Leicester (Lester), the county town of Leicestershire, a municipal, parliamentary, and county borough, is situated on the Soar, a tributary of the Trent, 22 miles S. of Nottingham, 38 ENE. of Birmingham, 20 NNE. of Rugby, and 97 NNW. of London. Traditionally founded by the British king Lear, it occupies the site of the Roman Ratœ; and pavements, urns, and other Roman relics have been found, while the 'Jewry Wall,' 20 feet high and 75 long, which got its name from the mediaeval ghetto, is composed of rubble and Roman bricks. Its present name comes from the Anglo-Saxon Leirceastre, or ' fortress of the Leire,' as the river was called of old. The Norman castle, dismantled by Charles I. in 1645, is represented chiefly by the modernised assize hall, and by an artificial earthwork, the Mount or Castle View, on which stood the donjon-keep; the Abbey of Black Canons (1143), where Wolsey died in 1530, is an insignificant if picturesque ruin. In the Blue Boar Inn, demolished about 1829, Richard III. slept the night before Bosworth (1485); and his corpse was brought back hither for burial. A handsome memorial cross or clock-tower (1868) bears the effigies of Simon de Mont-fort, Earl of Leicester, Sir Thomas White, Alderman Newton, and William of Wyggeston. There is a statue also of Robert Hall; and among the other edifices are the old town-hall, with good carving and stained-glass of Henry VII.'s time ; the new municipal buildings (1876), Queen Anne in style, with a clock-tower 134 feet high; the post-oftice (1887), public baths (1879), free library (1870), school of art (1876), opera-house (1877), poor-law offices (1883), corn exchange (1852), lunatic asylum (1836), the museum (1848), rich in local antiquities; the Wyggeston Hospital Schools (1513 ; rebuilt 1877-78); and five interesting old churches - St Nicholas', St Mary's, All Saints', St Margaret's, and St Martin's, the last with a spire 218 feet high. The New Walk is a pleasant tree-shaded promenade; the racecourse of 1806 is now a recreation ground, known as the Victoria Park, its successor being at Oadby, 3 1/2 miles distant; the Abbey public park was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1882; and there is a third public park called the Spinney Hill Park. The abnormally rapid growth of Leicester has been due to its central position, to its transit facilities by three railway companies and by water, and to the great extension of its industries. The manufacture of plain and fancy hosiery, introduced in 1680, is equalled only by Nottingham; in that of pegged and riveted boots and shoes Leicester vies with Northampton ; elastic webbing, sewing-cotton, and lace are made, and iron-founding is carried on. First chartered by King John, Leicester has returned two members from Edward I.'s time. Leicester, which is the see of a bishop-suffragan under Peterborough, is an anti-vaccination centre. Pop. (1801) 17,005; (1861) 68.056 ; (1881) 122,351 ; (1901) 211,574.
See local histories by Throsby (1777-91), T.
Robinson (1793), Thompson, Hollings, Read, Mrs Johnson (1892); and the Records of the Borough, edited by Miss Bateson (1899-1905).