Church Street, Churchover

Churchover is a pretty village on the border of Warwickshire and Leicestershire four miles north of Rugby. Its history has been well documented by Dr C.G. Down who has written a pamphlet "A Brief History of Churchover" and in the book "A Century in Churchover" complied by Mary Short and Doreen Bradbury of the Churchover Social History Group in 2001 upon which I have heavily relied in this summary.

The village is bounded by the River Swift and the Roman road Watling Street. The M6 motorway built in the late 1960s cut the old parish in half but the village remains very much unspoilt and unchanged from Victorian times, with an attractive village green. The village is set in open arable and pasture land.

The village has about 100 houses, mostly built in red brick. A monastic grange may have existed  on or near the site of the local manor house, Coton House.  Churchover was predominantly a farming village which used to have five working farms. Many of the villagers worked at Coton House. Later in the nineteenth century when Rugby became a major engineeering and railway town, many villagers worked there.

                                                                               Holy Trinity Church

Churchover's parish church is medieval in origin, the tower was built in the 11th century. One of the bells was made in the 15th century. The font is Norman (11th century). The church has monuments to the two most prominent Churchover families - the Dixwells and the Grimes - in the church.

In the centre of Churchover is a triangular village green known as a 'Godcake' with a large and attractive spreading chestnut tree.

Many of the older cottages in Churchover have not survived, and were replaced by modern buildings. The old ninetheenth century Rectory was knocked down in the early 1960s. The Rectory's main claim to fame is that the family of Sir Frank Whittle, who invented the jet engine, used to live there.  

                                                                               Leatherlands Barn


The Ordnance Survey maps show a building in the fields behind Churchover called Leatherlands Barn. Clearly this has some sort of family connection, although Samuel Leatherland was the only direct ancestor who lived in the village and he was a farm labourer. It seems odd that a barn would be named after a farm labourer ! But in his later life he worked as a county council road maintenance worker, and my uncle's theory is that he may have stored his road maintenance tools in the barn which seems plausible. Dr CG Down tells me that the building is more of a farm than a barn, although a close-up on Google maps suggests that it is now derelict.

Leatherland's Barn is mentioned in the book "A Century in Churchover". Lifelong Churchover resident, Dennis Lucas, born in 1925 recalled that when he was a schoolboy Leatherland's Barn was used as a shepherd's cottage by Jack Groom, who did odd jobs for farmers. Jack Groom later moved out of the barn to live in a shed at Black Spinney where one day he was found dead. Dennis Lucas recalled that his body was taken awayin a Rolls Royce and the village gossip was that he was from a well-to-do family who rejected him because of his hare lip !

                                              Will Leatherland's Churchover Recollections

Will Leatherland was my great uncle. The compilers of A Century in Churchover asked him to document his memories of Churchover as he stayed with his grandparents in Churchover for six months as a boy following the death of his mother. He continued to visit the village in his later years and became friendly with the lady who lived on the site of the cottage in which his grandparents used to live.

                                   Coton House


                                       Coton House in the 1900s

Coton House was the local manor house about half a mile from Churchover village.  The house and manor were owned by the Dixwell family for several generations from the 1550s.  In the late eighteenth century Abraham Grimes became the owner. He demolished the Tudor house and built the house which stands today.  In 1874 Coton House was sold to Francis Arkwright (a descendant of spinning machine inventor Richard Arkwright).  Francis Arkwright let the house and land to Arthur James and his wife.  Mrs James was the daughter of a prominent Conservative politician and she became godmother to Elizabeth Bowes-Lyons (who became Queen Mother).  After her husband's death she purch ased and ran the Coton House estate.

                                       Coton House

My late grandfather told me that his grandmother, Susanna Leatherland, used to work in Coton House  as a servant.

During World War Two, Coton House was used by airmen. In 1948, following Mrs James' death, it was sold to BTH an engineeering company who used it as a hostel for apprentices. In 1970 it was bought by the Post Office and used as a management training college.

                                                             Interior of Holy Trinity Church

                               SAMUEL AND SUSANNA's THIRTEEN CHILDREN

Samuel and Susanna Leatherland had thirteen children. They were all born and brought up in Churchover. This is their story.... You may be wondering why they had so many children. One reason is probably that Susanna Foster was very young when she married Samuel Leatherland, in fact she was barely 17. Women who married at a young age tended to have more children simply because they started earlier ! Susanna clearly had no problems in conceiving and she continued to have children until the age of 41. In earlier chapters I looked at Samuel's life. But what do we know about Susanna ? She was born in July 1849 in Churchover, daughter of John and Sarah Foster. John Foster was a Churchover man whose first wife Kitty died of liver disease at the age of 32 leaving five children. Four years later John married
Sarah Ward, daughter of a carpenter. Susannah was their first child.

The evidence suggests that Susannah lived in Churchover for most of her life. She was born and baptised there, she appears in every Churchover census from 1851 to 1911, and she died there in 1927.  She came from quite a large family - she had four half-brothers and one half-sister from her father's first marriage as well as her own brother and sister. Sarah lived in Church Street, Churchover as a girl perhaps in one of the houses pictured below.


                                                             Church St, Churchover

According to the censuses and his children's birth certificates, Susannah's father was a labourer. There is a family story that he was connected with canal boats in some way, or that he was a miller, although I have found no evidence to support this.

Susannah's marriage certificate says she was a servant. My grandfather told me that she worked in Coton House, the large manor house on the edge of Churchover.


The Children

Samuel and Susanna's first child, George, was born on 13 October 1866 three days before their marriage. It was quite common in those days for parents to marry when the wife was already pregnant. This does not imply a "shotgun wedding", it was simply the custom at the time. Nevertheless it is slightly unsuual to see a marriage so soon after the birth of the first child. I wonder whether the baby was born prematurely, particularly as he died when he was only a month old.

Susannah and Samuel had two more children : William in December 1867 and John Edward (my great grandfather) in April 1870.

Most of the children left home in their teens. This is understandable bearing in mind that there were twelve surviving children and, as far as we know, Samuel was only a farm labourer in his early years. I don't know exactly where in Churchover they lived, my great uncle told me that the original cottage where they lived was demolished.  But a farm labourer at that time would have probably lived in a small rented cottage, so it would have been crowded.

William By 1891 when he was 23 years old, William had left Churchover and moved south. He was living in Harrow High Street, Middlesex working as a footman and domestic servant with 14 other servants in a large house. In April 1896 at the age of 28 he married Emily Flick in Hendon. She was the daughter of George Alfred Flick, a railway signalman, who lived in Bethnal Green.

William became a pub landlord. In 1901 he was working as a "beer retailer" at The Cricketers pub in Watford. By 1911 he was running the Greyhound pub in Wembley.

William and Emily had a son and daughter, George and Hilda. The family moved to Essex. William died in Southend on Sea at the age of 50.

George married Nellie Harwood in Prittlewell, Essex in 1922. They had three children : Peter, Miriam and Joan.  I understand that they emigrated to Canada, but later returned to England.

John Edward worked on a farm for a while after leaving school but became dissatisfied with this and decided to join the army. He joined the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in 1886 at the age of 16 and served in India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in the late 1880s and early 1890s. He became a drummer boy and a bandmaster. He was discharged in 1898.


                              John Edward (Jack) Leatherland with grandaughter Irene (my mother)

In July 1897 he married Elizabeth Abbis in Birmingham. He was living in Gem Street, Birmingham. Elizabeth was the daughter of Walter Charles Abbis, the village blacksmith in Harlington, Bedfordshire. She was working as a domestic servant in Fulham in 1891.

After his discharge from the army, he worked in Gem Street Industrial School, Birmingham, and later as a valet and then for Cadburys. Following the death of his wife, he advertised for a housekeeper to help look after his four young boys.  Rosina Atkins, a Londoner, answered the ad. Later they married and had a daughter Rosa.

Rose was very artistic and used to work for Cadburys designing chocolate boxes. She married Roy Dunnett and they had two daughters, Valerie and Sylvia.

Samuel was born in 1872.  He also left home at an early age to move south. In 1891 he was 19 years old and living at Peterborough Road, Harrow. He worked as a footman domestic servant in the family of Flora Bosworth Smith (wife of Reginald Bosworth Smith, a schoolmaster at Harrow School and an author).  It's interesting to note that two brothers, Samuel and William, were both working as servants in Harrow.


                                  Wedding of Samuel Leatherland to Ada Phillips in Churchover 1905

In his youth Samuel travelled to the Klondyke to join in the gold rush.  In 1905 he married Ada Philips in Great Amwell, Hertfordshire.  Ada was the daughter of a telegrapher, who later worked as a Post Office engineer.   In 1906 they had a son, Cyril, and in 1911 a daughter, Mabel.  Samuel ran a wholesale and retail confectionary and tobacco business with his brother Alfred at Amwell End in Ware.


                                  Sam and Alf with the Leatherland Brothers horse and cart

Following his father's death in 1953, Cyril ran the family tobacconists and sweetshop called "Leatherlands" in Amwell End.  Cyril’s retirement in 1982 was reported in the local newspaper the Hertfordshire Mercury  :

“ A Ware family business, which was started at the beginning of the century, closes at the end of the month. Cyril Leatherland, who runs the tobacconist and confectionery shop at Amwell End, has decided at the age of 76 to retire. The reason for the decision is partly because of health, but business was also proving more and more difficult. "It’s sad to leave," he said, "but the shop would not have been able to carry on for long. Trade here has been gradually decreasing since VAT was increased last year. It made a lot of people give up smoking." The shop was opened by his uncles, Alfred and Harry Leatherland, in 1900.”

Cyril died unmarried in 1992. I recently made contact with Samuel's grandaughter Patricia Evans who told me that Samuel's daughter, Mabel, married Charles Ballands who devoted his life to the cinema and became the   owner of the independent Astoria Cinema in Ware. Charles Ballands started working at the cinema in 1929 as a re-wind boy at the age of 14. He gradually worked his way up the ranks until he became the manager and owner. In the late 1950s cinema became less popular so Mr Ballands tried to boost audiences with live musical interludes, including a very early appearance by Cliff Richard.


                                                  Interior of the Astoria Cinema, Ware

In the end, part-time bingo was the solution in the 60s and 70s.  After Charles Ballands died in 1975, his family continued to operate the Astoria which was one of the last independently owned cinemas in the country. Sadly, it closed for good in 1979 but continued to be used as a place of entertainment as a nightclub.

Hannah Elizabeth was born in 1874. In 1891 she was 16 years old and working as a general servant with a farmer, John Moxon, in Harborough Magna, Leicestershire. In 1901 she may have been living and working at Perrets Brook House, Cirencester, Glos as a parlour maid (the census names her as Elizabeth) .  My grandfather told me that his Aunt Lizzie helped to look after him and his three young brothers following the death of their mother.

Lizzie had a son, Frank, in 1907 six years before she married Jim Baker, a joiner and carpenter, in 1913.  I found nine year old Frank Leatherland in the 1911 census as a visitor in the household of Jim Baker and his first wife .  Jim married Lizzie Leatherland after the death of his first wife.

Frank Leatherland lived in Birmingham. In 1953 he married Florence Maud at the Boatman's Hall according to the rites and ceremonies of the Boatman's Mission, although he was a wages and costs clerk in a joinery firm, rather than a boatman.

Joshua Charles was born in 1877. He was usually known as Charles. Like most of his brothers and sisters he left home early. In fact in the 1891 census at the age of 14 he was already living away from home in Shawell, Leicestershire working as a farm servant. At some point he moved to Scotland.   In 1920 he married Jemima Gibb in Paisley. She was a tobacconist’s assistant and the daughter of an engine fitter. They had one son, Ronald, born in 1923 in Dunoon. 


                                                                               Hafton Castle

Charles became butler to a wealthy family, the Allen family, in Dunoon, Argyll, The Allens owned a big estate on the side of Holy Loch at Hafton, Hunters Quay. Hafton is in fact a large castle, which was recently up for sale for £1.6 million !

Charles died in 1963 in Paisley at the age of 86.  His widow Jemima died in 1977. 

I recently made contact with a relative of Jemima Gibb who lives in Canada and also with Charles Leatherland's grandaughter, Moira.

Silas Henry (known as Harry)was born in 1878.  By 1901 he had moved to London like many of his brothers and was working as a bakers’ assistant with the Trowles family in York Street, Marylebone. In 1905 he married Annie Davey in 1905 in Clapton.  They had six children : Ethel Annie, Ivy May, Elsie, Hilda, Arthur, and Francis Ronald. Two of them settled in the Isle of Wight.

In 1910 Harry was living at the John Barleycorn pub, Thresher’s Bush, Harlow, Essex (information from Kelly’s Directory). By 1912 he had moved to Chertsey in Surrey where he owned a sweetshop and confectionary business.  He died in 1951. 

Alfred was born in 1880. By the 1901 census he was living in Scotland working as a domestic footman in Fettes College in Edinburgh (Tony Blair’s old school) along with his brother Walter. He joined his brother Harry (Silas Henry) in running his retail and wholesale confectionary business in Ware. Alf married May Warby in 1909 in Ware. He died in 1952 in Weybridge.

Sarah Emily was born in 1882.  In 1908 she married Ernest Grimmett in Churchover.  He was a 32 year old platelayer (railway maintenance worker) on the Great Central Railway and lived in Wembley. The Great Central Railway ran from London Marylebone via Rugby Central and then to Nottingham and Chesterfield. Their marriage certificate describes her as a domestic servant. Emily died in 1958 in Croxley Green, Herts.

Frederick was born in 1883.  The Admission Register of Churchover School (held in Warwick Record Office) shows that he went to the local school at the age of 4 and left in 1895 at the age of 12.  In 1901 he was an 18 year old domestic gardener living with his parents in Churchover.

Frederick  married Sarah Mabel Jessop in 1908 in Keresley, Coventry.  They had several children : Arthur Ernest (1909). Frederick (1911) who died as a baby, William (1912), Florence (1919) who died in infancy, Beatrice and Phyllis (both 1922). I understand that he later worked at Daimler Motors. He died in 1950 in Coventry.

Walter Ernest was born 1885.  The Churchover School Admission Register shows that he began school at the age of 4 and left before his 13th birthday. In 1901 he was 15 and working in Scotland as a domestic page in Fettes College where his brother Alfred also worked.  Sadly, Walter died in 1906 at the age of 21 of acute phthisis (TB) and asthma. He is buried in the churchyard in Churchover with his parents.

Arthur James was born in 1887. He was admitted to Churchover School even earlier than his brothers at the age of 3.  He married Amy Lowe in Ware, Herts in 1911 and lived in the Harlow and Ware area working as a wholesale confectioner (almost certainly with his brothers, Alf and Sam, who set up their business in the area). In 1915 he had a son, Leslie, who died in infancy. 

Arthur died at the age of 37 in Harlow in 1923. He was killed in a cycling accident.  He is buried in the churchyard at Churchover. According to my great uncle he had a tallyman business in the Ware area and was cycling around collecting his money when he had his accident.  In July 1923, the Rugby Advertiser reported that :

"On Wednesday a sad gloom was cast over the village by the news of the tragic death of Mr A Leatherland, who met with a cycle accident and received injuries which proved fatal. The body was conveyed from Essex, where the accident took place, and laid to rest in the churchyard on Saturday".

Gravestone of Samuel Leatherland and his son Walter Ernest in Churchover churchyard

Edith Alice was Samuel and Susanna's last child born in 1890.  My grandfather told me that she worked as a maid in a vicarage (possibly the vicarage in Churchover) and that she looked after her mother, Susanna, in her old age. This is confirmed by the 1911 census which shows Susanna, now a 61 year old widow, living with Edith. In 1920 she married Jess Gould in Rugby. He was a welder / metalworker at the BTH Works at Rugby, later part of GEC. They may have had a daughter, Joyce.  Edith seems to have been the only member of the family to remain living in Churchover.  Edith and Jess settled in Rugby. She died in 1949.

                                                   Churchover School Admission Registers


                                                                            Churchover in the 1900s

I looked at the admission registers for Churchover Infants and Junior School which can be found in Warwick County Record Office. The registers begin in 1886 and list all pupils admitted to the school. Here is a summary :

 Name Admission Date Parent/Guardian DOB Date left / notes
Fred Leatherland April 1887 Samuel, Churchover22 Apr 1883 22 Apr 1885
Walter Leatherland May 1889 Samuel, Churchover4th Jul 1885 31 Mar 1898
Arthur Leatherland April 1890 Samuel, Churchover11th Mar 1887 (No date)
Willie Leatherland 11 Jan 1909 Samuel (grandfather) Churchover22nd May 1902 (No date)
Leslie Leatherland 25 Sep 1922 Mrs Leatherland (grandmother) Churchover2nd Nov 1915 9 Oct 1922 'here on a visit'
Edith Leatherland Sept 1894 Samuel (roadman)4th Jul 1890 (No date)
Charles Leatherland 7 Apr 1902 John, Churchover18th Apr 1898 (No date)
Arthur Grimmett 16 Jul 1917 [Illegible]18th Oct 1909 2 Feb 1919 (previous school Park Lane, Wembley
Eric Walter Grimmett 16 Jul 1916 [Illegible]2nd Oct 1912 2 Feb 1919
Elsie Grimmett 7 Sep 1925Ernest Grimmett, 7 Wembley Hill, Wembley20th Mar 1917 20 Oct 1925 (previous school Park Lane, Wembley)

Notes on Churchover School Admission Registers :

Fred was a younger brother of John Edward Leatherland, he later settled in Coventry

Walter was another brother, he later died at the age of 21 in Churchover

Arthur settled in Ware, and died in a cycling accident in 1923 

Willie is my great Uncle Will of Paignton, he went to Churchover to stay with his grandparents after the death of his mother.

Leslie was Arthur's son. He later became a farmer in Yorkshire.

Edith was the youngest child of Samuel and Susannah, she married Jess Gould and settled in Rugby.

Charles is my grandfather. His family were living in Birmingham so I am not sure where he attended school in Churchover at the age of 4.

Arthur, Eric and Elsie Grimmett were all children of Sarah Emily Leatherland (daughter of Samuel and Susanna) who married Ernest Grimmett in Churchover in 1908, and later moved to Willesden. Arthur later married a cousin, Hilda Leatherland and lived in the Isle of Wight.