Melton Mowbray (/
/ ) is a town in Leicestershire, England, 19 miles (31 km) north-east of Leicester, and 20 miles (32 km) south-east of Nottingham. It lies on the River Eye and the River Wreake and has a population of 25,554. The town is best known for its culinary speciality, the Melton Mowbray pork pie. In addition, it includes one of the six makers of Stilton cheese. Melton Mowbray is promoted as Britain’s “Rural Capital of Food”.
The name comes from the early English word Medeltone – meaning “Middletown surrounded by small hamlets” (and therefore has the same origin as Milton and Middleton). Mowbray is a Norman family name – the name of early Lords of the Manor – namely Robert de Mowbray.
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.
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 were fortified. There is also evidence to suggest that the site of Melton Mowbray in the Wreake Valley was inhabited before Roman occupation (AD 43).
In Roman times, Melton benefited from the proximity of the Fosse Way and other important Roman roads, and of military centres at Leicester and Lincoln. Intermediate camps were also established, for example, at Six Hills on the Fosse Way. Other Roman trackways in the locality passed north of Melton along the top of the Vale of Belvoir scarp, linking Market Harborough to Belvoir, and the Fosse Way to Oakham and Stamford.
Evidence of settlement throughout Anglo-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 Anglo-Saxon origin, has been 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 certainly pre-date the Conquest.
Melton Mowbray itself had six recorded crosses, whose construction spanned several centuries: (i) Kettleby Cross, (close to the present filling station near the junction of Dalby Road to the Leicester Road); (ii) Sheep Cross, on what was Spital End, (now Nottingham Street/Park Road Junction); (iii) Corn Cross at the Swine Lane/Spittle End junction, (reconstructed and reinstated on 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 reconstructed from partial remains of the 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 Thorps Road and Saxby Road). All the original crosses were removed or destroyed during the Reformation and other iconoclastic periods, or simply to make room for traffic or other development.
The effects of the Norman Conquest are recorded in the 1086 Domesday Book. This 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 in the present names of Beckmill Court and Mill Street.
So 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 Medieval 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 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 to be part of an early medieval open-halled house. It may be part of the castle or fortified Manor of the Mowbrays, which existed in the 14th century.
King Richard I and King John visited the town and may have stayed at an earlier castle. 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 , first recorded in 1347, as one of the oldest educational establishments in Britain. Funds were also used to maintain roads, bridges and to repair the church clock.
Anne of Cleves House, now a public house,
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 already mentioned in documents pre-dating the Civil War. Furthermore, the names of Dalby Road and Ankle Hill have since 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 she ever stayed there. It is now a public house owned by Everards Brewery, a Leicester-based brewery. It is a Grade II* listed building.
RAF Melton Mowbray
Between 1942 and 1964, RAF Melton Mowbray was situated to the south of the Town, towards Great Dalby. The Class A airfield was originally intended for aircraft maintenance, but was taken over by RAF Transport Command.
Pork pies and Stilton cheese
Stilton cheese originated near Melton Mowbray, and is still made in the town. Stilton cheese takes its name from the village of Stilton in Huntingdonshire, where it was marketed to travellers on the Great North Road, although no Stilton was made there.
Melton Mowbray pork pies are made with a specific “hand-raising” process and recipe. 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, pies made only within a designated zone around Melton, and using uncured pork, are allowed to carry the Melton Mowbray name on their packaging.
“A Spree at Melton Mowbray”
On 6 April 1837, the 3rd Marquess of Waterford and his hunting party went on a “spree” through the streets of Melton, causing much damage. This event was 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.[Note 1]
Melton Mowbray is home to Melton cloth (first mentioned in 1823), which is a tightly woven woollen cloth that 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, as are 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 silver and plate 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 sports grounds, and the town’s market.
Since its inception in 1549, traditionally the day-to-day running of the Town Estate was undertaken by the Town Wardens. In 1989, a new Scheme of Arrangement was drawn up by the Charity Commission after public consultation and the management of the Town Estate was transferred to a body of 14 Feoffees, two of whom are known as Senior and Junior Town Warden.
Nowadays, the position of Town Warden is titular only, i.e. the “public face” of the Town Estate at civic or ceremonial occasions.
Melton Mowbray had only 1766 inhabitants in 1801, but in 1831 that had increased to 3327, in 1841 to 3740, in 1851 to 4434, and in 1861 to 4436. The Melton Mowbray official web site’s About page lists the current (2009) population of the town as 25,276, and that of Melton Borough as 46,861.
Before 1960, the Production Engineering Research Association of Great Britain () came to Nottingham Road and employed about 400 people in supporting research and development in industry. It is also houses the East Midlands Manufacturing Advisory Service. The former East Midlands Regional Assembly was also based in a Nottingham Road building.
Petfoods came to the town in 1951 as Chappie Ltd, employing at its peak over 2,000 people. It still employs about 1,000. The firm changed its name to Petfoods in 1957, to Pedigree Petfoods in 1972, and most recently to Masterfoods in January 2002. At Melton, it makes four million items of pet food a day, which is less than it used to be. Masterfoods] now have their UK headquarters close to Melton at Waltham-on-the-Wolds.
The uPVC windows and door manufacturer TruFrame Trade Frames Ltd. relocated from Market Harborough to the Saxby Road Industrial Estate in Melton in December 1999. It was employing about 170 people in August 2013.
Entertainment and facilities
Melton Carnegie Museum, based in Melton Mowbray, has recently been refurbished and visitors can expect a “hands on”, audio-visual, family-orientated experience of the history and importance of the town. Included are sounds from the ages, a history of the hunt, a preserved phone box, a buried (underfoot and perspex) Saxon and shrapnel from World War II.
Melton Mowbray is renowned for its music-making. The Melton Band (a traditional British-style brass band) can trace its directors back to 1856, and was until recently called Melton Borough Band. The colourful Melton Mowbray Toy Soldiers Marching Band was formed in 1936; and Happy Jazz – a Dixieland jazz band – had its headquarters in the town from 1996 until 2014. There is also the Melton Mowbray Tally Ho Band, formed in 1936, and Tornado Brass, a mixed brass and woodwind group founded in the 1980s.
Melton has several pubs, some of which, like the Generous Britain (nicknamed the Jenny B) continue to encourage new live music. The Noels Arms freehouse was Melton Mowbray District CAMRA Pub of the Year 2014. The Noels also houses Gasdog Brewery, the first brewery in the town for over a hundred years. It hosts new and established bands and musicians every Friday and Saturday night, and acoustic acts on Sunday afternoons. There are several other surviving pubs in Melton, including one of the oldest in the area, the Anne of Cleves. This ancient building in Burton Street close to St Mary’s Church has features dating from the early 14th century. Once home to Chantry monks, the building was given after the Dissolution by Henry VIII to Anne of Cleves, as part of her divorce settlement.
The town has an unusual cinema: The Regal in King Street, in the centre of the town. The building itself is a preserved purpose-built theatre complete with period interior design, sumptuous colours, winding staircases and fancy plasterwork. It re-opened in 2013 after refurbishment.
Concerts have been held in the Carousel Bandstand in Melton Mowbray Park since August 1909. There is still a series of concerts on summer Sundays.
Melton has a radio station, 103 FM The Eye, which broadcasts to Melton Borough and the Vale of Belvoir, and parts of Rushcliffe Borough. It can also be heard on the internet. When it was launched in 2005, it was the first in the UK to go on the air under the new tier of community radio, licensed by the broadcasting regulator OFCOM. The station has since won a number of awards for its work. It is named after the River Eye.
The historic Stapleford Miniature Railway built in 1958 is a private steam-hauled passenger railway at Stapleford Park about 3 miles (5 km) to the east of Melton Mowbray. Famous for a fleet of steam locos and its scenic location, it attracts visitors and tourists during occasional summer openings for charity. It has the same 10 1⁄4 in (260 mm) gauge as the Town Estates railway around Play Close Park in Melton.
Melton’s Waterfield Leisure Pools offer a range of activities, including a well-equipped gym and fitness suite as well as swimming. The library in Wilton Road is close to the town centre and adjacent is Melton Theatre, part of Brooksby Melton College, on the junction with Asfordby Road. The theatre first opened in 1976, has recently been refurbished and continues to provide a wide variety of entertainment. In the past few years, it has produced remarkable ballet, opera, and dramatic plays of many types, and provided a venue for many top class bands and acts, pantomime and art displays. It has ample parking, is fully licensed and is a most pleasant place to visit.
There is a fire station, a police station, and a hospital that includes St Mary’s Maternity Centre. The War Memorial Hospital off Ankle Hill, originally Wyndham Lodge, donated to the town in 1920 by Colonel Richard Dalgleish, was sold in 2010 to help fund St Mary’s Hospital. Melton Country Park provides green space.
The secondary schools in Melton are Long Field Academy and John Ferneley College, which take students aged 11 to 16, and the Melton Vale Post 16 Centre (MV16) for Sixth Formers. The town has several primary schools – Brownlow, Grove, St Francis RC, St Mary’s C of E, Sherard and Swallowdale – while the Birchwood Special School caters for young people of primary and secondary school age. Melton’s largest school used to be the King Edward VII which at one time had around 2,000 pupils aged between 11 and 19. It was founded as a Grammar School in 1910, became comprehensive in the late 1960s and closed recently after reaching its centenary. Brooksby Melton College which provides vocational, further and higher education in a wide range of subjects has a campus on Asfordby Road in Melton and an annex in King Street. These facilities complement those on the college’s Brooksby campus 6 miles (10 km) out of town.
Melton Mowbray railway station is on the line from Birmingham to Stansted Airport via Leicester, Peterborough and Cambridge. Trains run hourly in each direction. The station is also served by peak-hour trains to and from Nottingham, Norwich and Sleaford. The station is managed by East Midlands Trains although most services are operated by CrossCountry. CrossCountry intends to enhance its service gradually to half-hourly on this route. Since early 2009 East Midlands Trains have offered a single daily journey from Melton Mowbray to London St Pancras and return. This is notable for being the first regular passenger service to cross the spectacular and historic Welland Viaduct since 1966. In 2010, the company introduced a single daily journey to Derby and return.
The majority of bus services in Melton Mowbray are provided by Centrebus. Services link Melton Mowbray with Leicester, Nottingham, Oakham and other regional centres, as well as many of the surrounding villages.
Motorcycle speedway racing was staged at the Greyhound Stadium in 1949 and 1950. The cinder track was laid before and lifted after each meeting. The events, staged on a Sunday, fell foul of the Lord’s Day Observance Society for a short time. The stadium was also the venue for a few meetings in 1950 when the Melton Lions faced select teams.
The town is also home to Melton Rugby club who compete in Midlands 3 East. The town has its own Sunday Football League in which some 15 teams compete every Sunday. Asfordby Hill is home to Holwell Sports who play in the Leicestershire Senior League premier division.
Arts and music
- Carlo Curley (1952–2012) – concert organist
- Louise Doughty (born 1963) – novelist and broadcaster
- John Ferneley (1782–1860) – artist
- Francis Grant (1803–1878) – artist
- Alfie Jackson – singer and guitarist, The Holloways
- Malcolm Sargent (1895–1967) – conductor
- Jamie Vardy (born 1987) – League footballer
- Paul Anderson (born 1988) – League footballer for Plymouth Argyle F.C.
- Len Boyd (1923–2008) – League footballer
- Stuart Broad (born 1986) – test cricketer
- John Brooks (born 1990) – Premier League Assistant Referee
- Paul Butlin (born 1976) – heavyweight boxer
- Craig Dalrymple (born 1976) – League footballer
- Craig Dolby (born 1988) – racing driver
- Arthur Fitton (1902–1984) – League footballer
- Reuben Jones (1932–1990) – Olympian equestrian sportsman
- Robert Turner King (1824–1884) – county cricketer
- Bob Lee (born 1953) – League footballer
- Dixie McNeil (born 1947) – League footballer and manager
- Tim Munton (born 1965) – Test cricketer
- James Tebbs (1874-post 1901) – League footballer
- Alison Williamson (born 1971) – Olympic archer
- Eliot Zborowski (1858–1903) – car racing driver
- Charlie Bruce (born 1990) – jazz dancer
- Graham Chapman (1941–1989) – comedian, Monty Python
- William Furness (1929–1995) – theatre producer and peer
- Peter Meineck (born 1967) – founder director of Aquila Theatre
- Steve Oram (born 1973) – actor, Sightseers
- Adrian Scarborough (born 1968) – actor, Gavin & Stacey and Psychoville
- Clive Standen (born 1981) – actor
- Mark Wingett (born 1961) – actor, Jim Carver in The Bill
- Tom Brake (born 1962) – member of Parliament
- Richard Henry Burton (1923–1993) – VC winner in the Second World War
- John Gretton (1867–1947) – politician, businessman and Olympic sailor
- John Henley (1692–1756) – preacher
- William Levett (c. 1643–1694) – scholar and cleric
- Arthur Wakerley (1862–1932) – architect
- Ben Canham (born 1997) – paranormal investigator and haunted artefact collector
- For a script of The Meltonians, see .
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- Melton Online
- Melton Borough Council services
- Melton Tourist information