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Blaby Post Office and The George pub (now named the Fox and Tiger)
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Blaby (//) is a village in the Blaby District in central Leicestershire, England, some five miles south of Leicester city centre. It has population of around 6,240 (2001 figures), falling slightly to 6,194 at the 2011 census, and its proximity to the city causes it to form part of the Leicester Urban Area.
Its name probably came Old Norse Blábýr = "farmstead or village belonging to a man named Blár" (where the -r is a case ending). There seems to have been a dense patch of Viking settlement in Leicestershire, although some records in the Blaby Library indicate the origin of the village's name was from the first vicar. Twinned with the village of Villers-sous-Saint-Leu in France.
While there are few buildings of outstanding historical or architectural interest, old Blaby is a conservation area. It contains some ancient and picturesque dwellings and has a charming 'olde worlde' feel. Old Blaby also contains The Baker's Arms, a thatched public house that dates back to 1484. The other public houses to be found in Blaby are The Fox & Tiger, The Bulls Head and The Black Horse. The Tom Thumb has been sold from Everards brewery and had planning permission granted to build 10 dwellings in its place. The Egyptian Queen has now been demolished. One of the two old schools in Blaby is Park (Parkwood) House; the other is in the surrounding area near the parish church.
To the south of the Bakers Arms stands Bouskell Park, with a 19th-century ice house and car parking. There are also Northfield Park, used for football, cricket, fetes and fairs, and Oakfield Park, located off Hospital Lane.
Most shops and amenities stand on the old A426 road between Leicester to the north and Lutterworth to the south. Fosse Park shopping centre and the M1 motorway and M69 motorway are just a few miles away.
The centre of Blaby Village in the 1950's featured primarily local independent retailers and services, including:
- Mr Bellamy, cobbler, operating from a workshop in the front garden of his house, located opposite The Bulls Head pub.
- Worthington's - a grocer featuring a traditional counter (with staff to serve you, not self-service) - with ham and cheese cut to order and wrapped in a paper bag - before plastic carrier bags and plastic sealed food.
- The local Co-op - located next to The George Inn - was the first in the village to be converted to self-service. It was small in comparison to today's supermarkets. A Butcher counter could be found at The Co-op
- Pratt Brothers were a local family specialising in electrical goods such as televisions and record players - and the only retailer in Blaby offering latest 'pop' chart 45 rpm records.
- 'Johnny' Atkins had a greengrocer's shop next door.
- Two barbers had salons close to each other near Blaby cross roads. Barber Lowe was in Cross Street; Barber Law was next to the post office on Leicester Road. 'Short back and sides' was the most popular style. Another Barber Law - distant relation - was on the Enderby Road (perhaps on or between West Street and James Street).
- Just inside Enderby Road from Blaby Cross Roads was the village blacksmith, but which was closed by the 1950s. The shops are now badged 'The Forge' in memory of the lost tradition.
- Meredith's fish shop (fresh fish) was located on the corner of Lutterworth Road and Welford Road, next door to The Bulls Head. It closed and became Sedgeley's Electrical shop.
- At least two sweet shops thrived up to the 1950s. Mabel Pegg had a shop on the Enderby Road, shortly before The Avenue (but on the opposite side), whilst Mrs Cherry had a sweet shop located on Sycamore Street, round the corner from Church Street (and Blaby C of E Primary School).
- Newsagents and Tobacconists were located in Park Road (Pinder's), on Lutterworth Road (next to Worthington's, name unknown), on Western Drive (Damon's) and 'Roberts' Blaby Newsagents at Blaby Cross Roads ('The Forge') - situated first next to the post office, before moving across the road, sometime after which it became McColls.
There was also Sercombe the Butcher on the corner of Sycamore Street and Lutterworth Road. Sercombe's were, and still are, a family butcher dating back to the 1920's when a returning William Sercombe (the father, from New Zealand where he had trained as a Master Butcher) set up shop in Cavendish Road, Aylestone]. The descendants still have a butchers business located in the Rugby area.
The father of William, William Sr., was the inventor and brick kiln builder (a modification of the Hoffman Kiln) who patented a new design, now treasured heritage in certain sites as far as New Zealand.
Blaby gives its name to the Blaby district and previously to the Parliamentary constituency that was held by former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson between 1974 and 1992. Between 1992 and 2015 its Member of Parliament was Andrew Robathan. In 2010 the constituency was renamed South Leicestershire.
The "Blaby Special" heirloom tomato variety originates from the Shoults' Tomato Farm, which was located in Blaby from circa 1908 until 1948: the variety was thought to be extinct but was revived from a seed bank in 2005.
'The Tomato Farm' remained derelict during the 1950's until it was developed for a mix of council houses and flats and traditional semi-detached private dwellings.
The farm was located between Grove Road and Auburn Road, principally comprising new through roads (The Fairway and Dovedale Avenue), together with Queens Road coming off the existing Auburn Road, becoming parallel with Dovedale Avenue.
Evidence of the many greenhouses was rendered to their foundations, probably with the glass plundered. It became a sanctuary for wildlife, with newts featuring in the mix of flora and fauna and in the summer the grass grew long and dry, leading to occasional fires and the fire engine travelling at speed along Grove Road to extinguish the blaze, a regular occurrence.
A new school was incorporated (Blaby Stokes C of E) to absorb the influx of children from families new to the village taking up residence in the new development.
The following is an overview of features dating back to 1950s Blaby:
- Shoults' Tomato Farm was among the main horticultural businesses (outside of local farmers), but by 1950 had become a wasteland, later to be developed for residential housing.
- Farmer Rest (whose Farm was situated at the top end of Church Street before its junction with Wigston Road and Mill Lane) and Farmer Bert Attfield (whose land was mainly within Whetstone and Whetstone Gorse, bordering with Hillview Nurseries on the Lutterworth Road, Blaby) were two of the main conventional farmers.
- Blaby Rose Gardens was a celebrated rose grower and developer, owned and run by a Dutch specialist. Outside of the small industries of hosiery and boots and shoes, with factories (e.g. Griffin & Gamble) in Blaby Village, the rose gardens were an important employer, but also relied on seasonal workers in the form of university students.
- Hillview Nurseries was another employer of casual workers. Kenneth Morey founded this market garden, located opposite Blaby Rose Gardens on the Lutterworth Road. A smallholding by any standards, it also relied on university students for pea-picking and other seasonal crops.
- Sue Townsend From nearby Glen Hills area lived the Leicester-born Sue Townsend, creator of Adrian Mole (see separate page for this). As an internationally renowned humourist and writer, Sue Townsend drew on life experiences combined with her innate sense of creativity to become the most celebrated of authors of her generation.
- John Morey Born in Blaby Village, another literary product emerged in 2020. With only three books published (in his first nine months of writing) - The Sign of the Rose; Finding Rose and Rose: The Missing Years, Morey has by no means the pedigree and reputation for fine writing as has Sue Townsend, but they do share similarities in terms of attending the same South Wigston High School (albeit different sites - one for 'Girls' the other 'Boys'!). Born in the same year, they both applied their own experiences to their writing. John Morey bases much of the action in his love stories in locations in Leicestershire, particularly in and around Blaby, drawing on its rich local heritage. Morey's romantic novels are classified as 'Category Fiction', or Genre fiction, an umbrella term embracing several types of Romance Novel.
People associated with Blaby
- Richard Duke clergyman of the Church of England
- Lord Lawson of Blaby (former MP for Blaby, and also served as Chancellor of the Exchequer, under Margaret Thatcher)
- Tom Meighan
- G.M. Miller, BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names (Oxford UP, 1971), p. 15.
- Leicester Mercury 16 August 2010, Scientist puts Blaby Special tomatoes back on the menu.
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