Population: 283,578 Urban/Metro Population: 330,574
Date Founded: c. 50 AD Primary Language: English
Name Origin: Latin Ligore Castra, camp of the Ligore, a people on the River Legro
Alternate/historic names: Ratae Coritanorum, Ligeraceaster

Leicester is the largest city in the English East Midlands, on the River Soar. It is the traditional county town of Leicestershire, and since 1997 has been a self-governing unitary authority. It lies on the edge of the National Forest. In 2002 the population of the city proper was estimated at 283,578, with 330,574 living in the urban area.

The urban area spreads outside the boundaries of the city proper, and includes Oadby, Wigston, Braunstone Town, Glenfield, Blaby, Thurmaston, Syston and Leicester Forest East. For areas within the city, see below.

Leicester is one of the oldest cities in England, and is now one of the most ethnically diverse.

The city is next to the M1 motorway, and is on the Midland Main Line between London and Sheffield. High-speed trains operated by Midland Mainline can reach London in just over an hour. It is also served by rail lines to Birmingham via Nuneaton, and to Peterborough.

Major industries in Leicester today include food processing, hosiery, footwear, knitwear, engineering, electronics, printing and plastics. The city centre is mainly Victorian with some later developments, which have usually been integrated in smoothly. The heart of the city centre is the Clock Tower, which is at the intersection of five routes into the city - High Street, Churchgate, Belgrave Gate, Humberstone Gate, and Gallowtree Gate. Today the latter two are pedestrianised, and vehicles are restricted on the others.

The city centre is home to the Haymarket and the Shires shopping centres, both of which face the clock tower. Leicester Market, Europe's largest covered market, is nearby. The historic core of the City lies slightly to the west, and monuments here include the Castle, the Anglican cathedral of St Martin, the mediaeval churches of St Mary de Castro and St Nicholas, the Guildhall and the Jewry Wall.

It is set to become a major city with many developments on the horizon implemented by the Leicester Regeneration Company including a major theatre designed by Rafael Viñoly.

In 1990 Leicester was designated the UK's first Environment City, and won the European Sustainable City Award in 1996.

Leicester has a large multi-ethnic population, mainly from the Indian subcontinent. There are many Hindu temples, Sikh gurdwaras and Muslim mosques around the city, mostly converted from existing buildings. The only Jain Temple in the western world is near the city centre (The Jain Centre). The area around Belgrave Road is known as the Golden Mile, and contains many Indian restaurants, jewellery shops, and other shops catering to the large Asian community in the neighbourhood. Many people travel to the area specifically for the restaurants, which serve authentic Indian cuisine. The annual Diwali celebrations are also held here and at the nearby Abbey Park, and are the biggest outside of India. There are also many of Afro-Caribbean descent(Mainly From Antigua,Montserrat and Jamaica), the community being centred around Highfields to the southeast of the city centre, and Leicester plays host to the second-largest Caribbean Carnival in the UK after Notting Hill.

According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, the mythical king of the Britons King Leir founded the city of Kaerleir (Leicester). He was supposedly buried by Queen Cordelia in a chamber beneath the River Soar near the city dedicated to the Roman god Janus, and every year people celebrated his feast-day near Leir's tomb. William Shakespeare's King Lear is loosely based on this story.

In fact, Leicester is one of the oldest cities in England, with a history going back nearly 2000 years. The Roman city of Ratae Coritanorum was founded in AD 50 as a military settlement upon the Fosse Way Roman road. The city was named after the Corieltauvi, the Celtic tribe that dwelt in the area before the Romans arrived.

Ratae Coritanorum grew into an important trading and military centre and one of the largest towns in Roman Britain. The remains of the baths of Roman Leicester can be seen at the Jewry Wall, and other Roman artefacts are displayed in the Jewry Wall museum adjacent to the site.

The Roman town was largely abandoned when the Romans left Britain in the 5th century, but was later re-settled by Saxons. In the 9th century, Leicester was captured by the Danes (Vikings) and became one of the five boroughs (fortified towns) of Danelaw, although this position was short lived. The Saxon Bishop of Leicester fled to Dorchester-on-Thames and Leicester was not to become a bishopric again until the 20th century.

It is believed the name "Leicester" is derived from the words castra (camp) of the Ligore, meaning dwellers on the 'River Legro' (an early name for the River Soar). In the early 10th century it was recorded as Ligeraceaster = "the town of the Ligor people". The Domesday book later recorded it as Ledecestre.

Leicester had become a town of considerable importance by Medieval times. It was mentioned in the Domesday Book as 'civitas' (city), but Leicester lost its city status in the 11th century owing to power struggles between the Church and the aristocracy. It was eventually re-made a city in 1919, and the Church of St Martin became Leicester Cathedral in 1927. The tomb of King Richard III is located in the central nave of the church although according to local tradition he is not actually buried there. He was originally buried in the Greyfriars Church in Leicester, but his corpse was exhumed under orders from Henry VII and cast into the River Soar.

Leicester played a significant role in the history of England, when in 1265 Simon de Montfort forced King Henry III to hold the first parliament of England at the now-ruined Leicester Castle.

On 4 November 1530, Thomas Cardinal Wolsey was arrested on charges of treason and taken from York Palace. On his way south to face dubious justice at the Tower of London, he fell ill. The group escorting him were concerned enough to stop at Leicester. There, Wolsey's condition quickly worsened and he died on 29 November 1530 and was buried at Leicester Abbey, now Abbey Park.

With the construction of the Grand Union Canal in the 1790s linking Leicester to London and Birmingham, Leicester began rapid industrialisation. The main industries being hosiery, footwear and, especially in the 20th century, engineering. All are however in decline now.

By 1832 railways had arrived in Leicester with the opening of the Leicester and Swannington Railway, which provided a supply of coal to the town from nearby collieries. By 1840 the Midland Counties Railway had linked Leicester to the national railway network, which further boosted industrial growth. The Great Central Railway arrived in 1900, providing an alternative route to London. However this closed in 1966.

The borough expanded throughout the 19th century, most notably in 1892 annexing Belgrave, Aylestone and North Evington. It became a county borough when these were established, but as with all county boroughs was abolished by the Local Government Act 1972 in 1974, becoming an ordinary district of Leicestershire. It regained its unitary status in 1997.

In the decades after World War II Leicester gained a large population of immigrants from the Indian sub-continent, and from Uganda in the early 1970s. These immigrant groups make up around 40% of Leicester's population, making Leicester one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the United Kingdom. Among the more recent arrivals are a group of Dutch citizens of Somali origin, apparently drawn by its free and easy atmosphere and by the number of mosques. In the U.K., Leicester today is widely regarded as a model of inter-communal tolerance, however for a short period in the 1970s the neo-fascist National Front recorded high votes in the city. Leicester is expected by 2012 to become the first major city in Britain in which the ethnic minority population will form a majority.

Descriptive text from Wikipedia