Leicester History

This is one of the oldest cities in England dating over 2000 years. There are very many things historians consider interesting in Leicester. The history of the origin of the city is lost in time. However, there are two major theories explaining the origin of the city.

Origins of Leicester City

The first theory is that the first name is from Celtic one, Coriletav. This theory is supported by the name given to the settlement by the Romans: Ratae Corieltauvorum. The other theory believes that there is a mythical British King who was called Leir.

Leir was the one who founded the settlement around the same time that the Celts were in the area. It is believed that King Leir was supposedly buried under River Soar.

What we are sure of is the fact that the Romans built a fort there around 47 or 48 AD. By about 50 AD, a city had grown around the fort.

Ratae Corieltauvorum was very important to the Romans as it was one of the key staging posts on a major Roman road, the Fosse Way which is linked to what is now Exeter and Lincoln.

Rapidly becoming a market town for local people and their produce, the settlement thrived on the trade that Romans brought to the area.

After the Romans moved north to conquer more of England, the settlement was well established and could continue to prosper without the Romans.

The Jewry Wall and its Bathhouse in the city is the main feature that is still visible showing that Romans were once there.

As with most of England, little is known of the history during the Dark Ages following the Roman departure. The next important event was in 680 when the city is known to have been given a Bishop.

It seems that life was good as the settlement continued to prosper. Artefacts have been found showing that Leicester with its farming community had potters, cloth weavers, blacksmiths, and carpenters.

The ninth-century saw a downturn in fortunes when the settlements fell to the Danish Viking invaders. Until the 20th century, the city had no bishop as the Bishop had run away.

The Norman Conquest sees the city mentioned in the Doomsday book as Ledcestre. The name is believed to have been derived from Ligeraceaster which is a combination of Castra-camp and Ligore-Legro an early name given to River Soar.

The city had some importance in medieval times. The Normans saw the city as large enough to build a wooden fort since it had a population of about 1500.

In the 12th century, the fort was rebuilt with stone.

It was ruled by an Earl as was the custom during those days. Unfortunately, the Earl of the city rebelled in 1173 against King Henry II. This caused untold suffering to the citizens as many were killed by the King’s wrath with Robert.

During the Middle Ages, Leicester was well known for its quality wool cloth and the hosiery made from wool. It was around this time also when leather was considered an important industry. This is what gave rise to its association with shoes and footwear.

The trade was so strong in 1464 that the cities merchants were able to form a corporation. As a result, it could elect its own mayor to run the town. The population had doubled to 3000 by 1500. It continued to rise despite the frequent outbreaks of plague which could decimate the town population.

The town was given a coat of arms in 1619. The city declared itself for the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War and was laid siege by the Royalists in 1645. After breaching the town wall, the Royalists killed many of the inhabitants.

The population had doubled again to about 6000 at the beginning of the 18 century. The population and prosperity would flourish thanks to the birth of the industrial revolution.

The opening of the Soar canal in 1974 literally fuelled the boom in the industry by providing quick and cheap methods of coal and iron transportation. Next time you hear the name of Leicester city, you will understand where the name came from and how the city came into being.