Melton Mowbray

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Melton Mowbray
Nottingham Road
Grid reference: SK751193
Location: 52°45’58"N, 0°53’10"W
Population: 25,554  ((2001))
Post town: Melton Mowbray
Postcode: LE13
Dialling code: 01664
Local Government
Council: Melton
Rutland and Melton

Melton Mowbray is a pretty town in north-eastern Leicestershire,

Promoted as the "Rural Capital of Food", Melton Mowbray is perhaps best known for its culinary specialities, being the home of the Melton Mowbray pork pie and one of the six homes of Stilton cheese.

The town is found 14½ miles northeast of Leicester, and 18 miles southeast of Nottingham. Both the River Eye and the River Wreake flow through the town.

Name of the town

St Mary's church

The name Melton comes from the early English Middeltun, used for a town surrounded by small hamlets, a name also found in towns named Milton and Middleton. Mowbray is a Norman family name and was the name of early Lords of the Manor, in particular Robert de Mowbray.


Early history

In and around Melton, there are 28 scheduled ancient monuments, around 705 buildings listed as having special architectural or historical interest, 16 sites of special scientific interest, and several deserted village sites.[1][2][3]

There is industrial archaeology including the Grantham Canal and the remains of the Melton Mowbray Navigation. Windmill sites, ironstone working and smelting archaeological evidence suggest that Melton borough was densely populated in Bronze and Iron Ages. Many small village communities existed and strategic points at Burrough Hill and Belvoir Castle were fortified. There is also evidence to suggest that the site of Melton Mowbray in the Wreake Valley was inhabited before Roman occupation (43A.D).[4]

Roman times

In Roman times, due to the close proximity of the Fosse Way and other important Roman roads, military centres were set up at Leicester and Lincoln; and intermediate camps were also established, for example, Six Hills on the Fosse Way. Other Roman track ways in the locality passed north of Melton along the top of the vale of Belvoir scarp; they linked Market Harborough to Belvoir, and linked the Fosse Way to Oakham and Stamford.


Evidence of settlement throughout Saxon and Danelaw period (8th/9th centuries) is reflected in many place names. Along the Wreake Valley, the Danish suffix "by" is common, as is evident in Asfordby, Dalby, Frisby, Hoby, Rearsby and Gaddesby. In addition, a cemetery of 50–60 graves, of Pagan Saxon origin, was found in Melton Mowbray. Although most villages and their churches, had origins before the Norman Conquest of 1066, stone crosses at Asfordby and Sproxton churches and Anglo-Saxon cemeteries as found at Goadby Marwood, Sysonby and Stapleford, are certainly pre-Conquest.

Later Middle Ages

The effects of the Norman conquest are recorded in the 1086 Domesday Book. This document indicates that settlements at Long Clawson and Bottesford were of noteworthy size; and that Melton Mowbray was a thriving market town of some 200 inhabitants, with weekly markets, two water mills and two priests. The water mills, still in use up to the 18th century, are remembered by the present names of Beckmill Court and Mill Street.

Melton Mowbray has been a market town for over 1,000 years. Recorded as Leicestershire's only market in the 1086 Domesday Survey, it is the third oldest market in England. Tuesday has been market day ever since royal approval was given in 1324. The market was established with tolls before 1077.

Legacies from the Mediæval period include consolidation of village and market town patterns; in Melton Mowbray, Bottesford, Wymondham, and Waltham-on-the-Wolds. The latter had a market in mediæval times that continued until 1921, and an annual fair of horses and cattle. Many buildings in Melton Market Place, Nottingham Street, Church Lane, King Street and Sherrard Street have ancient foundations. Alterations to number 16 Church Street revealed a mediæval circular stone wall subjected to considerable heat. This is probably the 'Manor Oven' mentioned in 13th century documents. Surveys of 5 King Street show it to be part of an early mediæval open-halled house. It may be part of the castle or fortified Manor of the Mowbrays, which existed in the 14th century.

King Richard and King John visited the town and may have stayed at an earlier castle.

Melton crosses

The Butter Cross

Six crosses are recorded as having stood in Melton Mowbray, built across several centuries. The Kettleby Cross stood close to the junction of Dalby Road and Leicester Road. Sheep Cross was on Spital End, now the Nottingham Street - Park Road Junction. Corn Cross was on the Swine Lane at Spittle End junction. The Butter Cross, or High Cross, was at the west end of the Beast Market. Sage Cross was at the East end of the Beast Market close to Salt Gate (on Sherrard Street opposite Sage Cross Street). Thorpe Cross stood at the end of Saltgate (near the junction of Thorps Road and Saxby Road).

All the original crosses were removed or destroyed during the Reformation and other periods of iconoclasm or to simply to make room for traffic passage or other development.[5]

The Corn Cross was reconstructed and reinstated on the Nottingham Street - High Street junction in 1996 as a memorial to the Royal Veterinary Corps. The Butter Cross was reconstructed in the Market Place from partial remains of the original Anglo-Saxon cross in 1986/7.

Early modern period

In 1549 following the dissolution of the chantries, monasteries and religious guilds, church plate was sold and land purchased for the town. Resulting rents were used to maintain Melton School, a school first recorded in 1347 and one of the oldest educational establishments in Britain. Funds were also used to maintain roads, bridges and to repair the church clock.

During the English Civil War, Melton was a Roundhead garrison commanded by a Colonel Rossiter. Two battles were fought in the town: in November 1643, Royalists caught the garrison unaware and carried away prisoners and booty; in February 1645, Sir Marmaduke Langdale, commanding a Royalist force of 1,500 men, inflicted severe losses on the Roundheads. Around 300 men were said to have been killed. According to legend a hillside where the battle was thought to have been fought was ankle deep in blood, hence the name 'Ankle Hill'. However, this name is mentioned in documents pre-dating the Civil War. Furthermore, in the past, the names of Dalby Road and Ankle Hill have been switched around, thus confusing the true site of the battle.

Local notable families seem to have had divided loyalties, although the War ended with great rejoicings outside the "Limes" in Sherrard Street, home of Sir Henry Hudson. His father, Robert Hudson founded the "Maison Dieu" almshouses opposite the Church in 1640, which complement the stone built "Anne of Cleves House" opposite. This was built in 1384 and housed chantry priests until the Dissolution. It was then included in the estates of Anne of Cleves by Henry VIII, as a divorce settlement in the 16th century, although there is local debate about whether or not she ever stayed there. Anne of Cleves' house is now a public house which is owned by Everards Brewery, a Leicester-based brewery.

RAF Melton Mowbray

Between 1942 and 1964, RAF Melton Mowbray was situated to the south of the village, towards Great Dalby. The Class A airfield was originally intended for aircraft maintenance but was taken over by Transport Command. Many types of aircraft were flown from the airfiled, including Spitfire, Mosquito, Corsair, Vengeance, Hellcat, Dakota and Halifax aircraft, plus Horsa and Hadrian gliders.

Melton Mowbray served as a Thor Strategic missile site between 1958 and 1963, when 254(SM) Squadron operated a flight of three missiles from the base.[6]

The airfield now houses a small industrial estate and much of the original infrastructure has survived.[7] The airfield regularly hosts large "bank holiday" markets.

Pork pies and Stilton cheese

Stilton cheese, made in the traditional cylindrical shape
Dickinson and Morris Pie Shop

Stilton cheese originated near Melton Mowbray, and is still made in the town today. The cheese takes its name from the village of Stilton in Huntingdonshire, 80 miles north of London, where it was marketed to travellers on the Great North Road, though no Stilton was ever made there.

Although supermarkets routinely carry pork pies with the label "Melton Mowbray", there is in fact a specific "hand-raising" process and recipe which marks a pie as a Melton Mowbray pork pie. In the centre of Melton, on Nottingham Street, there is Dickinsons & Morris's "ye olde pork pie shoppe," where one can buy true Melton pork pies. However these pork pies are not made in the shop, as some think, they are now made in a factory outside of town. On 4 April 2008 the European Union awarded the Melton Mowbray pork pie Protected Geographical Indication status, following a long-standing application made by the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association. As a result of this ruling only pies made within a designated zone around Melton, and using uncured pork, are allowed to carry the Melton Mowbray name on their packaging.[8]

"Painting the town red"

The Fox Hunting crowd also left their mark on the town in a different way, through their "high jinks".

The phrase painting the town red is said to have originated in Melton back in 1837. Out celebrating a successful hunt, the Marquess of Waterford and his hunting party found several tins of red paint which they daubed liberally on to the buildings of the High Street, some traces of which can still be seen on doors of older buildings in the town.

There is also a picture labelled "A Spree at Melton Mowbray." and subtitled "or doing the Thing in a Sporting-like manner". It is dated 1837, the same date as the Marquess' event. It appears to take place on what is now called Leicester Street and depicts men in hunting clothes climbing on Swan Porch (a building in the market place), fighting and a gentleman apparently being robbed. There is no mention of any red paint. Of course this sort of thing may have been common in Melton Mowbray at this time and there is no evidence that the picture depicts the same events. What is certain is that the physical evidence appears to support the town was painted red. However this does not necessarily mean that the phrase came from the event.

The Melton Mowbray event was recorded as happening in the early hours of 6 April 1837. It was later recorded in the London Examiner. Henry Alken's pictures A Spree at Melton Mowbray and Larking at the Grantham Tollgate are said to illustrate the event. The events were depicted in a play called The Meltonians at The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1838.

Melton cloth

Melton Mowbray is home to Melton cloth (first mentioned in 1823), which is the familiar tight-woven woollen cloth which is heavily milled, and a nap raised so as to form a short, dense, non-lustrous pile. Sailors' pea coats are traditionally made of Melton cloth, the universal workmans' donkey jackets of Britain and Ireland and in North America, loggers' "cruising jackets" and Mackinaws.

Melton Mowbray Town Estate

Melton Mowbray is home to a rare example of early town government. The Melton Mowbray Town Estate was founded at the time of the Reformation, in 1549, when two townsfolk sold gold sequestered from the church and bought land to be held in trust for all inhabitants. The Town Estate provided early forms of education, the first street lighting, and today owns and operates the town's parks and sportsgrounds, and the town's market.

The Town Estate is not a public body but a charitable trust run by 14 feoffees (trustees).[9] Melton Town Estate has been criticised for a lack of openness and in 2009, was the subject of a BBC Inside Out programme.[10] The feoffees' decision not to participate in the programme, according to the Charity Commission, "left the impression that they were not open about their business and did not feel accountable to the public for their actions".[11]

Sights about the town

Melton Regal Cinema
Anne of Cleves Pub

Melton Carnegie Museum is based in Melton Mowbray. The museum has recently been refurbished and visitors can expect a "hands on", audio visual family orientated experience showing the history and importance of the town. Included are sounds from the ages, a history of the hunt, a preserved phone box, and items from Anglo-Saxon days to shrapnel from the Second World War.

The Town Heritage Trail provides the visitor with a glance at many of the town's historic features.

Melton Mowbray is renowned for its music-making. The Melton Band (an orthodox British-style brass band) can trace its directors back to 1856; the colourful Melton Mowbray Tin Soldiers Marching Band was formed in 1936; and Happy Jazz – a dixieland jazz band – has been performing in the town since 1996. There are several pubs in Melton some of which, like the Generous Britain (affectionately known as the Jenny B), continue to encourage new live music[12] and the Noels Arms regularly have experienced local bands playing.[13] There are several other pubs in Melton surviving the latest recession. One is one of the eldest establishments in the area, The Anne of Cleves, this ancient building on Burton Street close to St Mary's church has features dating from the early 14th century. Originally home to Chantry Monks the building was taken during the dissolution and given, by Henry VIII to Anne of Cleves as part of the divorce settlement.[14]

The town boasts an excellent and unusual cinema, The Regal. Situated in King Street in the heart of the town the cinema is a wonderful example of a family run picture house thriving from the loving support of the townsfolk despite the rise of the huge "Showcase" groups and providing up to date shows with a personal touch. The owners may well guide customers to their comfy seat or serve them popcorn and drinks at the counter. The building itself is a remarkably preserved purpose built theatre and the interior design, sumptuous colours with its winding staircases and fancy plasterwork leaves visitors wondering if they will step out of the building into cobbled streets.[15]

Concerts have been played in the carousel bandstand in Melton Mowbray Park since August 1909. There is still a series of concerts on summer Sundays.

The historic Stapleford Miniature Railway built in 1958 is a private steam hauled passenger railway at Stapleford Park around three miles to the east of Melton Mowbray. Famous for its fleet of steam locos and scenic location, it attracts thousands of visitors and tourists during occasional summer openings for charity. It is of the same 10/4" gauge as the Town Estates small railway that runs in an oval around play close park in Melton, albeit a lot longer.

Also half a mile to the north east of Melton is the theme park "Twin Lakes". A locally popular venue this park provides a whole host of family and children's attractions and rides.[16]

Melton has a substantial swimming pool offering a range of activities for Meltonians. There is a well equipped gym on the premises.[17] The library is close to the town centre[18] and close to Brooksby College where can be found the Theatre. The Melton College Theatre continues to provide a wide variety of entertainment. Situated on the junction of Nottingham Road and Ashfordby Road the theatre has, in the past few years, produced remarkable ballet, dramatic plays of many types, opera and provided a venue for many top class bands and acts as well as providing pantomime and art displays. The Theatre has ample parking, is fully licensed and is a most pleasant place to visit.[19]

There is a fire station, a police station, and a hospital, with St Mary's maternity centre, The War Memorial Hospital off Ankle Hill, originally Wyndham Lodge donated to the town in 1920 by Col Richard Dalgleish, has, in 2010, been sold to help fund St Mary's hospital.

Picture gallery


  1. Essays in Leicestershire History, W. G. Hoskins
  2. The Depopulation Returns for Leicestershire 1607,L. A. Parker
  4. Melon Net. "Melton Mowbray History". Retrieved 2 May 2011. 
  5. The Story of Melton Mowbray, Philip E Hunt,
  6. John Pike. "RAF Melton Mowbray". Retrieved 2 May 2011. 
  8. "Pork pie makers celebrate status". BBC News. 4 April 2008. Retrieved 4 April 2008. 
  9. "Town Estate response to BBC Inside Out". Retrieved 2 May 2011. 
  10. "BBC "Melton's Town Estate investigated"". BBC News. 10 November 2009. Retrieved 2 May 2011. 
  11. Published on Tue 15 12 Dec:20:21 GMT 2009. "',Melton Times', 16 December 2009; "Town Estate told to 'restore public trust and confidence'"". Retrieved 2 May 2011. 
  12. Band Me Up Scotty. "The Generous Briton Midlands England – Find Venue , BandMeUp Royal Wedding". Retrieved 2 May 2011. 
  13. "Niet compatibele browser". Facebook. Retrieved 2 May 2011. 
  14. "The Anne of Cleves, Melton Mowbray". Everards. 6 September 2010. Retrieved 2 May 2011. 
  15. "Regal Cinema, Melton Mowbray: Home Page". Retrieved 2 May 2011. 
  16. "Family day out at a fun filled theme park". Retrieved 2 May 2011. 
  17. "Free Swimming". 31 July 2010. Retrieved 2 May 2011. 
  18. "Melton Mowbray Library – Leicestershire County Council". 4 February 2011. Retrieved 2 May 2011. 
  19. "Melton Theatre". Melton Theatre. Retrieved 2 May 2011. 

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