Kingston-on-Soar: Then and now

Cottages in Kingston upon Soar
19th century estate cottages in Kingston-upon-Soar (photo: A Nicholson, 2006).

As it will increase the interest of the students who make Kingston their temporary home, and that of the young people who were born, or who live in the village, to know something of its past history, I very readily comply with the request of the Midland Agricultural and Dairy Students' Association Magazine Committee that I will write some notes for their benefit.


Name. The Anglo Saxon name of Kingston, as given in  Domesday Book (1086), was "Chinestan," which Dr. Mutschmann in ''The Place Names of Nottinghamshire'' renders as in old English ''cyne-stan, royal stone.'' We are at once faced with the difficulty of finding in Kingston any connection with royalty, or with a special stone. Before the Conquest several of the neighbouring manors in Sutton, in Bonington, and across the Soar, in Leicestershire—Kegworth, and (?) Loughborough—had belonged to Harold, in whom Mr. Stenton in his article on the Domesday Survey,  in ''The Victoria History of Notts,'' says ''We must recognise no less a person than the former Earl of Wessex, and King"; but Harold was not the owner of the manors in Chinestan, and therefore we cannot look to a connection with an ex-royal family. There are in the "Post Office Guide" 13 places given with the name of Kingston, and three Kingstones, and reference may be made to some of those places by persons who desire to enter more minutely into the history of their names. Dr. Mutschmann says, the word rendered king, originally had the meaning of "nobleman—one of a noble family,'' and he suggests that the letter " a" in the ending possibly ought to have been rendered "o", and so would be translated into Kingston. It may be mentioned that Chinemarelie is translated Kimberley, and Chineltune has become Kinoulton. It must be remembered that the Norman commissioners had much difficulty in many places in understanding the pronunciation, as well as the spelling of the men of the district, so that the ''stan'' may have meant ''s ton,'' and so intended town.

The boundaries of the parish may be roughly indicated by a line drawn by the west and south of the Odells (which are in Gotham), and west of the Crownend wood (which is in West Leake), from which the line may be drawn by, but to the south of Kegworth Station, straight to the Soar, having Sutton Bonington to its south. The Soar, for nearly one mile forms its western boundary, and then the line turns north east, and so leaving Ratcliffe on its north west. The area is 1,332 acres.

It is one of the border parishes of Nottinghamshire, being ten miles from the City of Nottingham, nine from Derby, eighteen from Leicester, 120 from London, and on the main line of the Midland Railway.

The parish is situate partly on the Keuper Marls, and partly upon the blue clay, and shales, with bands of limestone, belonging to the Lower Lias. Gypsum is extensively obtained here, and taken away by boat and rail. The soil on one side of the parish is clayey, and on the other loamy, or sandy.

The highest point in the parish is about 200 feet above sea level, on a small outlier of the Lower Lias, and the lowest is at the level of the river Soar, about 100 feet.

There is a brook running from the Wolds, through the Hall lake and the village, to the Soar.

Some fine old trees are growing in various parts of the parish. Three old walnut trees growing in the church-yard are specially noticeable, Many trees have been, during the past two generations, planted, and in the hall grounds are some fine specimens of trees mechanically removed, and re-planted. The land is chiefly occupied with grass, but the usual cereals and roots crops grow well. In the gardens fruit trees, shrubs, and vegetables grow abundantly.


Angles. Nothing is known as to Roman occupation, or the  British inhabitants, or of the coming of the Angles. In the ''History of East Leake,'' by the Rector, the Rev. S. P. Potter, M.A., he surmises that about A.D. 600, the Angles came up the Trent, and Soar, and they followed the course of the brook which joins the river at Kingston. If so, probably Kingston would be settled a little before Leake. They were heathen when they came, and we have no means of knowing when they accepted Christianity. Their settlement would be round about the site of the Church, and near to the brook. Their lands would be cultivated when cleared, and settled, in a three fields communal system, in strips. In 868 the Danes came, and wrought much mischief, but settling, they governed the whole district, administering their laws and government in the three counties round Kingston, from Nottingham, Derby, and Leicester, as parts of their "Five Towns."

Normans. At the time of the Conquest (1066) there were in  Chinestan two manors belonging to Lewin and Richard, the Angles, who had three and a half bovates (?521/2 acres) of land assessed to the geld, or land tax. The Conqueror proceeded upon the assumption that all the lands had been forfeited by rebellion against him, and that he had obtained them by right of conquest. He therefore took these lands from Lewin and Richard, and gave them to the Norman soldier Hugh, who became Earl of Chester. Earl Hugh had on them one sochman, or ordinary tenant, with half a plough team, and nine acres of meadow. The effect of the conquest had been to diminish the value of these manors from 30/- to 10/-, or about equal to £15 a year now. There was also in Chinestan a manor belonging to Algar, the Saxon, consisting of three bovates (? 45 acres) of land assessed to the geld, and this was given to one of the King's Thegns, or servants, and at the time of the Domesday book Sawin held it. Does this mean that certain of the former owners, or inhabitants, were allowed to hold lands as tenants, of whom Sawin, or the Sawin was one ? He held land in the adjoining parish of Radeclive (Ratcliffe) (where it is said "Sawin holds of the King"), in Gatham (Gotham), and in Bartone (Barton in Fabis). Here there was land for two plough teams, and ''Sawin holds it of the King, and has there two villeins with one plough, and the site of a mill, and ten acres of meadow." The villeins were subject tenants, who instead of paying rent, cultivated their lord's manor farm on certain days without payment. Apparently the mill was gone, and only the site was left. Here again the value had diminished one half, from 20/- to 10/-. In addition to the foregoing there was in Chinestan 1 carucate (? 120 acres) of land assessed, which apparently was "soc", or subject to to the Manor of Ratcliffe, where there were two plough teams, and eight sochmen, or ordinary tenants, with three villeins, or subject tenants, who together had three plough teams.

There was in the same place, a manor, which Ulchet had, one and a half bovates (22 acres) of land assessed. This Godric held, but the Commissioners make the note that the men of the country did not know from whom, or how it was held. There was on it one villein tenant, and six acres of meadow. It had seriously depreciated, from 20/- to 8/-value. (Translation of the Victoria History of Notts.)

It is not the object of this paper to trace the changes of these manors, or their lords. A few items here and there must suffice.

It will be seen that a very large part of the land in Kingston which was cultivated, was subject to the manor of Ratcliffe, and this subjection continued for centuries, for manorial as well as for ecclesiastical purposes. There is mentioned in Domesday book that at Ratcliffe there was a church and a priest, but no mention is made of either at Kingston. This does not prove that there was not a church, but it appears probable that the Kingston people went to Eatcliffe for public worship. That church would, in its early stages, probably be a thatched building, timber framed, and built with wattle and daub, and without seats, as was customary, but as time advanced the lords of Ratcliffe grew in importance, and then so far as the Church was concerned, they evidently gave God of their best.

The Picots. The Picot family held Ratcliffe and Kingston from  the King in the time of Henry I., (1100 to 1135) by the serjeancy, or service of keeping hawks for him, and this was often commuted by a monetary payment, but it also involved military service. There was generally continuity of ownership, or rather holding, but on the death of the holder heavy fees might have to be paid to the Crown.

Peter Picot, son of the lord of Ratcliffe, gave to God, and the Church of the Blessed Mary and St. Hardulf, of Bredon, in Frank Alms two virgats of land in Kingston. It is not always clear what area a virgat was, as it seems to have ranged from 15 acres in some places, to 40 acres in others, but in many places it was 24 acres. If this was the measure here, then Peter gave 48 acres in Frank Alms, that is free charity, and such was usually given on condition of the monastery praying for the souls of the donors, and their heirs.

There was an Andrew Picot, who in 1170, had to pay 40 marks for having the King's peace, which probably means pardon for some offence committed, and in this case it looks like a serious offence, for 40 times 13s. 4d. which is usually reckoned as the value of a mark, would be £26 13s. 4d., and taking the then value of money as being equal to 20 times its present value, this would be equal to a fine of £533 6s. 8d. now.

In 1198 an Inquisition was made by the knights appointed by Archbishop Hubert Walter, and they made a return that Peter Picot held Ratcliffe and Kynaston by the Serjeanty of Hostricery keeping the King's goshawks, or goose hawks, that is large hawks—and Kinaston was soc (or subject) to Ratcliffe (Yeatman 382). The land was 61/2 carucates, (? 780 acres), and the value £9 per annum.

Thomas Picot held lands in Kingston in 1257, and for some reason he was outlawed, whereupon he lost all his rights of person and property, and the King took into his hands half a carucate (? 60 acres) and held it a year and a day, after which it is presumed he granted it to some one.

In 1253 Thomas Picot had free Warrant granted in Radclive and Kineston. He was, says Dr. Thoroton, some times called Thomas de Hedon, by reason of his residence at that manor of his in Essex.

Peter Picot had in 1272 attached to his manor a "View of Frank pledge,'' or the manorial right for each of his tenants to freely assemble and become mutually responsible for good behaviour to the King and the Hundred. He had also'' Assize of bread and ale," fixing the price, quality and measure. He had ''Pillory,'' or the right to fix offenders in a public frame so that their hands and feet were fast. He had "Tumbrell"—a cucking, or ducking stool for scolds; "Infangetheof," or the right to judge a thief taken; and "Gallows," or the right to hang the thief. For these rights he paid a certain rent, through the Sheriff, to the King.

Thomas Picot held in 1299 half a knight's fee (but it is not clear where), by serjeancy of holding the basin at the King's coronation. (Yeatman, 169).

Peter Picot, in 1282, sued William Hasard and his wife Harvisia, Adam le Tailour, and Robert le Jort, and their wives, for service of land in Ratcliffe and Kingston, which probably means that these persons held land which was said to be subject to the holders rendering service to the lord of the manor, but the court decided that no service was due from them.

Land Tenure. Thomas Hasard in 1297 had a house, and some little land here, which he held of the King, subject to 3/8, rent.

William Seman, in 1310, held a messuage and two virgats (? 48 acres) of the King, for 14/- per annum, and doing homage and fealty to Sir Peter Pieot, and the service of 7/-per annum, and a pair of gilt spurs. This looks as if William Seman, as a vassal of Sir Peter Picot, was bound to be faithful to his lord, but instead of accompanying him to the wars, a monetary obligation must be paid.

The tenure upon which land was held has (as given by Thoroton) a number of illustrations in Kingston. John De Leyk, in 1324, held, besides a manor in Leyk, etc., here in Kynston 8 virgats (? 192 acres), four of the Prior of St. Cuthbert's of Durham, by the service of 12 pence, and four of John de Langeton for 4/- per annum. (For present values multiply about 20 times).

Nicholas, the son of Adam le Taylour, in 1324, held in Kingston, and in Ratcliffe, the third part of two messuages, and two virgats of land, of the King in Capite, (that is as tenant in chief, with permanent possession) paying 3/8 yearly.

Reginald le Jort held a similar third part, of the King, as the manor of Ratcliffe then was, by keeping the King's Ostery (or place for hawks), and paying yearly 3/4.

Henry le Hauker, in 1337, held one messuage and 60 acres of land in Kinston, of the King in Capite, that is with permanent possession, by the service of carrying a falcon (or goshawk) before him in winter.

The Jury in 1347 found it not to the King's loss if he granted to Robert le Jort to hold one messuage and one virgat, or yard-land, and two parts of another messuage and virgat of land, in Kinston and Eadclive on Sore, for finding one to appear at the King's Great Turne of Riscliff twice a year.

Rushcliffe. The last item is full of interest. The hundred of  Rushcliffe was formed of all the parishes in Notts. west of a line drawn from, and including, West Bridgford, by Plumtree, to Willoughby, and twice a year the Sheriff held a Great Turne, or Court, for the local administration of the law at Riscliffe, on the hill above Rushcliffe Hall, where the Earl of Leicester is said to have had a Castle: the reputed site of which may still be seen by the hill side, about a mile east of Gotham, and having a famous spring of water, still utilised.**

Black Death. It is probable that Robert Jort, or his representative,  attended the Great Turne only once, for two years  after the arrangement the awful plague called the Black Death appeared, and carried off from one-third, to one-half, of the people of England. The Law Courts were closed, the harvest unreaped, the land uncultivated, and everything thrown into confusion. What the effect was locally is not recorded.

A Tailor. William de Kingston was, in 1396, a tailor, but  he did not stick to his seat, for on market days he acted as a kind of constable in the Wommenmerkeyth (Women's market) at Nottingham, and he presented to the Court as an affray of blood (that is the fighting of two persons in a public place to the terror of others), that Thomas Fox, a draper, lay in wait for, beat, and wounded with force of arms, William Bunche, messenger of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Fox very wisely placed himself upon the favour of the Mayor, and paid 6/8 (equal to £6 13s. 4d. now). Robert Goygth, a Welshman, had helped Fox, and so was fined 6d. (equal to 10/- now), and Fox became surety for him. William also presented Eichard Ferour, as being a common tippler, and Roger, servant of Roger de Arnold, as selling candles without wicks of cotton, and as a common regrator of all cheeses, butter, and such victuals—that is he bought wholesale, to sell again retail. But William himself was not altogether satisfactory. He had better have kept to his tailoring, for in 1408 his household goods were seized for an execution, and appraised at 24s. 10d. The values are interesting—a frying pan was valued at 7d., an axe 6d., a pair of black russet shoes, 7d., a caminus, or moveable fire grate or stove 14d,, etc. Some executors also complained that Kingston wrongly took various articles specified in detail in the "Nottingham Borough Records.'' A verdict was given for the plaintiffs.

The Inclosure."The whole Lordship" says Thoroton, in 1677, ''hath been long inclosed, and much depopulated.'' This is a noteworthy description, because the parish inclosures of the 18th century frequently tended to increase the work, and therefore the workers, and the food supply, as the land which had before been moor, or waste, now became arable. It does not appear to have been so in the inclosures of the 16th and 17th centuries. What the cause was in Kingston is not quite clear. Does it mean that many tenants having been accustomed to turn their cattle on to the unfenced common were now prevented and the land being enclosed was taken into the hands of the owner, and a much fewer number of tenants? Were sheep preferred to men? "The Agrarian Problem in the 16th century" by H. H. Tawney (Longman's) discusses the subject fully.