Leicester

What is Leicester? Leicester is an important county in the English East Midlands.

Medieval Leicester.
Leicester in 1910.
Leicestershire with Leicester (from Wikipedia).

Leicestershire is a county in the English Midlands. Its main urban area is the City of Leicester, now a separate authority within the shire. The county borders Nottinghamshire to the north, Lincolnshire to the north-east, Rutland to the east, Northamptonshire to the south-east, Warwickshire to the south-west, Staffordshire to the west, and Derbyshire to the north-west. The border with Warwickshire is Roman Watling Street,the A5.

About 650,000 people live in Leicestershire, and 300,000 in the city of Leicester. Loughborough is the second largest town. Otherwise Leicestershire is a rural county, famous for its farmers and farming. Stilton cheese, Red Leicester cheese, and the Melton Mowbray pork pie are three of Leicestershire's most famous products.

The main river in the county is the Soar, which is a tributary of the Trent. A crossing point of the Soar was responsible for the Iron Age settlement that began Leicester. It was also used by the Romans. Loughborough is also a crossing point of the Soar.

Other towns include Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Coalville, Hinckley, Market Harborough, Melton Mowbray, Oadby, Wigston and Lutterworth.

In Viking times, Leicestershire was part of the Danelaw, the Viking controlled eastern half of England, and there are still many Viking names as well as Saxon ones. The main roads going into Leicester city end in gate, which comes from the old Viking word for road, 'gata'.

A large part of the north-west of the county is within the new National Forest.

Leicestershire became famous in the Middle Ages for its wool-based clothing industries, and it specialised in knitwear, socks and shoes. This was all done by hand in the villages of Leicestershire, but when machines were developed, it become concentrated in mills, most of which were in Leicester city (and particularly the area known as Frog Island). The need for machines also meant that engineering was an important industry. Today much of that old industry has gone, except for high quality clothing and specialty textiles.

Leicester city has recently become well known for the discovery of the body of King Richard III, the last of the Plantagenet kings. He has more recently been reburied in Leicester Cathedral. Loughborough is famous for its university, which is a centre of excellence for sports development.

Video: Loughborough.
Video: Leicester.

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