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Rearsby's history: people


Rearsby gets its name from the Danes, who established a settlement here during the 9th century. It is believed the name means 'Hreiorar's by' or 'Hreirorar's farm'. The suffix 'by' indicates 'settlement'.

The landowners/ influential families
Before the Norman Conquest, Alnod, probably a younger brother of King Harold, was an important landholder in Rearsby. After the Domesday Survey (1086), the land was divided among four Normans who were totally remote from the people who farmed the land.

In the 13th and 14th centuries the manorial rights were held by three influential families, all descendants of the Norman aristocracy: the Chamberlains, the Nevilles and the Folvilles. Over time the manorial rights passed into other families, and by the end of the 16th century, the names that predominate are Keble, Noble and Sacheverell, all representatives of the emerging yeoman class. Among the other influential families in Rearsby down the years have been the Ortons (with their clerical connections), the Hubberts (Willam Hubbert built Rearsby Old Hall) and the Pochins (who lived in Brook House before moving to Barkby).

The villagers
At the time of the Domesday Survey, Rearsby consisted of a villein, who held land from the lord of the Manor of Barrow, three bordars (who held smallholdings on the land and worked for the villein) and a priest. With their families they amounted to about 25 people.

In 1377 there were 77 residents and two centuries later somewhere in the region of 125. By 1676 the population of the village had risen to 260.

Rearsby remained an enclosed farming community, with virtually everyone living from the land until the end of the 18th century. Enclosure changed all that by allocating the land to specific people who continued to make a good living from it, and in some cases a profit. Unfortunately it left others, who had been used to self sufficiency, with nothing. These became the 'poor' of the village and were supported by benefactors such as the Reverend John Orton and.accommodated in workhouses.

The people of Rearsby eventually turned their hand to other things. One of the chief occupations in Leicestershire in the 19th century was framework knitting and many Rearsby inhabitants were involved in this cottage industry, making mainly socks. In 1844 there were 70 knitting frames in the village. (Eventually the work was transferred to factories in Leicester and Loughborough and Rearsby's hosiery industry declined.)

By the time of Queen Victoria's reign, the following traders ran businesses in Rearsby: baker, blacksmith, bonnetmaker, brewer, builder, butcher, coal dealer, draper, dressmaker, druggist, grocer, jobber, joiner, maltster, miller, plumber, shoemaker, stone/marble mason, tailor, victualler, wheelwright

At the turn of the 20th century, Rearsby was still essentially a small agricultural village clustered round Mill Road, Brook Street, Brookside and the Melton Road. It had a population of only 427. With the coming of the rail and bus services people began travelling away to their places of work and as a result the village's own trades began to decline. Kelly's 1936 Directory lists the following traders doing business in Rearsby: baker, bootmaker, builder, butcher, district nurse, farmer, grocer, hairdresser, motor engineer, nurseryman, plumber, shopkeeper, victualler.

Today, there are few visible signs of trading left in the village. However, with a population now nearing 1,000, it has its fair share of people working or running businesses from home. (For a list of all the known businesses operating from Rearsby, click here.)

Rearsby's war heroes
Rearsby Parish Church War Memorial commemorates the following Rearsby men who lost their lives serving their countries during the first and second world wars.

First World War (The Great War): 1914 to 1918 Second World War: 1939 to 1945
Albert Edward BENSKIN
Walter Ernest DEWICK
Gerald Edgar ELLIS
Robert George HASSALL
George HILL
Thomas SHARP
Thomas Arthur TYERS
John Roy TYERS
Arthur Edmund WRIGHT

Edward NEAL
Frederick George WOODCOCK

Fuller details and further information on the names listed can be obtained from George Friendship. Email:CAmicitia@aol.com