Leicester Chronicler

Tempus omnia revelat
Time reveals all

Listening to the historic heartbeat of the City of Leicester and its environs in the English East Midlands

A reflection of past and present thoughts and aspirations



What did happen at Gumley?


A small, quiet, sleepy village.  No shops and, even in the 21st Century, no street lights.  So why should the village of Gumley be exceptional among the many similar villages of Leicestershire?

Yet historians and others remain drawn to Gumley. Councils were held here to discuss the future structure of the Christian church. It is therefore a settlement of considerable antiquity and it said to hide many mysteries.  Godmund, according to some Early English scholars could be read as `Good Guardian', and this has led some local historians to make remarkable claims about the village.  One of these is that Gumley has an association with King Arthur. 

Gumley is located on the summit of a range of hills in South Leicestershire overlooking the valley of the River Welland. The name of the village in the 8th Century was Godmundesleah, meaning the `lea' or `woodland clearing' of a man called Godmund.  Topographically, Gumley is located above a ridge, and could have been easily fortified using the natural terrain. There is evidence of a defensive ditch on the boundary of the village, which local people have often referred to, colloquially, as `Offa's Dyke'.


Gumley Hall


Gumley's more recent past was dominated by Gumley Hall, built in 1764 by Joseph Craddock. The Hall was purchased in 1897 by Colonel G.A.Murray-Smith, and rented in 1946 for two years by Group Captain Leonard Cheshire as an experiment in community living for ex-servicemen and their families. Towards the end of its life, the Hall was divided into individual apartments, but the overall structure of the building needed major restoration. Although foreclosure was never a threat, it was demolished in 1962 after years of neglect.

The Colonel's family has played a major role in the village's more recent history, supporting the local cricket club, owing the land on which the pitch is located and the pavilion stands.  Motorists on the gated road between Gumley and Laughton are requested to halt at a certain point `until the end of the over'.


Clocktower at Gumley Stables


From the end of the 1st World War, the Fernie Hunt used the hall's grounds as its traditional Gumley meeting point. Farming, a major aspect of the former estate's business, is still to the fore. There are three farming families still resident in the village which at present has about 110 inhabitants.


Gumley Church


One of the most picturesque settings of all Leicestershire's churches, the Parish Church of St Helen nestles within the grounds of the old hall. Gumley was a very special settlement in early England when councils were held here to debate the organisation of the church.


Gumley stable block clocktower


Local historian Andrew Burbidge argues that Gumley is none other than the location of ancient Camelot. He suggests that `Cam' was pronounced as `Gum'. He regards Gumley as an important military site within the Mercian Kingdom, and postulates that the village's name derives from words meaning `regal' or `royal'.  He draws also on local folklore to support his theory:


"There are still remains of what was evidently a defensive ditch visible (in Gumley) which people call Offa's Dyke - the same name as that used for the wall between England and Wales. The ditch would have prevented use of a battering ram which the sloping land would otherwise have made possible."


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Text and images Stephen Butt 2004-2008 except black and white images in public domain.
Andrew Burbidge may be contacted at 36 Hammond Way, Market Harborough, Leics LE16 7JP