Letton Mill Dig Update:

The forecast for this coming week is hot; very hot. Temperatures are predicted to rise through the week from 26c tomorrow to a high of 32c on Thursday.

The safety of volunteers and visitors is paramount, so the steering group have taken the decision to postpone the events and talks arranged for this week to a future date.

The temperature tomorrow (Monday 8th) looks as though it should be manageable for fit adult volunteers to come and dig, but we will consult with you tomorrow on site about whether we postpone digging for the rest of the week.

We recommend that children and anyone who finds coping with the hot weather difficult, or who are less able to regulate body heat, do not come to the site this week.

We apologise for any inconvenience or disappointment this may cause, but your well-being is our primary concern.

So whilst Week Two is disrupted by the weather, the forecast for Week Three suggests that temperatures will be much more conducive to digging and events.

To find out what happened in Week One, take a look at the daily Dig Diaries posted directly from the site onto our Facebook page facebook.com/LeintwardineHistory/

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Day 1 Letton Mill Dig Diary

Our 2022 dig season got off to a great start today. It was a perfect summers day and there were 24 people on site including 6 children, 4 of whom were old enough to join in the dig. The first find of the season was a 17th century clay pipe bowl and other finds soon followed.

Thanks to all our Week One volunteers who turned up and got things off to such a flying start!

Pop over to our dedicated Letton Mill page to see all the related activities over the next few weeks https://leintwardinehs.wordpress.com/letton-mill-dig

If you would like to volunteer or to attend one of the on-site activities please email LettonMill@outlook.com

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The concealed revealed – in first LHS newsletter!

An intriguing article appeared in Issue 1 of the Leintwardine History Group Newsletter published 20 years ago this month

In April, the History Group received a much appreciated donation from Mr. Jeremy Kemp of two 19th century children’s boots. Mr Kemp wished the shoes to remain in the village in which they had been found. They were discovered in the 1970s, bricked up in a bread oven at The Little House, Watling Street, the former home of Mr Kemp’s father and step-mother. We wrote to the Northampton Museum who maintain a register of concealed shoes and received the following reply”…

Dear Mr Williams

Thankyou for the photograph and information on the children’s boots found in a bread oven.

From the photograph, it seems as if you have one elastic sided boot and one button or lace book. These probably date from between 1850 and 1875 and may have been hidden when alterations were done to the house (possibly by the insertion of a range for cooking).

The U shaped opening in the front of one boot would originally have been filled with leather, perhaps in a contrasting colour. Shoes have always been expensive items and were worn until totally worn out. Shoes were concealed in houses to help protect them [from malevolent spirits]. Very often there is only one of the pair. Children’s shoes are common. They are almost always completely worn out.

Most of the shoes, as these appear to be, are sturdy working class footwear. They are not particularly fashionable and are almost always mass-produced (even before machinery came into use, shoes were made in large numbers in standard sizes and styles).

These may belonged to a brother and sister who lived in the house at that time. I enclose two information sheets on the habit on concealing shoes in buildings. I will add the details of the find to the Concealed Shoes Register.

May we please keep the photographs for inclusion in the file.

Yours sincerely

Sue Constable – Shoes Heritage Officer.

The boots, still caked with 19th century mud from Watling Street, are one of the most evocative exhibits now on display in our new History Room. Read more here https://leintwardinehs.wordpress.com/lhs-archive

The widespread practice of concealing shoes has over many years attracted a variety of theories and modern interpretations, but the true reasons are still difficult to understand. This is because no written records have been found to explain why people did it.

Perhaps no records have been found because secrecy was an essential part of the practice. Miss Swann, former Keeper of the Boot and Shoe Collection at Northampton Museum was unable to discover any strong evidence why shoes were concealed. She wrote in 1996 that she ‘eventually realised that the secrecy continually encountered suggests that the superstition, if disclosed, ceases to be effective‘.

The boots, other fascinating artefacts, records and books can be seen at the History Room on Tuesdays 10am – 12noon and the first Saturday of the month at the same time.

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On this day in 1733. Funding in perpetuity for Leintwardine School.

A free school in Leintwardine was founded and endowed in June 1659, nine months after the death of Oliver Cromwell. It was the work of the Honourable Edward Harley (1624-1700) who, in 1660, was knighted and became Sir Edward Harley, Knight of the Bath. Members of the Harley family of Brampton Bryan have been trustees or governors of Leintwardine School ever since.

On 12th July 1733, thirty-three years after his death and seventy-four years after the original endowment, an indenture was drawn up which guaranteed the school, as far as it was possible to do so, a fixed sum of money to be paid annually for ever.

First party to the contract was the Honourable Edward Harley. The second party comprised nine of the local gentry, some of whom were his close relatives : the Right Honourable Edward [Harley] [2nd] Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer; Richard Bytheway Esq; Thomas Harley Esq; Edward Harley Jnr; Thomas Beale Esq; Robert Harley Esq; Richard Knight the Elder, Gentleman; Salwey Cockram and the Reverend Samuel Palmer. The contract contained a covenant (a particularly solemn promise) made by the group of nine which bound the then Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer his heirs, executors and administrators to give ‘two pounds eight shillings of lawful money’ to Leintwardine School for 999 years. It was specified that the money was to be paid ‘by half yearly payments on the 2nd day of February and 2nd day of August by even and equal portions free and discharged from all taxes payments and deductions whatsoever‘.

The original document, or a copy of it, still exists in Brampton Bryan church archives. It refers to the founder, Sir Edward Harley, Knight of the Bath saying that ‘in his lifetime [he] did give and grant the sum of £2. 8 shillings a year towards the maintenance and support of the said school’.

1733 reference to Leintwardine School in Brampton Bryan parish records

The original endowment deed from 1659 stipulated that the trusts were to ‘employ the rents, issues, and profits of the said premises, towards the building of a School house in Leintwardine, and upon the erection of the said School house, to apply the whole rents, issues, and profits of the premises, for the maintenance of a School master’ and that the master was to ‘freely teach the children of all the inhabitants of the said town and parish of Leintwardine in good literature, without taking anything off their parents for such teaching’.

The ‘said premises’ were at Paytoe, Edward Harley and others having purchased ‘a certain messuage and premises’ from Mr Richard Whites of Paytoe in January 1659. It is believed that the first school in the village may have been on the site of the old school, which is now the Leintwardine Centre. For a period of time (exact dates unknown), school was held in the parish church but was declared to be ‘inconvenient for all parties’. New endowed school premises were built in 1845 and in 1973.

In the early 1770s, the schoolmaster was a Mr. James Shipman. In December 1774, he received £6 back pay from the Earl of Oxford in respect of teaching at Leintwardine for the previous two and a half years! Shipman seems to have retired from teaching (or died) in the late 1790s, something we can reasonably assume from entries in the Leintwardine tithe books. Shipman pays his dues of 3 shillings for most years but is sometimes in arrears. It would appear that he was succeded in his role by James Jones who is recorded in the 1798 tithe book with a note, “3s arrears belonging to Shipman”. His entry for 1799 makes specific reference to his occupation; “James Jones – schoolmaster”, and there is indeed a separate record of him being licensed by the Bishop of Hereford to teach at Leintwardine on 20th October 1799.

Aside from these few snippets, little else is known about the Leintwardine Endowed School prior to 1845. There may be more just waiting to be discovered!

Portrait of Sir Edward Harley by John Thane published here with permission from the National Portrait Gallery under a Creative Commons licence for limited non-commercial use. Reference NPG D29961.

Some information in this post is derived from articles which appeared in the LHS Journal Issues 24 and 27, June 2008 and March 2009 respectively.


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20th Anniversary of the LHS Journal!

July 2002 saw the publication of the very first LHS Journal. In those days, the society was known as ‘Leintwardine History Group’ and its monochrome publication went by the title ‘Newsletter’. Then, as now, its content was eclectic. Reports of walks and excursions to historic sites; people’s reminiscences of growing up in Leintwardine; facts, figures and statistics extracted from old documents and a ‘Notes and Queries’ column which ran along the lines of ‘where was Louse Farm’ … ‘where was Monday Meadow’ … ‘was there once a stretch of road known as the Grange mile’ … ‘where was The Craft‘…

For the first time, people had the opportunity to share their treasured photographs from years gone by. Once published, readers eagerly put names to faces and unidentified buildings and these would be published in a subsequent issue. It was, and continues to be, a collective local memory.

Here are a few snippets from Issue 1

In 2002, the caption read:

‘The History of the village of Leintwardine 1855 to 1955 was originally compiled by the Leintwardine and District Women’s Institute in 1955 and published in a very limited number of typewritten copies. This edition was re-processed to a compute typescript in 2002 by members of the Leintwardine History Group in order that the valuable work once undertaken by the local WI members could be both easier to read and, more importantly, seen by a greater audience. Most of those who contributed have now passed on but their memories are recorded and capture a very different village to the one we live in today’.

This title, with its distinctive yellow cover is now out of print and secondhand copies are hard to find.

However, the most intriguing article in Issue 1 was about two 19th century children’s shoes (not a pair) concealed in a local cottage wall and which had been found during restoration work in the 1970s. More will be revealed about this find in our next post!

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On this day in 1876.

On 23rd June 1876, according to Littlebury’s Directory and Gazetteer of Herefordshire, a branch of the North and South Wales Bank was established at Leintwardine. It was open every Friday from 11am to 3pm under the management of Mr JP Medlicott.

This photograph, from our archives, shows the premises when it was under the operation of the North and South Wales Bank. To the left is the premises of Gough’s Monumential Mason.

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On this day in 1837

Body parts en-route to Leintwardine!

Some sensation was occasioned here in Worcester on Friday evening, by the discovery of a package at the warehouse of Messrs. Jolly, the waggoners, containing members of a human body. It seems attention was directed to the package from the offensive effluvia which it emitted, and upon being opened, to the horror of all present, its contents proved to be two human arms, a thigh, and two halves of a cranium. The whole were in so sickening a state of decomposition as to render a minute inspection of them impossible; but as respects the arms, from the cursory view taken of them by some professional gentlemen, it is thought that they are both left arms, one that of a male, and the other a female. The box was fastened by two locks and lined with lead. It seems that it had been brought from London by water and was to be conveyed by Messrs. Jolly’s waggon to the following address: – “Mr. Russell at Mr Tudor’s Leintwardine, Ludlow, Salop”. Mr Tudor of Leintwardine, is, we hear, a most respectable surgeon, and to this gentleman our worthy Mayor has written, acquainting him with all the circumstances connected with the contents of the box and their detention, and requesting, that he may be furnished by him in reply, with a statement of such facts concerning the package and its revolting freight as he may be in possession of, or enabled to obtain. In the meantime the limbs etc have been properly taken care of that they may be forthcoming for any further investigation that may appear necessary.” _ Worcester Herald.

This gruesome yet facinating report provides an insight into the state of the medical profession in the early nineteenth century. The need for bodies or body parts for the study of anatomy had been in existence for a long time and reached its height in the eighteenth century. Many aspects of it were illegal but in 1832 – five years prior to this report – the Anatomy Act provided for a limited but legal supply. Whether or not this covered home delivery requires further research!

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Volunteers Wanted for Letton Mill Community Archaeology Project.

2022 Season 1 : 1st to 21st August

2022 Season 2 : 5th to 25th September

Following a successful exploratory dig last October, Leintwardine History Society are looking for volunteers to carry out the 2022 season of excavations as part of the community archaeology project at this interesting rural site.

Supported by extensive documentary evidence confirming the existence of a “watercorne mill” at Letton in the 17th century, the Society completed a 3-week dig last October, and found compelling evidence for the mill at a site on Letton Farm.  The aim this year is to investigate the mill building footprint, learn more about the management of water to the mill, and confirm the location of ancillary buildings mentioned in the documentary evidence.

As such the project supports the aims of  the West Midlands Research Framework, and in particular “the need for broadly based fieldwork across the region, attempting to translate mill locations into sites that might be suitable for excavation.”  The Project Research Brief is available on request.

We are looking for volunteers to work under the expert guidance of a qualified archaeologist to complete the planned excavations.  No prior experience is necessary, although welcome!.  You will gain more from the experience if you can commit to at least a week on site, but if you cannot afford that much time and still wish to take part, please get in touch anyway.

In the unlikely event that we have more than 20 volunteers for any session, priority will be given to people from the local community.

If you live some distance away, there are camping and caravan sites in the vicinity, and a range of other accommodation available.

In the first instance please contact the project team at LettonMill@outlook.com to register your interest, giving your name, contact address, and the week(s) or days you would be available.

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LHS visit to Hopton Castle 31st May 2022

A recent survey of members identified Hopton Castle as the site that most wanted to visit so this was duly arranged. The visit was open to all-comers and 12 members joined Mike Rix for a tour of the castle and grounds preceded by an informative talk by Peter Marquis, a Trustee of the Hopton Castle Preservation Trust who own the site. The ‘castle’ was not really a castle but a fortified manor house built in the early 1300s for Walter de Hopton, probably on the site of an older Norman keep. This perhaps explains why it is situated on the valley floor – as was well seen when we looked down on its position during the second part of our visit.

The building was extensively damaged during a Civil War sieve in 1644 when eventual entry to the castle by Royalists was apparently facilitated by the twin-seater garderobe. Details of the sieve are shown on the excellent notice boards at the site.

The castle remained dilapidated until the advent of the Trust. They raised the money to have building work done to make the castle safe for visitors and the restored castle was opened by the Duke of Gloucester in 2011.  Because it is a protected historic site the Trust cannot dig below 12 inches so they have confined landscaping to the removal of nettles and moles and the planting of wild flowers within the fenced off area nearest to the castle. Surrounding that area, we saw ample evidence of earthworks, now grazed by sheep. There is also a silted-up fish pond that the Trust would like to re-establish.

More recently steps and rails for easier access have been installed – a process that took 2 years to obtain the necessary permission.

Our visit was blessed by good weather and members were happy to contribute to the Trust’s funds in thanks for an interesting afternoon.


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Downton Gorge – Walk 1

Tuesday 17th May 2022

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