Gentlemen of Thurcaston

Speakers: Brenda Hooper and Margaret Greiff

19 November 2019

Our final meeting of the year included a brief AGM, followed by short talks from two of our members.

Brenda Hooper recounted some of the episodes in the life of Richard Waterfield, who was Rector of the Parish of Thurcaston, Cropston and Anstey from 1838 to 1864. Among the major works of this generous man were the repair and renovation of All Saints’ Church, Thurcaston; the erection of a monument inside in memory of Hugh Latimer; and the rebuilding of St. Mary’s, Anstey – all at his own expense. A beautiful stained-glass window in St. Mary’s is a lasting memorial to this ‘kind and agreeable man and clear-headed preacher’ (Mary Kirby). Waterfield Road in Cropston is also named after him.


Margaret Greiff then told us about Two Gentlemen of Thurcaston, who were associated with Thurcaston Manor during Shakespearean times.

Nicholas Gravenor was the last Lord of the Manor of Thurcaston who actually lived in the village. He was born in about 1560, presumably in the manor house which his father had recently built or extended (and which no longer survives). The Manor of Thurcaston also included Keyham and Maplewell and when Nicholas grew up he decided to build himself a new manor house, with a moat, at Maplewell (near Woodhouse Eaves). He was involved in several lawsuits for debt and it is said that Nicholas and his wife would avoid paying church dues by worshipping in a different parish each week! The land and title to the Manor was sold in 1627 and Nicholas died in Leicester two years later, leaving only 12 pence to each of his sons and 20 shillings to his daughter.

Nicholas Gorson was the only person from our immediate area known to have been charged with being a “recusant” Catholic, which means that he refused to attend Anglican church services. He was born in 1545 and probably studied law at Oxford, where his name is written in an early printed book at the Bodleian Library. He succeeded his father as the tenant at Thurcaston Manor and in 1595 his second marriage was to Ann Gravenor, who must be the sister of Nicholas Gravenor mentioned above. The Gunpowder Plot in 1605 led the Bishop of Lincoln to crack down on the “dangerous infection of popery” in his diocese, and in 1607 Nicholas Gorson was summoned to kneel before the bishop and promise to conform to the Anglican faith for the rest of his life. Documents show that he needed to raise money soon afterwards, probably for the payment of fines, and when he died in 1616 he left only modest sums to his children.