Visit Leicester and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Leicester, Leicestershire. The history of this thriving and largely modern city, the centre of the Heart of England, goes back over 2,000 years. Long before the first wave of Romans established their township of Ratae in the lush meadows beside the River Soar the Celtic peoples were here. Traces of roads they built are still to be found, but the Romans, in their 400 years of more or less benign occupation, constructed the highways that inspired the building of today's fine network across the county.
The most impressive surviving memorial of these ancient times is the Jewry Wall, believed to date from A.D. 130, a massive fragment 73 ft long and 20 ft high, in alternate courses of brick and stone. Until recently the deep arched recesses, edged with tiles, on the east face of the wall were thought to be openings in the western gateway of the city. Excavation has now shown them to be windows of a vast basilica. Behind the wall a courtyard 175 ft wide has been opened up, revealing porticos leading into shops, the whole area having once been the forum from which the governor administered justice and laws were passed on to the British people. It is here that the largest Roman bath in England was found. Nearby are tessellated pavements with intricate designs in colour.
The hub of the city is the clock tower, a Gothic structure erected in 1868 to commemorate four benefactors of Leicester since the Norman Conquest. The most famous of these was Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, the powerful baron whose hatred of tyranny eventually forced Henry III, his brother-in-law, to grant the first English parliament in 1275. The other three were William Wyggleston, Sir Thomas White and Gabriel Newton, all of them founders of schools or charitable institutions.
Leicester Castle in its original form dates from 1088, but the red-brick frontage added in about 1690 has sadly diminished the grandeur of the earlier concept. Behind it is the great hall which was once part of John of Gaunt's country residence and is now the assize court. The architecture of the stone hall places it almost certainly between 1140 and 1160. The roof of braced beams which span the whole of the building is particularly imposing. An outside flight of steps leads down to what may have been cellars or dungeons. A few yards away is the new work, or Newarke as it is known today, a walled enclosure of about four acres, outside the castle boundaries, in which stood the noble Collegiate Church of St Mary, founded by Henry, Earl of Leicester and Lancaster in the 14th century. The finest monument of the Newarke is the high stone gateway at the east side, with three arches, a vaulted canopy and ornamented square-topped windows.
The beautiful Church of St Mary de Castro, the church of the castle, is a direct link with the Norman ascendancy. From having been completely Anglo-Saxon it was rebuilt by succeeding Earls of Leicester. The pinnacled tower and the belfry were begun in the 13th century and the slender spire was added a hundred or so years later. Of especial antiquarian interest are the five sedilia, or priests' seats, and the magnificent 700-year-old font.
Older still is the Church of St Nicholas, whose history goes back through Saxon times to obscurity in the Roman basilica; but the natural choice for the cathedral of the diocese of Leicester on its re-establishment in 1926 was the civic church of St Martin. Although this noble edifice has been much restored in recent times, not always in harmonious accord with the styles of earlier reconstructions, the graceful old arches and rich decoration of the interior remain unchanged. The bishop's throne is unsurpassed in splendour, standing about 16 ft high and reaching almost to the roof in declining tiers adorned with tracery. Adjacent to the cathedral is the l4th-century guild-hall. Two miles from the city centre, Belgrave Hall, a small Queen Anne house and garden, is worth a visit.
Leicester today combines the charm of its ancient foundations with the forward march of industry. Two hundred years ago only hosiery was produced here. The bulk manufacture of boots and shoes emerged in the 1850s.
Nearby towns: Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Atherstone, Coalville, Grantham, Hinckley, Loughborough, Lutterworth, Market Bosworth, Market Harborough, Melton Mowbray, Oakham, Uppingham
Nearby villages: Aylestone, Barsby, Blaby, Braunstone, Brooksby, Broughton Astley, Burton Overy, Cosby, Countesthorpe, Croft, Cropston, Desford, Elmesthorpe, Enderby, Evington, Fleckney, Frisby on the Wreak, Gaddesby, Glen Parva, Glenfield, Great Glen, Great Stretton, Houghton on the Hill, Humberstone, Kibworth Harcourt, Kilby, Kirby Muxloe, Markfield, Mountsorrel, Narborough, Newtown Limford, Newtown Linford, Oadby, Queniborough, Rearsby, Rothley, Sapcote, Sileby, Stoney Stanton, Swithland, Thrussington, Thurcaston, Thurlaston, Thurnby, Whetstone, Wigston, Woodhouse, Woodhouse Eaves
Have you decided to visit Leicester or the surrounding villages? Please look above for somewhere to stay in:
- a Leicester bed and breakfast (a Leicester B&B or Leicester b and b)
- a Leicester guesthouse
- a Leicester hotel (or motel)
- a Leicester self-catering establishment, or
- other Leicester accommodation