Leicester Forest was a forest that existed to the West of Leicester.
Site and history
The forest occupied an area fourteen miles long and four miles wide between the River Soar and Rothley Brook, and covered 5,000 acres. It was described in Domesday Book as 'Hereswode'. Once owned by Hugh de Grandmesnil, ownership passed to successive Earls of Leicester. In the thirteenth century Leicester townsfolk had rights to acquire wood in part of the forest known as the Frith, an area now occupied by western districts of the city of Leicester and Glenfield. The wooded nature of the area declined, resulting in several areas being enclosed to preserve them and the establishment of hunting parks. In 1265 the ownership passed to Edmund Crouchback, and in the fourteenth century it became important as an area for hunting.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, the woodland declined due to over-exploitation, unlicenced felling and sheep grazing.
In John Leland's Itinerary, he identified four parks within the forest - 'The Parke of St. Mary Abbey' (Abbey Park), 'Bellemonte's Leye' (Beaumont Leys), 'Barne Park' (also known as Barrons Park, between Desford and Kirby Muxloe), and 'Tooley Park' (near Earl Shilton). Also within the forest area were Frith Park (the 'New Park', now partly occupied by the New Parks housing estate), Lubbesthorpe Park, Brokensale Park, West of Thurlaston, and Newhall Park at Normanton.
In 1628, King Charles sanctioned the disafforestation of the area, and during the 17th century the forest was sold in parts. In the following centuries, much of the area was cleared to provide land for farming and housing. The forest's name persists in the name of two settlements - the village of Leicester Forest East and the hamlet Leicester Forest West.
- Fox, Levi & Russell, Percy (1948) Leicester Forest, Edgar Backus, p. 19, 20, 23, 28
- Squires, Anthony & Jeeves, Michael (1994) Leicestershire and Rutland Woodlands Past and Present, Kairos Press, ISBN 1-871344-03-4, p. 43-48
- Shirley, Evelyn Philip (1867) Some Account of English Deer Parks: With Notes on the Management of Deer, p. 142