There has been much controversy about the origin of the name of the town. The earliest form is Scepeshefde Regis as mentioned in the Domesday Book, which means “Hill where sheep graze", but since then there have been many changes until the present form, Shepshed, was adopted in 1888.
Very little evidence of settlement on the site of Shepshed appears before the Domesday Book. However, succeeding centuries provide an abundance of historical material. The prosperity of medieval Shepshed was based on the wool industry and “Well Yard" on Forest Street may well be a corruption of “Wool Yard", where Bradford wool merchants congregated to buy from local inhabintants. In addition, there is considerable evidence to suggest that a weekly market was held at least, until the 14th Century.
The older part of the Town is found in the vicinity of St Botolph‘s Parish Church, which has stood on its present site since the 11th Century. It‘s original patronage came from Leicester Abbey. However, between 1699 and 1856 the partons were the Phillips family of Garendon Hall. This family has been Lords of the Manor since its purchase by Ambrose Phillips in 1683. Garendon Hall (now demolished) was built on the site of Garendon Abbey, a prominent Cistercian House which was built in 1133 and survivied its dissolution by Henry VIII in 1536.
The 18th Century saw the enclosure of the common lands around Shepshed. There had been enclosures in the 15th and 16th Century, but towards the end of the 18th Century the last remaining common land, approximately 2000 acres, was enclosed and divided among the principle commoners of the village. Much destruction was caused in the town when in 1753, 85 bays of buildings were destroyed by fire.
There were many changes during the 19th Century. Shepshed was briefly linked by canal to Loughborough, and to the coalmines of West Leicestershire when the Charnwood Navigation Canal was opened in 1798. However, their success was only short lived. By 1804 the canal had proved an uneconomic venture and was closed. The Charnwood Forest Railway was opened in 1881, but regular passenger services ceased in 1931. However,the goods service did not close until 1963.
The Local History Society meets on the second Tuesday of the month at the Glenmore Community Centre, Thorpe Road, Shepshed from 7pm until 9pm. For further details and information, please contact Derek Widdowson on 01509 502834
THE LEGEND OF THE HANGMAN'S STONE
It happened but twice in the tide of time
And once since the Conqueror came,
That Shepshed men were in bed by ten
And Whytwyck wyghts the same.
There were fat red deer in Bardon Park,
Fat hogs on the great Ives Head,
Fat goats in crowds on the grey Lubcloud,
Fat sheep on the Forest shed.
There were coneys in store upon Warren Hill,
And hares upon Longcliffe dell;
And a pheasant whirred it a foot were stirred
In the Haw of the Holy Well.
There were trout in shoals in the Charley Brook,
And pike in the Abbot's lake,
And herons in flocks under Whytwyck rocks,
Their nightly rest would take.
All these were the cause why the Shepeshed men
And the Whytwyck wyghts the same,
Never slumbered when the clock told ten,
But watched for the sylvan game.
What matter that wardens and trusty Regarders
Looked well to the forest right;
The Shepeshed encroachers were aye practised poachers
And their day was the noon of night.
If the smaller prey did not hap in their way,
What matter, the sheep and deer
Were a goodlier meal and the verb "To steal"
Was neuter or nameless here.
John of Oxley had watched on the round Cat Hill,
He had harried all Timber Wood;
Each rabbit and hare said "Ha! Ha!" to his snare
But the venison, he knew, was good.
A herd was resting beneath the broad oak,
(The ranger, he knew, was abed),
One shaft he drew on his well-tried yew
And a gallant hart lay dead.
He tied its legs and hoisted his prize,
And he toiled over Lubcloud brow;
He reached the tall stone, standing out and alone,
Standing then as it standeth now.
With his back to the stone he rested his load
And he chuckled with glee to think
That the rest of the way on the downhill lay,
And his wife would have spiced the strong drink.
That the rest of the way of John of Oxley ne'er trod;
The spcied ale was untouched by him.
In the morning grey there looks that way
But the mountain mists were dim.
Days passed and he came not; his children played
And wept, then played again.
They saw with wet eyes that their mother's wet eyes
Were still on the hills, in vain.
A swineherd was passing over great Ives Head
When he noticed a motionless man.
He shouted in vain, no reply could he gain,
So down the grey stone he ran.
All was clear, there was Oxley one side the stone
On the other the down-hanging deer.
The burden had slipped and his neck it had nipped!
He was hanged by his prize, it was clear.
The gallows still stands upon Shepeshed high lands
As a mark for the poacher to own
How the wicked will get within their own net;
And it's called "The Grey Hangman's Stone"!