Willoughby Waterleys


This small village and civil parish in Leicestershire is about 9 miles south of Leicester near to the A426 Leicester-Lutterworth road and about a mile from the M1 motorway between Junctions 20 and 21.  Grid Reference is SP5792. The population in the 1911 Census was 207 and in the 1921 Census 210.

Until fairly recent times, the village was known as Willoughby Waterless.  Its antiquity is beyond doubt as it is mentioned in Domesday Book.  The village houses lie mostly on either side of Main Street, which runs from North to South. There is a wide mix of building types and styles, the oldest including cottages, houses and farms dating from the mid-17th Century to rather grand Victorian homes, smaller terraced buildings and a few more recent housing developments. The 2011 Census gave a population of  327, with the main male occupations (about 75%) described as Managers, Directors, Senior officials, Professional Occupations and Skilled Trade Occupations.  The main female occupation category in 2011 was Secretarial and Administrative Work. As the village is surrounded by farmland (incidentally, there are still a few farms in the village itself)  the majority of residents can be assumed to work away from the village and certainly, during our visit, Main Street was very quiet.  (In the 1851 Census, the highest proportion of  males over 21 years - more than half - worked in Agriculture).

The Village has a pub, The  "General Elliott" - named after the General of that name who defended Gibraltar against the Spaniards in the Great Siege 1779-83.

There is also a fine 1846 National School building, now used as a Village Hall.

The Parish Church of St. Mary is rather hidden away from passers-by, and is reached via a  little passageway.  The building dates largely from the 13th Century but is believed to have retained its original Norman tower and it also has a small, very well-kept churchyard with several graves still clean and legible after 200 years.

There is no war memorial in the village, but there is a plaque on the Altar in the Parish Church referring to some carved oak figures in the reredos.  This plaque says the Carved Oak Figures "Were Given in Thank Offering for 'Victory of Peace' and were dedicated by the Rev. J. Kerry Williams at Harvest Eucharist September 28 1919.  JLH Jenkyn, Rector." 

We found three "Soldiers Died" whose records associate them with Willoughby Waterless.  We have been able to determine that none of them lived in this village. For each one of them, the association with the village comes from the address given by the relative when completing the Final Verification Form some time after the war.  Sgt. P. Chester's wife remarried and was living with her new husband in Willoughby Waterleys when she completed the form. Pte Bertie Daverage lived with his family in Leicester and worked in the shoe industry.  His mother moved to Willoughby Waterleys after the war, by then a widow in her 60s, possibly looking for domestic service.  The previous two men served in the Leicestershire Regiment.  The final soldier, Ernest Ingham, served as a Private in the King's Liverpool Regiment.  He died on 1 July 1916, has no known grave, and is named on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, France. His Commonwealth War Graves Commission register entry names him as "Son of the Rev. Ernest Ingham of Willoughby Waterleys Rectory, Leicester".  In the 1911 Census, the family were shown as living in Liverpool; the father, also Ernest Ingham, was described as "Clerke in Holy Orders".  This led us to ask to look at the list of Vicars/Rectors of this church.  In this list, John L.H. Jenkyn (mentioned on the 1919 plaque) was Vicar/Rector 1904 to 1922; Ernest A. Ingham was Vicar 1922 to 1940.  So his son, who died in 1916, could never have lived in Willoughby Waterleys.  This is where the father was living when he completed the Final Verification Form.

But there were Willoughby Waterleys men who served. We have found the service records of two soldiers who gave Willoughby Waterless as their place of residence when they enlisted and again on demobilisation at the end of the war.  There may be others but it is impossible to carry out a full check as not all servicemen's records exist today. With this evidence of residence, and with no evidence that any residents died in the war, we conclude that Willoughby Waterleys has a sound claim for inclusion in our list of Thankful Villages.

(Thanks are due to Mike Oates, who brought Willoughby Waterleys to our attention and carried out local research for us.)

Photos - Tom Morgan

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