The 20th century

Melton history index

Melton’s Population

Melton’s population increased enormously in 20th century. The census of 1901 shows an urban population of 7,454 and a rural populace of 14,814.

By 1971 the town was 19,932, while the countryside had a population of 18,935. In 1975 Melton Borough Council had a population of some 41,000, while the Melton Borough website currently quotes the Borough’s population for 2001 to be ‘46,861, of whom 25,276 reside in Melton Mowbray’.

The First World War

Actively under research – information gratefully received!

At the start of the First of the First World War the Army was recruited from volunteers. The Leicestershire, Nottingham and Lincolnshire Regiments probably received recruits from the Melton area.

The Second World War

Under active research – information gratefully received!

Both fighter planes and bombers flew from the airfields round Melton (Wymeswold, Saltby and one in Rutland, Langar airfield in the Vale of Belvoir) – contributing to the many across the East Midlands. The airfield to the south of Melton was only completed on 1st August 1943 and was used by Transport Command to Train ferry units and prepare overseas aircraft, so had only a small involvement in the air war.

The USAAF website indicates that gliders were also flown from these airfields — presumbaly contributing to the allied landings at Arnhem and following the Normandy landings.

Recent correspondence in the Melton Times concerned various bombers (Lancasters, Wellingtons and Halifaxes) that crashed in the area — including one in or near the the reservoir by Belvoir.

Allied strategic meetings were held in the area to plan for the invasion of Europe.

Post War

Under active research. Information gratefully received!

Following the War a significant Polish community developed in Melton. Polish Service personnel, originating mainly from the Russian sector of divided Poland, were joined by their families – some coming via Palestine. From November 1946 onwards many were billeted in resettlement quarters at the areodrome to the south of Melton and in an area called ‘Guadaloupe’. At the airfield there was a Polish speaking school that continued until 1958.

The USAAF website shows photos of the surrounding airfields and alludes to Thor missile silos at the Melton airfield. From 1958 Melton was one of three satellite fields to North Luffenham equipped with these intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs). Anti-nuclear protests were held outside the base and, eventually, in 1963 the missiles were withdrawn to America.

Since 1980s there have been plans to build new homes on the former airbase – the latest proposing a new village of ‘Kettleby Magna’. Watch this space!

Next page: The Town Estate