Brief history of the parish
- A Neolithic hand axe was found on farmland in the south of the parish and the remains of two Romano-British kilns were found in Main Street
- The earliest written record of Deresford or Diresford is in Domesday Book (1086) but the name is older and means Deor’s ford, suggesting an Anglo Saxon origin
- The parish church of St. Martin is largely 13th century, although the font is Norman photo
- Some houses date from Tudor and Georgian times photo of Old Manor Farm & the Grange
- In 1866 a non-conformist chapel was built: now Desford Free Church photo
- The old part of the village was designated as a Conservation Area by Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council in 1981 photo of green plaque
- In the medieval period the Manor of Desford belonged to the Earls of Leicester, who became Dukes of Lancaster and in 1399 were united with the Crown. As a result, the present Queen is the Patron of St. Martin’s Church photo of Lancaster pub sign
- The other great influence on the village during these times was the proximity of Leicester Forest, a Royal Hunting Forest, in which villagers had important rights of common until it was disafforested in 1628.
- Most villagers would have originally been involved in farming, cultivating strips in the 4 Open Fields and pasturing their animals on the meadows by the streams. In 1760, by Act of Parliament, the Open Fields were enclosed and the new fields were hedged and farmed separately; an enormous change.
- A cottage industry of stocking or framework knitting developed in the village, the first reference being in 1704. This continued well in to the 19th century, with over 100 framework knitters recorded in the 1851 census photocopy of a page from the census.
- The railway came to Desford in 1832, part of the Leicester to Swannington Railway built by Robert Stevenson; the third oldest line in the world. Originally constructed to take coal to Leicester, it was also a passenger line until 1964 and Desford had its own station. The larger houses in Station Road were built for middle-class commuters to Leicester picture of the Comet/photo of the old station.
- Towards the end of the 19th century, coal mining spread in west Leicestershire. In 1875 an unsuccessful attempt was made to sink a mine in the parish, at Lindridge. This failed due to constant flooding. The company involved then sank a new shaft at Merrylees but retained the title of Desford pit. In the 20th century Desford pit employed many local people until it closed in 1984.
- During and after the Second World War, Reid & Sigrist employed people at the airfield and both men and women came to the RAF Training Centre.
- After the war the village grew, with both council houses and private estates being built.
- Local industry provided employment both at Tubes at Newtown Unthank (now Crowncrest), and at Caterpillar (now also Neovia) photos of Tubes & Caterpillar.
- There were ale houses in the village from early times. Records show that the Bulls Head was serving ale in 1665. In the 20th century there were 8 pubs at the height of their popularity, now down to 2.
- Desford has become a largely commuter village and the number of farms has decreased.
- Evidence of 20th century shops, now closed, can still be seen by the large windows of certain houses, the latest victim being the post office.
- A Board School was built in Main Street in 1876, followed by expansion into a second building in 1908. These are now occupied by the Medical Centre and Church Centre respectively. The Primary School in Kirkby Road was opened in 1961, with subsequent extensions photos of both old school buildings.
- For secondary education, children had, for many years, to travel to Market Bosworth or South Charnwood.
- In 1969 Bosworth Community College (now Bosworth Academy) was built on the edge of the village and, from 2015, students have been able to attend here from age 11.
Botcheston and Newtown Unthank
- Bocharston or Bocheston did not exist at the time of the Domesday survey. It was in Ratby parish until about 1936. In 1846 the hamlet had just 37 people.
- The school was closed in 1931 but is now the Village Hall.
- The Greyhound has been a pub since the mid 19th century.
- Botcheston was home to Desford Boys School, an Industrial School with around 200 pupils. It closed in 1978 and Kirby Grange Retirement Village was built on the land. The Polebrook House building is now semi-derelict.
- Newtown Unthank has always been a farming community.
- We know that a mill was built on the stream, the Rothley Brook, as long ago as 1297.