Britannia, by William Camden


Big N NORTH of Northamptonshire, lies the County of Leicester, call’d in Domesday-book, Ledecesterscyre, and now Leicestershire. It is all a champain country, rich in corn and grain, but for the greatest part deficient in woods. It is encompass’d on the east with Rutlandshire and Lincolnshire, on the north with Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, on the west with Warwickshire (from which it is parted by the Military-way of the Romans call’d Watlingstreet,Watling-street. which runs along the west skirts of this County;) and on the south (as I observ’d before) it is bounded by Northamptonshire. The river Soar passeth through the middle of it to the Trent; but along the east parts, there runs a small gentle stream call’d the Wreke, which at last falls into the Soar.

Leicester Shire map, left Leicester Shire map, right

Leicester Shire

On the south-side (where the County is bounded, on one hand with the river Avon the less, and on the other with the Welland) nothing of note presents it self; unless it be near the head of the Welland, where is the town of Haverburg, commonly call’d Harborrow,Harborrow. famous for its Beast-Fair.V. Burton Leic. p.18. 67. & 127. ⌈Of late, it hath given the title, first of Baron, and then of Earl, to the Right Honourable Bennet Sherrard, who, before his advancement to the said honour of Earl, had been created Viscount Sherrard of Stapleford, in this County;⌉ and at a little distance from thence, Carleton,Carleton Curleu. that is, the town of Husbandmen. I know not whether it be worth relating; but most of the natives of this town, either from some peculiar quality of the soil, or water, or other unknown cause in nature, † † Have, C.had an ungrateful and difficult way of speaking, with a harsh guttural pronunciation, and a strange * * Rhotacismus.wharling in the utterance of their words. ⌈A Fellow of Trinity-College in Cambridge (a native of this Carleton, as my AuthorFuller’s Worthies. thinks) made a speech of a competent length, with select words as to the matter, without any [r] therein; contrived (as we may well suppose) on purpose to prevent a deformity of pronunciation, upon the frequent recurring of that letter. But yet the present Inhabitants, as they retain no remains of it in their speech, so neither in their memory; the most ancient among them knowing nothing of it.⌉

The Roman way before-mention’d, whose causey is in other places worn away, shews it self here very plainly, and runs northward, almost in a direct line, along the west-side of this County. You may perhaps laugh at my expensive diligence and curiosity; but I have follow’d the track of this way very intently from the Thames into Wales, for the discovery of places of Antiquity; nor could I expect to meet with any other more faithful guide for that purpose. ⌈Of which way, an ancient Eulogy of Histories writes thus;Lel. MS. Tom. 2. p.255. The second principal way is call’d Watling-streate, going from South-east to North-west. For it begins at Dover, runs through the midst of Kent by London; thence by St. Albans, Dunstable, Stratford, Toucester, Littleborne, St. Gilbert’s-hill near Shrowesbury; thence by Stratton, and so through the middle of Wales to Cardigan. But to confine our selves to this County.⌉ This Way, having pass’d Dowbridge, where it leaves Northamptonshire, is first interrupted by the river Swift, which is but a slow stream, tho’ the name imports the contrary; but to the name it answers only in the winter-time. The bridge, over which this road was heretofore continu’d, they call Bransford-bridge, and Bensford:Bensford. It was a long time broken down, and that occasion’d this famous Way to be so little frequented for many years; but now it is repair’d at the charge of the publick. Adjoyning on the one hand, westward, lies Cester-Over,Cester-Over. but in Warwickshire; a place worthy of note, were it only for the Lord thereof Sir Fulk Grevill, a very eminent Knight, ⌈created a Baron of this kingdom in the eighteenth year of King James the first, by the title of Lord Brook of Beauchamps-Court in the County of Warwick.⌉ But the name speaks it a place of antiquity also, for our Ancestors never gave the name of Cester, but only to ancient Cities or Castles. On the other hand, east-ward, on one side lies Misterton,Misterton. belonging to the famous and ancient family of the Poultneys, and on the other, Lutterworth,Lutterworth. a small market-town, formerly (by report) the possession of the Verdons. Near which, isA petrifying well. a spring of water so very cold, that in a little time it converts straws and sticks, into stone. Rector of this Church heretofore, was the famous John Wickliff,John Wickliff dy’d 1387. a man of a close subtil wit, and very well vers’d in the Scriptures; who, having drawn his pen against the Pope’s Authority, and the Church of Rome, was not only grievously persecuted in his life-time, but one and forty years after his death, by command of the Council of Sienna, his body was in a barbarous manner taken out of the grave, and burnt. ⌈The Church is lately beautified with a costly pavement of chequer’d stone, new Pews, and every thing else new, both in Church and Chancel, except the Pulpit made of thick Oak-Planks six-square, with a seam of carved work in the joints; which is preserv’d and continu’d in memory of Wickliff, whose Pulpit it was, if constant Tradition may be credited.⌉

From Bensford-bridge, the Old-way goes up to High-cross, so call’d, because formerly a cross was erected in that high place; instead of which there is now a high post set up, with props to support it. The neighbouring Inhabitants told me, that the two principal ways of England did cross here; and that in this place stood once a very flourishing city, call’d Cley-cester,Cleycester. which had a Senate of it’s own; and that Cley-brook,Cleybrook. near a mile distant from hence, was part of the old Cley-cester. They say also, that on both sides the way, great foundations of square-stone have been discover’d underground, and (a) Roman coins ⌈and bricks⌉ frequently cast-up by the plow. But whatever may be under-ground, above (as the Poet says)

Etiam ipsæ periere ruinæ.

The very ruins are decay’d and lost. (b)

(a) One, of the Emperor Caius Caligula in Copper, stamp’d, as Occo sets down, A.D. 42. Upon the one side, the Emperor with a Lawrel-wreath, with this Inscription, C. Cæsar. Divi. Auli. Pron. Aug. P. M. T. R. P. IIII. PP. Upon the reverse, Vesta S. C. Vesta sitting in a Chair, holding in her right hand a dish. Another coin is of Constantine the great, stamp’d A D. 306. Upon the one side, the face with a Lawrel-wreath circumscrib’d, viz. Constantinus P. F. Aug. Upon the reverse, Soli invicto Comiti, T. F. P. T. R. The figure of the Sun. Burton’s Leicestershire.

(b) Sir William Dugdale farther observes, that the earth (so far as this extended) is of a darker colour than the rest thereabouts; and of such rankness, that much of it hath been carry’d by the husbandmen to further distances, like dung, to make the ground more fertile.

These things consider’d, with its distance from Banaventa, or Wedon (which agrees exactly,) and the name of that bridge (of Bensford,) are Inducements to believe, that the BennonesBennones. or Venones, which mansion Antoninus places next after Bannaventa, were seated here. And the rather, because Antoninus tells us, that the way parted here into two branches, which also is the common Tradition.Ratae For North-east, in the road to Lincoln, the Fosseway leads to Ratæ, and Vernometum (of which places, more hereafter;) and to the North-west Watlingstreet goes directly into Wales by Manvessedum; of which in its proper place, when I come to Warwickshire.

⌈Not far from High-cross, is Burbage,Burbage. of which Church Anthony Grey (afterwards Earl of Kent) became Rector; and, notwithstanding the enjoyment of that Honour; he would not relinquish the office and work of the Ministry, but continu’d therein till the end of his life.⌉

More above, on the side of the foresaid way, stands Hinckley,Hinckley. formerly belonging to Hugh Grantmaisnill, High-Steward, or Seneschal of England, in the reigns of William Rufus, and Henry the first. He had two daughters, Petronilla or Parnel, marry’d to Robert Blanchemaines, Earl of Leicester (so sirnam’d from the whiteness of his hands,) with whom he had the Stewardship of England; and Alice, married to Roger Bigod. At the East-end of this Church, are trenches and rampires cast-up to a great height, which the Inhabitants say was Hugh’s castle. Three miles from hence, lies Bosworth,Bosworth. an ancient market-town, ⌈and by way of distinction from another of the same name in the Hundred of Gartery,Burton, p.47. call’d Market-Bosworth;⌉ which said market, with its Fair, Richard Harecourt obtain’d of King Edward the first. * * Three miles distant.Near this town, within the memory of our † † So said, ann. 1607.grandfathers, the right of the Crown of England was finally determin’d in a pitch’d battel: for there, Henry Earl of Richmond, with a small body of men, gave battel to Richard the third, who had villanously usurp’d the Crown; and whilst, for the liberty of his Country, Henry valiantly expos’d his life, he happily overcame and slew the Tyrant; and in the midst of blood and slaughter, was with joyful acclamations saluted King, having, by his valour, deliver’d England from the dominion of a tyrant, and by his conduct freed the nation from the civil dissentions, which had so long disturb’d it. Hereupon Bernardus Andreas, a Poet of Tholouse, who liv’d in those days, in an Ode to Henry the seventh, alludes thus to the Roses, which were the ¦ ¦ Insignia.device of that King;

Ecce nunc omnes posuere venti
Murmura, præter Zephyrum tepentem,
Rosas nutrit, nitidosque flores
Veris amœni

Now the rough tempests all have breath’d their last,
All winds are hush’d except the gentle west,
By whose kind gales are blushing Roses blown,
And happy spring with all its joys comes on.

⌈The exact place of this battel is frequently more and more discover’d,Burton Leic. p.47. by pieces of armour, weapons, and other warlike accoutrements, dug-up; and especially, a great many arrow-heads were found there, which are of a long, and large proportion, far greater than any now in use. There is likewise a little Mount cast-up, where the common report is, that before the engagement, Henry Earl of Richmond, made his Speech for the encuragement of the Army.

Not far from Bosworth, is Lindley;Lindley. of which Lordship it is remarkable (says Mr. Burton) that therein was never seen adder, snake, or lizzard; tho’ in all the bordering places they have been commonly found. Not far from hence, is Higham, in old Deeds written Hecham; and memorable, among other things, for a curious piece of Antiquity ** Burton, Leic. p.131., discover’d there in the year 1607, in the following manner. An Inhabitant of this town, in taking up a great square-stone, which lay in Watlingstreet-way, upon the crossing of another way that leads to Coventry; met with about two hundred and fifty pieces of silver of the coin of King Henry the third, each of the weight of three pence. On the one side thereof was the King’s-head, with a hand holding a Scepter, circumscrib’d Henricus Rex; on the other side, a Cross-molin between Roundels, with this circumscription Fulke on Lued. There was also a gold ring, with a fair Ruby in it; and another with an Agat; and a third of Silver, wherein was a flat ruddy stone engraven with Arabick Characters, thus:


English’d by Mr. Bedwell,

By Mahomet magnifie him,
Turn from him each hand that may hurt him.

He found likewise certain great Catch-hooks and Keepers of Silver, with some Links of an old-fashion’d great Gold-chain. All these lay by the side of the stone, deep in the ground. Under the same stone, lay two or three pieces of Silver Coins of Trajan the Emperor.

† Burton’s Leicestershire, p.131.This last passage would perswade one, that the stone it self was a basis to some Altar dedicated to Trajan; according to that custom of the Romans, of laying some of the present Emperor’s coins under the foundation of their buildings, monuments, &c. The same custom they had in their Burials, as appears by the Coins found in several Urns and Barrows throughout England. And this perhaps may account for the stone and coins. The money, rings, and other things found by the side of the stone, Mr. Burton conjectures to have been the treasure of some Jew. ¦ ¦ Newbrig. Hist. l.4. c.8, 9, &c.
Malmesb. l.13. c.4.
For, that people flourish’d mightily in England a little after the Conquest, being encourag’d particularly by William Rufus; upon which they became very rich. But their wealth, in the succeeding reigns, did them great injury; when they were miserably tortur’d by King John, to make them discover and deliver up their hidden treasures. In the 11th of Edward the first, their Synagogues were all pluck’d down; and in the 16th of that King, they were all banish’d the Realm, to the number of fifteen thousand. But their riches were all to be left behind, and they were not allow’d to take any money or goods away with them, save only for the necessary charges of transportation. In which difficulty, what can we imagin more probable, than that they bury’d and hid their treasures under-ground, in hopes that the reigns of the succeeding Kings might be more favourable to them? The ring with Arabick characters, seems to confirm the same thing; and might be brought over out of Palestine or some of those Eastern Countries by some of the Jews, who (as Buxtorf tells us) having a natural love to their own Country, us’d sometimes to visit it. And the learned Antiquary before-mention’d, is of opinion, that it was laid here to challenge the property, whenever there should be occasion to enter a claim, because without some such thing they would belong to the King, or to a common person, by prescription. Thus, † † Stow’s Survey of London, fol.39.when Ludgate was taken down in the year 1586. to be rebuilt, they found in the wall a stone engraven with Hebrew Letters to this effect, This is the dwelling of Rabbi Moses, the son of the honourable Rabbi Isaac.⌉

We meet with nothing more upon this Way, worthy to be mention’d; unless it be at some distance, Ashby de la Zouch,Ashby. a most pleasant Town, now belonging to the Earls of Huntingdon; formerly, to Alan de la Zouch,Barons Zouch of Ashby.
Vid. Burt. p.16.
a Baron, who bore for his arms on a Shield Gules, 10 Bezants. This man, having marry’d one of the Coheirs of Roger de Quincy Earl of Winchester, came in her right to a great estate in this County: but having commenced a suit against John Earl of Warren, who chose rather to determine the matter by Sword than by Law, he was kill’d by him in the King’s-hall at Westminster, An. 1279. And some few years after, the daughters and heirs of his Nephew convey’d this estate by marriage into the families of Seymour, and Holland. But this Town came afterwards to the family of Hastings, who have here a † † An. 1607.beautiful seat; ⌈though at present running to decay. Here are also two ruined Towers of the Palace of the Earls of Huntingdon, built by the Lord Hastings, who was beheaded by King Richard the third. In the late Civil Wars, it was a Garrison for the King, and afterwards demolished.⌉ Of this Family, William procured * * Or, Ed. 4.of Henry the sixth the privilege of a Fair. ⌈It’s coming into this noble Family happen’d upon the Attainder of James Butler Earl of Ormond and Wiltshire, after King Edward the fourth recover’d the Crown. Sir William Hastings had a grant of it, in consideration of his signal Services against King Henry the sixth, and his party; upon which account, he was also made a Baron, Chamberlain of the King’s houshold, Captain of Calais, and Knight of the Garter. This I take to be the same William, mention’d before as procuring for it the privilege of a Fair from Henry the sixth (for the Market cannot be meant, because the Town enjoy’d that privilege long before.) But in truth, it seems to be a mistake for Edward the fourth, because Sir William always oppos’d the Lancastrian Party in favour of the House of York, and upon that turn of government procur’d this grant. Besides, it expresly appears that 11 Edw. 4. he had a Charter for two Fairs to be held there yearly; with licence to make, amongst other of his houses, this of Ashby, a Castle; which was demolish’d in 1648; at what time, many other noble seats underwent the same fate by an ordinance of the Parliament. This manour, in a lineal descent from the said William Lord Hastings, came to the present Earl of Huntingdon.⌉

Nor ought I to omit Cole-Overton,Colorton. the seat of H. de Bellomont or Beaumont, descended from the same famous Family with the Viscounts de Bellomont, ⌈but this family is lately extinct by the death of Thomas Lord Beaumont, who bequeathed his Estate to Sir George Beaumont Baronet, of Stoughton-Grange, near Leicester. In this Parish of Cole-Overton, is a noted mineral water call’d Griffy-damGriffy-dam. (as others also have been lately discover’d in this County, at Dunton and Cadeby.)⌉coal The place hath the name of distinction, from Pit-Coles,Pit-Coles. being a bituminous earth harden’d by nature, and here (to the great profit of the Lord of the Manour) dug-up in such plenty, as to supply the neighbouring Country, all about, with firing. ⌈Not far from whence, is Osgathorp,Osgathorp. where Thomas Harley, Citizen of London, built very convenient Houses for six poor Ministers Widows, with the allowance of 10 l. per Ann. to each; and also a Free-school, with a * * 40 l. per ann.good Stipend.

North-west from hence is Stanton-Harold,Stanton-Harold. in the Parish of Breeden; where, near the noble Seat of the right honourable the Lord Ferrers, is a new-built Church, a very curious structure of square-stone; of the Founder whereof; an Inscription in the front gives this account,

In the year 1653.

When all things sacred throughout the Nation
Were either demolished or prophaned,
Robert Shirley Baronet founded this Church;
Whose singular Praise it is, to have done
The best things in the worst of times

And, at the like distance from Ashby de la Zouch, to the south, at a place call’d Appleby,Appleby. Sir John Moore Citizen, and once Lord Mayor of London, built a very noble School-house, and endow’d it with extraordinary Salaries, for a * * 60 l.Master, an † † 40 l.Usher, and a ¦ ¦ 20 l.Writing-master; with a convenient house and out-houses for each.⌉

The river Soar (as I have already observ’d) runs through the middle of this County; which rising not far from the Street-way, and encreasing with the addition of many little Springs, flows gently to the North, and, in its course, washes the West and North-sides of the principal Town of the Shire; call’d by Authors ⌈Legerceaster, Ligoraceaster, Lygraceaster, Legraceaster, Legoraceaster,⌉ Lege cestria, Leogora, Legeo-cester, and Leicester.Leicester. ⌈(And in readingV. Burton, p.160. our ancient Histories, it must be carefully distinguish’d from the British Caer-legion, or Caer-leon (i.e. West-Chester,) which is named Legeceaster, Legaceaster, and, by middle-age-writers, Legacestre.)⌉ This is a place of great antiquity, and no less beauty. In the year 680, when Sexwulph, by King Ethelred’s order, divided the Kingdom of the Mercians into Dioceses, he plac’d here a Bishop’s seat, and was himself the first Bishop of the See. ⌈The Seat was near St. Margaret’s Church; as appears by a ground there, still called the Bishop’s Barnclose, and a Royalty, called to this day the Bishop’s Fee.⌉Bishop’s Fee. But after a few years, the See being translated to another place, that dignity determin’d, and the wealth and reputation of the Town decay’d by little and little; till Edelfleda a noble Lady, in the year of our Lord 914, repair’d and fortify’d the place with new walls; so that Matthew Paris in his Lesser History writes thus; Legecestria is a most wealthy City, and encompass’d with an indissoluble wall, of which if the foundation were strong and good, the place would be inferiour to no City whatsoever. At the coming-in of the Normans, it was well peopled and frequented, and had many Burgesses Twelve of whom (as we find recorded in William the first’s Book) were by ancient Tenure to go with the King as often as he went to war. But in case he made an expedition by sea, then they sent four horses as far as London, for the carriage of arms, or other necessaries. This Town paid to the King yearly thirty pounds by Tale, and twenty in Ore, and five and twenty† Pint and half, or 24 Ounces.Sextaries of Honey. But in the time of Henry the second, it was oppress’d with great misfortunes, and the walls were demolish’d ⌈by Richard Lucie, Chief Justice of England, who had the Government during the absence of the King in Ireland, ann. 1173.⌉ when Robert, sirnam’d Bossu, that is, Crook-back, Earl of Leicester, endeavour’d to raise an Insurrection against his Prince. Which Matthew Paris1173. delivers in these words: For the contumacy of Earl Robert in opposing the King, the noble City of Leicester was besieged, and ruin’d by King Henry, and the wall which seem’d indissoluble, thrown down to the very foundation, quite round. Let me add out of the said Lesser History, That the walls (being faulty in the foundations) when they were undermin’d, and the props burnt that supported them, fell in great pieces, which remain * * Matth. Paris dy’d, this day in the shape of rocks, for bigness and solidity; such was the indissoluble firmness of the morter. Miserable was the condition of these Citizens at that time, both in relation to their Fines and Banishment; who, having with a sum of Money purchas’d licence to depart, were notwithstanding so terrify’d, that they took Sanctuary at St. Albans and St. Edmundsbury. Also, the Castle here, which was a large and strong building, was dismantled. ⌈It was the Court of the great Henry Duke of Lancaster; who added to it (by computation) twenty six Acres of ground which he enclosed with a very strong wall of square-Stone, at least eighteen foot high, and called it his Novum opus, vulgarly now, the Newark, where the best Houses in or near Leicester are, and do still remain Extra-Parochial, as being under Castle-guard, by an ancient Grant from the Crown. The Hall of this Palace, and the Kitchen, are preserved entire, by which a guess may be given at the whole; the former being so lofty and spacious, that the Courts of Justice, when the Assizes are held there, are at such a distance as to give no disturbance to each other. There are several Gate-ways to enter this Palace, but that which faces the east, is esteemed a curious piece of Architecture, for its noble Arch; over which, in the Tower, is kept the Magazine for the Militia of the County.⌉

Beneath this Castle, is a very fair Collegiate Hospital; in the Church whereof, Henry Earl of Lancaster, and Henry of Lancaster, his son, who was the first Duke of Lancaster, lie buried. Which Duke, in his old Age,1330. piously built and dedicated the same, for the maintenance of poor people. Of this, Henry Knighton of Leicestershire, who liv’d in that age, writes as follows: Henry Duke of Lancaster was the first founder of the Collegiate Church and Hospital without the Southgate at Leicester, in which he placed a Dean and twelve Canons Prebendaries, with as many Vicars, and other * * Ministri.ministers, one hundred poor and weak People, and ten able women to serve and assist the sick and weak; and he sufficiently endow’d the said Hospital. ⌈This, with divine Service therein, doth in some measure still subsist, by certain Stipends paid out of the Dutchy of Lancaster, together with divers new Charities; and there is another Hospital built by Sir William Wigston, a Merchant of the Staple in this Town, in the reign of King Henry the eighth, which is in a very prosperous condition.⌉

On the other side of the Town, amongst pleasant meadows water’d by the Soar, was a Monastery, call’d from its situation, † † De prees.De pratis; of which the foresaid Knighton writes thus:1143. Robert le Bossu, Earl of Leicester, founded the Monastery of S. Mary de Prees of Leicester, and richly endow’d the same with lands, possessions, and Revenues; himself also, with consent of Amicia his wife, became a Canon Regular in the same, and fifteen years serv’d God there in the habit of a Regular; and dy’d in the Lord, a Canon. This his taking upon him the Canonical habit, was by way of penance, for having been in arms against his Prince. What name Leicester had in the times of the Romans, does not appear. I think, it is called in the Catalogue of Ninnius, Caer Lerion: ⌈and Mr. Somner saith, it had its name from the river, now called Soar, but formerly Leire; of which name, there is a Town, which stands near the head of it.⌉ Lear But that it was built by the fabulous King Leir, let who will believe for me. It’s situation on the Military-way call’d the Fosse, and its distance from the Bennones ⌈High-cross⌉ and Verometum Ratae Ragae Actaeon ⌈Burrow-hill⌉ agree so exactly with the description of Antoninus, that I cannot but believe, that this is the Ratæ,Ratæ. which in Ptolemy is call’d Ragæ; though there is not the least footstep of the word Ratæ remaining, unless it be in the name of an old trench scarce half a mile distant from the South-gate of Leicester, call’d Rawdikes, ⌈and in Ratby three miles from Leicester, too far remote from the Roman Fosse, and without any marks of Antiquity. But Gale, Itin. p.100.(not to mention, that Fern, call’d in Celtick, as Dioscorides says, Ratis, and in British Rhedyn, grows hereabouts in abundance) that conjecture, grounded upon the situation, and distance, is much confirmed by several pieces of Roman Antiquities which have been discover’d here. As 1st, An ancient Temple, dedicated (as is suppos’d) to Janus; which had a Flamen or High-priest resident here: an argument whereof, is the great store of bones of beasts (which were sacrific’d) that have been dug-up. On this account, that place in the Town is call’d Holy-bones;Holy-bones. where are some ruins of ancient brick-work remaining. It is said, that the Church of S. Nicholas was built out of the ruins of it; and indeed the conjecture receives some strength from hence, that the present building has many rows and pieces of ancient bricks about it. 2. Another considerable piece of Antiquity was discover’d in this Town by an Inhabitant, who several years ago was digging for a Cellar; and the workmen were very careful to have it preserv’d. It has been thought by many, to be the Fable of Actæon, chiefly from it’s having on it a Creature with the head of a Stag; but that appears to be only a Monster with a Stag’s head. The figures, are, a Cupid with his Bow drawn, and a Man with one of his Arms about a Monster’s neck, as going to kiss it; and the whole is indeed the Representation of that Fable, which feigns Venus to revenge her self upon one who had found fault with her, by engaging her son Cupid to make him fall in love with a Monster. It is wrought with little Stones, some white, and others of a chesnut Colour; and is a very rare piece. The Cellar is near the Elm-trees, not far from All-Saint’s Church, and few Travellers of curiosity pass by that way, without a sight of it. 3. There have been found here Medals and Coins in great abundance, both of silver and copper; of Vespasian, Domitian, Trajan, Antonine, and others. 4. Near the Town, somewhat deep in the ground, was found a piece of work of stone, arch’d over; the stones very small, about an inch long, and half an inch broad and thick, finely jointed together with a thin mortar. It was in length about five or six yards, and in breadth about four; and the roof cover’d with a square kind of quarry, with small earthen pipes therein. This (as Mr. Burton thinks) was a Stouphe or Hot-house to bathe in; for Vitruvius tells us, that the Romans growing by degrees wealthy and wanton, made use of these hot bathes to purge and clarifie themselves. Not unlike this, is a later discovery which hath been made, of a Room twelve foot deep; the Walls of which were finely painted, and in it were two Chimnies. (a)

(a) With the Antiquities of this place, we must take notice of a memorable Epitaph in the Church of St. Martin’s here, over Mr. John Heyrick, who dy’d the 2d of April, 1859. aged 76. He liv’d in one house with Mary his wife full fifty two years; and in all that time never bury’d man, woman, nor child, though sometimes twenty in family. The said Mary liv’d to ninety seven years, and saw before her death (Dec. 8. 1611.) of her children, and children’s children, and their children, to the number of one hundred forty three.

The Church of St. Margaret’s, is a noble and elegant Structure, and is famous for a Ring of six Bells of so melodious a sound and exact notes, that they are reputed not inferior to any in the Kingdom. The chief Business of Leicester, is the Stocking-Trade, of which there hath been, for some years, an usual return made of sixty thousand pounds per annum.⌉

Here, I am at a stand, and look about me to see what Way I shall follow, as my guide to the ancient Towns. Ranulph the Monk of Chester tells us, that the old Street-way goes from hence to Lincoln through the Wasts; but through what Wasts he tells us not. The vulgar opinion is, that it went-on to the north, through Nottinghamshire; but Antoninus the Emperor (if I mistake not) seems to intimate that it went northward through this County into Lincolnshire. And this way, the footsteps of Antiquity appear in some places, of which we shall speak in their order: but, that way, though I have made diligent search, I have not hitherto discover’d any such thing; what others may have done, I know not.

Near this place, is Grooby,Grooby. a rich and ample Manour;V. Burton, p.122. which from Hugh Grantnaismill (whom William the first had enrich’d with great revenues) descended by the Earls of Leicester and the Quincys to the family of the Ferrars; of which family, the Lords Ferrars of Grooby,Ferrars and Grays of Grooby. for a long time enjoy’d the honour of Barons; but at last leaving one only daughter, Isabella, she by marriage convey’d the same to the Greys, from whom it came again to the Crown by Attainder. * * While I am revising this Work, C.But the most potent Prince, King James ⌈the first⌉ restor’d Sir Henry Grey, a Knight of great worth, to this honour of his Ancestors, having before his Coronation created him Baron Grey of Grooby; ⌈whose grandson of the same name was by King Charles the first advanced to the higher dignity of Earl of Stamford.

About seven miles north from Leicester, on the Fosse-way, is a small round hill, supposed to be one of the Roman Tumuli, and well known to Travellers by the name of Segs-hill,Segs-hill. or Sex-hill, there being six Parishes which center at that hill, and set the marks of their Parish-bounds there.⌉

Let us now return to the river Soar; which, having pass’d by Leicester, ⌈runs by Thurcaston,Thurcaston. famous for the birth of that good Prelate and devout Martyr Hugh Latimer; where the Inhabitants pretend to shew some remainder of the House in which he was born, or at least the very Place where it stood. Then, the Soar⌉ giveth name to Montsorell, or rather Mont-Soar-hill,Mont-Sore-hill. a compound of Norman and English. It is now only noted for its market ⌈kept on Mondays, and a yearly Fair upon the 29th of June, St. Peter’s day; being granted by King Edward the first in the twentieth year of his reign, to Nicholas de Segrave the elder.⌉ But heretofore it was most famous for a Castle, seated on a steep and craggy hill, and hanging over the river. This, first belong’d to the Earls of Leicester, and afterwards to Saher de Quincy, Earl of Winchester, in the Barons war: At this day, it is nothing but a heap of rubbish. For in the year 1217. being taken after a longHistor. minor. siege, the Inhabitants pull’d it down to the ground as a nest of the Devil, and a den of Thieves and Robbers. ⌈Not far from whence, on this side, is Bradgate,Bradgate. the seat of Thomas Grey Earl of Stamford, and Baron Grey of Grooby; and on the other side of the river, Ratcliff,Ratcliff. where is an uncommon Tumulus, which seems to be the Monument of some Danish King; not only because the Danes are known to have been much conversant in those parts, but also because the figure of it (which is long, whereas these Tumuli are generally round,) agrees with the account which Olaus Wormius gives of the Sepulchers of the most ancient Danish Kings, That they were made ad magnitudinem & figuram Carinæ maximæ navis Regiæ, in bigness and shape like the Keel of a large Ship. † † Higher, C.Lower, on the * * Other side, C.same side of the river,⌉ is Barrow,Barrow. where is dug the firmest and most approv’d sort of ¦ ¦ Calx.Lime for building. ⌈In this Town is an Hospital, newly erected by Theophilus Cave, and Humfrey Babington, and also well endowed; for the old Batchelors and Widowers of this Parish and that of Quarendon adjoyning.⌉ A few miles from thence, the Soar ends its course in the river Trent; a little below Loughborrow,Loughborrow. a Market-town, which, in the reign of Queen Mary, had one Baron, Edward Hastings, dignify’d with this title. ⌈It was the ancient inheritanceBurton, pag.181. of the noble family of the Despensers, who obtain’d the privilege of a weekly Market, with certain Fairs to be kept here. But upon the Death and Attainder of Hugh le Despenser, Earl of Winchester, the 19th of Edward the 2d, it was forfeited to the Crown, and granted by K. Edward the third to Henry Lord Beaumont in General-tail; in whose posterity it continu’d, till William Viscount Beaumont, being in the battle of Towton-field, on the side of King Henry the sixth, was attainted of High Treason 1 Edw. 4, and the manour granted to William Lord Hastings. But the Viscount Beaumont was restor’d to it by King Henry the seventh, and upon the Attainder of Viscount Lovel his successor, it return’d to the Crown. The 19th of Henry the eighth, the Marquiss of Dorset obtain’d a grant of it; but upon the Attainder of his son Henry Duke of Suffolk, 2 Mar. it was forfeited to the Queen, who granted it to Edward Lord Hastings of Loughborough, from whom it directly descended to the present Earl of Huntingdon. This Edward was third son to George, Earl of Huntingdon, and did great Services to Queen Mary by the forces which he had rais’d, on the death of King Edward the sixth, to oppose the Lady Jane Grey. He was first made Master of her Horse, and was of her Privy Council, and Knight of the most noble Order of the Garter. Having obtain’d the Grant of this Manour, amongst others, he was created Lord Hastings of this place, and made Lord Chamberlain to that Queen’s houshold.⌉ But upon her death, who had a great affection for him, he, cloy’d with this world, refus’d to live longer in it, and devoting himself wholly to God, retir’d into the Hospital which he had erected at Stoke Pogeis in Buckinghamshire; where he liv’d very piously, among the poor People, and with them finish’d his course devoutly in Christ. ⌈Since his death, it has given the same title to Henry Hastings Esquire, second son to Henry Earl of Huntingdon, who was a person of great valour and military conduct; and the first that appear’d in arms on the behalf of King Charles the first, conducted the Queen from Burlington to Oxford, and planted divers garrisons with his own forces, and particularly that of Ashby de la Zouch in this County; and, as a reward for his extraordinary service, was 19 Car. 1. advanc’d to the dignity of a Peer of this Realm, by the title of Baron of Loughborough. He departed this life unmarried at London, 18. Jan. 1666, in the 55th year of his age, and was bury’d in the Collegiate-Chapel-Royal of St. George in Windsor-castle.⌉

That this Loughborough was that royal Vill (in the Saxon tongue call’d Saxon: Lieganburge ⌈by the Saxon Annals Saxon: Lygeanburh, and Saxon: Lygeanbyrig, by Florence, Saxon: Liganburh, by later writers Lienberig and Lienberi,)⌉ which Marianus says, Cuthulfus took from the Britains in the year of Christ 572; the affinity of the names does in some sort evince. ⌈But yet this may seem to draw Cuthwulf too far out of his road; the very next Town that he took, being Ailesbury; which favours the Opinion of those, who chuse rather to place it at Leighton in Bedfordshire; since it may justly be wonder’d, that between this Town and Ailesbury (in so large a space) he should not make an attempt upon any other.⌉ At present, this is justly esteem’d the second Town of the County, next to Leicester, as well in respect of its bigness and buildings, as the pleasant woods about it. For near the Town, the forest of Charnwood,Charnwood Forest. or Charley, * * 20 miles in compass, Lel.spreads it self † † Burton, p.69.a great way. Within the bounds whereof is Beaumanour Park, which the Lords Beaumont enclos’d (as I have heard) with a stone-wall. These Lords were descended (as is commonly believ’d) from a French family: certain it is, that they come from John de Brenne King of Jerusalem, and that they first settled in England about the reign of Edward the first; and, by marriage with the daughter of Alexander Comyn, Earl of Boghan in Scotland (whose mother was one of the heirs of Roger de Quincy, Earl of Winchester) they got a very plentiful Estate, and became a large Family. Of which family, in the reign of Edward the third,Viscounts Beaumont. Henry was for several years summoned to Parliament by the name of Earl of Boghan; and in the reign of Henry 6, John was for a time Constable of England, and the The first honorary Viscount in England.first in England (that I know of) whom the King advanc’d to the honour of a Viscount. But when William the last Viscount dy’d without issue, his sister was married to the Lord Lovel; and the whole inheritance, which was large, was afterwards confiscate for High Treason.

In this north part nothing else occurs worth mentioning, unless it be a small Nunnery founded by Roisia de Verdon, and call’d Grace-dieu, that is, God’s grace: And not far from thence, by the Trent, Dunnington,Dunnington. an ancient Castle, built by the first Earls of Leicester, which afterwards came to John Lacy Earl of Lincoln, who procur’d for it the privilege of a Market and a Fair. But when, in the proscription of the Barons under Edward the second, the possessions of the proscribed were alienated and divided, the King gave this Manour to Hugh le Despenser the younger; ⌈whose father, Hugh le Despenser the elder, King Edward the second created Earl of Winchester. But 1 Edw. 3. Henry Earl of Lancaster obtain’d a Reversal of his brother’s Attainder, together with a restitution of his estate; of which this Castle and Manour was a part. Afterwards, descending to King Henry the fourth, it became parcel of the Dutchy of Lancaster, and so continu’d till the reign of Queen Elizabeth: when Robert Earl of Essex, having obtain’d a grant of the Park, did, in the latter end of that Queen’s reign, sell the same to George Earl of Huntingdon, which is now the inheritance of the present Earl.⌉

The east part of this County, which is hilly, and feedeth a vast number of Sheep, was heretofore adorned with two principal places of great note; Vernometum, or Verometum, mention’d by Antoninus; and Burton-Lazers, of great account in former ages.Ratae

Vernometum,Vernometum, or Verometum. having lost its name, seems to have been situated in that place which is now call’d * * At Charnley, Dr. Gale, p.101.Burrow-hill,Burrow-hill. and Erdburrow, ⌈near half a mile from the Town of Burrow:⌉ For between Verometum and Ratæ, according to Antoninus, were twelve miles, and there are almost so many between this place and Leicester. The present name also of Burrow, comes from Saxon: Burgh, which signify’d among the Saxons a fortify’d place. But the most considerable proof is, that the ground is a steep hill, on all sides but the south-east; on the top of which, remain the plain footsteps of a Town ⌈or a Temple⌉ destroy’d; a double trench, and the track of the walls, which enclosed about † † Eighteen, C.twelve acres of land, ⌈with a rising in the middle of it. The said ditch and track are pretty plain: The entrance into it, both now and anciently, was from the East and by South. There are two banks cast-up about ten yards in length, and five or six in distance one from the other; where the Portal appears to have been, and where the entrance is partly level from the field adjoyning.⌉ At this day, it is * * Restibilis.arable ground, and noted on this account, chiefly, that the youth of the neighbouring parts meet here yearly for wrestling, and such like exercises; ⌈and it hath a very pleasant prospect, especially to the west.⌉ One would imagine from the name, that some Temple of the Heathen Gods had formerly stood in this place. For in the ancient Language of the Gauls, which was the same with that of the Britains, VernometumVernometum, what it signifies in the old Gaulish. signifies a great and spacious Temple, as Venantius Fortunatus expressly tells us of Vernometum a Town in France, in these Verses in his first Book of Poems:

Nomine Vernometum voluit vocitare vetustas,
Quod quasi fanum ingens Gallica lingua sonat

The Gauls, when Vernomet they call’d the place,
Did a great Temple by the word express.

⌈And the interpretation of a great Temple seems to answer the appearance of the place exceeding well; for if we view it more nearly, there do not so much appear the marks of a Town demolish’d, as some particular great building; and rather a Temple than any other, to which the several adjacent Colonies might conveniently resort.⌉

As for Burton,Burton-Lazers. call’d for distinction Lazers, from Lazers (so they nam’d the Elephantiaci or Lepers;) Burton, was a rich Hospital, to the Master of which all the lesser Lazer-houses in England were in some sort subject, as he himself was to the Master of the Lazers of Jerusalem. It is said to have been built in the beginning of the Norman times, by a general collection throughout England, but chiefly by the assistance of the Mowbrays. ⌈(Leland saith, it was founded by the Lord Mowbray, for a Master and eight Brethren, which did profess the Order of St. Austin, about the reign of King Henry the first.⌉ For about that time, the LeprosieLeprosie in England. (by some call’d Elephantiasis) ran by infection over all England. And it is believ’d, that the disease first came into this Island out of Egypt: which more than once had spread it self into Europe; first, in the days of Pompey the Great, afterwards under Heraclius, and at other times, as may be seen in History; but never (so far as I have read) did it before that time appear in England.

After these places of greater fame, we ought not to omit Melton-Mowbray,Melton-Mowbray. near Burton: It is a Market-town ⌈(the most considerable for Cattle in this part of England,)⌉ so named from the Mowbrays heretofore Lords thereof, wherein nothing is more worthy of Observation, than the beautiful Church; ⌈which, the form (like a Cross,) together with the Stalls in the Chancel, the place for hanging the Vestments of the Priests, the Organ-case remaining, and other Monuments of Religious Antiquity, do sufficiently manifest to have been formerly Collegiate. And it had a Chantry for about fourteen Priests; but where that stood, is not easily discernible at such a distance of time. Near this place, is Stapleford,Stapleford. the seat of Bennet Earl of Harborow; to whom also it gives the title of Viscount.⌉ Nor must we omit Sheffington,Sheffington. more remote, to the south; which as it hath given name to a famous family, so hath it receiv’d fame and reputation from the same.

LeicestershireEarls of Leicester. hath been always famous for it’s Earls, persons of very great note. And in regard that in the Saxon times its Earls were hereditary, I will first name them in their order, according to the information given me by Thomas Talbot (a person very well skill’d in matters of Antiquity) out of the Publick Records.AEthelbald leprosy * * An accurate Succession of these Earls, is in Sir P. Leicester’s Antiquities of Cheshire.In the time of Æthelbald, King of the Mercians, in the year of our Lord 716, Leofric was Earl of Leicester; to whom succeeded, in a right line, Algarus 1. Algarus 2. Leofric 2. Leofstan, Leofric 3. who was bury’d at Coventry; Algarus 3. who had issue two sons, Eadwin Earl of March, and Morkar Earl of Northumberland; and one daughter, Lucy, first marry’d to Ivo Talboys of Anjou, and afterwards to Roger de Romara, by whom she had William de Romaro Earl of Lincoln. The male-line of this Saxon family being thus extinct, and the Saxon name no longer regarded, Robert de Bellomonte, or Beaumont, a Norman, Lord of Pont-Audomar, and Earl of Mellent, did, upon the death of Simon Earl of Leicester, obtain a Grant of this County, by the favour of King Henry the first, in the year of our Lord 1102. Henr. Hunt. in his Epistle de contentemptu mundi. He was a man of great learning, eloquent, subtle, prudent, and witty; but while he liv’d in great splendor and glory, his wife was entic’d from him by another Earl; and so in his old age he became troubled in mind, and fell into a deep melancholy. To him succeeded his son, sirnam’d Bossu for distinction; his grandson, sirnam’d Blanchemaines; and his great-grandson, Fitz-Parnel; all, Roberts. Of which, the last (who was call’d Fitz-Parnel from his mother Petronilla or Parnel, daughter and coheir of the last Hugh Grant-maisnill) dy’d without issue. Rot. in Thes. Scacc. A few years after, Simon de Montfort (descended from a bastard-son of Robert King of France) who had marry’d the sister of Robert Fitz-Parnel, enjoy’d this honour. But he, and his, being † Expulso.
Matt. Par.
expell’d in the year 1200, Ranulph Earl of Chester obtain’d this dignity, not by hereditary right, but by the favour of his Prince. Yet, afterwards Simon de Montfort, son of the aforesaid Simon, obtain’d the Earldom; Almaric his elder brother having relinquish’d his right before Henry the third.

So great and unlimited was the favour of King Henry the third to this man, that he recall’d him from his banishment out of France, loaded him with riches, and honour’d him with the County of Leicester, and his own sister in marriage. But being thus overwhelmed with kindness, and in no condition to make a return (such is the villany of some men,) he began to hate his benefactor; and occasion’d great troubles to the King (who had so highly oblig’d him)See Eovesham in Worcestershire. by blowing up the storms of a Civil war, with the rebellious Barons; in which himself, at last, was slain. His honours and possessions were confer’d by the conqueror King Henry the third, on his younger son Edmund, call’d Crouch-back, Earl of Lancaster. From thence, this title lay drown’d for a long time among those of the Lancastrian family; and Maud, daughter of Henry Duke of Lancaster, being marry’d to William of Bavaria, Earl of Hanault, Holland, Zeland, &c. added to his other titles this of Leicester. For in a CharterIn the great Register of the Dutchy of Lancaster. of the 35th year of Edward the third, he is expressly nam’d William Earl of Henhaud and Leicester. And accordingly in an Inquisition, 36 Edw. 3. she, by the name of Dutchess of Bavaria, held the Castle, Manour, and Honour of Leicester. Who dying without issue, this honour came to John of Gaunt Duke of Lancaster, who had marry’d BlancheAlteram.the second sister of Maud. From which time it was united to the House of Lancaster, till it was * * In our remembrance, C.reviv’d in Robert Dudley, whom Queen Elizabeth, in the sixth year of her reign, made Earl of Leicester, by the ceremony of girding with a sword. Him the United Provinces (being deeply engag’d in wars) unanimously chose to manage their Government, and soon cast-off again and rejected; after which, he finish’d this life, anno 1588. ⌈Some years after his death, King James the first created Robert Sidney, Viscount Lisle (descended from a sister of the last Robert) Earl of Leicester. To him succeeded Robert his son, who had by the Lady Dorothy, daughter to Henry Earl of Northumberland, Philip, his heir and successor in this dignity. Philip marrying Katharine, daughter of the Earl of Salisbury, had by her Robert, who succeeded in the same honour, and left it to Philip his son; who, dying two years after his Father, left the title to John his brother, the present Earl.⌉

Within this County are 200 Parish-Churches.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52