Kibworth: Historical Trails and Rural Relaxation
A SPARKLING Gem in the heart of the Leicestershire Countryside
Do you ever have moments where you are able to pause and think ‘isn’t life good?’ I’ve just had one when I realised how incredibly lucky I am to be able to get out and about so much. I’m currently involved in doing some research for the local museum which provides me with the perfect excuse to go off a-wandering and finding out loads of interesting stuff. Two of my favourite things tra la la la… (excuse me while I do my Julie Andrews impression and burst into song).
The other week I rolled into Kibworth intending simply to find the Infant School for my research and perhaps have a quick look around the village while I was there. But once I stepped out of the car that was it. There’s so much to see and several historic village trails to walk round. Who knew they found a prehistoric ox in Kibworth?! Well, probably lots of people since Michael Wood’s ‘The Story of England’ aired on BBC TV, but I had no idea. Since then time and money have been invested into making Kibworth’s history more accessible and the village is peppered with information boards while a fascinating website provides extra insights on the place. All very very helpful to a researcher.
An Historic Village Trail
So, I chose the village trail around Kibworth Beauchamp and off I trotted…
Kibworth Beauchamp is a pleasant rural village with buildings mostly of red brick, dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries after construction of the railway. By this time the village had become a small centre of the mechanised hosiery industry which developed from a cottage industry through small workshops to several factories, the largest employing over 400 people. You can still see cottages that once housed the framework knitters in the village and there is a row of three storeyed dwellings known as the ‘Factory Houses’ which were designed as a factory.
The following images show the factory houses standing tall behind 'Tudor Cottage', and a couple of modern signs on the old framework knitters' cottages:
The oldest building in Kibworth Beauchamp is the Manor House, dating from the 16th century. It’s built in an ‘H’ shape possibly as a compliment to King Henry VII or his son Henry VIII. The ornamental clock tower on the Manor House stables chimes every 15 minutes and was the last to be installed by Smiths of Derby prior to World War One.
The beautiful and ancient St Wilfred’s Church, mostly 13th century, serves both Kibworth Beauchamp and Kibworth Harcourt. Dedicated to St Wilfred, a statue of the saint appears over both porches – north for Harcourt, south for Beauchamp. It was one of the tallest country churches in England until the spire collapsed in 1825. Apparently a little girl announced at the time that she had jumped over the church spire for which she was soundly rebuked!
However, Kibworth’s past stretches far beyond medieval times. It is known from archaeological discoveries that there was a Roman settlement here. And prior to that huge oxen roamed the land – the ‘Kibworth Beauchamp Prehistoric Ox’ was unearthed in 1954 near Tudor Cottage. This is the largest ox ever discovered in Leicestershire at 3ft 2 in between horn tips, and is at least 5000 yrs old!
By the way, I did find the infants school – now a nursery found behind the local library. Such fun!
Of course, I’m never completely satisfied with buildings and history. I NEED SOME NATURE! It turns out Kibworth is a great place for this…
There are plenty of seats around the village, and one was waiting just for me as I pootled along by the school playing field. Placed perfectly among the trees and bushes where wildlife was going about its business I decided to sit quietly for a while. Blackbirds, once used to me, hopped so close and their mellow songs danced through the air.
There were magpies aplenty further round the trail flapping about and playing with one another in the trees. And beautiful crocuses poked through the carpet of winter leaves, their glorious hues brightening up the pathway. More on all this in a future post.
But it’s not just the immediate countryside that entices. As Michael Wood says, there's “marvellous landscapes stretching away outside all the way to Rutland. It's a great place to come for walks”. There were certainly tantalising glimpses of the countryside all around as I walked the village trail.
Only a couple of miles from Kibworth flows the Grand Union Canal where you can go for a peaceful walk or cycle. Debdale Wharf was the end of the canal for some years as the Union Canal Company found itself in financial difficulties and couldn’t proceed as originally planned. However, the route now goes through to Market Harborough via Foxton, both also lovely places to get out and about.
And what do you need after a good rural ramble? A pub of course! There are plenty of hostelries in Kibworth in which to get refreshments, although not quite as many as the original 23! Which one will you choose? The Coach and Horses perhaps. But make sure you behave – drunks used to get a good dunking here in the horse trough that was outside to cool them off! Or maybe you’d prefer the recently refurbished Swan or the Railway Inn.
It’s a shame the Royal Oak Inn no longer exists as this was an entertaining place. Local reports state that one day in the 1870s a tightrope was strung across the High Street from here to a thatched cottage and the French acrobat Charles Blondin balanced a stove and cooked a pancake whilst aloft!
A Richer, Deeper Life
So what a gem Kibworth has turned out to be! I’ll certainly be back for more. And how have I managed not to uncover some of its hidden facets before? I’ll tell you why – because this was the first time I actually slowed down and immersed myself fully in the place. We all need to relax ourselves sometimes. Why not try moving at a more leisurely pace this week to find a new richness and deepness to being alive? What gems will you discover? I’d love to hear all about it, especially if you pootle on down to Kibworth…