Godiva is still Lord of the Manor of Coventry and Norton (Juxta Twycross), Appleby (Magna) and Bilstone, nearby in Leicestershire.

There have been a number of attempts to produce a definitive narrative of Whitwick's early history and the earliest by John Nicholls in his Historie and Antiquities of Leicestershire still stands the test of time as the best secondary source available to date. There have been a number of writers on Charnwood Forest, which include Whitwick and the best of these is George Farnham, for he is meticulous and thorough in his preparation. His notes on the Mediaeval Villages of Leicestershire, now deposited with the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicestershire and Rutland (ROLLR) at Wigston Magna, are his direct translations of the original abbreviated Latin documents now held at the National Archives, Kew. These give vital details about all kinds of events from the mediaeval period for the whole of Leicestershire. However, as individual items, these need further investigation to fit them into the wider picture of local history and Whitwick in particular.

In 1984 'A Brief History of Whitwick' by Sheila Smith, published by Leicestershire Libraries and Information Service, remains a good general introduction to Whitwick's history but her chapter on the early history now needs updating since our current research into this period, especially the associated histories of the Lords of the manor, indicates links to national events.

Very few Whitwick Historical Group members are interested in this particular period of research, which is difficult and time consuming but Whitwick Historical Group's Vice-chairman Maureen Cowell Partridge has gathered a considerable amount of information about the Lords of the Manor, which simply raises even more questions waiting to be resolved. (The group would welcome anyone interested in this particular period of history).

It was poetic justice that Sir John Talbot was probably buried at Whitwick by the vicar he had assaulted.

Old Station & Railway

Whitwick railway station was built by the Charnwood Forest Company, serving the Charnwood Forest Railway, and was officially opened with the rest of the completed line on April 16, 1883. Following the closure of passenger traffic (aside from a few specials and other organised events) in 1931, the station building became a blacksmiths. Following total line closure in 1963, the history of the building is more difficult to chart. However, it is apparent that the waiting rooms and other facilities on platform level were demolished in the mid-1970's. Whitwick Historical Group was created in 1983, meeting at The Black Horse public house, later they moved to the old station building which is still their home.

The building is situated close to the village's Market Place, which is essentially the centre of the village, on North Street. The trackbed between Coalville (starting at Morrisons) and Whitwick (terminating just past Whitwick Station) has been turned into a public right of way. This passes the station building and the remains of the platform, which sadly, although intact, is overgrown and unkempt.  All that remains now is the landing at the road entrance.

Spring Hill Farm

Spring Hill Farm Whitwick was once a favourite picnic area for families from the Whitwick area. It was the venue for many Sunday school outings even before the First World War, teas were served in the barn then and afterwards frolics and sports took place on Spring Hill itself. The Spring Hill Farm tea room heyday was between the two World wars, there were wooden beams and biblical quotations on the walls.

People travelled to Spring Hill in the early days by Wagonette and later by bus or cycle. Whitwick families would walk up Leicester Road and climb the steep steps known locally as Bilberry Hill; you could see the farm, the ice cream van at weekends and bank holidays and in the distance Gunn Hill. The farm could also be reached from Loughborough Road or Abbey Road.

FarmThe tea room was eventually closed by the public health officer because it had no piped water, this ended the happy times in the tea room but the farm lived on with its name advertising teas faintly seen on its roof and walls.



In the school summer holidays local children would take jam jars to collect bilberries and if they hadn't eaten them all by the time they arrived home a delicious pie would be made for tea. Their fingers, mouths and teeth would be stained with purple Bilberry juice a sure sign they had eaten their pickings.

Today the farmhouse and ‘Bilberry Hill' have gone, only the memories are left. The land is now part of the Whitwick Granite Company.

The Park King George's Field

It is appropriate that the fields known as Ivy Woods (also known as Ivory or Hervey Woods) should be the site for Whitwick Park. For many years the children from Church Lane, North Street and Brooks Lane had used it as their playground.

In the early 1900s H. Seal & Co. built a factory fronting onto Church Lane on part of the ground. The fields behind the factory were still used as a children's playground. Conveniently, a footpath ran from Church Lane to the fields, providing easy access for the boys who played football or cricket depending upon the season. By the 1920s, the Whitwick Imperial Football Team (the Imps) was using the ground and was well supported by the local community.

The Mining Industry Act was passed by Parliament in the 1920s enabling a fund to be set up for the well being of workers in the coal mining areas. Mr. Dennis Otter requested that a recreation ground be provided for the people of Whitwick from this fund. After much discussion and deliberation, the land was purchased from the brewers, Shipstone's, who also owned the Duke of Newcastle inn on North Street. Coalville Urban District Council agreed to take over the running and maintenance of the park and soon the plans were drawn up.

The Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary was celebrated on the 'Duke's field', the year before the Whitwick Park came to fruition. 

In the year 1939 and in memory of King George V, a heraldic plaque was designed by Mr. George Gray, which was to be displayed at the entrance to all fields established under the King George V Fund. The fund donated £600 towards the design and manufacture of the plaque. From then onwards, the Whitwick Park was officially named 'George V Fields'. 

Eleven years after the Silver Jubilee celebrations held on the 'Duke's Fields' the community was bought together again to celebrate the end of the Second World War on what is now known as Whitwick Park.

City of Dan

The City of Dan stands at the bottom of Leicester Road, now an open area where the Whitwick Colliery winding wheel stands.

The name 'City of Dan'. How did it get its name? Neither by research or speaking to older residents of Whitwick do we know.

Sign

It would seem that at the time it received its name, the survey maps available show a cluster of buildings in this area, and when talking of a city, one immediately thinks of a concentration of houses and other buildings. In the research that has taken place the following facts were brought to light. There were fourteen numbered buildings on that section of Leicester Road and eighteen residential buildings in the City of Dan. Included there were two public houses, pig sty's, slaughter houses, barns and a small workshop. If aerial photographs had been taken in those days it would have looked like 'A place within a place', this is one reason that can be found to give some credence to the name of City.

An issue of the Loughborough Echo in 1939 included a comment from George Parker of Whitwick, he said the City of Dan was named because a man named Dan Williamson resided there and left for Salt Lake City.

In the Coalville Times in 1945 Lavengro reported that Mr Thomas Aris said that the City of Dan was named after Dan Frearson, a well known Latter Day Saint, who held a number of regular meetings in the neighbourhood. He had a son Dan junior and the whole family went to Salt Lake City. Researchers at Salt Lake City say there are no records saying that early members that left Whitwick to go to Utah have the name Dan.

Gunn Hill

Gunn Hill, known as the haunted house was built by Kirby Fenton with local materials. It was the Gamekeepers cottage and is now part of the De Lisle estate. Eric and Nellie Cook were the last inhabitants leaving in 1950.

Did your family live at the City of Dan?

Old houses

BURBANK Mrs MOORE Edward WILLIAMSON N 1922
MOORE Mrs LACK John 1887 MOSELEY Edward 1940
BRADSHAW Amy SMITH Francis 1887 HUTCHINSON John 1943
BURTON Eric & Kath OTTEY Mary 1889 LYDALL Henry 1943
GREASLEY Mr WILLIAMSON Horace 1889 FAIRBROTHER William 1948

WARD Joseph 1876 WILLIAMSON Arthur 1891 FINDELL William 1948
BRIERS Edward 1876 HARPER Mrs 1891 SHAW Edwin 1950
JENNINGS John 1876 MANCINI Jane 1909
RAWSON William 1950ROOM John 1876 MANCINI Arthur 1909 WHITE Kim 1952
OLIVER William 1876 HAWLEY Mrs 1909 SMITH Roy 1953

NEALE Francis 1876 OTTEY William 1909 YOUNG Roy 1957
STORER Elizabeth 1876 HARBUCK Mannam 1910 MIDDLETON Colin 1960
WEST Thomas 1876 HARPER Mr 1910 WALDRUM Charles 1960
FREARSON William 1876 BACKWELL C 1914 COOPER Charles 1960
ALLGOOD Landley 1876 SADLER Mr 1914 CARTLIDGE Colin 1960

HALL Thomas 1876 SMITH C 1914 BEESON Joseph 1960
SHARP Joseph 1887 MILLS Mr 1914 CLARKE Albert 1961
SPRINGTHORPE Andrew 1887 STANLEY Mr 1914 PARKER John 1963
KIDGER Mr 1887 FRASER Mr 1914 HICKEN Herbert 1964
BRANSTON Joseph 1887 PARES Allen 1914 SQUIRES Edward 1964

CUMBERLAND Charles 1887 HURST Samuel 1918
HODGKINSON Elizabeth 1887 TUGBY Joseph 1920

The lodging house building on the right was run by John Casey and John Hodgkinson in 1888 and later ran by Elizabeth Hodgkinson. Elizabeth was recorded as living in the lodging house and the others were listed as lodgers.

LODGERS IN 1891

GIBSON George CLIFF George CLARKE Ben
REYNOLDS Ellen BOFFEY James EGLESTON John
BARON Rueben SMITH James CROSS Thomas
SMITH George SMITH Ann Henry.
WRIGHT George WRIGHT Caroline
CROSS Jane REYNOLDS Herbert

LODGERS BETWEEN 1934 AND 1959

ATHERTON Bill MULLINS Frank SHAYNE Mick
MARTIN Danny MULLINS Fred WARD George
EYETIE Jimmy TRANOR Patrick GORMAN Patrick
PRICE John (Juggler) COOPER Henry CHAMBERS Sam
DAVIS Henry (Hummy) DOWNING John WILEMAN Joe

DAVIS Jim DOYLE John MARTIN Charles
HILLIARD Arthur (Candles) ELSE George FISHER Fred
DUNAGAN Lanky HARTLE John
KERRY Joe HUGHES Alfred NICK NAMES FOR THE LODGERS
ROWLEY George KENNY Thomas Joe Soap

BEESON Enid LOWE Thomas Nugger George
THACKER Walter MURFIN Bill Windmill Joe
SHANNON Bill ROACH Patrick Happy Jack

Finally JackaBill, I wonder what his real name was, Jack or Bill - or neither?

The last keeper of the lodging house was Teddy Eggleton running from 1934 until 1959 when the lodging house was closed. There were twelve lodgers left who were transferred to Shardlow.

Teddy Eggleton was moved in to a Council Flat at Greenhill where he lived until he passed away.  The council emptied his rooms and his belongings were thrown into a skip. There was no one to look after a man who had done so much for others.