Following the hiatus in March caused by the bad weather, the Society was able to resume its regular meetings in April. A presentation from the chairman, Norman Harrison, displayed some of the wide range of material held in the Society’s archive.
The talk was a timely reminder that history is more than an accumulation of facts but rather a collective memory which helps to place current events in a context.
The collection of maps showed not only how Kibworth and Smeeton have expanded over time but also how important land ownership was in determining the shape of the villages by highlighting the ownership patterns and which owners made land available for development.
Examples of archaeological finds showed that the area has been inhabited for thousands of years, from examples of the Beaker People found between Smeeton and Gumley (possibly 4,000 years old) to the Roman artefacts found opposite Westfield in Kibworth Harcourt. A coin found on the site dates from around 300AD and a geophysical survey of the site has revealed evidence of Roman occupation built alongside an existing ancient ridge trackway.
Some of the photographs were a reminder of the importance of religion in the villages. A photograph from 1928 taken on the Munt in Kibworth Harcourt showed a large group who were enjoying a Sunday School Treat, a common feature of village life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The importance of dissenting religion in Kibworth was revealed by information on the former Congregational Chapel. A tablet was raised in the chapel to Philip Doddridge who was a former pastor in Kibworth. He was a leading figure in the English Non-Conformist movement in the 18th century and ran an academy in Kibworth to propound the non-conformist version of Christianity.
The personal impact of World War One was illustrated by items in the archive. A collection of postcards from a soldier in France, to his mother in Kibworth, contained one which clearly showed the Censor’s stamp and illustrated the limited amount of information which could be contained in these communications. Photographs of soldiers and their medals was a reminder of the major impact the war had on small village communities.
While the villages were more self-contained in the past, they were still witness to the impact of new technologies. In 1936 an extension to the Grammar School was due to be opened by the Assistant Bishop of Leicester. Shortly before the ceremony it was discovered that the ceremonial key specially commissioned for the occasion had not arrived in Kibworth. The key had been made in Leeds but not despatched. There was no time to transport the key by road so an aeroplane was chartered to fly the key from Leeds to Stoughton airfield where it was met by a taxi and rushed to Kibworth, arriving just in time for the ceremony to proceed. The new technology of air transport had saved the day!
The Society’s archive is a valuable resource which is available to anyone with an interest in the history of Kibworth and Smeeton Westerby.