According to the Woodford Cartulary, Brentingby was the first manor in Leicestershire to be
acquired by the Woodforde family.
It lies in the Eye valley near Melton
Mowbray on the road towards Grantham. John Nichols in his History
and Antiquities of the County of Leicester, 1795, says the hamlet was
two miles from Melton. Melton
Mowbray has expanded considerably since then but Brentingby is still an independent settlement
in the countryside.
The Earl of Leicester held the manor, according to the
Leicester Survey c.1125, as part of the fee of Thorpe Arnold, and it
remained a relatively insignificant holding until the arrival of
John de Woodford; but Brentingby was never a large manor. The Poll Tax
of 1377 records an adult population of 52, about double the number recorded in Domesday; but by 1524 only seven tax-payers were being
assessed. The population has continued to decrease to the present day.
The location of the Woodford manor house at Brentingby is not known, and there is no evidence today of a moated site in the area. It seems likely it was in the area of the present Brentingby Hall Farm southwest of the chapel.
The purchase of Brentingby by John Woodford opened a period of prosperity and stability for the hamlet. A significant event in its history which occurred during the Woodford family's tenure of the manor was the extensive rebuilding of the chapel. The old church was replaced by a larger building, probably indicative of an increasing population and prosperity. The unusual saddleback tower dates from this time.
earlier of the chapel's two bells was cast by John of York in the later
years of the 14th century. This bell was stored for many
years at Thorpe Arnold and then in St Mary's Melton. It is now on display as the centrepiece of the Bell Shopping Centre in Melton, and is
regarded as the oldest church bell in England for which a date can
be certain. The chapel became disused in the 1950s and was converted
into a private dwelling in the 1970s.
of York cast many bells for Leicestershire's churches and it is likely
that the Woodford family commissioned him on several occasions.
following is from the Sproxton Jubilee Website, Sproxton being a manor
owned by the Woodforde family through the marriage of William Woodforde,
son of John of Brentingby, to Joan (or Jeanette) Brabazon:
inscription around the haunch of the second bell is of singular
importance. This is the only one of a number of similar bells
occurring in Leicestershire which bear the founder's name; it has thus
been possible to identify John of York as the founder of
the whole group. The other bells in the group have been identified as
John of York's as they share the same initial cross and
floral stops as those found upon the dedications of Sproxton's first
and second bells.
These other bells are at St John the
Baptist's church, Billesdon; St James the Greater's, Birstall; St
Mary's, Brentingby (recently removed), St Mary's, Cotesbach; St
John the Baptist's, Hungarton; St Remigius', Long Clawson and St
Peter's, Witherley. The church of Our Lady and St Nicholas
at Wanlip, has a bell with the same initial cross, but which differs
from the others in having beautiful figures of seated angels in
place of the floral stops.
Thomas North proposed that John of York may have briefly relocated his foundry to Leicester at some point in the late fourteenth century, thus explaining the occurrence of so many of his bells in Leicestershire. North ascribes a late fourteenth century dating for all these bells on the basis of the style of the gothic lettering upon them.
The fact that one of John of York's bells was made to hang in Brentingby church is significant, as the manor of Brentingby was,
like Sproxton, a Woodford possession at this time, Brentingby being the family's original seat.'
to 'North' relate to 'The Church Bells of Leicestershire' by Thomas
North, 1876. The handwritten original of this document is in the library of the
Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society (LAHS) at the
Guildhall, Leicester. North (1830-1884) was born in Melton Mowbray and
was an early general secretary of the LAHS.
John de Woodford who married Mabel Folville was the grandson of John Woodford of Brentingby.
Brentingby Chapel from Nichols' History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester (1795) and in 2019.
According to the cartulary, John Woodford was buried at Thorpe Arnold, not at Brentingby. This has led some historians to assume that the Woodford's manor house was situated at Thorpe Arnold. Nichols noted a flat stone in Thorpe Arnold church `round the verge of which were fragments of an inscription for a Woodford, probably that of John.'
A lane running between Thorpe Arnold and Waltham-on-the-Wolds, in the close vicinity of Brentingby, is known locally as Woodfold Lane. This gated lane leaves the main Grantham Road approximately 1.5 miles east of Thorpe Arnold and leads to Nether Broughton.