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The Clerk's Tale 13

In the past month, apart from snow, we have seen the full spectrum of English weather conditions. Hot sunshine, heavy rain, high temperatures, chill winds, thunderstorms and fog. So, nothing unusual.


Whether the weather was similar in 1870 is debatable, but it was probably raining on the day that young William Wheeler Kendall passed through Kibworth on his way to Leicester. He was from a farming family near Market Harborough and, having just celebrated his twenty-first birthday, he decided to go to Leicester to seek his fortune.

The significance of the reference to rain is that he decided to manufacture umbrellas. At first, he sold them from a barber's shop in Leicester's Northampton Street. By the time he retired, Kendalls had their own factory at 128 Charles Street, now the Foister Rooms restaurant and bar.


Their products were used by Prime Ministers and members of the Royal Family. Kendalls even supplied umbrellas for the expedition that conquered Everest in 1953. By the 1960s, they had opened over a hundred High Street shops.

 The company set a good example for other businesses. They were one of the first companies to set up staff canteens and incorporate tea-breaks into the working day, with hot drinks provided free-of-charge. They asked their staff how long they wanted for lunchbreaks and organised regular trips to Skegness and Cleethorpes for their entire workforce.

In 1981, William Kendall's business was bought by the menís outfitters Hepworths. George Davies was brought in to convert the shops to ladieswear, but instead turned them into NEXT. Another bright business idea from someone who also established his early business roots in Leicestershire.


Kibworth was once a manufacturing area. Not only textiles but such diverse items as clocks for hospitals and schools, and even lemonade! Today, new businesses are still being set up locally, providing employment and contributing to the sustainability of our community. Let's welcome them. Development is not just about hundreds of houses, and infrastructure is not only about community facilities, but workplaces too. 


Stephen Butt

Parish Clerk, KBPC
Issue 403
June 2018

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