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Sheepy, (from the old english sceap + eg meaning 'island or dry ground in the marsh where the sheep graze'), straddles the River Sence from Fieldon Bridge, the boundary with Atherstone and also the county boundary with Warwickshire. Sheepy is divided into two parts Great Sheepy or Sheepy Magna and Little Sheepy or Sheepy Parva, each with it's own ancient manor. Sheepy Magna also includes the Hamlets of The Mythe and Pinwall, The Mythe may well have had it's own manor but Pinwall was a Grange of Merevale Abbey. Newhouse Grange was also part of the Merevale estate and remained annexed to the parish of Merevale until 1885.
Doomsday entries show that the village certainly predates the Norman conquest and is possibly much earlier. (The Atherstone - Burton turnpike which runs through the village is listed as one of the old Celtic tracks that predate the Roman occupation of the area. There is evidence that it was an integral part of the salt routes that supplied west Leicestershire from the Cheshire salt fields well before the Norman conquest). The manors survived as separate entities well into the twentieth century.
Survey of 1086 has two entries for Sheepy viz.
This suggests a population of 25 for Sheepy Parva and 70 for Sheepy Magna a total of about 95 compared to Ratcliffe Culey the other constituent part of Sheepy Parish which contained 50. What is interesting is the appreciation in the value prior to 1066 and at 1086, whereas Ratcliffe had the same valuation both Sheepys had a massive increase. The trend in the rest of Leicestershire was downwards no doubt due to Williams devastation of the North Midland counties in the post conquest revolts.
From 1150 - 1400 there is a wealth of documentation relating to
the Sheepys but is difficult to interpret who actually holds the manors.
The major players in the property stakes were :-
By 1279 the de Temple family of Temple Hall held the manor of Sheepy Parva
See the inquisition taken of Sheepy in 1279 for the distribution of land and property during this period.
Comparing the analysis
of the 1279 inquisition and the 1863 listing we can see that both Sheepys were
well established by 1279. The areas under cultivation in 1279 being :-
During the period from 1279 - 1377 Sheepy Parva was held by the de Temple family without major changes apart from the arrival on the scene of the Tookey family. Sheepy Magna however was subject to constant disputes and litigation mainly between the de Sheepy family and the Burdets. It does appear that the de Sheepys were not normally resident in the village their main abode being Ashby de la Zouch. The poll tax returns of 1327 and 1332 are obviously incomplete, (these taxes were widely avoided), the 1377 poll tax gives a snapshot of the area in 1377 and is remarkably comprehensive.
In 1377 the households calculated give an estimated population of 130 souls at Sheepy Magna and 35 at Sheepy Parva. No great increase in 100 years but this no doubt due to the visitation of the Black Death in 1348/9.
Some interesting names crop up in the 1327 -1377 poll taxes. The Tookey family appear first listed in a fine of 1303, this family survived for 4 centuries, the last record being the burial of Mr. Thomas Tookey in 1728. The Orme family, one of the old Viking names of Leicestershire appear in 1327 and still farm in the area today. The Hulle / Hall / Hawle family are listed in 1327 and survived unbroken until the 1750's.
By 1414 the Manor of Sheepy Parva was in the hands of John Flaundres (de Flanders) and through his widow passed to the Whithull family in 1422. In 1436 Richard Whithull sold all his lands in Sheepy Magna to the Astley family.
In 1437 the Astley's also acquired an interest in the manor of Sheepy Magna through the marriage of Richard de Harcourt's daughter and heir to Sir Thomas Astley of Patshull, Staffordshire
In 1488 John Vincent, a descendant of the Vincents of Peckleton, had acquired property in Sheepy Magna, the first foothold of the dominating force of the 17th century
By 1493 the Manor of Sheepy Magna and both medieties were held by William Asteley.
On the 10th June 1509 Edward Sheepy died without a legitimate heir his sister married Bartholomew Kendall of Twycross and so the long association of the de Sheepy name with Sheepy Magna. His will survives in the Public Records Office reference( P.C.C. 22 Bennett)
In 1531 the inquisition post mortem of Richard Astley lists the following
as his tenants in Sheepy :-
In 1539 the Inquisition of John Whittell (Whithull), who died in 1536, showed that he held the manor of Sheepy Parva, (from his marriage to one of the daughters of Nicholas Temple) and also 180 acres in both Sheepy Parva and Sheepy Magna. He also held a watermill in each village. These properties passed to his grandson Richard Whithull.
In 1538 Ranton Abbey's holdings in Sheepy Magna were leased to William Ludford gent. for 80 years. Following the dissolution the lands passed to the crown and were leased to John Beaumont in 1544 in 1546 the lands were subleased to Robert Vincent gent.
In 1540, following it's dissolution, the lands controlled by Merevale Abbey in Sheepy, namely Pinwell Grange and Newhouse Grange, were acquired by Sir Walter Devereux. This area retained the anomaly of being extra parochial until 1885.
Some 40 households listed in 1564 suggest a combined population of Sheepy Magna / Parva of 200+.
The will of John Vincent who died in 1564 makes first mention of the Abell family. John Vincent had married the Alice the widow of Richard Abell who had two sons Richard and John. Thomas Abel who died in 1828 aged 85 at Sheepy Parva was last Abel buried at Sheepy. The inquisition post mortem of John Vincent lists Thomas Penbury esq. as one of his tenants and Penbury is said to hold the Manor of Sheepy Magna.
In 1585 the manor of Sheepy Parva was acquired by Ralph Whalley gent. from Richard Whithull. The manor was held briefly in 1598 by James Gosling before Robert Mauley gent. acquired both manors in 1604.
In 1588 an inquisition post mortem was taken following the death of Henry Clarke, husbandman. He held 60 acres of freehold land, including meadow and pasture and a house, a typical subsistence farmer, his son and heir John was one of the earliest entries in the registers when he was baptised in 1561. The Clarke family are found consistently in the registers well into the twentieth century and are likely descendants of William Clerke listed in the 1377 poll tax.
In 1604 the manor of Sheepy Parva was acquired by Robert Mauley gent. along with
a moiety of the manor of Sheepy Magna.
This fine is interesting in the large amount of property transferred viz.:-
In 1609 Nicholls states that William Bowne held the manor of Sheepy Parva, John Poultney an acre of meadow there and William Swaine lands all "in capite" but provides no citation for this.
On the death in 1621 of Richard Vincent his inquisition post mortem lists many
of his tenants viz:-
In 1629 William Vincent disposed of some of his property to :-
One of the few references to the Mythe occurs in 1638 at the inquisition post mortem of Thomas Bayley gent.. He held a messuage, 200 acres of land 30 of meadow, 100 of pasture and 40 of furze or heath called "the demense of manor de le Myth" This was held of Thomas Levinge gent. of Baddersley Ensor, attorney, who by now held the manor of Sheepy Magna. Some of the Mythes lands were said to lye in Mancetter.
The open fields were enclosed in 1659 by private agreement
although this was not actually confirmed by act of parliament until 1809. The
process of enclosure appears to have been started however much earlier in the analysis
of land transactions in the previous century. The lands of Ranton and Merevale
to have been enclosed prior to their dissolution c. 1540. The enclosure document
of 1659 identifies the following persons :-
The heath tax returns of 1664 which are more comprehensive than that of 1666 confirm the status of the signatures to the enclosure agreement and indicate by relative omission the cottagers. The 39 households listed for Sheepy Magna indicate a population of some 190+ souls, likewise Sheepy Parva 55 souls, The Mythe 6+ , Newhouse and Pinwall Granges 15-. No great increase in 100 years.
In 1719 Thomas Levinge settled the manor of Sheepy Magna to his daughter as part of her marriage settlement to Robert Holden. Their son Thomas Levinge Holden died without issue bequeathing the manor to his kinsman John Holden in 1759. John Holden know is generally accepted to be Robert's natural son, the residual heirs Thomas's sisters contested the will . The Holden family were natives of Erdington near Birmingham and malsters who started the Holden's Brewery business in the 19th century. When the Holden family attempted to raise capital in 1761 to offset the contested will of Thomas Levinge Holden, the income from the Sheepy Magna manor was said to be £220 per annum including holdings in Merevale, (no doubt parts of the old extra parochial Merevale estate).
In 1719 there were said to be eleven freeholders in both the Sheepys eligible to vote and in 1779, 21 from Great Sheepy and 2 from Sheepy Parva.
In 1740 the manor of Sheepy Parva was indentured in a tripartite
In 1758 Sylvester Vincent and was buried at Sheepy. He was the last Vincent to ascend to the Sheepy rectories and achieved this by marrying his cousins widowed second wife, Hannah, the daughter of Edward Reynolds of Newhouse Grange in 1742. He held both the medieties as did his predecessor William. This marriage, carried out curiously at Sibson, was an attempt to keep the living and the advowson in the family. His death and no sure succession precipitated the family into years of litigation and the neglect of the rectories whilst they were held jointly by William's daughters Elizabeth who married Thomas Gresley and Hannah who never married and lived in Tamworth.
Sheepy Parva was enclosed by act of parliament in 1768. The
common lands were said to be about 500 acres indicating no previous enclosure.
The following persons were mentioned in the act :-
In 1768 William Fell was presented to the living of the south mediety and three years later to the north mediety by the trustees. The two medieties were now united again and have remained that way ever since. This also was the start of the Fell dynasty that survived virtually uninterrupted until John Edwin Fell was succeeded in 1888 by W.G. Southwell.
By 1777, when John Prior published his map of Leicestershire the, road from Twycross through Sheepy to Atherstone via Feildon Bridge, (rebuilt in 1786), had been turnpiked. This was possibly done because of the traffic generated by the newly opened coalfield at Measham, an open invitation for wheelwrights and blacksmiths to set up trade. The registers from 1813 - 1840 indicate at least two wheelwrights and two blacksmiths plus a saddler, far in excess of that needed for the indigenous population of 120 households.
In 1778 the old church at Sheepy Magna was completely rebuilt only it's ancient tower remains. All the armorial glass was disposed of along with the monuments to the old families. We only have Burton's description in 1630 to give some idea as to that which has been lost. No doubt this was also the period in which Ratcliffe Culey was vandalised. Thomas Cotton Fell laments this loss in his notes attached to the register although, as rector, his father no doubt had a hand in it.
In 1790, after a 4 year legal battle the charitable donations were finally extricated from the control of Hannah Vincent and in 1791 the manor was put up for sale.
The census returns of 1801 state
In 1808 under the terms of the will of Edward Wilmot,( the son of Edward and Mary listed in 1740), the Manor of Sheepy Parva passed into the hands of the Blomfield family with whom it remained until well into the 20th century.
In 1809 an act of parliament was passed to formalise without
exception the provisions of the Sheepy Magna 1659 enclosure agreement. The act however
ordered a new valuation of tithes allotting 1 fifth of the arable and 1 ninth of
the grassland lying within the ancient closes of Sheepy Magna and those near
Newhouse Grange in the parish of Merevale. Persons mentioned in the act were :-
A small congregational Chapel was opened in 1816 on the outskirts of Sheepy Magna village. It was converted to a memorial hall in 1918 in memory of the dead of the great war.
The village school was founded by Thomas Cotton Fell in 1847 at a cost of £400. A national school in 1863 there were 26 boys and 35 girls in attendance.
Sometime between 1850 and 1863 the manor of Sheepy Magna was obtained by Charles Boddington Lowe of Sheepy Hall who owned Sheepy Mill. The title was still in the possetion of the Lowe family in 1922 according to Kelly's directory
The 1851 census lists a total of 125 households (97 in Sheepy Magna and 28 in Sheepy Parva) a total population of 513 ( 401 in Sheepy Magna 112 in Sheepy Parva)
In 1855 Thomas Cotton Fell died who for 48 years had been rector of the parish.
The 1881 census yields a population of 417 for Sheepy Magna and 89 for Sheepy Parva (496 Total). 215 people had employment and out of this total some 98 were employed in agriculture, 40 in domestic service, the mill employed 24 persons, there were 5 blacksmiths, 4 wheelwrights, 3 coal miners, 3 cobblers, 2 carpenters, 3 bricklayers, 5 dressmakers, a tailor, 3 hat trimmers, 4 shopkeepers and various other trades and professions. A completely self contained community.
In 1885 by local Government Board order the detached part of Merevale was re-united with Sheepy Magna after some 650 years.
The 1891 census included those from the extra previous extra-parochial area of Merevale some 56 souls, bringing the total population of both Sheepys to 591 about the same as today. Of these some 69 resided at Sheepy Parva. The breakdown detail is as follows :-
|Inhabited||Uninhabited||Less than 5 rooms||Males||Females||Total|
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