Congerstone village

Congerstone Manor


The Manor of Congerstone

by John Matthews

Congerstone is pronounced locally as “Cun-jeston”. This is thought to reflect its origin from the old Scandinavian konungr, ” a king” – the King’s Estate.  The earliest spellings were Cunston and, in the Domesday book (1086), Cuningestone.  During the 19th century several spellings were used (Conjeston, Congeston, Congerston and Congerstone), often concurrently, which may have been due to the local dialect.  According to the headmaster of Market Bosworth Grammar School (Dr AB Evans, 1881), people from Congerstone had a very broad accent.  The following quotes from Mrs Ottey, the wife of a bricklayer and farmer, who lived in the village in about 1860, illustrate this:

“Dom’er yis”      (Dear me, yes)

“Ah’d niver go mod about a mon whoile ther’s so mony on ’em!”

 (I’d never go mad about a man while there are so many of them!)

If you would like to see how the village has changed over the last 200 years, click here

In the Domesday book, the settlement and surrounding land known as Cuningestone was divided into two unequal parts by William the Conqueror and given to Henry de Ferrers and Roger de Bursar.


Henry was given the largest part of Congerstone, including a mill (not Bilstone mill, which did not exist in 1086) as well as Gopsall (Gopeshille).  At this time few villages had a mill, so Congerstone must have been quite important.

The “Manor of Congerstone” existed up to the early 19th century and a succession of Lords of the manor, at least up until the late 17th century, appear to have possessed all the lands within the manor.  One infamous Lord of the manor and Patron of St Mary’s Church in the 15th century was John Beaumont Esq. who was condemned for high treason in 1464!   After the late 1600s, freeholders became relatively common (eg. there were 13 freeholders in 1719 and 25 in 1775) and significant amounts of land within the manor were owned by Lord Byron in the late 18th and early 19th century.  All of the land owned by Lord Byron was purchased by Earl Howe (Richard Curzon Howe, 1st Earl Howe) of the Gopsall Estate shortly before the Inclosure  Act of 1823, as was much of the land held by freeholders.

Little is known about a manor house in Congerstone.  Today, a series of earthworks that can be seen immediately to the north of the church is thought to indicate the presence of a manor house, which probably stood on the site now occupied by the houses in Church Field.  The earthworks consist of flattened terraces identified as gardens, house platforms and a fish pond.

The only written evidence for a manor house is found in the late 17th century (Manor of Congeston) Rent Roll of Sir John Noel, bart. of Kirkby Mallory, which contains the statement: “The estate there in the possession of several tenants, where there is a very good manor-house, and several other good houses ……..”.

In general, farming has been the main activity and source of employment for villagers, although the Gopsall Estate in its heyday provided a large number of jobs, especially for the women living locally.  As with most of Britain and Europe, the Open-Field system of farming was employed in Congerstone Manor up until the completion of the enclosure/inclosure in 1825.  The Manor was divided up into 3 very large fields called (from North to South), the Lynch or Linch field, Middle field and Moor or Moore field.  The areas corresponding to the three Congerstone Manor Open-fields on the 1:25000 Ordinance Survey map (2013) are shown below.


These great open-fields were themselves divided into smaller ‘fields’ (actually known as Furlongs but not to be confused with the current use as a measure of distance or the incorrect Wikipedia definition) which were then further divided up into narrow strips called ‘lands’ or ‘selions’.  The map dated 1823 above shows the names of fields within the three great Open-Fields as well as the approximate direction (colour coded) of the strips of land cultivated.  According to the map dated 1823, there were a total of 1706 strips of land in Congeston Manor (Lynch field = 432; Middle field = 688 & Moor field = 586 strips) that would have been unequally divided between those living in the manor, with some having no allocation.  The strips for a given individual or family would be scattered around the manor rather than being in a block so that land with good and poor soil was fairly distributed.   Some areas were retained by the lord of the manor as his personal lands (see demesne) and other areas (glebe land) were given for support of the rector of the parish.  Cultivation of the demesne was performed by the families living within the manor as part of their rents for their homes and strips of land allocated to them for subsistence farming.  Similarly the tenants would work glebe land as part of their tithe.

Ridge & Furrow pattern in fields above Wood Stanway

The method of ploughing the fields created a distinctive ridge and furrow pattern in open-field agriculture and, in some places, the outlines of the medieval strips of cultivation can be clearly visible (eg. Wood Stanway in Gloucestershire).  Locally, after mowing, it is possible to make out a ridge and furrow pattern in the field (Under Millers Ashes) next to the allotments in Poplar Terrace, Congerstone.

At the time of the enclosure, the majority of the land within the Manor of Congeston belonged to Earl Howe of Gopsall Hall, after purchasing significant tracts of land within both Lynch and Moor fields.  Thus, by 1825 the Manor of Congerstone was essentially absorbed into the Gopsall Estate.  The church, in the form of Glebe land associated with the rectors of Congerstone, Shackerstone, Nailstone and Market Bosworth, became the second largest land owner after enclosure (see map below).  Although not indicated on the map, much of the village of Congeston was also owned by Earl Howe.

Today, much of the farmland within the Manor of Congerstone that was owned by Earl Howe is part of the Shackerstone Estate, which was purchased by Chris Stamper (Rare Ltd, Twycross) from the Crown in 2017.  In addition, some houses within the village are still part of this estate, including the Alms houses, Fox Covert Farmhouse and the Crown Cottages on Main Street.  All of the glebe land is now privately owned but a small parcel of land originally designated for the benefit of the churchwardens is still owned by the church.  This land includes the field known as Bridge Pool Flat on the 1823 map (land on the non-towpath side of the canal north of Bates Wharf Bridge, Barton Rd).  The Canal & Rivers Trust rent this area from St Mary’s church for the princely sum of £2.73 per year!


For more readable information on the Open-Field system, see:

Medieval Fields (Shire Archaeology series) by David Hall. Shire Publications (2010); ISBN 10: 0852635990.

© John Matthews 2019