ymondam in the conte of Lester
|~ phonetic spelling from an entry in the parish register dated 1643 ~|
The Domesday Book (1086) calls the village Witmeham, Witmehà and Wimundesham, generally interpreted as meaning "Wygmund's ham" i.e. Wygmund's homestead. In Saxon times Wymondham lay within the boundaries of the Kingdom of Mercia, one of whose kings was Witlaf (827-840). He had a son Wymand (Wygmund), after whom this village took its name, probably because he had it for part of his maintenance and upkeep.
St Peter's church predates 1150, but there would have been a church here in Saxon times, which was probably demolished by the Danes. The Sir John Sedley Educational Foundation, endowed in 1637 with £400 for the purchase of farmland, has over the centuries funded the building and operation of two schools. The first was located in a small building, which still stands next to the church, while the 19th century Grammar School is on the Melton Mowbray edge of the village. The Foundation has more recently funded the community centre and current projects include the establishment of an information technology centre and the provision of tennis courts. The Church of England Primary School was relocated from Church Lane to its present building at the west end of the village in the late 1960s.
Wymondham is on the route from Melton Mowbray to the A1 - "the Great North Road" - which links London and Edinburgh, and the village was a stopping-off point for cattle-drovers and other travellers in earlier centuries. Mrs. Frances Pawlett, a resident of the village in the 18th Century, did much to establish Stilton as "the King of English cheeses". She supplied her brother-in-law who was landlord of the Bell Inn at Stilton on the Great North Road. In 1727 the writer Daniel Defoe is quoted as saying he passed through Stilton, a town famous for cheese. Mrs. Pawlett died a wealthy woman on Christmas Eve, 1808 at the age of 88. The inscription on her headstone reads: "Remember to Die" as she had outlived her son and most of her other close relatives who could have expected an inheritance.
Frances Pawlett's house later became the Hunter's Arms Hotel, but is now a private house once more - a Grade-II listed building. Stilton cheese production continued in Wymondham until defeated by the problems of wartime restrictions in the early 1940s.
Several of the current Stilton-producing dairies have websites, ranging in sophistication from Webster's of Saxelbye (still producing Stilton in their original 19th century building) to that of Long Clawson Dairy, who add fruitcake and other ingredients to make an award-winning range of flavoured White Stilton. But it often takes an outside view to tell us what is precious of our own, and you can get that about Stilton from the epicureans of the Stilton US Information Bureau.
Food products that make use of natural fermentation processes benefit from a "stable home environment", where the spores can readily find their foodsource and convert it into one of ours. When Tim Tarratt was running his stables at Wymondham Manor he had the cellars checked for microbiological evidence of Stilton cheese production, and was featured on a local TV programme.
Stilton producers faced a fight to retain the use of unpasteurized milk following the listeria bacteria scare of the late 1980s. While expectant mothers should make their own informed decisions over what to eat, they can be sure that the quality of Stilton cheese has never been higher, whether produced from unpasteurized milk or not.
In February, 2001 foot-and-mouth disease was found in some of the UK's farm livestock population. At the village of Stonesby 4 miles (6.5km) to the north-west of Wymondham, one of the first cases was detected and 179 sheep were slaughtered and burned to try and control the spread of the virus. Other measures include a 10km exclusion zone, no access to public footpaths, cancellation of sporting fixtures, hunting etc. The following article from the Melton Times of March 1, 2001 is included for news of the effect on supplies of Stilton cheese:
From the Melton Times March 22, 2001:
By the autumn of 2001, Leicestershire was deemed clear of foot-and-mouth
and the last affected areas, in the north of England, were given the all-clear by the
end of the year.
The verses above are included on the 1976 folk recording "New Bell Wake" by Roy
Bailey. Copies of the CD re-issue are still available for £12 inc. P&P from www.roybailey.net (link opens in
a new window).
Wymondham has a population of about 500. Newcomers often move into Park Cottages, at the east end of the village. Once here, people tend to stay, and move on to larger houses in the village. New building regularly takes place as plots are developed for single dwellings and houses are extended. The older houses are built of honey-coloured ironstone or local brick, with roofs of slate or pantiles. Wymondham once had its own brickworks, at the end of Brickyard Lane. There are still a few thatched roofs to be seen in the area.
Some villagers are still employed in agriculture, and Space Foods, which is on the site of an old Stilton cheese factory and the first Manor House, employed people until December, 2000 from the village and outside in the manufacture of herb-flavoured food items such as mint sauce and stuffing mixes. Self-employed craftsmen and women work at the windmill, but Wymondham is now principally a commuter village, with people travelling to work in Melton Mowbray, Oakham, Leicester, Nottingham, Peterborough and as far away as London.
Scanned pages from the late Ralph Penniston Taylor's "A History of Wymondham, Leicestershire" are available here. These are mainly pages of family history and are a stop-gap measure because conversion to webpages will take so long. The scans are titled with the page number from the book and the name of their principal subject. Copies of the book are available for reference at Melton Mowbray and Oakham libraries.