Nobody really knows how old the village of Sibbertoft is, but sometime in the first millennium AD a family called Sigbiorn, started to clear land for a settlement – the toft. The settlement grew. By the beginning of the 11th century the village of “Sigbiorn’s toft” was large enough to support a priest. We know this because he is mentioned in the Domesday Book of AD1086, the earliest documentary reference.
The village was prospering with enough cultivated land to support 13 ploughs together with nine slaves.
In AD1066, Sibertod, as it was then known, was valued at a mere five shillings. Twenty years later it was valued by William the Conqueror’s inspectors at thirty shillings.
At the Conquest the land was granted to the Count of Mortain, one of the Norman lords who rampaged across the Channel with William the First. However, from the thirteenth century it is the Crown who is granting title to the first of a succession of Lords of the Manor. The Manor of Sibertoft (as it was then known) was formed out of around 700 acres of the Parish (roughly one third of the total area). The Lord had to pay his rent to the King which was sometimes in kind, such as archers and mounted knights needed to fight in France. At around the same time the Manor of West Thorpe was formed, again from about one third of the Parish area. West Thorpe was a farmstead lying separately to and about a quarter of a mile to the west of the village – nowadays it is vehicular cul-de-sac in a more built-up setting. The remainder mostly belonged to the Knights Hospitallers (at the western edge of the Parish), the priest or Rector who owned two blocks of land known as the glebe and a handful of freemen.
One of the early Lords of the Manor, Brabazon by name, was granted the right to hold a Saturday market each week from AD1309. This was a means to get rich quick as markets were few and far between and people had to travel long distances to get to them. It seems to have failed because we hear nothing of it later on. One reason for it not surviving was the Black Death which was raging across the countryside less than 30 years later. There is no evidence of it effecting Sibbertoft directly but there is good reason to believe that the village of Nobold, less than one mile away, was completely wiped out.
The erstwhile market went by the name of the Invention of the Holy Cross. This is a reference to St Helen and her discovery of the site of the crucifixion in Jerusalem. Clearly, it is referring to the patron saint of the church which stands at the top of the village close by the ancient heart of the medieval settlement. As we have already discovered the church was most probably in existence from before the Norman Conquest although it is difficult to see this today as any evidence has been thoroughly removed when it was heavily restored in the nineteenth century. The one major influence on both the church and the village was the formation of the Premonstratensian Abbey in the next Parish of Sulby. It was not a wealthy order but they were probably in charge of the church by AD1349 when Vicars were appointed. The monastery must have already been in a parlous state from before the Reformation, as Robert Goodall, the last Abbot, appointed himself the Vicar of the Parish of Sibbertoft in 1513. Presumably, he abandoned his abbey which by then had no monks and was probably starting to fall down.
Although the evidence is a little hazy, it is believed that there have been no fewer than three Manor Houses which have stood on or near the site of the Manor, currently a nursing home for the elderly, and which dates in part from the late Georgian period.
During the latter part of the seventeenth century the Sturgis family built themselves a substantial house on the land at the bottom of Westhorpe: the Mansion House. Because the land was waterlogged they made a virtue out of a necessity by forming a large ornamental lake as part of the landscaping. The soil that was scooped out so that the water could collect was formed into two mounds which became islands in the middle of the lake. Nowadays they are high and dry and are a source of strange legends and folk-tales.
By the seventeenth century the village was changing dramatically. The Manor lands were being sold off and re-organised for profitable farming. Fields were being enclosed long before the Enclosure Acts were in force. New farms with prosperous tenant farmers were building smart new dwellings.
Agricultural improvements went on apace. The population expanded with flax weaving being the main industry, so much so that in the eighteenth century, St Helen’s was running out of seating space. This was also a time of change for the established church. Non-conformity was growing rapidly with various sects, such as Baptists and Methodists, setting up their own places of worship. House meetings were popular and preaching even took place in The Old Swan in Church Street. Sibbertoft had no fewer than two non-conformist chapels by the middle of the nineteenth century, of which the last to survive was the Old Union Chapel in Berkeley Street.
The nineteenth century saw many significant changes. The church fabric was restored, the school, a schoolhouse and a large vicarage built and the Old Swan shut down. The village boasted a baker, a butcher and various other trades. This and many other alterations to the village landscape were due to the new Lady of the Manor, Lady Villiers. She had acquired Sulby Hall and its lands by the middle of the century. She then bought the manor lands of Westhorpe. She wanted the lands of Sibbertoft manor but had to wait until near the turn of the century before she achieved her ambition; at which point she died. Lady Villiers was a stickler for propriety. Tenants of hers (and most of the villagers were) could not hang out clothes on Sunday. All had to attend church and line up outside to doff their caps or curtsey to her after service. Those that didn’t abide by her rules were thrown out of their homes. Despite this picture of Victorian rectitude the village had quite a reputation as being a wild and lawless place. Heavy drinking in the Red Lion and poaching on an industrial scale seemed to be the order of the day. Running fights between the local ruffians and the Constabulary were not unknown.
The twentieth century has seen the most far-reaching changes. Two world wars bought enormous disruption. In the Great War there was the loss of many males from the village. In World War 2 the Bosworth airfield was built with its Wellington bombers taking off low over the village roofs. The installation of piped drinking water, electric power, sewage drains and metalled road surfaces were the most significant factors in raising living standards. The installation, in 1946, of the public telephone in Church Street opened up communication links as did the wireless and, more recently television networks. The nineteen seventies witnessed the largest increase in house building with most of new owners commuting to work by car. At around the same time the village school closed and the local railway link also shut down. The rapid increase in vehicular traffic gathered momentum. New roads, such as the M1 and M6 bought people closer to the village and at the close of the century the A14 fast dual road was started. This rapid improvement in vehicular communications changed the lifestyle of the villagers. Ease of access to the large supermarkets caused the closure of the shop and the Reading Room was used less and less for communal functions as people sort entertainment elsewhere.
Today Sibbertoft is still small but socially vibrant. The pub, the church, the village hall and the recreation ground are at the heart of the community. The Electoral Roll lists just less than 300 people in the whole Parish – less than there had been in former centuries – so that it remains essentially a very quiet rural village surrounded by farm land. As the Millennium Book “Sibbertoft in the year 2000” stated it “is the story of a village that the world has largely passed by”.
In all of this twentieth century development the Parish Council has played an important role. Formerly the Parish Meeting, Parish Council status was granted in 1952. In 1997 the parliamentary constituency boundaries were redrawn and although Sibbertoft moved from Daventry to Kettering the Council remained as a ward of Daventry District Council. They are responsible for voting the Parish Precept which is incorporated into the Daventry District Council Tax.