There are plenty of places around the country that can enhance the learning experience by providing an up-close-and-personal look at the past. We often think first and foremost of the big national museums such as the British Museum, but there are some local gems too that we should also make the most of. In this post I’m going to list a few that I think are worthy of a visit in Leicestershire, perhaps as part of a family day out, but since this clearly cannot be an exhaustive list, if anyone has any other suggestions please leave them in the comments.
1. Jewry Wall Museum, Leicester: small, but still very informative, the Jewry Wall museum is perhaps best known for its Roman exhibitions, not least the remains of the bath house outside the museum. However, it does also cover other periods from prehistory through to the medieval period. Other interesting displays include the Anglo-Saxon Glen Parva lady and stonework from Leicester Abbey.
2. The Guildhall, Leicester: Currently hosting the Richard III exhibition, the Guildhall is well worth a visit in its own right. It is a great example of a medieval timber-framed hall.
3. Bosworth Battlefield, Sutton Cheney: Also connected to Richard III is the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre. Alongside the exhibitions and reenactments, you can also walk around the battlefield itself. This can be a great, fun family day out. Just remember to take a reasonable pair of shoes with you if you’re planning to do the walk.
4. Donington le Heath Manor House: A charming little medieval manor house set in nice, quiet surroundings. This is not a huge stately home, by any means, but is still a very nice place to visit.
5. Grace Dieu Priory, Belton: Another very charming and atmospheric place to visit, the ruins of the medieval priory are not usually swamped by hordes of tourists and so it is possible to quietly take in the serenity of the spot as well as examine the walls and foundations that remain.
6. Staunton Harold Church, Ashby-de-la-Zouch: A National Trust property, Staunton Harold Church is a rare example of a Commonwealth period building of the High Anglican style.
7. Ashby-de-la-Zouch Castle: An English Heritage property, the ruined castle (badly damaged during the Civil War) was the seat of Lord Hastings during the 15th century. Sir Walter Scott set a scene in his novel Ivanhoe at the castle.
8. Kirby Muxloe Castle: Another English Heritage property that was also owned by Lord Hastings, despite the name, this is more of a fortified manor and so an interesting contrast to the castle at Ashby-de-la-Zouch.
9. Burrough Hill Fort: This country park contains the remains of a well-preserved Iron Age hill fort that has recently been subject to excavation by archaeologists from the University of Leicester.
10. Framework Knitters Museum, Wigston: This cottage is the only working frameshop in the county and is significant for 19th century industrial and social history. At one time such frameshops would have been commonplace in the area and many of our ancestors would have been involved in the industry.
In addition to the places listed here, there are local history and archaeology exhibitions at other museums in the county such as Melton Carnegie Museum in Melton Mowbray and Charnwood Museum in Loughborough. At the time of writing, Harborough Museum in Market Harborough is closed for redevelopment. However, when open, this museum contains the nationally significant Hallaton Hoard and is well worth a visit for that reason alone.