One of the older properties in Goadby Marwood, The Laurels is a large farmhouse occupying a prominent position at the western end of the village opposite St. Denys’ Church. We do not know exactly when the house was built, but the large barn to the rear and parts of the original dwelling appear on the Tithe Survey of 1839, which describes the property as a croft. The Reverend Edward Manners, who lived at Goadby Hall with his wife and daughters, is recorded as both the owner and occupier, so it is possible that the house was unoccupied at the time awaiting new tenants.
In the mid-1840s, Henry Watson, a farmer from Welby near Grantham, moved into The Laurels, which at the time was known as Clayfield Farm, with his wife, Eleanor Bellamy. Eleanor was the daughter of a wealthy farmer from Corby Glen in Lincolnshire and had married Henry Watson in her home village in 1845. The couple’s first son, Richard William, was born in Goadby Marwood in 1847, followed by two further sons, George Henry b.1848, who may have died in childhood, and John Searson b.1851.
The farm is recorded in various records of the 19th and early 20th Century as having between 108 and 119 acres of land, and throughout his tenure Henry Watson employed several agricultural labourers as well as a house servant.
Henry was regularly in the local courts. In the summer of 1853, one of Henry’s employees was accused of stealing a quantity of sheep wool; the case was reported in the Leicester Mercury on June 25th:
Before H C Bingham and George Norman Esq.
George Hill, 20, of Chadwell was committed for trial at the sessions, charged with stealing 109 lbs weight of wool, value £7, the property of Henry Watson of Goadby Marwood, his master.
Hill pleaded guilty. Sentence, 6 mths hard labour.
In August 1854, Henry was involved in a disagreement over the ownership of a sheep with his neighbour, Thomas Rowbotham, who farmed at Green Lodge. The subsequent court case was reported in the Leicester Mercury:
5th Aug 1854
Dispute over a Sheep
Henry Watson V T Rowbotham
This was an adjourned case from the last court.
Both Plaintiff and Defendant are farmers of Goadby Marwood. Plaintiff sought to recover the value of a sheep, alleged by him to have been taken from his field by the defendant at the time of washing.
Plaintiff has a field through which a road leads to the wash dyke, and in this field were 10 sheep, all ear marked on the near ear.
Defendant took his sheep through this field to wash, after which Plaintiff missed one of the 10 sheep, and found it on the Defendant's land, and the only one marked on the near ear in the Defendants possession.
Defendant said that the sheep in question was a ewe given to him by his Mother before he was in business for himself. A witness also proved holding the sheep when a lamb, for the defendant to mark in the ear, and which was a peculiar one. Defendant's Shepherd proved the disputed sheep being in his (the Defendant's) possession from a lamb.
Judgement for the Defendant.
In September 1857, Henry was charged with assaulting one of his employees, the case was settled out of court:
Leicester Journal 5th Sept 1857
Melton Mowbray Petty Sessions 1st Sept. Before Rev JE. Gillet and H.C. Bingham Esq.
Mr Henry Watson, farmer of Goadby Marwood, was charged by his servant, William Manchester, with assault. Allowed to arrange out of court. Defendant paying 14s costs.
Detail from the 1839 Tithe Map showing The Laurels (67 & 68).
Dorothy Riley (right) with her mother, Beatrice, outside
The Laurels on Main Street c. late 1940s.
It would appear that Henry had a less than ideal relationship with many of his farm workers, as in May 1862, he was again in court, this time as the plaintive:
Leicester Chronicle 24th May 1862
Petty Sessions Tues May 20th.
Henry Glover, Labourer, Stonesby, was charged by Henry Watson, Farmer, Goadby Marwood, with doing wilful damage.
Henry’s youngest son, John, chose not to follow in the farming footsteps of his father and grandfathers; as soon as he was old enough, he left Goadby to train as a draper. He was employed as a draper’s assistant by the well-known department store, Cole Brothers, in the centre of Sheffield. In the 19th Century drapers were almost always men and Cole Brothers employed over 40 draper’s assistants, all of whom lived onsite in the staff quarters of the department store. It would certainly have been a very different experience for the young farm boy. John later moved to Liverpool where he married and had a family. Around 1890 John and his family emigrated to Melbourne, Australia, where he died in 1919.
Henry Watson died in Goadby Marwood on February 7th, 1889, at the age of 80, and for a short time the tenancy of The Laurels was taken on by his eldest son, Richard. Richard Watson never married, and sometime before 1898 he left The Laurels, which had been his family home for nearly 50 years, and moved in with spinster sisters, Ann and Catherine Brewin, who lived at The Hollies on Towns Lane. He lived there until his death in 1923.
After Richard vacated the property, the tenancy of The Laurels was taken over by his cousin, Robert William Watson and his wife, Sarah. Robert Watson was born in 1839 in the Lincolnshire village of Foston to Thomas Watson, the younger brother of Henry Watson. Like his cousin, John, Robert rejected the farming life and made his way to Sheffield where he found employment as an assistant to a chemist. Whilst in Sheffield he met and married Sarah Annie Richards. The couple settled in Sheffield where Robert set up his own business as a chemist and druggist, and where their five sons and three daughters were born. It is somewhat of a mystery as to why, at the age of about 60, Robert suddenly decided to take up farming, but he moved to Goadby Marwood village with his wife and his son, Harold.
Robert was not a competent farmer and his penchant for chemicals was to land him in serious trouble with the law when, in the spring of 1898, he applied poisoned grain to his land. The case was reported in some detail by the Leicester Chronicle on April 16th, Robert was found guilty and received a hefty fine. Robert and Sarah Watson did not remain in Goadby for very long, by the time the 1911 census was taken they had returned to Sheffield, where they lived for the remainder of their lives.
The next tenant at The Laurels was William Mackley, a farmer from the village of Welby near Melton Mowbray. William moved to Goadby sometime between 1901 and 1904 with his wife Lucy and his four children, Sarah b. 1778, Matilda b. 1880, William b. 1881 and Stephen b. 1887. In April 1905 eldest daughter, Sarah, married James Mayfield who lived at Piper Hole Farm with his younger brother, Charles. The wedding was reported in the Grantham Journal:
23rd April 1904 Grantham Journal
Wedding on Thurs. last.
Sarah Lucy (Louie) Mackley, eldest daughter of Mr. & Mrs. W. Mackley of the Laurels Goadby Marwood married Mr. James Mayfield, Piper Hole Farm Goadby Marwood.
Best man was Mr. W. Mayfield, brother of Sleaford.
Lucy Mackley died just over a year after her daughter’s wedding, and William Mackley died in July 1909, both are buried in St. Denys’ Churchyard. Following their deaths, eldest son, William, took over the tenancy of The Laurels for a short time. Youngest son, Stephen, married Caroline Durrance, whose family farmed at Hill Farm near Eastwell. The couple moved into nearby Wycombe Cottages, where their two children, Raymond and Joyce, were born. Youngest daughter, Matilda, married Charles Edgar Brewin, a monumental mason, whose family lived at The Ferns on Main Street. Matilda and Charles settled at Manor Cottages on Main Street in Goadby, where they raised their two daughters, Kathleen and Hilda.
Sometime after 1911 James and Sarah Mayfield, who had been living at Piper Hole Farm, moved into The Laurels with their two children, Eva Mary b. 1905 and James (known to the family by his middle name, Herbert) b. 1909. Sadly, Sarah died in 1917 at the age of just 39; James continued to live at The Laurels together with Eva and Herbert.
In 1920, over 13,000 acres of the Duke of Rutland's estates in Leicestershire were sold to cover debts, the sale included The Hall, The Rectory and almost all the cottages, houses and surrounding farms of Goadby Marwood village. In most cases the incumbent tenants were given the opportunity to purchase their properties, but this seems not to have been the case for James Mayfield as the following letter, written to The Grantham Journal in March 1920, makes clear:
To the Editor of the Journal.
Sir - In looking down the list of names of the tenants who have purchased their holdings by private treaty, I see my name is included.
May I say this is not correct, as I have not had the option of purchasing my holding, either by private treaty or public auction. On making enquiry, I am told to my disappointment it has been sold by private treaty to the gentleman occupying the Hall Farm of 200 acres, yet in no way connected to me.
J. Mayfield Goadby Marwood
Map of The Laurels from the 1929 sales particulars.
The Laurels and the farmland were sold to Captain Robert Sheriffe together with Goadby Marwood Hall and Hall Farm (known at the time as Park Farm). James, Herbert and Eva moved next door to Ivy House Farm, which had been purchased at the Belvoir Estate sale by Mr. Sykes, and which had very little land with it. As a result, James Mayfield was forced to sell his stock and farm implements.
Grantham Journal 1921.
To be sold by auction by Shouler and Son.
On Wednesday March 30th 1921. By direction of Mr. J. Mayfield owing to the farm having been sold.
Including 28 beasts, 5 horses, 9 Large Black pigs and agricultural implements.
Immediately after the sale the whole of the agricultural implements of Mrs. Kemp and Mr. Foister.
Captain Sheriffe died in May 1929. His widow, Muriel, retained Goadby Hall and Hall Farm, but The Laurels was put up for sale. The sales particulars described the house as “…well and substantially built of stone with good slated and tiled roof, and contains Entrance Hall. 2 Living Rooms. Kitchen, Scullery, Dairy. Cellar, Pantry, 5 Bedrooms, Bathroom and w.c. Front and Back Staircases. Good walled-in Gardens”. The property was purchased by John Thomas Pickard of Wycomb who let it to the Scorror family of Thorpe Arnold who ran it as a dairy farm for a short period in the 1930s.
The Scorror family moved away from Goadby in late 1936 or early 1937, and the Laurels stood empty for around two years until the tenancy was taken on by Elijah Humphries Riley, an engineer from Enfield In London. Elijah was born in the village of Whissendine, the son of butcher, Arthur Riley from Camberwell in Surrey, and his wife, Mary Sophia Knight from Spittlegate in Grantham. Elijah had moved to London after serving his country during the First World War, there he met and married, Beatrice Ellen Keep. Beatrice was born in Portsmouth, the daughter of retired soldier and police constable, William Keep and his wife, Bertha Gillett. Elijah and Beatrice’s only daughter, Dorothy, was born in London in 1934.
In the summer of 1938, the family took a trip to Yorkshire to visit relatives, and on the return journey to London, on an impulse, they stopped in Melton Mowbray, a town that was familiar to Elijah from his childhood days. It had become clear to Elijah that war with Germany was inevitable and that London would no longer be a safe place for his family. The couple saw an advertisement for the tenancy of The Laurels in the window of Shouler and Son Estate Agents and fell in love with the rambling old farmhouse.
The small family moved to The Laurels in October 1938. Dorothy Riley was just four years old at the time, but she clearly recalls the village children gathering in a group to watch the furniture van unload its contents, and she remembers the gardens being full of nettles, all the rooms covered in a thick layer of dust, and the walls of the corridors painted dark green, as if the old house “...was sleeping, as though it was a place waiting to be woken."
Dorothy recalls: “My parents’ priority was decorating, they papered over the green walls, also some of the bedrooms, lounge and bathroom. My mother bought rolls of velvet curtain material and made all new curtains. The house quickly became a home. We purchased hens, goats, pigs and goslings. This was very exciting for a child; I remember exploring everywhere!”
During the Second World War, The Laurels would become home to an assortment of displaced individuals. Elijah’s sister, Dora Jacobs, owned a small hotel in London, but in 1940, when the Germans began their bombing campaign, she left the city for the safety of her brother’s home in Goadby Marwood accompanied by a number of Belgian civil servants who, having fled occupied Belgium, had been billeted at the London hotel. The family was also joined by Dorothy's older cousin, Mary Jacobs, and a young evacuee, Pat, who was billeted at the farm. They all spent much of the war in the comfortable old farmhouse helping with the chores and looking after an assortment of animals.
John Thomas Pickard died in 1941, and ownership of The Laurels passed to his son, Joseph Henry Pickard, who continued to rent the property to the Riley family until 1957, when it was put up for sale. On the market at the same time was The Manor on Main Street which was in a sad state of repair having been requisitioned by the War Agricultural Committee to house POWs for the duration of the war, however, it was a house that Beatrice Riley had always loved, so Elijah purchased the property and the family moved back to London for a short time while their new home was renovated and made fit for habitation. The Riley family lived at The Manor for nearly 40 years. Elijah Riley died in March 1983, and Beatrice continued to live in the house spending the summers in Goadby and the winters with her family in Weston-super-Mare. Beatrice died in 1995, after which the property was sold, both Elijah and Beatrice are buried in St. Denys’ Churchyard in Goadby Marwood.
Around 1957, The Laurels was purchased by George Wooley who ran it as a successful dairy and arable farm, and the property is still owned by his family today.