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Croft a History by David Varnham - No Cheating

I live in Croft, a small village, located 8 miles south of Leicester, the nearest big city and 8 miles north east of the small town of Hinckley. Croft is close to the Fosse Way and Roman remains have been found in the old village in the past. However Crofts main claim to fame is its granite quarry, now operated by Camas Aggregates and its hill. The hill "towers" 300 feet above sea level and was used as a beacon in ancient times and from which several Kings of England are known to have surveyed their kingdom from the top of the hill. It was also the site of a gallows to hang criminals and is reputed to be haunted by their souls. In the early part of the century Croft Hill was a popular picnic spot for Leicester people, it being a short train journey from the surrounding areas, but the arrival of the motor car and closing the railway station in the 60's finally put an end to that. The hill looks down into Croft quarry which is the largest man made hole in Europe and produces high quality granite products for the construction industry. The hill almost became part of the hole a few years ago, as it too is almost solid granite, but was saved from blasting by a public campaign organised by the local newspapers, Croft residents and heritage groups. Although the quarry was a work place for a lot of the residents the feeling was that the villages residents wanted the hill. Until a few months ago the village of Croft was bombarded by lorries, this has changed now that Marions way has been built. For early settlers this site would have been ideal. Water was supplied from the river Soar and Croft hill would make a defence as you can see for miles in all directions. Also it was easily identified in Roman times from the cross-roads of the Fosse Way and Watling Street. The building materials for their buildings and homes was below their feet in such quantity that is still being quarried today. Once every two or three years the river Soar floods onto surrounding fields. This offered excellent fertilisation for the land but has its problems now because houses back onto the field. To tackle this problem the council have built a barrier between the river and the houses.


The main village is split into two distinct parts, the ‘old’ part and the ‘new’ part. They are split by a railway bridge and the River Soar. The eldest part has the village church, the pub ‘The Heathcote Arms’ and old terrace houses. It also houses the quarry H.Q and of course Croft hill. The newer part of the village has been developed over the years and is still being added to at the moment. It has a school, shops and lots of houses, it has two parks one which is home to the Croft Cricket team and the other is used mostly by the younger generation with swings etc.


Most people who live or work in Croft use their own form of transport such as cars* and bikes but Croft has an on the hour bus service run by Midland Fox. It runs in a circuit to and from Leicester city centre. It runs through Huncote, Narborough and the Pastures. Croft has four bus stops, two on Croft’s main access road, Arbour Rd, and two on Station road, which is located in the older part of Croft. During the week the service is taken advantage of by women who are going to work but at the weekend it is used mostly by the younger generation.

Fee:- Junior return = £1.58** Adult return = £2.98** **Subject to change * { Census information 1991 } Houses with car 536 Houses without car 124 % houses with car 80.6% % houses without car 19.4%


For a long while in Croft there was a railway station. The village relied on it to get them to work and to school. The station was located next to the main railway bridge and was in the centre of two embankments which are still here today. The station was not very large as it only had two small, identical buildings either side of the track. Unfortunately in the 60’s a man named Dr. Beaching decided that England didn’t need as many stations and he closed stations all over England and Croft was one of them. Although Croft has no station the village still relies on the rail as the quarry’s main advantage is the fact that they can quickly export their product all over the midlands.

The Old Village

In 1922 Croft was mainly situated in what we now know as the ‘old part’. It consisted of two main roads which separated into smaller sub roads. Hill street connected the main village to the the other houses in Croft and is still here and Orchard Street, known as the long row, is no longer here. Croft had in 1922 what we in Croft have, a Co-Op a Post Office an Off-License etc... The buildings where the shops were are all still in Croft with the exception of the old Co-op shop on Orchard street. Orchard street was the main road and had the most houses along it. The houses were in terrace form with little room to walk on either side of the houses. Because the street had a long row of houses it became know as ‘The Long Row’. Next to the village hall there was a village green, on the green there was a water pump. The green was surrounded by houses as Croft was a residential village. The houses were mostly built by ‘ The Company’ and some of the houses leading up to the works were made from concrete. Parts of Croft, in the 20’s was used as a picnic area due to Croft Hill. Children on Sunday school trips would often go to Croft hill and play, in the summer. In winter a field owned by a man named Jonny Swaine was flooded and when the water froze people from all over Leicestershire would skate on his field. Jonny Swaine lived near to the field and owned tea rooms next to the field. In the winter, during the skating, he would sell refreshments. In 1927 the tea rooms were turned over and a working mens club was built, this stayed here until Shades was constructed in the new part of the village. In 1922 this was the main part of the village with the exception of a few larger houses on the other side of the river. This side of the village later developed to become the main part. It consisted of a few large houses and fields and had no shops. Gradually shops were built and the area was developed with a club, shops, parks and everything a modern village requires.

Croft Quarry

Croft Quarry at the moment is owned by Camas Aggregates. Croft is the largest quarry within the Camas group and is qualified to be called a ‘Super quarry’ which implies that the quarry can turn out 2 million tonnes of granite per year. This places Croft in the company of only seven other quarries in the UK. Four are in the East Midlands, two in the Mendips and one on the West coast of Scotland. One of the reasons that Croft quarry is so successful is the fact that it is close to motorway and rail networks and is the closest source of hard rock to London and the South-East. The rock that is quarried at Croft is known as granite but its real name is granodiorite. It was formed about 500 million years ago from molten igneous materials deep in the earth’s crust. Croft has been used as a quarry for the past 2000 years, the evidence is on the Fosse Way, but serious quarrying was started around the mid 19th century. It was primarily used for road making materials and by the turn of the century it was turning out mass volumes of material. The materials were distributed through the quarry’s rail link to the Birmingham-Leicester mainline. After the war the demand for the quarry’s building material increased. In 1959 , the Croft Granite and Brick Company was taken over by English China Clays, it was later passed on to Camas and has become larger ever since. In 1995 planning permission was given to the quarry to take 45 million tonnes of material away. At the current extraction rate of 1.6 / 2 million onnes a year this will last over 20 years. When this is done the quarry will be doubled in depth, eventually being 160m below sea level at its deepest point.

Geographical Change with Camas.

To reach the granite at Croft the quarry has to first get through a layer of boulder Clay and then a thick layer of Marl. Marl is of little use to the quarry and with the volume of this material it would be un-profitable to sell so Camas are moving the Marl from the quarry into a new hillside. The hillside will be man made and will be finished in around six years. The main aim of this operation is to improove the view for Huncote residents, in the same way that a large fence and trees have been planted around the quarry’s main access road. The quarry’s aim is to give the hillside to the villages in six years and Camas will be responsible for the beautification and up- keep. While the hill will be man made Camas is trying to make the hill as natural as possible. “Our aim is to produce as natural looking a hillside as possible and for it to become an attractive feature in the local countryside” The project, a very large engineering task, will be closely monitored by a team of specialists led by project manager Steve Burton. “Over the course of the next eight years we have to move around six million tonnes of overburden, which compares with around 1.5 million tonnes in the existing screening embankment,” Steve Burton Camas have appointed the earth moving contractors Gowdy Brothers and have installed £150,000 of monitoring equipment and 24 hour supervision by the geotechnical company Montgomery Watson.


The quarry on its own creates a lot of pollution, with the dust, the noise and the fumes from the 1000+ lorries coming and going from the quarry. Camas try to relieve this problem from the village. They have built a 5million pound access road leading into the quarry, completely bypassing the main road in Croft (Broughton Road) and around that road they have planted thousands of trees. The quarry is aiming to completely block themselves from sight. They have installed a very expensive woven fence along the side of the new road and they are, as I said before constructing a new hillside. On the new hillside they are going to plant more than 23,000 trees and shrubs and they will be adding ponds to encourage a variety of habitats, the hill will be for everyone. “In time, we hope it will become a place where families go to enjoy themselves and where they can, if interested , go to watch activity in the quarry from a position of safety.”

What is Croft made of ?

Croft hill is made of Granite but Croft sits on Marl and Boulder Clay. Millions of years ago there was an under ground volcanic eruption in Croft and a ball of the igneous rock, granite, was formed under the earth's surface . Eventually the earth's surface eroded leaving half of that ball on top of the earth's surface . Surrounding the ball of granite is a clay called Marl and on the surface is a thin layer of boulder clay.

Croft Hill

The hill is by far the most significant feature in Croft, it towers over the village at 300ft. The hill itself is made from granite with marl surrounding it .The hill before the war was used as a golf course with nine holes surrounding the peak, of course this would be impossible now. Croft hill by itself has a very large history dating back to the bronze and iron ages.


“In the ancient times the hills distinctive shape, rising straight up from the Soar Valley, made it a focal point for gatherings of importance.”

Blaby District Council

In the year 836 the king of Mercia held council on the hill. Before that it was used by the Romans. Earlier still, there is evidence of Bronze and Iron age implements. The hill was also the setting for 44 hangings in 1124, an incident was recorded by Lord Basset who was probably at the time Lord of Sapcote. The parish church of St. Michael of All Angels dates back to 1209 and is set in the slope of Croft hill. It looks out onto the ancient reserve known as the clevis. The clevis is the original place where quarrying commenced in the village by the Romans.

How has Croft developed since the war?

Since the war the village has moved away from its original centre into what was before fields.The very first development since the war was the building of Salisbury avenue in the 1960’s. The houses on Salisbury avenue look out onto fields grazed by farm animals and are very close to the river Soar. 30 years ago the biggest estate was built in Croft. The estate contains three roads, Bala, Coniston,and Windermere. They contain semi, and detached houses and some look out on to a small farm or croft. The street names are named after famous lakes around the UK. Broughton road was, before the new access road was built, the main road for the quarry’s lorries. The houses on that road have no particular style running through them because the houses have all been built at different times, as when the road was derived the buyers bought a plot of land and then built their house on the plot. It isn’t an estate as such.

How did Croft get its name?

Croft is a name given to a small farm, Croft the village has a few small farms so the origin of Croft could be a small farm.


Croft has two schools one of which is not being used as a school but as a house. The old school was a primary school. It was built in 1854 and gave education to the children of Croft until they reached 11 when they took an exam to decide which type of school they would go to. The school was built from Croft’s own granite. When the newer school was built the old school was abandoned. Croft C of E also is a primary school with its students at 11 leaving to continue their education at Brockington College.

The Bridge over the Soar

The bridge over the Soar was a very large step in Croft’s evolution. The bridge allowed the connection, of the what we now know as the ‘old’ part, to the developing side. The initial bridge was built in 1857, there was just a basic road to allow horses across. Later people needed to walk across while staying out of the way of cars. The paths on each side were added using two metal girders attached to the bottom of the bridge. If the bridge had not been constructed then I very much doubt that the rate of development would have continued as it did because the development on the newer side could not have progressed. This could be one of the main reasons for the initial construction of the bridge.

Croft’s Future

As I see it Croft’s future looks bright. Although the hill is being threatened by the quarry, the quarry provide jobs for villagers and boosts Croft’s industry. Camas have permission to carry on quarrying well into the next millennium so most jobs are reasonably safe.A lot of the old village houses are planned to be renovated for the millennium and houses which were derelict a year ago are being renovated at the moment. In the new village a large housing estate is being planned ( see photo 1) where Shades night club is. At the moment they are at the stage where Shades is being pulled down.


Croft is a small semi-rural village. That fact I think will be relevant well into the millennium and beyond. The traffic has been relieved on the village with the construction of the new road. The quarry will grow in size for at least another 20 years so the industrial side of the village looks fairly strong. The fact that Croft is near to a very important motorway link is important and is why a lot of people chose to live in Croft. The hill will become threatened once more but I think that the villagers will still want to preserve the hill for future generations . C. David Varnham....