The Dishley Saga

[from Vaughan Archaeological and Historical Society Transactions, Volume XXVI (1983-84), pp.20-22]

For many years the Society has shown a great interest and concern in the state of the ruined church at Dishley, in the chancel of which lies the tombstone of Robert Bakewell (1726-1795), Leicester’s famous agriculturist.

I would refer members to an article in Volume 9 (p.27) of our Transactions which related to the work done by the Society up to 1957.  Now to continue with the Saga!  In view of the distance from Leicester and the time taken to get to Dishley, as well as the few times in a season that we could organise a group to go, our committee wondered whether the Loughborough Local History Society might consider taking over its care, i.e. keeping the ruins weed-free, Bakewell’s tomb and the churchyard reasonably tidy.  The approach to them was made by Mr. Kendrick Smith, a member of our society, who was also on their Committee.  A lot of correspondence ensued and Loughborough then approached Sir Robert Martin, at that time, president of the Leicestershire Preservation Trust, who hoped that some effective step might be taken and he personally was greatly interested in the valuable work which our Society had done at Dishley.

Some time elapsed and eventually Lord Hazelrigg (of the Trust) and Mr. A.P. de Lisle of Garendon (who owned Dishley as part of his Garendon estate) showed a direct interest in the preservation of Robert Bakewell’s tomb.  However, by the end of 1959 the Trust had only replied that the site was Scheduled and Local Authorities should be prevailed upon to take over the care and maintenance of a closed burial ground.  We heard in April 1960 that the Trust had eventually written to Loughborough Town council, requesting that they take over the care of the graveyard, so our society wrote to their Town Clerk, stressing that our concern was chiefly about Bakewell’s tomb.  Several months passed before the Council replied to say that they would keep the church weed-free and mow the churchyard but a faculty would be required before Bakewell’s stone could be repaired.

And so the story went on – early in 1961 the Town Clerk wrote that he understood that the vicar of Thorpe Acre was contemplating applying for a faculty.  Another delay – the vicar left!

Another year passed and then we heard that some proposal had been made by the Leicestershire Trust to the Loughborough Society regarding the repair of the tomb and the erection of a plaque and they had been asked to obtain an estimate of costs.  It had been recommended by the Trust that a body like the Royal Agricultural Society might be very interested.  Then, by the end of February 1962 it appeared that the Trust were just backing out, indicating that the Loughborough Society should negotiate directly with Mr. de Lisle.  At this stage, Mr. David Clarke, Keeper of Antiquities at Leicester Museum had correspondence with Mr. de Lisle and by the time of our AGM in 1963, we knew that Mr. de Lisle undertook to repair the stone.

Nothing further was known until Rev. K. Wayne rang the Secretary early in 1964 saying what a deplorable state Bakewell’s tomb was in.  By this time, Mr Ambrose de Lisle had died and the present Squire, Gerald de Lisle had inherited the Garendon estate, so the secretary was asked to write to him, giving full details of our work there and what had transpired to date.  His interest was evident, for he invited a representation from our Committee to go over to Dishley and meet one Saturday morning.  Thus, six of us (Mr. Fletcher, Chairman, Mr. Elliott, Rev. K. Wayne, Mr. Daniell, Miss Whittle and the Secretary) duly met the Squire on November 4th.  What we discussed there, we were asked to put in writing to him:-

1.      That the old slab be preserved by sinking it into the ground – we would be prepared to clean up the sanctuary floor and defray the cost involved in restoring the existing slab.

2.      An exact replica-slab be made and fastened to the North wall of the Sanctuary with a protective coping.

Some months passed without a reply from the Squire, so in May 1965 a letter was sent to him saying some of our members would go over to do the repairs – we went on June 15th, only to find that the stone could not be set in to ground level (it was too wide) as the stones on either side of it were too close.  Mr. de Lisle was in agreement that it be moved to the opposite side of the chancel, so a letter indicating this was sent to F. German and Son of Ashby, the Garendon Estate Agents.  Then on July 21st, a Ministry of Works Inspector made a visit and reported to us that the breakage of the stone was the result of the work we had done.  All along, Mr. Daniell had supervised, and so, he took up the matter with them and it was resolved to our mutual satisfaction.

In March 1966 the Ministry of Works wrote that their architect had visited Dishley and advised:-

1.      The raised brick bed should be cleaned off and made good.

2.      The slate slab should be tinned together with neat cement and fastened down with Delta metal pins or holdfasts.

Our Mr. Daniell said this was obviously work for a stonemason and so the Ministry of Works’ advice was passed on to Messrs. Germans and we offered our co-operation.  Whereupon the Squire decided to have a slate plaque with [an] inscription put on the North wall of the Sanctuary near to the graveslab (at his expense), estimates having been obtained fron Collins Bros., Stonemasons at Loughborough.

By 1967 the plaque was in the Church.  We had an excursion to Garendon in the September, so a visit to Dishley was included.  I quote from our Transactions, Volume 17, pages 29-30, at the end of an article about the visit to Garendon and Dishley “a visit to inspect the simple but an apt memorial to Robert Bakewell, the Leicestershire pioneer in scientific stock breeding, who is buried in the churchyard.  The insertion of the memorial plaque in the walls of the ruined church is the culmination of a campaign by members of the Vaughan Archaeological Society since 1955 to ensure that the memory of Robert Bakewell will not be forgotten in his own district”.

A Postscript – The Secretary had a letter in 1967 from a Stanley Bakewell of Illinois USA a descendant of Robert Bakewell who was anxious to know more about the memorial, the Grange and obtain photographs.  The Society was delighted to supply this and in reply he sent us a small gift (6 dollars).

Squire de Lisle had also in that year, undertaken restoration of the ruined church, mausoleum (in the churchyard) and the dovecote and he had invited the Committee over.  We then decided that it would be well worth while to uncover the slate headstones in the churchyard and record them.

Some of these were done by a small group of our members over several visits, but eventually and for various reasons, the group disbanded.

The Secretary has notes on some thirty stones and an article on these will appear in the next volume of the Transactions.  [Link > "Some Gravestones in Dishley Churchyard"]

Dora Valentine - Secretary [retired 1989]

BFE/JEB 5.12.84

Last revised 4 May 2004