Ashby-de-la-Zouch, a market and union town in Leicestershire. It stands in a pleasant situation, on the NW border of the county, on the rivulet Gilwiskaw, near the Ashby-de-la-Zouch Canal, 18 miles by road and 20 3/4 by railway NW by W of Leicester. The Leicester and Burton branch of the M.R. passes through the town, with a branch to Melbourne and Derby; and by way of Market Bosworth and Nuneaton there is also communication with the Trent valley. It was anciently called Esseby, and it took the afterpart of its present name from the ancient Norman-French family of La Zouch. It belonged to that family from the time of Henry III. till 1461; it passed then to the Crown, and was given to the family of Hastings. The castle of the La Zouches stood on a rising ground at the S end of the town; and a stronger one was built on its site, out of its materials, in 1480, by Sir William Hastings. Colonel Henry Hastings, son of the Earl of Huntingdon, and afterwards created Baron Loughborough, garrisoned it for Charles I., was besieged in it by Fairfax, and surrendered it to Colonel Needham. The Parliament ordered it to be dismantled in 1648. Only portions of the hall, the chapel, and the kitchen are now standing, but they form an extensive and picturesque mass of ruin ; and they show Tudor features of architecture which indicate that some parts were of later erection than the original pile. The scene of the grand tournament described in "Ivanhoe " is about a mile to the W, near the village of Smisby.
The town consists chiefly of one principal street, with two smaller ones running in a parallel direction, and contains some well-built houses. The town-hall was built in 1857, and is a noble edifice. A beautiful Queen Eleanor cross was erected in 1879 in memory of the Countess of Loudoun. St Helen's church is fine Decorated English; includes two chapels, separated by four lofty arches, springing from fluted pillars, and contains tombs of the Earls of Huntingdon, and of the good Countess Selina, who figures largely in religious history as the foundress of a sect which bears her name. The church was restored and enlarged at a cost of upwards of £12,000 in 1880. Trinity Church, at the west end of the town, is a handsome structure in the Early English style, with about 600 sittings, built in 1838 at a cost of £4000. It was renovated and enlarged in 1885-86. There are chapels for Baptists, Congregationalists, Wesleyan Methodists, and Primitive Methodists. The Congregational chapel, founded in 1675, was rebuilt in 1825, at a Cost of £2000. The grammar-school is a large edifice, was founded in 1567 by Henry, Earl of Huntingdon, has valuable endowments, holds exhibitions in Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and Christ Church, Oxford, and had for its first master Joseph Hall, afterwards Bishop of Exeter, and the author of well-known Christian writings. The foundation also supports an English school, which has separate buildings. There are also two other endowed schools, and charities of the yearly value of about £200. Ivanhoe Baths, constructed in 1826, have a fine Doric edifice 200 feet long; are supplied by pipes from springs 3 miles distant, with mineral water, which has a good reputation for the treatment of rheumatism. The town is a summer resort of invalids and visitors, and has some good hotels, lodging-houses, a head post office, and two banks. A weekly market is held on Saturday, and fairs on the Monday before Shrove-Tuesday, Easter Tuesday, Nov. 10, with a statute fair on the first Tuesday after Sept. 21. Trade is carried on in malting, brewing, and in the traffic of neighbouring brick-fields, smelting works, and collieries. A coal-field lies around of irregular outline, about 10 miles by 8, estimated to comprise 40,000 acres of workable area of coal, having nine seams, with an aggregate thickness of 33 feet. The town, which is well drained and lighted, is governed by a Local Board of Health of 8 members, and is a seat of petty sessions.
The entire area of the parish, which is the largest in the county, is 6061 acres; population, 7710; the area of the town, 3951 acres; population, 4535. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Peterborough; gross yearly value, £450 with residence, in the gift of Lord Donington. The living of Holy Trinity is a vicarage; net yearly value, £203, in the gift of the Vicar of Ashby-de-la-Zouch. Population of the ecclesiastical parish of Holy Trinity, 2394.
Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales, 1894-5