A Topographical Dictionary of England. Originally published by S Lewis, London, 1848.
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Leek (St. Edward the Confessor)
LEEK (St. Edward the Confessor), a markettown and parish, and the head of a union, partly in the S. division, but chiefly in the N. division, of the hundred of Totmonslow, N. division of the county of Stafford; comprising the townships of Bradnop, Endon, Heaton, Leek, Leek-Frith, Longsdon, Onecote, Rudyard, Rushton-James, Rushton-Spencer, Stanley, and Tittisworth; the whole containing 11,576 inhabitants, of whom 7071 are in the town, 23 miles (N. N. E.) from Stafford, and 154 (N. W. by N.) from London. This place, which is of great antiquity, and has been styled "The Metropolis of the Moorlands," subsequently to the Conquest became the property of the earls of Chester, one of whom obtained for it the grant of a market from King John; it was eventually given to the monks of the abbey Dieu la Croix, in the parish. In 1745, the troops of the Pretender marched through it on December 3rd, in their advance to Derby, and returned on the 7th of the same month. The town is pleasantly situated on an eminence, on the road from London to Manchester: the streets are spacious, well paved, and lighted with gas; and the inhabitants are supplied with water by means of pipes from the springs on Leek Moor. The curious phenomenon of a double sunset occurs here at a certain time of the year, owing to the relative position of a rocky mountain westward from the town.
The principal business is the silk manufacture, which has long been in a flourishing state, and of late years several very extensive mills have been erected for twisting, throwing, and weaving the silk. The articles for which the town is chiefly celebrated, are sewing-silks, twist, buttons, ribbons, ferrets, galloons, handkerchiefs, shawls, sarcenet, serges, velvet, and broad silk. A large quantity of buttons covered with worsted stuff are also manufactured, affording employment to many hundred women and children in the surrounding villages, who are engaged in sewing the cloth upon moulds. A considerable quantity of cheese is made in the neighbourhood; and there are valuable mines of lead and copper in the adjacent hills, some of which were worked before the year 1680. The Caldon branch of the Trent and Mersey canal passes within half a mile of the town, and near it runs the river Churnet. Along the beautiful vale of this river, passes the Churnet-Valley portion of the North Staffordshire railway, forming part of the direct line from Manchester to London. In 1806, the old market-cross, which stood at the foot of the marketplace, was taken down, and a town-hall erected on its site. Petty-sessions for the Northern division of the hundred are held at the Red Lion inn, on alternate Wednesdays. The market is on Wednesday; and there are fairs, chiefly for cattle, on the Wednesday before February 3rd, Easter-Wednesday, May 18th, WhitWednesday, July 3rd and 28th, and the Wednesday after October 10th: the principal cattle-fair is that on the 18th of May. The powers of the county debt-court of Leek, established in 1847, extend over nearly the whole of the registration-district of Leek and Longnor. Courts leet and baron are held by the lord of the manor, at which a constable is appointed.
The living is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £7. 9. 1½.; net income, £200; patron, the Earl of Macclesfield: the tithes were commuted for land in 1805. The church, a very ancient structure in the later English style, has a tower with eight pinnacles, and stands on an eminence which commands a very extensive prospect: in the interior are several neat mural monuments to the Daintry, Wedgwood, Jolliffe, Mills, and other families; and in the churchyard are the remains of a pyramidal cross, adorned with rude imagery and fret-work, supposed to be of Danish workmanship. A church district named St. Luke's, with a computed population of 3300, was endowed by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in June, 1845; and a church is now in course of erection, of which the estimated cost is £4795: it will be in the decorated style, and will consist of a nave, chancel, and aisles, with a tower at the west end. The living is in the gift of the Crown and the Bishop of Lichfield, alternately. At Endon, Meerbrook, Onecote, and Rushton, are other incumbencies. There are places of worship for the Society of Friends, Independents, Primitive Methodists, and Wesleyans; and a Roman Catholic chapel, adorned with some fine old paintings brought from a convent at Lisbon, by the nuns of Aston Hall, near Stone. A school was erected at the expense of the Earl of Macclesfield, in the beginning of the last century. Eight almshouses for single women or widows, not under 60 years of age, were endowed by Elizabeth Ash, in 1676, with a rent-charge of £40, and additional benefactions make the total income £78 per annum. Very munificent donations have been made from time to time in aid of the poor, now amounting to the annual sum of £290. The union of Leek comprises 19 parishes or places, and contains a population of 21,307. There are some remains of Dieu la Croix or Dieulacres Abbey, which was founded by Ranulph de Blundeville, Earl of Chester, in 1214, in honour of St. Mary and St. Benedict, for Cistercian monks, and was valued at the Dissolution at £243. 3. 6. per annum. The ruins have been dug up and used in erecting barns and stables; but the shafts of the chapel columns are left standing to the height of several feet: the exterior walls of the farm-buildings are decorated with many fragments of arches and capitals, and in one of them is a stone coffin with a crosier and sword carved upon it. Thomas Parker, first earl of Macclesfield, who became lord high chancellor, and president of the Royal Society, was born in 1666, at Leek, where his father practised as an attorney.
LEEK-FRITH, a township, in the parish and union of Leek, N. division of the hundred of Totmonslow and of the county of Stafford, 5 miles (N. by W.) from Leek; containing 926 inhabitants. This is an extensive township between two branches of the river Churnet, comprising within its limits many scattered houses, and the hamlets of Abbey-Green, Blackshaw-Moor, Meerbrook, Upper Hulme, Pool-End, and White's-Bridge. There are several considerable farms. At Meerbrook, which see, is a chapel.
Leek-Wootton.—See Wootton, Leek.
LEEMAILING, a township, in the parish and union of Bellingham, N. W. division of Tindale ward, S. division of Northumberland, 1 mile (W. N. W.) from Bellingham; containing 325 inhabitants. The township comprises 4274 acres, and is bounded on the north by the North Tyne river, which sweeps round two-thirds of it, high and rugged rocks skirting portions of the township in the opposite direction; the land is mostly heath and sheep-walks, but such parts as are in cultivation produce good crops. There are limestone and freestone quarries; iron-ore is found, and the remains of a furnace for smelting it, used in the reign of William III., are visible. Hesleyside, in the township, has been in the possession of the Charltons from the time of Richard II., who is recorded to have lent the sum of £100 to an ancestor of the family: the Hall is a handsome structure of white freestone, commanding a varied prospect embracing the picturesque scenery along the vale of the Tyne; attached is a neat Roman Catholic chapel. Lee Hall is beautifully situated near the river, which abounds with trout.
LEEMING, a chapelry, in the parish of Burneston, union of Bedale, wapentake of Hallikeld, N. riding of York, 2 miles (E. N. E.) from Bedale; containing, with the hamlets of Exelby and Newton, 682 inhabitants, of whom 347 are in Leeming. The chapelry comprises 2298a. 2r. 18p., of which 1295 acres are arable, 952 meadow and pasture, and 74 woodland and plantations; its surface is generally flat, and the scenery possesses few attractions, but the soil is fertile. The village, which is of ancient appearance, is situated on the great Roman road, here called Leeming-Lane, and now so little frequented that grass is growing on its surface; the river Swale bounds the township on one side. The chapel, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, was rebuilt by subscription, and consecrated by the Bishop of Ripon, in 1839; it is of brick, in the later English style, and has an east window embellished with stained glass. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Vicar of Burneston; net income, £100. The tithes have been commuted for £313. 16. and £138. 14., payable respectively to the impropriator and the vicar.
LEES, a hamlet, in the parish and union of Ashton-under-Lyne, hundred of Salford, S. division of the county of Lancaster, 8½ miles (N. E. by E.) from Manchester, and 2 (E. S. E.) from Oldham, on the road to Huddersfield. This place is in the northern portion of Knott-Lanes, and so situated as to be more connected, locally, with Oldham than Ashton-under-Lyne. A part of the village, which is of some extent, is in Oldham chapelry, and another portion in Saddleworth, Yorkshire; the houses have been for the most part built within the last eighty years, and now number about 600. The population is chiefly employed in the numerous factories in the immediate vicinity, the establishment of which has given importance to the place. A literary society was formed in 1840. Fairs are held in the spring and autumn. The living of Lees is a curacy, net income, £150; patron, the Rector of Ashton. The chapel, dedicated to St. John, is a neat edifice of stone, erected in 1742. An ecclesiastical parish, named St. Thomas, Leesfield, was formed in 1846, by the Ecclesiastical Commission, out of the parish of Ashton and the parochial chapelry of Oldham: the living is a perpetual curacy, in the alternate gift of the Crown and the Bishop of Manchester, with a net income of £150. The church cost £5000, and is a neat building with a square tower. There are several places of worship for dissenters. Near the village is a chalybeate spring, called Lea Spa.
LEESE, a township, partly in the parish of Sandbach, and partly in that of Middlewich, hundred of Northwich, S. division of the county of Chester, 2½ miles (N. E.) from Middlewich; containing 151 inhabitants, and comprising 588 acres, of a clayey soil. The impropriate tithes have been commuted for £43, and the vicarial for £28.
LEFTWICH, a township, in the parish of Davenham, union and hundred of Northwich, S. division of the county of Chester, 1 mile (S.) from Northwich; containing 2001 inhabitants. It comprises 883 acres, the soil of which is loam and sand. The manor was for several generations the property of the family of Leftwich, until, early in the seventeenth century, an heiress conveyed it to the Oldfields, who sold the estate about 1736.
Legbourn (All Saints)
LEGBOURN (All Saints), a parish, in the union of Louth, Marsh division of the hundred of Calceworth, parts of Lindsey, county of Lincoln, 3 miles (S. E. by E.) from Louth; containing 461 inhabitants. The parish comprises 3500 acres, of which about 100 are woodland, and the remainder arable and pasture in equal portions: the surface is level; the soil chiefly clay, producing good wheat and beans; and the scenery of pleasing character. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the gift of the Powley family; net income, £84; impropriator, H. R. Allenby, Esq., of Kenwick House: the tithes were commuted for land and annual money payments in 1780, when 167 acres were assigned in lieu of the small tithes. The church is an ancient and handsome structure in the early English style, consisting of a nave, chancel, and aisles, with a tower. There are places of worship for Wesleyans and Primitive Methodists. A priory of Cistercian nuns, in honour of the Virgin Mary, was founded here before the reign of John, by Robert Fitz-Gilbert: at the Dissolution its revenue was £57. 13. 5., and the site, now occupied by a mansion, was granted to Sir Thomas Heneage.
LEGH, HIGH, a township, in the parish of Rostherne, union of Altrincham, hundred of Bucklow, N. division of the county of Chester, 6½ miles (E. S. E.) from Warrington; containing 982 inhabitants. The township comprises by measurement 4170 acres, of which 1000 are arable, 3030 meadow and pasture, and 140 woodland. There are two chapels very near each other: one, which is in the grounds of G. Cornwall Legh, Esq., and is a donative in the presentation of that gentleman, was built in 1581, though some part of it is of an earlier date; and the other was erected by the late Egerton Leigh, Esq., and is a perpetual curacy; net income, £160; patron, E. Leigh, Esq.
Legsby (St. Thomas the Apostle)
LEGSBY (St. Thomas the Apostle), a parish, in the union of Caistor, W. division of the wapentake of Wraggoe, parts of Lindsey, county of Lincoln, 3½ miles (S. E.) from Market-Rasen; containing 326 inhabitants. The parish comprises 2861a. 2r. 21p., inclusive of the hamlets of Collow and Bleasby. The village, which is small, is situated on the acclivity of a picturesque valley. The living is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £6. 4. 2.; net income, £104; patron and impropriator, Sir J. Nelthorpe. The church is an ancient thatched building, without tower or steeple. Sir J. Nelthorpe, in 1669, bequeathed the tithes of hay at Bleasby, now under composition for £15, to the incumbent, for an afternoon sermon on every Sunday; and a moiety of his endowment of the school at Glandford-Brigg is appropriated to the poor of this parish, jointly with the poor of Fullsby. There is a place of worship for Wesleyan-Methodists.
LEICESTER, a borough and market-town, having separate jurisdiction, and the head of a union, in the S. division of the county of Leicester, of which it is the chief town, 97 miles (N. N. W.) from London; containing 48,167 inhabitants. Leicester, which had flourished from remote antiquity as the principal town of the Coritani, was, upon the Conquest of Britain by the Romans, made one of their stipendiary cities; and is clearly identified with the Ratæ of Antoninus, and the Ratiscorion of Richard of Cirencester. That it was a Roman station of considerable importance is evident from the remains of a temple, supposed to have been dedicated to Janus, and from numerous tessellated pavements and other relics of Roman antiquity which have been discovered in the vicinity: one of these relics, found in the year 1830, is a fragment of pavement 20 feet in length, and 17 in breadth, divided into octagonal compartments of great variety, ornamented with wreaths, and formed of tesseræ of exceedingly small dimensions, worked into a regular pattern. By the Saxons the place was, from its situation on the river Lear, now the Soar, called Legerceastre, of which its present name is simply a contraction. Under the heptarchy it belonged to the kingdom of Mercia, and was for about two centuries the head of a see, afterwards removed to Dorchester, and finally to Lincoln. In 874, the Danes, having overrun this part of the kingdom, seized upon Leicester, which they constituted one of the five great cities of their empire in Britain, and retained till Ethelfleda, daughter of Alfred, and widow of Ethelred, Duke of Mercia (who, upon her husband's death, continued to govern the province), rescued it from their possession, after a successful encounter, in which the Danes were defeated with considerable slaughter.
At the time of the Norman Conquest, the castle, which had been nearly destroyed in the Danish wars, was rebuilt, and entrusted to Hugo de Grentemaisnel, on whom William bestowed the greater part of the town; but in the disputed succession to the throne after the death of the king, Hugo embracing the cause of Robert, Duke of Normandy, in opposition to William Rufus, the castle was demolished by the partisans of the latter, and remained for some time in ruins. In the reign of Henry I., Robert de Mellent, being created Earl of Leicester, repaired, enlarged, and fortified the castle, which he made his baronial residence; but his son Robert le Bossu, and grandson Robert Blanchmains, having taken part in the rebellious cabals formed against Henry II., Leicester was besieged by Richard de Lucy, and fell into the hands of the king. The royal forces set fire to the town in several places, razed the walls, and destroyed the fortifications; and, having ultimately reduced the castle, which held out for a considerable time, demolished it entirely. Blanchmains was afterwards taken prisoner at the battle of Fornham, but regained his liberty and the favour of his sovereign. His father, Robert le Bossu, founded the monastery of St. Mary de Pratis, near the town; in which, having assumed the habit of a monk, he spent the remainder of his life. A royal mint which was established at Leicester in the reign of Athelstan, and situated near the North bridge, was maintained till the commencement of this reign.
In the reign of King John, Robert Fitz-Parnel, Earl of Leicester, obtained from that monarch a charter of incorporation and many privileges, which were extended and confirmed by Henry III., at the solicitation of Simon de Montfort, then Earl of Leicester, who, rebelling against his sovereign, and engaging in the baronial wars of that reign, was slain at the battle of Evesham. Upon the death of Montfort, Henry III. conferred the earldom of Leicester on his second son, Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, whose grandson, Henry, made this place his principal residence; under him and his two immediate successors the castle was restored to its former strength and magnificence, and after the accession of the house of Lancaster to the throne, Leicester was frequently visited by the sovereigns of that family. A parliament was held here by Henry V.; and another by the Dukes of Bedford and Gloucester, during the minority of Henry VI. In the conflict between the houses of York and Lancaster, the castle is supposed to have suffered severely; and in the reign of Richard III. it had become so dilapidated, that when that monarch was at Leicester, a few evenings prior to the battle of Bosworth-Field, he preferred to sleep at an inn. During the parliamentary war the town was much impaired; it was taken by storm by the royal army in May, 1645, but was retaken by the republican forces under Fairfax, in June following, prior to which, orders had been issued by Charles I. to pull down what remained of the castle, and to dispose of the materials. The remains are intermixed with the various buildings that have been erected on or near the site; the most conspicuous and complete portion of them is a beautiful arched gateway tower, called the magazine, from its having been purchased by the county as a depôt for the ammunition of the trained bands, in 1682.
The town is pleasantly situated nearly in the centre of the county, and on the banks of the river Soar, over which are four bridges, named respectively North, West, Branston, and Bow bridges; the first a handsome structure erected in 1796, the others ancient buildings lately repaired. The principal thoroughfare, extending from south to north, is upwards of a mile in length, and there are many other spacious streets: the houses, which, within the last half century, have been much improved, are chiefly built of brick and roofed with slate; the town is paved, lighted with gas, and well supplied with water. A promenade, called the New Walk, which extends nearly three-quarters of a mile in length, in a south-eastern direction, was formed about the year 1785; the ground was given by the corporation, and laid out by subscription: it affords, in many parts, pleasing views of the town, and of the hills of Charnwood Forest, which abound with beautiful scenery. In the environs several handsome villas have been recently erected. The town library, established by the corporation in 1632, consists chiefly of theological works. The public rooms, in Wellington-street, comprise a hall, a room used as a mechanics' institute, a newsroom, and other apartments. A new theatre was erected in 1837; and assemblies are held during the winter, in a suite of rooms in a building originally erected for an hotel, and purchased by the county for the accommodation of the judges of the assize, and for the meetings of the county magistrates: the ball-room is elegantly painted by Reinagle, and lighted on assembly nights by eight splendid lustres, and branches held by statues, after designs by Bacon. A very handsome edifice was erected in Belvoir-street in 1837, as a general newsroom and library, at an expense of about £6000, from the designs of Mr. Flint; it contains a gallery for the library, and committee-rooms, and apartments for the librarian. The Literary and Philosophical Society was instituted in 1835, the Atheneum in 1845, and the Mechanics' Institute in 1833. Races are held in September, on the south-east side of Leicester, where a grand stand has been erected, and every means adopted for the improvement of the course; and on the north-east side of the town is an extensive inclosed cricket-ground. An agricultural society holds its meetings in October.
The staple manufacture, that of worsted and cotton hosiery, has been established for more than two centuries; the number of frames in the town and county is about 14,000, and the number of persons employed in the frame-work knitting, worsted-spinning, wool-combing, and dyeing, about 30,000. In addition to those engaged in the manufacture of hose, of which a great quantity is exported, there are manufacturers of lace, cotton, thread, ropes and twine, stocking-frames, needles, and pipes, and several woolstaplers; the trade in thread and cotton gloves also employs a large number of hands; and shawls, a new article of manufacture in the town, are now made in great variety. In 1791 an act of parliament was obtained for opening a communication with the Loughborough canal, and through that with the various lines of navigation connected with the Trent, the effect of which was to introduce the coal of Derbyshire by the cheaper conveyance of water carriage. The Leicester and Swannington Railway, principally for the conveyance of coal, granite, and paving-stones from the collieries and quarries near Ashby-de-la-Zouch to Leicester, whence they are sent to London and other places, and also for a few passengers, was commenced under an act of parliament in 1830, empowering the company to raise a joint-stock capital of £140,000, and £35,000 by loan; the line was completed at an expense of £175,000, and was opened to the public in July, 1832. The most important means of communication, however, is the Midland railway, which has a large station here. An act was passed in 1846 for a railway from Wigston Magna, near Leicester, to Nuneaton; and in the same year another act for a branch at Leicester, 2¾ miles long, of the Swannington railway. The market, which is on Saturday, is principally celebrated for the quality of the butcher's meat: the fairs principally for horses, cattle, sheep, and cheese, are on Jan. 4th, March 2nd, the Saturday before Easter, May 12th (which lasts for three days), June 1st, July 5th, Aug. 1st, Sept. 13th, Oct. 10th (for three days), November 2nd, and December 8th.
Leicester is a borough by prescription. King John, in the first year of his reign, granted a charter, which was extended by succeeding sovereigns, and renewed, with all former privileges and immunities, in the 41st of Elizabeth; the government being vested in a mayor, 24 aldermen, and 48 common-councilmen, assisted by a recorder, town-clerk, high bailiff, steward, chamberlain, and subordinate officers. The corporation, by the act of the 5th and 6th of William IV., cap. 76, now consists of a mayor, 14 aldermen, and 42 councillors; the borough, divided into seven wards, comprises 2126 acres, the municipal and parliamentary boundaries being co-extensive, and the number of magistrates is 24. The freedom is acquired by servitude, and inherited by all the sons of a freeman born after the father has taken up or been admitted to his freedom: among the privileges are, exemption from toll in all the fairs of England, and the liberty of pasturing cattle in certain grounds near the town. The present seal of the corporation bears the inscription, "Seal of the Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses of Leicester, 1836." The elective franchise was first exercised in the 23rd of Edward I., since which time the borough has returned two members to parliament; the mayor is returning officer. The recorder holds quarterly courts of session for offences not capital; and a court of record, for the recovery of debts to any amount, was formerly held by prescription, confirmed by charters of Elizabeth and James I.: there are petty-sessions every Monday and Friday; and one of the magistrates attends at the guildhall every morning for hearing night cases. This being the county town, the assizes and general quarter-sessions are held in it; and it is also the place of election for the southern division of the county. The powers of the county debt-court of Leicester, established in 1847, extend over the registration-districts of Blaby and Leicester, and part of those of Barrow and Billesden.
The Guildhall is a building of rude character, of which the hall is embellished with a portrait of Sir Thomas White, lord mayor of London, and founder of St. John's College, Oxford, and the portraits of several other benefactors to the town. The County rooms, appropriated as the judges' lodgings, and to the weekly meetings of the county magistrates, were originally built by subscription as an hotel, and were purchased in 1819, under an act of parliament, for the use of the county. The Courthouse, for holding the assizes and quarter-sessions for the county, was the great hall of the ancient castle. The Borough gaol, nearly in the centre of the town, was originally the gaol for the county, but, on the erection of a new county gaol, was purchased by the town magistrates, who made considerable alterations and improvements. The County gaol, situated on a commanding eminence near the entrance to the town from Welford, was erected in 1828, at an expense of £50,000, and was greatly altered and enlarged in 1846, at an expense of about £25,000; the county house of correction was built about thirty years since.
The old borough, which comprised 325 acres, consisted of the parishes of All Saints, containing 4608 inhabitants; St. Leonard, 466; St. Martin, 2889; and St. Nicholas, 1501; and part of the parishes of St. Margaret and St. Mary, the former wholly containing 31,249, and the latter 8406 inhabitants. The living of All Saints' is a discharged vicarage, with the vicarages of St. Clement's, St. Michael's, and St. Peter's, the churches of which are demolished, and of which St. Clement's and St. Michael's are not in charge; it is valued in the king's books at £6. 13. 5., and in the patronage of the Crown, and the net income is £126. The church is an ancient structure, combining various styles, with a tower on the north side of the north aisle. The chancel is modern, but in various parts of the church are fine old portions intermixed with later insertions; the interior contains a font of curious device, and some carving in wood: the edifice was repewed in 1843, at a cost of £400. The living of St. Leonard's is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £23. 8. 6½.; net income, £50. The church was demolished during the parliamentary war. The living of St. Margaret's is a vicarage, with the chapelry of Knighton; net income, £440; patron, the Prebendary of St. Margaret's in the Cathedral of Lincoln. The church is a beautiful structure, combining portions in the early, decorated, and later English styles, with a tower; it contains some wooden stalls and seats richly carved, and among the monuments is an alabaster tomb of Bishop Penny, who before his elevation to the prelacy was abbot of the neighbouring monastery of St. Mary de Pratis, from which the monument was removed at the period of the Dissolution. In the churchyard is the tomb of Andrew, Lord Rollo, decorated with military trophies. The living of St. Martin's is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £6. 13. 4., and in the patronage of the Crown; net income, £140. The church is a venerable cruciform structure, in the AngloNorman, early English, and later styles, with a tower rising from the centre, supported on four semicircular arches; the lower part of the tower is in the Norman style, and it is surmounted by a spire of later date. The interior was despoiled of its ornaments by the parliamentary troops, who converted it into barracks during their occupation of the town, but it has been restored with due regard to its ancient character; the chancel is decorated with three stone stalls under the south-east window, and the church has a noble organ, built by Snetzler, and a fine painting of the Ascension, by Francesco Vanni, presented by Sir William Skeffington, Bart. The living of St. Mary's is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £8, and in the patronage of the Crown; net income, £221. The church is an ancient structure, combining almost every variety of style, from, perhaps, the Saxon to the latest English: the tower, which is surmounted by a lofty spire, is at the west end of the south aisle, and detached from it; the spire was erected in 1783, at the expense of £300, in the place of one destroyed by lightning. On the south side of the old chancel are three fine Norman stalls, with double shafts and enriched mouldings; and on the south side of the Hungerford chantry, or present chancel, are three early English stalls, highly ornamented. The font is of curious and beautiful design; and the oak roofs, which are exquisitely carved, are in good preservation. This church was restored in 1846. The living of St. Nicholas' is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £3. 11. 3., and in the patronage of the Crown; net income, £150. The church is in the early Norman style, with a tower between the nave and the chancel, and is said to have been partly built with the materials of a Roman temple, of which a considerable fragment still remains in a wall adjoining the churchyard.
St. George's church, in the parish of St. Margaret, and to which a district containing a population of 14,000 has been assigned, was erected by the Parliamentary Commissioners, at a cost of £18,000, from the designs of Mr. Parsons. It is a handsome edifice in the later English style, with a tower surmounted by a spire, the view of which from one of the principal streets has been obstructed by the injudicious erection of a schoolroom in the churchyard. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the gift of the Vicar of St. Margaret's; net income, from pew-rents, £250. Trinity church, in the parish of St. Mary, was erected and endowed by Thomas Frewen, Esq., in 1838, and is from a design by Mr. Sydney Smirke. In its external appearance there is an absence of architectural taste, but utility and not ornament was the object proposed in the building of the edifice; it contains 1040 sittings, one-third of which are free. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the hands of the Frewen family. Christ Church, in St. Margaret's parish, is a handsome edifice, built entirely by subscription, at a cost of £7000, and consecrated in July, 1839: a district with a population of 7000, has been assigned to it, which, for all ecclesiastical purposes, is a distinct parish: the living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of Trustees. There are places of worship in the town for Baptists, the Society of Friends, Huntingtonians, Independents, Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, and Unitarians; and a Roman Catholic chapel, a good edifice in the early English style.
The Free Grammar school was founded by Thomas Wigston, and was refounded, and a new school-house erected by the corporation, in 1575. There are two exhibitions of £6 per annum to Lincoln College, Oxford, established by Mr. Thomas Hayne, for boys of the school; an annuity of £4 to be paid to two poor boys so long as they continue in the school; and an exhibition of £6 per annum to Oxford or Cambridge, tenable for five years, founded by Henry, Earl of Huntingdon. Two proprietary schools, one called the Collegiate school, and the other the Proprietary school, have been erected by subscription; the Collegiate, in the English style, is supported by members of the Established Church, and the Proprietary, of the Tuscan order, with a very fine portico, belongs to dissenters. The Green-coat charity school was founded by Gabriel Newton, alderman, and was rebuilt in 1808. The Old Trinity Hospital was founded in 1330, by Henry, Earl of Leicester and Lancaster, who endowed it for 50 infirm and aged men, and five women to attend on them; also for a master, four chaplains, and two clerks. In 1354, the foundation was greatly augmented by his son, Henry, Duke of Lancaster, who engrafted on it a collegiate church, or Collegium Novi Operis; and it was further extended by John of Gaunt, son-in-law of Duke Henry. The establishment eventually consisted of a dean, twelve prebendaries, thirteen vicars-choral, three clerks, six choristers, one verger, one hundred poor men, and ten nurses and other attendants. There are at present about ninety men and women. An hospital for a master, confrater, twelve aged men, and twelve aged women, all unmarried, was founded, and dedicated to St. Ursula, in the latter part of the fifteenth century, by William Wigston, merchantstapler, and mayor of Leicester, and other persons. The hospital of St. John the Baptist, founded in 1235 for a master, brethren, and sisters, was given by Queen Elizabeth to the corporation, it having been previously converted into a hall for wool; in the reign of James I. they placed in it six poor widows. The Infirmary, at the southern extremity of the town, was erected in 1771, and is supported by subscription; the building consists of a centre and two wings, and attached is a house of recovery from fever or other contagious diseases, added in 1820. Adjoining the infirmary was formerly the County lunatic asylum, towards the erection and support of which Mrs. Topp bequeathed £1000, and Mrs. Ann Wigley, £200; but this having become inadequate, a more capacious structure was built in 1836-7, on an eminence to the south-east of the town: it will accommodate about 200 patients. Sir Thomas White bequeathed a portion of the rents of certain estates, which have since accumulated to upwards of £16,000, to be lent for nine years, without interest, in sums of £50, subsequently enlarged to £100, to the inhabitants of Leicester; and there are various other bequests for distribution among the poor, including the produce of a grant by Charles I. of 40 acres of land in the forest of Leicester. The union of Leicester comprises the whole of the town parishes, and the townships of New Works and Castle-View, and contains a population of 50,932.
Among the Monastic Establishments anciently existing here, was a collegiate church, founded long before the Conquest, within the precincts of the castle, and which was destroyed, with the city and the castle, in the wars during the reign of the Conqueror, and refounded in 1107 by Robert de Mellent, Earl of Leicester. The greater portion of its revenue was tranferred to the abbey of St. Mary de Pratis; but it continued, under the designation of St. Mary the Less, till the Dissolution, when the remaining part of the income was valued at £24. 13. 11. The abbey of St. Mary de Pratis was founded in the year 1143, by Robert le Bossu, Earl of Leicester, for Regular canons of the Augustine order, and dedicated to St. Mary. Here that earl ended his days; and the establishment became possessed of great wealth, and was visited by several of the kings of England and other illustrious personages, among whom was Cardinal Wolsey, who, lodging here on his route to London, after his disgrace, died within its walls, and was buried in the church. At the Dissolution its gross revenue was £1062. 0. 4¾.: the remains consist chiefly of the outer walls, on which is an inscription curiously worked in bricks of different colours. In the north part of the town was an Hospital for Lepers, founded in the reign of Richard I., by William, son of Robert Blanchmains. In the north-western part was a convent of Franciscan or Grey friars, founded in 1265, by Simon de Montfort; in the church of which was interred the body of Richard III., after the battle of Bosworth-Field. On an island in the Soar was a house of Black friars, founded in the reign of Henry III., and dedicated to St. Clement, by one of the earls of Leicester; and in the town was also a priory for Canons regular of the order of St. Augustine, dedicated to St. Catherine, which remained till the Dissolution.
Of the Roman relics, the most curious are a tessellated pavement, found in a cellar nearly opposite the town prison, in 1675; another discovered in 1830, in JewryWall-street; and a milliary, or Roman milestone, discovered in the year 1771, on the side of the fosse-road leading from Leicester to Newark in Nottinghamshire, and about two miles from the town. This stone, which has given rise to much archæological research, was removed to the town by the corporation, and was till recently placed in Belgrave Gate, on a square pedestal, with a column above it, surmounted by a cross; it is now in the museum of the Literary and Philosophical Society. From the inscription, it appears to have been erected in the reign of the Emperor Hadrian, and it is said to be the oldest milliary that has been discovered in this country. About a quarter of a mile south of the infirmary are the ancient artificial embankments called the Rawdykes, supposed also to be of Roman origin; and among smaller remains is an abundance of coins, of which it is supposed that a complete series might have been formed from Nero to Valentinian. Dr. Richard Farmer, the learned author of an essay on the learning and genius of Shakspeare, was a native of the town. Miss Linwood, whose exhibition of needlework in London was much patronised by the public, died here at the age of ninety, in 1845. Leicester gives the inferior title of Earl to the Marquess Townshend; and T. W. Coke, Esq., of Holkham, in the county of Norfolk, was raised to the peerage by the title of Viscount Coke and Earl of Leicester, by patent of creation dated Aug. 12th, 1837: the family, however, is not connected by property or residence with the town or county.
LEICESTER-ABBEY, an extra-parochial liberty, in the hundred of West Goscote, N. division of the county of Leicester, 1 mile (N.) from Leicester; containing 22 inhabitants, and comprising 832 acres. It takes its name from the abbey of St. Mary de Pratis, which was founded within its limits, and which is described in the article on Leicester.
LEICESTER-FOREST, an extra-parochial liberty, in the union of Blaby, hundred of Sparkenhoe, S. division of the county of Leicester; containing 106 inhabitants. This liberty is divided into East and West, and extends from 2½ miles to 5½ miles, west and westsouth-west of the town of Leicester. It comprises about 1400 acres of land.
LEICESTERSHIRE, an inland county, bounded on the north-west by that of Derby, on the north by that of Nottingham, on the east by Lincoln and Rutland, on the south-east by Northampton, and on the south-west by Warwick. It lies between 52° 23' and 52° 58' (N. Lat.), and 0° 40' and 1° 37' (W. Lon.); and consists of 804 square miles, or 514,560 statute acres. Within its limits are 44,774 inhabited houses, 3273 uninhabited, and 449 in course of erection; and the population amounts to 215,867, of whom 105,616 are males.
This county, which derives its name from the principal town, formed part of the territory of the Coritani, and, subsequently, of the Roman division of Britain called Flavia Cæsariensis; under the Anglo-Saxons, it was a central portion of the powerful kingdom of Mercia. It suffered severely from the incursions of the Danes, who, landing on the eastern coast, laid waste the whole county as far as Leicester, which town, having finally fallen into their possession, became, on their peaceable establishment in this part of the kingdom, one of their five principal cities in England. Leicestershire was formerly included in the diocese of Lincoln, but under the act of the 6th and 7th of William IV., cap. 77, it has been transferred to the diocese of Peterborough, in the province of Canterbury. It forms an archdeaconry, comprising the deaneries of Akeley, Christianity, Framland, Gartree, Goscote, Guthlaxton, and Sparkenhoe, and containing 213 parishes. For civil purposes it is divided into the hundreds of Framland, Gartree, East Goscote, West Goscote, Guthlaxton, and Sparkenhoe. It contains the borough and market-town of Leicester; and the market-towns of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Market-Bosworth, Market-Harborough, Hinckley, Loughborough, Lutterworth, Melton-Mowbray, and Mountsorrel. Under the act of the 2nd of William IV., cap. 45, the county was formed into the Northern and Southern divisions, each sending two representatives to parliament; and two members are returned for the borough of Leicester. The county is included in the Midland circuit, and the assizes and quarter-sessions are held at Leicester, where stands the county gaol.
The general surface is a succession of gently rising hills, with a few precipitous declivities, so that almost the whole is available for cultivation. The highest grounds are some of the summits of the Charnwood Forest hills, which consist of barren rocks, projecting abruptly above the surface, and composed of a kind of granite; and these peaks, though their elevation is not more than 800 or 900 feet above the level of the sea, command some of the most extensive and beautiful views in the kingdom. About 240,000 acres of land are under occasional tillage. A considerable quantity of wheat is grown, but barley is the favourite grain crop; and oats are cultivated to a great extent, on account of the number of horses bred and kept in the county. About half the inclosed land consists of permanent grass, and the natural meadows on the banks of the rivers and brooks are very numerous and extensive, and frequently of excellent quality. In various parts are good dairies which produce large quantities of cheese; and Stilton cheese, the richest and highest-priced thick cheese produced in Great Britain, is made in most of the villages about Melton-Mowbray: it obtained its name from the circumstance of the first maker of it resident at Wymondham, near Melton-Mowbray, having supplied an inn at Stilton, where it first became generally known and esteemed. The county has long been distinguished for the improvement of every species of live-stock.
The Mineral productions comprise ironstone, which is plentifully found on Ashby Wolds, and has been smelted and cast into pigs, and utensils for various purposes, at the works by the side of the Ashby canal; lead-ore, which is found of a rich nature in the fissures of the limestone obtained at Staunton-Harold, and is smelted; coal, of which there are mines at Cole-Orton, the Lount, and Ashby Wolds; slate, which is raised in large quantities of a rather thick and heavy quality at Swithland, to the east of Charnwood Forest; limestone, of which the Bredon quarries are excavated in an isolated rock of considerable extent having a slight covering of earth, and of which there is some in extremely high request at Barrow-upon-Soar, producing the famous Barrow lime; and freestone, which exists in most parts, as does also clay suitable for bricks. The red granite from the rocks at Mountsorrel furnishes a valuable material for macadamizing the roads. The principal Manufactures are those of woollen-yarn, worsted, and stockings, which prevail not only in Leicester, Hinckley, and other towns, but also in the principal villages throughout most parts of the county; indeed, the number of persons employed in trade here is to the agricultural class nearly as seven to four, and of these a very large portion are employed in the manufacture of wool into stockings, principally at Leicester, Hinckley, and Loughborough, both for the London market and for exportation. At Loughborough, Hinckley, and Ashby, hats are manufactured. The making of machine lace, introduced of late years, is carried on to a considerable extent, principally in the towns and neighbourhoods of Loughborough, Leicester, and Ashby. At the two first places are several malt-kilns. Cheese is a considerable article of exportation, it being computed that not less than 1500 tons are annually conveyed down the Trent, for the consumption of the metropolis and the navy.
The principal river is the Soar, which, with the aid of different artificial cuts, has been made navigable from the Trent (into which river it empties itself near Sawley in Derbyshire) up to several miles above Leicester, a distance of above twenty miles. The Ashby canal was first designed to communicate with the navigable channel of the Trent, below Burton, and with that view was constructed so as to be navigable for barges of sixty tons' burthen; but all the money subscribed, amounting to £180,000, having been expended, the line from Ashby to the Trent, on which are a tunnel and several locks, was abandoned, and tramways substituted on the high grounds. The canal is navigable from Ashby Wolds to the Coventry canal, in which it terminates, for boats of 24 tons' burthen, being such only as can float on the Coventry canal. The line of the Leicester navigation is down the valley of the Soar, to the Trent, being sometimes along the channel of the Soar, and at others carried from it by means of locks into a new channel, as before stated. The Melton canal is carried from the Leicester Soar navigation along the valley of the Wreke, to Melton-Mowbray, whence it has been continued to Oakham: the Grantham canal, from the Trent below Nottingham to Grantham, passes through the northeasternmost part of the country. The Union canal, from the navigable channel of the Soar, near Leicester, was designed to pass by way of Market-Harborough, and join the Nene at Northampton, and also to communicate with the Grand Junction canal; but its progress towards completion was arrested by unfavourable circumstances. The railways attached to the Ashby canal extend about twelve miles from that navigation, by the town of Ashby, to the Lount colliery, Cole-Orton, Ticknall, and the Cloud-Hill lime-works; they were constructed at an expense of £30,000, and along the line are various embankments and deep excavations, besides a tunnel about a quarter of a mile in length. The Midland railway enters the county from the south, at Claybrooke, near Lutterworth, and, taking a northern course, passes by Leicester, Syston, and Loughborough, near which last place it quits the county for Derby and Nottingham. At Syston a line branches off to MeltonMowbray, and the county of Rutland. The Leicester and Swannington railway is noticed under the head of Leicester.
The Roman stations within or close to the limits of the county were, Rate, at Leicester; Vernometum, on the northern border, supposed to have been at Willoughby; Venones, near High Cross; and the celebrated station of Manduessedum, at Mancetter, on the borders of this county and Warwickshire. The principal remains of Roman buildings have been found at Leicester; and other miscellaneous Roman remains have been discovered at Rothley, Wanlip, Harborough, Burrow, and Catthorpe. The ancient Watling-street first touches Leicestershire at Dove bridge, on the Avon, whence it proceeds in a north-eastern direction towards the Anker, near Mancetter, where it quits for Warwickshire, after having formed the south-western boundary of the county for a distance of upwards of 20 miles. The Fosse-road from Lincolnshire enters near the Roman station Vernometum, and joins the Watling-street at High Cross; its course may be distinctly traced, more particularly on the eastern side of the county, and near the village of Narborough. The Via Devana from Colchester to Chester, enters near Cottingham, and at Leicester joins the Fosse, which, however, it soon leaves for Grooby, whence it proceeds by Ashby to Burton-uponTrent; it is visible on a hill between the parishes of Cranoe and Glooston, and in other parts of its course. Another ancient road, which the Rev. T. Leman, in his account of the Roman roads and stations in Leicestershire, calls the "Salt Way," and considers of British origin, entered the county from Lincolnshire, in its way to the salt-works at Droitwich, and is visible in some parts of its course over Charnwood Forest. The number of Religious Houses prior to the Dissolution was thirty-one, including three colleges, six hospitals, three commanderies of the Knights Hospitallers, and one alien priory; the principal remains are those of the abbey of St. Mary de Pratis, near Leicester, of Ulverscroft Priory, and of Grace Dieu nunnery. There are few remains of ancient castles; the chief are the picturesque ruins of the castellated mansion of Ashby, the most ancient portions of which are of the reign of Edward IV., and the ruins of Kirby Castle. Among the numerous elegant seats that adorn the county, the most distinguished are, Belvoir Castle, the seat of the Duke of Rutland, and Donnington Park, that of the Marquess of Hastings. There are medicinal springs at Ashby-de-laZouch, Burton-Lazars, Dalby-on-the-Wolds, Gumley, Neville-Holt, Leicester, and Sapcote.