. . . . . . . . Hough Mill open 2-5pm Sundays to end of September . . . . . . . . . .

Throughout the 19th century the surname varies between Kerby and Kirby, the Kirby spelling is used on this website.

Click to read about:


John Kirby 1791-1864

John Kirby Marriages

Swannington born John was a 19 year old miller when he married the widow Mary Gamble in 1807.  The marriage licence records his father, James of Coleorton, attending the grant of the licence to give his consent.

Martha Gamble poses some interesting questions as the only Martha Kerby/Kirby who was buried 1807-1813 in the Coleorton / Whitwick area lived in Thringstone and died on the 29th April 1813 aged 66 years:

  • Martha would thus have been 60 years old when she married 19 year old John Kirby?  There are plenty of examples of women marrying much older men?  Would John have married to gain Martha’s money?
  • If his wife died on the 29th April 1813, would John have remarried on the 26th July 1813?

We would be delighted if anyone is able to provide more information about John’s first marriage.

We know that John was a widowed miller when he married Sarah Griffin on the 26th July 1813 at St John’s Whitwick.  Census returns and marriage records record John as either a farmer or miller, it is not uncommon for men to combine the two occupations.

Children of John Kirby and Sarah Griffin

  • John Kirby 1816-1889 – John Kirby married Sarah Smith and was a miller.
  • Thomas Kirby 1818-1891 – Thomas Kirby married Mahala Sketchley and was a miller
  • James Kirby 1826-1899 – James Kirby married Elizabeth King and was the miller leasing Hough Mill when the mill went for auction in 1877.
Marriage Licence 1807 John Kirby and Martha Gamble - Copyright Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland
Marriage Licence 1813 John Kirby and Sarah Griffin - Copyright Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland


John Kirby 1816-1889

John Kirby 1816-1889

John is recorded as a miller on every census from 1841-1881.  As the eldest son, he probably took over the mill worked by his father.  The question is which mill.  The Thringstone census enumerators give very little information about where in Thringstone people lived.

John married Sarah Smith in Ticknall, just over the Derbyshire border, in 1846.  Sarah was the daughter of George Smith a shoemaker.  They were both buried at St George’s, Swannington, near the west door.  This suggests that they lived in a part of Thringstone that is now Swannington or Peggs Green, Coleorton.

Children of John Kirby

John and Sarah had two children:

  • Elizabeth Kirby 1852-? – Our Research Team is investigating a possible marriage.
  • Harriett Kirby 1853-? – Harriet was baptised at St George’s, Swannington on the 16th April 1854, the same day as her cousin Thomas Herbert Kirby.


Thomas Kirby 1818-1891

Life of Thomas Kirby

Thomas married Mahala Sketchley (see below) and worked the post mill that was to the south west of St George’s Church.  It was known as Kirby’s Mill.  The censuses record Thomas as a miller and grocer, perhaps he kept some of the flour he milled as payment and sold it in the grocer’s shop.

Thomas died in 1891 and Mahala a few weeks later.  Read the sad report of the death of Thomas Kirby The post mill was dismantled and sold, the 21st June 1895 Coalville Times advertising the auction:

Swannington Common

Bertenshaw and Stimson have received instructions to sell by auction on Monday 25th June 1895 the whole of the material in the Windmill late belonging to and used by Mr. Thos. Kirby including pair of French Stones in good condition, pair of Derbyshire Stones, oak standard and beams, pair Pitch Pine Principals, brass fittings, quantity iron and timber, mill steps, firewood etc.

Children of Thomas Kirby

  • Sarah Kirby 1848-1932 – Sarah married Robert Lakin a coal miner’s son from the hamlet of Gelsmoor in Worthington parish.  When they married at St George’s, Swannington in 1871, Robert was a school master in Newton Heath, Manchester.  Sarah died in Manchester in 1932.
  • Mary Hannah Kirby 1852-1914 – After the death of her parents in 1891, Mary Hannah was living on her own means at Coleorton Moor in 1901 and 1911.  In 1911 she had a visitor Mabel Lakin, a Manchester Teacher, but did not reveal on the census form that her visitor was her niece Annie Mabel Lakin.
1962 Ordnance Survey Map Loughborough Road + St George's Hill with parish boundaries - red to 31 March 1936, green from 1 April 1936


James Kirby 1826-1899

James Kirby At Hough Mill

James was the youngest of the three sons of John Kirby and Sarah Griffin.  John took over the family mill in Thringstone and Thomas was working the post mill near St George’s church.  James would have thus been looking for a mill to run in his own right.

By 1871 his uncle, John Griffin (father) was nearly 80 years of age.  His miller cousin, John Griffin (son), had moved on to become a railway porter in Lancashire.  His other cousin, Edwin Griffin, was still working as a miller.  At some stage between the 1871 census and the death of John Griffin (father) the Griffin’s decided to cease milling.  John (father) retired and Edwin became a gardener in Lancashire.

The Griffin’s needed a tenant to work the mill.  Who could be better than their relative James Kirby.  We don’t know when James started to work Hough Mill, it is possible that the mill was not used for some time.

What we do know is that when Susannah Jesson, wife of John Griffin (father) died in August 1877, the Griffins decided to sell Hough Mill and their family home.   All of their property was put up for auction at the New Inn, Thringstone (now the New Inn, Peggs Green, Coleorton) on the 13th November 1877.  The auction poster lists the mill as in the occupation of James Kirby.

The conveyance for the sale of Hough Mill is dated the 23rd August 1878 and records that after the death of Susannah Jesson, at some stage James Kirby had moved into the house from the adjoining cottage where he had resided.

James Kirby’s Family Bible

Mick Bown, a descendant of James Kirby and Elizabeth King, visited the Trust’s Archive Group one Monday evening with his family bible.  It paints a fascinating picture of the family’s history.

Researchers need to be careful with such finds as they are not always completely accurate.  There are a couple of errors in the dates recorded.  Mick believes the bible could have been a copy of the original as the inks and handwriting suggest that it was all written at the same time.  This would also explain why the bible was passed down through Louisa the youngest daughter.

Family bible started by James Kirby and Elizabeth King married 1852
Family bible started by James Kirby and Elizabeth King list of children and grandchildren

Children of James Kirby

  • John Kirby 1852-1923 – John was a miller in 1871 and 1874, whether he worked Hough Mill or another Thringstone mill is unknown.  He became a grocer by 1881 and continued in that profession until 1911.  Married Emma Burton and had four children.
  • Thomas Herbert Kirby 1854-1924 – Thomas Herbert was a miller in 1871 but thereafter worked as a butcher or farm labourer.  Married Sarah Cartwright.
  • Sarah Ann Kirby 1855-? – Sarah Ann married Frederick M Farmer a Bagworth farmer and they had four children.
  • Elizabeth Kirby 1857-1944 – Elizabeth married Joseph Henson a blacksmith and shoeing smith of Hall Lane.  They had six children two of who did not reach adulthood.
  • James Kirby 1859-1930 – James probably helped in the family business before becoming a farmer then coal miner living in Ellistown.  He married and had nine children, four of whom did not reach adulthood.
  • Amelia Kirby 1862-1935 – Amelia married Joseph Clayton a farmer at the Grange, Thrussington, they had two daughters.
  • Clara Kirby 1864-1939 -Clara worked in service and died in Broomleys, Coalville in 1939.
  • Bertha Kirby 1865-1935 – Bertha married John Pegg a butcher at the Market Place, Whitwick.  They had four children.
  • Mahala Kirby 1867-1948 – Mahala worked in service – at various times Clara, Mahala and Louisa worked for the Reverend Edwin Crane, Vicar of St Andrews, Thringstone, as nursery nurses or domestic servants.
  • Louisa Kirby 1870-? – Louisa married John William Wilson a steel frame fitter.  They lived opposite New Swannington School.


The Children Who Lived In Hough Mill

The Swannington Windmills page has a download that includes a description of how Elizabeth Kirby looked after her younger sisters in Hough Mill to keep safe from an epidemic.  Elizabeth’s memory is that she was 12-14 years old, but she was probably slightly older.  Elizabeth would have been:

  • 12 years old in 1869 – but Louisa would not have been born then.
  • 14 years old in 1871 – her sisters ages were Clara seven years, Bertha six years, Mahala four years and Louisa one year.
  • 15 years old in 1872 – her sisters ages were Clara eight years, Bertha seven years, Mahala five years and Louisa two years.


Information from the Friends of Thringstone includes:

  • 1870 one out of 12 burials was an infant.
  • 1871 five out of nine burials were of infants, four of the infants being buried in five weeks from the 13th June to 19th July.
  • 1872 three out of 10 burials were of infants.

The Whitwick church burial register records the following 23 smallpox deaths in 1872:

  • 15th April, William Whitmore, Leicester Road, 2.5 years
  • 22nd April, Sarah Ann Belcher, Silver Street, 8 years
  • 30th April, Rosanna Chambers, Coalville Road, 11 years
  • 1st May, Samuel William Chambers, Coalville Road, 9 years
  • 21st May, Elijah Wildburn, Leicester Road, 26 years
  • 23rd May, Henry Jarvis, Silver Street, 25 years
  • 25th May, Sarah Ward, Holly Hayes Wood, 19 months
  • 2nd June, Charles Fewkes, North Street, 3 months
  • 2nd June, Adela Pearson, City of Dan, 39 years
  • 10th June, Thomas Swiftson, Green Lane, 3 years
  • 11th June, William Aloysius Holbrook, Talbot Street, 14 years
  • 24th June, William Clifford, Coalville Road, 15 years
  • 26th June, Jane Lowe, City of Dan, 2 years
  • 30th June, Albert Hull, Leicester Road, 3.5 years
  • 6th July, Charles Danelow, Silver Street, 7 years
  • 10th July, Harriet Whitcraft, Thringstone, 22 years
  • 15th July, Thomas Morton, Coalville Road, 19 years
  • 16th July, William Mansfield, Alma Villas, 17 years
  • 1st August, William Lockton, Leicester Road, 7 years
  • 4th August, Goodwin Haywood, City of Dan, 2 years
  • 7th August, John William Cockerill, Brooks Lane, 3 years
  • 20th August, Joseph Bird, Swannington, 10 years
  • 4th September, Fanny Bird, Castle Street, 3 years


There is thus evidence to suggest that 14 or 15 year old Elizabeth and her could have been living in the mill in 1871 or 1872 (or both times) when so many children were dying.  The girls’ grandmother was Sarah Griffin, the sister of the second John Griffin who owned the mill and was living in windmill house (now Millburn).

Does this help explain the mystery of the fireplace in the mill that lacks a means for the smoke to escape?


Mahala Sketchley 1818-1891 – The Female Miller

Mahala’s Family – Father John Sketchley

John and Sarah Sketchley had two children, Jesse and Mahala.  The 1818 Whitwick baptism register records John’s occupation as a pot carrier.  May 1847 would have been a time of celebration for the Sketchley family as both children married:

  • On the 13th Jesse married at Breedon on the Hill and the register records John as a traveller.
  • On the 18th Mahala married at Whitwick and the register records John as a hawker.


Mahala’s Family – Brother Jesse Sketchley 1815-1893

The 1841 census records Jesse as a miller still living in the family home with his parents and Mahala.  We do not know which mill he would have worked.

The Sketchley family was living in Griffy Hill, which is just on the Griffydam side of the Griffydam / Peggs Green border.  Until 1936 the hamlet of Griffydam was split between Worthington Parish on the western side of the road and Thringstone Parish on the eastern side.

Jesse was a miller in 1847 when he married Harriett Nicklinson the daughter of John Nicklinson, the publican at the Waggon and Horses, Griffydam.

Jesse was a miller in 1851 and a farmer of 19 acres in 1861.  In 1871 he was the owner and occupier of 19 acres of land, in 1881 he farmed 16 acres  and in 1891 a grazier – still in Griffy Hill House, a property the family owned until the 2010’s.

Mahala Sketchley 1818-1891

As Jesse Sketchley was a miller, it is possible that this provided a link with Thomas Kirby who was also a miller.

Knowledge of Mahala’s married life is limited to the minimal information census, until the sad death of her husband in 1891.  The census was taken shortly after and Mahala’s occupation is Grocer and Miller.  Mahala is thus the only recorded female miller in Swannington.  This career was short lived as Mahala died a month after her husband.