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MEDIEVAL
LEICESTER



BY



Charles James Billson,MA.

Corpus CKristi College, Oxford



In AtKens. Sparta, Florence, 'twas tKe soul
Tkat was tke city's brigkt, immortal part.

TKe splendour or tke spirit was tkeir goal,
TKeir jewel, tke unconouerable keart.

So may tke city tkat I love be great
Till every stone sl\all ke articulate.

William Dudley Foidke



LEICESTER

EDGAR BACKUS. 46. CANK. STREET

1920



LOAN STACK



! — )', ■ .— I —



TO THE MEMORY OF THOSE
CITIZENS OF LEICESTER
WHO LAID DOWN THEIR LIVES
- ' IN THE GREAT WAR - -

PRESERVING THEIR

OWN HERITAGE -

FOR OTHERS.



822



This Edition is strictly limited to i.oco copies,
after which the type will he distributed.

This is No. ,



VII.



PREFACE.



IN the following pages an attempt has been made to gather
together some information, concerning the ancient City
of Leicester, which is now scattered over many volumes
and documents, some of which are not readily accessible
to the ordinary reader. A chapter has been added, for the sake
of the student, giving references to the original authorities.

The book had its beginning in a Lecture on " Leicester in
the Fourteenth Century," which I gave in the year 1897, at the
request of the Leicester Museum Committee. A few years ago,
I happened to find the notes of this old harangue, with the plans
and illustrations of mediaeval Leicester then prepared, all of
which had been lying undisturbed for some twenty years.
This discovery re-kindled my interest in the subject, and led to
the studies now printed under the name of " Medieeval
Leicester."

The title is not, I fear, very accurate ; for the period which
it is intended to cover really begins with the Conquest, and
comprises the next 500 years, or thereabouts. In the strict
language of historians, the Middle Ages came to an end in
England with the last of the Plantagenets. The word
" mediaeval," is often extended, however, in popular usage, to
the Tudor period ; and it is in this sense that I have ventured
to use it — indeed, in some cases, I must plead guilty to trespassing
yet further into the modern era.

To all those who have helped me in the preparation of
this book I am deeply indebted.

Without the enthusiastic co-operation of Mr. S. H.
Skillington, who has grudged no pains to further its production,
it would never have been published. He has helped me in
every possible way, with so much knowledge and with such
good- will that I cannot adequately express my thanks. I feel
as the Trojans felt of yore, when they received the royal
Carthaginian bounty —

' Grates persolvere dignas
Non opis est nostrae."



I am most grateful also to Mr. A. B. McDonald, A.R.C.A.
(Lond.), of the Leicester School of Art, who has been very
generous and successful in preparing plans and drawings, and
in supervising the illustrations contained in the volume. 1
wish also to thank Col. C. F. Oliver, D.L., T.D., and all
others who have so kindly helped with these embellishments,
or who have allowed me to publish them ; and I take this
opportunity of congratulating both Mr. Neviton and Mr. Keene
on the good results of the photographic work entrusted to them.

I am under considerable obligations to Mr. Henry Hartopp,
of Leicester, who has assisted me from the vast stores of his
local knowledge ; to Mr. A. Hamilton Thompson, M.A., F.S.A.,
who has given me much-appreciated help, chiefly in matters
ecclesiological ; to Mr. G. E. Kendall, A.R.LB.A., who
most obligingly made searches at the Public Record Office and
elsewhere ; to Mr. J. C. Challenor Smith, formerly Head of
the Literary Department at Somerset House, who very
kindly transcribed some original wills, and helped me in other
ways ; to the Mayor and Corporation of Leicester City, who
readily gave me permission to print a translation of one of the
unpublished documents preserved in their Muniment Room,
and to publish an illustration of it ; to the Venerable Archdeacon
Stocks, D.D., who willingly transcribed and translated this
document, and gave me other assistance ; to Mr. H. A. Pritchard,
the Town Clerk of Leicester ; to Mr. T. H. Fosbrooke, F.S.A. ;
to Mr. H. M. Riley, of the Leicester Municipal Reference
Libraiy ; to Mr. F. S. Heme, the Librarian of the Leicester
Permanent Library, and to many others.

But those who are kind enough to help a lame dog over ^
stile are not answerable for his disabiUty, and the mistakes and
shortcomings of the book are all my own.

" Me, me, adsum qui feci, in me convertite ferrum ! "



CHARLES JAMES BILLSON.



33, Saint Anne's Road,
Eastbourne,

October i/\.th, 1920.



CONTENTS.



IX.



PAGE.

1 . The Streets . . . . - - . . . • i

2. The Suburbs .. .. .. .. •• i6

3 . The Inns . . . . . . . . . . 23

4. The Prisons . . . . . . . . . . 41

5. The Town Halls . . . . . . . • 5°

6. The Twelve Demolished Churches and Chapels . . 69

7. The Six Bridges . . . . . . . . • 98

8. The Fairs and Markets .. .. .. .. 112

9. The Occupations . . . . . . . . . . 123

10. The Population . . . . . . . . . • 140

11. Some Townspeople .. .. .. .. 149

12. The Tragedy of the Blue Boar .. .. .. 177

13. The Destruction of MEoii^EVAL Leicester .. .. 200

14. Authorities, (i) General List .. .. .. 211

(2) References .. .. .. 213

Index . . . . . . . . . . . . 223



ILLUSTRATIONS.

1. IN TRINITY HOSPITAL CHAPEL - Frontispiece

A composite drawing by A. B. McDonald.

The recumbent effigy, which was removed from the
Collegiate Church of the Newarke, was thought formerly to be
that of Mary, Countess of Bohun, but is now believed to be
that of Mary Hervey, the Nurse of King Henry V. The
armour hanging on the walls appears to be mainly of the i6th
century, and is generally thought to have belonged to the Town
Watch, as it has the Town Arms painted upon the buckler and
upon the staves of the halberds. The arrangement, however,
is suggestive of funeral achievements.

2. PLAN OF MEDIEVAL LEICESTER - to face page i

3. PLAN OF NORTH SUBURB - - „ „ 16

4. PLAN OF EAST SUBURB- - - „ „ 18

5. BISHOP PENNY'S WALL - - „ „ 23

Photograph by Newton. (See page 202.)

6. THE OLD GUILD HALL - - - „ „ 50

Drawing by Miss D. Rouse.

7. CONVEYANCE OF OLD GUILD HALL - between pages
8fl. ENDORSEMENT ON THE BACK THEREOF 64 and 65

Photographs by Col. C. F. Oliver and Newton.

8. ARMS FROM OLD WIGSTON HOSPITAL to face page 69

Drawing by A. B. McDonald, A.R.C.A. (Lond.).

9. RELICS FROM OLD ST. PETER'S - to face page 76

Drawing by A. B. McDonald.

The relics comprise an Early English (13th centurjO Holy
Water Stoup, and part of a grotesque, with a fragment of
decorative carving, probably of the 15th century, and a 15th
century Font, which is traditionally reported to have come
from St. Peter's Church, and has been for many years in a
garden at Guthlaxton Street. (By kind permission of Mr.
Henry Hartopp and Mr. E. E. ElHs.) (See page 76.)
10. OAK SCREEN FROM WIGSTON'S

HOSPITAL CHAPEL - - -to face page 86

This handsome oak screen, now in Ockbrook Church,
Derbyshire, was taken from the chapel of the old Wigston
Hospital at Leicester. It will be noticed that the front of the
screen, which originally faced the nave of the Hospital
Chapel, now faces the chancel at Ockbrook. Mr. A. B.
McDonald has no doubt that the upper part is of later date
than the main structure, with which it does not form a
consistent unity. When the Chapel was " restored " in 1807,
the best parts of the discarded woodwork, including this screen
and some carved oak stalls, together with the early i6th
century glass from the West window described by Nichols,
seem to have been saved from destruction by the good taste
and influence of Mr. Thomas Pares, F.S.A., of the Grey
Friars, Leicester. He caused all this woodwork and glass to
be set up in Ockbrook Church, with some modem additions
that can easily be distinguished. Thomas Pares was Patron of
the Benefice, and his brother William, who died in 1809, was
Vicar of Ockbrook. See Cox's Churches of Derbyshire, vol.
iv., pp. 207-208, and the Pares pedigree in Fletcher's
Leicestershire Pedigrees and Royal Descents.

Photograph by Keene. (See page 87.)



ILLUSTRATIONS~C^«//««^^.

11. THE OLD WEST BRIDGE- - - to face page 98

From an old engraving.

12. COLUMN OF ELIZABETHAN CROSS - „ ,,112

Photograph by Newton. (See page n8,)

13. MEDIAEVAL WALL SOUTH OF ST.

MARY'S CHURCH - - „ „ 123

Photograph by George Hawes.

In the opinion of Mr. T. H. Fosbrooke, F.S.A., who has
made a study of the subject, this wall originally formed part of
the southern boundary of the Norman Castle. As at Lincoln
and Oxford, and other castles, this defensive wall appears to
have run up to the Keep, which stood on the Mound. The
holes in the wall, about three feet from the ground on the East
and eight feet on the West, are " put-log " holes, not em-
brasures, and were used for the erection of a platform, either
for the building of the wall, or as a " hourd " in times of attack.

14. WALL OF THE GREY FRIARS' PRIORY- to face page 140

Photograph by Newton. (See page 203.)

15. ROGER WIGSTON'S (?) HOUSE, HIGH-

CROSS STREET - - - „ „ 149

Photograph by Newton. (See page 208.)

16. BLUE BOAR INN - - - - „ ,, i77

From a drawing by W. Parsons.

17. NEWARKE COLLEGE GATEWAY - „ „ 200

Photograph by Newton. (See page 203.)

18. ARCHES OF THE NEWARKE

COLLEGIATE CHURCH - - „ „ 211

Photograph by Newton. (See page 205.)



Xll.



KEY TO THE PLAN OF MEDIAEVAL
LEICESTER.



I.


North Gate.


33-


Castle Mill.


2.


West Gate.


34-


North Mill.


3-


East Gate.


35-


Old Mayor's Hall.


4.


South Gate.


36.


Blue Boar Inn.


5-


North Bridge.


37.


Lord's Place.


6.


Frogmire Bridge.


38.


High Cross.


7.


Bow Bridge.


39-


Guild Hall.


8.


West Bridge.


40.


Wigston's Hospital.


9-


Braunston Bridge.


41-


Henry Costeyn's House.


lO.


Cow Bridge.


42.


The Grey Friars' Priory.


II.


AH Saints' Church.


43.


Grey Friars' Gateway.


12.


St. Michael's Church.


44-


do. do.


13-


St. Peter's Church.


45-


Shambles and Draperie.


14.


St. Martin's Church.


46.


The Gainsborough.


IS-


St. Margaret's Church.


47-


Elm Tree.


16.


Grey Friars' Church.


48.


Green Dragon Inn.


17.


St. Mary's Church.


49-


Angel Inn.


18.


St. Nicholas' Church.


50.


Maiden Head Inn.


19.


St. Clement's Church.


51-


St. George's Guild Hall.


20.


St. Sepulchre's Church.


52.


Rupert's Tower.


21.


Castle Hall.


53-


Newarke Main Gateway.


22.


Castle House.


54-


Bere Hill.


23-


Castle Mound.


55-


Old Barn.


24.


Newarke Hospital.


56.


Little Bow Bridge.


25.


Dean of Newarke's House.


57-


St. Austin's Well.


26.


Newarke College Church.


58.


Roger Wigston's (?) House,


27.


Wigston's Chantry House.


59-


Free Grammar School.


28.


Newarke Grange.


60.


Shirehall.


29.


The Austin Friars.


61.


Prisona Regis.


30-


Hermitage.


62.


St. John's Hospital.


31-


St. Sepulchre's Well.


63.


Red Cross.


32.


Newarke Mill.


64.


Mary Mill.



MEDIAEVAL LEICESTER.



I.

THE STREETS.

THE little mediaeval town of Leicester comprised about
130 acres. It was guarded on three sides by walls,
which occupied, at least approximately, the site of the
ancient Roman walls, or earthen ramparts. On the West lay
the river Soar, and on that side no trace of any town wall has
yet been found, although there was a gateway and a gate house,
like the others, which stood in front of the West Bridge. The
four gates of the town, over which, as early as 1322, hung the
arms of the Sovereign, stood nearly at the North-West,
North-East, South-East, and South-West points of the compass.
The main road entered the town at the South Gate, and passed
out at the North Gate, and the only other streets of importance
were those which intersected the main road at the High Cross
and ran to the East and West Gates. Other ways were mere
lanes. The Borough Records sometimes describe the four
chief streets leading to the four Gates as the four high streets,
" quatuor altas stratas Leycestriae," but the High Street, par
excellence, was that part of the King's highway which ran from
the South Gate to the North. Of the two intersecting streets,
that which led to the West Gate was called in part Hot-Gate,
and in part Apple-Gate, and that which led to the East was
known from an early date as the Swinesmarket. There were
two suburbs beyond the walls, the North Suburb and the East.
Outside the West Gate the Priory of the Austin Friars lay
between the two arms of the river, and beyond it stretched the
West Fields. The common lands of the town, known as the
South Fields, or South Crofts, lay without the South Gate.



In the 13th century Leicester was divided into four Town-
ships for police purposes, and these " vills " were known as the
North, South, East and West Gates, The same division was
also adopted in the collection of taxes, but as the population of
one quarter would dwindle and that of another increase, changes
were made from time to time in their names and boundaries.
In a Pontage Roll of 1252, the division is E., N. & S. Gates, a
blank (presumably W. Gate), and another blank (presumably
East Suburb). In the Tallage Rolls from 1269 to 1280, the
division into E., S., N. and W. quarters is regular, except that
the West quarter is sometimes omitted, and the Suburb is some-
times added. It is stated once that the collectors were elected
by the community from each quarter. After 1280 the practice
became irregular, and in the first half of the 14th century there
are many rolls with no divisions indicated. From 1342 to 1356
the division into a S. and N. quarter, an E. suburb, a Swines-
market quarter, and a Saturday Market quarter is fairly regular.
No W. quarter is mentioned, and the Bishop's tenants living in
the Bishop's Fee are sometimes given separately. The Auditors
of Account (1477-1492) were chosen from the E., S. and N.
quarters and from the Swinesmarket. After 1492 they were
chosen from " the E. quarter without the Gate," " the E. quarter
within the Gate," and the S. and N. quarters. The original
quarters were marked out by the four streets leading to the
four gates.

I. THE NORTH QUARTER.

The Northern, or North-western half of Leicester was so
ruthlessly and completely destroyed after the siege of the town
in the year 1173 that it remained for many centuries the least
populous. In the latter half of the 13th century the following
are the numbers of taxpayers recorded in seven tallage rolls.





Ykar.


Quarter.


E.
Suburb.


Total.


Reference in

THE Records of

THE Borough ok

Lkicestee.




N.


w.


E.


S.


I


1269


59


55


147


82


80


423


Box 3,
I.128-145R0U86


2


1270


66


62


123


62


79


392


,. 26


3


1271


73


65


153


83


94


468


.. 64


4


1274


57


47


100


82


75


361


I. 148. „ 68


5


1276


63


S8


149


65


93


428


I. 150. „ 70


6


1280


41


49


106


63


60


319


I. 184. „ 75


7


1286


66


66


131


63


61


387


I. 208-211,, 69



425 402 909 500 542 = 2778

Averages : 60 57 130 71 78 = 396



117



279



= 396



(The list of inhabitants of the Suburb is missing in the
first roll, so the average of the six other rolls has been taken ;
and in the seventh roll the N. and W. quarters are lumped
together, the taxpayers in the two quarters amounting to 132,
half of whom have been here allotted to each quarter.)

It will be seen that there were only 117 taxpayers in the
North-western half of the town out of a total of nearly 400.
That is to say, not a third of the population lived in that large
part of the town which lay above the High Cross, while more
than two-thirds lived in the far smaller South-eastern part and
the East Suburb. In later times calculations are more difficult
on account of the altered arrangement for dividing the borough ;
but undoubtedly the North-western half remained all but empty,
while the South-east was crowded.

The lanes in the upper part of the town, known as the
" Back Lanes," where houses were once plentiful, became
deserted for at least three centuries after the sack of 1173. They
led chiefly to orchards and closes, and stretched so far south
that St. Peter's Lane is described as one of them. The burial
place of Roger Goldsmith, who was stated to have been buried
in the " Back Lanes," was near Bond Street, formerly Parchment
Lane. The Butt Close, where archery was practised, lay by the



East Wall, and St. Margaret's Charity School was built on part
of it. This piece of ground, which comprised i| acres or more,
was at one time rented from the Crown, and afterwards became
town property. A strip of land, on which were two pairs of
butts, and which lay East of the Wall, " stretching in width
from the King's Highway to the wall of Leicester," was taken
on a 99 years' lease in 1458 at the rent of a barbed arrow.

Of the three Churches which once stood within this quarter,
All Saints', St. Peter's, and St. Michael's, the two latter fell
into disuse and decay, and were entirely demolished in or before
the 1 6th century, when their parishes were absorbed in that of
All Saints'.

The most important street in this quarter of the town for
many centuries was the old High Street between the North Gate
and the High Cross. " It was lined on both sides," writes
Thompson, speaking of the 14th century, " by houses which
presented their gable ends to the road. They were not always
close together as in a row, but sometimes surrounded by a plot
of ground, used either as an orchard, garden, or small field.
The principal inns were situated here, and were distinguishable
from their size, outward appearance, and rudely painted sign-
boards The better kinds of houses had windows ;

the poorer ones were supplied with lattice work in the openings.
There was little, if any, pavement, and heaps of filth were fre-
quently to be seen before the doors of the dwellings." The
principal pubUc buildings facing this street on the East side
were the Church of All Saints, the Hospital of St. John, the
prisona regis, or County Gaol, built in 1309, the Shire-hall, and
later the Free Grammar School, built in 1573-4.

The Blue Boar Inn lay on the West side. On that side also
stood the Cordwainers' Row, where the shoemakers carried on
their trade, and nearly opposite to All Saints' Church, for more
than three centuries, there was a Bell-foundry. Here, too, were
many of the dwellings of the leading citizens, such as the house
which John Reynold gave for the use of the Mayors of Leicester,
and the " Stocks House," near the High Cross, with its orchard



or garden lying on the north of Dead Lane, once occupied by
Alderman William Morton. This house is stated by Miss
Bateson to have been the original " stock house," or store house,
which was once used to contain the Borough stores of coal and
other materials. The Borough store house, however, to which
she refers, was situated in the Saturday Market, and not at the
High Cross. Another house belonging to the community which
was used as a store house was in the Holy Bones, near the Mayor's
Hall. But there was " a Barne in the Ded Lane called the store
howse," which belonged in 1525 to the Corpus Christi Guild,
and was then " in dekey." If Morton's house took its name
from any " stock house," which seems doubtful, it may have
derived it from this barn.

The Wednesday Market, which was held from time im-
memorial at the High Cross, seems to have extended north
during Elizabethan times, and in Speed's map of 1610 all that
part of the High Street which lay between the Cross and the
North Gate was designated " The Wednesday Market."

Leading East out of the High Street, below St. John's
Hospital, and under the southern wall of its garden, was St.
John's Lane, afterwards called Gaol Lane, or Bridewell Lane,
and now known as Causeway Lane.

A few yards farther down, a lane left the High Street on
the same side, which is described in a Coroner's Roll of 1303
as " venella que se extendit ab alta strata versus ecclesiam S. Petri
et versus Torchemer," the lane stretching from the High Street
towards St. Peter's Church and towards Torchmere. Nichols
quotes a deed of 1586, which describes Torchmere as the old
name of the Queen's Highway, " near to a place there where
formerly stood a cross." It seems to have been named after a
pond or watercourse, which at one time lay there, for in 1278
a man was fined for washing fells in Torchmere. The name
also occurs in the form " Torchesmere," and may mean the
pool where " torches " {i.e., great mullein flowers) grow, as
" Blabbs Mill, " near Castle Bromwich, took its name
from the May-blobs that flourish by the Mill pool. Torchmere
seems to have been part of the long, winding highway which is



shown on old maps of Leicester running down from near the
North Gate in the general direction North-East by South, and
which was known, in part of its course, as Elbow Lane.

St. Michael's Lane led west out of Torchmere towards the
Church. It was described as " the common way which leads
to St. Michael's Church," or " St. Michael's Lane," and in a
deed of 1483 its position is indicated thus. There was a large
piece of garden ground, which was bounded on the east by
Torchmere, " near the Cross there," and it stretched from " a
lane called Idyll Lane on the South in St. Peter's Parish to a
lane called St. Michael's Lane in the Parish of St. Michael on
the North." Idyll Lane seems to have been known later as
Feill Lane, or Storehall Lane. St. Michael's Lane is also
described as being parallel with " Blanchwell Lane."

The road leading from the High Street to St. Peter's Church
is referred to in a Tallage Roll of 1354 in an abbreviated form as
" Peter's " (Petri) ; in 1484 it was called " St. Peter's Church
Yard Lane," and, according to Miss Watts, it was for some time
known, at the beginning of the 19th century, as " Woman's
Lane " ; but in Cockshaw's plan of Leicester, published in
1828, it is marked " St. Peter's Lane," by which name it is still
known. The Church is thought to have stood near the corner
of St. Peter's Lane and the present West Bond Street.

There was a certain blind alley leading out of the High
Street, known as the Dead Lane, a name found also at Notting-
ham. In the year 1307 nine taxpayers were living in this " mortua
venella," and in 1335 a byelaw was passed prohibiting unringed
pigs in a certain part of the High Street, and " from the Church
of St. Nicholas as far as the lane of Deadlane in the Swines-
market." At the division of the town Wards in 1484, the second
Ward began " in the High Street at the Mayor's Hall Lane and
the Dead Lane end on both sides the street unto the North
Gate." It seems, therefore, that the Dead Lane was on the
Eastern side of the Old High Street, below St. Peter's Lane, and
nearly opposite to Blue Boar's Lane (as the Mayor's Hall Lane
was afterwards called), on or near the site of Freeschool Lane.



In 1573 William Morton granted to the town a piece of land
in the High Street extending northwards from Dead Lane
6 1 feet. The Elizabethan Grammar School was built partly
upon this site. Hence it would seem that Dead Lane was
merged in Freeschool Lane. This street must be distinguished
from Deadman's Lane, a later name occurring in the West
quarter of the town. Both Nichols and Thompson confused
them. A way ran north out of Dead Lane to St. Peter's Church,
which was known as Cross Lane.

SoAPERs' Lane, which was in the Parish of St. Peter's, was
North of the S winesmarket , and parallel to it. It was known


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