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Published March 12th 2018
The life and history of Loughborough
A Day in Loughborough
Loughborough is a town located in the Charnwood borough of Leicestershire in the English midlands. First noted in the 1086 Domesday Book, it is now a thriving town which includes a number of exciting places to visit and a day spent wandering the town is fascinating for those with a love of history and historical architectural beauty.
As it was Saturday, once I was in town I visited the local market. There are different markets on different days, however, on the day I attended there was a lovely eclectic selection of market stalls. I was able to choose from fresh fruit and bakery items, clothes, hot food and books amongst a variety of other items.
From the market, I proceeded to Queen's Park to visit the Charnwood Museum. The Museum is free to enter and while not overly large, it contains a lovely variety of items related to local and war history. The Museum has a number of permanent exhibitions and periodically hosts temporary exhibitions.
I particularly liked the Beaumanor Chair, the display featuring an old shop in its entirety, uncovered and displayed as it was found and the story of Lady Jane Grey's connection with Loughborough. There is a small shop with lots of collectables for purchase.
Old Shop Charnwood Museum. Photo: Bruce Vandersluis Images
The Museum is open April to September Tuesday to Saturday 10 am to 4.30 pm and Sunday 2 pm to 5 pm. From October to March, it is open Tuesday to Saturday 10 am to 3 pm.
Old Rectory Museum
Within Queen's Park, I wanted to visit the Carillon however as it didn't open until later in the day, from the Museum I wondered a short distance to the Old Rectory Museum on Rectory Place.
What is left is much less than what was, however, it is a wonderful example of medieval building. The Old Rectory represents 800 years of the town's history and houses a museum with many fascinating examples of medieval tools and other artefacts. While I enjoyed exploring the inside of the building and the items it contains, I also enjoyed gazing down the ancient stairwell now in ruin. It was very easy to imagine people rushing up and down the stairs going about their daily business, and the evidence of those footsteps was obvious.
Spiral Staircase Old Rectory Museum. Photo: Bruce Vandersluis Images
The outside of the building tells the story of what was, and I found myself fascinated in imagining what the building had been like in times gone by. It was clearly obvious that it had been substantially larger, and it is clear where what had once been internal walls are now external. The volunteers explained that what is left was saved from demolition many years before and now represents the survival of a stone built 13th-century manor house; the earliest record of which dates back to 1228.
Old Rectory Loughborough. Photo: Bruce Vandersluis Images
The Old Rectory is well worth a visit. Entry is free and it is open Saturdays from April to October from 11 am to 3 pm.
All Saints Church
Beside the Old Rectory is All Saints Church, a magnificent example of 14th-century architecture; the tower, however, is from the 15th century. The volunteers here were friendly and welcoming and I loved the stained glass windows along with the visible age of the walls. While not religious I find incredible beauty evident in the walls, architecture and stained glass windows of many churches, and this one did not fail to deliver.
All Saints Church Loughborough. Photo: Bruce Vandersluis Images
While I was able to visit on Saturday, the Church is now advertising opening times as Tuesday 9.30 am to 12.30 pm and Wednesday and Friday 9 am to 1.30 pm. If the Church interests you, I would suggest you call ahead to find out if it is open, or simply turn up and see.
Stained Glass Window All Saints Church Loughborough. Photo: Bruce Vandersluis Images
Outside the Church is an old graveyard. While it may sound strange to some, I find graveyards tell wonderful stories of life and death. You can learn a lot about the history of a town from old graveyards; how the people lived and died.
All Saints Church Yard Loughborough. Photo: Bruce Vandersluis Images
Many headstones from this graveyard have been placed around the edges of the church, I can only presume that at some point land has been taken and this has been a necessary step. I found the graveyard here incredibly peaceful, and I spent quite some time listening to the wind and the stories carried by those who now reside here.
Queen's Park Cafe
A short walk back to town and Queen's Park and it was now lunchtime. The Charnwood Museum includes a Cafe and I was able to get a lovely fresh salad for my lunch which was prepared with great care, once I explained that I am wheat intolerant. The staff were very careful to discuss with me the ingredients of all items included in the salad such as dressings to ensure that I would not be given anything which could harm.
The Cafe offers a lovely array of hot and cold food and drinks and is open Tuesday to Saturday 9.30 am to 3 pm and Sunday 10 am to 3 pm.
Carillon Tower and War Memorial Museum
Next, I visited the Carillon Tower and War Memorial Museum. Standing at 46 metres (151 feet) the Museum is spread over a number of floors and visitors do need a level of fitness to climb the 138 steps to the top level. Around the outside of the ground floor are a number of plaques dedicated to the men of Loughborough who died in World War One and World War Two.
Dedication to the Fallen, Carillon Tower and War Memorial Museum Loughborough. Photo: Bruce Vandersluis Images
The ground floor is free to enter and contains a number of medals and other war memorabilia. There is plenty to see here however if you want to progress to the upper levels there is a small charge of £1 or 50p for concessions.
Carillon Tower and War Memorial Museum Loughborough. Photo: Bruce Vandersluis Images
The first floor contains items from the Leicestershire Yeomanry. Here you will hear the story of "Songster", Loughborough's own war horse and see his likeness in full glory.
The second floor is the Airborne Room and contains items from the 82nd US Airborne Division 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. There were many fascinating items here and I spent quite some time in this room.
On the next level is the clavier, the device with which the carillon is played. French in origin it is simply a keyboard, however, it is what enables the beautiful sounds of the bells to be heard. Just one more level up and the bells become evident row upon row in the Bell Chamber. This level also brings you onto the balcony which provides magnificent views over Loughborough and across the Soar Valley.
Loughborough Town from the Carillon. Photo: Bruce Vandersluis Images
There are 47 bells of different sizes in the owner, each one provides a different note on the musical scale. The bells were produced at John Taylor & Co, the local bellfoundry, which originated in the 14th century and which remains in business today. Many of the bells are inscribed in memory of fallen relatives and friends and some were gifts from local companies commemorating former employees.
Bells of the Carillon Tower and War Memorial Museum Loughborough. See the dedication on the bells to the fallen. Photo: Bruce Vandersluis Images
The Carillon Tower and War Memorial is open each year from Good Friday to 30 September, all days except Monday, 1pm to 4.30 pm. Bell recitals occur during the opening season on Thursdays and Sundays commencing at 1 pm. During the Winter Season, when the Carillon is closed to visitors, you can still hear the bells played on the first Thursday of each month commencing at 1 pm.
The Carillon was the last place on my tour of Loughborough and from here I quietly found my way back to my accommodation via the Sprint bus once again. As a single female, I felt quite safe walking around Loughborough town and found navigating on my own quite simple.
I can recommend a few days spent in Loughborough for those touring the English Midlands, with plenty to see and do. From Loughborough, other towns such as Leicester, with a rich history on Richard III of England and Birmingham are just a short train ride away.