Loughborough: the town
Loughborough is a market town within the Charnwood borough of Leicestershire. One and a half hours from London, it is the second largest town in Leicestershire (after Leicester) and is the home of Loughborough University.
There is a great deal to see when visiting Loughborough and it has an eclectic mix of bars and restaurants. The pedestrianised Market Place is the centre for shopping and it maintains a number of original art deco buildings, such as the building that currently houses the 'Reel Cinema'. A large outdoor market is held there every Thursday and Saturday and there is a monthly farmers' market.
The town is surrounded by magnificent countryside with Charnwood Forest and the Soar Valley providing excellent walks and views. Bradgate Park is 850 acres of natural parkland where deer and peacocks roam and visitors can view the ruins of Bradgate House, birthplace of Lady Jane Grey, Queen of England for just 9 days in 1554.
Loughborough is also home to the Great Central Railway. Visitors can enjoy vintage travel on an original full size steam train to Leicester at weekends and throughout the summer.
Loughborough: the history
Loughborough began as a Saxon village. At the time of the Domesday Book (1086) Loughborough had a population of about 180-200. In the 13th century it became a busy town and from the early 13th century had weekly markets and annual fairs which attracted buyers and sellers from a wide area. By the late 16th century Loughborough may have had a population of about 2,000. However like all towns in those days outbreaks of the plague caused many deaths. Nevertheless each time the population of Loughborough recovered.
Loughborough suffered a severe fire in 1622, which destroyed many buildings. However the town was soon rebuilt and through the centuries Loughborough continued to be a busy market town.
In 1841 Loughborough was the destination for the first package tour, organised by Thomas Cook for a temperance group from Leicester. The town has the world's largest bell foundry, the John Taylor Bellfoundry which is a truly unique visitor experience. The great bell of St. Paul's Cathedral in London was cast there in 1881. The working factory still produces and restores bells for customers from all over the world.
The Italianate style Town Hall was originally built as the town's Corn Exchange in 1855. The oldest edifice in Market Square is the drinking fountain financed by Archdeacon Henry Fearon in 1870, when Loughborough gained its first piped water supply.
The Great Central Railway takes you on an eight mile long trip by steam train along the route of the last main line to be built in England at the end of the Victorian era. The Great Central once linked the cities of South Yorkshire and the East Midlands to London. The restored railway boasts especially fine period stations at Quorn and Rothley.
Loughborough: the university
Loughborough University was founded in 1966, but the institution dates back to 1909, when the then Loughborough Technical Institute began with a focus on skills and knowledge which would be directly applicable in the wider world, a tradition which continues to this day.
The university has the largest sports scholarship in the UK. More than 250 international athletes are studying and training there.
Famous Loughborough Alumni
Notable sporting alumni of Loughborough University include former England Rugby coach Sir Clive Woodward, former British athlete and chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, Sebastian Coe, marathon runner Paula Radcliffe, Olympic rower, Sir Steve Redgrave and former World Champion javelin thrower, Steve Backley.