Melton Mowbray

Melton Mowbray - North Railway Station - Then and now

North Railway Station – 1970

Melton Mowbray - North Railway Station - Then and now

The so-called Beeching’s cuts of British railways swept across the country in the mid-1960s, dismantling 4,000 miles of railway tracks and closing one-third of the 7,000 railway stations. Lots of them were demolished, with the much-loved architectural Melton Mowbray North railway station buildings and the nearby Scalford Road bridge among the casualties. Dismantling these red brick buildings in 1970 created more light industrial development opportunities with rental units and a bigger cattle market. To the north, the railway embankment survived as a tree-filled corridor, starting as part of the Melton Country Park and continuing as a wildlife corridor up to Scalford. To the south, you can still walk on the old embankment from Nottingham Road up to the back of the Recycling and Household Site, crossing Asfordby Road about halfway. 

Nearly 60 years later, no trace is left on the site of the grand station and the very ornate platform canopies. So pinpointing where the picture of the half-demolished railway station buildings was taken is a guess. Only an early 20th-century detailed georeferenced Ordnance Survey map gives some clarity. It suggests putting my tripod at the very end of Snow Hill.

NLS - Side-by-side - OS Map 25 inch - 1892-1914 and Google Maps 2022 - Detail
NLS – Side-by-side – OS Map 25 inch 1892-1914 and Google Maps 2022
NLS - Side-by-side - OS Map 25 inch - 1892-1914 and Google Maps 2022 - Detail
NLS – Side-by-side – OS Map 25 inch 1892-1914 and Google Maps 2022 – Detail
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1970
1970

Around 2010, Meltonians Steve Weston and John Spence brought the train traffic along the North railway station back to life. They created a remarkable 22 feet long 2mm to 1ft scale diorama. Steven originally built the station buildings, which started this model project. It took the model railway fanatics three years.

Read – Article published on 9th December 2011 on Key Model World website on Melton Mowbray (North) diorama with photographs of Trevor James.

Watch – Interview for Hornby Magazine with John Spence at Model Rail Scotland

Melton Mowbray North opened on 1 September 1879 with services to Nottingham’s London Road station. Routes to Grantham, Newark and Market Harborough opened on 15 December. It was a joint line (click for map) with two providers for passenger traffic: London and North Western Railway and the Great Northern Railway. The main traffic was in coal, ironstone, and general goods. Regular passenger services ceased on 7 December 1953, but summer specials, mainly Leicester to Skegness or Sutton-on-Sea/Mablethorpe, survived until 1962.

Schedule Summer train to Skegness - 1960
Schedule Summer train to Skegness – 1960
Schedule Summer train to Sutton-on-Sea/Mablethorpe - 1960
Schedule Summer train to Sutton-on-Sea/Mablethorpe – 1960

Goods traffic lasted until 1964. So, Dr Richard Beeching, who delivered the controversial report ‘Reshaping of the British Railways’ in 1963, is not entirely to blame for the decline and axing of this railway line.

Watch – Film of the last days of Melton Mowbray (North) featuring Mr Lilley, the last signalman and his grandson Nigel


Carnegie Free Library – 1910s

Melton Mowbray - Free Library - Then and now

A sizeable 30 ft by 20 ft general reading room, a room for ladies, a lending library and a reference library, all heated by hot water pipes and lighted by electricity. That was the interior of the Carnegie Free Library Tudor-style red bricks and stone building, with a 40-feet high tower over the entrance with turret accommodation for a three-dial clock. “The plans were prepared by Edmund Jeeves, architect and surveyor, and the building has been erected by Mr C. Barnes,” wrote the Leicester Daily Post on 27 November 1905. Unfortunately, the building, at the corner of Rosebery Avenue and Thorpe End, and Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church, on the opposite side of Thorpe End, are the only two landmarks surviving in the surrounding area.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) donated £ 2,000 towards the erection and fitting up of a library at Thorpe End. The 19th-century-born Scottish-American steel industrialist became one of the wealthiest Americans in history and a leading and large-scale philanthropist in the United States and the British Empire. “On Thursday afternoon [21 July 1904], in the presence of a large and representative assembly, the foundation-stone of the new Public Free Library was laid by Mr Wm. Willcox, the Chairman of the Free Library Committee,” wrote the Grantham Journal. “The proceedings of Thursday were presided over by Mr Josiph Gill, J.P. (chairman of the Urban District Council).” The comprehensive newspaper article gives a list of important people present. “The chairman, at the outset, said he thought the town was to be congratulated upon the event of that day. It was something many of them had been looking forward to for a long time, and they were glad that the surroundings were so propitious. […] The generation of today was an educated one, and future generations would probably be even more so. That would mean that books must be read, and the thought it was only fitting, in a community such as theirs, that the best of books should be placed within the reach of the inhabitants.

At the event, Mr Gill called upon the architect, Mr Edmund Jeeves, who handed a handsomely-chased silver trowel to Mr Willcox, the inscription on the face of the trowel reading: “Presented to William Willcox, on the occasion of his laying the foundation-stone of the Carnegie Free Library at Melton Mowbray, 21st July, 1904.” Interesting to read in the article is that there is a hidden treasure: “Before the stone was lowered into position, Mr Willcox deposited a bottle in a cavity in the centre of the stone, this containing newspaper cuttings of the Town meetings and the Urban District Council Meetings relating to the Free Library, a bill calling the meeting that day, a portrait of Mr Carnegie, the names of the members of the Committee, architect, builder, and the clerk to the Committee.”

In his speech, Mr Willcox, talked about the life and generous donations of Andrew Carnegie all over the world. “To take our own country, Mr Carnegie has given £19,500 for Free Libraries in Leicestershire alone. Since the passing of the Public Libraries Act, I have been strongly in favour of starting a Free Library in this town, but that was well-nigh impossible without external help, because we are limited to a penny rate, which only produces on our rateable value £120 per year,”

A month before the library’s opening, the Committee published an advertisement for the appointment of a librarian and caretaker, with a salary of £1 a week. “The position might be suitable for a married couple, a lady and a daughter, or two sisters or friends requiring partial occupation.”

Melton Mowbray - Free Library - Grantham Journal - 23 September 1905
Grantham Journal – 23 September 1905

The opening ceremony took place on Thursday, 26 October 1905, a week earlier, as previously announced, to allow the Marquis of Granby to open the Carnegie Free Library. The Leicester Daily Post printed a day later: “But unfortunately a slight accident prevented his lordship fulfilling his engagement, and Mr Willcox kindly stepped into the breach. He had great pleasure in declaring the library open to the public forever and trusted it would prove a benefit to them and to their children in several years to come.”

In 1977 the building became the New Melton Carnegie Museum. Also, the Melton Borough Council Tourist Information Centre moved into the building with effect from Saturday, 4 June 1977.

Melton Mowbray - Free Library - Grantham Journal - 27 May 1977
Grantham Journal – 27 May 1977

With Melton being a renowned centre of fox hunting, a planned refurbishment was allowed, including a fox-hunting display in 2002. A significant building project created a new gallery, study area and community space, which opened in late 2010.

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1910s
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Nottingham Road – Late 1920

Melton Mowbray - Nottingham Road - Then and now

It was mission impossible to stand in the footsteps of the photographer who took this picture nearly a century ago. In the time it took to make the remake more than a car, a pre-1928 Austin Seven Chummy, directly followed by a horse and cart, passed along Nottingham Road. Asking the police, who had just pulled a car off the road for speeding, to hold the traffic, was not an option, so I planted my tripod as close to the roadside as possible. On the left side of the old picture is an AA road sign mentioning Melton Mowbray. Before the 1934 Road Traffic Acts and Regulations Handbook, these black and yellow enamel signs were everywhere. Also, the telephone pole is typically dated to the end 1920s.

The house with the big chimney is marked with the street sign The Crescent. The ornate iron railings, which ran in front of The Crescent, then a row of a few houses, were removed during the Second World War because iron was much needed to make bombs. You can still see the stubs left on the brick wall. Adjacent is a terrasse of four dwellings built around the beginning of the 20th century. Next is Mar Lodge (1896), a house at the corner of Clumber Street. In front, a dog and a lad are walking. Before the arrival of many people into Melton Mowbray in the 1960s, Clumber Street was the end of town. You could see across the fields as far as Melton Hospital from the back wall of the Clumber Street houses.

Next on the left side of Nottingham Road are two pairs of villas, Duff Villas (1894) and Fern Villas (1894). Adjacent is a 1920s dwelling, breaking the composition of the series of villas down the line, Roslyn Villas (1893), an unnamed house, Belmount Villa (1889) and another unnamed dwelling, next to an old entrance to Staveley Park in the 1930 packed with deciduous trees. Now the Pera Building is part of the skyline. On the opposite side of the road, the trees have made way for a narrow grass corridor between Nottingham Road and Greaves Avenue, Staveley Road and the Phoenix House car park. 

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Late 1920s
Late 1920s

Egerton Lodge – 1930s

Melton Mowbray - Egerton Lodge - Then and now

The old postcard highlights a woman pushing a pram on the footpath of the immaculately kept garden in front of Egerton Lodge, now a nursing home, advertised as a prime site in the heart of Melton Mowbray. The garden slopes gently towards the River Eye, in the past mirroring the trees in the water, nowadays overgrown with grass and reed. “I have a photo of me taken in 1933 in front of one of the teardrop-shaped conifers, already full-grown then,” told Derek Robinson. “I don’t know how old they are.” The story goes the conifers were trimmed that way on the orders of Isabella Smith, the Countess of Wilton to mourn the death of her husband, Thomas Egerton, 2nd Earl of Wilton (1799-1882). Possibly the conifers were planted right after Egerton Lodge was built.

The picture is taken from Lady Wilton’s Bridge, which overlooks the adjacent former horse wash. Earlier 19th-century maps indicate its old name: Eye Kettleby Bridge. A stone archway known as the Jerusalem Archway that gave access from the bridge to the garden was reduced to rubble in a drink-driving road traffic collision in June 2021. The structure, dated 1480, was the only surviving feature from the manor house for the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem, which was formerly part of the castle at the rear of Nottingham Street and King Street. A year after its destruction, there is still a gaping hole.

In 1829 the Earl of Wilton ordered to build Egerton Lodge on the site of an earlier house. It was a hunting box and a base for socialising, still looking the same. Only some chimneys were removed. The south-facing raised terrace in front of Egerton Lodge incorporates a low coped sandstone parapet with stone tablets carrying the names of the fallen of both World Wars. The town estate acquired the ornamental gardens and the south terrace in 1929, now known as the Memorial Gardens. In the old postcard, dating from the 1930s, the terrace already features a series of commemorative plaques. The now-present War Memorial was unveiled on 1st August 1948 by Melton’s Victoria Cross Hero Richard ‘Dick’ Burton.

On the left-hand side of the postcard, a white painted building faces the opposite side of Wilton Road. The building, dated 1930, housed Garner and Sons Automobile Engineers. Angie Gott still remembers the petrol pumps in a covered layby, right on the corner of High Street. “Later it became Sharman’s Garage,” recollected Mandy Atkin. “I took my Datsun XR3i in there and I had to leave it overnight. That night the place was broken into and my car was stolen!”

After closure as a garage, the long stretching facade featured four flower wall paintings dedicated to the fallen soldiers as part of the World War I centennial remembrance. Presently the wall displays four pictures of must-see sites in town.

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1930s
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Melton Mowbray - Egerton Lodge - Pre 1929

On a coloured-in postcard, probably from the early 1900s, the Georgian building on the right, named Park House, was the servants’ quarters. The Melton Mowbray Urban District Council (now Melton Council) acquired Egerton Lodge in 1928 and became the town hall. Park House was demolished in 1929 to construct Wilton Road. Also in 1929, the gardens were opened to the public. Behind Egerton Hall were the kitchen gardens with a series of greenhouses. There a car park and a bus station were.

Melton Mowbray - Egerton Lodge - OS Map Side-by-side - 1892-1914 and 2022
Melton Mowbray – Egerton Lodge – OS Map Side-by-side – 1892-1914 and 2022
Melton Mowbray - Egerton Lodge - OS Map Side-by-side - 1949-1971 and 2022
Melton Mowbray – Egerton Lodge – OS Map Side-by-side – 1949-1971 and 2022

Cheapside and South Parade

Melton Mowbray - Cheapside - Then and now

Pictured in the old postcard and the remake from Cheapside, on the left, is South Parade, on the right, opposite Cheapside, and further ahead Nottingham Street, bending to the right. In medieval times South Parade was known as Corn Hill or Corn Market. It was the place where corn was sold until the corn market building was constructed in 1854, further on the right, in Nottingham Street.

Cheapside also has medieval origins, formerly called Bothe Row, relating to the covered market stalls that once lined the street, and latterly Butchers’ Row until 1963, witnessing the commercial activity of the day.

This area is still the focus of town centre retail activity, now a pedestrian area and home of the weekly open-air markets. Surrounding and enclosing Market Place are a wide variety of buildings in different styles, materials and ages all adding to the diverse character of the area. Predominantly three-storey Georgian or early Victorian former townhouses in brick with slate roofs and varied fenestration that have long since been adapted for retail use at ground floor levels with the insertion of shop frontages.

Most buildings are kept, but what drastically changed is the shop front design, not always appropriate to the historic buildings in which they are housed. Several of the buildings in the vicinity are listed, notably, the group of buildings fronting South Parade. From the right are two late-18th century buildings, both with a red brick facade and two late-18th, early-19th century buildings, both with white painted brick. All four buildings have a modern shop front.

Although none of the buildings of Cheapside, on the left, are listed, there is a curiosity about the Cheapside skyline. The building on the far left, only partly visible, has a gothic style tower, which displays many architectural features including arched stained glass windows with stone surrounds and a parapet roof with pinnacles to all four corners.

In front of the Cheapside stores, a preponderance of objects blocks an open street view as it was in the old postcard: a pole supporting CCTV cameras, an information panel with some pictures and the history of Market Place, a green telecommunication cabinet, a telephone booth, a dog poo waste bin, another waste bin and a red pillar box style letterbox, and let’s not forget the mobile pavement signs, almost one for each shop.

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Ankle Hill – 1908

Melton Mowbray - Ankle Hill - Then and now

More than a century ago the foilage met above the middle of the road, reflecting playful shades on the sunny dirt track. Now there are still trees, less though, mostly on the right-hand side. The abundant leafy green feel is gone. In search of the old photographer’s spot I walked up and down Ankle Hill Road and became puzzled because nowhere the road makes a left curve. Did the photographer by accident flip the negative? For sure not, because there is a second picture, taken by the local photographer Till, a few years later, with the same curved road.

Melton Mowbray - Ankle Hill - Then and now

Back home I started digging into the history. A hill just outside the present-day town centre was in the English Civil War (1642–1651), the theatre of the battle between Parliamentarians (Roundheads) and Royalists (Cavaliers). In 1644 a force of 1,500 Royalist men led by Sir Marmaduke Langdale slaughtered on the hill 300 men of the Roundhead garrison commanded by Colonel Rossiter which was stationed in the town. It is said that the blood pooled ankle-deep at its base. The name of Ankle Hill was born. By the 19th century, the northern parts of Ankle Hill and nearby Burton Hill were occupied by inclosed fields with a number of large houses, often hunting lodges: Mowbray Lodge, Warwick Lodge, Wyndham Lodge, Craven Lodge and Wicklow Lodge. The road running over Ankle Hill south-east of the railway station was developed further during the first decade of the 20th century. On the east side plots and houses were bigger than on the west, where two rows of detached houses were built. The street name was Ankle Hill Road. To the west, another road, called Dalby Road ran uphill from Burton End Bridge to the highest point of Ankle Hill. In the early 1920s both road names were unintentionally swapped in error, however, they were never changed back. These days, near Ankle Hill’s highest point, two roads join, leading to Great Dalby: Dalby Road and Ankle Hill Road extended by Warwick Road.

A few days later the proof was out. Standing on the footpath of Dalby Road looking towards Melton Mowbray town, the old Ankle Hill postcard matches the view along the street now called Dalby Road. Research ahead of a remake is more necessary in places where the scene has changed dramatically.

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From Ankle Hill

This old postcard is taken from the present Dalby Road, in the area before the railway bridge.

Melton Mowbray - From Ankle Hill

Burton Street

Melton Mowbray - Anne of Cleves' House - Then and now

An iron plaque dated ERII Jubilee 1977, which was cast at BSC Holwell, describes the brief history of the Anne of Cleves. “This house was built for chantry priests of the Cluniac Order who served the parish church from 12th to 16th century. In 1540 it was included by King Henry VIII as part of the settlement to Anne of Cleves.”The 1977 Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II marked the 25th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II on 6 February 1952. Nobody could ever imagine her reign would last 70 years.

Initially built in 1384 as a dwelling for Parsons in Melton Mowbray, and known as the Manor of Lewes, Anne of Cleves’ House on Burton Street, now a pub, continued to be linked to St. Mary’s Church until the mid-1500s as a Chantry Priests’ house. During the period of dissolution of the Monasteries, Thomas Cromwell gains the lands of the Priory of Lewes. In 1537, following the death of his third wife, Jane Seymour, King Henry VIII began the search for his fourth queen. Cromwell, who was very much in the King’s favour, suggested Anne of Cleves, and Henry agreed after seeing her portrait. Henry went through with the marriage but shortly afterwards changed his mind. Anne agreed to divorce, and their marriage was annulled. As part of her divorce, Anne was gifted Cromwell’s house, who was stripped of his properties and was imprisoned, blamed for his poor matching advice. If she ever visited the place remains a question. Anne outlived King Henry VIII and was known as Lady Anne, Beloved Sister of the King. Cromwell lost more than just his houses; he lost his head as well.

A 1572 deed of sale stipulated that the land previously of the Priory of Lewes “shall forever be free pasture for the inhabitants of Melton Mowbray”. Hence the play area remained in public use. The house and lands were used as a parsonage, called The Old Rectory House. In the 1900s, the building was turned into a restaurant and a tea shop. The Anne of Cleves, for many years a place for wedding receptions and anniversaries, birthday parties, Christmas dinners, good food, and just drink, is still a pub. Many Meltonians hope the building will never lose its character because too few such beautiful buildings have survived all the changes in town.

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Domesday Book

Melton [Mowbray] was a settlement in Domesday Book, in the hundred of Framland and the county of Leicestershire.

It had a recorded population of 18.1 households in 1086 (NB: 18.1 households is an estimate, since multiple places are mentioned in the same entry).

Land of Geoffrey of la Guerche

Melton Mowbray - Domesday Book - Land of Geoffrey of la Guerche
Domesday Book – Land of Geoffrey of la Guerche – Phillimore reference: Leicestershire 29,3
  • Households: 30 villagers. 100 freemen. 27 smallholders. 4 slaves. 2 priests. 
  • Ploughland: 48 ploughlands. 4 lord’s plough teams. 49.5 men’s plough teams. 
  • Other resources: Meadow 104 acres. Woodland 1 * 1 furlongs. 2 mills, value 1 pound 5 shillings. 

Valuation 

  • Annual value to lord: 23 pounds 10 shillings in 1086; 9 pounds 10 shillings when acquired by the 1086 owner.

Owners 


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6 responses to “Melton Mowbray”

  1. Fantastic local knowledge.
    I live on the corner of Woodland Avenue on Burton Road. Mine is the later of three Edwardian properties which I understand were built according to the request of one family. Do you know anymore of the history of mine and the other two houses? Many thanks.

    • Thank you. Unfortunately, I have no info on the properties you mention. Maybe you can have a dig into the archive kept in the Melton Carnegie Museum. They have a rather good collection of well-sorted newspaper cuttings. It is one of the places I always check when researching Melton Borough stories.

  2. I lived in Melton Mowbray in 1959 and again 1961-2. We left for Hong Kong in 1959, and I remember the army camp, our married quarters (house) and all the fields around where we lived I attended Sarsons Secondary School in 1959. Are there any photos from that era?

    • Hello Tim,
      As far as I know there was no large hall on the Carnegie Crescent Estate. The area between Spinney Road and the old Bottesford to Melton Mowbray railway track (to the west), and now still visible in the landscape as a line of trees and scrub was all farmers land with to the north Melton Spinney Farm (still there).
      Regards,
      Estelle

      • Hello Estelle, out of interest to this question I searched the “Friends who like memories of Melton Mowbray”. There was a large house built by Alfred Brocklhurst in the vicinity of the Spinney where the Calvary Estate had since been built in the 1960’s. There is a write up about it and photo of the house on the Freinds site that you could look at. This estate is just below where the newer Carnigue Estate was built later on.

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