Barwell is a civil parish and large village in Leicestershire, England, with a population of around 8,750 people. The name literally translates as "Stream of the Boar" and is said to originate from a boar that used to drink from the well near a brook in Barwell. It was originally known as Borewell, but later became "Barwell", the name in use today. The brook is now called the River Tweed, and is a tributary of the River Trent.
The village has two churches; Barwell Methodist Church in Chapel Street, and St. Mary's Parish Church in Church Lane. St. Mary's was built in 1220. A board inside the church lists all of the rectors up to the present day, beginning with William in 1209.
The Queens Head is the oldest public house, and second oldest building in the village. In 1902 the pub was owned by one Sarah Ann Powers. It was later owned by the Haines family. In recent years, the old pub roof has naturally deformed so that it is no longer straight. In the 1980s the front of the building was completely restored and returned to its original style after years of Victorian style black and white.
It was on the lands of Leofric, Earl of Mercia, a rich and powerful magnate who had fought alongside Canute in his wars against Wessex. In old English, "wella" is the word for stream and "bar" the name for boar, and so this clearing in the woods was known in the Saxon tongue as Barwelle. In 1043, Earl Leofric and his wife, Godiva, established a Benedictine Abbey at Coventry and gave the Abbot and his twenty-four attendant monks, lands for their upkeep. Barwelle, along with nineteen other villages passed into the domains of the Abbot of Coventry.
Following the Norman Conquest, Barwelle was still held by the Abbey of Coventry. By 1086, there were 14 villagers with a priest, and 3 smallholders with 2 ploughs; a plough being a plot of land that can be cultivated by one team of oxen. There was a meadow 1 furlong by 1 furlong (201 by 201 m) in size and woodland 3 furlongs by 1 league (604 by 5556 m). The value of which was 30 shillings (£1.50).
The manor of Barwell which is described in Domesday Book as "ancient demesne", was later given to Hugh de Hastings, a steward and favourite of Henry I, and held in fee along with many other local manors from the priory of Coventry for the service of a single knight’s fee.
In 1564 there were 48 families living in Barwell, according to a church census.
John Nichols describes an interesting tale of a wych-elm called "The Spreading Tree" or "Captain Shenton's tree" (pg. 476). As recounted, Captain Shenton who served in the royalist army returned to his house at Barwell with several other officers after the battle of Worcester. Hearing that the parliamentarians were looking for him he sank his portmanteau and valuables in the moat which surrounded the house, and sought refuge in the tree. Despite being close enough to overhear his enemies discussing the price on his head the bold Captain Shenton escaped capture and kept his estate, passing it on through his daughters. The tree was apparently held sacred for many years by the Powers family for preserving their ancestor.
In June, 1646 the inhabitants of Barwell and surrounding villages made several submissions to the county committee for losses and free quarter from the local parliamentary garrisons. In June, 1646 Mr Gearey from Barwell claimed that Captain Ottaway from hellothe Coventry garrison took a gelding worth five founds and that William Capenkwist and Thomas Bacon, his servants, had taken a mare worth one pound (Exchequer SP 28/161).
After a long and confusing list of owners, the manor of Barwell was purchased in 1660 by a certain John Oneby. Barwell was well known for its market gardeners that traditionally supplied the Leicester market with fresh produce. Nichols provides an interesting illustration of the church and its adjoining parsonage house (p. 477) pulled down in 1746 and rebuilt.
Barwell and neighbouring Earl Shilton were the site of a meteor event when, on Christmas Eve 1965, the villages were showered with fragments, from an object about the size of a traditional Christmas turkey. No one was hurt, although some minor damage to buildings and property occurred.
One meteorite went though a front of a car, destroying the engine. When the owner of the car attempted to claim on his insurance company, they replied that it was an "Act of God" and would not pay. Outraged, the owner went to the priest of the local church and asked for the money, saying "If it was an Act of God, the Church should pay for his car." The owner never received any money to repair his car.
Professor Sylvester-Bradley, Geology Dept Leicester University, confirmed that the fragments were from a chondrite and appealed for further specimens. Locals were requested not to wash any pieces found, but to wrap them in newspaper and hand in at the local police station.