Leicester (pronounced ) is the largest city in the English East Midlands, on the River Soar. It is the traditional county town of Leicestershire, and since 1997 has been a unitary authority with its own council (see "Politics in Leicester", below). It lies on the edge of the National Forest. In 2002 the population of the city proper was estimated at 283,578, with 330,574 living in the urban area.

Missing image
The city centre of Leicester looking at the clock tower

The urban area spreads outside the boundaries of the city proper, and includes Oadby, Wigston, Braunstone Town, Glenfield, Blaby, Thurmaston, Syston, and Leicester Forest East. For areas within the city, see below.

Leicester is one of the oldest cities in England, and is now one of the most ethnically diverse.


General information

City of Leicester
Status:Unitary, City (1919)
Region:East Midlands
Ceremonial County:Leicestershire
- Total
Ranked 276th
73.32 km²
Admin. HQ:Leicester
ONS code:00FN
- Total (2003 est.)
- Density
Ranked 21st
3,872 / km²
Ethnicity:63.8% White
29.9% S.Asian
3.07% Afro-Carib
2.3% Mixed
0.8% Chinese.
Leicester City Council
Leadership:Leader & Cabinet
Executive:Liberal Democrat Party / Conservative Party
MPs:Patricia Hewitt, Peter Soulsby, Keith Vaz

The city is next to the M1 motorway, and is on the Midland Main Line between London and Sheffield. High-speed trains operated by Midland Mainline can reach London in just over an hour. It is also served by rail lines to Birmingham via Nuneaton, and by a line to Peterborough.

Major industries in Leicester today include food processing, hosiery, footwear, knitwear, engineering, electronics, printing and plastics.

Missing image
The clock tower

The city centre is mainly Victorian with some later developments, which have usually been integrated in smoothly. The heart of the city centre is the Clock Tower, which is at the intersection of five routes into the city - High Street, Churchgate, Belgrave Gate, Humberstone Gate, and Gallowtree Gate. Today the latter two are pedestrianised, and vehicles restricted on the others.

The city centre is home to the Haymarket and the Shires shopping centres, both of which face the clock tower. Leicester Market, Europe's largest covered market, is nearby. The historic core of the City lies slightly to the west, monuments here include the Castle, the Anglican cathedral of St Martin, the mediaeval churches of St Mary de Castro and St Nicholas, the Guildhall and the Jewry Wall.

It is set to become a major city with many developments on the horizon implemented by the Leicester Regeneration Company (http://www.leicesterregeneration.co.uk) including a major theatre (http://www.leicester.gov.uk/departments/print.asp?pgid=3562) designed by Rafael Viñoly.

In 1990 Leicester was designated the UK's first Environment City, and won the European Sustainable City Award in 1996.

Leicester has a large multi-ethnic population, mainly from the Indian subcontinent. There are many Hindu temples, Sikh gurdwaras and Muslim mosques around the city, mostly converted from existing buildings. The only Jain Temple in the western world is near the city centre (The Jain Centre (http://www.jaincentre.com)). The area around Belgrave Road is known as the Golden Mile, and contains many Indian restaurants, jewellery shops, and other shops catering to the large Asian community in the neighbourhood. Many people travel to the area specifically for the restaurants, which serve authentic Indian cuisine. The annual Diwali celebrations are also held here and at the nearby Abbey Park, and are the biggest outside of India. There are also many of Afro-Caribbean descent, the community being centred around Highfields to the southeast of the city centre, and Leicester plays host to the second largest Caribbean Carnival (http://www.lccarnival.org.uk/) in the UK after Notting Hill.


Missing image
The remains of the Roman baths at Jewry Wall

According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, the mythical king of the Britons King Leir founded the city of Kaerleir (Leicester). He was supposedly buried by Queen Cordelia in an underground chamber beneath the River Soar near the city dedicated to the Roman god Janus, and every year people celebrated his feast-day near Leir's tomb. William Shakespeare's King Lear is loosely based on this story.

In fact, Leicester is one of the oldest cities in England, with a history going back nearly 2000 years. The Roman city of Ratae Coritanorum was founded in AD 50 as a military settlement upon the Fosse Way Roman road. The city was named after the Corieltauvi, the Celtic tribe that dwelt in the area before the Romans arrived.

Ratae Coritanorum grew into an important trading and military centre and one of the largest towns in Roman Britain. The remains of the baths of Roman Leicester can be seen at the Jewry Wall, and other Roman artefacts are displayed in the Jewry Wall museum adjacent to the site.

The Roman town was largely abandoned when the Romans left Britain in the 5th century, but was later re-settled by Saxons. In the 9th century, Leicester was captured by the Danes (Vikings) and became one of the five boroughs (fortified towns) of Danelaw although this position was short lived. The Saxon Bishop of Leicester fled to Dorchester-on-Thames and Leicester was not to become a bishopric again until the 20th century.

It is believed the name "Leicester" is derived from the words castra (camp) of the Ligore, meaning dwellers on the 'River Legro' (an early name for the River Soar). In the early 10th century it was recorded as Ligeraceaster = "the town of the Ligor people". The Domesday book later recorded it as Ledecestre.

Leicester had become a town of considerable importance by Medieval times. It was mentioned in the Domesday Book as 'civitas' (city), but Leicester lost its city status in the 11th century owing to power struggles between the Church and the aristocracy. It was eventually re-made a city in 1919, and the Church of St Martin made Leicester Cathedral in 1927. The tomb of King Richard III is located in the central nave of the church although, according to local tradition, he is not actually buried there. He was originally buried in the Greyfriars Church in Leicester, but his corpse was exhumed under orders from Henry VII and cast into the River Soar.

Leicester played a significant role in the history of England, when in 1265 Simon de Montfort forced King Henry III to hold the first parliament of England at the now ruined Leicester Castle.

On 4 November 1530, Thomas Cardinal Wolsey was arrested on charges of treason and taken from York Palace. On his way south to face dubious justice at the Tower of London, he grew ill. The group escorting him were concerned enough to stop at Leicester. There, Wolsey's condition quickly worsened and he died on 29 November 1530 and was buried at Leicester Abbey now Abbey Park.

With the construction of the Grand Union Canal in the 1790s which linked Leicester to London and Birmingham, Leicester began rapid industrialisation. The main industries being hosiery, footwear and, especially in the 20th century engineering. All are however in decline now.

By 1832 railways had arrived in Leicester with the opening of the Leicester and Swannington Railway which provided a supply of coal to the town from nearby collieries. By 1840 the Midland Counties Railway had linked Leicester to the national railway network which further boosted industrial growth. The Great Central Railway arrived in 1900 providing an alternative route to London. However this closed in 1966.

The borough expanded throughout the 19th century, most notably in 1892 annexing Belgrave, Aylestone and North Evington. It became a county borough when these were established, but as with all county boroughs was abolished by the Local Government Act 1972 in 1974, becoming a district. It regained its unitary status in 1997.

In the decades after World War II Leicester gained a large population of immigrants from the Indian sub-continent, and from Uganda in the early 1970s. These immigrant groups make up around 40% of Leicester's population, making Leicester one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the United Kingdom. Among the more recent arrivals are a group of Dutch citizens of Somali origin, apparently drawn by its free and easy atmosphere and by the number of mosques. In the U.K., Leicester today is widely regarded as a model of inter-communal tolerance, however for a short period in the 1970s, the neo-fascist National Front recorded high votes in the city. Leicester is expected by 2012 to become the first major city in Britain in which the indigenous British population will no longer form a majority.

Leicester's Coat of Arms

The City of Leicester's coat of arms was first granted to the city at the Heraldic Visitation of 1619, and is based on the arms of the First Earl of Leicester, Robert Beaumont.

After Leicester became a city in 1919, the city council applied to add to the arms, permission for which was granted in 1929, when the supporting lions, from the Lancastrian Earls of Leicester, were added.

The motto "Semper Eadem" was the Motto of Queen Elizabeth I who granted a royal charter to the city. It means "always the same". The crest on top of the arms is a white or silver legless wyvern with red and white wounds showing, on a wreath of red and white. The supporting Lions are wearing coronets in the form of collars, with the white cinquefoil hanging from them.

Politics in Leicester

On April 1, 1997, Leicester City Council became a unitary authority, local government up until then having been a two-tier system with the city and county councils being responsible for different aspects of local government services (a system which is still in place in the rest of Leicestershire). Leicestershire County Council retained its headquarters at County Hall in Glenfield, just outside the city boundary but within the urban area. The administrative offices of Leicester City Council are in the centre of the city at the New Walk Centre and other office buildings near Welford Place. Some services (particularly the police and the ambulance service) still cover the whole of the city and county, but for the most part the two councils are independent.

Council wards, and their approximate geographic areas (see also the City Council's map (http://www.leicester.gov.uk/wards/newward/)):

After a long period of Labour administration (since 1979), the city council from May 2003 was run by a Liberal Democrat/Conservative coalition, which collapsed in November 2004. The minority Labour group ran the city until May 2005, when the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives formed a new coalition.

Leicester is divided into three Parliamentary constituencies. Leicester East and Leicester West are represented by Keith Vaz and Patricia Hewitt respectively - both members of the Labour Party. The third seat, Leicester South, was left vacant in May 2004, following the death of Labour politician Jim Marshall - the Leicester South by-election was held on July 15, and was won by Parmjit Singh Gill of the Liberal Democrats with a 21% swing. This by-election saw almost 4,000 votes go to a Respect party candidate, who opposed the Iraq war. However, in the 2005 general election, Labour's unsuccessful byelection candidate Sir Peter Soulsby won Leicester South back for the party, and Vaz and Hewitt retained their seats.

Education in Leicester

Leicester is home to two universities, the University of Leicester (Royal Charter 1957) and De Montfort University (founded in 1992 from Leicester Polytechnic).

It is also home to the National Space Centre, due in part to the University of Leicester being one of the few universities in the UK to specialise in space science.

Leicester City Local Education Authority has had a troubled history since its formation in 1997 as part of the local government reorganisation - a 1999 Ofsted inspection found "few strengths and many weaknesses", and although there has been some improvement since then the LEA's capacity to sustain improvement of education is still judged to be "not secure" (2004 Performance Assessment (http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/reports/manreports/2260.pdf)). While many state schools provide a good standard of education, there have been long-running problems with several of the large community colleges, in particular New College. Current plans to improve the city's education system include the opening of a City Academy part-sponsored by the Church of England and a local Christian businessman, a £260 million "Building Schools for the Future" project using the Private Finance Initiative, the granting of state school status to the Leicester Islamic Academy, and the reorganisation of the city's special schools. All of these measures are controversial.

The arts in Leicester

The city plays host to an annual Pride parade, and the Summer Sundae music festival.

Arts venues in the city include:

Sport in Leicester

The Sports Statue on Gallowtree Gate
The Sports Statue on Gallowtree Gate

Sports teams include Leicester City F.C. (football), Leicester Tigers (rugby union), Leicester Riders (basketball), and the Leicestershire County Cricket Club. The city has also hosted British and World track cycling championships at its Saffron Lane velodrome. Leicester is now sometimes regarded (by its inhabitants at least) as the sporting capital of the UK.

Recent titles won by local teams

To celeberate the successes of 1997-98, the Leicester Mercury organised the placement of a statue portraying a cricketer, a footballer, and a rugby-player on Gallowtree Gate, not far from the Clock Tower at the heart of the city.

Towns, villages and places of interest

Aylestone, Braunstone, Evington, Knighton, Humberstone, Stoneygate

Parks: Leicester Botanic Gardens, Abbey Park, Victoria Park, Gorse Hill City Farm

Industry: Abbey Pumping Station, National Space Centre

Places of Worship: Leicester Cathedral

Historical Buildings: Belgrave Hall, Jewry Wall

Famous people from Leicester

Note: This includes all those who spent at least part of their lives here. Not all were born or have spent their entire life there.


Leicester is twinned with:

Local media

Leicester is home to the Leicester Mercury newspaper, and the MATV (Midlands Asian Televison) cable channel.

Analog radio stations are:

The local DAB multiplex has the following stations:

External links

Districts of England - East Midlands Flag of England

Amber Valley | Ashfield | Bassetlaw | Blaby | Bolsover | Boston | Broxtowe | Charnwood | Chesterfield | Corby | Daventry | Derby | Derbyshire Dales | East Lindsey | East Northamptonshire | Erewash | Gedling | Harborough | High Peak | Hinckley and Bosworth | Kettering | Leicester | Lincoln | Mansfield | Melton | Newark and Sherwood | Northampton | North East Derbyshire | North Kesteven | North West Leicestershire | Nottingham | Oadby and Wigston | Rushcliffe | Rutland | South Derbyshire | South Holland | South Kesteven | South Northamptonshire | Wellingborough | West Lindsey

Administrative counties with multiple districts: Derbyshire - Leicestershire - Lincolnshire - Northamptonshire - Nottinghamshire


de:Leicester (England) eo:Leicester sv:Leicester


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