« PreviousContinue »
antiquity, though not immediately in the town, is properly connected with the present class, and will consequently best come into this place. About a quarter of a mile south of the Infirmary are some artificial banks, which are known by the name of Radykes, or Rawdykes *. These were formerly about four yards in height, and consisted of two parallel mounds of earth, extending 67 yards in length, at the distance of fifteen yards from each other. Before Dr. Stukeley visited Leicester, these earth works were generally considered as parts of a Roman encampment, but the Doctor suggested the idea that they formed a British Curcus, or racecourse, and this opinion has since generally prevailed; but I am more inclined to consider them Roman than British.-Such are the most ancient subjects, and historical particulars respecting Roman-Leicester; and though these may appear merely trifling memorials of a warlike and refined nation, who probably possessed this station for more than three centuries, yet they afford abundant matter for reflection and investigation. If these remains are neither beautiful nor fine, as works of art, they are all curious as vestiges of remote times, and of a particular people. Of Leicester during the Saxon Heptarchy, the history is very vague and uncertain, though, from the concurring testimony of all writers, it was certainly a place of considerable note from the departure of the Romans to the time of the Norman conquest. According to Godwin, a Bishop's See was transferred from Sidnacestert to Leicester, Ill in the year 737. At this period the Saxon kingdom of Mercia had, according to some authors, three Bishops' Sees: Lichfield, Dorchester, and Leicester. Carte specifies Landesse and Worcester, but omits Dorchester. The accounts of these, as related by early chroniclers, and retailed by later topographers, are very vague and unsatisfactory, whence it becomes almost nugatory to particularize any of their annals. Those writers who have dilated on the subject, are very equivocal and contradictory. Carte says, that the See of Leicester was taken out of the Diocese of Lichfield in 691, and another account states, that Leicester was constituted a Bishop's See in 680, when Sexwulfus was installed. As this place was nearly in the middle of the Mercian kingdom, it must naturally have participated in the barbarous wars that were constantly occurring during the irruptions of the Pics, Scots, Danes, &c. From the Saxon annals, it appears that Ethelfrid, King of Northumberland, being an avowed enemy to Christianity, marched an army to Leicester, where they slew so many of the inhabitants, that they could not be all numbered. This account must not be taken in its full latitude, for though Leicester was certainly well peopled at that period, it is not very likely that its population was innumerable. It has already been noticed, that the Danes made themselves masters of this town, and kept possession of it for some
* In the county of Merns, in Scotland, is an encampment called Raedykes—and in the county of Aberdeen is another, called Re-dykes. See King's Munimenta Antiqua, Vol. II. p. 157.
# The situation of this ancient Saxon city, and Roman station, for its name implies it to be such, has afforded a subject of much controversy; for writers are not agreed in fixing its site. Camden says, that it is “now so far out of all sight and knowledge, that, together with the name, the very ruins also seems to have perished, for, by all my curious inquiry, I could learn nothing of it.” Bishop Godwin is equally at a loss. Camden, however, conjectures that . Gainsborough, in Lincolnshire, was the place: Gibson refers it to Stow, or Mariestow,
time. Jowallensis relates, that Ethelred, King of Mercia, and
his Queen Elfreda, who was daughter of Alfred the Great, repaired the town, and rebuilt and enlarged the walls, about the year 901. The latter was now made to inclose the castle, which before that period appears to have been on the outside of the town. On the conquest of Fngland by William the Norman, Leicester soon became part of the royal demesne, and a castle was either newly erected, or enlarged, and strengthened, to ensure the submission of the inhabitants and those of the surrounding country. The
Mariestow, in that county; and Pegge, with some other writers, are inclined to fix it at Kirkton, in the same county. In the History of Lincolnshire, which will follow that of the present county, I will endeavour to elucidate this doubtful subject.
wardenship of this was entrusted to Hugo de Grentemaisnel, baron of Hinckley.
The following is a translation of that part of Domesday Book which more immediately concerns this ancient city: for the words of it are, Civitas de Ledecestre, Tempore Regis Edwardi, &c.— “The City of Leicester, in the time of King Edward, paid yearly to the king thirty pounds by tale, (every one of the value of tenpence) and fifteen sextaries of honey. When the king marched with his army through the land, twelve burgesses of that borough attended him. If the king went over sea against the enemy, they sent four horses from that borough, as far as London, to carry arms, or such other things as circumstances required. At this time King William has, for all rents from that city and county, forty-two pounds and ten shillings in weight. Instead of one hawk he has ten pounds by tale; and instead of a baggage, or sumpter horse, twenty shillings. Of the mint-masters he has yearly twenty pounds, every ore of the value of twenty-pence. Of this twenty pounds, Hugo de Grentemaisnel has the third penny. The king has in Leicester thirty-nine houses. The Archbishop of York two houses, with sac and soc, and they belong to Cherlintone. Earl Hugh has ten houses, which belong to Barhou, and six belonging to Cacheworde, and one house belonging to Locteburne. The Abbey of Coventreu has ten houses. The Abbey of Cruiland has three houses. From all which the king has his geld. Hugo de Grentemaisnel has a hundred and ten houses and two churches; besides these he has, in common with the king, twenty-four houses in the same borough. In the same borough has the same Hugo two churches and two houses, and four houses decayed. The Countess Judith has in the same borough twenty-eight houses; and from the moiety of a mill she has five shillings and fourpence. Without the borough she has six plough-lands belonging to the borough; and she has there one plough, and her homagers three ploughs. There are eight acres of meadow, and a wood six furlongs long, and three broad. The whole is worth forty shillings.”
During During the disputes concerning the succession, on the death of the Conqueror, the Grentemaisnels seized Leicester Castle, and held it for Duke Robert. This subjected it to the fury of the successful partizans of William Rufus, who battered it nearly to the ground, and it continued in ruins for some time. In the reign of Henry the First, Robert Earl of Mellent being created Earl of Leicester, chiefly resided in the castle, which he fortified and enlarged. He was very liberal to the town; as was also Robert Bossu his son; but the arrogant behaviour of the latter to the king, involved the town in broils and war; it being the practice, in those times, for sovereigns to revenge themselves, for the offences of the nobility, on the people and places immediately under the patronage of the offenders. Of this a remarkable instance took place in the reign of Henry the Second, when Earl Robert Blanchmains, leaguing with the king's son in his unnatural rebellion, Leicester, the chief resort of the disaffected, stood a long siege. The earl and his adherents were defeated near St. Edmund's Bury by the king's army, under Richard Lucy, chief justiciary of England. The earl was taken prisoner; and the king's forces gaining possession of the town, fired it in several places, and overthrew by the force of engines what the flames did not destroy. The castle held out some time longer, but the garrison was at length compelled to yield, and the whole building was made a heap of ruins. This almost complete destruction of Leicester is visible in the frequent discoveries of foundations of buildings, walls, and rubbish: some of the former are found in directions right across the present streets. “Blanchmains, however, regained the king's favour, and was restored to his estates, but both he and his son, Robert Fitz-Parnel, engaging in the crusades, the town of Leicester was but ill-rebuilt, and the castle remained many years in a state of dilapidation. Fitz-Parmel dying without issue, the honor of Leicester, as part of the Bellomont estates was called, passed into the family of Simon de Montfort, in consequence of his marriage with one of the sisters of Fitz-Parnel. But the Montforts, Earls of Leicester, both father
father and son, were too much engaged in the busy transactions of their times to pay much attention to their property at Leicester. After the death of the latter in the battle of Evesham, the Leicester property was conferred by Henry the Third on his second son, Edmond Earl of Lancaster, whose second son Henry, heir and successor to Thomas Earl of Lancaster, beheaded at Pontefract, in the year 1322, made Leicester his principal place of residence, and under him, and the two next succeeding earls, the castle recovered, and, probably, surpassed its former state of splendor. When the Dukes of Lancaster ascended the throne, Leicester, though frequently honoured with their presence, received no permanent benefit; and though several parliaments were held there in the reign of Henry the Sixth, the castle had so far decayed in the time of Richard the Third, that he chose rather to sleep at an inn, a few evenings before his fall, than occupy the royal apartments in the castle. From this time the castle seems to have made constant progress to decay, so that in the reign of Charles the First, orders, dated the ninth of his reign, were issued to the sheriff, William Heyrick, Esq. of Beaumanor, (as appears from papers in the possession of that family) “ to take down the old pieces of our castle at Leicester, to repair the castle house, wherein the audit hath been formerly kept, and is hereafter to be kept, and wherein our records of the honor of Leicester do now remain; to sell the stones, timber, &c. but not to interfere with the vault there, nor the stairs leading therefrom.” From others of the same papers, it appears that the timber sold for 31, 5s. 8d. the free-stone and iron-work for 36]. 14s. 4d. and that the repairs above ordered cost about 50l. Thus was the castle reduced to nearly its present state; and though the antiquary may, in the eagerness of his curiosity, lament that so little of it now remains, yet he must surely rejoice, in his reflecting moments, that such structures are not now necessary for the defence of the kingdom, and that the fortunes of the noblemen are now spent in a way calculated to encourage the arts and promote industry, rather than in maintaining in these castles a set of idle re