This was an investigation to discover the location of Colonel Hacker's house in the Leicestershire village of Stathern

The Search for Hacker’s House
Stathern Leicestershire

This work was instigated following meetings with Stathern History Society who expressed the desire to locate the site of Stathern Hall - a site linked with the Leicestershire historical figure Colonel Francis Hacker (Fig.1) during the seventeenth-century. The project was also designed to examine earthworks, assess the nature of the hall, and establish a historical framework for the site and to examine the archaeological record for the area.
The village of Stathern lies approximately eight miles north-east of the Leicestershire market town of Melton Mowbray (Map.1). The topography consists of a steep escarpment with intermittent terraces forming part of the Belvoir Ridge which, ends with the castle approximately three miles to the north east.
The site is centred at SK 7750 3070 and lies at a height of approximately 100m O.D. and occupies a natural terrace. Local geology is limestone overlaid by clays but the site in question comprises of a lens of sand and gravel oriented north-west /south-east; bounded to the north by Lias clay and boulder clay to the south.
There is a narrow hollow way running up to the site from Church Lane which according to the Enclosure Act map (1792) was once a track but, now serves as a drainage dyke. Eighteenth-century maps clearly show an access road leading from Mill Hill which is still visible as a hollow way within a modern plantation.
Along Church Lane is a footpath known as Dalliwell and a drain for the brook known as The Gote (Anglo-Saxon = drinking hole). Careful examination of a village layout reveals a nucleus of development around the church and an area to the east of Church Lane may have formed the second manor (Map 4)
Stathern village is bounded on the eastern side by Mill Hill, the top of which is planted with dense mixed forestry known as Stathern Woods. The woods contain pronounced lynchets or terraces suggestive of either medieval cultivation or multivallate Iron Age defences at SK 7775 3092 (Dyer 1990: 124-132). Two Iron Age occupation sites are recorded nearby at SK 784 309 (SMR 72 NE Z+) and SK 795 320 (Pickering & Hartley 1985:44,fig.2) the former being confirmed by the recovery of a loom weight during quarrying in the early twentieth-century, and the latter by field walking. There have been numerous discoveries of prehistoric material in the Stathern area, the most interesting being a group of skeletons with associated Neolithic axes (Nottingham Castle Museum; 92.38). Also a Bronze Age cremation contained by a Deverel-Rimbury style urn (University of Nottingham, Dept. of Archaeology) (Burgess 1974:?) (Thomas 1976:26-7).
There is fragmentary evidence of Romano-British occupation in Stathern, the most notable being a coin hoard (SMR 73.SE). However, examination of aerial photography (see 5a) may tentatively indicate a villa site.
Early Medieval
The Stathern Brooch (Fig. 2) A local metal detectorist unearthed an Anglo-Saxon brooch at SK 775 307 in 1982. This find (SMR 73 SE K) was classified as a trefoil-headed small-long variety (Liddle 1982:82) dating to the late fifth or early sixth-century. The brooch was later attributed to forms frequently found along the valleys of the Lark, Ouse, Nene, Welland and Avon (Howe 1988:77-80).

Medieval Church, Chantries and first manor etc.

Documentary evidence (cite) confirms that Stathern comprised of two manors since at least the thirteenth-century although the division of local power was probably a legacy of Danelaw and therefore ninth-century in origin.
Records indicate that Stathern Hall was in fact a medieval structure and housed the secondary manorial family named Reigne (cite).
The eighteenth-century antiquarian John Nichols (cite) drew together many early documents relating to Stathern and concluded that during the Norman Conquest, Stactedirne or Stachethurne was confiscated from the Saxon thane Leuric or Leofric and awarded to Robert de Todeni. The village was in turn granted to the family de Bosco Borard in return for knight's service.
Nemore or de Bosco is recorded as giving tithes to Belvoir priory which, he derived from his demesne at Stathern. Nichols also informs us that; ‘It appears also that the family Reignes (who afterwards obtained the whole manor) had a considerable interest in it very antiently'. The joining of two manors is described thus; 'Joan, the daughter and heir of Simon de Borard was married, about 1275, to Thomas de Reignes, or Reines, to whom she brought this manor, and those of Clifton, co. Bucks and Okeley co. Bedford'.
However, Nichols goes on to say that during the process of enclosure in response to the act of 1792, Stathern is described as containing two manors. Also check: Domesday, Leicestershire Survey, Belvoir Muniments, Farnhams medieval village notes (Stathern not included).

Stathern and the Hacker connection
Hubbard (1941: ?) assembled most of the relevant documents for his discourse The Hacker family originated from Yeovil in Somerset.
John Hacker bought the estate known as Sheffeild Hall in East Bridgford, Nottinghamshire around 1591. John and his wife Margaret produced four sons and three daughters, the eldest son Francis was the father of our subject. Colonel Francis Hacker is believed to have been born around 1618 at East Bridgford and being the eldest of numerous children, he inherited property and land in Colston Bassett and Stathern and upon his marriage to Isabell Brunts of East Bridgford, the couple chose to live at Stathern Hall.

During the English Civil War (1639-60), Francis Hacker was a prominent Leicestershire Parliamentarian who upon the arrest of Charles I was given the task of guarding the King during the trial. Although Hacker never signed the death warrant kept at his home Stathern Hall, he did sign the execution order and supervised the proceedings on 30th January 1649. When the Commonwealth drew to a close and Charles II was crowned, Hacker was thrown into The White Tower and accused of regicide. The death warrant was retrieved from Stathern Hall in the hope of diverting the charge. Unfortunately, the signed execution order was sufficient evidence to send the Colonel to the gallows on 19th October 1660. Local folklore insists that the Hacker's remains were returned to Stathern. However, there is no substantial evidence for this and it seems highly unlikely in the knowledge that the process of hanging, drawing and quartering usually ended with impalement in a public place. Upon Hacker's death, Stathern Hall was systematically demolished in an attempt to rid the village of all association with the man.

a. Aerial Photography
Close examination of the 6"=1mile vertical (Hunting Survey Ltd., Run 6, frame 0457. 6th August 1969) revealed subtle vegetation features in pastures around the study site.
There is a discernible mound at SK 7752 3092, apparently enclosed by a curving feature of approximately 59m diameter (Map. 3).
This photograph also clearly shows the surviving hollow way extending into the site from the Mill Hill roadway. Approximately 300m to the north-east of the site SK 7775 3092 is a sub-rectangular feature visible in pasture but apparently un-associated with the farming strips plotted by Hartley (1987:55).

b.Fieldwork (Map 3)
Work began with a careful examination of the area, topography, earthworks and surviving walls. Various hollow ways, platforms and boundaries were identified which appear to have no relation to modern land divisions. It is hoped that a full survey of the site employing GPS (Global Positioning System) will be forthcoming in 2000 to clarify subtleties in the ground.
A fixed grid was established and boundaries plotted using a theodolite and ranging poles.

c.Geophysics (Map 4)
The facility of a resistivity survey was kindly offered by Leicestershire County Council employee Patrick Roberts and was conducted on the 14th November 1999. This survey encompassed four areas of relatively flat pasture which, seemed likely to have served as building platforms. The equipment specification and operating method was thus:
Geoscan Research RM15 resistivity meter mounted on a PA1 frame.
Array - Twin probe (0.5m spacing).
Ground penetration maximum 2m.Grid size - 20x20m.
Traverse interval - 1m
Sample interval - 1m.
Traverse mode - Zig-Zag

Grid A
Concentrated areas of high resistance indicate the existence of demolition scatter with possible wall lines forming one or two buildings. However, the final plots clearly show some evidence of wall lines, particularly at the centre of the grid
Grid B
Probing this grid from west to east detected minor fluctuations in ground resistance within the first 20m x 20m area. as placed to encounter a conjectural east-west boundary wall. During the early stages of the process it was noticed that readings were exceptionally high in the north-west corner of the grid. The resulting plot shows one quarter of a circular or semi-circular
Grid C
This grid produced a plot very different in nature to the other images, it appears amorphous and less structured as before. The other grids probed clay ground and so produced clearly defined features of high resistance. The interpretation here is of a demolition layer partially obscured by, damp, sandy soil which has low resistant properties. A dense, dark feature to the west of this grid may represent a metalled surface.
Grid D
This grid revealed a solid feature bounded on the east by structural remains. The high resistant feature coincides with a scooped area of ground.
The reference to Hacker; 'upon his marriage to Isabell Brunts of East Bridgford, the couple chose to live at Stathern Hall' (cite Hubbard pp?), suggests the hall was an established building and may date partly to the medieval period; a fact possibly reinforced by the documents referring to a second manor. So far, no documentary evidence has been traced to confirm the link with this site and Colonel Francis Hacker, although key sources such as the Belvoir Muniments and the National Records Office have yet to be consulted. However, results from resistivity indicate a complex of buildings enclosed by a massively built wall.
The eastern end of grid B revealed a distinctive circular feature which, is confirmed by aerial photography; this feature measures approximately 14m in diameter and appears to have massively built foundations. A high resistance area in the north-east corner of this grid could represent evidence of revetment to the hollow way entering the site.
The feature detected in Grid B may eventually define the nature and period of the site if further investigations reveal sound evidence of a dovecote typical of the period (Fedden and Joekes 1975: 304).
The most exciting aspect of this discovery relates its scale; if the size of the dovecote is commensurate to the population it was designed to feed, it follows that the site was either a religious order or a high-status manorial complex. The discovery of the Anglo-Saxon small-long brooch from the centre off the site adds another dimension to this study; this find may indicate a continuity of occupation from as early as the fifth-century; a practice implied at two other local sites studied by this writer (Fahy 1998, 1999).

Much has changed since the mid-twentieth-century site visit recorded by Hubbard (1941) (see appendix 1.) also, caution should be given to the accuracy of the observations in the absence directional details and a scale map showing the features discussed. The mention of pottery discovered resulting from the construction of a WW II block house is worthless without museum acquisition numbers or a clear description of the fragments.

The wall described by Hubbard has been restored in recent years, but the area to the north east of the site still retains original foundations projecting from the turf. The wall line heading northwards into the valley was partially stripped of turf to establish the nature, condition and width of the structure. This exercise produced a single sherd of splashed-glaze ware datable to the thirteenth-century (McCarthy & Brooks 1988: check page no.).

Discussions with the keyholder for the nature reserve, Mr M. Stanley, and the private landowners Mr. Bellers and Mr. Wadsworth, revealed recent changes of boundaries etc. and gave an insight into the ever-changing nature of the landscape. A depression in Mr. Wadsworth's fields strongly suggests the site of a redundant well which, lies close to a buried wall line.
The anomalous high resistance area in grid D may be evidence of an industrial process such as ore roasting, metal working, pottery or brick firing; the high temperatures needed for such operations may have vitrified the surrounding sandy ground. Future examination of the site using magnetometry would confirm this hypothesis and may reveal structural survival elsewhere.

It is highly likely that stone and other materials taken from the site would have been reused within the village, therefore a study of buildings dating to the latter half of the seventeenth-century may produce architectural fragments and timbers associated with the former hall.

Bassett, S. (ed), 1989. The Origins of Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms. Leicester University Press.
Burgess, ?., 1974 (check this)Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms. Leicester University Press.
Dyer, J., 1990. Ancient Britain. Batsford. London.
Fahy, N.M., 1998. Investigation of a suspected medieval manor site at Manor Farm, Eastwell, Leicestershire. Dissertation. University of Nottingham.
Fahy, N.M., (forthcoming). Excavations of a possible media possible medieval manorial site at Eaton, Leicestershire .
Farnham, G.F.,1930. Leicestershire Medieval Village Notes. Vol.II. Privately Printed. Leicester.
Fedden, R. and Joekes, R.,1975.The National Trust Guide. Jonathan Cape. London
Friar, S.,1996. A Companion to the English Parish Church. Bramley Books. Surrey.
Hartley, R.F. 1987. The Medieval Earthworks of North-East Leicestershire. Leicester Museums Publication No 88.
Howe, M.D., 1988. Three Anglo-Saxon small-long brooches from Leicestershire.Trans. Leics. Archaeol. Hist. Soc. Leicester.
Hubbard, H.L., 1941. 'Colonel Francis Hacker, Parlimentarian and Rigicide' Trans. Thoroton Soc. (p00-00) Nottingham.
Liddle, P., 1982. 'Stathern brooch' (note). Trans. Leics. Archaeol. Hist. Soc. Leicester.
Maitland, F.W., 1897. Domesday Book and Beyond. University Press. Cambridge.
McCarthy, M.R. & Brooks, C.M.,1988. Medieval Pottery in Britain AD 900-1600. Leicester University Press.
Nichols, J., 1795. The history and antiquities of the County of Leicester. London. Vol. 2 part 1.
Peirson, E.G., 1912? The story of the church of Saint Guthlac at Stathern. J..W. Warner Ltd. Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.
Pickering, J. & Hartley, R.F., 1985. Past Worlds in a Landscape - Archaeological Crop Marks in Leicestershire. Leicestershire Museum Publication No. 70.
Poole, A.L., 1986. From Domesday Book to Magna Carta 1087-1216. Clarendon Press. Oxford.
Round, J.H. (ed.), 1905. The Manuscripts of His Grace The Duke of Rutland K.G. preserved at Belvoir Castle. Historical Manuscripts Commission. HMSO, London.
Severn, J., 1986. Dovecotes of Nottinghamshire. The Cromwell Press. Newark.
Slade, C.F., 1956. The Leicestershire Surveyc. A.D. 1150 . University College Leicester. Occasional Paper No. 7.
Smith, D., 1980. English Episcopal Acta I, Linbcoln 1067-1185. London. (see 160, No 256)
Stenton, D.M., 1959. English Society in the Early Middle Ages (1066-1307). Pelican. London.
Stenton, F.M., 1920. Documents Illustrative of the Social and Economic History of Danelaw. London.
Stocker, D., 1993. 'Recording worked stone' Advances in Monastic Archaeology. Gilchrist, R. and Mytum, H. (eds). BAR British Series Vol.227. Oxford.
Taylor , C., 1974. Fieldwork in Medieval Archaeology. Batsford, London.
Thomas, N., 1976. Guide to Prehistoric England. Batsford. London.
Thorold, H,. 1984. A Shell guide to Nottinghamshire. Faber and Faber. London.
Wedgwood, C.V.W., 1966. The Trials of Charles I. The Reprint Society. London.
Wood, M., 1965. The English Mediaeval House. Ferdale Editions. London.

Shipman Papers
Chetwynd MS - Contains pedigrees of Borard, Reigne and Taillard families.
Cotton MS - Nero A I - E VIII
Guthlac Rolls - Harley Roll
reference to a museum acquisition number or a qualified appraisal of form, origin and date.

Enclosure map for Stathern Leicestershire (1792). Leicestershire Record Service - Q5. 47/2/17. Location 1/146
Geological Survey of England and Wales - Melton Mowbray. sheet 142Ordnance Survey of England (1959)

Special thanks go to Mr & Mrs T. Bellars (Stone Acre), Mr & Mrs R. Wadsworth (Glen Cottage) and Leicestershire Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (Mill Hill Nature Reserve) for access to their respective properties and interest in the research. Patrick Roberts, Roger & Barbara Hawkins, Laurence Darby, Dr Alastair Strang, Dr Richard Pollard, David Stanley, Michael Stanley, Mary Hatton, Caroline Mills, Mike Hubert, Scott Carlton, Bob Sparham, Steve & Lesley Hextall, Robin Borrett , Sue Walker, Robin Borrett , Sue Walker, Linda Darlison, Pauline Underwood, Paul Mellor and family, Julian Holland and Mrs Eddie Marlow.

'The house in which he lived was to the east of the church, half-way up a fairly steep slope, now known as Mill Hill, and enjoyed a splendid view over
the whole of the fertile Vale of Belvoir. The Belvoir woods, much more extensive than now, began two hundred yards or so from the walls enclosing the grounds. The house was destroyed soon after Hacker's execution, but, incorporated in the boundary of one of the present fields on the site, there still remains the buttress of one of the outside walls, with part of the mortar in the interstices of the stones, protected by the hawthorn hedge which continues the boundary of the field; running from from the buttress as a boundary iis about fifteen yards of stone wall, whose stones are remarkably even and smooth, save on the top where the wall has collapsed and been rebuilt, a wall which is probably part of that surrounding the grounds of the old hall, although stone from it was used in the wall's construction.The field which is the site of the old hall still has a number of undulations and mounds covering the foundations of the hall; there can be discerned the outlines of a terrace. The drive to the hall survives as a cart-road which debouches on to the road half-way up the Mill Hill. The earth in one part of the field has recently been disturbed for the erection of a blockhouse and, in the debris, were numerous fragments of rough pottery, made from local clay and discoloured by the iron-ore in it. An aerial photograph of the site would probably recover the complete ground-plan of the building and gardens'

Hubbard, H.L., 1941. 'Colonel Francis Hacker, Parlimentarian and Regicide' Trans. Thoroton Soc. (p00-00) Nottingham.

The earliest form of windmills date to the late twelfth-century. Known as post-mills, these consisted of a box-like superstructure which housed the grinding mechanism; this in turn pivoted upon a stout central post supported by struts attached to a cross base secured to the ground. This base construction of a medieval mill was either buried beneath an earthen mound or enclosed within a stone round-house.(Fedden and Joekes 1975: 401); the base of The circular feature in grid B was initially considered to be the surviving base of a windmill as evidence of one formerly standing nearby at SK 7745 3085 (SMR no.?) indicated the suitability of the site.
Such a structure was considered, but the enormous diameter of the Stathern feature failed to match windmills typical of the medieval period. Study of likely structures has led this writer to conclude that the feature represents a medieval dovecote.

A fine example survives at Kinwarton, Worcester, Warwickshire, dating to the mid-fourteenth-century, this dovecote boasts walls over a metre in thickness and has a doorway with an ogee head; Such buildings had inordinately thick walls which, consisted of a matrix of internal nesting holes and were capped with conical roofs. Contrary to popular belief, dovecotes housed pigeons and not doves who are a close relative.(Fedden and Joekes 1975: 304-5). Friar (1996:167-8) dates English cylindrical dovecotes no earlier than the thirteenth-century and highlights the fact that some housed as many as four thousand birds which grazed freely upon tenant’s crops. During the medieval period, a large dovecote was considered an essential feature of high status demesne manors and wealthy monastic foundations (ibid ) A good local example can be found at Sibthorpe, Newark, Nottinghamshire (Thorold 1984:152, 154).; this fourteenth-century dovecote was built as part of a college of priests who's diet must have been a amply supplemented by pigeon meat and eggs.

Cite also Severn 1986.

Wedgwood, C.V.W., 1966. The Trials of Charles I. The Reprint Society. London

Quotations regarding Col. Hacker;

‘ An idea still persisted that the trial and sentence were for show – a means of compelling the King to abandon his authority. Those who took part in them might still claim that they had not intended the King’s death. But those who signed the warrant made themselves responsible for his execution. It was directed to three officers of the Army, Colonel Hacker, Colonel Hunks and Colonel Phayre, and it required them to see that the King was put to death by the severing of his head from his body between the hours of ten in the morning and five in the afternoon on Tuesday, January 30th’ [1649]’.

‘Later that afternoon the King sent for Colonel Tomlinson to ask him to accompany him on the following day. In Tomlinson’s phrase – “desired me that I would not leave him.” This Tomlinson promised to do, so that the King would be certain in his last hours of more considerate treatment than he expected from Hacker’.

‘At Whitehall a Mr. Tapham with his assistant had come to embalm the body while Herbert and Juxon returned to their homes. Before the Bishop left he was held up for a time by some of the officers, presumably Hacker and Phayre’.

‘Disembarking, he [the King] walked between the rows of soldiers across the frost-bound garden into the well-secured and well-appointed house which was to be his prison during the trial. Colonel Tomlinson’s authority extended as far as Cotton House. Here the responsibility for the King’s person during the trial devolved upon Colonel Francis Hacker and the oddly named Colonel Hercules Hunks’.

‘The king was more zealously guarded here than at St. James’s or at Windsor. Neither Hunks nor Hacker had the education and good manners which distinguished Tomlinson; they permitted noisy and inconsiderate conduct to the troops under their command’.

168 – 169
‘The King did not speak to Seymour alone. Colonel Hacker stood at the door, and Herbert was constantly in the room’.

‘He [the King] also added a word of commendation for Colonel Tomlinson, as a civil and considerate man. He may have done this so that Seymour would reassure the Queen and Prince that he had received no physical violence; he may have done it as an oblique reproof to Hacker, standing within earshot and showing neither civility nor consideration; or he may simply have answered some anxious enquiry of Seymour’s’.

181 – 183
‘Between nine and ten Colonel Hacker knocked lightly on the door, but at first got no answer. He knocked a second time more firmly and was admitted. He was visibly trembling as he told the King that it was time to go to Whitehall’.

‘There had been difficulties too among the officers in charge of the proceedings some hours before the King reached Whitehall. The three to whom the death-warrant had been directed Hacker, Hunks and Phayre, had to sign the order for the execution itself, and over this, on the morning of the 30th, trouble had arisen’.

‘In a small room in Whitehall Ireton and Harrison lie in bed together (very early in the morning, therfore?); close to the door is a table with a pen and ink, and the order lying next to it. Cromwell, Hacker, Phayre and Hunks make a crowd in the room. Voices are raised in argument: Hunks – the mistakenly named Hercules Hunks – has lost his nerve. No, he would not sign’.

‘Hunks did not sign, and eleven years later he would stand, obsequiously voluble, in the witness box while Francis Hacker listened in stubborn resignation and Daniel Axell in a cold sweat denied that any such thing happened’.

‘Colonel Tomlinson was there and Colonel Hacker, several soldiers on guard (among them John Harris the Leveller journalist)’.

‘[The King] had been a prisoner, cut off from the world, communicating only with lesser men and underlings, Ewer and Rolfe, Harrison and Whichcot, Tomlinson and Hacker’.

‘So there were others who had been too close to the King’s death to hope for mercy from his son – Hugh Peter who had so vehemently preached against him, Daniel Axell who had commanded the guards in Westminster Hall, Matthew Tomlinson who had been responsible for him as a prisoner from the time he arrived at Windsor until he went to the scaffold, Francis Hacker, Robert Phayre and Hercules Hunks, the three to whom the death warrant was directed’.

‘Four who had not signed the death warrant were also executed: John Cook, Hugh Peter, Daniel Axell and Francis Hacker’.