006. Wall Tablet
Location: South Transept above War-Memorial
Robert Smalley 1727 April 14th
Margery Smalley 1725 Feb. 5th
- Black lozenge shaped memorial. Below is a head of a winged cherub. The inscription is in Roman Caps with the names and dates in Italic. The long s is used.
Arms: Sable, on a bend Argent three roses Gules, barbed Vert, seeded Or, in the sinister chief point a chess-rook of the second Smalley. (a)
- Slate and limestone.
- First quarter 18th century
- H. 106cm W.61cm Cherub (measured separately) H. 30cm W. 30cm
- The wall memorial and the floor slabs have the arms of the family on them. There is no indication that they were a noble family. They are described as ” traders and lesser gentry”.(Ref. b) They were cloth merchants, who had probably made sufficient money to be able to buy the right to a coat of arms. At this time and until 1844 part of Mountsorrel was in the parish of Barrow and part in the parish of Rothley which explains why the memorials of prominent Mountsorrel people are in Barrow church. Henry 3rd granted a charter for a fair to Mountsorrel and in 1292 Edward 1st gave a charter for a weekly market. In the 18th and early 19th centuries both the fair and market attained considerable importance. Raw wool, leather, woollen yarn as well as horses and cattle were traded. Mountsorrel gloves had a high reputation. Coaches to all parts of the country passed through Mountsorrel ( there was almost one every hour) There were 27 inns which offered accommodation as well as food and drink. There were also many substantial houses. By the later 19th century the fair had ceased to be so important commercially, though according to Whites Directory for 1846 it was ‘flourishing’. During the fair householders were allowed to hang a ‘bush’ over the door and sell alcohol without a licence during the nine days of the fair. There was much drinking and debauchery. Twelve inhabitants were sworn in as Special constables of the period of the fair , they were provided with thick staves with the Royal arms on them. These were hung outside their door so that people knew who they could call on for help. ‘Pie Powder ‘courts were held in the inns to settle disputes between buyers and sellers. The fairs were abolished by Lord Lanesborough in 1872, as the result of a petition from the inhabitants. The market seems to have disappeared before the fair. The granite workers were traditionally paid on Friday and spent the money at the fair on drink, as a result they were not fit to work on Saturdays, so the quarry owners changed the pay day to Saturday and the market faded away.
A 'Google' search revealed that there is a collection of Smalley family papers in the Leicestershire Records Office at Wigston and more immediately available a copy of Ralph (probably the father of Robert) Smalley’s will from the GRO at Kew as well as a copy of an article from the journal of the Leicestershire Archaeological Society which had several references to the Smalley family. (Ref.b)
Ralph Smalley‘s will is dated 1684 so is too early for the Ralph Smalley in the church but gives us some indication about the wealth of the family. Ralph had land in Donington le Heath, Barrow, Mountsorrel, Quorn, Rothley, Swithland and elsewhere in Leicestershire which he bequeathed to his son Robert, probably the Robert buried in the church. (I wonder if the name of the older son in the family alternated between Ralph and Robert) He also leaves substantial money bequests to other members of his family. He specifies in the will that these should be “lawful English money.”
The article in the Archaeological Society Journal describes an affray in 1676 which involved Ralph and Robert Smalley (again too early for the Ralph buried in the church but probably his son Robert who was born in 1651 so would have been 25 in 1676) which involved them in a confrontation with Thomas Babington at Rothley. The case should have gone to court but it was eventually dropped, we are not told what the affray was about! There is obviously more to be discovered about this family.
- Elizabeth relict of the late Ralph Smalley, gent. / son of the late Robert Smalley, gent. /out of the love she bore to the family/erected this monument/. Near this place lie the bodies Robert Smalley, of Mountsorrel, gent and Margery his wife./ He died April 14, 1727, aged 76./ She died Feb. 5th, 1725, aged 62.
- (Ref. a) Nichols History and Antiquities of Leicestershire P75 Barrow upon Soar
(Ref.b) Post Medieval Cossington. Florence Skillington. Leics. and Rutland Archaeological Society.