County of central England (since April 1997 Leicester City and Rutland have been separate unitary authorities).
Area 2,084 sq km/804 sq mi
Towns and cities Loughborough, Melton Mowbray, Market Harborough (administrative headquarters at Glenfield, Leicester)
Physical rivers Soar and Wreake; Charnwood Forest (in the northwest); Vale of Belvoir (under which are large coal deposits)
Features Belvoir Castle, seat of the dukes of Rutland since the time of Henry VIII, rebuilt by James Wyatt in 1816; Donington Park motor-racing circuit, Castle Donington
Agriculture good pasture with horses, cattle, and sheep (especially the New Leicester breed, first bred by Robert Bakewell in the 18th century at Dishley); dairy products (including Stilton cheese at Melton Mowbray); cereals
Industries engineering (Loughborough); hosiery (at Earl Shilton, Hinckley, and Loughborough); footwear; bell founding; quarrying of limestone and granite
Population (2001) 609,600
Famous people Thomas Babington Macaulay (poet), Titus Oates (conspirator in the Popish Plot), C P Snow (writer)
Topography Leicestershire is bounded on the north by Nottinghamshire; on the east by Lincolnshire and Rutland; on the southeast by Northamptonshire; on the southwest by Warwickshire; and on the northwest by Derbyshire; it contains Leicester City. The broad valley of the River Soar is one of the county's chief physical features, running from south to north, and separating the Charnwood Forest area from the uplands of the east. The Wreake valley, which runs from east to west, cuts through these eastern uplands. The highest point in the county is Bardon Hill (278 m/912 ft), in the Charnwood Forest.
History There is only slight evidence of prehistoric settlement in the county. In the 9th century the district was in the hands of the Danish invaders, and there are many place-names of Scandinavian origin. Richard III was defeated by Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.
Industrial past Leicestershire was famous for its wool as early as 1343, and with the introduction of the hand knitting frame in the 17th century the county soon established itself as the main area for hosiery manufacture in the country.
Leicestershire at the Heart of the Shires
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