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In Athens, Sparta, Florence, 'twas the soul That was the city's bright, immortal part,
The splendour or the spirit was their goal, Their jewel, the unconquerable heart.
So may the city that I love be great
Till every stone shall be articulate.
William Dudley Foulke
LEICESTER EDGAR BACKUS, 46, CANK STREET 1920
TO THE MEMORY OF THOSE CITIZENS OF LEICESTER WHO LAID DOWN THEIR LIVES ~ ~ IN THE GREAT WAR ~ ~ PRESERVING THEIR OWN HERITAGE FOR OTHERS.
This Edition is strictly limited to 1,000 copies,
after which the type will be distributed.
This is No. # # #
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 mediæval 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 "Mediæval 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 "mediæval," 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. I 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. Newton 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.I.B.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 Library; to Mr. F. S. Herne, the Librarian of the Leicester Permanent Library, and to many others.
But those who are kind enough to help a lame dog over a stile are not answerable for his disability, 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 14th, 1920.
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 16th 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.
The relics comprise an Early English (13th century) 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. Ellis.) (See page 76.)
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 16th 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 modern 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.
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 embrasures, and were used for the erection of a platform, either for the building of the wall, or as a "hourd" in times of attack.