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CALLED in the Domesday Survey Ledecestrescire, is an inland county, situated nearly in the middle of England, and environed by the counties of Rutland and Lincoln to the East, Nottingham and Derby on the North, Staffordshire and Warwickshire to the West, whilst part of the latter county and Northamptonshire attach to its Southern border. The greatest part of this boundary is artificial, but on the South East the rivers Welland and Avon constitute a natural line of demarkation. A part of the great Roman road, called Watling-Street, appears to have formed a regular division between Leicestershire and Warwickshire to the South West. The district included within these boundaries Was, at an early period, a part of the territory belonging to the Coritani, or more properly Corani". After the Romans had subjugated the
Britons, and had established colonies in different parts of the .
Island, the country now under consideration was included within the province of Flavia Caesariensis, and had military stations established at Ratae (Leicester); Vernometum, on the northern border of the county; Benonae, near High-Cross; and Manduessedum, at Manceter t. These stations were connected by regular artificial roads, or military ways, known by the names of Watling-Street, Foss-Way, and Via Devana. The first enters
Wol. IX. X this
* For some account of these, see Beauties, Vol. III. p. 291. See also Whitaker's History of Manchester, and Pegge's Dissertation on the Coritani, annexed to his Coins of Cunoboline,
f The Rev. T. Leman, on the Roman Roads and Stations of Leicestershire; see Nichols's History, Vol. I. p. 147, where are different observations on the same subject, by the Bishop of Cork and Ross, Mr. R. Gale, Dr. Pegge, Mr. Throsby, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Ashby.
this county at Dowbridge, or Dovebridge, on the Northamptonshire border, where the station called Tripontium was fixed. Hence to Manduessedum it passed nearly in a straight line, having the small station of Benonae on its course. Near this place the Foss-Way intersects it at right angles, and passes in almost a straight line to Ratae, whence it continues, in a northerly direction, to Vernometum, and passes on to Margidunum, a station near East Britford, in Nottinghamshire. In the years 1788 and 1789, Mr. Leman, in company with Dr. Bennet, the present Bishop of Cloyne, travelled this road from “Ludford, an undoubted station at the head of the Bain, clearly to Lincoln, and thence into Devonshire.” Of its course through Leicestershire, he gives the following description:—“After quitting the station at Vernometum, the Foss makes a small bend (as it frequently does at entering, or leaving a station) but soon regaining its former bearing, continues straight to Ser, or Segs-Hill, and, though now much defaced, is still easily traced, by its continuing almost always in the same direction, and from its being still in many places high-ridged, and in some paved with large round stones. “At Sex-hill is a considerable tumulus, and also the remains of an entrenchment, where the Foss is intersected by another road, apparently Roman, coming from Paunton on the Ermin-street, in an E. N. Easterly direction, pointing towards Barrow-upon-Soar, and which, if continued in the same bearing across Leicestershire, would have passed the Via Devana north of Markfield, and fallen into the Watling-street, near Etocetum, or Wall, in Staffordshire, at its junction with the Ryknield-Street. “From Sex-hill, the Foss, in going over the commons and Thrussington Woulds, keeps generally near the hedge, till it descends into the valley beyond Ratcliff. It leaves the great oblong tumulus of Shipley-Hill to the left, and, crossing the Wreak, and another small rivulet near Syston, passes by a vast tumulus at the place where the Melton Mowbray quits the Leicester Road, and going through Thurmaston, proceeds directly to Ratae, or Leicester. * In “ In Leicester it joins the Via Devana, and both, continuing through the town together, leave it by the great Gate-way still remaining (but which has, I know not for what trifling reason, been called the Temple of Janus), and passing the meadow opposite to King Richard's Bridge, where its original breadth is still visible, it suddenly turns to the left (on crossing the second branch of the Soar) over the meadows; and, gaining its old bearing, joins the Narborough turnpike, and continues with it as far as the fourth mile-stone from Leicester. The Foss here quits the turnpike, and, going over the fields, leaves the town and church of Narborough. to the left, and is still quite plain as it descends the last inclosure, opposite the Green-Lane, by which the Foss is continued to High Cross. “ Near Croft the farmers were breaking up in many places the ridge of the Roman road, by carrying out their manure, when I passed it in 1788; and it was impossible not to observe still parts of the stone, with which it had been paved, lying about on every side. Near Soar-Mill, where the road has been entirely neglected, and is covered with water, one could feel plainly the broken pavement as one rode over it. In a direct line, and without any variation, the Foss continues from hence over fields to Benonae", where it joins the Watling-Streett.”
The Via Devana, according to the opinion of Mr. Leman, extended from Camalodunum (Colchester) to Deva-Colonia (Chester), and entered this county near Bringhurst, whence it proceeds
X 2 to
* “Benonae, Ratae, and all other towns in the plural humber, were so called, as consisting originally of more towns than one; thus Benonae included the present buildings at Clayhurst and Claychester; Rata, the buildings or towns on each side of the river: and, among the ancients, Athens was called Athenae, and comprehending four distinct villages; and Syracuse, Syracusa, as made up of five.” WM. CoRK and Ross.
# The course of this Roman road, as well as those of the Watling-street and Via Devana, are laid down by the Rev. T. Leman, in a small Map of Leicestershire, published in “The British Atlas." '
-to “Medbourn”, an undoubted station on it.” Here is a tumulus, and, on the hill between the parishes of Cranoe and Glooston, is another, and the road is still visible. Hence it continues in almost a straight line to Leicester, passing between the villages of Great and Little Stretton; and is seen in many places considerably raised above the original surface. It joined the Foss-way near the southern side of the town, and again left it on the north, where it branched off North-West, and continued nearly by Grooby, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, &c. to Burton. Another ancient road, which Mr. Leman calls the “Salt-Way,” and considers as of British origin, entered this county from Lincolnshire, in its way to the great salt mines at Droitwich: after passing by Croxton, on the north eastern border of the county, it continued to Segs-Hill, and, crossing the Foss, proceeded to Barrow, and is afterwards seen in some places in Charnwood-forest. After the Romans had evacuated the Island, this district became part of the kingdom of Mercia; and when the subdivision of the Anglo-Saxon provinces into counties was established, and Bishops' Sees created, the town of Leicester was constituted the seat of the Diocesan. The Mercian kingdom was divided into, or distinguished by the names of Southern and Northern, and the inhabitants of Leicestershire were called Miditerramae, or Middle Angles. They were frequently harrassed by the invading Danes, who, entering the district from the eastern coast, laid the whole country under contribution between the German Ocean and Leicester; and having conquered this place, established themselves here for some length of time. Indeed, Leicester was considered - - - - - One
* “If one were to indulge a conjecture, Medbourn might originally be called Medium, a name not uncommon in the Itineraries. It is nearly the centre, or half-way station between Colchester and Chester, the two great Roman colonies, which were united by this road; and the Saxons often preserved the first syllable of the Roman name with a termination of their own, as Londinum, London; Corstopitum, Corbridge,” &c. WM. CaRK and Ross.