Leicestershire

Status: Active, 5 volumes published

Research and writing are now underway, to add more Leicestershire parish histories to the VCH.

You can keep up to date with progress by following us on Twitter @LEICSVCHT or Facebook.

Leicestershire has a rich, but little known history. You’ve probably heard that Richard III was buried here, but how much more do you know?

Beautiful East Leicestershire

The county is bisected by the M1 motorway. To the east, you will find attractive rolling countryside, green fields and small unspoilt villages. Sheep populate the farmland on the southern villages, where the ‘corrugated’ ridge and furrow preserved under the pasture tells us this was once arable land. Sheep give way to cattle around Melton Mowbray, an area famous for the production of Stilton cheese and pork pies. How many other small market towns in England are famous for two such tasty products? The ‘Ploughing-up’ campaign of the Second World War affected Leicestershire more than any other county, and many of the villages in the north-east of the county have subsequently remained largely arable areas. There is stone beneath these soils, and many of the villages are built in an attractive ironstone, or ‘Lincolnshire’ limestone from just across the county boundary.

 

Fascinating West Leicestershire

To the west is Bosworth Field, the scene of that fateful battle in 1485. This part of the county contains the sites of several monastic houses and granges. The manor house at Donington-le-Heath dates from c.1280 and is among the oldest domestic dwellings to survive in England; it is owned by Leicestershire County Council and open to the public to visit.  Later centuries brought industry – framework knitting, shoemaking and coalmining. There are monastic ruins at Ulverscroft and Grace Dieu and well-preserved and presented former industrial sites at Swannington, including bell-pits, where coal was dug, and the foundations and layout of the former engine house which hauled coal from the mines to the Leicester-Swannington railway. This was one of the earliest railways in the world, and opened in 1832, delivering cheap coal from the Leicestershire coalfields to the town of Leicester. Large Georgian farm houses in many villages reveal that the economy was not solely reliant on industry, while the many surviving timber-framed cottages record the county’s vernacular building traditions.

 

Diverse Central Leicestershire

The M1 passes through Charnwood Forest, a unique landscape and the source of timber for many of those cottages. This is an area of hard rock, much prized today for road foundations, and slate, which provided many beautiful 18th-century carved gravestones which can be found in churchyards across the county and beyond. Near the centre is Bradgate Park, a public open space which preserves much of the natural landscape of outcropping rock and heather, with ancient pollarded oaks and the ruins of the home of Lady Jane Grey.

The city of Leicester is one of the most diverse in the country, where different races and religions live and work together in harmony. The Jewry Wall is one of the tallest surviving Roman structures in the country. Built in about 160AD, it formed the entrance to the Roman Baths. The Great Hall of the castle, built in c.1150. Its neighbour, the church of St Mary de Castro church, was founded in 1107 and its chancel has been described by Pevsner as ‘a showpiece of Late Norman sumptuousness’. Many of Leicester’s later buildings are also attractive, and the curious can count the number of wyverns which appear as architectural features on Victorian buildings. The wyvern (a two-legged dragon) featured on the seal of Thomas, earl of Lancaster and Leicester (1278-1322).         

 

Making Leicestershire’s History Available to Everyone

Leicestershire Victoria County History Trust believes Leicestershire’s rich history and heritage is important and deserves to be more widely known by residents and others. Only two topographical volumes have been published in the Victoria County History series, and the histories of around 300 town and village histories have yet to be researched and published by the VCH. Our aim is to complete the series. Even following us on Twitter or Facebook, and sharing our posts can help, by increasing awareness of our project and our aim.

 

You can help us turn our vision into reality through a donation to Leicestershire Victoria County History Trust (registered charity no. 1128575). This will help us to cover the cost of travel to the National Archives and other distant record offices, and to provide training and support to our volunteer researchers. We have a Friends scheme, where your annual donation can be boosted by Gift Aid, and a 200 Club, which gives you a chance to win a cash prize in our quarterly draws.

 

For further details or to make a donation, please contact The Secretary, Leicestershire Victoria County History Trust, Marc Fitch Historical Institute, 5 Salisbury Road, Leicester, LE1 7QR, email leicsvch@le.ac.uk or complete and return the form on the 'Support' section of this website.

 

Publications

Leicestershire Vol I
William Page
Jan 1907
Leicestershire Vol II
W.G. Hoskins
Jan 1954
Leicestershire Vol III
W. G. Hoskins and R.A. McKinley
Jan 1955
Leicestershire Vol IV
R. A. McKinley
Jan 1958
Leicestershire Vol V
J. M. Lee and R. A. McKinley
Jan 1964

News and events

Leicestershire 200 Club draw
Festival of Archaeology
Leicestershire VCH Trust has just published the first book in the...
An exhibition, Tensions and Turbulence: Castle Donington 1300-1600, is...
Launch of our History of Castle Donington
Leicestershire 200 Club Winners
Leicestershire VCH Trust thanked donors, volunteers and other supporters on 19...
Leicestershire VCH Trust's 2016 Newsletter is now available to download....

Work in progress

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