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 18 3/4 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 527,124 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, particularly Bardon Hill, command very extensive and 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 NW 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 corn-brash, 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 for cement; coal is mined, and gypsum, potters' clay, ironstone, and lead ore are found. The chief mineral products of the county, with the average annual output, were as follows:-Coal, 1,500,000 tons; iron ore, 690,000 tons; and fire clay, 39,000 tons. Mineral springs occur in various parts, and those of the Moira and Ivanhoe baths at Ashby-de-la-Zouch are the most esteemed.
The soils are principally of three kinds-clay-loam, sandy or gravelly loam, and peat-earth or alluvium, and those of the clay-loam 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, roots, artificial grasses, cabbage, and rape. 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 60 Ibs., the other of the kind known as Stilton, is largely made. One cow commonly yields from 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 cwt. of the flattish cheeses in a season. Sheep of the Old Leicester, the Forest, and the New Leicester or Dishley breeds abound, and much wool is shorn, which is worked up into hosiery. 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 have large establishments. Wool-combing, woollen yarn spinning, hose-making, and framework knitting, are largely carried on. Elastic web weaving, silk manufacture, lace-making, shoe-making, and agricultural implement making also are prominent. Manufactures of other kinds, likewise, have recently been introduced. There are also large potteries, and immense quantities of fire bricks are made.
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Archives and Libraries
The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland
Telephone: 0116 257 1080
Fax: 0116 257 1120
We have a database containing unique transcripts of marriage registers from 1538-1837, for many parishes in and around Leicester.
Directories & Gazetteers
The Historical Directories web site have a number of directories relating to Leicestershire online, including:
Kelly's, Pigot, Slater, etc.
Land and Property
A transcript of the Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Leicestershire is available online.
Old map of Leicestershire circa 1848 (Samuel Lewis)
Old map of Leicestershire and Rutland circa 1895 (Gazetteer of England and Wales)
Parishes and places
The towns and parishes have now been moved to a separate page.