Rolleston, Leicestershire (Article by Arnold Burston)

Rolleston, Leicestershire

Rolleston is a hamlet in the Parish of Billesdon in the District of Market Harborough, to the south of the A47 Leicester-Peterborough road. Before the Norman Conquest it was part of the Saxon estate of Tochi, and after 1066 it was given to a Norman, Geoffrey Alselin, who held it until 1086 when it was recorded as "Rovestone". Other old documents spell it as "Rolveston".

In 1346, when the La Zouche family left Rolleston Hall, the estate was bought by Sir John Cobham and at the end of the 14th. Century it was sold to the Cheyne family. They sold it to Sir John Popham who, in 1458, transferred it to the Prior and Convent of Carthusians at West Smithfields in London. They transferred it in turn to the Priory of the Salutation of God who kept it until Henry VIII dissolved the religious houses.

From 1552 it was owned by one family, (Dixon, Sharpe, Greene). In 1861 it was bought by the Heap family. In 1896, they sold it to Lord Churchill, Winston Churchill's cousin, who was Lord in Waiting to Queen Victoria. He built several cottages and most of the present estate buildings. In 1902 he was created Viscount Churchill of Rolleston.

In 1920 the hall and estate were bought by Lord Michelham of Hellingby and, in 1940 by an industrialist, Gustav Sonderman of Sheffield. From September 1940 to May 1946 it was used by the Red Cross as a convalescent home for wounded servicemen. In 1954 it passed to a daughter, married to Fritz Eske, who demolished it and built the present smaller hall which now belongs to the Wilkinson family.

The Church of Billesdon and the Chapels of Rolleston and Goadby were granted to Leicester Abbey by William de Syrefast in 1162. The dedication is to St. John. The oldest part of the present Church is the base of the tower, which dates from about 1200. The building was partially rebuilt in 1740 by Richard Greene and again restored in 1899 by Lord Churchill. In 1902, he inserted the east window in memory of his mother, Jane, Lady Churchill, who had been Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Victoria for 46 years. In 1962, the Church was again completely restored by Erica Eske.

Although regular services ceased in 1994, occasional services are held at Christmas, Easter and for the Harvest Festival. In 1995, the trees and shrubs were cut back to reveal a very tall "Celtic" cross. The present building has an undivided Nave and Chancel with three external buttresses, and is surmounted by an embattled parapet. The north and south walls have tall windows of perpendicular style, and the north doorway has a curious shallow porch.

Further details about Rolleston in Leicestershire can be found here.

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Last updated: 18 November 2012