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.


  • 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

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”

Book Launch and Signing – Saturday 4th December 2021 – 10 am to 1 pm at Memorial Hall

Our Packington Village History Group PVHG is to publish a new book about life in the inter-war years in our village. The new book is to be launched on Saturday 4th December 2021, at the Memorial Hall meeting room, from 10 am to 1 pm.

Verbal testimony, some of it a whole century old, was recorded in the last century by PVHG, from reminiscences of still-living members of the village. Their vivid recollections form our new PVHG book, “A Way of Life that is Gone“.

The book will be launched on Saturday, and editor Robn Boucher, chair of PVHG, will be at the launch to sign YOUR first-day cover of the book.

Only 100 copies have been printed – this is YOUR opportunity to own this heart-warming treasure for an investment of just £5.

Meeting Tuesday 26th October 2021 at 7:30 pm – The Leeson Family in Sixteenth Century Packington

So who was Raphe Leeson, pictured below? Why do we have his expensive 1587 memorial in our village ? Who was in his family? What did they do?

Village Historian Sue Brown is our PVHG Secretary and Treasurer, and on Tuesday 26th October 2021 at 7:30pm in the Memorial Hall Venue 35 will be giving a presentation on “The Leeson Family in Sixteenth Century Packington“.

The 1587 Leeson Memorial in Packington is our oldest memorial

Non-members will be particularly welcome – our famed PVHG hospitality means that although the passing-round of a plate of free biscuits is banned under virus protocols, we can still provide hot tea or coffee to attendees.

Gravestone Photo Resource now hosts Packington Records

Packington Village History Group PVHG has joined with a major internet repository of Gravestone Photographic Records to host hundreds of images of Packington gravestones, with the details of over 460 names recorded on them. There are still more to be added, when time permits..

YOU can now access these records, using the Gravestone Photo Resource (GPR) website

Here’s what you’ll see:

Continue reading “Gravestone Photo Resource now hosts Packington Records”

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 ..

Minutes of our Meeting on 28 January 2020 (After our AGM)

At Venue 35 – the Memorial Hall Meeting Room – on Tuesday 28th January 2020 at about 8 pm

Present: Chairman Robin Boucher, Secretary & Treasurer Yvonne Eaton, 10 members, and 4 visitors

  • Robin had been approached by Peter Last to see if the History Group were interested in having the hand-written minute book of Packington WI during the period March 1994 through to September 2011 for the archive. The thick bound A4 book was produced, and members agreed it would be a useful addition.
  • Visitor Janice Sumnall described a problem she and Andrew Sumnall were having with the Shire Horse Society in registering their stud in the name of “Packington”, the reason being the Packington Blind Horse. She asked for the groups help in this matter. Sue told Janice she thought the farmer’s name where the Blind horse stood was Hood, but this needed to be researched.   After further discussion Robin read a letter he had drafted to give to Janice to forward to the Shire Horse Society before their AGM  in April, members agreed the letter should be sent.
  • Janice also mentioned  that it will be the 10th year they have opened their farm to the general public for “Farms Open Day“, a national event.  They have had as many as 2,000 visitors  at the event, and this year they want to make it special by displaying agricultural equipment past and present. Many other activities were planned, and she invited the history group to put on a display – the event takes place on Sunday 7th June.
  • The Parish Council have asked the history group to take part in VE Day 75th anniversary celebrations on 8th May, however details of the councils plans have yet to be decided.  Members agreed the group should take part but we need to search the archives to see if any Packington men were in the forces at that time.  The book the history group had previously produced entitled “Where were you in the war” may be of use.
  • Adrian’s history is progressing and now covers the period 0-1100 CE .  He is now almost ready to place this on the website in order that more can be added as time goes by and more historical evidence may emerge.
  • Digitising the oral histories was discussed. An estimate of the cost of this process needs to be acquired, an application to the Solar Fund could then be made.
  • Robin proposed he leads a walk down Mill Street and he has much information to hand – members agreed this should take place at the end of June, weather permitting.
  • Sue put in a request for any pottery pieces anyone finds on their premises.  On a similar quest, visitor Stephen Plummer asked whether PVHG could use metal-detecting equipment to scan the village environment, especially near footpaths, for historic artifacts, perhaps a “Packington Hoard” – he had discovered items dating back to early 1800s this way.
  • Sue also suggested encouraging members to transcribe wills and inventories from the 1600s onwards. Our members agreed this could begin at our March meeting as these documents give a clear insight as to how people lived.
  • Visitor Stephen Plummer encouraged the group to advertise, especially by putting a piece in the Packington Communications Group’s “Welcome Pack“, which is given to all newcomers in the village when they first arrive. Members were in agreement and Robin will proceed with this.  
  • The meeting ended at 9.40pm.
  • Our next PVHG meeting is Tuesday, 25th February at 7.30pm.

PVHG Autumn Meetings: Tuesdays, 24 September and 29 October 2019

The next Packington Village History Group PVHG meeting will take place on Tuesday 24th September 2019, when we will catch up on things following our summer break.

At our following meeting Tuesday 29th October, Sue Brown will make a presentation on “Medieval Packington”. Any non-member who would like to join us will be warmly welcome – both meetings will take place in Venue 35, the Memorial Hall Meeting Room at 7:30 pm

PVHG is happy to issue a reminder that on Friday 25th October, Pudding Bag Productions will be showing FREE of CHARGE the film, made partially in our village this summer, about the Reverend Thomas Pestell, the historical figure who served as Vicar of Packington in the turbulent times of the English Civil War and its aftermath.

Tickets will be available at Daybreak Services, free of charge, for the showing in Venue 175, the Memorial Hall at 7:30 pm