Beckwith’s Shop & Bakery, 128 The Moor

On the 1842 tithe map the property is described as plot 402 comprising cottage and garden of 12 perches in the possession of William Sherwin, a wealthy local landowner. The occupier is not given on the tithe record, but the 1841 census gives the occupier as John Wardle aged 30 and he is described as a farmer and grocer. The other occupants being his wife Sarah aged 30, their children William aged 5, Sarah aged 4, Ann aged two and Mary aged 11 months. They employ three servants/labourers Mary Cawser aged 15, Drusiller Barsby aged 12 and Samuel Matchet aged 15.

The Leicester Journal of Feb. 7th, 1840, records: The poor of Coleorton have to return their thanks to Mr. John Sherwin late of Leicester, for a donation of bread which was distributed to them by his brother Mr. William Sherwin at the shop of Mr. Wardle, Baker.

It would appear from this record that in addition to farmer and grocer as indicated in the 1841 census John Wardle was also a baker at that time. The property today still houses a large intact bakehouse and the above record indicates that this may well date from at least the 1840’s. This is supported by examination of the 1842 Coleorton Tithe map where the footprint of the property indicates the presence of the bakehouse in its present day position. Interestingly the field opposite 128 The Moor is named on the tithe map as John Wardle’s Paddock.

The next record we have for John Wardle is less reputable and appears in the The Leicestershire Mercury August 13, 1842:

Ashby de la Zouch, PETTY SESSIONS, August 6.
Before Messrs, Moore, Mowbray and Creswell.
Samuel Hester, of Leicester, Inspector of weights and Measures, summoned John Wardle of Coleorton, and Elizabeth Robinson and Wm. Wragg, of Ashby, for having in their possession beams, scales and weights, not according to the Standard. The case was very bad, especially on the part of Wardle whose beam and scales wanted 5 ounces to balance, but there being two informations against the other parties, they were severally convicted and fined £5 and costs.

1851 Census: John Wardle and his family are still in residence and he is described as a farmer of 40 acres with one labourer.

1861 Census: The property is now occupied by John Beckwith, aged 63 and his wife Lucy also aged 63. John and Lucy are the former schoolmaster and mistress of the original Coleorton school and almshouses endowed by Sir Thomas Beaumont in 1701. John Beckwith id desribed as a farmer of 24 acres and shopkeeper. Other members of the household are their unmarried children Ann A. aged 39, Mary A. aged 22 and George aged 19 described as a book keeper, also their grandson James Beckwith aged 3 and George Bowley aged 16 described as a servant.

1871 Census: John and Lucy Beckwith appear to have moved to the property known today as Haywood’s Cottage and 128 the Moor is now occupied by their son George Beckwith described as grocer and farmer aged 29 and his wife Mary aged 31.

1881 Census: George Beckwith is still in residence and described as baker and grocer, with no mention of farming, no children are mentioned. By the time of the 1891 census the property is still occupied by George Beckwith and his wife, but they are now joined by his widowed sister-in-law Margaret Green (aged 49, shop assistant) and his unmarried niece Fanny Betsy Green aged 19. The household members remain the same throughout the next two census returns, 1901 and 1911.

In addition to being described as grocer and baker various trade directories from 1880 onwards also described George Beckwith as assistant overseer, rate collector and Parish clerk, so he appears to have been an important member of the local community.

Wilf Lord, an old resident of Coleorton writing in 1993, recalled Beckwith’s shop as follows:

The shop faced down the moor and was reached by two blue brick steps. These people sold most of the things mentioned previously, but specialised in black and golden coloured treacle kept in different earthenware pots. A two pound jar would be placed on the scales and the treacle ladled out with a large spoon, when the required amount was in, not a smudge or drop of treacle would be on the jar, this always fascinated me when a boy.

Lucy and John Beckwith - schoolmasters and parents >>