History of Melton Mowbray

Melton Mowbray is a town in Leicestershire, England, 19 miles north-east of Leicester, and 20 miles south-east of Nottingham. It lies on the River Eye, The town population of 27,158 in the 2011 census was estimated at 27,670 in 2019. Its culinary speciality is the Melton Mowbray pork pie. It is also the location of one of six licensed makers of Stilton cheese It is known as Britain's Rural Capital of Food.



 The name comes from the early English word Medeltone – meaning "Middletown surrounded by small hamlets" (as do Milton and Middleton). Mowbray is the Norman family name of early Lords of the Manor – namely Robert de Mowbray. Early history In and around Melton, there are 28 scheduled ancient monuments, some 705 buildings of special architectural or historical interest, 16 sites of special scientific interest, and several deserted village sites. Its industrial archaeology includes the Grantham Canal and remains of the Melton Mowbray Navigation. Windmill sites and signs of ironstone working and smelting suggest that the site was densely populated in the Bronze and Iron Ages. Many small communities existed and strategic points at Burrough Hill and Belvoir were fortified.

Roman Times

 In Roman times, Melton benefited from proximity to the Fosse Way and other major Roman roads, and to military centres at Leicester and Lincoln. Intermediate camps were established, for example, at Six Hills on the Fosse Way. Other Roman trackways passed north of Melton along the scarp of the Vale of Belvoir linking Market Harborough to Belvoir, and south to Oakham and Stamford. 


Evidence of settlement in the Anglo-Saxon and 8th–9th-century Danelaw periods shows in place names. Along the Wreake Valley, the Danish suffix "-by" is common, e.g. in Asfordby, Dalby, Frisby, Hoby, Rearsby and Gaddesby. A cemetery of 50–60 graves of pagan Anglo-Saxon origin has been found in Melton Mowbray. Most villages and their churches had origins before the Norman Conquest of 1066, shown by stone crosses at Asfordby and Sproxton and Anglo-Saxon cemeteries at Goadby Marwood, Sysonby and Stapleford. Melton Mowbray had six recorded crosses from several centuries: (i) Kettleby Cross near today's filling station near the junction of Dalby Road and Leicester Road, (ii) Sheep Cross at Spital End, now Nottingham Street/Park Road junction, (iii) Corn Cross at Swine Lane/Spittle End junction, remade and re-erected at the Nottingham St/High St junction in 1996 as a memorial to the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, (iv) Butter Cross or High Cross at the west end of Beast Market, again rebuilt from remains of an original Saxon cross in 1986–1987 in the Market Place, (v) Sage Cross at the East end of the Beast Market close to Saltgate, in Sherrard Street opposite Sage Cross Street, and (vi) Thorpe Cross at the end of Saltgate, near the junction of Thorpe Road and Saxby Road. The original crosses were removed or destroyed during the Reformation and other iconoclastic periods, or to make room for traffic or other development.

Post Conquest

The effects of the Norman Conquest recorded in the 1086 Domesday Book show that settlements at Long Clawson and Bottesford were of noteworthy size, and that Melton Mowbray a thriving market town of some 200 inhabitants, with weekly markets, two water mills and two priests. The mills, still in use up to the 18th century, are remembered in the names of Beckmill Court and Mill Street. So Melton 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 since royal approval was given in 1324. The market was founded with tolls before 1077. Legacies from the medieval period include consolidation of village and market-town patterns – in Melton Mowbray, Bottesford, Wymondham and Waltham-on-the-Wolds. The last had a market in medieval 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 No. 16 Church Street revealed a medieval 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 belonged to an early medieval open-halled house. It may have been part of the 14th-century castle or fortified manor of the Mowbrays. King Richard I and King John visited the town and may have stayed at an earlier castle. In 1549, after the Dissolution of chantries, monasteries and religious guilds, church plate was sold and land bought for the town. Resulting rents were used to maintain Melton School, first recorded in 1347, making it one of the oldest in Britain. Funds were also used to maintain roads and bridges and repair the church clock.

Civil War

During the English Civil War, Melton was a Roundhead garrison commanded by a Colonel Rossiter. Two battles were fought: 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. Some 300 men were said to have been killed. Legend has it that the hillside where the battle was fought was ankle deep in blood, hence the name Ankle Hill. However, the name appears in documents from before the Civil War and the names of Dalby Road and Ankle Hill have been switched, so confusing the true site of the battle. Local notable families seem to have had divided loyalties, though the Civil War ended with 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, complementing the stone 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 she ever stayed there. A Grade II* listed building, it is now a public house owned by Everards, a Leicester brewery.  

Modern Period

On 6 April 1837, the 3rd Marquess of Waterford and a hunting party went on a spree through Melton streets causing much damage, according to the London Examiner. Henry Alken's pictures A Spree at Melton Mowbray and Larking at the Grantham Tollgate are said to illustrate this. They featured also in a play, The Meltonians, at The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1838. In 1942–1964, RAF Melton Mowbray lay to the south towards Great Dalby. The Class A airfield had been intended for aircraft maintenance, but was taken over by RAF Transport Command. In 1946–1958, it was used as a displaced persons camp by the Polish Resettlement Corps. Melton Mowbray served as a Thor strategic missile site in 1958–1963, when 254(SM) Squadron operated a flight of three missiles from the base. 

Melton Mowbray Produce

A slice of blue Stilton cheese, cut from a wheel made in the traditional cylindrical shape. Stilton cheese originated as a commercial venture developed to manufacture cheese for sale at the village of Stilton in Cambridgeshire, which has led to claims that the cheese itself originated outside that village. Historical evidence suggests an evolution of the cheese over many years, with some sourced from Melton Mowbray or surroundings. Stilton is still made in the town at the Tuxford & Tebbutt creamery, one of only six dairies licensed to do so. Makers in Cambridgeshire are ironically prohibited from calling their cheese Stilton, even if it is made there. The earliest reference cited is Daniel Defoe, who in 1724 called the cheese he ate at Stilton "the English Parmesan". Growth of business from travellers on the Great North Road and from sales to London led to a need to source more cheese from further afield, including the Melton region, and over time the modern blue cheese developed.

Dickinson and Morris Pie Shop Melton Mowbray pork pies are made by a specific "hand-raising" process and recipe. On 4 April 2008 the European Union awarded the Melton Mowbray pork pie Protected Geographical Indication status, after a long-standing application made by the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association. Only pies made in a designated zone round Melton using uncured pork may bear the Melton Mowbray name.

Melton Mowbray is home to Melton cloth, a tightly woven fabric first mentioned in 1823, heavily milled with a nap raised to a short, dense non-lustrous pile. Sailors' pea coats are traditionally made of it, as are the commonly worn workmen's donkey jackets of Britain and Ireland, and loggers' "cruising jackets" and Mackinaws in North America.

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