Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Art, History & Archaeology Sites & Museums

Part of the East Midlands, Leicestershire lies at the heart of England. As well as a few scattered round barrows, the area’s prehistoric communities are represented by the Iron Age hillforts at Burrough Hill and Beacon Hill. Later part of Roman Britain, it was during this period that the settlement of Ratae Corieltauvorum grew up, forming the basis for the modern city of Leicester, now Leicestershire’s county town. As well as having part of its Roman baths still standing, the city is also home to the ruins of a medieval Augustinian abbey. England’s Middle Ages was brought to an end with the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, in which King Richard III was killed. After his body was rediscovered by archaeologists in 2012, it was reburied in Leicester Cathedral, a largely Victorian structure. Other prominent heritage sites in Leicestershire include the 17th-century Stanford Hall and the late 19th-century Stonywell.

Archaeology & History Sites in Leicestershire

Ashby de la Zouch Castle

The aristocrat William, Lord Hastings established Ashby de la Zouch Castle during the 1470s, amid the ongoing Wars of the Roses. Built on an earlier manor house, the castle was fortified with large stone walls and earthworks. It remained the seat of William’s family for several generations. Royalists controlled the castle during the English Civil War, resulting in its partial demolition following the parliamentarian victory. Walter Scott featured the building in his 1819 novel Ivanhoe, which brought it to wider attention and generated tourist interest.

Bosworth Battlefield

Between the 1450s and 1480s, a civil war known as the War of the Roses ravaged England. Two rival branches of the ruling Plantagenet dynasty, the House of Lancaster and House of York, battled for the crown. In 1485, their final major battle took place at Bosworth, where the Lancastrian Henry Tudor killed King Richard III and assumed power – marking the start of the Tudor era. The battlefield covers a wide area, including a number of landowners. Although there is a network of public paths, there is no single parking spot.

Jewry Wall - Roman Bath House

At about 9 m high, this Roman wall is the highest surviving section of Roman building in England. The wall was part of a public bath house in the centre of the Roman town of Ratae Corieltavorum. It is the only part of the bath house that survives above the Roman floor level. The stone foundations of the bath house can be seen on the east side of the wall, which continue underneath the museum. While the Jewry Wall museum is currently being refurbished, these ruins are only viewable from the public footpath.

Kirby Muxloe Castle

A fortified rectangular manor house, the building of Kirby Muxloe Castle began in 1480 but was never completed. The owner – William, Lord Hastings – was executed on the order of the new King Richard III several years later. The house exchanged hands several times over the following centuries, when parts of it remained inhabited. It was largely dilapidated by the 17th century as locals robbed it for building material. Now a picturesque ruin surrounded by a moat, the west tower and parts of the gatehouse remain standing, displaying several original architectural features.

Moira Furnace

On the banks of the Ashby-de-la-Zouch Canal stands the Moira Furnace, a proud reminder of the industrial might that powered 19th century Britain. The Earl of Moira established the blast furnace in 1804 during the Napoleonic Wars. The coke-fuelled furnace originally smelted iron from local ores, but design problems rendered it unsuitable and by the mid-19th century it was generally only used as a foundry. After being left derelict, the building underwent conservation in the late 20th century and now operates as a museum, offering narrow boat trips on the adjacent canal.

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Museums & Art Galleries in Leicestershire

Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre

The Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre was opened in 1974 near what was then thought to be the site of the famous battle. Since then extensive archaeological surveys have identified the true location. But the Centre is still the gateway to the battlefield. Exhibitions recount the events of 22nd August 1485, and from here visitors are able to follow a designated trail or take a guided walk that takes in the various historical points of interest.

Jewry Wall Museum

Set alongside extensive remains of what was the Roman public bathhouse, the Jewry Wall Museum exhibits the archaeology of Leicester from the earliest times to the medieval period. Highlights of their extensive collection of prehistoric and medieval artefacts are several rare expanses of decorated Roman wall plaster. The museum is currently closed for a major refurbishment.

King Richard III Visitor Centre

Following the excavation of the remains of King Richard III in 2012, the Victorian school adjacent to the carpark was transformed into a visitor centre. The finding and identification of the King is one of the greatest archaeological stories ever told. Using state of the art-technology, interactive displays recount the life and death of King Richard III, as well as the forensic science that led to the identification of the human bones as the king. The grave site is now part of the visitor centre, and is included in the itinerary.