Evington Heritage Village
WELCOME TO EVINGTON VILLAGE
The origins of the settlement at Evington can be traced back more than 1000 years to Anglo-Saxon times, when the village would have been known as Aefa’s Tun – the settlement of Aefa’s people. The village is mentioned in the Domesday survey of 1086, where Hugh de Grentemesnil is listed as the principal landowner in Avintone; de Grentemesnil used the land as a deer park.
The geographical features of the village provide explanation for settlement in the area – the village is set on a plateau about 100m above sea level, offering a drier and better drained site for settlement than that in the valley of the Evington Brook to the south.
The village had been owned by many people, including Simon de Montfort in the thirteenth century, until owner Thomas Powys Keck sold his estate after the First World War to the Co-operative Wholesale Society who then became owners of most of the property in the village. In 1936 the civil parish of Evington was dissolved and most of it transferred to Leicester.
Until the twentieth century Evington had derived its existence primarily from farming and its associated industries. However, improvements in public transport, the availability of land and the inclusion of the village within the boundary of the City of Leicester during the 1920s and 1930s were the catalysts for Evington’s transformation into its present role as a residential suburb of Leicester.
Evington Village has been designated a conservation area since November 1989.
The Baptist Chapel
The Baptist Chapel located on High Street is a Grade II listed building. Completed in 1837 the architecture of the chapel is in the Gothic style, popular at that time, but unusual for a non-conformist chapel – this may be because the Baptist congregation, having split from the Anglican Church of St Denys, still preferred a similar type of formal architecture.
Inside the chapel a royal connection can be found. Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort, was an organ enthusiast and had an organ built for one of the royal palaces; when he came to replace the organ with a larger one, the original was offered for sale. It was bought by Evington Chapel and is still played at every service.
The Cedars, once a large private house, is now a Public House located on the corner of Main Street and School Lane. It is of simple classic style with a stuccoed frontage and double columned entrance.
It was built in 1838 by wealthy Samuel Davenport, probably for his own use.
Later long term residents included three wealthy spinster sisters from the Moore family – Anne, Mary, and Cleopatra. They were the sisters of Evington’s vicar Rev. William Burton Moore.
It was also the home of novelist E. Phillips Oppenheim – a Leicester man who wrote and published 168 mystery novels and short stories. ‘Mr Marx’s Secret’, published in 1899, has a Leicestershire setting and ‘The Kingdom of the Blind’, published in 1916, was thought to be his best novel. Probably his most successful novel was ‘The Great Impersonation’, which was published in 1920 and sold over one million copies. A blue plaque in the entrance lobby commemorates Oppenheim’s links to the village of Evington. Other occupiers included Disney Barlow of Liberty Shoes Ltd. One of the last private residents was Harry Bollard, a director of Mapperley Colliery.
Samuel Frederick Hanson was the first landlord of The Cedars when it opened in 1938 after the license was transferred from the old Horse and Groom Public House across the road.
The Church of St Denys
The Church of St Denys is the oldest surviving building in Evington village dating from the thirteenth century, although the current building probably replaced an earlier timber structure. On 9th October 2019 the church will be celebrating 800 years since it was first dedicated by the Bishop of Lincoln.
The church was built in a mixture of local stones. Several areas of the church have been rebuilt and restored but the original tower and spire still stand today. In 2014 a new parish centre was officially opened by the Bishop of Leicester.
Interesting features include the original thirteenth century font which still stands in the church; its design is of late eleventh century Norman origin. The church originally had only four bells, the earliest of which dates to 1605. A bell was added in 1990 and a further bell in 1994 to commemorate the 775th anniversary of the church. Two flags from the US Airborne Division are laid up in the church. They were left as a gift, as soldiers from this division were billeted in the nearby camp on Shady Lane during World War ll and prior to D-Day.
Find out more about the St Denys Church on its website. http://vica80.wix.com/stdenys
High Street Cottages
At one time, the cottages in High Street were referred to as ‘Stockingers’ Cottages’. This term comes from the days before the hosiery and knitwear industry in Leicester entered the factory stage. Knitting was then carried out in people’s homes on old-fashioned stocking frames. The yarn would be supplied by a merchant in Leicester and the finished garment lengths collected, usually once a week.
This cottage industry, framework knitting, could not compete when steam powered machines were gradually introduced from the 1850s. There was rapid technical progress from the 1870s, and by the start of the twentieth century the factory system was firmly established and framework knitting was in terminal decline.
Evington Village Hall
By 1911, it was clear that Evington needed a centre for village activities and at a meeting held in December that year a Trust Deed was drawn up. The Village Hall is a brick building on Church Lane opposite St Denys Church. John Edward Faire, a wealthy benefactor was made Chairman of the Trustees. The cost came to approximately £1147, including £94-5s-9d (£94.29) to Mr. Powys-Keck of Stoughton Grange for the site. Every household in both Stoughton and Evington was asked for a donation. There were also fetes and other fundraising events. On 4th June 1912, after village consultation and having written to the King to ask permission to use his name, John Faire laid the foundation stone naming it King George V Hall. On 24th October the hall was officially opened by the Duchess of Rutland and every person under 21 years living in the village was given a medal.
The hall continues to be run by its management committee and is available for bookings.
For more information about John Faire search: www.evingtonecho.co.uk
Evington House and Park
After the Norman Conquest the land was a deer park. In 1735 the land was bought by the famous botanist and physician, Dr. James Sherard.
Evington House was built in the middle of the large grounds in 1836, by John Burnaby of the Grenadier Guards who had fought at Waterloo. It was built as a retirement house for himself, and a home for his wife and their unmarried daughters. It was later owned or let out to various families.
During the First World War it was used as a Voluntary Aided Detachment (V.A.D) hospital and named Knighton V.A.D. Hospital or VAD Leicester 4. The commandant was Miss Alice Henderson and in 1919 she wrote about life there. www.evingtonecho.co.uk (Search VAD hospital)
In 1919 the house was sold to Frank Pochin (a Leicester manufacturer) and in 1931 it was bought by Tom Trevor Sawday, a major Leicester architect. Mr. Sawday made many alterations including repositioning the front door entrance to its present position.
During the Second World War the house was the headquarters of the Evington Home Guard. In 1947 the estate was sold by the Sawday family to Leicester Corporation and the public park was opened to the public in 1948.
The house continues to be owned and used by Leicester City Council and is also used by community groups that are managed at the weekends and in the evenings by the Friends of Evington charity.
Evington Village Green
Evington Village Green, also known as Evington Recreation Ground, was never a traditional village green – it only became accessible to the public when the land was gifted by John Faire in 1919 in memory of those who died during World War I. The green lies at the heart of the old village area of Evington and is surrounded by Main Street, High Street and Church Road, effectively creating an island site.
The land had previously been called King’s Orchard because around 1796 the ‘Round Orchard’ of just over two acres was occupied by a George King. Leicester Corporation assumed responsibility for the land in 1937 and it became a recreation ground.
It is now largely open space for recreation, with a large old oak tree in the south-east corner. It also features a children’s playground, which has been extended by the Friends of Evington Village Green following successful grants from Biffa, a commercial environment contractor. There are benches for people to sit on and relax and it is the site of the Evington Village Fete and Show, which is held annually in August and run by local volunteers. The village war memorial is located on the northeast corner. It was designed by Stockdale Harrison & Sons Ltd, and was unveiled on 25 July 1920. Major restoration took place in 2014 to commemorate the start of the First World War.
Piggy’s Hollow is the site of a moated manor house that was built by the Grey family of Codnor, Derbyshire. It is reckoned to be one of the best manorial sites in the county.
The remains of this medieval manor house provide visible archaeological evidence of village history from the thirteenth century. The area, which is protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument, consists of a large rectangular ‘platform’ on which the stone built manor house stood, and was encircled by a moat and fishponds. The moat was fed by a small stream which rose near a spring known as Pinkwell or ‘Spring of the Finches’. It is thought there might have been a bridge across the moat. The site itself was large enough for barns, an orchard and possibly a gatehouse. There was also a medieval deer park, windmill and water-mill.
The area’s distinctive name is thought to come from a local farmer who lived on Church Road and kept pigs in the hollow. Local children enjoyed tobogganing down the slopes and he became so annoyed that he is said to have plastered the sides with manure. He became known as ‘Piggy’ Wilson.
Shady Lane Arboretum
Shady Lane was created in about 1850 to divert traffic away from Stoughton Grange, a large country house (now demolished) to the east of the village.
From 1942 the site was in military use. This was the base of the American 50th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War II and then, after D-Day, the area became a Prisoner of War camp. After the war squatters lived in the surviving huts which were finally demolished in 1958.
Leicester City Council established the Evington Arboretum in 1970 as its contribution to European Conservation Year.
This is one of the most popular open spaces on the eastern edge of the City and is well loved by visitors and local residents alike for its unique combination of recreational, botanical, wildlife and historical features.
Located on Shady Lane, to the East of the Golf Course, there are over 500 species of trees to admire and an area that has been developed for memorial planting. The Nature Area boasts rare wild flowers, river birds, owls and woodpeckers.
Find out more about Shady Lane Arboretum on the Leicester City Council website. http://www.leicester.gov.uk/your-council-services/lc/parks-green-spaces/local-parks/shady-lane-arboretum/
Getting to Evington
The city of Leicester is two hours from London, two hours from Manchester and one hour from Birmingham by car. From Birmingham, Wales or the South-West the M6 and M69 provide access to Leicester via junctions 21 or 22. From the city centre, Evington Village can be accessed by exiting the inner ring road (A594) onto the A6 and continuing on to Evington Road. Evington Road runs directly to Evington Lane then onto Main Street, in the heart of the old village.
Public car park – The Common, close to the Library and village heritage sites.
The Cedars Public House – Parking for patrons.
Residential streets – is allowed in several streets near to the village centre.
Busses 22, 22a, 22b and 22c depart from the city centre for Evington Village.
For more information on bus routes from the city centre, please visit Leicester City Council transport pages. http://www.leicester.gov.uk/your-council-services/transport-traffic/transportpolicy/sustainable-team-homepage/buses-public-transport/
By Train or Coach
Leicester railway station is ideally situated, being only a few minutes walk from the city centre. Leicester is on the East Midlands train line running between London St Pancras and South Yorkshire. Direct trains from London take only 75 minutes.
Bus and coach services arrive at St Margaret’s Bus Station which is very close to Highcross shopping centre. London to Leicester by coach takes just under 3 hours.
Both the railway station and coach station are located within walking distance to bus services connecting to Evington.
Books for further reading
Banner, John W., St. Denys Parish Church, Evington, Leicester, (J. C. Culpin, 1985).
Leicester City Council, A Short History of Evington Park, (Leicester City Council, 2001).
Friends of Evington Old Evington Trail from Evington Park to St. Denys Church (Friends of Evington 2015)
Liddle, Peter, A Guide to 20 Archaeological Sites in Leicestershire, (Leicestershire Museums, Art Galleries and Records Service, 1983).
Mackintosh, A. W. P., Bygone Evington, (A. W. P. Mackintosh, 1985).
Snow, E. E., E. Phillips Oppenheim: Storyteller: 1866 to 1946, (Evington, 1985).
Wilshere, J. E. O., Old Evington, (Leicester Research Services, 1983).
Websites with useful information and further reading
Friends of Evington, http://www.evingtonecho.co.uk/tag/evington-history-and-heritage/
Leicester City Council, Evington Village Conservation Area http://www.leicester.gov.uk/your-council-services/ep/planning/conservation/conservationareas/conservationareasleicester/evington-village/
Leicester City Council, Evington Village Open Spaces http://www.leicester.gov.uk/your-council-services/lc/lcconsultations/mpattchmnts/plans-for-consultation/evington-village-open-spaces/
Leicester City Council, Evington Village War Memorial http://www.leicester.gov.uk/your-council-services/lc/growth-and-history/war-memorials/evington-village/
Leicester City Council, Shady Lane Arboretum http://www.leicester.gov.uk/your-council-services/lc/parks-green-spaces/local-parks/shady-lane-arboretum/