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Hinckley (St. Mary)

HINCKLEY (St. Mary), a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, chiefly in the hundred of Sparkenhoe, county of Leicester, but partly in the S. division of the hundred of Knightlow and of the county of Warwick; comprising the chapelries of Dadlington and Stoke-Golding, and the hamlet of Wykin; and containing 7291 inhabitants, of whom 6356 are in the town, 13 miles (S. W. by W.) from Leicester, and 100 (N. W. by N.) from London. This place was created a barony soon after the Conquest, and was held by Hugh de Grentismenil, seneschal of England in the reigns of William Rufus and Henry I., who erected a stately castle and a church, and founded a small priory of Benedictine monks, which, before 1173, was granted as a cell to the abbey of Lyra, in Normandy, by Robert Blanchmaines, Earl of Leicester. Having fallen into the hands of the crown, Richard II. gave it to the Carthusian priory at Montgrace in Yorkshire, to which it was finally annexed by Henry V.; and on the dissolution of that priory, it was granted to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster. Under its ancient lords the town had all the privileges of a borough; but the inhabitants taking part with the house of Lancaster in the civil war of the fifteenth century, their privileges were annulled by Edward IV. Leland mentions the ruins of the castle (which, in his time, was owned by the crown, but had previously belonged to the Earl of Leicester), as being situated two miles from the town of Hinckley, on the borders of the forest, and as being spacious and celebrated. The assizes for the county were formerly held at Hinckley.

The town stands close to the border of Warwickshire, from which county it is separated by the Roman Watling-street; and so elevated is its situation that it commands a view of fifty churches. It comprises the Borough, within the limits of the ancient town, and the Bond, without those limits. The houses are indifferently built, but the town is paved, lighted with gas, and well supplied with water; and the walks are pleasant. A mechanics' institute has been established. The waste lands were inclosed in 1760, and one-seventh of the lordship allotted to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster. The town has derived great benefit from the introduction of the stocking manufacture, which is now so extensive that a greater quantity of cotton and worsted hose, particularly the former, of the coarser kind, is supposed to be made here than in any other place of equal size in the kingdom: the number of frames in the town and villages adjacent is computed at 2500, affording employment to nearly 3000 persons. A steam corn-mill was built in 1845-6, at a cost of about £10,000. Hinckley possesses a communication with all parts of the kingdom, by means of the Ashby canal, which traverses the south-western part of the parish. The market is on Monday; and fairs are held on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Mondays after Jan. 6th, on Easter-Monday, the Monday before Whitsuntide, Whit-Monday, Aug. 26th, and the Monday after Oct. 28th, which last is a cheese-fair. The ancient town is under the government of a mayor or bailiff, a constable, and two headboroughs, chosen at the annual court leet of the lord of the manor: the Bond, or Bound, is under that of a constable and three headboroughs. There is also a town-master, chosen at the church on the Tuesday in Easter-week, who is empowered, in conjunction with his predecessor in the office, to audit annually the accounts of the trustees of the Feoffment. The powers of the county debt-court of Hinckley, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Hinckley, and the parish of Wolvey. The town-hall was rebuilt in 1803, by means of funds arising from the Feoffment benefaction; a bridewell was erected in 1768, and a house of detention in 1842.

The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £9. 9. 9½.; net income, £338; patrons and appropriators, the Dean and Chapter of Westminster. The church is a spacious edifice, erected chiefly in the thirteenth century, with a tower and a finely-proportioned spire, the latter built in 1788; it has been enlarged with 340 free sittings. Of the several chapels of ease which formerly belonged to the church, only those of StokeGolding and Dadlington remain. Trinity district church, on the south side of the town, was built and endowed in 1837-8, by the late John Frewen Turner, Esq.: the living is in the gift of Thomas Frewen, Esq. There are places of worship for General Baptists, Independents, Wesleyans, and Unitarians. On the invasion of Belgium by the French, in 1794, the English Dominicans of Bornhern, near Antwerp, took refuge in England, and after remaining for some time at Carshalton, in Surrey, settled at Hinckley, where they built a neat chapel. A national school is supported from the funds belonging to the Feoffment benefaction. In addition to these large funds, is a bequest of Ralph Chesser, Esq., in 1826, producing £74 per annum, to be distributed to the poor. The union of Hinckley comprises 11 parishes or places, of which 9 are in the county of Leicester, and 2 in that of Warwick; and contains a population of 15,589. At a short distance from Hinckley, on the road to Lutterworth, is a mineral spring called Holy Well; and in the neighbourhood are other good mineral waters, at Cogg's Well, Christopher's Spa, and the Priest Hills.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.