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 Post 1914 Harlaxton

Historical timeline


1914 On 28th June, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria is murdered in Sarajevo, Austro-Hungary's response provokes a crisis which drags in the world powers, Germany invades Belgium and on 4th August the British Empire declares war on Germany.  The First World War is underway.

1915 The Second Battle of Ypres and Landings begin on the Gallipoli Peninsula

1916 The Battles of Verdun, Jutland and The Somme

1917 Tsar Nicholas II abdicates and Russian Revolution sees the rise to power of Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks.

1917 The United States declares war on Germany.

1918 Germany and the Allies conclude an armistice

1918 – 1919 May 'Spanish flu' epidemic killed more than 200,000 people in Britain and up to 50 million worldwide.

1920 Republic of Ireland gains independence

1927 British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is created

1928 All women over the age of 21 get the vote

1936 George V dies and is succeeded by Edward VIII - he wished to marry American Wallis Simpson. Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin advised him that the British people would not accept her because she was a divorcee. Faced with losing the woman he loved, Edward chose instead to abdicate. On 11 December, he broadcast his decision to the nation. He married Wallace Simpson in France in June 1937. They became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

1937 George 612 May 1937 George VI, Edward VIII's younger brother, the Duke of York, is crowned king

1937 Sir Frank Whittle invents the Jet Engine

1937 Thomas Pearson Gregory dies and leaves the title and estate to his son, Philip Pearson Gregory.

Philip decides to renounce the title of Lord of the Manor and sell the entire estate.

1938 Violet Van Der Elst buys Harlaxton Manor

1939 – 1945 The Second World War

1947 India gains independence from Britain

1948 Post-war immigration from the Commonwealth begins

1948 Introduction of the National Health Service

1948 Harlaxton Manor sold to the Jesuits for use as a seminary.

1952 Elizabeth 26 February: Elizabeth II succeeds her father, George VI

1953 Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

1958  The first Motorway, the M6 Preston bypass, opens.

1965 Death penalty is abolished in the UK

1965 The Jesuits lease Harlaxton Manor to Stamford University

1967 Abortion and homosexuality are legalised

1971 Decimalised currency replaces 'pounds, shillings and pence'

1971 Stanford University sub lets Harlaxton Manor to the University of Evansville from Indiana USA.

1973 Britain joins the European Economic Community

1975 The Jesuits lease Harlaxton Manor to The University of Evansville in Indiana USA. 

1978 Dr William Ridgeway buys the Manor for £100,000 for the continued use of the house as a study abroad centre for the University of Evansville.

1979 Margaret Thatcher, born in Grantham, becomes Britain's first woman prime minister

1982 Falklands War

1984 Tim Berners-Lee invents the World Wide Web

1987 Dr William Ridgeway gifts the manor to The University of Evansville, permanently establishing Harlaxton College as its British Campus.

1991 First Gulf War

1992 Channel Tunnel opens, linking London and Paris by rail

2001 Foot and mouth crisis hits farmers.

2001 11th September, Islamic al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four aircraft and flew them at targets in the USA.

2002 HM Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Golden Jubilee - 50 years.

2003 Facebook is launched in the USA.

2007 Apple launch the iPhone.

2008 Global financial crisis plunges the UK into recession.

2012 Britain hosts the Summer Olympics and Paralympics.

2015 Queen Elizabeth II became the longest-reigning UK monarch ever, after Queen Victoria who reigned for 63 years and 7 months.

2016 In a national referendum in June, the UK narrowly voted to leave the European Union. 

2019 Inspired by the teenage Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, thousands of school pupils across the UK went on strike as part of a global campaign for action on climate change.

2020 The coronavirus pandemic hits the United Kingdom.

2022 February – Russia invaded Ukraine.  The unprovoked attack was condemned worldwide. 

2022 June – Queen Elizabeth II became the second longest reigning monarch in history, behind Louis XIV of France who reigned from 1643-1715.

2022 September – Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II died at Balmoral Castle, aged 96.  Her son succeeded to the throne as Charles III.

The history of the village in the 20th Century matches that of so many rural communities with the village shaped by two World wars and the rapid social and economic developments of the period.


Take a look at our Streets Through Time project to see how this century changed the face of the village streets.


The First World War not only had a tragic impact on a number of village families who lost husbands and sons to the conflict, but also brought about significant changes to the manor and the way the land around the village was owned and managed.

Research undertaken by a member of the Harlaxton History Society has traced the men of the village killed in the First World War and the three airmen buried in the Churchyard. See here. 


A significant development was the creation of a flying school for the Royal flying Corps on the ridge above the village and Trench warfare school in the grounds. 

Lord of the Manor from 1892 to 1935 was Thomas Pearson Gregory - known as the man with the gun Pearson Gregory was the typical country gentleman of the Edwardian period and despite the world moving on a man who was comfortable in the past. When he died in 1935 his house, Harlaxton Manor still had no electricity, central heating and only one bathroom.

After his death the estate was left to his son, Philip Pearson Gregory who decided to sell everything. Hence in 1937 the entire village was put up for auction in individual lots.


The Manor was bought by it’s last private owner, Mrs Violet Van der Elst, a businesswoman and inventor who purchased the Manor.

During the Second World War, the manor was again requisitioned by the War Office and used as the officers’ mess for RAF Harlaxton nearby before housing the 1st Battalion of the British Airborne Division playing a significant part in Operation Market Garden, of “Bridge too Far” fame, acting as HQ for the 1st Parachute Brigade.

After the war, in 1948, Mrs Van Der Elst sold the Manor to the The Society of Jesus (The Jesuits), who used it as a centre for training novice priests.

In 1965, the Jesuits leased the manor to the American Stanford University, based in California, making it the first American university campus in Great Britain. In 1970, it became the home to Harlaxton College, part of the University of Evansville in Indiana, USA who bought the Manor House and grounds in in 1978. Today it continues in this role, operating as an overseas study centre giving American students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn about British life and culture in a historic setting.

Today the village is a mix of traditional estate housing built in the most part by the Gregory family in the 19th Century augmented by more modern housing in small developments on the edges of the older village core. Harlaxton is now a thriving community with a number of social facilities and a degree of out commuting to the neighbouring towns.

Stanley Keith Muir

Stanley was born on 6th April, 1892 at Elsternwick, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia to parents John Franklin Muir & Josephine Muir (nee Holmes). 

He joined the Royal flying Corps as a Captain in 1916 and after active service abroad he returned to England and joined No. 68 Squadron R.F.C. at Harlaxton, Lincolnshire, England from Overseas on 18th August, 1917 as an instructor.

He died aged 25 on 12 Sept. 1917 as a result of a flying accident.

The Grantham Journal, Grantham, reported on  15 September, 1917; “AUSTRALIAN AIRMAN KILLED. In an Eastern Counties Camp, on Thursday, an inquest was held respecting the death of Captain Stanley Keith Muir, aged 25, of the Australian Flying Corps, whose home is in Melbourne. 
Deceased was stated to be a skilled and experienced pilot. Second-Lieut. G. C. Wilson, A.F.C., said that on Wednesday he saw Captain Muir turn the machine on its back and glide for a short distance upside down. He was at this time about 1,200 feet up. He pulled the machine out in the ordinary way, and when at about 800 feet up the aeroplane attained its normal flying position.
Directly afterwards the right-hand bottom wing appeared to collapse in the centre, and immediately the top wing crumpled up, causing the machine to spin to the ground. He watched Captain Muir all the time during this particular flight, and he considered there was no unnecessary strain put on the machine, which was practically a new one. The further evidence showed that the machine was in perfect working order when it ascended. The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death,” and expressed the opinion that accident was caused through some structural defect in the part of the machine which first broke, and that strict investigations should be made possible to ascertain the cause of the accident, and prevent similar accidents in the future.


Violet Van der Elst (4 January 1882 – 30 April 1966)

Violet was a British entrepreneur and campaigner best remembered for her activities against the death penalty.

She was born Violet Anne Dodge, and came from very humble beginnings. She was the daughter of a coal porter and a washerwoman, and as a young woman worked as a scullery maid. In 1903, she married Henry Arthur Nathan, a civil engineer 13 years her senior. She developed cosmetics including Shavex, the first brush-less shaving cream and became a successful businesswoman. After her first husband died on 15 November 1927, she married Jean Julien Romain Van der Elst, a Belgian who had been working for her as a manager but was also a painter.

Having amassed a huge personal fortune she purchased Harlaxton Manor, in Lincolnshire, England in 1937. She restored the house, immediately renaming it Grantham Castle.

World War II

In spring 1944 The King visited members of the parachute regiment based at Harlaxton Manor before D-Day. The Paras in the photograph below are actually in the RASC and they are looking at a mock-up of a rolling platform to carry panniers along the fuselage of the Dakota.

The Captain tells how he had been told to escort the King round all the exhibits and explain their uses. He pointed out how the panniers were moved along on the rollers then pushed out of the aircraft.

At that point his Colonel on the King’s left who was standing just behind him said, “But sir it isn’t always so easy as there is a problem with the panniers getting stuck in the doorway.”


The King then replied with his well known stammer, “Well it’s quite s-s-simple weally, just g- get the Americans to make the doors bigger.”


The man on the King’s right behind the metal work is Lt General "Boy" Browning – the husband of Daphne du Maurier and the man hidden behind him is Major General Urquhart.

Pictures of graffiti left by members of the Forward Observation Unit of the First parachute Brigade on the walls of their accommodation at Harlaxton Manor

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