Earl Shilton in Leicestershire

Earl Shilton over the years went from being a village to an industrial boot and shoe manufacturer Town of England.

the hollow in earl shilton during the 1920s
The Hollow in Earl Shilton during the 1920s

Earl Shilton is listed in The Domesday Book as ‘Sheltone’ which means ‘a settlement on a hill’. The word ‘Earl’ has come from when Simon de Montfort was the Earl of Leicester, he would take up residence in his castle at Earl Shilton.

1130 Robert Rossu found a motte and bailey castle that was surrounded by a fosse, it was built to protect the Vale of Kirkby. The castle as a fortress would last for 30 - 40 years before its destruction, and subsequent conversion to a hunting lodge.

1239 Simon de Montfort became the Earl of Leicester, during his stay at his castle in Earl Shilton he would hunt at Shilton Wood, which was a large wooded area west of the forest of Leicester.

1265 When Simon de Montfort was killed at the Battle of Evesham, the manor and castle were given to Edmund to the son of King Henry III.

1280 Earl Shilton along with Peckleton were given the status of a village.

1297 It was recorded that Shilton Park consisted of a 600-acre estate on which a mansion stood where a red brick wall enclosed the estate.

1444 King Henry VI gave the manor of Shilton to his intended consort.

1564 During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I there were just 10 families living in Earl Shilton, this was due to conflicts over land rights with the land owners.

1611 The Plague arrived, Earl Shilton would suffer like other towns with 21 deaths according to Parish records.

1636 A field in Earl Shilton was let that was owned by John Wightman earning him three pounds and five shillings, he would give £50 to the poor of Hinckley.

1696 Thomas Boothby aged just 15 years, inherited the estate of Tooley Park from his mother. Tom O’Tooley would spend a lot of his time hunting with his foxhounds which were the first true pack in the country, he would continue for 55 seasons as Master of the Quorn Hunt.

1697 King William III introduced the window tax, some of the houses in the village had their windows blocked in to save on the tax. There is still evidence of the window tax within the town today.

1758 A stone building known as the Pinfold, was build next to the Baptist Chapel for penning stray cattle prior to the enclosure of the common fields. In later times the building would be used for weighing stone from the old Parish Quarry.

1760 Alderman Gabriel Newton donated £20 16s from his charity to educate 20 poor boys from the two villages of Earl Shilton and Barwell.

1778 An Act of Parliament was introduced that required all open land to be enclosed. Shilton Heath, a 1,500 acre Common, was created from several meadows and open fields. The Heath would be used for a steeple chasing course and became the location for many visiting circuses.

1800 The population was 1,287 that inhabited 249 houses, 8 houses were uninhabited. 118 villagers were employed in agriculture and 716 villagers were employed in the trade and manufacture of the stocking industry.

1800 The old Smock Mill was built for £800 near to the Parish Quarry, it stood for nearly a century before being damaged by lightning and then again by a storm, it was demolished in 1917. At the time, there were another two mills in Earl Shilton, at Wood Street recreational ground and the other at the top of Birds Hill which was in used until 1890.

1822 The Wesleyan chapel was built along Wood Street, by 1829 there was 290 people worshiping there.

1825 The Congregational Church was built in High Street, by 1829 the Independents were the strongest nonconformists in Earl Shilton.

1830 Stagecoaches would pass through Earl Shilton on their way to Hinckley and Birmingham from Leicester. The Stagecoaches would stop at a place that was near to the White House along Wood Street, beside the Lord Nelson Inn.

1831 The population of the village had risen to 2,017.

1840s During this decade people in Earl Shilton became destitute and would end up taking refuge in the Hinckley Union Workhouse which was known to the locals as ‘The Bastille’. This period of time has become known at the ‘hungry forties’. During this time, there was a number of sheep stealing, highway robbery and burglary, at the time the sentence for sheep stealing and even stealing a pheasant from the woods was 14 years of transportation.

1844 There were 650 stocking frames that were in the houses of the workpeople, this trend would die out once the introduction of the factory system came about.

1850 Job Toon bought and installed a stocking frame in his house, both Job and his wife Matilda would work the stocking frame. Over time Job would purchase more stocking frames and rent them out to the community, he would pay for the stocking but minus the rent of the frame. Business was going well for Job, he purchased a building just off Wood Street which would be powered by steam, and this would become the foundations of J Toon and Son. The business would do so well with trade from South America that they would operate 1,000 knitting machines by the 1930s.

1854 The parish church would be rebuilt with the exception of the 17th century church tower and spire, the cost came to £3,500. The church was dedicated to St. Simon and St. Jude, the curate was Rev Tower.

1859 Earl Shilton would see its first hosiery strike of 180 operators of Messrs. Homer & Everard, an appeal was sent out to workers of three counties for aid to help the operators to fight it out.

1861 Due to the American Civil War with the ports being blockaded, the supply of cotton to Earl Shilton dried up. This became a devastating time for the locals with so many of the families relying on the cotton for their framework knitting machines, resulting in 1,200 people out of employment.

1866 The Gas Works were built along Station Road by the Earl Shilton Gas Light and Coke Company, Mr A. Lee was appointed the manager.

1868 Sharrad Holland Gilbert was born on 10th November in a small room over his father's chemist shop, he would end up becoming a decorated war hero who fought in the Boer War and First World War.

1871 A school with 2 classrooms for 30 children was built and opened along Wood Street, the appointed headmistress was Miss Witnall.

1907 Due to the overcrowding at the Wood Street School, an extension of a further two classrooms and corridor were built to help alleviate the problem.

1908 The Catholic Church was built in Mill Lane, the church was under the patronage of the Worswick family who lived at Normanton Hall. Father Grimes would become the first priest.

1909 The Social Institute building was built along Station Road, and paid for by public subscription. It was to provide a social and sporting outlet for the young men of Earl Shilton, such as football, cricket, a rifle range, chess club, skittles and billiards.

1910 The Royal Rink was built along Station Road by Mr H.S. Cooper for the locals to enjoy roller skating.

1910 A Catholic school was built adjacent to the Catholic Church along Mill Lane, it would be for the education of 80 children. A convent and priest’s house was added to the school later.

1914 A thousand men from Earl Shilton joined the Army with many joining the 5th Leicestershire Regiment to fight in the Great War, they would march down to Elmesthorpe Railway Station to start their journey to the trenches of the Western Front. Many of the local factories supplied the Army with thousands of pairs of socks as well as army boots. The Russian Cossacks would also have vast orders supplied to them.

1916 The Boy Scout troop was formed, Mr Horace Perkins became the Master of the Earl Shilton Troop and Mr W. Cotton became the President.

1918 All work was suspended for the day on 11th November, to celebrate that the First World War had finished. Flags and bunting appeared in windows across the area, and fireworks were let off with bands playing in the streets.

1919 A First World War memorial was erected in St. Simon and St. Jude Church.

1920 The Earl Shilton War Memorial along Wood Street was unveiled on 11th October by Lieutenant Colonel C.H. Jones and dedicated by Canon Hurrell (Vicar of Hinckley) to the men that died in the Great War of 1914-1918. The Memorial came to a cost of £800.

1937 Heathfield School was built along Belle Vue Road, at the time the school was regarded as one of the most modern in the country.

1940 During Britain’s conflict in the Second World War, Earl Shilton would undergo a program of building air raid shelters, with the first being built on 26th June 1940. An air raid siren was installed along Wood Street on the factory of Toon and Son. Air raid shelters were built along Wood Street, Station Road, Almey’s Lane, Keats Lane, The Hollow and Belle Vue. Also during June, the ‘Local Defense Volunteers’ (Home Guard) were formed and were commanded Captain Wileman.

1940 Three parachute mines were dropped by the German Luftwaffe bombers on the 20th November, one landed in Barwell and the other two landed in the north-west part of Earl Shilton. One of the bombs failed to explode, there were not any casualties.

1940 The Earl Shilton Home Guard were called out to collect some German prisoners from just outside Leicester Forrest East, after their plane had been shot down by the RAF after dropping incendiaries on Elmesthorpe.

6th May 1941 The first time the Earl Shilton Spitfire flew, it was paid for by generous donations made by the people of Earl Shilton for the war effort.

1941 During July Sam Nicholls signed up to the RAF as a Leading Aircraftsman and would specialise in maintaining the guns on Halifax Bombers.

1942 A German Luftwaffe bomber at 7am on 27th July, dived out of the clouds and near the church and released three stick bombs. They destroyed a barn and badly damaged the house on the farm of Mr T. Carter who managed to escape to safety while being outside in his yard just 20 yards away from where the bombs exploded. Mr T.J. Langton said at the time he saw the bomber firing its machine gun at people on their way to work along Keats Lane.

1945 The building of air raid shelters stopped on 20th March 1945, when the last of the 192 air raid shelters was built, Britain would no longer be threatened with bombs being dropped by the German Luftwaffe bombers.

1965 The Wood Street school was suffering with a high volume of children now attending that the Church Hall would become used for school dinners, physical education, music and movement.

1984 Wood Street school caught fire on 17th January, the fire started when the curtains were set on fire which ignited an oil feed pipe. The school would be so badly damaged it had to be demolished.

2005 The population of Earl Shilton is now 9,000.

2009 The Earl Shilton bypass called ‘Clickers Way’ took 2 years to build, it opened on 27th March due to the increasing amount of traffic going through the town over the years.

2011 The Census of 2011 has shown that the population has grown to 10,047.

Earl Shilton in the Domesday Book

There were 102 places in the Hundred of Guthlaxton in the Domesday Book, Earl Shilton was one of them. Earl Shilton would later become part of the Hundred of Sparkenhoe.

Guthlaxton was a Hundred of Leicestershire.

domesday book earl shilton
Earl Shilton in the Domesday Book.

Tip: Click on the i (top-left) on the photo viewer for a description of the photo.