In 1998, the Trustees of the Charity of Thomas Barton created a “Blue Plaque Walk” around Stoke Golding, to highlight places of historical interest in the village. The charity had been created some 600 years ago by a local man, Thomas Barton. The blue plaques were therefore envisaged to be in place to commemorate this anniversary of the charity, as well as the turn of the new Millennium.
The map below shows the locations of each of the plaques, and the links below provide a lot more information about each site. When the walk was created, a guide booklet was also produced, from which this information has been taken.
The Charity celebrates the Millennium and also its six hundredth anniversary with this ‘Blue Plaque Walk’ for the village of Stoke Golding.
The Trustees hope that anyone using it will appreciate the generosity of the people who gave permission for plaques to be erected on their land or property and will respect their privacy accordingly. We hope you will enjoy the walk and find it interesting and informative.
Paul M Spokes
Chairman of the Trustees
The Charity of Thomas Barton, or The causeway Charity, as it was sometimes known, was founded by him on Saturday 10th JULY 1400 by Deed Poll.
In the days of 1400, Stoke Golding was a tiny village of about one hundred and twenty souls, living mainly around the church.
King Richard II, who had been on the throne since 1377, had been ousted in 1399 and was supplanted by King Henry IV, who had him incarcerated in a dungeon in Pontefract Castle, where he starved or was smothered to death in the year 1400.
Just thirty four days before Barton signed his deed the new King Henry had passed within twelve miles of Stoke Golding on his way north to fight the Scots.
Being a local man Barton chose local men by the name of Robert de Peckleton, Richard Mould and Thomas Ward to be the first trustees of his Charity and deed.
The ancestry of this charitable man can be traced back to the Bartons of Lancashire, although his lineage was a branch that moved southwards in the 12-13thC.
Mr Cook’s investigation concluded that Thomas Barton was born sometime between 1355 and 1375 in the Hinckley, Leicester and Twycross triangle, and he had a cottage dwelling in Stoke Golding sometime after 1381 Until at least 1400. He died and was buried in that same area sometime between 1401 and 1420. He was associated with the mediaeval Barton family in Leicester, and other surrounding villages.
His forebears (cousins or uncles) had tenancy connections with Bilstone watermill and yardlands in 1350 and 1352. His ancestors also included Leicester bakers (cousins or uncles) in 1348, 1354, and 1379, and his contemporaries and descendants (cousins or nephews) were bakers, tanners, priests, freemen, mayors, officers and stewards of the fair in 1492, 1495 and 1526-30. A tentative reconstruction of his pedigree suggests he was a cousin of William and Thomas de Barton (Bilstone connection) as well as a great nephew or grandson of Thomas de Barton the Leicester baker.
He was related to John Barton, who, in 1397 was recorded as being on a jury at Stoke, looking into the death of Joan Roger who went to a well near the church and fell in and was drowned.
Why did he set Up this Charity? It is interesting to read in full the translation of his Latin Deed.
“To all Christ’s faithful, to whom this present writing comes, Thomas Barton of Stoke Golding sends hearty greetings. That which is called the pavement on the way out of Stoke and the many other ways around the aforesaid Stoke, ruined on account of default of payment as a great document sent now to all of the tenants of the area, or of other passers by, those who walk over the land there or those working the aforesaid paths, know that 1, the aforesaid Thomas Barton moved by kindness and Holy Charity have given, confirmed and by this my present writing, have granted to Robert de Peckleton, Richard Mould and Thomas Ward of the aforementioned Stoke Golding two smallholdings and fields with their pertaining rights, to have and hold the aforesaid land and dwelling with all their pertaining rights to the aforesaid Robert, Richard and Thomas to their heirs and assigns in perpetuity, from their feudal overlords, through the obligations and dues customarily owed them in law. And indeed, 1, the aforesaid Thomas Barton, and my heirs will warrant and depend in perpetuity, the aforesaid land and dwelling, all its pertaining rights, by the necessary cause aforesaid, its repair now and as is necessary in the future as was said above, for, to the aforesaid Richard, Robert and Thomas their heirs and assigns against all peoples. In testimony of this thing I append my signature. Given at Stoke aforementioned on the tenth of the month of July in the first year of the reign of King Henry I V”
So he formed the Charity as an act of Christian Faith and because he wanted to rectify the long term neglect of the area’s road ways.
Thus, local traders benefited by having improved access to the markets and fairs in Hinckley, Nuneaton and Market Bosworth and beyond. It is said that the roads were thus made up for a mile in each direction.
Nichols’ History of Leicestershire of 1811 states that a copy of the deed in Latin was “in the town chest in 1683.”
The duties of the Trustees were not without problems and the Charity’s assets were almost lost in 1640. Lord Harrington sold the Manor lands to various people and numerous illegal exchanges of land took place, leaving the Charity with poor land and loss of revenue. The residents demanded an enquiry into this misuse, and the Commission of Enquiry declared the exchange null and void, and gave title to the Charity Trustees.
In 1883 the assets of the Charity were listed as four cottages, stores and gardens, (Blacksmith’s Yard) the Blacksmith’s Shop and ‘penthouse’, the Blacksmith’s House, a butcher’s shop, house yard and gardens off Town Street, Meadow Close and Far Close (over five acres) and land at Wykin Holes used as village allotments of over sixteen acres.
In 1929, the Charity Commission made an order that the future election and conduct of the seven Trustees should be governed by the Hinckley and Bosworth Councils. This duty is now entrusted to Stoke Golding Parish Council.
In recent years various properties owned by the Charity have been sold to provide an investment portfolio.
With roads and pavement repairs being the responsibility of local and county councils, it was decided by the Trustees to ask the Charity Commissioners for a new order to be made to allow the Trustees to spend interest from their investments for the general benefit of all the people of Stoke Golding. This Order was granted on 17 July 1992 and thus, the generous endowment by Thomas Barton in 1400 celebrates its 600th anniversary on 10 July 2000 by still providing benefits for the village community.
This plaque commemorating the Millennium and the Charity’s 600th anniversary is mounted on one of the cottages mentioned in the list of 1883, in Blacksmith’s Yard. Other properties in the yard still form part of the Charity’s endowment.
“A building of exceptional perfection showing Decorated design and carving at its best”
– Sir John Betjeman
“The arcade worthy in its detail of a cathedral” – W. G. Hoskins
The above are some of the comments by eminent authors on this beautiful village church dedicated to St Margaret of Antioch.
The church has evidence of its early 13th Century origins, notably the stonework of the north wall, and the now-internal chancel south wall. It underwent extensive enlargement between 1290 and 1340 when the south aisle and Lady Chapel, and the tower and spire were added. The chancel too, was widened in the 14th Century, but was rebuilt using much of the old materials in 1882, when it acquired its strange pitched roof. The main lead covered roofs, replaced high pitched types in the 15th Century. The old roof line can be seen by the weather strip on the east face of the tower.
Standing at the head of Crown Hill, it is an impressive village church, its details mercifully unrestored since it acquired its present form in the early 14th Century. It is thus noted for its Gothic architecture and a resort for architectural students.
The building is entirely of the Decorated period ranging from the early Geometric style, in transition from Early English, represented by the windows of the south wall through the lovely Decorated east windows to the curvilinear and flamboyant tracery of the windows which were inserted in the old north wall between 1320-40. (The 14th Century windows of the Chancel were saved and carefully re-installed when that part of the church was necessarily rebuilt.) The beautiful open-work quatrefoil parapet of the south wall is an external feature to be noted. This is matched by the parapet at the top of the tower with the heads of Edward lll and Queen Philippa on the south face. The pinnacles on the east end are quite lovely. The church is graced by a finely proportioned early recessed spire, which is a landmark of the surrounding area. Incidentally, the spire was taken down during the last war because of the proximity of Lindley airfield, (now M.l.R.A.) its numbered stones being carefully rebuilt afterwards.
Internally, the outstanding feature is the exquisite arcade between nave and aisle, again of the early 14th Century, with its shafted and filleted piers, moulded arches, and gloriously carved capitals with foliage and heads, ladies with wimples, a youth with toothache, and a couple of “green men”. In the south wall is a tomb recess with an incised slab featuring a sword. The slab is c1275 and the tomb may be the resting place of the person who was responsible for the enlarged and rebuilt church of whom there is much conjecture. The south aisle and chapel contain two rather lovely piscinae, and on this wall can be seen remnants of 14th Century wall paintings, one of which is thought to
portray The Annunciation. The beautiful old font from about 1330 should not be missed. This is octagonal and finely carved with representations of Saints Nicholas, Margaret and Katharine together with heraldic panels and others with tracery. The Old Chest has the carved initials of the Churchwardens and the date 1636 although it is thought to be older. There are two interesting paintings of date 1824 and 1920. Monuments include a large wall memorial in the Lady Chapel to Sir Henry Firebrace (noted for his service to Stuart Kings). There is also a 17th Century brass almost hidden by the organ casing.
Stoke Church has a fine ring of six bells, two of which are from the 17th Century. An enthusiastic band of ringers enrich life in the village, on Sundays and at other times.
The Churchyard was closed for burials in 1883 but now presents a well kept green ward much needed in the village. The church is illuminated at night by floodlighting provided by the Charity of Thomas Barton.
King Henry Vll was crowned after The Battle of Bosworth Field on Crown Hill, Stoke Golding about 300 metres west of the church. It seems hard to believe that the new king did not proceed to the nearby church to hold mass and give thanks for his victory and his crown.
Stoke Golding is privileged indeed to possess such an architectural gem as the Church of St Margaret of Antioch
It was built possibly in 1610 and was bought in 1678 by Sir Henry Firebrace, a Church benefactor and courtier to Kings Charles I, Charles ll and James II.
This most famous resident of old Stoke Golding is believed to have been born in 1619 at Derby. At the age of 20 he was apprenticed to a notary at All Hallows, Barking and in 1640 he was similarly employed at College Hill, London. In 1643, Basil, Earl of Denbigh, was appointed as the Cavalier Commander in Chief of the Midlands District and Henry Firebrace was selected to take on the duties of Secretary to the Court and Council of War. It is thought that he acted as an intermediary between the King and Earl and from this day he gained the King’s friendship.
In 1645 he married the first of his three wives, Elizabeth, a daughter of Daniel Dowell of Stoke Golding and thus no doubt began the Stoke Golding connection. After marriage they lived in the parish of St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe in London and in 1647, whilst with the Earl in Newcastle, Henry applied for an appointment in the King’s household. The same year he was gazetted to ‘serve at the Back Stairs’, and he was later with the King at Carisbrooke Castle as ‘Page of the Bedchamber’. Here it was that he was instrumental in assisting the King to escape from his imprisonment by the Roundheads at the Castle of Carisbrooke in March 1648, and was shortly afterwards seen as ‘Page of the Bedchamber and Clerk of the Kitchen’. He probably assisted the King in various attempts to escape before the King’s execution. Amongst the family’s heirlooms at Newton Paddox was a ring showing a portrait of the King, which was said to have been received by Firebrace from His Majesty when on the scaffold. Tradition has it that he was present at the dreadful event.
With the downfall of the two Cromwells, Firebrace was sworn in as ‘Third Clerk of the Kitchen’ on 20th July 1660, and served the King, Charles II, and later in 1685 received further advancement when he was made ‘Clerk Ordinary’ by warrant to the court of King James II. He retired in 1689 after 28 years of continuous Royal service with a pension of £100 a year, no doubt feeling unable to serve the Protestants William and Mary. He retired to Stoke Golding to The Old Hall, where he died on 27th January 1690.
The Church was enriched by the gift of communion plate from Sir Henry and his son Basil. In his will he left £20 to buy a gold ring to, ‘My most worthy Aunt Mistress Hester Hodges’ which lady was later to found the Free Grammar School of Stoke Golding. An inventory attached to his will gives a good description of the house.
On the ground floor were the hall, dining room (or great parlour), fore parlour, little parlour, study and passage room, plus the servant’s hall, kitchen, scullery, cellar and brew house, bake house and stables. On the first floor were the best chamber, chamber over clock parlour, little chamber over passage, chamber over little parlour, garret over great parlour, little garret, another garret, and a store room.
This grand building was set in gardens with many fine trees and two ornamental lakes. A report on the school in 1932 states that the lower playground was frequently like a marsh. A set of stone steps led to the Church.
The Old Hall was demolished in 1850, and on the site was built a Workmen’s Hall and a Reading Room for the benefit of the villagers. In 1866, this building was taken over as a Public Elementary School. One notable feature which remained for some time was the garden wall, known as the crinkle-crankle wall, due to its unusual construction.
It is believed that a castellated mansion or fortified manor house once stood in the area where the moats remain, as the common way, until the time of Elizabeth I, of protecting the manor house was the construction of a moat, evidence of which often remained long after the actual building had disappeared.
In his “History of the Village of Stoke Golding”, Mr W. T. Hall states that the embanked moat enclosed a square area, the principal portion on the south being some sixty feet wide and some ten feet deep, considerably filled in nowadays. Shallow ditches then ran away from it towards the north and west with banks some four feet high. In those days a spring still rose on the south west. The moats were then categorised as ‘moated enclosures with stronger defensive works’. It was thought by many people that they were in fact fish ponds, and this is quite possible as many religious establishments and manors kept fish in such ponds, being a ready and convenient source of food.
In the same field nearby stands a tumulus some seven feet high, and twenty five feet in diameter and it is recorded in ‘The Story of Stoke Golding” by Mrs J. Webster, that in 1931 Mr A. J. Pickering of Hinckley, excavated the mound. Three feet from the centre and just below the surrounding ground were discovered some bronze fragments, comprising three circular discs about one inch across, a thin broken ring and a portion of hollow torc or rim. There was an indication of a hearth’ blackened stones and small pieces of wood and charcoal also there. Experts from the British Museum dated the finds as being Anglo-Saxon from the seventh century.
This plaque, also on Main Street commemorates the original Mansion House and Parke. Attached to the present deeds of Park House is a plan entitled ‘A Survey of the lands of William Trymnell, Gentleman’, and dated 1637. The existing house still contains a great deal of old stonework and ancient brick. A comprehensive history of the village was written in the 1920’s by the Uncle of the present owner of Park House, and one cannot do better than to quote from his writings.
‘The year 1604 saw the arrival of the Trymnells. Basil Trymnell left Hinckley in that year, and bought considerable property in Stoke Golding. The family probably came from Staffordshire. Basil died in 1620 and his wife married again to one Edward Bray, a direct
descendant of Sir Reginald Bray, who Is said to have found King Richard III battered circlet on Crown Hill Field in 1485 after the great Battle of Bosworth. The family lived in Stoke Golding for many years occupying the Trymnell Manor House. The most interesting member of the family was Captain William Trymnell, who inherited his father’s estate at Stoke Golding. In the south chancel of the church is a stone to his memory, which bears an elegant inscription mentioning his gallantry in action, and his personal charm and manners. Like so many who worked hard for the failing cause of King Charles I their exploits were often shrouded in secrecy, for it was dangerous in this country to display activity for the Crown. His loyalty seems to have cost him much, and in 1652 he was outlawed for debt and several of his fields in the village seized by the Sheriff. His brother George was slain in action at Bagworth House in 1640. When the monarchy was restored Captain Trymnell was voted a sum of money, given only to officers who had been impoverished by their zeal. He died in the village in 1693 aged
87, and both he and his wife are buried here. His grandmother was a daughter of Laurence Washington of Sulgrave Manor, the ancestor of the first President of the U.S.A. George Washington was born 40 years after the Captain’s death.’
It is said that the outer wall of the Mansion House bore the mark of a cannon ball fired by Cromwell’s army because the mother of Captain Trymnell, he being away in command of a regiment of the King’s army at the time, refused to deliver the keys and surrender the house. On his death Captain Trymnell left in his will, the sum of forty shillings to the village poor.
This plaque commemorates the use, at this house in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, of a box mangle, and the house still bears that name. The house, which stands below Park House orchard and opposite Andrew Close entrance, was previously a much smaller dwelling but nonetheless at one time housed a huge mangle. The house was, for some time occupied by an old couple by the names of Sarah and Willoughby Privey, she dying in 1888.
The box mangle was invented in the 1 8th Century. This type of mangle seems not to have been for squeezing water from freshly washed clothes or linen but for polishing dry or damp dry laundry. The person using the machine folded the smaller items of clothing inside larger ones such as sheets and tablecloths. These items were then all wound round a large wooden roller and two of these were put into the bottom of the mangle. Over the rollers was a wooden box heavily weighted with as many stones as it could hold. A large handle operating on other gear wheels enabled the operator to move the box to and fro and the weight of the stone laden box smoothed and polished the clothes. The operator, meanwhile was preparing other rollers of laundry for loading.
Box mangles were very efficient. The large items, it seems, needed no further ironing and the small ones only final pressing. Street and village laundries thus found them very useful. Box mangles remained in use well into the twentieth century. Indeed, the writer’s copy of the Army and Navy Stores Mail Order Catalogue of 1907 shows that the seven foot model could be purchased for the cost then of 259/- (£12.95p now). The length of the room required to accommodate the machine when in use was stated as twelve feet four inches.
The Stoke Golding mangle was in use well into this century and until a few years ago it was, the writer is informed, in pieces in a local farmer’s barn, from where it was removed to Stowmarket museum. Examples of the box mangle can be seen locally in the Oakham County Museum. It is not known as this time whether or not it is proposed to restore and display the old Stoke Golding Box Mangle. Let us hope it is not lost for ever.
The origins of the present Church of England School, known as St Margaret’s School go back to the year 1678. In that year, by indenture, Mistress Hester Hodges, spinster, gave £500 (to which other contributions were added) ‘to buy land to form a Free Grammar School and maintenance of a Schoolmaster in Holy Orders for it’. The school was to be for male children, in the principles of the Church of England and of obedience to the Government, and to include the teaching of English, Latin and Greek (hence the description of Grammar School). It became formally known as ‘The Free Grammar School of The Foundation of Hester Hodges at Stoke Golding’. Hester Hodges was the aunt of the first wife of that notable resident of Stoke and courtier to the last three Stuart Kings, Sir Henry Firebrace. She made a condition that the power of ‘collating a schoolmaster should be in Henry Firebrace and his two sons and their descendants forever’.
This lady too, was connected royally. Mistress Hodges had been a member of the household of Susan, Countess of Denbigh. Her name is found in House of Lords Journals, (March 1643) as having been sent from Oxford to London for child bed linen for the Queen, prior to the birth of Princess Henrietta. She accompanied the Queen and Lady Denbigh to France and appears to have remained with her until the latter’s death in 1652.
At Stoke Golding, a house was purchased and it is believed that the first school was what is now known as ‘The Old Grammar School’, in Station Road. A document dated 7th April 1827, described Lord Denbigh as Sole Governor of the Stoke Grammar School. Sir Henry Firebrace’s grand daughter, Hester, married Basil, 4th Earl of Denbigh in 1695.
The administration of the school in 1866 was by a board of governors comprising Rev C. Fielding (Denbigh family name), Dr F. Temple (Headmaster of Rugby School, and later Archbishop of Canterbury), Rev J. Fisher (Rector of Higham-on-the-Hill, grandfather of a future Archbishop of Canterbury), C. Bracebridge, F. Wollaston, R. Baxter and Rev T. Bourne (Vicar of Stoke Golding).
The Board accepted Mr R. Baxter’s kind offer to use a part of ‘The Workmen’s Hall and Reading Room’ as school premises, moving there from Station Road in 1866. Mr Baxter had built those premises for the use of the village people in the grounds of ‘The Old Hall which he had vacated and demolished. It is the building of character in High Street in front of the present school.
The Old Schoolhouse in Station Road was largely rebuilt in 1841 and additionally provided the residence of the Schoolmaster who was also the Curate in charge of the Parish (Stoke was officially a chapelry of Hinckley until 1865). When the school moved to the Workmen’s Hall the old house was let to a Mrs Beeby, who, in her notice to quit, described it as ‘Ivy House’. Shortly afterwards, it became for many years a private High School for Girls. The premises were finally sold by the Hester Hodges Trustees in 1952.
With the changes over the years in the administration of the School, the Hester Hodges Foundation had begun to separate and in 1926 ceased to meet with the School managers. Today, however the Foundation still devotes at least half of its income to the School and the rest to ancillary educational purposes. The Foundation originally obtained the greater part of its income from a farm purchased in Earl Shilton. This was sold in 1950.
Of Hester Hodges? She seems to have been alive in 1680, when Sir Henry Firebrace made his will leaving her £20 to buy herself a ring. The date of her death is not recorded and no will has been found.
This plaque mounted on a brick pillar at the entrance to the aptly named ‘Crown Hill Bungalow. on Station Road, commemorates the Coronation of King Henry Vll the first of the Tudor Monarchs, on Crown Hill, following The Battle of Bosworth Field, on 22nd August 1485.
The whole area of Crown Hill can best be seen and the whole panoply of the event imagined by taking a short walk along the canal from the bridge on Station Road, towards Dadlington.
On that fateful day of battle, just eighty five years after Thomas Barton had signed his Charity deed, the inhabitants of Stoke Golding learned of the death of their Plantagenet King, Richard lll.
Amid great excitement and anticipation many had crowded into the Church of St Margaret of Antioch for safety and to pray. The battlements of that Church were crowded with onlookers, who, at that short distance could see the dust of battle and hear the faint cries of engagement. The defeat of Richard’s men could clearly be seen, perhaps even the final charge and death of the King himself. And then? Silence, and a brief period of waiting before into the village came fleeing soldiers of Richard’s vanquished army closely followed by the victors, under Henry Tudor. Men at arms, with swords and bows and arrows, bloodstained and dusty. There were the knights, in bright and polished armour, on richly caparisoned steeds, and following at a distance came all the baggage of an army on the move.
Into the village clattered the Tudor victors with Henry in the lead. Wishing to rest a while and take food and water they no doubt took advantage of the springs and wells of Stoke Golding and the villagers no doubt wished to show their allegiance to their new King.
On Crown Hill Field within a few yards of the village church, where a few thousand men could gather, a table and chair were fetched from a nearby farmhouse. There on Crown Hill Field, Sir Richard Bray, one of the Knights, produced ‘the battered circlet’ worn by Richard when he fell, which was said to have been found in a hawthorn bush after the heat of the battle, and placed it upon Henry’s head.
Then, we are told, there broke out a mighty cheer, which extended throughout all the King’s scattered troops, and the field became known as Holloa Meadow. There was then a thanksgiving and the ‘Te Deum’ was sung. Did the new King attend The Church of St Margaret afterwards? It seem unlikely that he cannot have done so. After the Battle, pits were prepared around the village for the reception of the dead, and various hollows which appeared in certain places are said to have been caused by these burials. About 1000 men died in the battle and Henry’s army did not escape unscathed, when an attack of the ‘sweating sickness’ killed many of his men on the march from Stoke Golding to London. It is said that the table used for the Coronation was preserved in an
Atherstone house and the chair is also in Warwickshire at Maxstoke Castle. Tradition has it too, that a field in Stoke Golding called ‘The Dining Room’ marked the spot where the soldiers fed before the battle. It is also said that the deep grooves in the stones beneath the windows of the Church of St Margaret were caused by the sharpening of swords in preparation for the battle.
Whilst the accession of Henry brought in that great Tudor dynasty, no one can doubt the bravery of King Richard, who, it is alleged, said, “Bring me my battle axe in my hand and set the crown of gold upon my head, for by Him that shope, both se and land, Kynge of England this day will I dye, one foote away I will not fle, whill brethe whil byde my brest within”.
You will this blue plaque in the yard of the old wharf, now occupied by the Ashby Boat Company which offers facilities for boat owners and holidaymakers.
The proposal to build a wide, lock free canal allowing the navigation of craft with a beam of 14′ from the Ashby Woulds Coalfield to a junction with the Coventry Canal at Marston got underway in 1794. Surveyed by Robert Whitworth, the canal followed the 300′ contour resulting in a meandering ‘river like waterway’.
Cutting began at the northern end late in 1794. It was open to Market Bosworth by 1798 and completely, to Marston Junction by 19th April 1804. Between these two dates, a new public house was opened in Stoke Golding to satisfy the needs of the ‘navvies’, and The White Swan in High Street is still today catering for the needs of the ‘boaters’ and holidaymakers.
From 1804 onwards, new collieries were sunk in the Moira area and it was the development of this coalfield which made the Ashby canal successful. Markets were found as far afield as London, even Oxford used it to heat the colleges. The main tonnage carried down the canal was coal and limestone, but bricks and salt glazed pipes were also carried. In 1815 a warehouse was obtained in Measham to build up a trade in cheese to be shipped by canal.
By 1819 it became evident that the Coventry Canal would not convert to the wide standard and the Marston ‘stop lock’ was reduced to the narrow 7’ width. Thus ended the dream of a grand, wide route to London.
The Midland Railway, to protect all of its interests in South Derbyshire and North West Leicestershire, purchased the canal in 1846.
Boats on the canal were horse drawn from the start, the Moira Coal Company owning a large fleet. However, in 1856, two steam tugboats made their appearance, hauling strings of boats from Moira onto the Coventry and Oxford canals. One of these the twin screw Pioneer, built by John Inshaw made history, when, in 1859 it was banned from
the Ashby by the Midland Railway Company on the grounds that the wash from the propellers was eroding the banks of the canal. The issue went to court. Tests were carried out and the court ruled that the steamboats should be allowed to work the Ashby so long as their speed was kept below 4 mph. This became the norm for all power.
Steam power did not last long on the Ashby. Horse drawn boats continued to be used until the introduction of internal combustion engines in the 1920’s and 30’s. The Canal became part of the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company in 1923 and by 1948 it had been incorporated into British Waterways.
Subsidence occurred as the colliery workings developed on the northern end of the canal and sections were progressively closed in 1944, 1957 and 1966. The canal now terminates just north of Snarestone, 22 miles from Marston.
Commercial coal traffic from the Moira Pits lasted until 1960, when all regular traffic came to an end. However, trade was revived in a small way in 1965 by various companies and from 1966 coal was loaded at Bosworth and Gopsall wharves, the final load being loaded from Gopsall in 1982.
Today, as you approach Stoke Golding from bridge 23, which carries the Stoke Golding to Higham road, you see on your right a white complex of buildings, known as Mill House. Originally it was a mineral water manufacturing company known as Britannia Works. It then became a bone mill, producing agricultural fertiliser trading under the name of Starkey and Asbury and later as Bannister’s. After closure a large whale bone was found in the grounds which is now held by Nuneaton Museum. In later days the site was used as a dairy by Mr R. Ward.
Between Mill House and Stoke Wharf you will see the site of bridge 24 which was removed in 1851. It was known locally as ‘Broken down bridge’.
Stoke Wharf nestles at the foot of Crown Hill. The stables and weighbridge have long gone, but the original cottages remain. A maintenance shed stood by the north side of bridge 25, the site now marked by a clump of trees and shrubs. Opposite on the tow path side are the remains of a small brick building.
The canal continues on around the flanks of Crown Hill where it is said Henry Tudor was crowned after the Battle of Bosworth Field. Details of this historic event are more fully described under item 8 of this guide.
On your left beyond the new marina can be seen the large flat plain which many believe to be the true site of the battle. In 1994 English Heritage incorporated Crown Hill and the flatlands there into the overall site plan of the Battlefield.
The new ‘Marina’ was built on the left hand side of the canal in the early nineties and incorporates a slipway and servicing facilities.
This plaque is mounted on a stone taken from the bed of the original railway embankment at Dadlington. It marks Stoke Golding Station and the Stationmaster’s house, both now privately occupied. The goods shed is still in evidence, and much restored is once more in commercial use and the Willow Park Industrial Estate covers much of the goods sidings of the old station.
The railway which passed through Stoke Golding was the final outcome of various schemes put forward over many years to promote a line to tap the rich mineral wealth of the Moira area.
The line was a ‘joint venture’ arrangement between the London North Western Railway and the Midland Railway companies, and operated under the title ‘The Ashby and Nuneaton Joint Railway’ with its headquarters at Shackerstone Station. The staff had their own distinctive Uniform with its initials A.N.J.R, adorning their caps, coat lapels and buttons. Trains were operated by both the L.N.W.R. and There was a branch line at Shackerstone to Coalville Junction passing through Heather and Hugglescote to join the Midland line just south of Coalville and the Charnwood Forest Railway (worked by the L.N.W.R.) to Loughborough (Derby Road Station). The branch was used much more by the L.N.W.R. than the M.R.
The joint line never ran to Ashby, but terminated at Moira Junction, this being considered the centre of Ashby Wolds. Here it joined the Burton to Leicester line of the Midland Railway.
The line was under construction by August 1869, the contractors being Barnes and Beckett of Rochdale, who tendered £171,900. However, labour troubles, bad weather resulting in landslips, waterlogged sand measures, unstable clay and shortage of materials caused the final cost to be £550,000.
The line finally opened for goods traffic on 1st August 1873 and for passengers on 1st September the same year. Between these dates on 16th August, a ‘Big Feast & Sports Day’, was arranged for the navvies, at Market Bosworth and a special train of wagons travelled from Nuneaton with the guests, complete with a brass band in the last wagon to entertain the passengers on the journey.
In 1878, Francis William Webb, the Chief Mechanical Engineer, of the L.N.W.R. modified the 6’single locomotive No 1874 originally No 54 ‘Medusa’, to operate as a two cylinder compound. The engine was put to work on the A.N.J.R. to become the first double expansion engine to work on a British main line railway.
In 1890 Queen Victoria travelled along the line in the Royal Train drawn by the Webb three cylinder compound engine No 1304 ‘Jeanie Deans’. Trial runs had been made before which compelled alteration to the platform edges because of the width of the engine. On 12th December 1902 King Edward Vll passed through Stoke Golding on his way to visit Earl Howe at Gopsall Hail
Towards the end of the last century a bull charged a train at Stoke Golding Station, the impact throwing a number of wagons off the rails, the track being torn up for 100 yards or more!
The ‘old line’ to Hinckley which branched off the line to Nuneaton just south of Stoke Golding Station was completed but never used.
Towards Nuneaton the line split at Weddington Junction, the main line joining the L.N.W. Trent Valley line at Ashby junction to give access to Nuneaton Trent Valley Station. A spur from Weddington junction crossed the Trent Valley line by a bridge to reach the Midland Station at Abbey Street.
In 1923 came the ‘Railway Grouping’ and the A.N.J.R. was absorbed into the London Midland and Scottish Railway. On 12th April 1931 the station closed for regular passenger service although excursions to seaside resorts could be arranged. The line came under the ownership of British Railway in 1948. By 1969 regular traffic had ceased and the line was used for wagon storage only. In July 1971 the line was closed to all traffic and the track was removed between January and March 1972.
The track and stations between Shenton and Shackerstone have been restored by the Shackerstone Railway Society, who operate restored steam and diesel hauled trains on the ‘Battlefield Steam Railway’ line on a regular basis throughout the year. There is a museum at Shackerstone Station with many relics from the original line on show.
The Editor of this booklet and the Charity Trustees wish to thank the following people.
First of all, every owner upon whose property permission was so generously given to attach one of the Blue Plaques.
Alan F. Cook the Nuneaton Historian, who so diligently investigated the life of the Charity Founder, Thomas Barton and the History of his Charity.
Tony Collett, Desmond and Rosamund Hall, and Jill and Gordon Webster for their valued contributions in the preparation of this guide and their permission to use various sources of information in their possession.
To lan Reid, of Stoke Golding and T. H. McKClough, Curator of the Rutland County Museum.
Leicestershire County Council for their most generous ‘Local Landmark Grant’ towards the production of the plaques.
Martyn Fisher, A R P S, Photographer of Stoke Golding for the photographs.
Penny Baker for the pencil sketches throughout.
Bob Ingram for preparing the information in the Blue Plaque booklet for the web site.
“No mud in his eye – being a History of Thomas Barton 1400 A.D. and his Charity.” by Alan F. Cook & The Trustees of the Charity of Thomas Barton
“St Margaret’s Church Stoke Golding” by A. J. Collett
“Collection for The History of Stoke Golding, in The County of Leicester”
by W. T. Hall M.B.E.
“The History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester 1811” by J. Nichols F.S.A
“Laundry Bygones” by Pamela Sambrook
“The Story of Stoke Golding” by Jill Webster