HARBOROUGH, MARKET, a market-town and the head of a union, in the parish of Bowden Magna, hundred of Gartree, S. division of the county of Leicester, 17 miles (N.) from Northampton, 15 (S. E. by S.) from Leicester, and 83 (N. W. by N.) from London; containing 2433 inhabitants. This town, in the ancient record Testa de Nevil, is called Haverberg, probably from haver, a term still used in the northern counties to signify oats, and berg, a hill; which term was afterwards converted into Haverbrowe, and Harborough. It is supposed to have been occupied by the Romans: a square intrenchment, probably the site of a camp, formerly existed in a field named King's-Head Close, at a short distance from which, Roman urns and fragments of pottery have been discovered; and in one of the streets, a sewer or drain was found a few years ago, in which were traces of Roman masonry. During the civil war, the town was attached to the royal cause, and was the head-quarters of the king's army prior to the memorable battle of Naseby, in Northamptonshire, in 1645. The royalists, on the morning of battle, formed on a hill north of the town; and Cromwell's letter to the parliament, giving an account of the battle, is dated at Harborough.
The town is situated on the southern border of the county, and on the northern bank of the river Welland, and consists of one principal street and several smaller ones; the buildings have been much improved of late years, and the town is now well paved and lighted. In the main street is a large town-hall, built in 1788, by the Earl of Harborough, for the use of tammy dealers; but the tammy manufacture, as well as that of shalloons, &c., having become extinct, the under part has been converted into shambles, and the upper is occupied by the magistrates for official purposes. There are now a large carpet manufactory, a worsted-mill, a silk-factory, several malt-houses, two breweries, and a brush manufactory. The London road enters the town over a handsome stone bridge, erected in 1814, at the joint expense of the counties of Leicester and Northampton; and a branch of the Leicestershire and Northamptonshire Union canal approaches close to the town. The market is on Tuesday; and fairs are held on Jan. 6th, Feb. 16th, April 29th, the Tuesday after May 2nd, Tuesday after Mid-lent Sunday, and July 31st, for cattle; on Oct. 19th and eight following days, for cattle, cheese, leather, &c.; and on the Tuesday before Nov. 22nd, and Dec. 8th. The petty-sessions for the hundred of Gartree are held here occasionally; and a court leet for the manor at uncertain periods. The powers of the county debt-court of Harborough, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Harborough.
The living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £144; patrons and appropriators, the Dean and Canons of Christ-Church, Oxford. The chapel, which is dedicated to St. Dionysius, is a large, handsome, and uniform edifice, and ranks among the finest structures in the county; it consists of a nave, aisles, and chancel, with two tiers of windows, two porches, and a tower having an octangular crocketed spire: it is said to have been built by John of Gaunt, about the year 1370. There are places of worship for Independents, Baptists, and Wesleyans. A free grammar school was founded about 1614, by Robert Smith, a native of this place, and chamberlain of London; but the endowment being insufficient for the support of a classical teacher, few scholars attend, and a large national school, with a house for a master, has been recently erected. The town estates produce a rental of £614, appropriated to the support of decayed housekeepers, the apprenticing of children, and other charitable purposes, and also to the repair of the highways, and the general improvement of the place. The poor-law union of Harborough comprises 41 parishes or places, of which 23 are in the county of Leicester, and 18 in that of Northampton; and contains a population of 15,731. The town gives the titles of Baron and Earl to the family of Sherard.