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The Parish Setting

​Sileby is a civil and ecclesiastical parish that lies in the Charnwood Borough District of central north Leicestershire. It is five miles (8 km) south of Loughborough and  about seven miles (11 km) north of Leicester. The documented history of the settlement can be traced directly from the Norman conquest in 1066. However, there is also growing archaeological evidence for human activity here going back into the prehistoric period. ​

In 1884 Sileby was recorded as 2295.252 acres in extent (approx 928.86 hectares). It is surrounded by Barrow upon Soar parish to the north and west; Seagrave to the north; Cossington to the south and east, and Mountsorrel and Rothley to the south west.


The parish is roughly rectangular in shape, running north east to south west, about one mile (1.6 km) wide and two miles (3.2 km) in breadth.


The late medieval settlement was administered by a single manor court which met every few weeks and controlled the day to day operation of the village. The manor was also a bailiwick centre for the Honour of Leicester, providing important economic and administrative functions for a group of manors in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire. 

With the demise of the manor court in the late 18th and 19th centuries, the church vestry took over parish government. In 1894 the Parish Council assumed many of the vestry's administrative and non-religious functions and it still forms the lowest tier of local government. 

Religious, moral and spiritual health was the responsibilty of the parish church and archdeaconry courts. The existing records of the archdeaconry courts in particular provide valuable insights into the religious and moral behaviour of the inhabitants, giving a unique view into a vibrant and independent community.

Despite the large size of the settlement, the village did not have its own market charter. This was due to the proximity of other markets at Mountsorrel, Rothley, Loughborough and Leicester. However, it did have its annual Patronal and Wakes feast, a Statutes Fair and various church feasts and 'Ales'.

The village has a population quickly approaching 10,000 and has outgrown its old centre, putting more pressure on the parish to provide areas to develop. This is a far cry from the 1,111 people recorded in 1801 and a whole world away from the 100 or more souls documented in 1086.

Location of Sileby Parish in Leicestershire

Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Location of Sileby - John Speed's Map of Leicestershire 1610

The Landscape

In simple terms, the parish landscape is dominated by three 'fingers' or spits of boulder clays (marked A, B and C) that form part of the south western edge of the Leicestershire Wolds.


These uplands are dissected by four watercourses. Barrow Brook provides Sileby with much of its north western boundary. Canby Sike is a smaller brook separating spits 'A' and 'B'. The largest stream, Sileby Brook, flows from Seagrave through the village centre. It is also known as Wellbrook or Haybrook. Cossington Brook is Sileby's eastern and south eastern boundary.

Travel south westerly and the uplands give way to the flatter, lower lying alluvial deposits of the Soar Valley. The main medieval village settlement is situated on the lighter soils at the boundary of these two zones.


The River Soar forms the western parish boundary. The flood plain and meadows here make up about a quarter of Sileby's total parish area. 


In the main, Sileby's north eastern parish boundary does not follow natural features (except for a small section of Sileby Brook). Part of the border here was formed by Seagrave's manorial enclosure including a small deer park. 


Until 1760 Sileby's landscape was dominated by the open field system of communal farming, in use for hundreds of years beforehand. The redistribution and reallocation of lands under Sileby's Enclosure Award changed the whole nature of how the landscape was organised and farmed. The picture was now a patchwork of gated, hedged fields with farmhouses and buildings in the midst of their holdings. It is the picture we recognise today; man made and intensive.    

os 1 inch a1.jpg

Sileby Parish - Features

Ordnance Survey 1 inch Map of 1835

(with later annotations)

Highways and Byways

Anyone born before the middle of the 18th century would have found a different pattern of roads to that we have today. Prior to 1760 there were a number of paths and thoroughfares which were later replaced by newly constructed routes set down in the Enclosure Act. Under the Act, Mountsorrel Lane and Seagrave Road were newly laid out across the former open fields and meadows replacing paths and roadways that had been in use for hundreds of years. 

However, a number of these older byways have been preserved as footpaths today. One example is the path from Swan Street to Seagrave that connects Sileby Memorial Park, Highgate School and Sunrise Egg Farm.


One of the oldest routes is forged by Barrow Road and Cossington Road and forms the main highway on the eastern side of the Soar valley; above the flood plain and linking the settlements on that side.

Ratcliffe Road is also a particularly old roadway. It formed the boundary between two of Sileby's open fields, so it was either contemporary with the formation of Sileby's open field system or was an even older feature in the landscape that the village incorporated into the planning of the open fields to the east of the settlement.

A village 'back lane' was known to exist prior to 1760. It began on Cossington Road near to the current Chine House site and ran behind the properties on High Street and Barrow Road. It probably terminated in the area near to the village pinfold or Goose Green.

Sileby is well known for its bridges. In the 1830s Dudley's bridge had replaced a stone arched bridge crossing the Sileby Brook, and Essex bridge supplanted a bridge called Hithersick Bridge and a ford in the vicinity by 1855. Likewise, the railway introduced a number of lofty arched viaducts and brick bridges when constructed in the late 1830s. Other small bridges, planks and fords are documented in property deeds, wills, manorial records and the Enclosure Award.

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Sileby Parish - Main Roads

Ordnance Survey 1 inch Map of 1835

(with later annotations)


1 Barrow Road, 2 Seagrave Road

3 Ratcliffe Road, 4 Cossington Road

     5 Mountsorrel Lane

The Village Centre


Today the village has become a sprawl of successive residential schemes slowly working their way out towards the parish boundaries. The village has managed to retain many aspects of its older historic centre despite serious and damaging incursions from industrial and housing construction projects over the past two hundred years or so.

The most obvious and arguably the most beautiful building is the medieval parish church which dominates the village centre and surrounding area. It is a Grade II* listed building with a number of interesting features, including a priest's room over the porch, called a parvis. The church had a major restoration between 1878 and 1880 which produced the open and airy church we see today. As with all ancient buildings, there are always issues with preservation and a constant battle against the elements.

In the 17th century and possibly before, the vicarage was probably located on the site of the old school on Barrow Road. Another property off Mountsorrel Lane was acquired in 1732, which in turn was demolished and replaced by a more modern building further down the same road in the early 1970s. 

​Until 1760 all farms and cottages were contained together within a few streets of the village centre in what was termed the 'Town ring'. Development outside of this area was largely suppressed, so new building had to be accommodated within existing building plot boundaries. Retail shops were documented in the village centre as early as the 17th century.

It is thought that High Street, Barrow Road, Cossington Road, Brook Street and Ratcliffe Road are at least medieval in date. King Street, then known as East Lane, is featured in a number of existing medieval property deeds from the 15th century. The sites of former peasant farms are still recognisable in the the 18th century. (see 1758 pre-Enclosure map to the right)

​After Enclosure, the rules changed! New farms and housing began to be built away from the central streets, transforming the centuries old nucleated aspect of the village. By 1840, the railway had split the village into two. The portion to the east of the railway saw significant expansion especially along King Street and in Swan Street. The map of 1884 is a watershed moment (right), showing the village centre just before it blossomed into a myriad of factories, workshops and infill terraced housing.

The 20th century was not kind to Sileby's historic centre. Many old and locally important properties were lost to modernist trends, or to industrial development. Conservation and preservation did not have much consideration in the planning process. Properties such as Grove House, Gibbs Farm, The Grange and various cruck, mud and thatched buildings were lost in this way. Ironically, the process has now come full circle with new housing now built on the former factory sites that had replaced the original housing!


When Sileby's Conservation Area was designated by Charnwood Borough Council in 1988 it focused on an small area to the west of the railway, and therefore missed unique historic areas elsewhere in the parish.

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Sileby Village Centre c1758

Sileby Enclosure Commissioners Working Map (Copy)

Source : ROLLR MA/EN/A/292/1


Sileby Village Centre 1884

Source : Ordnance Survey 25" : Leicestershire XXV.3 (Copy)

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