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Market Harborough, Leicestershire

Historical Description

Market Harborough, a town and parish, and head of a poor-law union in Leicestershire, 83 miles from London, 17 from Northampton, and 15 from Leicester, with stations on the M.R. and the L. & N.W.R., and a head post office. Area of Market Harborough, 60 acres; population, 2131; of the Market Harborough and Great and Little Bowdeu local board district, 4987 acres; population in 1891, 5876. The town has a good water supply (certified 170,000 gallons per day), a new system of sewerage, broad streets and good roads, and it is planted with lime trees along the footpaths. The manor, once a royal manor, is in possession of Lord Baniard, whose father-the late Sir Henry Morgan Vane, Kt.-obtained it by purchase from the trustees of the late Earl of Harborough. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Peterborough; value, £266 with residence, in the gift of the Bishop of Peterborough. The church (c. 1225) dedicated to St Dionysius, has a graceful broached spire, built of that grey stone not uncommon in the Midlands, which is. as durable as it is beautiful. It was restored in 1887. There are churches, with their own special interest, at Great Bow-den and Little Bowden. The old cemetery church of St Mary in Arden (c. 1066) is the mother church of Market Harborough, but, being half a mile distant, is not now used for any service. There are Roman Catholic, Baptist, Congregational, and Methodist chapels. The town also has a Y.M.F.S. Institute, a corn exchange, and an Oddfellows' hall. The new grammar school, with house and grounds, continues-under new conditions the grammar school founded in 1612 by Robert Smyth, citizen of London. New national schoolswere erected in 1894 at a cost of nearly £3000. The housesof the town are superior to many old towns. In the Close Bolls (1216-72) an entry, 4to Henr. III., A.D. 1219, refersto the market of Haverberegh as held, and accustomed to be held, on Monday. In 1221 the king allowed Harborough market to be changed from Monday to Tuesday (see Market Harborough records, by Stocks and Bragg). The market is still held on Tuesday. The trade of the town has undergone a. change within the last fifty years. The carpet factory of that date is now a corset factory, and has been much extended; a flonr mill has been turned to the production of elastic webbing; a sealskin tannery and a hosiery factory are new developments. A large malt-house, a patent brick and "tile kiln, and a brewery do extensive business. Naseby is 7 miles distant. Cromwell dated from Harborough his letter addressed to Lenthall, Speaker of the House of Commons (1645), with an account of the engagement. It was about this time that Harborough became known as Market Harborough.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The Cemetery, half a mile south from the town, in the parish of Little Bowden, extends over four acres, and was opened in 1878, at a cost of £4,000; an addition of about two acres was made in 1904, at a cost of £800: the three parishes of Market Barborough, Great Bowden and Little Bowden have equal right of interment; there are two mortuary chapels: the old burial ground was that belonging to the ancient church of St. Mary-in-Arden, which stands east of the town, in the parish of Great Bowden.

Church Records

The parish register dates from the year 1583: on March 25, 1613, the rites at baptism and marriage were transferred from the church of St. Mary-in-Arden to this church: the earlier entries, up to 1614, are copies made in the book in which Mr. Robert Smyth records his benefactions.

Findmypast, in association with the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland, have the following parish records online for Market Harborough:



The church of St. Denis, or Dionysius the Areopagite, built about 1250, is a spacious embattled building of stone, chiefly in the Decorated and Perpendicular styles, consisting of chancel, clerestoried nave, aisles, north and south porches and a western tower of dressed freestone, with lofty octagonal crocketed spire, 164 feet high, containing an illuminated clock and 8 bells, six of which, dated 1609, 1613, 1614 and 1740, were recast and two more added in 1902: the chancel, which deflects to the north, 16°; 45', retains sedilia and a priest's doorway, now blocked, and is separated from the nave by a fine arch: the pulpit, of alabaster inlaid with various specimens of marble, and adorned with a carving of the "Sermon on the Mount," is supported on shafts of Caen stone, and was erected in 1860 by the four brothers of the Rev. F. P. Johnson, then vicar, as a thank-offering for their having passed through the Indian Mutiny unharmed: the windows in the chancel are stained, the east window having been the gift in 1860, of the Rev. F. P. Johnson, Mrs. Wartnaby, Miss Arnold and the Rev. J. Holdich, and the others were presented in 1886-7 as memorials to members of the Saunt family: the font was given in 1888 in memory of Sir Henry Morgan Vane kt. d. 1886: the brass eagle lectern was presented in 1889 as a memorial to the Rev. Frederick Pigott Johnson M.A. vicar 1856-65: the carved oak reading desk was also presented in 1889, in memory of Sir William de Capell Brooke bart. d. 4 March, 1886, and the Hon. Catherine (Watson), his wife, d. 24 Nov, 1884: the church was restored in 1886-7, at a cost of £1,250, and affords 700 sittings.

The Roman Catholic church, in Coventry road, dedicated to Our Lady of Victories, was erected in 1877, and is a structure of brick with stone dressings, in the Decorated style, consisting of chancel, nave and tower: in 1888 a presbytery was erected near the church, and in 1898 sacristies and a cloister connecting the church with the presbytery were added, at a cost of £360, from designs by Mr. P. P. Pugin, architect, and a set of Stations or the Cross, by De Beule, Bro. of Ghent, presented in memory of James and Margaret Flint: the church contains a number of stained windows of Munich glass, some of which are memorials to the Very Rev. Canon Douglas (1901) and Fathers Malvoisin and Vandepitte: a war memorial altar was erected in 1921, in the side chapel; it is of Seaton stone, from the old Roman quarries of Seaton, in Dorset, and of marble, executed by Wall and Co. of Cheltenham: the tabernacle door was the gift of Sir Humphrey de Trafford bart.

The Congregational chapel, erected in 1844 on the site of the old minister's house, at a cost of nearly £3,000. has a front adorned with columns of the Doric and Corinthian orders: in the year 1886 new Sunday school premises were built, at a cost of about £1,700, including a large assembly hall capable of seating 500 persons, and a new organ erected at a cost of £300: a minister's residence was erected in Coventry road in 1876, at a cost of £1,387.

The Baptist chapel, erected in 1830 and rebuilt in 1907, in the Gothic style, at a cost of about £2,500, has 543 sittings.

The church of St. Mary-in-Arden, half a mile east of Market Harborough, was built in 1693 out of the ruins of the ancient church, which had been blown down, and is a plain building of stone, consisting of nave and south porch, which for some time served as a mortuary chapel: after being disused for a time the church was renovated and used for public worship: a hymn is sung over the grave of a Mr. Hubbard every Easter Eve: in the churchyard is a recumbent figure and a Norman doorway with beak head decorations belonging to the old church.

Land and Property

A full transcript of the Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Leicestershire is online.


Online maps of Market Harborough are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Leicestershire newspapers online:

RegionEast Midlands
Postal districtLE16
Post TownMarket Harborough