Hollowell and Guilsborough Leatherlands


John Leatherland was the fifth child of Christopher and Sarah Leatherland. He was born in Yelvertoft in 1693 and married Mary Johnson in Spratton in 1716. They settled in Creaton and had two sons and one daughter (plus a son who died in infancy). One son, Samuel, settled in the village of Guilsborough. And so began the ancestry of a succession of Leatherland families who lived in Guilsborough and its neighbour Hollowell for over 250 years. Indeed such are the Leatherland links to that area that it can be considered as the heart of Leatherland ancestry in Northamptonshire. 


Guilsborough lies three miles east of West Haddon and five to six miles east of Yelvertoft and Crick. Hollowell, which was originally a hamlet of Guilsborough, lies one and a half miles to the south-east.

Guilsborough appears in the Domesday book as 'Giselburgh'. Burgh/burh is an Old English name for an encampment. The Domesday entry says that it had four villagers, with three small-holders and one slave, four ploughlands, an eight acre meadow, two mills and a church.

Guilsborough includes evidence of Roman occupation : a wall forming part of an embankment which includes the remains of a Roman wall.

There are 12 Grade II listed buildings in Guilsborough including the Old Grammar School (now five houses) part of which dates from 1688, Rose Manor which has a datestone of 1688 in the door-case and a 17th century fireplace, and Manor House Farm (now a private house) which is late 17th century with 18th century alterations.

St Etheldreda's Church, Guilsbrough

The oldest parts of St Elthdreda's date from the 14th century. The nave was completed around 1400 and the north and south porches added during the 18th century. The church was extensively restored between 1815-1820 and again in 1923-24.


                                                                                                                           St Etheldreda

John Leatherland (1693-1757)

John was born in Yelvertoft. His father was Christopher Leatherland (1654-1731) and his grandfather was Edward Leitherland (c.1630-1686). He is therefore a direct descendants of the Clay Coton and Yelvertoft Leatherlands who are my distant ancestors.

John married Mary Johnson in Spratton in 1716. (One of Spratton's claims to fame is that the great-grandmother of American founder George Washington, Amphyllis Twigden, was baptised there in 1802). John and Mary settled in Creaton and they had four children :

John baptised 1717
Mary baptised 1719
Samuel baptised 1724
Joseph baptised 1727 (died 1728)

Their son John married Lydia and had two daughters both baptised in Creaton in 1745 and 1747.

Samuel Leatherland (1724-1793)

Yew Tree Cottage, Guilsborough

Samuel seems to the first Leatherland to live in Guilsborough. He married Esther Clarke in Church Brampton in 1757. They had four sons and three daughters all baptised in Guilsborough between 1758 and 1776 indicating that the family settled there. He died at the age of 69 and was buried in Guilsborough.
Samuel and Esther's children were :

Mary (1758)
John (1760)
William (1765) – died 1766
Ann (1766)
William (1767)
Samuel (1771) – died 1780
Esther (1776)

William Leatherland (1767-1837)

William was baptised in Guilsborough in 1767. His parents were Samuel and Esther. He possibly married Mary Allen in North Kilworth, Leicestershire in 1790. They had one son, James, who was baptised in Guilsborough in 1791.

William may later have remarried Elizabeth because a daughter Esther was baptised in Guilsborough in 1816, daughter of William and Elizabeth Leatherland although no second marriage has been traced. (Esther was actually born around 1801 according to the censuses. William's first granddaughter was baptised on the same day as Esther).

There is evidence that William worked as a millwright. The Northampton Mercury newspaper of 23 October 1824 mentioned “Wm Leatherland Millwright of Hollowell” and “a well-erected Tourer Windmill . . . with a 12 foot diameter vane” in a property sale advert.

The Northampton Mercury of 8 December 1832 mentioned Mr Leatherland, Millwright at Hollowell Northamptonshire in connection with the letting of “Watermills, Windmill, Bakehouse and Land To be Let” including a “Bakehouse, Offices, Watercornmill, nearly 40 acres of very rich arable and pasture land surrounding the mills in Hollowell”. Interested parties were invited to apply to Mr Leatherland for viewing and particulars.

A millwright designed, built and maintained mills and mill machinery. This required a variety of skills from reading plans to diagnosing and solving mechanical problems. These skills were often passed on from generation to generation.

John Leatherland (1760-1852)

John Leatherland was baptised in Guilsborough in 1760, son of Samuel and Esther. I have not yet traced his marriage or any children. In 1841 he was an 80 year old sawyer living alone at the High Street Barrack Houses in Islip, Northants. In 1851 he was a 90 year old widower and “pauper formerly a sawyer” lodging with the Robinson family at Islip Mills. He was buried there aged 92. Islip is seven miles east of Kettering and 25-30 miles east of Guilsborough


Hollowell is a mile or so south of Guilsborough. It used to be a hamlet of Guilsborough but became a parish in its own right in 1850. Hollowell also appears in the Domesday book. The name, originally Hollewelle, means the stream or spring in the hollow. Hollowell is quite a steep downhill descent from Guilsborough as the road sign below indicates.

Hollowell's church, St James, was built in 1840. It near the top of the steep Church Hill and has many Leatherland gravestones and memorials (St Etheldreda has no Leatherland graves).

The principal road structure through the village remains virtually unchanged since the 17th century and consists principally of three roads : Creaton Road, Guilsborough Hill and Church Hill which give the village its overall pattern in the shape of an irregular “Y”.

Always a small agricultural settlement, Hollowell’s population peaked in 1831 at 318 and by 1901 it had shrunk to 145. After this there was a steady climb to 353 in 2001(this figure includes the population of Teeton). In 2000 there were 115 households in Hollowell (including Highfield Park).

Several springs rose in the fields above the grounds of Hollowell Manor. These springs form a stream which goes underground at the Jetty and resurfaces in Home Farm Yard and then crosses the fields to join Stowe Brook.

Hollowell Reservoir is a 140-acre reservoir just north of the village. It has a sailing club and is also used for fishing. It was constructed in 1938 on Stowe Brook in the valley to the north east of the village. It is linked by a tunnel to a reservoir in Ravensthorpe and is a major landscape feature of the area.

Within the boundaries of the parochial parish stood the Northampton County Sanatorium (known locally as Creaton Hospital), a tuberculosis hospital in operation between 1910 and 1979. In the 1980s it was converted to 13 private houses and is now called Highfield Park.

Old cob wall in Hollowell

Hollowell has three Grade II listed buildings :

Beech House in Church Hill, the former vicarage which has a datestone of 1698

The Manor House on Guilsborough Hill which has a datestone of 1655 but many 19th century editions

A late 17th century dovecote to the rear of the Manor House

The cob wall pictured above is also listed – it is probably 18th century. Cob was a common building material made of soil/sand/clay/straw/water and often used to build houses.

St James, Hollowell

James Leatherland (1791-1865)

James, only son of William Leatherland, was baptised in Guilsborough in 1791. He married Hannah Cave, daughter of Charles and Ann Cave, in Guilsborough in 1814. They had a daughter Mary (1816) and a son William (1818).

Like his father, James was a millwright (1841 / 1851 / 1861 census) although the Post Office Directory of 1847 lists James Leatherland of Hollowell as a pump maker.

The Northampton Mercury of 2 August 1834 had an advert for the sale of “A capital post windmill in full trade now in the occupation of Mr Pike and a small close of land adjoining thereto” at Crick. For further particulars interested parties were invited to apply to Mr Edward Whitmell, Shoulder of Mutton, Crick, or to Mr James Leatherland, Millwright, Hollowell.

The Northampton Mercury of 23 April 1836 had an advert for “Desirable Freehold Estates At Hollowell and Creaton To be sold by Auction” by the trustees of the Will of the late William Lucas of Hollowell, Housekeeper. Lot 3 was a Freehold Messuage or Tenement, including a carpenters shop, garden, small home close, one rood and thirty nine perches “now in the occupation of James Leatherland”.

Hannah died in 1864. James died a year later aged 74. The National Probate Calendar shows that Letters of Administration to administer his estate (valued at £100) were granted to his son William.

Esther Leatherland (1801-1869)

Esther's baptism has not been traced but the censuses said she was born in Hollowell around 1801. She is probably the Esther Leatherland who was baptised in 1816 in Guilsborough, daughter of William and Elizabeth of Hollowell. William's first granddaughter Mary was baptised same day (Mary daughter of James and Hannah). It was not uncommon for teenagers to be baptised.

Esther married Edward Whitmell in Guilsborough in 1824. The 1841/ 1851 / 1861 censuses show that they settled in Crick. They had seven children all baptised there. There were 31 Whitmells in Crick in 1841. Edward was the son of William Whitmell, landlord of the Shoulder of Mutton in Crick from the 1790s. Edward was a miller but he took over the pub in the late 1820s. Later censuses show that he became a road labourer.

The current occupier of the Shoulder of Mutton house – which closed as a pub in 1970 - has a fascinating website on the history of the building which it is believed was built as a wool warehouse - it has parts which date back to the 17th century.

William Leatherland (1818-1869)

Sheep grazing in a field overlooking Hollowell Reservoir

William was baptised in Guilsborough in 1818. Like his father he became a millwright, indeed they almost certainly worked together. He married Hannah Croxford in Bugbrooke in 1844. According to the marriage certificate she was the daughter of John Croxford, a freeholder.

On 4 December 1866 the Northampton Mercury reported as follows :
Guilsborough. The Mild Season.
“As further proof the mildness of the season, it is perhaps worth recording along with so many items already to hand, that at this place on Tuesday last (30th Nov) a quantity of ripe red plums, in a goods state of preservation, were gathered by Mr Leatherland from a tree in his orchard. Another person in this neighbourhood just recently gathered some redcurrants from a tree in his garden, and enough to make up a good size pie.”

Although there were several Leatherlands in Guilsborough at that time, this may be William who left property including an orchard in his Will in 1869.

William died at the age of 51 only three years after his father. He left a Will leaving property in Hollowell (messuages, tennements, workshop, outbuilding, an orchard, a herediament, and premises) which were in the occupation of himself and Mrs Allen and the rest of his estate to his wife Hannah and appointed her as sole executrix. His estate was valued at £300. (Mrs Allen was probably a relative as his grandmother's maiden name was Allen).

James Leatherland (1847-1919)

Ivy Cottage, Hollowell

James was born in Hollowell in 1847. He followed in the tradition of his father and grandfather by becoming a millwright. Indeed the 1861 census shows him working at the job at the age of 13. In 1891 he was described as millwright and carpenter and in 1911 as a builder.

James possibly married Caroline Bartlett in Hollowell in 1870. They had two sons and five daughters.

James died in 1919, Caroline in 1922. The National Probate Calendar shows that probate was granted to William Leatherland farmer (probably his brother), the estate was valued at £178 10s.

Edith Anna Leatherland (1875-1924)

Edith's gravestone in St James churchyard

Edith was the third daughter of James and Caroline Leatherland. She died unmarried at the age of 49. She left a Will which left "the carpenter's shop and that portion of the yard now used by him" to her brother John, £50 to her brother James, and her house and garden with right of way through the yard, the contents of the house, and the rest of estate to her sister Helen Hardwick. (Gross estate £552, net estate £310).

James Leatherland (1876-1954)

James was born in Hollowell in 1876. He married Edith Litchfield in Hollowell in 1900. The 1901 census shows him as a carpenter / journeyman in the household of Joseph and Caroline Litchfield at Farm House, Hollowell (his in-laws). The 1911 census shows him as a 34 year old carpenter with his wife in Hollowell. He died in 1954, his wife a year later.

James' gravestone, Hollowell

James and Caroline had three sons and three daughters :

Evelyn Amy (1900)
Albert Edward Reginald (1903)
Sylvia Kathleen (1904)
William Thomas (1908)
Ada (1911)
Frederick John Charles (1917)

Frederick Leatherland, who recently passed away at the age of 94, ran a building firm F.J.C. Leatherland & Son in Upper Weedon, Northants with his son John.

William Leatherland (1861-1937)

William was born in Hollowell in 1861, son of William and Hannah. His father died when he was 8 years old. The 1881 census shows him as a 19 year old millwright in Hollowell. At the age of 28 he married Rebecca Goodman in Leighton Buzzard. They had three sons and a daughter :

Frank William (1889)
George Goodman (1891)
Catherine Lucy (1893)
Clement Frederick (1896)

The 1891 census shows William and his wife living next door to his brother John and John's wife Eunice. William was a carpenter. By 1901 he was a master carpenter, and in 1911 a farmer and carpenter.

William's gravestone in Hollowell

William died in 1937. Under his Will made in 1922 when he was living at Mill House, Hollowell, he left his whole estate to his wife for life, and on her death or remarriage, he left his house, buildings and 'home field' at Hollowell to his son Clement, his two fields 'near the reservoir' to son Frank, and the remainder equally between his sons. His estate was administered by his sons both of whom were farmers. The gross estate was £1,017 with net personal estate £583.

George Goodman Leatherland (1891-1918)

William's son George Goodman Leatherland was a 9 year old boy in the 1901 census. Ten years later he was a 20 years old farmer's son working on a farm. George served in the First World War as a Gunner in the 141st Heavy Battery Royal Garrison Artillery. Sadly he was killed aged 27 in France in May 1918. He has a grave at Bagneux British Cemetery, although is also commemorated in Hollowell on the gravestone below which includes his sister who died the year before and his maternal grandmother.

Frank William Leatherland (1889 – 1973)

Born in 1889 in Hollowell, son of William and Rebecca, the 1911 census lists Frank as a 21 year old farmer's son working on a farm at Tropers Lodge, Tiffield, Towcester. Tiffield was for many years the winter headquarters of Robert Fossett's Circus. Nellie (Margaret) Fossett was also living at Troper's Lodge as a 20 year old housekeeper. She was a sister of circus owner Robert Fossett. Frank married Nellie later that year and worked as a farmer. Many of Frank and Margaret's family worked in Fossett's circus.

Reco Bros Circus (1944-45)

The circus theme was continued by Frank and Nellie's daughter, Mary May Leatherland, who married Herbert Wroe. Herbert was a tightrope walker known as 'Reco' and later became a circus owner (Reco Bros).

The Fossetts are an important circus family whose continuing involvement with circuses dates back to the mid 19th century. 'Sir' Robert Fossett was one of England's best known circus owners. In his younger days he was proclaimed to be the champion bare-back rider of the world. Fossetts Circus continues to this day and it remains based in Northamptonshire.

Gravestone of Frank William and his wife

Gravestone of Reco's wife (St James, Hollowell)

John Leatherland (1824-1903)

John Leatherland's parentage is not clear, although he was probably born in Guilsborough in the 1820s. In the 1841 census he was a 20 year old shoemaker living alone in Northampton. In 1850 he married Maria Vann in Great Wigston, Leics The marriage certificate shows that he was a shoemaker residing in Guilsborough (as did the 1851 census), his father's name is not clear but it is probably Wm Leatherland carpenter. The only William who seems to fit with this is William (1767-1836) although I am not convinced that he was the father.

In 1851 John was living with his wife, a niece and nephew at Guilsborough. By the 1861 census he was a cordwainer in Guilsborough with his wife, son William, two apprentices and two visitors. A cordwainer was an 'upmarket' shoemaker who made luxury leather shoes. Maria died in 1886. John remained a shoemaker living in Guilsborough until his death in 1903.

John Leatherland (1854-1910)

John's Gravestone in Hollowell

John was the son of William and Hannah Leatherland. He was born in Hollowell around 1854, although I haven't managed to trace his baptism or birth registration. In 1871 he was a millwright living with his mother in Hollowell. He married Eunice Bent in 1878 and they had three children. Following her death in 1891 he remarried Eliza Green seven years later. He remained living in Hollowell and worked as a joiner / builder. He was living next door to his brother William in 1901.
He was buried in Hollowell in 1910.

Margaret Ellen Leatherland (1922-1992)

Margaret was a daughter of Frank and Margaret (nee Fossett) Leatherland.


Several Leatherland families lived in Guilsborough and Hollowell from the 1750s until the 20th century. Unlike the Yelvertoft / Crick / Kilsby / Pailton Leatherlands (who were mainly farm labourers and – in Crick – weavers), they were predominantly millwrights / wheelwrights and later carpenters / builders.

There are still three Leatherland families in the area :

George Leatherland who owns and runs Pastures Farm
Brothers Jim and Ken Leatherland who still live in Hollowell – they used to run a local building firm
Kevin Leatherland a sheep contractor who lives in Hollowell and works at a farm at East Haddon (possibly as Leatherland & Son)

There is still a Leatherland building firm FJC Leatherland & Sons based in Upper Weedon, Northants.

Hollowell Reservoir

Hollowell Steam Rally

Hollowell holds an annual Steam Engine Rally and Heavy Horse show every July. The Rally was started in 1986 by Allen Eaton MBE in response to a request for a donation from the Warden of Hollowell Church for repairs to the roof. On the grounds that there were only 100 households in the village and the sum required being £5000, Allen declined to donate the requested £5 but he offered to organise a steam rally instead.

Hollowell Steam and Heavy Horse show is now more than just a steam rally. From the original 11 acre site including car park, it has grown into almost 100 acres of family entertainment, with 40 steamers, around 30 Heavy Horses, over 100 tractors and an auction.

Allen Eaton is a well known member of the steam preservation movement. He has a private collection of three steam engines and still lives in the area.

The 2012 rally included 50 steam engines including ploughing engines and steam rollers.

Guilsborough High Street

View from St Etheldreda Churchyard

Tower of St Etheldreda

Assorted gravestones in St Etheldreda's piled against the church wall

The Guilsborough Witches

On 22 July 1612 four women and one man were hanged at Abingdon Gallows, Northampton for the crime of witchcraft. Two of the five women : Agnes Brown and her daughter Ioane/Joan Vaughan (or Varnham) were from Guilsborough.
They were accused of bewitching a local noblewoman, Elizabeth Belcher (née Fisher) and her brother-in-law Master Avery and of killing, by sorcery, a child and numerous livestock.
Although the hangings can be legitimately traced back to actual historic events, the story most commonly repeated is of less certain origins. The tale is that there was an elderly witch called Mother Roades, who lived just outside Ravensthorpe. Before she could be arrested and tried for her crimes of sorcery, she died. Her final words told of her friends riding to see her, but that it did not matter because they would meet again in some other place before the month was out. Her friends were apprehended riding on the back of a sow between Guilsborough and Ravensthorpe. They were taken into custody and hanged.
The problem with this story is that, although Agnes Brown remains a constant upon the pig's back, her companions swap names depending on the version being read. Three witches were on the pig, but the potential riders, other than Agnes Brown (who appears as one of the riders in all versions), are: Kathryn Gardiner, Alice Abbott, Alice Harrys and Ioan/Joan Lucas.
It would appear from records that all of these accused stood trial together, however the reporting only covers the hangings of one day in 1612, so the fates of the others are not known.

The Northampton witchtrials were a significant event, not because of the accusations themselves, but because it was one of the earliest documented cases in which the "dunking" method was used in Britain.
Guilsborough used to have its own version of Black Annis / Black Agnes (a bogeyman figure in Engliah folklore) who lived in Pell's Pool. This was a deep pool which stood off Cold Ashby Lane and was used by the local fire service as a water supply for many years. The pool has now dried up and a house stands there. Young boys and girls were told not to go walking by the pool at night otherwise a witch would drag them down into the water.

Guilsborough village hall

1851 Census Hollowell – which includes James and William Leatherland both millwrights

Guilsborough House – a Grade 2 listed building with 17th century origins and 18th/19th century extensions

Edith's gravestone in St James churchyard

Edith was the third daughter of James and Caroline Leatherland. She died unmarried at the age of 49. She left a Will which left "the carpenter's shop and that portion of the yard now used by him" to her brother John, £50 to her brother James, and her house and garden with right of way through the yard, the contents of the house, and the rest of estate to her sister Helen Hardwick. (Gross estate £552, net estate £310).

James Leatherland (1876-1954)