18th January: “Peppermint Billy” Joanne Vigor-Mungovin”
In the summer of June 1856, the whole of Leicestershire was horror-struck at news of the gruesome double murder of a seventy year old tollgate keeper and his nine year old grandson at Melton Mowbray.
William Brown, a returned convict and native of nearby Scalford, was the prime suspect. Tracked down and put on trial for the gruesome murders at the Thorpe Road tollgate, William Brown was the last person publicly hanged in Leicester. Joanne will talk you through the troubled life of ‘Peppermint Billy’ and the events leading to the double murder and his execution.
Joanne Vigor-Mungovin was born and raised in Leicestershire. Her first book, the bestselling Joseph: The Life, Times and Places of the Elephant Man (2016), led her to work with Michael Portillo on Channel 5’s Hidden History of Britain television series, and after locating Joseph Merrick’s lost and forgotten final resting place in 2019 she worked with BBC East Midland’s ‘Inside Out’. Joanne currently works as a freelance consultant for Historic England and is the archivist for the Leicester Civic Society. She has a regular radio ‘On This Day’ slot on Leicester Community Radio and is a volunteer at the little pre-loved bookshop at the old lock keeper’s cottage at Foxton Locks, near Market Harborough.
15th March: “The Rutland Roman Villa” John Thomas
For Jim Irvine a walk with his family on his father’s farmland was the start of a journey that led to the astounding discovery of an extensive Roman villa complex and one of the most significant mosaics ever found in Britain. This nationally important site in Rutland made international TV news when the extent of its wonderful mosaics depicting scenes from the Iliad, were shown to the world.
John Thomas, co-director of the dig, said: “It’s difficult to overstate the significance of this Roman villa complex to our understanding of life in late Roman Britain. While previous excavations of individual buildings, or smaller scale villas, have given us a snapshot, this discovery in Rutland is much more complete and provides a clearer picture of the whole complex.”
John will bring us up to date on the dig and put the site into the context of Roman Leicestershire.
John Thomas is Deputy Director of ULAS has worked in archaeology for over 30 years (20 of those in Leicestershire). He has also directed excavations at several important Iron Age settlements in the area, including Burrough Hill and Glenfield Park.
17th May: “John Breedon of Rotherby (1767 – 1850) – The Rise & Fall of a Farming Family”. Janet Spavold
John Breedon was one of the last farmers who had direct links to Robert Bakewell of Dishley,near Loughborough, the celebrated agricultural reformer. Breedon chose Bakewell’s New Leicester longwool sheep, a breed he promoted all his farming life. His financial success was reflected both in his farming business and in his family’s social success, culminating in his purchase of Rotherby Hall and much of the village. He was involved with the local Nonconformist religious groups which at that time also meant involvement with radical politics in and around Leicester. Through his daughter’s marriage he developed business links with the hosiery trade in Leicester. On his death she inherited Rotherby Hall, which eventually passed to her children until it was sold out of the family. This talk deals with both the family history, and the history of the village and some of its buildings.
19th July: “Guided Walk Around Burrough Hill Fort” – Peter Liddle
20th September: “Archaeology after Richard III” Mathew Morris
Leicester is an ancient city which has been continuously occupied for more than 2,000 years. It was here before the Romans, an Iron Age tribal centre that grew into the Roman town Ratae Corieltavorum, that became the Mercian bishopric of Leircester, which became the borough of Leicester. Royal site, market town, industrial powerhouse, modern multicultural city; every facet of Leicester’s rich history survives to some degree beneath the city’s streets waiting to be rediscovered. It has now been over ten years since the discovery of King Richard III put Leicester’s archaeology on a world stage.
In Archaeology After Richard III, Mathew Morris discusses some of the latest projects carried out in and around Leicester’s historic core by University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS). From Roman cemeteries, roads and buildings to a medieval friary, castle and 17th century civil war defences, recent discoveries showcase Leicester’s rich and fascinating history.
23rd October: A special lecture to celebrate our 10th anniversary: “House Histories: the secrets behind your front door” by leading house historian, Melanie Backe-Hansen
£5.00, booking essential (see below)
Ever wondered who lives in a house like yours? Melanie Backe-Hansen, author of House Histories and co-author of A House Through Time, with David Olusoga, will be revealing fascinating (and often unexpected) stories of people and events she has uncovered in her work researching the social history of houses. She will also highlight key sources and top tips in researching the social history of a house, along with some insights into her work as research consultant for television series, A House Through Time.
Melanie is an independent historian, writer, and speaker, specialising in the social history of houses across the United Kingdom. Melanie was research consultant for television series, A House Through Time, and co-authored the book of the same name with David Olusoga. She is also the author of House Histories: The Secrets Behind Your Front Door and Historic Streets and Squares: The Secrets on Your Doorstep.
Booking for this event is essential. Tickets are £5 each and can obtained from
Diane: 07529 220111 or firstname.lastname@example.org
15th November: “Below Stairs Servants’ lives in the age of Victoria.” by Nick Marshall
This is one for fans of Downton Abbey or Upstairs, Downstairs.
The talk looks at the working lives of servants in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It covers the large country house estates of the upper classes down to modest households of the middle classes. Looking at the differences between the indoor and outdoor staff, the talk explains the hierarchy of the servants and how it was more rigid than that of their employers. Finally it examines the reasons for the end of
Nick’s lifelong interest in history is more practical, he has been doing historical re-enactment since 1978, covering several periods from 300 AD to 1962 AD. He has worked for Leicestershire Museum Service for 25 years, firstly at Donington-le-Heath Manor house and then as a Museum Educator doing sessions for schools and other groups which I still do. Currently he works for the County Library service.
13th December: Members Evening: old films of Leicester & Leicestershire; quiz?
17th January – Garderobes & Gongfermors: Going to the Privy in the Medieval Era – James Wright
Going to the toilet is an everyday event for literally everyone that has ever lived. However, there has been a prudish reticence among architectural specialists to research and present the archaeology of this apparently ordinary practice. Despite this, there is a wealth of data which can be drawn upon to explain the latrinal habits of people in the mediaeval period.
This data is not just limited to the functional – Where in the building were the privies located? What did they look like? How were they kept clean? There are a whole host of other considerations: What were the mediaeval attitudes towards going to the toilet? Who was allowed to access the garderobe? What were the social implications of doing so? How were privies used to promote notions of elite prestige? This talk will plumb all of these depths…
Dr James Wright of Triskele Heritage is an award winning buildings archaeologist. He has two decades professional experience of ferreting around in people’s cellars, hunting through their attics and digging up their gardens. He hopes to find meaningful truths about how ordinary and extraordinary folk lived their lives in the past.
20th March – ‘Roman Lifestyles in Rural Rutland: Further Excavations at the Rutland Roman Villa.’ – John Thomas
Following the discovery and excavation of a unique Roman mosaic showing scenes from the Trojan War cycle on Rutland farmland in 2020/2021, archaeologists from University of Leicester and Historic England joined forces in 2022 to return to the site of the newly discovered villa to find out more. A highly detailed image of the Roman villa complex had been provided by geophysical survey, which gave an excellent indication of where other buildings lay within the field surrounding the . John Thomas will describe the results of these new excavations at one of the best preserved Roman villas in Leicestershire & Rutland, discussing what they can add to the story of this remarkable discovery, and setting the villa into the wider context of Roman rural life in Leicestershire and Rutland.
15th May – Leicestershire’s Suffragettes and Suffragists – Jess Jenkins
17th July – The siege of 1645 for the guided walk of Leicester – Jim Butler
18th September – Leicester Cathedral Revealed – Mathew Morris
20th November – The Archaeology of Brooksby Quarry & The River Bytham – Matt Beamish
11th December – members evening – a family object/subject of interest/ DNA results