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Measham is a large village in the North West Leicestershire district in Leicestershire, England, near the Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Warwickshireboundaries. It lies off the A42, 4½ miles (7.25 km) south of Ashby de la Zouch, in the National Forest.[2] Historically it was in an exclave of Derbyshireabsorbed into Leicestershire in 1897.[3][4] The name is thought to mean “homestead on the River Mease“.[5] The village was once part of Derbyshire before being transferred to Leicestershire

Early history

The name Meas-Ham suggests it was founded in the Saxon period between 350 and 1000 CE.[6]

Just before the Norman Conquest of 1066, the village belonged to “Earl Algar”. The Domesday Book of 1086 has it belonging directly to the King, as part of a royal estate centred at Repton.[7][8] Its taxable value was assessed at a mere 2 geld units, containing land for three ploughs, 20 acres (8 ha) of meadow, and a square furlong (10 acres, 4 ha) of woodland.[7]

Middle Ages

The manor passed from the crown to the Earls of Chester.[9] In 1235 it was in the possession of Clementia (Clemence de Fougères), widow of Ranulf de Blondeville, 6th Earl of Chester.[9] Measham Museum states that the manor belonged to the De Measham family, which held it until 1308.[10] Given the ownership by the crown and then the Earls of Chester, neither actually resident, it appears the De Measham family held the manor as feudal tenants, rather than formal owners, probably in return for military service.

By the 13th century, the rights to the church appear to have passed to Repton Priory, as in 1272 King Henry III issued a charter including Measham among several churches and chapelries it possessed.[11] The original chapel of ease dated from 1172, but the present St Laurence’s Church was built in 1340, under the auspices of Repton Priory.[10]

On 24 March 1311, King Edward II granted charters to William de Bereford, Lord of the Manor of Measham, to hold a market and a fair.[12] The charters allowed for a market on Tuesdays and an annual three-day fair around the festival of the Translation of St Thomas the Martyr (7 July).[9][12] By 1817 both market and fair had ceased.[9]

This medieval settlement is thought to have been mainly agricultural, but coalmining is known to have taken place as early as the 13th century. Indeed, William De Bereford died getting coal; records of his death show the village’s coal resources to have been worth 13s 4d (£0.67) a year.[10]

In 1355, Edmund de Bereford, son of William, died leaving the manor of Measham to three heirs: Joan de Ellesfield, John de Maltravers and Margaret de Audley.[9] During the 15th century, the manor came into the hands of Walter Blount, 1st Baron Mountjoy.[10] In 1454, the manor was in the possession of Sir William Babington at the time of his death; and in 1474 it was in the possession of John Babington (presumably his son).[9]

16th–17th centuries

In 1596 Measham was dismissed by William Wyrley as “a village belonging to Lord Shefield, in which are many coal mines, [but] little else worthy of remembrance.” It was omitted altogether from Richard Blome’s gazetteer of market towns in 1673.

In 1563 the manor belonged to Walter Blount, 1st Baron Mountjoy. However, by 1616 it had passed to Sir Francis Anderson, only to return to the Sheffield family, as it was owned by Edmund Sheffield, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and Normanby in 1712.[9]

18th–19th centuries

Measham Hall: Built 1767, demolished 1959 due to mining subsidence

The manor passed to William Wollaston. He sold it in 1780 to Joseph Wilkes for £50,000, on whose death it was bought by Rev. Thomas Fisher.[9][10][13] In 1767, William Abney built an alternative manor at Measham Field, north-east of the village, which by 1817 had passed to his son Edward.[9] This would become known as Measham Hall, a seven-bay mid-Georgian mansion. However, the advent of coalmining caused the Hall to suffer subsidence. It was demolished by the National Coal Board in 1959.[13][14]

By the early 19th century, Measham church was still associated with Repton parish, as a “parochial chapelry”.[9]

Industry

Sundial commemorating Joseph Wilkes, by the artist Steve Field, erected in 2009, near the former railway station

Around the time of Joseph Wilkes, Measham went through a prosperous period associated with the Industrial Revolution. This lasted into the 20th century.[10] At the beginning of the 19th century, Ashby Canal was built through the village. The Ashby and Nuneaton Joint Railway followed, opening towards the end of the century. The village was also on the main Birmingham–Nottingham road (later the A453). It became a hub of local industry, famous for its brickworks: Joseph Wilkes’s “Jumb Bricks” were enlarged to reduce payments of brick tax.[10][15] The village industry included banking, breweries, coal mines and brick-making (with clay from local clay pits), a tramway, and boot, lace, cotton, carding and bleach mills.[10][13]

A market hall was said to have been built by Wilkes about the turn of the 19th century, but by 1817 the market had ceased and the market-house at 58 High Street was being converted into a dwelling.[9] This later became known as Cross House. The original market place was an area to the rear in Queen Street, now a car park.[13]

The village Baptist chapel was built in 1811, although Baptist ministers had been active since the 1730s. A Temperance Hall built in 1852 now serves as the Age Concern building.[9]

In 1839 the village received an official visit from Queen Adelaide, who in her widowhood frequented the area, staying at nearby Gopsall Park, home of her previous Lord Chamberlain, The Earl of Howe. Queen Street was named in her honour after her visit.[16]

Measham High Street

By 1848 the population had reached 1,615.[16] A further Methodist chapel and a Catholic church were built. The latter, funded by a local lady aristocrat, has since been demolished for housing.

20th–21st centuries

Measham Station before renovation

Measham continued to grow residentially and industrially in the 20th and 21st centuries. Large council and private housing estates were built and the population reached 4,849 in 2001. Development of a British Car Auctions site in the south-west of the village after the Second World War prompted what has become the Westminster Industrial Estate.[13]

The 20th century also brought periods of sharp decline. Passenger services on the Ashby and Nuneaton Joint Railway ceased in 1931.[17] Freight traffic continued until 1971, after which the line was dismantled.[17] Ashby Canal similarly closed in 1957. The traditional industries began to die, with the boot and shoe factory closing in the 1960s and Measham Colliery in 1986.[13] The 1960s saw many of the village’s fine buildings demolished, including the Manor House, Measham Hall and the Vicarage.[13]

Development has resumed in recent years. Years of neglect and disrepair at Measham’s former railway station ended when it was turned into new premises for the Measham Museum. The old engine sheds have become industrial workshops and the engine yards a millennium garden and public green space. A new library and a leisure centre were also built in the last decade, and there are plans to resuscitate the canal. Due to housing being constructed along the original route through Measham, the canal will follow the route of the old railway, with a wharf, adjacent visitors’ centre, shops and cafés planned for the village centre.