A Hub with a Story to Tell

Recent Kibworth & District Chronicles have included news items and photos referring to the Kibworth Community Hub. This being the transition towards a new community hub on the Grammar School Hall site. It presents many welcome opportunities as listed by Kibworth Beauchamp Parish Council Chair Andrew Munro in the first Chronicle of this year:

including a new community library, new adaptations and increased facilities including perhaps a community bank that will offer services and opportunities in parallel with the excellent community provision already evident at The Well…

Writing in the February Kibworth & District Chronicle Martyn Wyburn, chair of the Kibworth Community Hub, says

not only do our users have access to the adjacent free car park we have a keyboard for use, projectors and screens in both the main hall, studio and also through the theatre company’s stage lighting.”

How appropriate the word ‘hub’ as described in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary as “the central point of activity, interest…”. The story of the Grammar School Hall site and its predecessors is certainly full of activity and interest:

14th CenturyInvesting in Land

To finance education, Kibworth Beauchamp Grammar School has long invested in land. Informed historians give 1417 as a certain date when the school existed. But there is strong evidence that it commenced in 1359. In the mid-1300s Robert Chapman of Kibworth Harcourt and Roger De Standby of Smeeton Westerby were two who were involved in setting land aside to this aim education.

15th CenturyLearning Lovely Latin

By now Parish Church (the pre-steeple collapse building) would be used for some tuition. At a time when scribing materials were not as common as today, hence much oral learning – learning by rote? In English, but also in Latin.

16th CenturyThe Early Cold Starts

Education very likely in unheated premises; if church then cold slab seating and ‘desk tops’?

The headmaster didn’t regularly teach. That was left to schoolmasters/feoffees/education from anyone with knowledge to pass it on with quite early starts, breaking for breakfast.

17th CenturyPurpose built premises 

In the light of the above, there was a need for a purpose built school was needed which was built and ready for use around 1630. This was in School Lane (not then called School Road!) area of Kilpeck Close or possibly Warwick three quarter acre. It is interesting to remember that this was happening when the country was approaching civil war.

18th century – More ambitious premises

By now the ‘purpose built premises’ had become very run down. Thus plans, and ambitious plans were drawn up for a new school alongside a headmaster’s house. These (other than the house attic added later) celebrate their tercentenary next year – 1725 -2025. These are still in use, the long multipaned windows being quite distinctive. Spending much patience, time and skill, local builders Taylor Davies did an extensive renovation of the house in the latter years of the 20th century.

19th Century – Canal, Railway and further premises

For thirty four years Rev Hildebrand was headmaster. In his second year of office there were notable land deals. Firstly, as compensation for land owned by the school but lost following the opening of the Grand Union Canal, Kibworth section. However, far from just accepting the £200 for school funds, Rev Hildebrand put a further £50 to it from his own funds. Navigation Inn was built, becoming Bridge Farm House on the Wistow Road. The second land deal was a safety issue which arose following the railway track passing close to the school lands.  Whilst the Midlands railway company had installed a level crossing Rev Hildebrand requested a bridge for indeed he owned the land!! For determination he pursued the case to Market Harborough Petty sessions. He lost, but doubtless following an out of court agreement, a bridge was later erected.

After Rev Hildebrand’s headship, but still in the 19th century, there was further expansion adjacent to the 1725 school hall and house. It was a four level building (basement and three storeys) with a two storey link to the Headmaster’s House. This extension could well have been not only because of the need for more space but also to offer good quality alternatives to smaller private schools starting up. E.g.at Beauchamp House (opposite the Manor House) in Kibworth; at Highfield House (top of Gumley Road out of Smeeton Westerby) and also in Smeeton, the Smeeton House Academy. However KBGS need not be concerned none of them lasted anywhere near KBGS’s almost seven centuries.

20th Century – Three Forward Planning Headmasters

Land sales and investments continued. £1,100 came to school funds from Smeeton smallholding committee as payment for school lands now to be in their ownership. This went part way to solving the shortage of allotments, which continued after the 1914-1918 war.

There was much expansion of the Kibworth Grammar School after this war. Especially under the headship of John Elliot (hence Elliot Close in Kibworth) who came from Ashby-de-la-Zouch in 1927. He saw increases in both in pupil numbers (mostly day pupils but some boarders) and in standards reaching district county and national distinction.

On his retirement in 1955 he moved into a house opposite the green on the old route of Smeeton Road. He was succeeded by Leslie Daw who continued leading a school of high standards. He became the first head of Beauchamp College when Kibworth Beauchamp Grammar School moved pupils and staff to start that school on its Oadby site.

20th Century cont’d.

The Kibworth School premises were immediately allocated under the Leicestershire ‘Mason Plan’ to the new Kibworth High School. The second headmaster was David Still (no doubt reading this Chronicle!) who eventually managed – no easy task – to get all the school from the various sites in the village it had inherited onto one site – Smeeton Road.  This was in 1993. 

The school’s intake area was a wide area of south East Leicestershire with all the transport problems that winter weather brought. However they had a very supportive parents’ base plus much support from parents and guardians.

After 1993, the disused school road site suffered from some vandalism. Mostly doors and windows of the 1936 Grammar School Hall, but they preserved it following instructions to protect it. Once again local builders Taylor Davies responded in top quality work. Eventually after repair, Kibworth Beauchamp Parish Council took over the site for community use. Trustees now ran the building – the Kibworth Community Hub.

21st century – A great opportunity

Thanks to the late historian Bernard Elliott BA (no relation to the former headmaster) and thanks also to the late Dr Peter Lee (Provost of Wentworth College, University of York) “The History of Kibworth Beauchamp Grammar School” is available in full online.

In April 1957 Leslie Daw wrote as Headmaster:

we are told,  Happy is the nation which has no history” and adds “happy is the school whose traditions are firmly rooted in past activities”.

This is certainly the case in Kibworth – for near seven centuries, now moving on in the form of a community hub.

Having had the privileges of meeting Bernard Elliott, of having been a contemporary pupil of Peter Lee, of having been a pupil during parts of John Elliot’s and Leslie Daw’s Headships, having been a student teacher under Leslie Daw and a qualified teacher during David Still’s headship I am open to the accusation I am wallowing in memories, but I would reject this. I am simply encouraging Hub planners of the present that the Hub includes prominent informative record of the past so the community may celebrate it in the future. One of England’s very oldest schools- here on our doorstep. If we do not preserve its story – who will?

Roger Garratt