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Framework knitters' cottages, Hinckley
Grid reference: SP425939
Location: 52°32’29"N, 1°22’21"W
Population: 43,246  (2001)
Post town: Hinckley
Postcode: LE10
Dialling code: 01455
Local Government
Council: Hinckley and Bosworth

Hinckley is a town in south-western Leicestershire, one of the larger towns of the county, exceeded only by Leicester and Lutterworth. It has a population of 43,246.


Hinckley has a history going back to Anglo-Saxon times. By the time of the Domesday Book in 1086, Hinckley was quite a large village, and grew over the course of the following 200 years into a small market town: a market was first recorded there in 1311.[1]

  • The town is mentioned in Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 2 (Act 5, Scene 1):
Davy: Now, sir, a new link to the bucket must need be had: and, sir, do you mean to stop any of William's wages, about the sack he lost the other day at Hinckley fair?

17th century

In the 17th century, the town developed a hosiery industry, producing stockings and similar items.[2] Hinckley played a prominent part in the English Civil War. Its proximity to several rival strongholds—the royalist garrisons at Ashby de la Zouch and Leicester, those of the Parliamentarians at Tamworth and Coventry, and the presence of parties of troops or brigands occupying several fortified houses in nearby Warwickshire—ensured frequent visits by the warring parties. The local townsfolk were forced to decide whether to declare their allegiances openly or attempt to remain neutral—with the risk of having to pay levies, ransoms, and fines to both sides. In March 1644, Hinckley was occupied by a Royalist garrison, though they were soon driven out by a force of Parliamentarians, who took many prisoners.

The Civil War years were a particularly unsettled time for the clergy in and around Hinckley. Parsons with Cavalier leanings like Thomas Cleveland, the vicar of Hinckley, suffered sequestration by the Leicester County Committee, like some of his "malignant" neighbours accused of visiting royalist garrisons or preaching against Parliament.[3]

The town was visited by both parliamentary and royalists troops from the rival garrisons, particularly parliamentary troops from Tamworth, Coventry, and Astley Castle in Warwickshire. Troops from Coventry garrison were particularly active in the town, taking horses and "free quarter" and availing themselves of 'dyett and Beere', and taking some of the inhabitants hostage for ransom. Royalist troops raided the town to threaten those with parliamentary sympathies. The notorious Lord Hastings of Ashby de la Zouch is recorded to have "coursed about the country as far as Dunton and Lutterworth and took near upon a hundred of the clergymen and others, and carried them prisoners … threatening to hang all them that should take the Parliament's Covenant". Parliamentary newsheets record that on the night of 4 March 1644, Hastings' men brought in "26 honest countrymen from several towns" intending to take them to Ashby de la Zouch, along with a huge herd of cattle, oxen and horses from the country people and a minister named Mr Warner. These prisoners were herded into Hinckley church and asked "in a jeering manner, 'Where are the Round-heads your brethren at Leicester? Why come they not to redeem you?'"

The Parliamentarians responded in a memorable "Skirmish or Great Victory for Parliament". Colonel Grey with 120 foot soldiers and 30 troopers from Bagworth House rushed to Hinckley and re-took the town, routed the Royalists, rescued the cattle and released their imprisoned countrymen. No doubt the inhabitants of the town were as relieved as any when Ashby finally surrendered, as Vicars records, "a great mercy and mighty preservation of the peace and tranquillity of all those adjacent parts about it."[4]

19th century

The Lime Kilns, where the A5 crosses the Ashby Canal

At the time of the first national census in 1801, Hinckley had a population of 5,158: twenty years later it had increased by about a thousand. The largest industry in the early 19th century was the making of hosiery and only Leicester had a larger output of stockings. In the district, it was estimated ca. 1830 that 6,000 persons were employed in this work.[5]

Castle Street is the first known location of 'Luddism', where disgruntled workers, replaced by machinery in their jobs, took sledgehammers to the machines.[6] Joseph Hansom built the first Hansom cab in Hinckley in 1835.

Parish church

The parish church is Saint Mary's. It stands in the centre of Hinckley, a 13th-century church.

There is a local folk tale that a tombstone in the churchyard marking the grave of Richard Smith, a young saddler murdered in the Market Place in 1727, "bleeds" every April.[7]

Sights about the town

  • The site of the Battle of Bosworth, administered by Leicestershire County Council, includes an interpretation centre at Ambion Hill, where Richard III encamped the night before the battle. St James's Church at Dadlington is the place where many of the dead were buried and where a chantry was founded on their behalf.
  • Hinckley Museum is in a range of 17th century[8] timber-framed framework knitters' cottages.
  • Stoke Golding has one of the most beautiful mediæval churches in Leicestershire, with an exquisitely carved arcade and very fine 13th-century window tracery.
  • The Great Meeting of 1722, hidden away behind old hosiery factories, is a notable early example of nonconformist architecture with a galleried interior.
  • Parks Hollycroft Park was donated by the notable local Atkins family to the people of Hinckley in 1934, the park has two tennis courts, a bowling green, golf course, band stand and gardens. Brodick Park in the west of Hinckley was recently the subject of controversy between local people and the Council which had wanted to sell the park for housing, however following a recent change in administration, this sale has been cancelled.[9]
  • The Ashby Canal, the longest contour canal in England, passes through the town.
  • Hinckley has two former quarries, quite close to one another, called the Little Pit and Big Pit. The Little Pit is now designated a Site of Ecological Interest (SINC),[10] and has been transformed by a local community group into an angling club[11] to preserve the area of water and surrounding wildlife. The Big Pit remains the subject of controversy between local residents and developers.[12]
  • Shopping Centres: Hinckley's biggest shopping centre, Britannia Centre on Castle Street has more than 12 stores and stalls. Hansom Court on Stockwell Head has a number of stores. The Edwards Centre located on Regent Street is a small row of about six stores.


The Triumph Motorcycle Factory at Hinckley

Hinckley is a traditional centre of the hosiery industry. The first framework knitting machine was brought here by Joseph Iliffe in the 17th century and by the 19th century Hinckley was responsible for a large proportion of Britain's hosiery production. Since the Second World War the hosiery industry has steadily shrunk in size although several textile firms remain in the area. Hinckley & District Museum, which is housed in a range of former framework knitters' cottages, tells the story of the hosiery industry and contains some examples of framework knitting machines.

Hinckley also has a history of engineering and is home to the Triumph Motorcycle company.

The town's central location and good links to the UK motorway network have made it a popular location for distribution warehouses. Hammonds Furniture, a family owned nationwide fitted furniture company, was established in the town in 1926 by Thomas Hammonds, and currently employs over 850 people in its two Hinckley factories.

Media and culture

The local radio station, Oak FM, serves the town and the surrounding area. The main local newspaper is the weekly Hinckley Times, which has its own website. The daily Leicester Mercury no longer publishes a Hinckley edition. The free (advertising-funded) Hinckley Herald & Journal is distributed to most houses. Hinckley has its own community website and online news resource.[13] take5 community news is a full colour gloss community magazine distributed free to homes and businesses.[14]

There is a 400-seat theatre located near the centre of the town in Stockwell Head (Concordia Theatre), which holds regular productions. Further, the local council holds an annual 'Proms in The Park' event.[15]


Hinckley was known to its residents for many years as "Tin 'At" (tin hat). It is reputed that, many years ago, one of the itinerant sheep drovers bragged that he could drink a hat full of ale. The local landlord put this man to the test by getting the local blacksmith to make a tin hat, which he then filled with ale. Thereafter, the town became known as "Tin 'At". Another explanation is that the people of Hinckley used to place buckets on water pumps to keep them clean and prevent the spread of illness, the bucket obviously being the "Tin 'At". A tin hat can be seen on top of the flag pole which sits on the roof of the building society at the corner of Castle Street and Market Place. There is also a pub called The Tin Hat.


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