History of Countesthorpe
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PARISH OF COUNTESTHORPE
Countesthorpe is a large village of some 7000 inhabitants set in a parish of over 1200 acres, six miles to the south of Leicester. The name Countesthorpe derives from the 11th century when the area formed part of the marriage dowry of Countess Judith, niece of William the Conqueror, "thorpe" having the Scandinavian meaning of hamlet or sub-settlement.
The Parish Church of St. Andrew started in 1220 by Lord of the Manor, William de Lodbrok's family, was restored in 1841 and again in 1907, although the 14th century tower still remains. The village has also a Baptist Chapel (1810), a Methodist Chapel (1845) and a cemetery (1893).
Adjacent to the Church is the Church Room originally built in 1753 with the upper storey as a school room and below the Curate's room and parlour. It was rebuilt as a single story school for sixty children in 1841. Opposite is the Church Centre, formerly the Infant School, founded in 1873 and extended in 1913. The Foston Road school built in 1884 for 42 children was sponsored by a non-religious board and finally closed in 1975. The Beechwood Infant and Linden Junior Schools (now Greenfield Primary School) are situated centrally in new buildings on Gwendoline Drive, whilst the Leysland High School and Countesthorpe College occupy a large campus at the west end of the village on Winchester Road. The Cottage Homes on the College campus were opened in 1884 by the forward looking Leicester Board of Guardians who wanted orphan children to be brought up in a home environment rather than in institutions. Perhaps the most famous of these orphans was William Buckingham who was awarded the V.C. in the 1914-18 war and subsequently died for his country. A road in the village is named in his memory.
Countesthorpe has two half-timbered houses; that in The Square being a particularly fine example dating back to the 15th Century, and the one in Main Street was a Yeoman Farm House built prior to 1616. In Peatling Road is a fine example of a Leicestershire Mud House probably dating back to the 17th century.
The Cottage industry of stocking knitting started prior to 1739 in the village and developed with the building of several frame knitting shops. None of these are still in use, but knitwear and other light industry gives some local employment. The village is surrounded by good agricultural land. The open fields of the Parish were enclosed in 1767, but many of the old furlong names survive as field names today for example, Scalborough, Galloway and Leysland. Hospital Lane and Foston Road are part of the Barlestone to Foston turnpike which was used for bringing coal to the area.
Prior to the mid 1960's growth of the village was slow, but then onwards several large estates were developed giving rise to a very rapid population growth. The old people's sheltered housing at Brook Court was provided by Blaby District Council.
Countesthorpe is served by bus services to Leicester via Blaby and South Wigston. Although the railway opened between Rugby and Leicester in 1842, sadly it was closed in 1961. Many footpaths radiate outwards from the village giving immediate access to the surrounding attractive countryside.