English Local History - Introduction

Both Helen and Garry Fawcett now live in North West Leicestershire in England. Garry, who is now retired, has an amateur interest in local history, centred on the parish of Breedon on the Hill but also including the surrounding towns and villages. Abstracts of several articles written by Garry are included below; the articles, in .pdf format, may be accessed by clicking on the links.

Woeful Bridge and Breedon's Extra-Mural Cemetery

In 2005 the Melbourne Historical Research Group, of Melbourne, Derbyshire, published the diary of a local Victorian antiquarian, John Joseph Briggs. For the year 1867 this included entries about archaeological finds, in nearby Derbyshire and Leicestershire, made during the construction of the Midland Railway line between Derby and Ashby de la Zouch. In particular, reference was made to a burial ground near Woeful Bridge on the edge of the parish of Breedon on the Hill, Leicestershire. Neither the cemetery nor Woeful Bridge appear in the Historic Environment Record. This article locates both Woeful Bridge, which is still in existence in an overgrown state, and the cemetery. The probable dates of the burials and their context in relation to the Anglo-Saxon minster at Breedon are discussed.

If you are interested click here to download the .pdf article.

The Land of Breedon Minster

In recent decades it has gradually come to be understood that the hill at Breedon on the Hill, Leicestershire, was the site of an important Anglo-Saxon monastery, or minster, which itself made use of an Iron Age hillfort. The main visible manifestation of the minster is in the present-day church where, built in to the fabric of the structure, by far the largest surviving collection of Mercian sculpture is to be found. On stylistic grounds the sculptures are said to date from either side of AD 800. To provide further insight into the history of the minster there is also a small number of surviving relevant documents. One of these places the foundation of the minster in the last quarter of the seventh century. It also suggests the locations and areas of land which were granted to (or bought by) the first Abbot, for the minster. This article discusses the probable location and extent of the lands that belonged to the minster and, not without some conjecture, arrives at a map showing possible approximate boundaries.

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Breedon on the Hill's Berry Hill

Breedon Hill, in the civil parish of Breedon on the Hill, is a prominent feature of the landscape of north-west Leicestershire. To travellers on the major road, A42, and other nearby routes, it suddenly comes into view as a striking sight with church atop. It was clearly also seen as an important place in the past, having yielded finds from all periods of pre-history, with an Iron Age ‘hillfort’ enclosing about 9 hectares (22 acres) of the hilltop. From about AD 675 it was the base for an Anglo-Saxon minster controlling many square miles of this area of Leicestershire and south Derbyshire. From the early twelfth century to Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, an Augustinian priory was based on the hilltop. Just 800 metres from its highest point, in a roughly south-easterly direction, is the top of the lesser Berry Hill. Some of the land here was given to the Priory towards the end of the twelfth century. However, Berry Hill also seems to have had some earlier history. Cropmarks on the site led to it being considered as containing possible prehistoric and / or Roman features. This article discusses the origins of the word Berry, as it appears in Berry Hill, in the several adjacent field-names containing ‘Berry’, and in Berry Avenue, given its name in the 1930s. The possible implications of the name, together with the cropmarks, are considered.

If you are interested click here to download the .pdf article.

Some Tenth-Century Charters - Locating 'Stantun'

The subject of this paper is a place named ‘Stantun’ in two charters, both found in Burton Abbey’s archives, the originals of which dated from the tenth century. It is generally thought that the two charters deal with the same 2 hides of land of uncertain location. For instance, one respected academic suggested that Stantun is the present day Stanton together with Newhall (near Swadlincote, South Derbyshire) while another suggests Stanton in Peak and Birchover (near Bakewell, Derbyshire). The case is made, with the help of other charters and surveys, that the 2 hides of ‘Stantun’, having been divided into two separate estates in the second of these two charters, became modern-day Stanton by Bridge in South Derbyshire and its neighbour, now called King’s Newton (extending to the county boundary at the western end of Donington Park, Leicestershire).

If you are interested click here to download the .pdf article.