Heritage > Counties > England


Situated in the centre of England, Leicestershire covers an area of 984 square miles and includes what was once England's smallest county of Rutland.

The administrative headquarters are, naturally enough, to be found in the industrial city of Leicester. Other major towns in the county include Loughborough, Melton Mowbray and Market Harborough.

Natural features found in the county are one of the largest reservoirs in Europe of Rutland Water, Charnwood Forest and the Vale of Belvoir (under which there lies a vast coal seam).

The county lists as it's main products those of horse breeding, cattle and sheep farming, coal mining and dairy products.

Facts on the region

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 Laegrecastrescir.

Motto: Foríard.

County Town: LEICESTER With a large Asian population, the town has many restaurants, shops and markets reviving life in the central city. Henry III 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.

County Rivers: Soar, Wreake.

Highest point: Bardon Hill at 912 feet.

Leicestershireís 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.

The local 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 county, 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.

Local Towns and Villages

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 countyís 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




Earl Shilton







Places to Visit

Stanford Hall, Lutterworth, Leicestershire

Ashby De La Zouch Castle, Leicestershire

Belgrave Hall, Leicestershire

Kirkby Muxloe Castle, Muxloe, Leicestershire

Lyddington Bede House, Leicestershire

Noseley Hall, Leicestershire

Prestwold Hall, Loughborough, Leicestershire


April: National Folk Music Festival, Loughborough.

Easter Monday: Bottle kicking, in which three villages compete to push casks filled with beer over a steam, 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, 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 from the region

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

Caribbean cook Rustie Lee is Leicester City FCís hostess at home matches.

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