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PIGGY’S HOLLOW – SOME SPECULATION ABOUT WHAT THE SITE MAY HAVE BEEN

 

Scheduled monument. Entrance free.

List entry no 1010686

First listed Oct. 81

 

MEDIEVAL MANORIAL COMPLEX – GRID REFERENCE 5K626027

 

Access:  From Footpath from Church to School Lane or from Arboretum

 

Owner: Leicester City Council

 

The largest manor in Evington was owned by the Grey family of Codnore, Derbyshire from the early 13thCentury to the late 15thCentury and was their main head quarters in Leicestershire.  The moat was probably built by John de Grey or his son Henry in the late 13thcentury, when the family was powerful, although there can be no certainty about this.

 

We are able to set the physical remains of the manorial complex against a description written in 1308. This states “there is a capital messuage (i.e. manor-house) in Evyington, worth, with the easements of the houses and the gardens, 40s yearly; a dove house worth 2s yearly; 2 ponds worth half a mark: a watermill worth 20s,: and a windmill worth 10s.” of these only the water-mill and dove-house are not identifiable.

 

The earliest map of Evington that survives is dated 1627 and was probably drawn at the time of the enclosure of Evington’s open-field.  No building is shown on the moated area and we may suspect that the buildings became disused in the 16thcentury when, rather than being the principal Leicestershire base of a relatively wealthy family, the parish became one amongst many local possessions of the Hastings and subsequently Cavendish families. The function of the earthworks was still remembered as the name ‘Hall Yard’, which was attached to the area. It was only in the 19thcentury that the modern local name ‘Piggy’s Hollow’ came into use, allegedly because of the site’s ownership by a local pig-farmer, nicknamed Piggy Wilson, who is said by some to have used the site to prevent his animals straying.

 

In recent years the site has been purchased by Leicester City Council as part of their arboretum and is now in the care of the Recreation and Arts Department.

 

Description:  Evington moat lies on the southern edge of the village of Evington, immediately to the west of the parish church, St. Denys’. This relationship between manor-house – for this is what the site represents – and church is common and reflects the fact that most churches would have been built by lords of the manor and would be sited to become adjuncts of the manorial complex.  In this case we know from documents that a church existed here fairly soon after the Norman Conquest and was given by the two lords in 1141 to Leicester Abbey.  The present church seems to have been built in the late 13thto early 14thcenturies at about the time that the moat would have been dug.

 

The moat is large (the platform being some 65m x 25m) and subrectangular.  It was originally water-filled and fed from a spring to the north known as ‘Pinkwell’, (which apparently means ‘The Spring of the Finches). The manor-house itself would have stood on the large island of the moat, and would have been stone-built.  To the west of the moat is a fine series of fishponds, all but one now dry, which would have supplied fish to the manor-house for Fridays and Lent particularly.  An additional fishpond lay to the south of the moat but has been largely destroyed by landscaping on the golf-course.  To the south again (in the arboretum) is a large dam crossing the valley of the Evington Brook that may well mark the site of the manorial water-mill.