Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for LEICESTERSHIRE, or LEICESTER

LEICESTERSHIRE, or LEICESTER, an inland county, nearly in the centre of England, but a little to the E. It is bounded, on the N, by Derbyshire and Notts; on the E, by Lincolnshire and Rutlandshire; on the S, by Northamptonshire and Warwickshire; on the W, by Warwickshire, Staffordshire, and Derbyshire. Its outline is irregularly pentagonal; and has been said to resemble the outline of a heart, recessed in the middle of the N, and contracting to an angle at the middle of the S. Its boundary, in various parts, is traced by short reaches of the rivers Trent, Soar, Anker, Welland, and Avon; and along 18¾ miles of the contact with Warwickshire, is formed by Watling-street. Its greatest length, from NE by N to SW by S, is 45 miles; its greatest breadth is about 40 miles; its circuit is about 165 miles; and its area is 514,164 acres. Its surface is hilly; consists chiefly of spurs or offshoots of the backbone of England, with intervening basins or vales; and may, in a general sense, be denominated table-land. Bardon hill, in Charnwood forest, is the highest elevation, and has an altitude of 853 feet above sea-level. Beacon and other hills in Charnwood forest, Belvoir Castle, Blackberry hill, and Stathern hill, to the NE, -Breedon hill, Cloud hill, and Castle Donington toward the NW, Burrow hill, Whadborough hill, Billesdon-Coplow, and Quenby hill, to the E,-Saddington and Gumbly, to the S, -and Croft hill, Hinckley, Higham, and Orton-on-the-Hill, toward the W,-are other chief eminences; and some of the hills, very particularly Bardon hill, command very extensive and very beautiful views. The valley of the Wreak, the valley of the Soar, and the vale of Belvoir abound in charming scenery. The chief rivers are the Trent, the Soar, the Swift, the Welland, the Avon, the Wreak, and the Anker; and minor streams are the Devon, the Eye, the South Eye, the Mease, the Sence, and the Smite. Igneous rocks form dispersed intrusions throughout a considerable part of the NW; greywacke or Cambrian rocks, much beset by the eruptive intrusions, form a tract in the E of Charnwood forest; rocks of the coal measures form an important tract around Ashby-de-la-Zouch; rocks of new red or Bunter sandstone form one small tract near the middle of the coal-field, and another to the N W of it; rocks of a higher part of the same class, chiefly kemper marl and sandstone, form nearly all the W half of the county; rocks of the lias formation, comprising sand, upper lias clay, marlstone, and lower Lias-clay and lime, form most of the E half of the county, separated from the new red sandstone nearly by a line drawn up the course of the Soar to a point 4 miles above Leicester, and thence south-south-westward to the S boundary; and rocks of lower. oolite, including cornbrash, forest marble, Bradford clay, Bath oolite, fullers, earth, and inferior oolite, form a tract in the extreme NE, from Stathern and Saxby, to the boundary. Hard stone, greywacke-slate, and building-stone are quarried; limestone and lias are worked,-the latter partly forcement; coal is mined; and gypsum, potter's clay, ironstone, and lead ore are found. The number of collieries at work in 1861, was 14; and the output of coal, in 1859, jointly with Notts and Derbyshire, was 5,050,000 tons. Mineral springs occur in varions parts; and those of the Moira and Ivanhoe baths at Ashby-de-la-Zouch are the most esteemed.

About 480,000 acres are under cultivation, as arable land, meadow land, or otherwise; and most of the rest of the area is disposed in sheep-walk. The soils are principally of three kinds, clay-loam, sandy or gravelly loam, and peat-earth or alluvinm; and those of the clayloam kind, mostly strong and stiff, are the most extensive. The peat bogs were long ago drained, and have become peaty or meadowy soil; and there are no chalk soils, and none which can be properly called clay or sand. The estates, generally, are large; and the farms vary from 50 to 500 acres. The chief crops are wheat, barley, oats, beans, turnips, and varions grasses. Barley has, in a considerable degree, superseded wheat; and beans were formerly raised in much greater abundance than now. Much of the land is disposed in grazing; and cheese, of two good kinds, the one in flattish cheeses of from 30 to 50 lbs., the other of the kind known as Stilton, is largely made. One cow commonly yields from 3½ to 4½ cwt. of the flattish cheeses in a season. Sheep of the Old Leicester, the Forest, and the New Leicester or Dishly breeds, amount to about 40,000, and yield about 10,000 packs of wool. The long-horned breed of cattle, as improved by Bakewell, has passed considerably into disfavour; and the old short-horned breed is now preferred. Good horses, for hunting, are reared; and mules and asses, for farm labour, are much used. Hogs, of a superior breed, are extensively fed. Fox-hunting is keenly pursued, and draws many visitors to the county. Melton-Mowbray and Market-Harborough are the headquarters of the sportsmen; and the Quorn and Billesdon hunts are the greatest, and bave large establishments. Wool-combing, woollen-yarn-spinning, hose-making, and framework-knitting, are largely carried ou. Elastic web-weaving, silk manufacture, lace-making, shoe-making, and agricultural implement-making, also are promment. Manufactures of other kinds, likewise, have recently been iNtroduced. The Trent navigation, the Union canal, the Grand Union canal, and the Ashby-de-la-Zouch canal, together with the junctions which they form with other navigations, give water-conveyance to. most parts of England. The Midland Counties railway goes windingly through the centre of the county, from N to S; and forms one important knot of junctions immediately beyond the N boundary, and another a short distance beyond the S boundary. A line of railway, coming from the S knot of junctions in the neighbourhood of Rugby, runs near all the SE border, partly within Northamptonshire, but chiefly within Leicestershire toward Stamford. A line, coming northward from Hitchin and joined at the boundary by another line from Northampton, crosses the former in the vicinity of Market-Harborough, and goes north-westward into junction with the Midland Counties, 3 ½ miles S of Leicester. A line deflects from the Midland Counties at Syston, and goes in an easterly direction, past Melton-Mowbray, toward Oakham and Peterborough. Another line deflects from the Midland Counties near the junction with it of the line from Hitchin; and goes west-sonth-westward, past Hinckley, toward a junction with the Trent Valley line at Nuneaton. A branch line deflects from the Midland Counties in the southern vicinity of Leicester, and goes 5¾ miles west-north-westward to the vicinity of Desford. And another line goes from Leicester westward and northwestward, past a junction with the previous branch near Desford, and past Swannington and Ashbyde-la-Zouch, toward a junction with the North Staffordshire at Burton-upon-Trent. The turnpike roads extend aggregately to about 300 miles; and the cross-roads, to about 1,400 miles.

Leicestershire contains 207 parishes, parts of 7 other parishes, and 26 extra-parochial places; and is divided into the borough of Leicester, and the hundreds of East Goscote, West Goscote, Framland, Gartrees, Guthlaxton, and Sparkenhoe. The registration county gives off 6 parishes and an extra-parochial place to Warwickshire, 9 parishes and a liberty to Rutlandshire, 4 parishes, part of another parish, and an extra-parochial place to Derbyshire, 5 parishes, part of another parish, and an extra-parochial place to Lincolnshire, and 2 parishes to Nottinghamshire; takes in 18 parishes, part of another parish, and an extra-parochial place from Northamptonshire, 3 parishes and parts of 3 others from Warwickshire, 12 parishes from Nottinghamshire, and 7 parishes, parts of 4 other parishes, and an extra-parochial place from Derbyshire; comprises altogether 531,556 acres; and is divided into the districts of Lutterworth, MarketHarborough, Billesdon, Blaby, Hinckley, Market-Bosworth, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Loughborough, Barrow-upon-Soar, Leicester, and Melton-Mowbray. The county town is Leicester; the other towns with upwards of 2,000 inhabitants, are Loughborough, Hinckley, MeltonMowbray, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Market-Harborough, Castle-Donington, and Lutterworth; and there are about 560 smaller towns, villages, and hamlets. The chief seats are Belvoir-Castle, Donington Park, Stapleford Hall, Staunton-Harold Hall, Bradgate Hall, Gopsall Park, Buckminster Hall, Burton Hall, Egerton Lodge, Gumley Hall, Keythorpe Hall, Kirkby Hall, Knipton Lodge, Lubenham Hall, Hallaton Manor House, Newport Lodge, Swithland Hall, Wheeler Lodge, Bosworth Park, Coleorton Hall, the Elms, Lowesby Hall, Noseley Hall, Roecliffe Hall, Wanlip Hall, Wistow Hall, Allexton Hall, Asfordby House, Aylestone Hall, Baggrave Hall, Barkby Hall, Bean Manor Park, Belgrave House, Birstall Hall, Bitteswell Hall, Blaby Hall, Bosworth Hall, Braunstone House, Breedon Lodge, Burbage House, Carlton-Curlieu Hall, Catthorpe Hall, Catthorpe Lodge, Charley Hall, Claybrooke Hall, Cliffe House, Cold Overton Hall, the Coplow, Craven Lodge, Croft Hall, Dalby Hall, Edmondthorpe Hall, Enderby Hall, Evington Hall, Four Elms Lodge, Frith House, Gaddesby Hall, Garendon Park, Goadby Hall, Grace Dieu Manor, Grangewood House, Great Stretton Hall, Hallaton Hall, Heather Hall, Highcroft House, Hill House, Holt Hall, Kibworth-Harcourt Hall, Knossington, Langley Priory, Launde Abbey, Leesthorpe Hall, Lindley Hall, Little Peatling Hall, Lockington Hall, Loddington Hall, Newton-Harcourt House-house, Glen-Parva Manor-house, Melton-Mowbray Lodge, Misterton Hall, Nether Seal Hall, Nether Seal Old Hall, Normanton Hall, Norris-Hill Hall, North Kilworth House, Orton Hall, Osbaston Hall, Quenby Hall, Quorndon Hall, Quorndon House, Ragdale Hall, Ratcliffe Hall, Raveustone Hall, Ravenstone House, Rolleston Hall, Rotherwood House, Rothley Temple, Scraptoft Hall, Sheepy Hall, Shelbrook House, Shenton Hall, Shrubbery House, Skeffington Hall, Sketchley Hall, Snarestone Lodge, Somerby Grove, Somerby Hall, Southfield House, Stanford Hall, Stockerston Hall, Stoughton Grange, Sysonby Lodge, Wartnaby Hall, West Langton Hall, Whatton House, Wigston Hall, and Withcot Hall.

The county is governed by a lord lieutenant, about 20 deputy lieutenants, and about 230 magistrates; is in the NE military district, and in the Midland judicial circuit; and constitutes an archdeaconry in the diocese of Peterborough. The assizes and the quarter sessions are held at Leicester. The county jail and a borough jail are at Leicester. The police force, in 1864, exclusive of that for Leicester borough, comprised 98 men, at an annual cost of £8,397. The crimes committed in the year ending 29 Sept. 1864, exclusive of those in Leicester borough, were 149; the persons apprehended 141; the depredators and suspected persons at large, 711; the houses of bad character, 53. Two members are sent to parliament by Leicester borough; two by the N division of the county; and two by the S division. Loughborough and Leicester are the places of election for the two divisions; and there are 8 polling-places in each division. Electors of the N division, in 1865,4,767,- of whom 3,390 were free-holders, 9 were copy-holders, and 1,190 were occupying tenants; of the S division, 6,283,-of whom 4,820 were free-holders, 118 were copy-holders, and 1,092 were occupying tenants. Poorrates for the registration county in 1863, £115,325. Marriages in 1863,2,029,-of which 473 were not according to the rites of the Established Church; births, 8,913,-of which 702 were illegitimate; deaths, 6,145, -of which 2,876 were at ages under 5 years, and 123 were at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60,19,232; births, 82,296; deaths, 52,513. The places of worship within the electoral county, in 1851, were 289 of the Church of England, with 82,964 sittings; 41 of Independents, with 11,988 s.; 10 of General Baptists, with 1,530 s.; 45 of New Connexion General Baptists, with 14,422 s.; 25 of Particular Baptists, with 7,349 s.; 5 of Baptists undefined, with 700 s.; 1 of Lady Huntingdon's Connexion, with 170 s.; 3 of Quakers, with 535 s.; 3 of Unitarians, with 1,270 s.; 129 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 21,739 s.; 1 of New Connexion Methodists, with 150 s.; 53 of Primitive Methodists, with 7,930 s.; 6 of the Wesleyan Association, with 1,350 s.; 1 of Independent Methodists, with 250 s.; 11 of Wesleyan Reformers, with 1,603 s.; 1 of the New Church, with 35 s.; 12 of isolated congregations, with 1,983 s.; 7 of Latter Day Saints, with 710 s.; and 12 of Roman Catholics, with 2,537 s. The schools were 278 public day schools, with 19,392 scholars; 431 private day schools, with 8,862 s.; 432 Sunday schools, with 36,282 s.; and 20 evening schools for adults, with 784 s. Real property, in 1815, £951,908; in 1843, £1,376,384; in 1860, £1,394,988, - of which £50,227 were in mines, £3,421 in quarries, £17 in ironworks, £73 in fisheries, £7,562 in canals, £1,580 in railways, and £6,777 in gas-works. Pop. in 1801, 130,082; in 1821,174,571; in 1841,215,867; in 1861, 237,412. Inhabited houses, 51,894; uninhabited, 2,673; building, 211.

The territory now forming Leicestershire was inhabited by the ancient British tribe Coritani; was included, by the Romans, in their province of Flavia Cæsariensis; formed part of the Saxon kingdom of Mercia; was held by the Danes, within the Danelagh or Dane-laga, from 874 till 942; was distributed, by William the Conqueror among his Norman followers; bore the name of Ledecestrescire at Domesday; suffered much disaster, by rebellion of its barons, in the times of Henry II., John, and Henry III.; was the scene of the first promulgation of the doctrines of Wickliffe; was the scene also of the meeting of the parliament which enacted death against the Wickliffites; and was the scene of the battle of Bosworthfield, and of varions conflicts between the royalists and the parliamentarians in the time of Charles I. The Romans had towns at Leicester, Vernometum, and Mancetter; they had settlements or strengths also at Narborough, Loughborough, Market-Harborough, Broughton-Astley, Queeniborough, Overcester, Whatborough, Wellesborough, Bramborough, Burrough, Nether-Broughton, Sharnford, Blackfordby, Acresford, Thornborough, Desford, Scalford, Swinford, Linford, Burbage, BurtonOvery, Burton-Lazars, Burton-on-the-Wolds, and Staunton-Harold; and they connected the most important of these places with one another, or with their stations in other counties, by the Fosse-way, the Via Devana, the Salt Way, and Watling-street. Tumuli or barrows are at Shipley, Gilmarton, Syston, Medbourn, and some place's on the hills. Roman camps are at Barrow, Ratby, Kibworth, Knaptoft, Hallaton, Lubbenham, and Dowbridge. Many castles were built by the Normans; but most of the earlier ones were destroyed in the times of Henry II., John, and Henry III.; and few have left any considerable vestiges. Abbeys were at Leicester, Croxton, Garendon, and Owston, and there were many priories. Ancient churches, of interesting character, are at Leicester, Lutterworth, Horning hold, Bottesford, and MeltonMowbray.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "an inland county"   (ADL Feature Type: "countries, 2nd order divisions")
Administrative units: Leicestershire AncC
Place: Leicestershire

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