The Buildings of Hinckley

Descriptions made of Hinckley over time, from William Burton in 1622, to W.G. Hoskins description of the market town in the Shell Guide of 1970.

'The town standeth upon the decline of a hill, upon a good and pleasant air; the streets and buildings thereof I cannot greatly commend, having no uniformity or neatness in them.'

(William Burton, The Description of Leicestershire, 1622)

'Hinckley gains fresh advantages, and seems now to rise into a more independent state of trade. The stocking manufacture, formerly subservient to two principal neighbouring towns, is at present carried on chiefly on its own account, and without the help of their medium.

A mail-coach has been established to and from Chester, which passes daily through this town, besides several other regular stage-coaches from different parts. A post-office is fixed, and a postmaster appointed. Before this regulation, the letters only arrived from Coventry three times in the week; the same from Leicester, which occasioned a very great delay and detriment to business. The mail now accommodates the market towns of Lutterworth, Hinckley, Nuneaton, Atherstone, and Tamworth, which had no regular post before. It turns off at Northampton, and enters the old road again at Lichfield, taking in a new track of nearly sixty miles of midland country, unattended to heretofore...

A subscription was opened, and, by the liberality of the inhabitants, the ill-proportioned old spire of the church at Hinckley was last year taken down, and a new one erected with more taste and elegance. The two principal avenues to the town are widened, and made more commodious by the removal of some old houses. Several new buildings are going on.

The town hall, now in ruins, will soon be rebuilt upon a more modern plan, and is to consist of a large public room supported by pillars, with a piazza for the use of the market, over which it is projected to raise a turret for a clock and dials. The Holy-well water, conveyed by pipes to the middle of the market place, as it is practicable, may possibly be done also some time after.'

('Robert Curthose', Gentleman's Magazine, 1787, part II)

View of Hinckley from Rosemary Lane by J. Walker
View of Hinckley from Rosemary Lane (now Coventry Road) by J. Walker (John Throsby, Leicestershire Views, 1798)

'Since Mr Burton's time (1622) the town has been greatly enlarged; the streets and buildings are now neat and uniform.'

(John Nichols, The History & Antiquities of the County of Leicester, IV, pt. 2, 1811)

'The limits of what is called The Borough, were in its early days those of the Town; from which the Church stood at some little distance, and the Castle (then the mansion of its lord) still further.

The Bond End (at first consisting of only a few struggling houses, or rather huts) in time became a street; and was succeeded by The Castle End, The Stocken Head, and The Duck Paddle; part of which streets are within the Borough.'

(John Nichols, The History & Antiquities of the County of Leicester, IV, pt. 2,1811)

'The town is now divided into the Borough and the Bond without the liberties. The limits of what is now called the Borough have been extended by the successive addition of four streets.'

(Pigot's Leicestershire Directory, 1822-3)

'It is said to be situated on the highest ground in England [sic] and upwards of fifty churches can be seen from the extreme eminence.'

(Pigot and Co's National Commercial Directory, 1828-9)

A stocking frame, mid-19th century

'Before the growth of the hosiery industry its main streets had contained many farmhouses with yards and outbuildings behind but, when manufacturing became the town's main function the farmhouses were adapted to the needs of entrepreneurs or publicans while the yards were infilled with small cottages to accommodate the knitters.

Access to the yards from the main street was provided in the form of narrow passages called jitties while the farm tracks paralleling the main roads behind the yards became streets providing rear access.

This system of parallel streets can still be identified in the central part of Hinckley but, happily most of the squalid cottages in the yards have long been demolished.'

(Stephen A. Royle, '"The Spiritual destitution is excessive, the poverty overwhelming": Hinckley in the mid-nineteenth century', Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society, LIV (1978-9))

Station Road (foreground), Market Place and Regent Street from the church tower, c.1900
Station Road (foreground), Market Place and Regent Street from the church tower, c.1900

'At the end of the 18th century Hinckley might have been described as a group of 30 or 40 farm houses. Under the old Manorial system the farms were in the town, and the farm houses fronted the main streets, with the farm buildings at the back.

These old farm yards still existed, and the houses now under construction were grouped around them. They differed in many respects from the yards and alleys of such towns as Coventry and Yarmouth.

When the enclosure act was put into force in this district somewhere about 1780, the farm houses were turned into public houses and the farm buildings into cottages. The property in the areas under construction [Red Lion Yard etc] took their names from the public houses which were built on the old farm sites.'

(A. J. Pickering in the Hinckley Times & Guardian., Fri 15 Jan 1932)

Rooftop view, about 1920
Rooftop view, about 1920

'The chief business is in the making of course [sic] stockings. There are malthouses, flour mills, needle makers, framesmiths, rope making, basket-making & co... [The town] is lighted with gas, and has some good streets and shops.'

(Post Office Directory for Leicestershire, 1848)

'Hinckley has for centuries been celebrated for the beauty of the country around and its healthfulness...

The walks in the vicinity are numerous and delightful and the views extensive - standing so high, perhaps the highest part of the earth's common surface in England...

There are many large Houses and commodious Inns; many of the former were built to accommodate the late Mr [Robert] Chessher's patients'.

(Mervyn Patterson, A Medical Guide to the Hinckley Mineral Springs and Baths..., 1849)

Hinckley Postcard

'The third largest town in Leicestershire, with a population of 12,388, is a bright and busy little manufacturing town, chiefly of warm coloured brick, embowered in trees. It stands relatively high, and it is said that fifty churches can be counted in the view.'

(Alfred Harvey and V. B. Crowther-Beynon, Leicestershire and Rutland, 1924)

'Hinckley is the most flourishing town in England'

(Hinckley Times, 20 Jan 1928)

Hinckley Postcard

'A small manufacturing town, but as the hosiery industry is clean, it is a friendly town'

(Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Leicestershire & Rutland)

'...a prosperous industrial town, with little for the visitor to enthuse over. As the two great Leicestershire industries - hosiery and boots and shoes - expanded rapidly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries - much of the town is dull red-brick streets.'

(W. G. Hoskins, Leicestershire: A Shell Guide, 1970)