|Thursday 23rd of February 2017|
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Anyone leaving the M1 at Junction 24 can see from the roundabout why Kegworth was chosen as a site for a settlement.
To the left are the low levels of the flood plains of the rivers Trent and Soar, in winter, often a silver mirror of flood water. Ahead the spire of the village church is prominent on the first ridge of hills which rise increasingly steeply on the right The hills are now clear of the forest which limited the first settlers, but to look from the top of Thomas Road and see the church spire far below is to realise why the settlers climbed no higher from the floods.
The site of Kegworth was situated well within the territory of the Caritani, one of the most powerful Ancient British tribes. A date cannot be put on the foundations of the first settlement, although Anglo - Saxon burials have been found in Kingston - On - Soar and at Hathern, a pin of the Seventh century was also found near the Hermitage which may indicate the date and location of the earliest settlers. The name of Kegworth comes from two languages, English and Danish, so it must date from some time between 874 and 1086. It means "Worth" or "enclosure" of a man named Kaggi, the Danish name for Redbeard.
It was recorded in the Doomsday Book as being held by Earl Harold Godwin, who became the last of the Saxon kings. After Harold's defeat at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 the Earl Hugh of Chester was given the land by William The Conqueror. It was know in those days as Cachworde, Caggworth and Cogga.
After the Royalists defeated Simon de Montfort in 1265, estates gained by the Earl of Gloucester included land in Kegworth. The privilege to hold a weekly market was granted in 1290.
The earliest surviving building as one would expect, is the church The tower base dates from 1250 and the rest was built in 1370 when the two manors of Kegworth were united under a single Lord of the Manor.
The next oldest building visible is the cruck cottage forming the street front of the Cottage Restaurant. This is 15th Century, but the stucco covering conceals its age. Many other buildings similarly hide their oldest parts under stucco or modern fronts as at the top of Packington Hill, where early 18th Century timber frames show at the rear.
Many buildings in the High Street and London Road date from the 18th Century when the main London - Manchester Road went up the High Street and down Packington Hill. Some were town houses, others farm houses with yards. Most of the latter have had their yards subsequently built on. The barn of number 55 High Street was demolished in 1979 to make room for another house, but the farm yard of number 48 remains, although the farm house was rebuilt in Victorian times.
The internal road system of the village gradually developed as time went on as it became necessary to obtain access to neighbouring villages.
The Romans used a ford across the Trent nearby and a Romano - British farm lies at the end of Long Lane. A Saxon cemetery was found two hundred years ago and the bumps and hollows between the A6 and the Soar may be the remains of a Saxon village.
During the middle ages the Parish was responsible for maintaining the condition of the roads. To try and improve the rough roads in the village, an Act of Parliament was passed in 1555 ordering every man in the parish to work for four [later six] days a year on the roads; each farmer had to provide horses and carts according to his land holding. This continued until the early 18th Century when, with the increase in traffic, it became necessary to change this to paid labour.
Although farming was a large factor in Kegworth life, and still remains on the fringes, industry started in the late 18th Century/early 19th Century with the introduction of Stockingers Shops. Some still exist (e g behind the Britannia) and can be recognised by the long rows of windows on the first floor. As the industry grew, small courtyards of cottages were built in the old farm yards. Women and children also worked when they could, and the hosiery and lace trade were ranked as two of the most important industries in the village from 1841 onwards. The Kegworth hand frame stockingers were highly skilled in the art of making silk stockings and they received many orders from royalty and people of high rank. Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales, the Danish Royal family and the King of Spain were all customers of the stockingers of Kegworth.
Meeting House Yard lay behind the present 'Friends Cottage', and included a Quaker graveyard The last trace of these 'yards' was demolished when the entrance to Australia yard was removed to make way for the Library in High Street .
A depression in the 1890's coincided with the introduction of the internal combustion engine, A motor bike factory was started which developed into the present Slack and Parrs.
Domestic service was also important. In 1851 as many as 121 people were described as servants, housekeepers or Charwomen. In 1899 their work was arduous with long hours, and the restricted personal freedom and the lack of privacy was poor by the standards of today but at the time they counted themselves lucky to be fed, clothed and housed.
Industrialisation was the beginning of the end of this era in Kegworth's history, but there were still socks and stockings being made in the village as late as the 1940's.
Despite the growth in trade and manufacturing, there was only a very slight increase in population during the 19th century. The number of inhabitants rose from 1416 people in 1801 to 2078 a century later, but with actual decline in some decades, today there are approximately 3,500 people living in the village with 1,500 houses.
Kegworth has always prospered from its advantages of trade and routes Originally these were farming, road and river, later textiles, rail and canal, and now light industry, motorway and airport. It has been lucky in having relative prosperity and slow but steady growth which has given it the character of a friendly, active community.
Kegworth was part of the Rural district of Castle Donington until 1974 when it became part of the District of North West Leicestershire, whose administrative centre is located at Coalville.
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