EVINGTON VILLAGE HERITAGE TRAIL
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. Hugh 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.
This route around Evington will give you more information about the village.
Start this tour in front of Evington House, which is located in Evington Park LE5 6DE
A Evington House stands on land that was a deer park after the Norman Conquest. In 1735 the land was bought by the famous botanist and physician, Dr James Sherard. Evington House was extended in 1836 by John Burnaby who bought the house for his retirement for himself, his wife and unmarried daughters. During WW1 it was a V.A.D. (Voluntary Aided Detatchment) hospital. In 1919 it was sold to Frank Pochin (a Leicester manufacturer) and in 1931 it was sold to Tom Trevor Sawday, a major architect in Leicester. During the Second World War it was the headquarters of the Evington Home Guard. In 1947 the Estate was sold by the Sawday family to Leicester Corporation and opened to the public in 1948. There is good reason to believe that there has been a building on this site for a very long time.
Follow the path leading from the main doorway of Evington House and leave the Park by the Main Entrance.
B Opposite you is the Wycliffe United Reformed Church.
John Wycliffe was a 14thcentury scholar, philosopher, lay preacher and translator. He was an early radical reformer who was one of the earliest opponents of papal authority influencing secular power. He translated the Bible into the common language – the Wycliffe Bible. Today the Church supports a charity called Community of Grace that runs a hostel for homeless men. It also supports a project called Graceworks where the garden behind the church is growing fresh produce and running a weekly community drop-in called a ‘Place of Welcome’. During the pandemic Graceworks has been growing food to give to people who need extra support.
Continuing along the Common having turned left from the Park entrance you will see another building called The Youth Club
C The Youth Club
The Youth Club was opened as Evington Boys’ Club in 1964 by singer of traditional pop music, Frankie Vaughan (1928-1999) who was also much involved with youth work and the social problems of the young.
Further along The Common and on your left and on the opposite side of the road you will see the main Car Park for Evington House.
D Old Buildings. Inside the Evington Park car park are the old buildings that used to be part of the farm on the estate called Home Farm.
Continue in the same direction along The Common until you come to the junction and see Evington Library on your right.
E Evington Library
From the end of The Common turn left into Main Street. On the right you will see a precinct of shops. This is the site of the Old Evington School
- F The Village School (partly on the left of the picture above) stood in Puck’s Lane (the old local name for the road to Leicester now called Evington Lane) and partly in Main Street. This school was built by the Burnaby family and run under the National Society for Promoting Religious Education. This school provided elementary education to the children of the poor, in accordance with the teachings of the Church of England. It was transferred to the Leicester Education Committee in 1935.
Continue along Main Street in the same direction until you come to a large building called The Cedars
- G The Cedars, previously a large private house, became a public house when the licence from the Horse and Groom public house was transferred in 1938. Shortly after this The Horse and Groom was demolished. The Cedars is built in a 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.
Continue along Main Street in the same direction until you come to Evington Chapel
H 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.
Still continue along Main Street until you see a large building on your right called ‘Carers Direct’.
I The building you see has a striking green roof and a small garden in front of it. Carers Direct took over from the Co-op shop. Before that there were old thatched cottages on this site. The cottages were demolished in 1939 when Spencefield Lane was widened. Further up the road you will see the old police house.
J The War Memorial was built in 1919 on Evington Village Green, formerly known as the Recreation Ground and before that as Kings’ Orchard. This land was given to the people of Leicester by Mr. J. E. Faire, JP. In 1938 it was moved to its present position. In 2014 Friends of Evington and Leicester City Council funded a refurbishment with support from Heritage Lottery. A time capsule is buried under the slabs.
Start to walk along Church Road, turning right from Main Street. On the left you will see Claremont House.
K Claremont House. This house was part of a farm called Elms Farm. In Victorian times, the farmer living there was nicknamed ‘Piggy Wilson’ because he kept pigs on the moated site at Piggy’s Hollow and he would smear the sides of the moat with manure to discourage the children from tobogganing there.
Cross the road and find a gap in the hedge that takes you onto Evington Village Green which was formerly known as the Recreation Ground. Walk past the play equipment to find another gap in the hedge that takes you into High Street. (If muddy, you can retrace your steps along Main Street until you find High Street on your right.)
L An old cottage in High Street was carefully restored by its owner and is called a Cruck cottage because of its roof’s construction.
Continue to walk along High Street in the opposite direction to Main Street
M 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.
Continue walking to the end of High Street and then immediately opposite you will see Evington Village Hall.
N 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. 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.
The picture shows the foundation stone laying on 4thJune 1912. On this wet day a large and representative gathering assembled on the site. Mr. Faire, (full figure on right of picture) in the name of the Trustees, was called to lay the stone. He received a trowel made of silver and ivory from the subscribers to the Hall.
Continue along Church Road in a direction away from the village until you see a large modern house.
O Old barn, Church Road, opposite St. Denys Church
The modern house stands on the site of old cottages that were demolished in 1988. An old 14thcentury barn has been incorporated within this modern house. The old beams probably came from ships. The barn has mud and straw wall.
Continue along Church Road to St. Denys Church. Opposite the main church door you will see a gate with a sign on it about Piggy’s Hollow. Go through the gate and a one-minute walk takes you to Piggy’s Hollow.
P Piggy’s Hollow
This reconstruction drawing is reproduced by kind permission of Leicestershire Museums. Many buildings in this drawing are modelled on Donington-le-Heath Manor House, and not based on archaeological evidence at this site.
In the 13thand 14thcenturies, the de Greys of Codnor may have had a Manor House on this site surrounded by a moat and fish ponds. It is thought there would have been a bridge across the moat and the site itself was large enough for barns and an orchard and possibly a gate-house. There was also a medieval deer park, windmill and water-mill. The fishponds are still visible.
In May 2019, an archaeologist from Leicester University carried out a geophysical survey using a magnetometry survey and a resistivity survey. She found that besides disturbances showing that materials had been removed from the site, there was good indications of remaining building material and hole posts. The archaeologist compared this site with the moated site at Bradgate which had undergone a more extensive investigation and she questioned why the Bradgate Park moated site had historical documents recording a Hunter’s Lodge and the Evington site recorded a Manor House.
There still isn’t enough first hand archaeological evidence from the Piggy’s Hollow site to be certain what was there in the medieval days. We do know that nothing was recorded on the 1627 map.
Retrace your steps back to St. Denys Church
Q St. Denys Church
On 9thOctober 2019, St. Denys Church celebrated 800 years since it was first dedicated by the Bishop of Lincoln. The church is built in a mixture of local stones. The earliest surviving part of the church dates from the 13thCentury when there was a chancel, nave and West tower. The whole church was extensively restored in 1840.
Here are some facts. The font in Norman in origin.
The church originally had four bells, now there are six.
A stained-glass window remembers Archibald Bowell who was killed in a battle of
the Somme in 1916.
In WW2 the US Airborne Division were billeted in Evington
and gave the gift of a flag to the church as a thank-you.
The church has a parish centre that was built in 2013.
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 street parking 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).
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/
From this link you can use the search button (top right on the home page) to find articles about Piggy’s Hollow, the Cedars, John Edward Faire, Evington Heritage Village, Evington Village War Memorial Restoration Project 2014, Evington’s VAD Hospital, World War 1 project, Shady Lane POW camp and Stoughton Grange.
Leicester City Council http://www.leicester.gov.uk/then use the search button for A-Z and under A look at “A City to Enjoy’. Under C look for Conservation. Under P look for Parks in Leicester.
St. Denys Church http://www.stdenys.org.uk/