Online Encyclopedia

LEICESTER

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V16, Page 393 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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LEICESTER, a municipal county and parliamentary borough, and the county town of Leicestershire, England; on the river Soar, a southern tributary of the Trent. Pop. (1891) 174,624, (1901) 211,579. It is 99 M. N.N.W. from London by the Midland railway, and is served by the Great Central and branches of the Great Northern and London and North-Western railways, and by the Leicester canal. This was the Roman Ratae (Ratae Coritanorum), and Roman remains of high interest are preserved. They include a portion of Roman masonry known as the Jewry Wall; several pavements have been unearthed; and in the museum, among other remains, is a milestone from the Fosse Way, marking a distance of 2 M. from Ratae. St Nicholas church is a good example of early Norman work, in the building of which Roman bricks are used. St Mary de Castro church, with Norman remains, including sedilia, shows rich Early English work in the tower and elsewhere, and has a Decorated spire and later additions. All Saints church has Norman remains. St Martin's is mainly Early English, a fine cruciform structure. St Margaret's, with Early English nave, has extensive additions of beautiful Perpendicular workmanship. North of the town are slight remains of an abbey of Black Canons founded in 1143. There are a number of modern churches. Of the Castle there are parts of the Norman hall, modernized, two gateways and other remains, together with the artificial Mount on which the keep stood. The following public buildings and institutions may be mentioned—municipal buildings (1876), old town hall, formerly the gild-hall of Corpus Christi; market house, free library, opera house and other theatres and museum. The free library has several branches; there are also a valuable old library founded in the 17th century, a permanent library and a literary and philosophical society. Among several hospitals are Trinity hospital, founded in 1331 by Henry Plantagenet, earl of Lancaster and of Leicester, and Wyggeston's hospital (1513). The Wyggeston schools and Queen Elizabeth's grammar school are amalgamated, and include high schools for boys and girls; there are also Newton's greencoat school for boys, and municipal technical and art schools. A memorial clock tower was erected in 1868 to Simon de Montfort and other historical figures connected with the town. The Abbey Park is a beautiful pleasure ground; there are also Victoria Park, St Margaret's Pasture and other grounds. The staple trade is hosiery, an old-established industry; there are also manufactures of elastic webbing, cotton and lace, iron-works, maltings and brick-works. Leicester became a county borough in 1888. and the bounds were extended and constituted one civil parish in 1892. It is a suffragan bishopric in the diocese of Peterborough. The parliamentary borough returns two members. Area, 8586 acres. The Romano-British town of Ratae Coritanorum, on the Fosse Way, was a municipality in A.O. 120-121. Its importance, both commercial and military, was considerable, as is attested by the many remains found here. Leicester (Ledecestre, Legecestria, Leyrcestria) was called a " burh " in 918, and a city in Domesday. Until 874 it was the seat of a bishopric. In ro86 both the king and 'Hugh de Grantmesnil had much land in Leicester; by 1101 the latter's share had passed to Robert of Meulan, to whom the rest of the town belonged before his death. Leicester thus became the largest mesne borough. Between 1103 and 1118 Robert granted his first charter to the burgesses, confirming their merchant gild. The portmanmote was confirmed by his son. In the 13th century the town developed its own form of government by a mayor and 24 jurats. In 1464 Edward IV. made the mayor and 4 of the council justices of the peace. In 1489 Henry VII. added 48 burgesses to the council for certain purposes, and made it a close body; he granted another charter in 1505. In 1589 Elizabeth incorporated the town, and gave another charter in 1599. James I. granted charters in 16o5 and 161o; and Charles I. in 163o. In 1684 the charterswere surrendered; a new one granted by James II. was rescinded by proclamation in 1688. Leicester has been represented in parliament by two members since 1295. It has had a prescriptive market since the 13th century, now held on Wednesday and Saturday. Before 1228-1229 the burgesses had a fair from July 31 to August 14; changes were made in its date, which was fixed in 1360 at September 26 to October 2. It is now held on the second Thursday in October and three following days. In 1473 another fair was granted on April 27 to May 4. It is now held on the second Thursday in May and the three following days. Henry VIII. granted two three-day fairs beginning on December 8 and June 26; the first is now held on the second Friday in December; the second was held in 1888 on the last Tuesday in June. In 1307 Edward III. granted a fair for seventeen days after the feast of the Holy Trinity. This would fall in May or June, and may have merged in other fairs. In 1794 the corporation sanctioned fairs on January 4, June 1, August 1, September 13 and November 2. Other fairs are now held on the second Fridays in March and July and the Saturdays next before Easter and in Easter week. Leicester has been a centre for brewing and the manufacture of woollen goods since the 13th century. Knitting frames for hosiery were introduced about 1680. Boot manufacture became important in the 19th century. See Victoria County History, Leicester; M. Bateson, Records of Borough of Leicester (Cambridge, 1899).
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