Bears seem to figure in local history in these parts. For instance the legend of how Hugglescote got its name goes that a villager named Huggle was chased by a bear and his heavy coat was slowing him down, so he threw it aside. The bear stopped to investigate the coat instead of pursuing Huggle, and he was therefore able to escape. Hence the name Hugglescote!
When I was a boy I was shown a cave on Bardon Hill, where legend had it that the last bear in Leicestershire once lived. I have to say I was not very impressed, it seemed a very modest cave for a bear, more of a rock overhang I recall.
Not to be outdone, Coleorton also has its bear story. Haywood's Cottage on the Moor has had many residents over the years, but perhaps none more controversial or colourful than Arthur Haywood. Arthur was a communist; a political belief for which he would pay a heavy price since it led to him being sacked from his job as a tram driver for Leicester City Transport. Arthur moved into Haywood's Cottage on Coleorton Moor in 1944. Arthur was an admirer of the dictator Joseph Stalin and advertised this by erecting a life-sized statue of a wooden bear in his front garden, the bear being a recognised symbol of support for Stalin. The bear also served as a landmark for road rallying but after some controversy the bear was eventually removed from display.
A short biography of Arthur Haywood appears on the "Who's Who of Leicester Radicals" website compiled by Ned Hewitt and is reproduced below:
Arthur Haywood: From 1926 to 1940 Arthur Haywood worked as a tram driver for Leicester City Transport. He started on the trams in the year of the General Strike and his first pay packet was strike pay. He was a former pupil of Moat Road School and was well-read, cultured and played the violin. According to his grandson, he was a very strict, obstinate and opinionated man who loved Russia and idolised Stalin. This caused no end of family rifts.
In August 1940, he was sacked from his job on the advice of the Chief Constable. Arthur appears to have lost his job on the very day he was given his 15 year Gold Medal for safe driving. His dismissal was raised in the House of Commons by Willie Gallacher MP, the Communist member for West Fife. He asked: "Is the Minister aware that there is nothing whatever against this man so far as his employment is concerned, and that he has said or done nothing against the law of this country? Can the hon. Gentleman give any reason why the police should advise that a competent worker should be removed from his employment?" Gallacher did not manage to elicit a reason for his sacking, which remains a mystery to this day. In 1944, Arthur moved to Coleorton and he died alone, divorced near Sutton on Sea around 1983.
Does anyone have a photo of The Coleorton Bear? Please contact Terry on firstname.lastname@example.org
Compiled by: Terry Ward
Published in Community Voice magazine September 2022.