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The History of Kilby

Text Box: Many thanks to Sylvia Loomes of Fleckney, who formerly lived in Kilby, for letting the Chronicle borrow a transcript of the history of Kilby, written by members of the Women’s Institute in 1989.  Kilby WI have kindly let us print their historical feature. Kilby is a small village of some eighty households situated in a valley off the A50 (now the A5199) - often referred to as the turnpike - about 7 miles south of Leicester. It is believed that its name was originally ‘Cilebi’ from the Scandinavian version of the Old English ‘Childestown’.
In the nineteenth century much of the village was part of the Wistow estate although there were some private landowners. Many of the people worked on the land or were in domestic service, but almost as many worked in the knitting industry, some on their own frames at home, but gradually more travelled to factories in Fleckney and Wigston.

The oldest buildings are 17th century. Part of the ‘Dog and Gun’, which is still thriving and the ‘Black Swan’, which has been turned into a private house, date back to this time. In 1980, Blaby Council listed a number of buildings such as ‘The Old Bakery’ and ‘Manor Farm’ to prevent demolition and development.

The History of KilbyA building situated behind the Churchyard is believed to be of considerable historical interest. The old village, as recorded in the Domesday Book, was round the Church.

The present Church of St. Mary Magdalen was built in 1857 at a cost of £1,500 to replace the one built in 1220.
The Church is very ordinary but the churchyard with graves dating back to 1714, is a haven of wild flowers. Kilby Feast was celebrated every year with various festivities such as brass band or fair.

The greatest change in the village took place after the First World War, when Lord Cottesloe of Wistow Hall sold it to the Leicestershire County Council, to provide fifty acre small holdings for ex-service men. There were sixteen of these and life at that time was still fairly primitive. Each farmer had about ten cows, which he milked by hand twice daily, and to eke out a meagre living he also kept a flock of sheep, a few cattle, hens and two pigs, a year, to keep the family in bacon and ham. He grew corn oil to sell and mangolds to feed the animals in the winter. All cultivation was done by horsepower.

The History of KilbyUntil the second world war Kilby was self-sufficient, having its own butcher, carpenter, blacksmith, post office, shop and two public houses. There was also regular transport to Wigston and Leicester.

The Victorian school provided a sound basic education for all until about 1930 when children over eleven years of age went to Wigston. May Day and Empire Day were always celebrated.

In 1922 the Langham family built and endowed 'The Langham Memorial Chapel’ to replace the old one. A men’s institute known as the ‘Reading Room’ provided an outlet for the menfolk, but at that there was very little recreation for women except to sing in the choir or go to the occasional concert in the school.

During the 1930s whist drives and dances became very popular on Saturday evenings and whole families enjoyed them. These were also held in the school which was the centre of village life. The annual fete was an important date, led by a carnival queen and attendants on a horse-drawn float, to raise money for the Leicester Royal Infirmary.

Electricity was brought to the village around 1937 making life easier for the womenfolk, and a WI was formed. Earlier in 1934 the offer of a water supply was turned down because it would be too expensive, and one of Kilby’s older inhabitants said he could never remember the village pump being short. It was about ten years after the Second World War that the water supply finally arrived.

Kilby in 1989 is a prosperous village. The ex-service generations from the First World War have now all died - some of them remaining in Kilby until the end of their lives. Several of the farmhouses were sold but the land, still owned by the County Council, has been divided amongst the new generation farmers who have up to 100 cows and all kinds of expensive machinery available to the modern farmer.

The History of KilbyAlthough these working farms give it an agricultural feel, the majority of the community consists of a complete cross section of retired people, businessmen, teachers and employees in all trades and professions, who commute to the surrounding areas.

The village school, though threatened many times with closure, remains open and has doubled its intake with children from other villages, whilst many children go to private schools elsewhere.

Kilby, once so humble, is now described by Estate Agents as a ‘Sought After Village’.

Issue 408
January 2019

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