Population of Packington? A Detective Mystery story ..

Do you know how many people live here in our village today?

When the Doomsday Book was compiled almost a thousand years ago, there were just ten dwellings in our village – as you can see from this image at The National Archives:

Extract from that page of the actual Domesday Book made in 1086, R column – the full page is copyrighted, but you can look it up yourself online at The National Archives at reference E 31/2/2/10367
Transcription – of what the image says, in modern-ish English instead of olde Latin. This is in the page marked Leicestershire, VI, The Land of St Mary of Coventry, The Abbey of Coventry..

PVHG historian Ian Scruton, has been researching our population, and came across an excerpt in Sir Walter Scott’s “The Story of Ashby-de-la-Zouch” published in 1907, saying:

Packington might now be described as a decaying, though picturesque, village. Within living memory no less than forty houses in it have been taken down, whist few, if any, have been built to take their place. That means a decrease in the population of about two hundred persons (Page 434)

Just 6 years earlier, Packington’s population in 1901 had been verified at the census as 473 – just over half our present size.

So how many people do you think lived here in 1851, a century and half ago? Would you be surprised to read that it was 1,294, almost two and a half times more than 50 years later in 1901? If so, where did they all go in those 50 years?

Census records reveal our population through the last two centuries:

1801 summary – 563

1851 census – 1294

1901 census – 473

By contrast, in 2022, we deliver 402 copies of Packington Post to all separate village dwellings. The estimated population in 2020 was 824 , which seems about right at just over two per dwelling.

PVHG founder member, and former village resident, Paul Monk, who was the Head Teacher at our village school from 1983 onwards, did some research, and his results are surprising. He wrote the following, published in an Ashby Museum “Past and Present Journal” dated 12th August 2012

Paul Monk’s Detective Story in the Ashby Museum’s “Past and Present Journal”

Censuses can be tricky things. They are very useful tools for the local historian, but consider their information in isolation and it is possible to reach very strange conclusions. Take Packington, for example. There was a dramatic rise and fall in the population during the nineteenth century which can only be explained by examining external factors.

The very first Census of England and Wales was taken in 1801 (Scotland followed in 1802). In this census the population was counted by households on a parish basis. There were no personal details, such as names, recorded. The population of the Parish of Packington was recorded in the 1801 Summary Report as 563 persons. At this time Packington was a rural village relying on agriculture for the majority of its employment. In 1901 the population of the parish was recorded as 473, about a 20% drop. There had been many economic changes during the nineteenth century but in 1901 Packington was still an essentially rural and agriculturally based village.

However, during the first half of the century the population grew to a maximum of 1294 by the 1851 Census and then declined steadily to 1881 when the population was 1153. Then there was a dramatic slump in the population in the 1891 Census to 498. The answer to this unusual pattern lies in events outside the village and some local geography.

During the majority of the nineteenth century, the parish of Packington was not the same geographical area that it is today. Firstly, some of the village was in Derbyshire and some was in Leicestershire. The “islands” of Derbyshire can be clearly seen on the early Ordnance Survey maps. An example of this is a group of houses around the junction of Mill Street and
the High Street which clearly shown as being in Derbyshire. An examination of the field boundaries in Babelake Street is also interesting as it shows alternate fields being in Derbyshire and Leicestershire. During this period Packington was actually known as the Parish of Packington with the Chapelry of Snibston. This meant that there was a part of the parish detached from the village on the far side of the parish of Ravenstone.

It is from these two geographical and ecclesiastical facts, together with events from outside, that an explanation for the population growth and decline can be deduced.

In 1834 George Stephenson opened the Leicester to Swannington line and moved to Alton Grange to oversee his railway and colliery interests. He had recently invested heavily in Snibston Colliery which was developing into a major enterprise. An important mine development needed workers and their families and they mainly settled near the colliery.
During the 1830s the population of Packington rose from 730 to 1024, an increase of 71 %.

It can be shown with some certainty that most of this increase of population was in the Snibston area and not in Packington village. White’s Directory of Leicestershire and Rutland is an important primary source for the nineteenth century. It analysed the population of the parish of Packington after the 1861 and 1871 censuses into the population of the parish and the population of Snibston. From this it is easy to see that all the population increase happened in the Snibston area and the population of Packington village remained approximately the same.

But what happened in the 1891 census when the population of the parish suddenly plummeted from 1153 to 498? This was a fall of about 230%!

The answer lies in an important Act of Parliament, the Reform Act of 1884. This act redefined many county and parish boundaries. In Packington all the “little islands” of Derbyshire became part of Leicestershire and were now counted in the Leicestershire Census for 1891. However, more importantly, the Chapelry of Snibston was removed, with all its population, from the Parish of Packington. This meant that from 1891 onwards the population of the parish was only counted in the village and its immediate surrounding rural area.

To interpret the sudden rise and slump in the population has required some local history detective work using several different sources. It was the influence of one of Britain’s greatest engineers and a major boundary reform that can explain the strange population pattern.

References:

  • David and Charles (No Date): Reprint of the First edition of the Ordnance Survey Sheets 35 and 42
  • Owen, Colin (1984): The Leicestershire and South Derbyshire Coalfield 1200-1900
  • Victoria County History (1955): Leicestershire Volume III
  • White, William (Various 19th Century editions): History, Gazetteer and Directory of Leicestershire and the Small County of Rutland

Footnote: PVHG Founder member Paul Monk is now resident in Northern Scotland, and wrote to us, describing the origins of PVHG in the late ’80s:

The work that I did on the Packington Population was written after we had moved up here to Cromarty. I had a look at the PVHG website this afternoon and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the group was still in existence.  I remember how we set it up.  Laura Cooper and I suggested that a local history class was set with Jim Slater who worked for Vaughan College, Leicester University.  Early members were Laura and Peter Cooper, Dorothy Ireland  and Yvonne Eaton as well as me.  We held it in the big classroom at the school.  One of our first projects was the Publication of the photo book called “Packington Observed”.  I wrote three or four parts of this.

Where is the Packington Carnival Shield?

Village Carnivals were held annually between 1973 and 2008. This is the Carnival Shield:

Typically, prior to the event itself on a village field or playing ground, a parade round the village of decorated mobile floats was held.

Splendid decoration of the floats by affinity groups or street groups took place:

A trophy shield was awarded to the best float each year – the shield is shown in the picture above at top.

Do YOU know where that trophy Best Float shield is now? Packington Village History Group PVHG would like to place it on display as a souvenir exhibit to mark these special village events.

If you know, or suspect, where the trophy Best Float shield is – or even where it just might be – please let us know!

Please contact the Carnival history project – Adrian Mongredien will be keen to hear from you by email to: adrian dot mongredien at gmail dot com

Please help to Document Packington Carnivals 1973 – 2000

A session on Monday 8th August 2022 at 2:30 pm to 5 pm at Memorial Hall

Packington Village History Group (PVHG) is looking to expand its records of the annual summer Carnivals held in Packington between the first Carnival in 1973 until the millennium. The History Group would like to obtain first-hand accounts of how the annual Carnival started, how many people were involved in the organisation of successive Carnivals, and what impact the Carnivals had on our village community.

To start the ball rolling: PVHG has booked Packington Memorial Hall on the afternoon of: Monday 8th August 2022 from 2.30pm to 5.00pm to assemble as many personal recollections, and as much photographic material of past Carnivals as we can.

Packington Carnival 2005

We would ask anyone interested in attending to give some thought to the following questions…….as far as you can remember!!

1. What was your involvement with the Carnivals and when did you start being involved? Were you on the organising committee at any point? How many Carnivals did you attend in this period? (a) as a child? (b) as an adolescent? (c) as an adult?

3. What was your favourite part of the Carnival events? Have you any specific memory (memories) of a particular Carnival you would be happy to put on record?

4. Did you ever take part in a Carnival Procession and if so, what was the theme of the float you were on, or were involved with?

5. Have you any photographic or film record of Carnival events in this period which you would be happy to share with your local History Group? Do you know of other people who might be prepared to share their memories, including photographs, with PVHG? Maybe someone who used to live in the village but has now moved away.

If you have suitable photographs, 35mm transparencies, or cine film of Carnivals in this period that you would be happy to share with us please contact one of the following:

Robin Boucher randbboucher at googlemail dot com

Nev Bray nevbray at hotmail dot com

Adrian Mongredien adrian dot mongredien at gmail dot com

As soon as possible please so that plans can be made, where practical, to download your pictures prior to the event.

If we obtain enough material of general interest PVHG may put on an exhibition at the Memorial Hall this winter for villagers and local residents of all ages to come and see our records of last century’s biggest annual social event in Packington. So, please check out your memories, your family photo albums, your lofts and attics for long forgotten photographs, colour slides and 8mm film and any other memorabilia of this now bygone age, and get in touch.

See you there?

Chair’s Report to Annual General Meeting, January 2022

Robin Boucher, chair of PVHG, made the following report of 2021 activities to the Annual General Meeting on 25th January 2022:


During the first half of 2021 we were constrained by Government restrictions on meetings, due to the Covid pandemic. Some of us met on Zoom while others felt unable to do so. In the autumn we were able to meet face-to-face once more. Despite the difficulties, the year was not without some achievements.

Following Yvonne Eaton’s retirement from the position of secretary, Sue Brown agreed to take on the role for the next couple of years. Thank you, Sue, for undertaking this work.

While we were unable to meet, Sue Brown and Robert Dilworth worked on production of a list of baptisms and burials which now appears on the Group’s website at pvhg.uk. Some 3,286 entries are now available for visitors to examine.

In mid-June, I led a walk up Mill Street. The weather for the evening was beautiful and around thirty people turned out, which was close to the permitted attendance for an outdoor event at the time. The walk was well-received – the appearance of a peacock near the starting-point was clearly a good omen!

Meanwhile I had also started preparing a publication, based on oral interviews which our predecessors had undertaken from the late 1980’s onwards. Group members helped with proof-reading and supportive feedback and the Parish Council made a grant from its Solar Fund towards production costs. “A Way of Life That Has Gone” was published in December 2021; the PVHG publicity machine rolled into action (thankyou Robert and Sue) and the book was launched at a signing session in the Memorial Hall. At the time of writing over half of the print run of 100 copies has been sold.

Our autumn meetings included a session looking at the 1735 estate map of Packington, and a very interesting presentation by Sue Brown on the Leeson family, prominent in Packington from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries. We concluded by starting to plan our contribution to the village’s Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebration to be held in June 2022.

Robin Boucher

2nd January 2022

Annual General Meeting — Presentation to Yvonne Eaton

At the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of PVHG on Tuesday 25th January 2022, a presentation was made on behalf of the members to our retiring Secretary, founder-member Yvonne Eaton.

Yvonne Eaton displays the cut-glass goblets she has just received from Chair of PVHG Robin Boucher

Yvonne has been a member of our village History Group since its start back in the ’80s, over 30 years ago, and has acted as both Secretary and Treasurer for decades. Many early meetings were held in her home, Beech House on Ashby Road, before the 2009 refurbished Memorial Hall Meeting Room became available, and were renowned for her kind hospitality and provision of welcoming hot drinks and snacks.

She has retired from her rôle as Secretary, but retains her post as Treasurer, which involves a little less work. Yvonne believes the process, of changing our PVHG bank account signatories from her to someone else, might prove far too daunting for her to consider relinquishing this position!

Three decades ago – an early meeting of PVHG stalwarts shows Yvonne in the foreground, with Keith Haines and Nancy Atherton, seated; standing behind L to R are Peter and Laura Cooper, Dorothy Ireland, Doug Pratt and Vera Haines

In a letter to thank the group for the gift she received to acknowledge her many years of secretarial work, Yvonne wrote:

I wish to express my sincere thanks for the generous gift of crystal glasses given by the history group on my retirement as secretary of the group. What a surprise.

I have enjoyed being part of the group from its humble beginnings in the school room, then to Dorothy Ireland's home in the Grange, then to Beech House when Dorothy moved to Ashby, and now the Memorial Hall, long may the group continue.

Please pass my thanks on to all members of the history group."

Book Launch success – Saturday 4th December 2021

The PVHG Book-Launch and Signing took place on Saturday 4th December 2021 at the Hall meeting room. An early purchaser, village resident Colin Goacher, is seen above outside Memorial Hall holding his signed first-day cover of the PVHG book “A Way of Life That has Gone“.

PVHG Chair Robin Boucher, seen below, who had himself painstakingly edited the original source interviews – from villagers of two decades ago, discussing their memories of eight to ten decades ago – was signing launch copies of the book in the Meeting Room.

Front cover – “A Way of Life That has Gone”

Copies of the book are available for purchase at £5 – contact Robin Boucher by email to randbboucher at googlemail dot com, or by telephone on 411638. They will also be available:

  • at the PVHG meeting on 25th January 2022
  • at subsequent 4th Tuesday PVHG meetings
  • at the June Platinum Jubilee display by PVHG during the anticipated Sunday 5th June Strawberry cream tea at the Hall.
The rear cover of “A Way of Life That has Gone”

Guided Walk – Mill Street History – 7:30 pm Tuesday 15th June 2021, led by PVHG

Packington Village History Group PVHG offers a FREE guided history walk of our village’s Mill Street, starting at 7:30 pm on Tuesday 15th June 2021 (weather permitting! – else Tuesday 22nd June 2021)

Our starting point is over there, on the “Severn-Trent Corner” of Babelake Street, at the Junction with Bridge Street, across the road from Mill Street – meet before the 7:30 pm start.

The guided walk will be led by PVHG chair Robin Boucher, whose reputation as a fount of knowledge of both Packington and History is well-deserved.

Mill Street has been described as “The Jewel in The Crown” of Packington, containing some of the most beautiful and historic aspects of our village.

However – it hasn’t always been known as “Mill Street”..

It’s 68 years since the Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II – do you know where to find this reminder?

This wall, above, is almost 200 years old – 198 already. Do you know where on Mill Street it is to be found?

The ancient Mill Street steps above are 180 years old. Do you know where they are, and where do – or did – they lead?

Answers to many more of our – and your – questions should be available from our Walk Leader, Robin Boucher, on Tuesday 15th June 2021, starting from the top end of Babelake Street at 7:30 pm. PVHG hope to see you there.

A VITAL STORY to be told – YOURS

Write YOUR Life Story.. for future Packington Residents to read – and to be amazed..?

In March 2020, while confined to his home in our village, Adrian Mongredien writes:

At Hay Literary Festival, I heard a historian talk on how to write the story of our lives.

She told us that nothing is more valuable to historians than first hand experiences. The only way these can be discovered and cross-checked is if a number of people can be persuaded to write about their own individual experiences.

In the next few years the number of people who can remember living just after or through the Second World War will rapidly diminish. Every one of us has a unique story to tell. Events that we may see as mundane and ordinary may be fascinating to our great grandchildren. Consider – if you are over 70, then:

  • you probably grew up in a house with no central heating;
  • with coal fires which you were taught how to light and keep going.
  • you may remember what life was like before television.
  • you may have had no shower, but one bath a week if there was enough hot water.

How can we write our own life story? A good way to start is to find your birth certificate. In my case I was able to find, from mine, the building that I was born in on google maps – a nursing home in Weston Favell Northamptonshire in 1942- and discover that it is still there although it is now an old people’s home. Can you remember

  • the house, or area, in which you were born?
  • Where you first went to school?
  • How near were you to your local shops?
  • Was food and sweets rationed?
  • How many people lived there in the city, town, or village where you lived as a child?
  • Where was the nearest Park?
  • What sort of games did you play with other children living on your street?
  • Did you have a birthday party when you were a child?
  • What sort of presents did you receive at Christmas?
  • What was your favourite radio programme?
  • How many times did you go to the cinema every month?

Answers to all these questions will be of interest to future generations who will almost certainly be living very different lifestyles, as indeed are we today already.

I started writing the story of my early life a couple of years ago. Along the way I have found myself searching the internet for photos of New Brighton Pier (now demolished) and my secondary school (also demolished), and recently discovering on the net, the value of the house where I lived in a bedsit for ten months, during my few years in London in the “swinging sixties”. I was amazed to discover that it sold a couple of years ago for over £27,000,000. That is twenty seven million!!

You have no idea what will turn up until you sit down at your lap top and begin to remember your beginnings.

Over two decades ago, our Village History Group produced some fascinating reminiscences in the form of this “Where were you in the War?” booklet. Please will you NOW help us write YOUR history, for future village residents to enjoy? PVHG hope to publish YOUR story in a similar booklet when our current enforced home isolation comes to an end ..

PVHG suspends 24th March 2020 meet

A message from our Chairman

Hello all:

Normally at this point of the month I would be sending you a reminder that our next meeting will take place in a week’s time (Tuesday 24th March).

However, like most or all of you, I have listened carefully to the Government’s guidance concerning the corona virus. It is clear that the over-70’s and those who have  underlying health conditions are seen as vulnerable groups – both these categories are relevant to our Group. The advice is to adopt social distancing from the coming weekend.

With regret we cannot say that the History Group is an essential service! I therefore believe it is appropriate to suspend our meetings for the time being. I have learned that the Memorial Hall Committee has taken the decision to close the Hall for the time being, which rather takes things out of our hands anyway.

The Government advice is that measures will be in place for the next twelve weeks, which has implications for our April and May dates – I will however take one month at a time and will confirm about these dates nearer the appropriate times.

I look forward to our meeting again when it is considered safe to do so, and wish good health to you all in the meantime.

With best wishes – Robin Boucher