Ravenstone is a village of around 2,500 inhabitants.
The village featured in the Domesday Book and was, until the last century, ggpartly in Leicestershire, partly in Derbyshire. The derivation of the name – Raunston or Raunstun – is believed to be Saxon. Archeological excavations carried out in 1981 uncovered the site of a Romano-British settlement. south of the present day village. Existence of a castle (sited near the hall and church)was mentioned in a treaty in the mid 12th century; it was apparently destroyed soon after.
The church of St Michael and All Angels in the centre of the village dates back to 1323. In the Decorated style, it is built of local sandstone and has a broach tower. The Wesleyan was built in 1806, in Main Street; at the beginning of the 20th century this was replaced by a larger building on Swannington Road (demolished in the 1970s). In the neighbouring hamlet of Snibston is St Mary’s church: dating from 1150 and one of the smallest churches still in use in the country.
Ravenstone was largely an agricultural settlement, until coal-mining took off in the nineteenth century. Other industries in the village were mostly associated with agriculture: the Woolley family in Main Street had farm machinery and worked as threshing contractors; further along Main Street was the Ropewalk where ropes were made for use in mining and farming; in Bricky Lane was a brick-making business; other small businesses included 3 timber yards, a blacksmith and a wheelwright. On the corner of Main Street and Ashby Road was a terrace of 18th century cottages where the Tames family ran a bakery until the terrace was demolished in the 1960s. After WWll until the 1980s the Hall brothers, Alf and Reg, had a used-car garage in Main Street. The post office was situated in Church Lane, in a single storey annexe to Ivy House, before moving to Jenny’s Lane and then to the village store on Leicester Road.
As recently as the 1960s there were in the village 16 farms and smallholdings, mostly dairy farms. Hall Farm, on the corner of Main Street and Hospital Lane was a large Georgian building – the farm buildings stretched down Hospital Lane, opposite the Almshouses. It was demolished in the 1970s and the houses of St Michael’s Drive were built on the site. Church Lane Farm is now a guest house; built in 1763, it was originally a slaughterhouse and butchers shop.
The majority of the properties belonged to either the Cresswell or Fosbrooke families.
Of the large houses, The White House in Main Street, The Beeches on Ashby Road and Ravenstone House (sadly, demolished in the 1950s), on the corner of Heather Lane and Ashby Road, were all substantial buildings of the 18th and 19th centuries, owned by the Cresswell family.
Ravenstone Hall, built by Leonard Fosbrooke of Shardlow in 1750, was occupied by the family till the death of Cecily Fosbroke in 1961. The estate,which included several of the farmhouses and farm-workers’ cottages, was bought and owned briefly by a Mr Parr from Leicester, who cycled around the village collecting his rents….After his death an auction was held and most of the estate properties were purchased by their occupants.
The Almshouses on Hospital Lane were endowed by Rebecca and John Wilkins, a wealthy mine-owner and resident of Ravenstone Hall, in memory of their son Francis who died in 1711. Built around a quadrangle, these were to be homes for single ladies from the parishes of Ravenstone, Swannington & Coleorton. In the 1960s they were converted into 25 one-bedroomed self-contained rented flats and now form the sheltered housing scheme known as Ravenstone Court. The adjoining chapel and chaplain’s house were added in 1783. The whole structure is a fine example of Georgian architecture.
Publications: “Ravenstone with Snibston – A celebration of Village Life”
“Ravenstone History Walk”
“A History of Ravenstone Hospital”