Industrial city and administrative centre of Leicester City unitary authority in central England, on the River Soar, 45 km/28 mi northeast of Birmingham; population (2001) 330,600. Major industries include engineering, food processing, electronics, chemicals, and clothing manufacture.
History The first settlement here grew up around the Roman fort of Ratae Corieltavorum, built on the Fosse Way in AD 43. Large public buildings were erected and rich mosaic pavements were built during this time, some of which have been unearthed and preserved. After the Roman withdrawal, the settlement became known as Legerceastre by the Saxons, and it was the seat of the East Mercian bishopric until 874, when the bishopric was transferred to Dorchester-on-Thames after the Danish invasion of the Midlands. By the time of the Domesday survey in 1086, Leicester had 322 houses, 6 churches, and a population of about 2,000. In the 12th century a castle was built, and Henry II besieged and partially destroyed the town. In the 13th century the castle was the base of Simon de Montfort, 1st Earl of Leicester, who forced Henry III to establish the first English Parliament in 1265. During the English Civil War, Leicester supported the Parliamentarians and was captured by the Royalist Prince Rupert, but after the Battle of Naseby the town was retaken by Oliver Cromwell. Leicester was granted city status in 1919, and since World War II it has grown to be the tenth-largest city in the country. There are also thriving ethnic minority communities accounting for about 30% of the population, which has created a rich cultural diversity within the city.
Features The Jewry Wall is a large section of surviving Roman Masonry; a site just to the west of this was excavated in 1936–38 and extensive foundations were revealed. They are believed to be part of Roman public baths (c. 138) with a colonnade and a basilica. Other excavations, at Abbey Park, have revealed the plan of part of Leicester Abbey, founded in 1143. In the Newarke area is the Trinity Hospital Almshouse. The main part of the hospital chapel is the original building of 1331, and portions of the old arcades remain embedded in the present modern structure. The 15th-century Bradgate House to the north of the city was the home of Lady Jane Grey. Leicester's Guildhall (1390) was built by the Corpus Christi Guild, a religious fraternity, and remained the official headquarters of Leicester until 1876. The Clock Tower, Leicester's most famous landmark, dates from 1868. De Montfort Hall is a concert venue close to the university.
The earliest castle at Leicester was erected by the first of the four Beaumont overlords who ruled Leicester throughout the 12th century. The castle was later enlarged and improved, but the building fell into decay after 1399, when Henry IV ascended to the throne. Little is left of the medieval structure; however, the ruined Turret Gateway dates from 1423 and there are remains of the 12th-century Great Hall.
St Martin's Cathedral dates from Norman times, and was substantially modified in the 19th century. It has been a cathedral since 1926. The partly Norman church of St Mary de Castro has a 12th-century chancel and a large Early English tower and nave. St Nicholas's Church has a Saxon nave and Norman tower, partly built of Roman materials. The Jain Centre in Leicester contains one of the few temples in western Europe for practitioners of Jainism.
The Leicestershire Museum and Art Gallery includes a large selection of German expressionist paintings, and an Egyptian Gallery. The Newarke Houses Museum, situated in an early 17th-century house, traces the industrial and social history of Leicester from the 16th century to the present day. There is also an ‘eco-house’, an environmental show home demonstrating ways in which people can reduce the ecological impact of their homes. The Curve Theatre opened in 2009.
The Jewry Wall and Archaeology Museum illustrates the history of the city to the Middle Ages. Exhibits include sections of mosaic pavement, wall paintings, and milestones from the Fosse Way. Other museums include a costume museum housed in Wygston House, the Museum of Technology, and the National Space Centre.
Leicester has two universities, The University of Leicester (1957) and De Montfort University, (1992; formerly Leicester Polytechnic), and is also home to the Leicester Warwick Medical School of the Universities of Leicester and Warwick.
In 1990 Leicester was designated Britain's first Environment City by the Wildlife Trust (a national environmental charity).
Industries manufacture of hosiery, footwear, knitwear, plastics, scientific and medical instruments, electrical products, and construction and woodworking machinery.
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