“Understanding yesterday, for the benefit of today and tomorrow”
The first meeting of our autumn/winter programme of lectures started with the Annual General Meeting. Following a review of the previous year, the chairman, Norman Harrison, was re-
Following the AGM, Norman Harrison gave an interesting talk about some of the artefacts that are in the Society’s possession.
The Hidden History of WW2 in Leicester was the title of Dr Vincent Holyoak’s talk. While much has been written about the general conduct of the war, Dr Holyoak has been interested in the unexplained and little discussed things that happened in Leicester. He concentrated on two aspects of his research.
He first considered the law. It is usually thought that everyone pulled together, helped one another and that people were very law-
Dr Holyoak has also looked into the relationship between American servicemen of different racial origins. The first US soldiers to arrive were mainly African Americans and were mainly concerned with logistics. As more US personnel arrived in the county, fighting between the various groups became commonplace.
This was a most interesting talk which looked at some social aspects of the time and was based on Dr Holyoak’s book titled ‘But for thes Things’.
Competition was fierce amongst the teams, with everyone realizing how little they knew about many things, and the quiz was eventually won, by one point, by the team comprising Norman & Pat Harrison, Warwick & Carol Pople, Eric Whelan, and David Holmes.
Peter Liddle, formerly Leicestershire county archivist, returned to speak to the society about the archaeology of the Kibworth area. The essence of Peter's talk was how the Kibworth area has been lived in for thousands of years. The earliest find was of Beaker pottery, dating from the later Bronze age (4000-
He then talked about the finds that were unearthed during Michael Wood's History of England project that clearly showed the Kibworth area had a considerable population during the Roman occupation. In particular, he mentioned the area in the field to the east of the A6 going north from the village. Here was the site of a Roman villa and signs of earlier habitation. The presence of Roman habitation in the area east of Weir Road was confirmed by work when the new estate was built during the 1960s.
A considerable amount of Saxon and Anglo-
Evidence of early occupation has been found in the villages around Kibworth. Roman sites have been identified in Great Glen and The Langtons, Saxon finds have been located in Stonton Wyville, and Gumley was an important Mercian centre during Saxon times. All this has been found without any mention of the Hallaton Hoard.
At the time when King Richard III was reinterred, it was appropriate that our speaker should talk about the life and times in which he lived. Sally Henshaw is a member of the Ricardian Society and well qualified to speak about the subject. To start, she explained how both Richard, leading the Yorkist cause, and Henry Plantagenet, leading the Lancastrian cause, were both descendants of Edward III. Her talk illustrated the degree to which medieval power was based on intrigue and changing allegiances.
The discovery of Richard's remains has spurred considerable re-
This month's topic was the Battle of Naseby which was fought on 14 June 1645 in the unenclosed fields between the villages of Naseby and Sibbertoft and which, inside about three hours, proved to be the military turning-
Although the basic facts about the battle are familiar the film -
Market Harborough had strong associations with the battle both before and after the event. The Royalist army of some 10,000 men halted at Market Harborough before the battle and this was at a time when the population of Market Harborough would have been no more than around 2,000 people. This huge influx of men was a major problem and the army did little to endear themselves to the locals as they scavenged in nearby villages, especially Great Oxendon, Sibbertoft and East Farndon, for food and fodder. It is estimated that, in today's terms, several hundred thousand pounds worth of property was taken.
By the afternoon of 14 June the situation in Market Harborough was reversed. The battle was over and following the Royalist stragglers fleeing through Market Harborough, was the victorious Parliamentarian army with thousands of prisoners who were locked in St Dionysius church, probably the largest and most secure building in the town. Oliver Cromwell spent the night in an inn which was on the site of the present Wesses Bakers' shop and wrote his report of the victory.
Today, information boards around the centre of Market Harborough provide detailed information of the events surrounding the Battle of Naseby and the part played by the town.
The final talk of the season was given by the Treasurer of the Society, George Weston, on the unlikely topic of “Hunting a U-
However, behind the enigmatic title was a tale of serendipity and a chain of successful historical research. A remark in a 1979 radio play (‘The U-
The crew, except the captain, were detained at Grizedale POW camp near Hawkshead. Following a “kangaroo court” the U-
Although Berndt escaped from the POW camp he was intercepted by the local Home Guard and shot while resisting arrest. He was subsequently buried in the cemetery at Hawkshead, a fact confirmed by the parish register. However, by the 1990s the grave had disappeared.
The explanation for this disappearance was new information to most of the audience. Following discussions between Germany and the UK it was agreed to establish a German Military Cemetery on Cannock Chase where all Germans military personnel from both World Wars whose graves were scattered throughout the country would be brought together. In the 1960s bodies were exhumed and either repatriated or re-
The grave of Bernhardt Berndt is in the cemetery at Cannock Chase and explains his disappearance from Hawkshead.
This month, Simon Pawley told us about the life of agricultural labourers in times past. Today we tend to think that ordinary folk stayed in their village or only moved within the immediate vicinity. In reality, this was far from the truth and labourers were highly mobile because, as Dr. Pawley explained, most labourers were employed for a year at a time, so they had to look for a new employer every year. Most girls were employed as servants also on an annual contract. Both labourers and servants could better themselves by moving to a better paid job with a new employer. One result of this for current family historians is that it may make it difficult to follow a family tree.
The system of annual employment evolved after 1662 in conjunction with the Old and New Poor Law systems which required every individual to havee a town or village that would be responsible for looking after them should the need arise, either through poverty, infirmity or old age.
Wages were not very great and were higher in the north of the country than in the south. Some skilled jobs, such as a shepherd, could allow the labourer to live a comfortable life during the eigthteenth century.