Guides: Jane & Peter Smith
20 August 2019
Nearly 50 people joined a walking tour of Cropston to hear about the village’s history.
The –ton suffix probably indicates Anglo-Saxon origins, but most of the tour was about the last few hundred years, about which we know more. For much of that time Cropston was a few houses clustered around the crossroads. The village still has houses dating from the last 600 years. The Thatch, Cropston’s most well-known house, was originally 2 cottages. Beneath the 20th century black and white facade are earlier brick and cruck-frame constructions.
Causeway Lane was one of the entrances to Bradgate Park until the reservoir was built. The Gate House controlled access.
During most of the 19th century White Lodge housed Cropston Brewery, as well as the house and outbuildings for a small farm of 49 acres. The Burchnalls owned this, and the beerhouse next door, The Brewer’s Arms. In the 20th century the village bakery was here.
Life in this village of 110 people must have been turned upside down in 1865 by the arrival of 500-600 navvies to build the reservoir. In addition to the inevitable disorder (an extra constable was employed), this provided a business opportunity, and beer was sold from a shed (“shanty” or “shant”) to the thirsty workers. When the dam was complete, The Reservoir Hotel (now the Badger’s Sett) was built and served a different clientele: a standard daytrip from Leicester included a tour of the new pumping station and refreshments at the hotel. The site had plenty of space from which to admire the view of the reservoir (since blocked by trees).
From the 1920s there was more provision for tourists: Park Hill Holiday Centre, a 10-acre site between Causeway Lane and the Reservoir, advertised “luncheons, teas, caravans, bungalows, camping and tennis courts. Motor parties etc catered for.”
The road over the new dam replaced part of the original road to Hallgates. A small part of this road still exists between The Thatch and Corner Cottage and contains the pinfold, an enclosed area where stray animals were kept.
Cropston expanded rapidly after Rothley Station was opened in 1899, attracting professionals who could now commute to Leicester or Loughborough. The population rose rapidly, from 191 in 1901 to 909 in 1931.
The Cropstone Land Society provided land outside the original village for some of the first new houses to be built, known collectively as “The Klondyke”. The plots were long and thin, large enough to enable the householders to be self-sufficient in food.
Guild Close is built on the site of a holiday home run by the Leicester Guild of the Crippled (now called Mosaic). The home provided an opportunity for disabled members in Leicester to have a week away from the city. It operated from 1923 to 1991.
Miss Sarah Jane Hind, who died in 1922, provided in her will the land and funds to build almshouses for deserving gentlewomen aged 60 or over who were members of the Church of England. The Hind Sisters homes still operate today.
Cropston Chapel was built in 1879, providing new accomodation for non-conformists whose numbers had outgrown the house in which they had been meeting since 1850. The chapel played an important part in the life of the village, most recently with a thriving youth club.
Cropston used to be well provided with shops and traders: milk was delivered from Astills Farm or collected in a jug from the Bradgate Arms, there was a butcher with its own slaughterhouse, a village store next to Corner Cottage and the Post Office and stores.