Leicestershire is at the heart of the East Midlands its borders being touched
by eight other counties.
The National Forest is an environmental project established in 1995. It covers some 200 square miles of North Leicestershire, south Derbyshire and south-east Staffordshire, in an attempt to link ancient forests establishing a huge recreational area. Some 8 million trees have been planted and are still in various states of growth.
At the centre of the National Forest is a visitor centre at MOIRA
known as Conkers.
As well as being an information and exhibition complex, Conkers has a unique mix of indoor and outdoor experiences situated on a former colliery site and adjacent to the Ashby Canal, including a nature reserve and a small
Built in 1804, Moira Furnace was a coke fed steam engine blast furnace for smelting local iron ore. This preserved relic of the Industrial Revolution consists of a furnace stack at the front with loading ramp and bridge house at the rear. It is now a museum.
The church at nearby ASHBY-de-la-ZOUCH preserves a unique finger pillory.
People who misbehaved in church were liable to be punished by the use of this nasty little ecclesiastical device known as a 'finger pillory'. Two grooved beams came together to trap the miscreants fingers and, although the grooves catered for varying thicknesses, the incumbent probably wasn’t
given much choice.
In the same area two curious little 18th century, Grade 11 listed lock-ups which are peculiar to this area are preserved at BREEDON-on-the-HILL where an animal pound is also attached
and at WORTHINGTON
Two more lock-ups of similar design are over the border in Derbyshire.
HINCKLEY in the south west of the county was once notable for the manufacture of hosiery and a stocking-frame as depicted on the town coat of arms was developed there in 1640.
In 1835 Joseph Hansom built his first Hansom cab there.
In 1833 Joseph Hansom built his first Hansom cab at Hinckley.
Hinckley was known for many years as ‘Tin ‘At’ supposedly as a result of a supposed incident when a 19th century itinerant sheep drover, who was drinking in a local pub, bragged that he could drink a hat full of ale. It is said that the landlord put the man to the test by having a tin hat made by a local blacksmith – apparently it held some 34 pints of ale. We are not told whether or not the itinerant completed the task.
A tin hat certainly appears on the town coat of arms and a tin hat can be seen on the top of a flag pole belonging to a local building society.
Another explanation for the tin hat is that it originated as a metal bucket placed on top of the town water pump to keep the water clean, something that was probably given the derisory name of tin hat by drunken visitors to the town making it a derogatory item.
It appears that there was a tin hat which changed hands on a number of occasions and it, or a replica, is said to be in possession of the
local civic society.
The weather vane, 184 feet up on St Mary's church tower at Hinkley is a fine cockerel which dates back some 200 years. In 1993 a headline appeared in the local paper entitled “Sorry Cock”. At the time the church steeple was being renovated and somebody took advantage of scaffolding to steal the said weather vane. The vicar appealed for its return in the press and early one morning he found the weather vane on his doorstep and it had been newly painted. There was also a note of apology telling that it was all the result of a drunken prank.
Hinckley Market Place
In 1727 a military recruiting sergeant was haranguing and cajoling a crowd in Hinckley Market Place. A young man by the name of Richard Smith made a nuisance of himself, ridiculing the sergeant with jokes and quips. The sergeant became so fed up that he ran Smith through with his pike and killed him, rather a drastic measure.A gravestone in Hinkley churchyard recalls this event and the epitaph reads :
‘ A fatal halbert this body slewThe murdering hand God’s vengeance will pursue.
From Hades terrence although justice took her flight
Shall now the judge of all the earth do right?
Each age and sex his innocence bemoans
And with sad sighs lament his dying groans.
Who departed this life the 12th day of April 1727
In the 20th year of his age.’
According to tradition the stone is said to sweat blood on the 12th April.
This may be due to the fact that the stone was originally positioned under a block of red sandstone near the east window of the church resulting in some sort of chemical reaction from dripping water.
Over in the east of the county MELTON MOWBRAY is well known for
its pork pies.
What is said to be the only equestrian statue in an English church can be seen in St Luke’s church at nearby GADDESBY. The 1848 statue, by Joseph Gott, of Colonel Edward Hawkins Cheney and his horse, is a life size sculptured monument depicting Col. Cheney of the Royal Scots Greys, who fought in the battle of Waterloo on June 18th 1815. He had four horses killed under him and rode off on a fifth horse when command of the regiment devolved upon him. At the base a panel shows Col. Cheney in hand to hand combat with a French officer who was trying to recapture a lost Napoleonic eagle. The story goes that Gott, on completing the statue, realized that he had left out the tongue of the ‘in extremis’ horse and in despair he committed suicide.
An alleged coven of witches in Leicestershire was supposedly uncovered at BOTTESFORD in the 17th century. We are reminded of the events which took place in 1617 by a monument in the
at Bottesford, which depicts two children of the 6th Earl of Rutland
– ‘two sonnes, both of which died in their infancy by wicked Practice and
Sorcerye.’ They apparently died
of ‘a loathsome disease brought on by
a coven of witches.’ church of St Mary
A Bottesford woman, Joan Flower, and her two daughters, Margaret and Phillipa. were employed at
Joan had a reputation of being ‘a monstrous, malicious woman, full of
oaths, curses and imprecations irreligious,’ and was said to be an atheist. When the Countess dismissed Margaret for
pilfering, Joan became even more
loathsome, and seeking revenge, it is alleged that she and her two daughters
submitted themselves to the devil and learned to cast spells. At this time both the Earl and the Countess
were afflicted many times with ‘sickness and extraordinary
convulsions,’ and, as malice
increased in the three women, the whole Belvoir family ‘fell smart of their revenge.’ The eldest son, Henry, ‘sickened very strangely and died, and
then Francis was severely tormented and most barbarously and inhumanely
tortured by a strange sickness and also died.’ Belvoir Castle
The three alleged witches, along with three other accomplices, were arrested at Christmas 1617. When examined by the Justices, Joan Flower asked for ‘trial by ordeal’ – she asked for bread to eat and said that if she choked and died, it would be sufficient proof of her guilt. When given the bread she did indeed choke to death and was confirmed as a witch. Margaret and Phillipa also confessed to being witches and were subsequently hanged at Lincoln Gaol on
11th March 1618.
The curiously named Ram Jam Inn, is an ancient coaching inn on the west side of the A1 at STRETTON. Apparently the name was coined when an 18th century guest at the inn was unable to pay his bill and he offered to show the landlady how to draw two different ales from the same cask as compensation. He drilled a hole in one side of the barrel and asked the good lady to ‘ram’ her thumb into the hole to stop the beer coming out. He then drilled another hole in the other side and invited her to ‘jam’ her other thumb into that hole. Whilst she was safely ‘rammed and jammed’, the guest made good his departure!