Leicestershire Back to Homepage >>

County-landscape

. A largely agricultural county, with some centres of industry, but wide and open land, well watered and once heavily wooded, it is now a scatter of close-packed fertile fields, where the forests used to provide hunting.

. Foxes are still plentiful though, and the county is a stronghold of fox hunting with famous hunts such as the Quorn, the Belvoir and the Cottesmore meeting regularly in the winter season in the upper tongue of Leicestershire. Here in the valley of the River Eye and the Vale of Belvoir the famous Wolds mix open pastures and coverts for the foxes to breed.

. Cattle country, of the very best, composes the stretch of greensward of southern Leicestershire. There have been cattle markets for many centuries here, and the cows themselves wade in deep grassy fields between the county town and Market Harborough, where lanes and gated roads give this area a sense of rural backwater. The Grand Union Canal winds through south Leicestershire.

County-facts

Origin of name: Leicester is an English corruption of the Latin "a fort on the river Leire". The 12th- century writer William of Malmesbury referred to the Leire as the Legra.

Name first recorded: 1087 as Laegreceastrescir. "

Motto: For'ard, For'ard.

COUNTY TOWN

LEICESTER With a large Asian population, the town has many restaurants, shops and markets reviving life in the central city. Henry ill was defied by Simon de Montfort - the first Earl of Leicester - in a successful 13th-century uprising and is commemorated with a huge auditorium, the de Montfort Hall.

Other Towns

ASHBY-DE-LA-ZOUCH The name derives from old English aese = ash and the Scandinavian byr = habitation, given by Breton nobleman Alain de la Souche. Pleasant town with wide market street. The nearby castle remains were made famous by Sir Walter Scott in his Ivanhoe.

CASTLE DONINGTON A power station does not detract from the popular boating and picnic areas along the Trent . Some lovely timber-framed houses.

COALVILLE Centre of the county's mining industry.

LOUGHBOROUGH Famous 1960s college that has a reputation for producing athletics champions.

LUTTERWORTH Once an important stage coach stop, it has half-timbered houses and an old bridge over the River Swift. The church contains a memorial to John Wycliffe, the 14th-century religious reformer.

MARKET BOSWORTH More village than town, with a famous Hall reminiscent of Hampton Court . Close by is the battlefield of Bosworth which ended the War of the Roses in 1485. An excellent joint battle centre and walk exists.

MARKET HARBOROUGH A prosperous town, with Georgian buildings and a famed grammar school, a 17th- century timbered building raised above the pavement on pillars. There are coaching inns, notably the Swan with its prominent sign. This is the place where liberty bodices were invented.

MELTON MOWBRAY A pleasant old market town with lots of parkland by the river. There are 18th -century houses and ancient almshouses near the fine church.

. Barrow upon Sour . Barwell . Birstall . Blaby . Earl Shilton . Enderby . Hinckley . Kegworth . Oadby . Shepshed . Wigston.

COUNTY RIVERS

Soar, Wreake.

HIGHEST POINT

Bardon Hill at 912 feet.

county-calendar

. April: National Folk Music Festival, Loughborough.

. Easter Monday: Bottle kicking, in which three villages compete to push casks filled with beer over a stream, and a pie sharing ceremony, the "hare pie scramble", at Hallaton.

. May Day: Leicestershire County Show at Dishley Grange.

. August: Agricultural show at Ashby-de-la-Zouch.

. August: Jousting Tournament, Belvoir Castle .

. October-November: Amateur athletics at Loughborough, and a festival and fair.

. Flat racing near Leicester at Oadby.

. End of July: British Motorcycle Grand Prix at Castle Donington.

. End of August: Leicester international Air Display at Leicester Aeroclub.

famous-names

. Simon de Montfort was the man who put the city of Leicester on the map, seven centuries ago.

. Lady Jane Grey, the tragic nine-days queen executed by Mary Tudor, lived part of her short life at Bradgate House in Charnwood Forest near Leicester . The grand house is in ruins, but the parkland is open for walks in its woods, hills, and open heathland.

. John Wycliffe made the first English translation of the Bible at Lutterworth.

. Film director Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons, My Beautiful Laundrette, The Snapper) was born in Leicester .

. Gary Linker, gentleman footballer and one of our better exports to Japan , hails from Leicestershire.

. Caribbean cook Rustle Lee is Leicester City PC's hostess at home matches.

local-government

Apart from the City of Leicester a two-tier local government system provides the rest of the County of Leicestershire with its public services through the Leicestershire County Council and seven District Councils of Blaby, Charnwood, Harborough, Hinckley & Bosworth, Melton, North-West Leicestershire and Oadby & Wigston. The City of Leicester is controlled by a single unitary council over which Leicestershire County Council has no power.

intro

RIGHT IN THE HEART of England , Leicestershire lies farther from the sea than any other county. It has always been a cultural crossroads - this is now most obvious if you drive past the topsy- turvy shops along Leicester 's Narborough Road selling silk bales, rice and other wares of the Indian subcontinent. The original immigrants arrived during the 1950s to bolster Leicester 's textiles and footwear industries. Not far away, the countryside still preserves its agricultural base of wheat and root crops and, of course, sheep as you pass mouth-watering-sounding places like Ashby-de-la-Zouch, and Melton Mowbray as well as Market Bosworth with its War of the Roses history centre.

towns-and-villages

Leicester sits in the centre of this green heartland of England . The cathedral's attractive churchyard is a popular meeting place. Hosiery, boots and shoes and light engineering are Leicester 's trades. Unfortunately the city has retained little of its great past. Roman remains can be seen in the Jewry Wall Museum (wall paintings and mosaics) and at Jewry Wall itself, a large fragment of the facade of a Roman bath and exercise hall. The handsome 15th-century guildhall with its slated roof and half timbering seems almost like a child's toy left behind in a welter of modernization and development. It has a well- preserved interior with a beamed medieval hall, as well as old police cells. There's a ruined castle, a gateway now a military museum, and a museum of old aspects of the city, the Newarke Houses Museum . Belgrave Hall with its gardens has a collection of agricultural implements. The Grand Union Canal runs from Leicester to Market Harborough, dipping into long tunnels and carried up a hill by the prodigious staircase of locks at Foxton. This village is at the bottom of the flight of locks, arranged in two tiers of five locks each, built in 1811. Once busy with commercial traffic, the canal is now a strip of nature park with footways along the towpaths. The River Welland runs through Market Harborough and past Medbourne, with a cluster of attractive villages nearby - Horningfold is an estate village in nostalgic period style, and Hallaton is attractive with its Norman towered church, old houses and unusual market cross.

North from Billesdon Coplow, a high hill, are fine views towards Rutland . The village itself has a 17th-century schoolhouse. West is pretty Great Glen with its green and nearby country paths raised against flooding on the Wistow plain, with Fleckney, a typical terraced industrial village, nearby, and the brick-built Willoughby Waterlees.

Though Stanford-on-Avon is in Northamptonshire, Stanford Hall lies over the river (which is the boundary) in Leicestershire. Approached by a tree-lined avenue, this fine William and Mary house has collections of costumes, antiques, old cars and aeroplanes within. Northwest of Leicester is open country towards the county of Rutland and Melton Mowbray, a hunting town where the history of the sport is well preserved. It's probably more famous as the home of pork pies and Stilton cheese. Here also are the famous Wolds , with pretty villages such as Waltham on the Wolds (with a large smock mill, now unfortunately sailless), Croxton Kerrial - stone- built, with excavated abbey ruins and monks' fish ponds - and Bottesford, where the earls of Rutland are buried (Grinling Gibbons monuments in the church). The earls (now dukes) have as their home the hill-perched Belvoir Castle , near the village. This vast and grandiose house is a fake castle, an exercise in Victorian romanticism, but it does have an older core dating back to the llth century, and many treasures, particularly tapestries and paintings, in its staterooms. Fine views are afforded from the castle terraces over three counties.

Loughborough lies west of Melton Mowbray and is famous as the largest bell foundry in Europe . The casting foundry of John Taylor was established here in the 19th century and has made bells for carillons and churches around the world. Across Charnwood Forest and its high point, Bardon Hill, as the crow flies is Market Bosworth, recorded in the Domesday Book, but best known for the Battle of Bosworth with the battle site a mile away A nearby stone pyramid houses a well (Dick's Well) from which the doomed Richard III drank before the fateful battle.

Ashby-de-la-Zouch commemorates the La Souch Breton family who gained this pleasing town after the Norman Conquest. It has castle ruins and Tudor and Georgian houses along its main street, as well as an imposing terrace of Regency houses from the time Ashby was being developed as a spa. Next to the justly famous Palladian building Staunton Harold Hall with its fine grounds is a rarity, a church built in the Cromwellian period where men and women are divided by the central aisle.

local-history

Charnwood Forest , Beacon Hill and other sites provided places for Bronze Age settlements. East of Leicester at illesdon is a set of Iron Age earthworks. There is an Iron Age fort at Breedon on the Hill. Burrough Hill is a large hill fort of the Iron Age overlooking the route from Leicester to Stamford .. The Romans developed the fortified town of Ratae Coritanorum , modern-day Leicester , on the Fosse Way , the military road running from Lincoln to Cirencester, and Emperor Hadrian kitted it out with an impressive array of public buildings. Waltham on the Wolds also has Roman pavements and a later Saxon settlement. Near the village of Sutton Cheney is Bosworth Field, where 500 years ago the Tudor dynasty was established when Richard III was killed. Henry Tudortook the crown, found under a thorn bush, and the Wars of the Roses finally ended when the white rose of York was vanquished.

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