Description in 1877:
"Leicester, the capital of the county to which it gives its name, and one of the chief seats of the hosiery manufacture, is an ancient borough and well-built market town, which has been greatly improved by the formation of new streets, and the erection of elegant public edifices and handsome houses, during the present century in which its population has increased from 16,900 to about 110,000.
It is pleasantly seated, nearly in the centre of the county, on gently rising ground, chiefly on the east side of the river Soar, in 52 degrees 38 min. north latitude, and in 1 degree 8 minutes west longitude. Its distance by turnpike is 97 miles N.N.W. of London, 22 miles S. of Nottingham, 15 miles N.N.W. of Market Harborough, and 22 miles S.S.E. of Derby; and by railway it is distant from Birmingham 48 miles; London 97.5, via Hitchin, and 102.75 via Rugby; Leeds, 103.5; Sheffield, 74.5; York, 117.25; Rugby, 20; Derby, 29.5; Nottingham, 27.5; and Manchester, 96.
Its position. so nearly in the centre of England, has had much to do with its rapid increase. Midway between the north and south, east and west, it lies full in the main stream of traffic. By the Midland railway and its various branches Leicester is connected with all the great lines of railway now traversing the kingdom; and by means of the river Soar and the Union Canal it has water communication with the Trent and most parts of England. In addition to these facilities the town is approached on all sides by excellent turnpike-roads, and in its neighbourhood are many pleasant and some populous villages.
Before the introduction of railway travelling upwards of fifty coaches passed through the town daily to London and all parts of the kingdom. Its weekly markets, on Saturday for corn, provisions, &c., and on Wednesday, for cattle and sheep are well supplied; as are also its numerous fairs. The improved arrangements, the fine new Cattle Market, and the increased facilities offered by the Railway Companies, have made the town a favourite meeting place for agriculturalists generally. Now that the Cattle Market has been removed to the suburbs it is to be hoped that the pleasure fairs will be similarily dealt with, as they greatly interfere with the course of business in the central part of the town, in which they are now held. Leicester is of great antiquity, and the See of a Bishop from about 680 to 874. It was long distinguished for the number of its churches and monastic institutions, for the fine spleandour of its formidable Baronial Castle, and the strength of its tower, walls, and other military works, of which there are still some interesting remains. The streets are generally wide, and the houses of the labouring classes are not crowded so closely together as in most other large manufacturing towns.
[WHITE's "History, Gazetteer and Directory of the Counties of Leicester and Rutland." 3rd Edition 1877]



  • Spencer's Illustrated Leicester Almanac & Advertiser was published from 1855 until at least 1903.

Archives & Libraries

  • Reference and Information Library
    Bishop Street
    LE1 6AA
    Telephone:- U.K. 0116 255 6699, Overseas +44 116 255 6699
  • The Local Studies Collection contains a variety of material on Leicestershire towns and villages. There is also general material on genealogy, the FamilySearch system (IGI for UK and Ireland on CD ROM) as well as parish records for the City and the 1871, 1881 and 1891 censuses for Leicester on microfiche / film.


  • The General Cemetery opened in 1849 on Welford Road a mile south of the City Center and covers about 30 acres. It had two mortuary chapels.  It is considered Leicester's first civil cemetery.
  • N. CHADWICK has a photograph of the Welford Road Cemetery on Geo-graph, taken in February, 2015.
  • Mat FASCIONE also has a photograph of the Welford Road Cemetery on Geo-graph, taken in March, 2015.
  • The registers of the public cemeteries in Leicester (Welford Road, Gilroes, Belgrave and Saffron Hill) can be viewed by contacting:-
    Burial & Cremation Manager,
    New Walk Centre,
    Welford Place,
    Leicester, LE1 6ZG
    Telephone:- U.K. 0116 252 7382, Overseas +44 116 252 7382
  • Max WADE-MATTHEWS has written a book about the (Grave Matters, Heart of Albion Press. 1992.) Part of his website is dedicated to the cemetery and includes a history, many photos.
  • The Leicestershire & Rutland Family History Society has a section on cemeteries with general information, location of registers, photographs of Gilroes cemetery, a plan of Saffron Hill cemetery, and a brief history of the Welford Road Cemetery. They have also published details of Leicester burials between 1813 and 1881 in five volumes on microfiche.


  • The parish was in the Leicester Registration District.
  • The 1851 Census for Leicestershire has been indexed by the Leicestershire & Rutland Family History Society. The whole index is available on microfiche. The society has also published it in print.
  • The table below gives census piece numbers, where known:
Piece No.
1841 H.O. 107 / 603
1851 H.O. 107 / 2090
1861 R.G. 9 / 2281 thru 2297
1871 R.G. 10 / 3268 thru 3281
1891 R.G. 12 / 2524 thru 2542

Church History

  • Due to the rapid growth in the population of Leicester in the nineteenth century many new ecclesiastical parishes were formed. Details of these new parishes and a number of more recent closures are listed on a separate page.
  • Max WADE-MATTHEWS has written four booklets available from the publishers Heart of Albion Press about the inscribed monuments in Leicester's remaining medieval churches; All Saints', St. Margaret's, St. Mary de Castro, St. Martin's and St. Nicholas.

Church Records

  • The Anglican parish register dates from 1561.
  • The church is in the rural deanery of Christianity or Leicester.
  • The Society of Genealogists holds copies of records from many Leicester churches which can be studied at their library in London.
  • The Leicestershire and Rutland Family History Society have published an index of marriages for the Borough of Leicester from 1801 to 1837 in 4 microfiche volumes.
  • David MANN has transcribed the St. Margaret's Parish Church Marriages from 1837 - 1897. The full transcription is available from the Leicestershire and Rutland Family History Society on microfiche or CD ROM.
  • The Catholics had two places of worship in the town and the Presbyterians, one.
  • The Wesleyan Methodists had a chapel in Humberstone Road and Bishop Street.
  • The Reformed Methodists had a chapel in the London Road.
  • The Baptists had a chapel of Belvoir Street.

Civil Registration

  • The parish was in the Leicester Registration District.
  • Civil Registration began in July, 1837.

Correctional Institutions

Her Majesty's Prison was on the Welford road, and could hold 248 prisoners.


Description & Travel

Leicester is the capital of the county, a borough and a city with several parishes, and lies approx. 100 miles north of London and 27 miles south of Nottingham, virtually in the centre of England. The city stands on the banks of the Soar River (part of the Union Canal) and several rail lines intersect here, although fewer than in the 1800s.

If you are planning a visit:

  • By automobile, all roads lead to Leicester. It lies just east of the M1 motorway, at the north end of the M69 motorway, at the west end of the A50, and midway down the A6 and the A46.
You can see pictures of Leicester which are provided by:




Historical Geography

You can see the administrative areas in which Leicester has been placed at times in the past. Select one to see a link to a map of that particular area.



  • Leicester was a Roman town named "Ratae". Many Roman coins, urns and pavements have been found in and around the city.
  • The Saxons called the river the Lear and the city was known to them as "Legerceastre". This was softened over time to "Leircestre".
  • In 874 the town was seized by the Danes and held under their leader Hubba. It was not completely taken from them until William the Conqueror arrived in 1068 and then turned the place over to Hugh de GRENTMESNIL.
  • The railway station on London Road was rebuilt in 1891. Another passenger station stood on Belgrave Road.
  • A brief history of Leicester is provided by the City Council.
  • Leicester Chronicler is a website by Stephen Butt with a variety of historical information about Leicester and area.
  • Wikipedia tells us that the SS Leicester was Not per se, named after the city. SS Leicester was a 1,001 ton passenger and cargo vessel built for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway in 1891. The ship was built by Earle's Shipbuilding in Hull in 1891 and she was named after a station which was on the planned line to London. In May 1913, the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Express struck Leicester in the dock at Grimsby and damaged her. In February 1916, SS Leicester struck a mine and sank in the English Channel off Folkestone.
  • The SS Leicester City was a fishing trawler which went aground off Orkney Island in 1953.
  • In the late 1940s the authorities recognized that there was urgent need for new housing. 2,500 new houses were built between 1946-1959 in Eyres Monsell, an area on the southwest edge of Leicester City. Eyres Monsell would become Leicester's second largest estate built after World War II.


  • Leicester Hall is an ancient building, formerly the seat of the PEVERIL family, the VERNONs and the RUTLAND families.
  • The Hall was restored about 1850 and in 1881 was the residence of the Misses STONE.


  • Alan Godfrey Maps have reprinted four old detailed Ordnance Survey maps at a scale of 14" to the mile covering Leicester in the period from 1902 - 1911. Details of how to order these and the other 1,000 maps they publish are available on their website.
  • See our Maps page for additional resources.

You can see maps centred on OS grid reference SK585045 (Lat/Lon: 52.635106, -1.137023), Leicester which are provided by:


Medical Records

  • Leicester Borough Lunatic Asylum was opened on 2 September 1869 (One source gives a 10 May 1837 opening).
  • A new wing was added in 1890 for 80 patients and another larger one in 1901 for 348 patients. The second wing required 49.5 acres of land to be purchased, but it raised the total capacity to 875 patients.
  • This became the Leicester Borough Mental Hospital in 1912 since the term "lunatic" was going out of style.
  • This name was changed again in 1947 to the Towers Hospital.
  • It is unknown what patient records may exist in the Archives office. Hospitals were not required to archive patient records. Patient admission records exist for 1869 thru 1945.
  • You can always try the county's Hospital History and see what you can dig up.
  • In 1881, Samuel Arthur MARRIS was the Steward of the Asylum.
  • Leicester was also home to the Leicestershire Female Infant Orphan Asylum in 1881, but it is assumed that this was just a home for the orphans and not a hospital as we would currently define one.
  • The Children's Hospital opened here on 31 May, 1889 and was rebuilt in 1912. It re-opened in 1914
  • The Faire Hospital, in Countess street, was erected in 1911.

Military History

The town was seized in 874 by the Dane "Hubba".

In 1068, the town was taken by William the Conqueror.

In 1645, the town, a Parliamentary stronghold, was taken by Royalist forces in the English Civil War. In July of that year, it changed hands again.

The Leicester and Leicestershire South African War Memorial in Town Hall square, unveiled by Field-Marshal Lord Grenfell on July ist, 1909, is to commemorate the men of the city and county -who fell in the South African War, 1899-1901.

  • The Leicestershire and Rutland Family History Society have published The Leicestershire Military Index. Volumes 1 & 2 covering the Royal Marines and Chelsea Pensioners from 1814 - 1831 are available on microfiche only. Volume 3, Chelsea Pensioners from 1832 - 1851 is also available in printed form.
  • The Leicestershire Militia had its headquarters at Magazine Barracks, The Newarke. In 1881, SIr F. T. FOWKE, baronet, was lieut.-colonel and in command, his adjutant was Captain Robert K, WATSON, and the quartermaster was Lieut. Alfred WHITBY.
  • The Leicestershire Yeomanry Cavalry had its headquarters at Regent Street on the London Road.
  • The Leicestershire Rifle Volunteers had its headquarters at #2 Pocklington's Walk.

Military Records

Sub-lieutenant Roy Archibald GOWING, RNVR,. died on 14 February, 1945, when HMS MTB-776 exploded and burned at Oostende, Belgium.


Names, Geographical

The Saxons called the River Soar, "The Lear" and the town was "Legarcaestre". This was softened to "Leircestre", then "Leicester".


Politics & Government

  • Leicester was restored to its status as a city by King George V in June, 1919.
  • The town was partly in the ancient Guthlaxton and partly in the Gartree Hundred and in the Sparkenhoe Hundred.
  • In 1892, the Leicester Extension Act expanded the Borough of Leicester to include several surrounding parishes and the City of Leicester now forms one large parish.
  • In March, 1896, this parish was abolished and merged into a new Leicester Civil Parish.
  • Leicester is now part of the Leicester Urban Area.

Poor Houses, Poor Law

  • Bastardy cases would be heard in the Leicester petty session hearings.
  • In 1331 Henry GROSMONT, the 3rd Earl of Lancaster and Leicester, founded an almshouse for 50 poor people and infirm persons in the Newarke, Leicester. The number of poor people was later increased to 100. King James I granted a new charter and called it "The Hospital of the Holy Trinity." The building was rebuilt in 1776. There is a photograph at Flickr.
  • Miss MASON's almshouses, built in 1832 in Vauxhall street, provided room for four poor females.
  • The Memorial Cottage Almshouses, in Knighton drive, were erected by Miss Sarah BARLOW for four poor widows.
  • As a result of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, this parish became the centre of the Leicester Poorlaw Union.
  • In 1881 the parish had eight almshouses for the poor.
  • In 1883 the town built Poor Law Offices in Pocklington's walk.


 Year Inhabitants
1801 17,005
1811 23,453
1821 31,035
1831 40,639
1841 50,806
1851 60,584
1861 68,052
1871 95,220
1881 122,351
1901 211,579
1911 227,222
1921 234,143
1931 239,169


  • A School Board was established here in 1870. In 1881 there were 14 schools in various parts of the town.


  • The Leicestershire and Rutland Family History Society holds monthly meetings (except December) at The Royce Institute, Crane Street, Leicester details of which can be found on their website along with a list of the society's publications.
  • In addition, a number of LRFHS coach trips from Leicester to the Family Records Centre and the Public Records Office in London are organised.