Kirby Muxloe Churches

The early days of religous non-conformism in Kirby Muxloe started in private houses - this is the story of one of these.

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Faith Cottage, 400, Ratby Lane, Kirby Muxloe

Most people will recognise the white painted cottage at the junction of Main Street and Ratby Lane, but did you know that it really lived up to its name of “Faith Cottage”? It is thought to have been built in the second half of the 19th century and was occupied in the early days by the Henser family. Henry Thomas Henser had previously lived in the St Mary’s area of Leicester and had run a grocery shop on King Richard’s Road. He moved into Faith Cottage around 1876, and as a deeply religious man, was soon offering his house as the first meeting place for the non- conformist church in the village. Although the meetings moved to larger premises in the same year, by 1878, Faith Cottage was again the chosen venue. By that time, Mr Henser had knocked down the central wall in the house and had also installed an American organ for the services. In 1879, there was a need for larger premises and the congregation moved to the Red Barn on Desford road. Mr Henser, being quite displeased at the time, initially refused to pass on the chairs used by the congregation. However, he eventually relented and parted with the chairs, also offering the use of his American organ, with himself as organist. By 1883, the first purpose-built property for non-conformist worship, the Zion Chapel on Main Street (now the Scout Hut), was erected.

Mr Henser’s youngest daughter, Annie, married James Boden of Kirby Muxloe in 1896, and when Mr Henser died in 1911, his daughter and her husband moved into Faith Cottage. A daughter, Olive, was born to them in 1898 and a son in 1911. This family were also deeply religious and stories have been told by Charlie Moore (now deceased) of them knocking on doors on Sunday mornings, in order to give small religious texts to take away and study. It is known that the family opened a grocery shop at Faith Cottage sometime after 1911. At this time, James Boden worked as a dyers hose trimmer. However, in 1912 a James Bowden is recorded as a shop keeper in the village, so was this the same family with a misspelling of the name or was it someone else? In 1916, Annie is listed as a shop keeper and also running ‘tea rooms’ at Faith Cottage, most likely to cater for the visitors to the castle. Teas were served in the garden if the weather was good. By 1941, Annie is listed in Kelly’s directory as running just a grocery shop in Faith Cottage. Annie and her daughter Olive, who married later in life, are well remembered. The shop had a ‘Rowntrees’ Chocolate cabinet on one end of the counter and tins of biscuits on the other. The mother and daughter are thought to have been Plymouth Brethren and referred to by the villagers as ‘Pilgrims’.

The family erected a wooden shed in their front garden with three signs on the side. One was ‘Prepare to meet thy God’. There is a story of a young man of the village travelling down Blood’s Hill on his motor bike, maybe going too fast or skidding (there was no traffic island in those days), crashing through the hedge and landing beside the shed. On looking up, he saw the sign ‘Prepare to meet thy God’. He must have had quite a fright! The ladies are remembered as being very popular with children, especially since they sold sweets. Some of the young men of the village, when on their way to the Majestic cinema in Ratby, would play tricks on the ladies. The boys would call in at the shop to buy a single cigarette (that was quite normal in those days). They knew the ladies didn’t approve of and didn’t sell cigarettes, but just went in to hear the ladies retort ‘If God had wanted us to smoke, he would have given us chimneypots on top of our heads’. The ladies usually took it all as a bit of fun and would be heard saying ‘boys will be boys!’ During wartime one well-known local lady was given a two-pound bag of sugar as a wedding present. That was a much-prized gift as sugar was severely rationed. Olive Boden married Dr Robert Henson, a widower, in 1945 at the age of 47. Olive’s mother, Annie Boden (née Henser), died in 1947 at the age of 77.