views updated Jun 11 2018

Leicester (Roman) was the Romano-British civitas-capital of Ratae Corieltavorum (formerly Coritanorum). Possibly succeeding a major late Iron Age settlement, there was a brief period of military occupation before the new town started to develop in the late 1st cent. In the reign of Hadrian a forum/basilica complex was constructed, and slightly later a set of public baths in the insula (block) to the east of the forum. Part of the wall dividing the baths from their exercise hall survives today as the Jewry Wall. In the insula north of the baths was a macellum or covered market. Leicester does not appear to have had the later 2nd-cent. earthwork defences common at other towns of its status; in the 3rd cent. stone walls were built enclosing a roughly square area of about 105 acres. Relatively little is known of the development of private buildings in the town, but in the insula north of the forum was a major 2nd-cent. private house with exceptional wall-paintings. There were also shops of this date in the town; 3rd- and 4th-cent. residences and commercial premises have been identified.

Alan Simon Esmonde Cleary


Next a Mercian town, Leicester became one of the Danish five boroughs until captured by the English in 918. Under the Normans it was a seigneurial town, its lords the earls of Leicester based in the castle ( Simon de Montfort was a benefactor still remembered there). Lordship then passed to the earls and dukes of Lancaster, and in 1399 to the crown: the end of the castle as a ducal residence was a blow to Leicester's prosperity. The town revived through hosiery from the 17th cent. and later through footwear; by 1901 it was the fifteenth largest English town, a city from 1919 and a diocesan see from 1926. More than most industrial cities, it has a very visible past: ‘the castle, St Mary and the Newarke, St Nicholas and the Roman baths, and St Martin and the Guildhall are monuments the patriotic citizen of Leicester might proudly take any visitor to’ (Pevsner).

David M. Palliser


views updated Jun 27 2018


LEICESTER , county town in central England. A handful of Jews (but no community) lived here in the Middle Ages. They were expelled by Simon de Montfort in 1231 but were invited by his aunt, the countess of Winchester, to farm her lands. A section of the ancient Roman forum known as "Jewry Wall" has no connection with Jews. A modern community was formed after the influx of refugees from Russia at the close of the 19th century. In 1970, the Jewish population numbered approximately 1,100 out of a total population of some 283,540. sir israel hart (1835–1911) played a prominent civic role and was repeatedly mayor. In 1928, following the elevation of Leicester to the status of a city in 1919, the office of mayor was elevated to lord mayor. The first Jewish lord mayor was Alderman Cecil Herbert Harris (1954) and the second Sir Mark Henig (1967). Two Jews, Barnett *Janner (Baron Janner of Leicester) and M. Goldsmith, were named honorary freemen of Leicester in 1971. In the mid-1990s the Jewish population dropped significantly to approximately 670. In the 2001 British census, Leicester was found to have a declared Jewish population of 417. An Orthodox synagogue and a variety of other institutions remained. The University of Leicester maintained a Holocaust Studies Centre, formerly headed by Professor Aubrey Newman.


Levy, in: jhset, 5 (1902–05), 34–42; J. Jacobs, Jews of Angevin England (1893), 238, 377; Rigg-Jenkinson, Exchequer; Roth, England, index.

[Cecil Roth]


views updated May 18 2018

Leicester City in central England; county town of Leicestershire. It was founded in the 1st century ad as a Roman town (Ratae Coritanorum). Leicester was conquered by the Danes in the 9th century. The city is famous for the manufacture of hosiery and footwear. Pop. (1994) 297,000.


views updated May 18 2018

Leicester English hard cheese coloured with annatto.