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All Saints Church, Isley Walton Cum Langley

By Gillies Shields

It is not known when the first church was built in this ancient parish of ISLEY WALTON. It is almost certain that a church was here during the time the KNIGHTS TEMPLARS (founded 1119) owned the Manor. It was given to them by LETTICE DE FERRARIIS and ROBERT FITZ-NIGEL and confirmed by KING JOHN in the 12th century.

In 1312, on the suppression of the Knights Templars it was granted to the Knights Hospitallers. It was a chapelry of KEGWORTH though the parish was, and always has been, independent and looked after its own affairs and poor.

By the Matriculus of 1220 it was shown to be served by the mother church, Kegworth, two days per week.

The church has two bells, undated; but certainly pre-Reformation and possibly of the 14th century. One is inscribed with -

"AVE MARIA PLENA GRACIAE, DNS TECUM" and the other, in mediaeval script, just "MARJA".

In the 15th century the BEAUMONT family were possessed of the Manor and on the attainment of Sir John Beaumont for high treason, it passed to the HASTINGS family. This happened in 1462 and 1464 when Sir Richard Hastings ownership was confirmed. In 1564 there were seven families in the village.

By 1600 the Manor had passed to the WHITSTONE and SAUNDERS families, until 1629 when JAMES WOOD, a chandler, bought the Manor and gave it in 1630 to the WORSHIPFULL COMPANY OF BOWYERS, of which he was a liveryman.

This livery company made the Long Bows used by the English archers at CRECY, POLITIERS and AGINCOURT. According to NICHOLS (History and Antiquities of Leicester 1808) the arms of the Bowyers company were displayed in the church but have since disappeared together with the original Octagon Font also illustrated in his account. The present font is Georgian and described by Sir Nikolaus Pausner in "The buildings of England - Leicestershire and Rutland 1960" as of "A baluster shape with a stone lid like a soup tureen".

The coat of arms can be seen on various houses on the village, some built long after the Bowyers company held the Manor. This was done by Mr John Gillies Shields as a nostalgic or sentimental tribute to the company's memory.

The church was re-built in 1720. A hundred years later in 1819 under the Rector, Dr Parkinson, the church was re-built again at a cost of £600. The patrons, Christ College, Cambridge, gave £75, the Rector, Dr Parkinson £325, a very generous donation, and the balance was met by "The Society for Building and Enlarging Churches".

In 1831 there were 13 houses and 65 inhabitants in the village, mostly employed on the farms or on the estate of the Marquis of Hastings. That year the expenditure on poor rates was £62-16.

In 1883 a school was built near the entrance to the Manor House for 30 children and kept going until 1911 when Breedon school took the pupils. The population had fallen by 1891 to 24 with only 8 pupils attending school under the Mistress, Miss Florence Stretton.

The school became estate offices for John Gillies Shields and the Donington estate and Breedon & Cloud Hill Lime works, and then when these moved to Breedon, became three houses.

Lord Donington, when Mr Clifton had married the Countess of Loudoun, a descendant of Richard Hastings mentioned above. He bought the Manor from the Bowyers company in 1890. He died in 1895 and his agent, trustee and executor, John Gillies Shields JPCC who had lived in the Manor House since 1882 and was church warden from then until his death in 1943, eventually bought the Manor and became patron, with Christs College, of the livings of Isley Walton, Breedon-on-the-Hill and Ashby-de-la-Zouch.

The church was again restored in 1897 and was still under Kegworth. This connection was not broken until, by an ORDER IN COUNCIL of June 1st 1923, All Saints Isley Walton became a parochial church united with the church at Breedon-on-the-Hill and the chapel at Staunton Harold (and now Worthington). It has its own parochial church council and is in no way subservient to Breedon church.

The silver communion cup of 1575 was stolen in 1914 and was replaced by Mr Shields.

In 1934 Mr Shields removed the chairs and replaced then with oak pews made from Donington oak; presented a new oak pulpit, alter furnishing, and installed a new electric organ which replaced the old hand-pump one. His general restoration and improvement work was celebrated on 1st June 1969 when the Rt. Rev'd Ronald R Williams, Lord Bishop of Leicester, held a thanksgiving service in the church.

The royal arms above the church door are of William IV. The church registers from 1710 have been placed for safe keeping in Leicester Record Office. The whereabouts of records before 1710 is unknown.

Although an 1803 enclosure award allotted to Isley Walton over 5 acres for a 'church yard' there appear to be no burials in the church yard until 1906 when the daughter of Mr Shield's coachman, Clara Maud Kibblewhite, died aged 5 years old. Since then 64 have been buried or their ashes scattered or buried in the church yard. It is known that some before this date were buried at Breedon-on-the-Hill.

The name ISLEY WALTON did not appear on Christopher Saxon's survey map carried out in 1575 under Royal patronage; nor is it shown in John Bill's map of 1626, Phillip Lea's improved saxon of 1692, John Seller's of 1695 or T Kitchen's of 1751. It does appear in William Smith's map of 1602, Robert Morden's of 1695 and Emanual Bower's of 1767. Both these last two use the name ISBY WALTON. Over a hundred maps of Leicestershire have been published and Isley Walton does appear in most of them. Nicholas in 1808 heads his article on Isley Walton as 'WALTON ISLEY commonly known as EASELEY WALTON or ISLEY'. There are several references on Nichols to Walton Isley but seldom after the 16th century.

There are 4 'WALS' in Leicestershire. These could derive from the German (Saxon) WALD (Wood) and the TON from 'TUN' (Settlement) according to Jill Bourne in her, "Place names of Leicestershire 1977". Other authorities say it may come from WALHA, meaning slave, Welshman, foreigner. As Isley Walton was on the edge of Charley Forest and the Saxons were adept at forest clearing (as opposed to the Jutes, Anglos and Frisians) I rather go for a Saxon chief's settlement in a wood. His name may have been ISA, and the 'LY' coming from LEAH, old English for glade or clearing in a wood.

There are Saxon cemeteries near Kings Newton and at Breedon.

The Saxon and other Germanic tribes are thought to have infiltrated into Leicestershire in the 5th century AD soon after the Roman withdrawal. They assimilated with or took over from the Celtic CORITANI or Romano-British inhabitants.

In the past Isley Walton church was used by the cottagers of Langley and the servants of Langley Priory (the squires of Langley on the whole used Diseworth church).

The parish is now known as ISLEY WALTON cum LANGLEY and the inhabitants of Langley are entitled to benefits of the church charities.

There was an exception to the Squire of Langley using Diseworth when in 1771 Richard Cheslyn, Squire of Langley Prior married Miss Katherine Bainbriggs of Lockington Hall at Isley Walton parish church.

Also from Langley in 1840 came Charles Smeton to marry his 'intended', Miss Maria Rose. When the words, "speak now or forever hold your peace", were uttered by the vicar, the father of the bride refused his consent. The marriage did not take place, the vicar writing in the register; "forbidden by father".

Mr John Gillies Shields JPCC purchased the lordship of the Manor of Isley Walton on 20th April 1918.

The fact the Isley Walton's name may be of Saxon origin does not, of course, mean that this area was uninhabited before the 5th century AD. The Celtic/Iron-Age font at Breedon was there in the 1st century BC; polished stone axes have been found locally, brought from Great Langdale in the Lake District over 2000 years old, and at Lockington nearby there was a Roman villa and farm built on a previous British site. The Romans traded with Melbourne for gritstone for sharpening knives, spears and swords.

One can go even further back to Hunter Gatherers who we know lived only 30 miles away in Cresswell Caves 40,000 years ago; and man is known to have been around with crude tools in Leicestershire 350,000 years ago.

Nearby Breedon, of course, was a power house of learning in Anglo Saxon days before the Danish occupation of Repton in 870 AD when the monks of Breedon fled and the countryside was terrified by the 'Eastwinders'.