It all seems to have started on May 12th 1840 when John Clarke, Esq., of Peatling Hall sent his son Henry and a party of his men down the Bruntingthorpe to Shearsby Road to forcibly sort out the land dispute he was having with William Reeve at the Shearsby Baths. There were twenty-eight people in this party, including James and Thomas Loyley, and Isaac and William Gamble, all coming equipped with pick-axes and shovels to pull down the fencing recently put up by Reeve on land Clarke claimed to be his. Reeve took legal action in response, bringing the matter before the judges at the Lutterworth Petty Sessions on May 14th. William Reeve claimed that the land in question had been in possession of his forefathers for years and that previous Lords of the Manor had never claimed it before. The case was dismissed as out of the Lutterworth court’s jurisdiction, but with the understanding that Mr. Clarke would refrain from all further acts of violence in support of his claim.
On Saturday 6th of June the village peace was again disturbed by the appearance of a number of men, again headed by Henry Clarke, with shovels and axes and heading for Reeve’s fence. This time, Reeve was ready for them with his own party of men, some from Dunton, ready with iron bars to face the intruders. A general fight broke out, leading to several ‘broken heads and severe bruises’. Things might have got worse, had not the Rural Police arrived to break things up. The village had rallied in support of Reeve, with even the old women mustering in considerable force and ‘leaving marked proofs of their prowess on the countenances of their opponents’. Henry Clarke sustained some injuries and got his clothes torn for his efforts.
Feelings were still running high the following Monday when villagers assembled and in retaliation pulled up the posts and rails around the cottage that Clarke had recently purchased from a Mr. Walker of Shearsby. These posts widened the cottage boundaries and encroached onto the road itself and were becoming an obstacle to travel. The matter was again brought to the Lutterworth Petty Sessions, who again declined to decide on the matter, referring the land dispute to higher courts and binding the parties to keep the peace in future.
The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser (Leicester, England), Saturday, May 23, 1840
The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser (Leicester, England), Saturday, June 13, 1840