Brief history of Enderby

Contributor: Erica Statham

The village of Enderby can be found to the South West of the City of Leicester, to the West of Narborough Road and alongside the Fosse Way.

The earliest inhabitants lived during the Iron Age period and both pottery and post holes from their dwellings have been discovered during recent building work on the Grove Farm commercial site off Leicester Lane.

Prior to construction taking place on the site – which is traversed by the Fosse Way and the Enderby ‘Park and Ride’ development – six Roman skeletons have been discovered, indicating a possible cemetery.

Why they were buried here is up for debate. It seems to be too far away to be connected to Roman Leicester so was Enderby itself a Roman settlement? So far few other Roman artefacts have been discovered locally.

Heritage Group at Aldeby
Heritage Group members and visitors at the Aldeby site

By the 8th century Enderby had adopted Christianity evidenced by the Saxon ecclesiastical building, the foundations of which, on a good day, can still be seen by the River Soar at the back of the new housing development at St Johns close to Aldeby Close.

This was made of local ‘pink’ The archaeology appears to show that there were two buildings on this site. The first had an apsidal chancel end similar to Roman public buildings and may indicate a continuation with the Roman period.

The second building, possibly from the 10th century, is more squared-off. This church is known as St Johns, Aldeby and some years ago it was suggested that the presence of a church building here indicated that there had been another settlement by the river which had subsequently become deserted.

This seems to be unlikely and it is probable that the church at Aldeby was a minster church and though never large, did serve a wider community than just Enderby.

These churches were more like district churches; they were places where the faithful could assemble on feast days and whose clergy went out to preach at local centres of population, not only Enderby, but also Whetstone – a village with which (until the latter half of the 19th century) Enderby was closely connected ecclesiastically.

John Nichols, Leicestershire’s own local historian from the late 18th century/early 19th century, recorded that a burial site was still in use by the river Soar and connected to the Aldeby ruins even though the Parish church of Enderby was also used for burials.

Indeed, burials were still taking place here, up until the end of the 19th century. These would be ‘paupers’ from the Blaby Union workhouse which could be found further along Narborough Road/Leicester Road – now redeveloped as Sparsis Gardens.

During the 19th century Enderby became a centre for non-conformity with both the Independents and the Methodists building places of worship here.

They did not have their own burial grounds but buried their dead on the South side of the Parish church which has its own gated entrance.

The Mission, as it is known locally, began at the end of the 19th century for the benefit of quarry workers who were apparently not welcome elsewhere.

Going back in time once again, it is worth considering the name of the village. It first appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Endrebie and Andretesbie. The name suggests it might be of Danish origin, indeed it had a Danish Thane as its overlord, Ulf, at the time of the Conquest who was allowed to remain in charge under the lordship of Hugh de Grandesmesnil.

Built in the 15th century. Old Mill is in the background
[Photo: Enderby Heritage Group]
At this point in time Enderby had a watermill, no doubt situated in a similar position to the recently pulled down 19th century mill which could be found at the field end of the Abbey road play ground and close to the medieval packhorse bridge at the parish boundary with Whetstone on the Soar.

There was also a substantial area of woodland, part of Leicester Forest. Domesday tells us that the value of the land in Enderby had trebled in value since the Conquest. Enderby was a valuable asset to the Crown, prosperous and thriving.

Unfortunately, there appears to be little more of real interest to be learnt about Enderby from this period apart from the somewhat tortuous manorial and ecclesiastical histories which relate largely to ownership and extraction of taxes! John Nichols will, once again, give you a good account of this and the relevant volume can be found in the Enderby Library. Both the history of the Parish Church and The Hall can be found in Nichols.

Nichols also tells us that Enderby is ‘situated on an eminence from which, is a fine prospect of the country to the distance of 20 miles or more every way. On a fine day the hill about Waltham on the Woulds may be plainly seen.’

In the first census of 1801 Enderby had 98 inhabited houses, in which there were 112 families, 312 males, 201 females – 64 chiefly employed in agriculture and 148 in trade and manufacturing etc.

Enderby was already beginning to assume the characteristics of an industrial village, an ‘open parish’ system where the Lord of the Manor and MP for the Borough of Leicester, Charles Lorrraine Smith of fox hunting fame had diminishing influence over ordinary people.

During the 19th century framework knitting began to dominate industry in Enderby and, indeed, people from Enderby were called upon to give evidence to the Royal Commission of 1844 who were investigating the plight of framework knitters.

At this time there were 350 frames recorded in the village. Traditionally whole families would be employed in the knitting industry, working from their own homes, which were often adapted by the insertion of long windows to allow for maximum daylight.

Some of these buildings can still be seen around the village but are now used for other purposes – for example the building, now a nursery, at the bottom of Townsend Road. As the century progressed the industry became more mechanised and larger factories were built such as the one on King Street, now converted into apartments.

Quarrying was also a significant industry during the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Granite and a small deposit of purple slate were quarried during this time.

Another source of interesting information about 19th century Enderby, are the Trade Directories. They described Enderby as having a clay/light loam soil providing good fertile agricultural land which was also rocky and well wooded.

The directories also tell us that in 1871 there were 1390 people living in Enderby with 53 paupers living in the Blaby Union workhouse.

Local people were occupied in many different trades, including shopkeepers, beer retailers, cowkeepers, farmers and graziers, framesmiths, boot and shoe makers, joiners, tobacconists, carriers, a butcher, a rate collector, master and mistress of the workhouse, brick makers and brick layers, builders, a quarry owner, florist, gardener, wheelwright, coach builder, post master, dress maker, surgeon, blacksmith and miller in fact everything you could possibly need could be found in this thriving and industrious village!

Incidentally, the miller was Edwin Wormleighton whose children are buried and commemorated in the churchyard, having died within days of each other – most likely from an infectious disease common but deadly at the time.

No history of Enderby, however brief, would be complete without mentioning the influence that the Co-operative movement had on the village.

In its heyday, the latter half of the 19th century and early 20th century ‘The Society’ had its own farms, slaughterhouses, dairy (on Townsend Road), bakery (now apartments on Co-operation Street), bank (Cross St and now offices) and several retail outlets including a butchers and a drapers.

Co-operative cottages as they look today on Cross Street, Enderby

In 1898 the ‘Society’ also built a large boot and shoe factory (now the Civic Centre) together with homes for the workers – ‘Co-operative Cottages’ on Cross Street. Although most of these activities have ceased, the buildings themselves still dominate the ‘look’ of the village centre.

This brief history has been written to whet the appetite of those of you who enjoy finding out things for yourself.

Enderby is endowed with a number of interesting primary sources of information which can be found at the Records Office in Wigston. These relate to the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries and are well worth looking at.

Reference sources are the Church Wardens account books beginning in the 17th century – which give an indication what the church rate was spent on and the state of the church building itself.

Also; Richard Smith’s will from the mid 18th century bequeathing money for education to the children of the village, the Faculty (planning permission) of 1808 for alteration within the parish church and which incidentally gives considerable insight to the social structure of the village at the time – and the rather splendid Tithe Map of 1849, which for those of us who love to look at and handle old documents is a delight in itself.

The Tithe Map was probably drawn up prior to the tithes, extracted by the church, being finally commuted to a one off payment.

Time spent by the river Soar walking across the packhorse bridge to Whetstone or examining the St Johns, Aldeby ruins will not be wasted, nor will a walk around the village centre spotting the Co-op buildings and framework knitters homes.

Then back to the Records Office to check up on maps, account books and trade directories. Happy Hunting!

Photos: Enderby Heritage Group, Enderby EYE
Article originally posted October 2008. Minor revision and photos added 21-04-2011

Associated resources/reading:

The Early Churches of Enderby 800 AD to 1538 AD by Mark Carne.
Pub. Enderby Heritage Group. [Heritage Group website]

Enderby in 1881 – A snapshot of a village by Sylvia Walton
An analysis of the 1881 Census for Enderby which shows the composition of the population, their occupations and origins and the changes that were taking place in the village at that time. Set against its history, the picture that emerges is of a rapidly growing industrial village already adapting to the mass production and technology of the 20th century but still very much part of labour-intensive, mostly cottage based industries of the earlier years of the 19th century.
» View the ‘Publications’ page on Enderby Heritage Group website

Memories of Enderby by John and Susan Crofts
ISBN 0-7524-3373-3.  Tempus Publishing Ltd., The Mill, Brinscombe Port, Stroud, Glos. GL5 2QG

» The Nichols Archive – The Nichols Family [Univesrsity of Leicester website]

Enderby Library: Townsend Rd, Enderby, Leicester, LE19 4PG – Tel:0116 286 2091
» Get Directions [Google]

The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland, Long Street, Wigston Magna, Leicester, LE18 2AH Telephone: 0116 257 1080
» Record Office [Leicestershire County Council website]
» Get Directions [Google]

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