Hinckley, a market-town, head of a county court district, a township, and a parish in Leicestershire, is 14 miles SW from Leicester, 13 NNW from Coventry, 100 NW by N from London, and 4 ENE from Nuneaton. The Ashby-de-la-Zonch Canal runs through the parish, 1½ mile SW. The Watling Street, being 2 miles S and W, forms the boundary between Leicestershire and Warwickshire. The L. & N.W.R., Leicester and Nnneaton branch, and the M.R. from Leicester to Birmingham over the same line, have joint passenger and goods stations here. The town stands partly on an elevated plateau, and for some distance beyond on the old Leicester Road. Nichol's History mentions it as " the highest table in the kingdom, and from which some fifty churches may be seen." It is known as Beacon Hill, and, as the crow flies, would be between 4 and 5 miles from High Cross, where the Watling Street and the Fosse Way cross, called the centre of England-Wycliffe's Church, Lutter-worth, being 5 miles beyond High Cross.
A castle formerly stood near the top of Castle Street, now known as Castle Hill; .the mound and a portion of the moat is still in existence. This castle was built by Sir Hugh de Grentemaisnell (the second son of a potent Norman baron who came over in the train of the Conqueror), created Lord High Steward of England and Baron of Hinckley, then the most considerable landholder in the county. He also caused the parish church to be built, the appropriation of which he granted to the Abbey of Lyra in Normandy, for whom he also founded an alien priory for Benedictine monks, and erected a large and convenient House for their reception-long since demolished. At the close of his life, being aged and infirm, he took upon him, in 1094, the habit of a monk at St Ebrulf's Abbey in Normandy, which he restored, dying six days after, and was honourably buried in the chapter-house. This priory had the fate of all foreign cells of being often seized into the king's hands during the wars with France, and at length was wholly suppressed in the parliament at Leicester in 1414. It had been given for a time to the Carthusian priory of Montgrace in Yorkshire by King Richard II., and was wholly annexed to the same by King Henry VI. After the dissolution of Montgrace, the priory lands and church of Hinckley were granted by Henry VIII. (in exchange) to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, who continued the impropriators and patrons until about twenty-five years ago, when the lands were taken over by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, the patronage being since vested in the Bishop of Peterborough. The castle is traditionally said to have been inhabited by John. of Gaunt, fourth son of King Edward III., and heir to the honours and estates of the Earls of Leicester; the lordship was undoubtedly his. From him it descended to Henry of Bolingbroke, afterwards King Henry VI., by whose accession to the throne it passed, with the Duchy of Lancaster, into the possession of the Crown. Thus the office of High Steward, which belonged solely to the Barony of Hinckley, finally merged into the Crown, and has never been granted out except on special occasions, such as coronations, trials of peers, &c., and then only for the time being. Cognizances of John of Gaunt, " The Blazing Sun," were amongst the fragmentary old-stained glass in the east window of the church, removed in 1862.
The castle was most probably demolished and plundered by the victorious Yorkists about 1460, or between that period and 1485, as it was in ruins when Leiand wrote in the time of Henry VIII., and Burton (1622) states the castle was " utterly minated and gone, only the mount, rampires, and trenches " were to be seen. The present house was huilt in 1770. The parish church is dedicated to St Mary, and has a massive tower and spire 150 feet high, nave of five bays, N and S aisles, and chancel. Its principal architectural features were of the Decorated period, as one of the fine old oak beams, beautifully moulded and carved, and quite sound when removed (at the restoration!} bore testimony-the date 1265 being cut in on the top side. It was partly rebuilt and enlarged in 1875-80, the aisles and transepts being pulled down and extended laterally, with double transepts or chancel aisles, that on the south forming an organ chamber, vestry, and morning chapel, the north being seated. There is a fine peal of eight bells. The registers date from 1554. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Peterborough; gross value,, £300 with residence, in the gift of the Bishop of Peterborough. Holy Trinity is an ecclesiastical parish formed in 1843. The church is a plain brick building with stone front. It is a vicarage; gross value, £300 with residence. St Peter's Roman Catholic chapel, Dominican, was built in 1824 and enlarged in 1885. There is a large educational establishment in connection with it called St Peter's Priory. There are Unitarian, General Baptist, Particular Baptist, Congregational, Primitive Methodist, and Wesleyan chapels. A new grammar school, with master's residence, on the Leicester Road, was erected in 1894. It is supposed the old charter was suppressed during the Wars of the Roses-Hinckley taking part with the Lancastrians- the two liberties, the Borough and the Bond, remaining, and a mayor, constables, and headboroughs being annually appointed at the Court Baron, which was superseded on the formation of the local board in 1868. The market is held on Mondays, and fairs on the first, second, and third Mondays after the Epiphany, Easter Monday, the Monday before Whit-Monday, and Whit-Monday, Aug. 26, the once celebrated fair mentioned in Shakespeare, and the first Monday in November. The statute fair-middle of September-has nearly died out. There is a handsome free library, also a police station, with house for the superintendent of the county police; and a police court adjoins the same, which is also used for the county courts. There are a head post office, two principal hotels, and two banks. Area of the parish, 3363 acres; population, 9638. The first stocking frame was brought to Hinckley in 1640. The manufacture of all classes of hosiery, boots, shoes, and clothing is now very considerable, and increasing largely year by year.
The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.
|Ecclesiastical parish||Hinckley St. Mary|
|Poor Law union||Hinckley|
Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.
The cemetery, in the Ashby road, opened in 1858, and enlarged in 1897, is eight acres in extent, with two mortuary chapels.
The parish registers date from the year 1554, and are in good condition. The register of Holy Trinity dates from the year 1843.
Findmypast, in association with the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland, have the following parish records online for Hinckley, Holy Trinity:
Findmypast, in association with the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland, have the following parish records online for Hinckley, St Mary's:
Church of England
Holy Trinity is an ecclesiastical parish, formed in 1838: the church is a building of granite in the Decorated Gothic style, erected in 1909-10, at a cost of about £5,000, to replace the original brick structure, and consists at present of chancel, nave, north aisle and vestries: there is a stained glass window in the north aisle, and the east window contains some memorial panels transferred from the old church: a stained window was erected in 1921, as a memorial to the men connected with the parish who fell in the Great War, 1914-18: there are 460 sittings.
St. Mary (parish church)
The parish church of St. Mary is a building of stone, principally in the Decorated style, the tower and nave dating from the 13th century: it consists of chancel with chapels, nave of five bays with clerestory, transepts, aisles, vestry, north porch and an embattled western tower, with pinnacles and a lofty spire, added at the beginning of the 19th century, 184 feet in height: the tower contains a clock with chimes and a splendid peal of 8 bells dated 1615, 1617, 1792, 1793 and 1825: a new organ was erected in 1908: the stained east window and other windows are memorials: in the chancel is a mural monument to John Onebye, ob. 1662, with figures of himself, his wife and five children, and a white marble tablet to Thomas Morres D.D. d. 1761: on the west wall is an ancient inscribed brass: the town chest of old oak, in good condition, bears the date 1613: the pulpit, and font, of Caen stone, are both modern: the reredos and a screen in the side chapel are memorials to Banastre and Gerald Townley Parker, and to Judith, their mother, and were erected by Capt. R. T. Parker and Miss Parker, at a cost of £200: the church plate consists of a silver paten, given by Elizabeth Wightman in 1639: a silver paten and two chalices, given by the same lady in 1659, and a modern flagon, silver-gilt chalice and paten presented in 1897 by Miss Ida Parker: a reredos was erected in 1920 in memory of the men of the parish who fell in the Great War, 1914-1918; it was designed by Temple Moore esq.; there is also a tablet bearing the names of the fallen: the church was restored during the period 1875-80, at a total cost of £11,000, under the direction of Messrs. William Smith and Ewan Christian, architects, of London: the tower and spire, together with the clock and chimes, were restored in 1897, at a cost of £1,800: there are 1,200 sittings.
St. Paul, Leicester Road
St. Paul's church, in Leicester road, was a temporary building of red brick erected in 1911, at the cost of £850, on a site provided by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. there are 300 sittings.
St. Peters Priory
St. Peter's Priory, built in 1824, and formerly a college for Dominican students, founded by members of that order, who emigrated here from Flanders, has now ceased to be used for that purpose, the students having been transferred in 1898 to Hawkelyard, Rugeley, Staffs: attached is a chapel containing an ancient font, originally in the parish church, and some good paintings: a Calvary was erected in 1923, in memory of the men of the congregation who fell in the Great War, 1914-18.
Hinckley Baptist Chapel
Hinckley Congregational Chapel
Hinckley Methodist Chapel
Hinckley Wesleyan Chapel
Hinckley was a registration district, formed on 1st July 1837, with the following sub-districts: Burbage, Earl Shilton, and Hinckley.
Directories & Gazetteers
We have transcribed the entry for Hinckley from the following:
- Samuel Lewis' A Topographical Dictionary of England, 1848 (Hinckley (St. Mary))
Land and Property
A full transcript of the Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Leicestershire is online.
Online maps of Hinckley are available from a number of sites:
- Bing (Current Ordnance Survey maps).
- Google Streetview.
- National Library of Scotland. (Old maps)
- old-maps.co.uk (Old Ordnance Survey maps to buy).
- Streetmap.co.uk (Current Ordnance Survey maps).
- A Vision of Britain through Time. (Old maps)
Newspapers and Periodicals
The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Leicestershire newspapers online:
Hinckley was the head of a Poor Law Union, formed in 1836, which initially comprised the following parishes: Aston Flamville, Barwell, Burbage, Burton Hastings (Warwickshire), Earl Shilton, Elmesthorpe, Hinckley, Sapcote, Sharnford, Stoney Stanton. The parishes of Higham on the Hill, Stoke Golding, Stretton Baskerville (Warwickshire), and Wigston Parva were all added to the Union at a later date.
For further detailed history of the Hinckley Union see Peter Higginbotham's excellent resource: Hinckley Poor Law Union and Workhouse.
The Hinckley Workhouse, later Hinckley Poor Law Institution, was built in 1837-8, for 150 inmates, on London road.