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Guilsborough shown within Northamptonshire
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It is at the centre of an area of rural villages between the towns of Northampton, Daventry, Rugby and Market Harborough. There is a secondary school, fire station, pub, a new village shop (formerly the doctor's surgery) and a new doctor's surgery. The secondary school is on the edge of the village and takes children from 11 to 16. It also has a sixth form. Guilsborough School is in the top 500 schools for GCSE and A levels. It takes children from surrounding villages and has about 1,500 pupils. The school currently has technology college status.
Today, the housing estate Church Mount stands where Guilsborough Hall once stood. The mount is separated from the main road by a large embankment which is the remains of a Roman wall. The wall was part of a Roman fort, an outpost of the settlement at West Haddon. The encampment is believed to have been the work of Publius Ostorius Scapula, under the reign of Claudius. The larger part of the camp walls have long since been removed and it is noted that, when the south bank was removed in the 19th century, many skeletons were found (E. & E. Renton - see 'Writings Section'). No one is certain what became of these remains.
The Guilsborough Witches
On 22 July 1612, four women and one man were hanged at Abington Gallows in Northampton for the crime of witchcraft, also known as the Northamptonshire Witch Trials. Of those five, Agnes Brown and her daughter Ioane/Joan Vaughan (or Varnham) were from Guilsborough.
They stood accused of bewitching a local noblewoman, Elizabeth Belcher (née Fisher) and her brother-in-law Master Avery and of killing, by sorcery, a child and numerous livestock. For a full account of these tales see: A Brief History of Witchcraft Relating to The Witches of Northamptonshire Reprinted by Taylor & Son 1867. Facsimile by General Coe Ltd, Wilbarston, Northants; April 1967, Witchcraft and Demonianism by C. L'Estrange Ewen 1970 or Witchcraft in England 1558-1618 edited by Barbara Rosen 1991.
Although the hangings can be legitimately traced back to actual historic events, the story most commonly repeated is of less certain origins. The tale goes that there was an elderly witch called Mother Roades, who lived just outside the neighbouring village of Ravensthorpe. Before she could be arrested and tried for her crimes of sorcery, she died. Her final words told of her friends riding to see her, but that it did not matter because they would meet again in some other place before the month was out.
The problem with this story is that, although Agnes Brown remains a constant upon the pig's back, her companions swap names depending on the version being read. Three witches were on the pig, but the potential riders, other than Agnes Brown (who appears as one of the riders in all versions), are: Kathryn Gardiner, Alice Abbott, Alice Harrys and Ioan/Joan Lucas.
It would appear from records that all of these accused stood trial together, however the reporting only covers the hangings of one day in 1612, so the fates of the others are not known (Witchcraft and Demonianism by C. L'Estrange Ewen 1970, pps. 211-1).
Guilsborough used to have its own version of Black Annis who lived in Pell's Pool. This was a deep pool which stood off Cold Ashby Lane and was used by the local fire service as a water supply for many years. The pool has now dried up and a house stands there. Young boys and girls were told not to go walking by the pool at night otherwise a witch would drag them down into the water.
Saint Etheldreda's Church
The church was possibly a minster of Brixworth, which is one of the oldest remaining Saxon churches in England. There are Saxon remnants among the Norman architecture of Guilsborough church. There are rumours that it may have been founded by Saint Wilfred; however these probably belong to the realm of myth and legend.
This church was originally dedicated to St Wilfred and it is unusual to see a renaming in favour of a female saint. However, Wilfred and Etheldreda's paths are said to have crossed when Wilfred supported the Anglian Queen's decision not to grant her second husband conjugal rights. Despite having been married once before, it is said that St Etheldreda (also known as St Audrey, from where the word 'tawdry' originates) remained a virgin.
The story of St Wilfred and Etheldreda is recounted in The Oxford Book of Saints.
Another unusual aspect to this saint is that she appears to have two saint days. The most commonly cited day is 21 June, however, certainly around the 17th century, villagers in Guilsborough were celebrating her feast day on the first Sunday after 17 October (Dissertation by T.R. Slater 1982, Northamptonshire Records Office).
The church has six bells and there is an anomaly in that the second bell is heavier than the third.
Guilsborough Church is currently the subject of a parish argument due to an application by T Mobile to install a mobile phone mast inside the steeple of the church. Residents are currently objecting to the Diocese of Peterborough as they were not notified and believe there to be health implications if the plans are approved. The church has an Ecclesiastical Exemption negating the need for planning permission or listed building consent to erect the mast.
The Renton family
Ethel and Eleanor Renton were prolific local historians writing in the 1920s. To commemorate the millennium, their work was republished as: The Records of Guilsborough, Nortoft and Hollowell. This was originally published in 1929 by T. Beaty Hart Ltd, Bridewell Printing Works, Kettering. The Rentons were NOT sisters they were mother and daughter
Eleanor Renton-daughter of Ethel Renton-married Denis Friedberger and became Eleanor Friedberger.
- Office for National Statistics: Guilsborough CP: Parish headcounts. Retrieved 10 November 2009
Media related to Guilsborough at Wikimedia Commons