From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Market Street, looking west
Ashby-de-la-Zouch is located in Leicestershire
Ashby-de-la-Zouch shown within Leicestershire
Population 13,759 (2011 Census)[1]
OS grid reference SK3516
Civil parish
  • Ashby-de-la-Zouch
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Ashby-de-la-Zouch
Postcode district LE65
Dialling code 01530
Police Leicestershire
Fire Leicestershire
Ambulance East Midlands
EU Parliament East Midlands
UK Parliament
Website Ashby de la Zouch Town Council
List of places
52°44′46″N 1°28′34″W / 52.746°N 1.476°W / 52.746; -1.476Coordinates: 52°44′46″N 1°28′34″W / 52.746°N 1.476°W / 52.746; -1.476

Ashby-de-la-Zouch (/ˌæʃbɪ dələ ˈzʃ/), often shortened to Ashby, is a small market town and civil parish in North West Leicestershire, England, within the National Forest. It is a sister city with Pithiviers in north-central France and lies close to the Derbyshire border. The population of the town according to the 2001 census was 11,410 which increased to 12,370 in the 2011 census. [2]

Ashby-de-la-Zouch Castle was of importance from the 15th to the 17th centuries. In the 19th century its main industries were ribbon manufacture, coal mining, and brickmaking. The town was served by the Leicester to Burton upon Trent Line of the Midland Railway from 1849.[3]

The civil parish includes the hamlets of Shellbrook west of the town and Boundary to its north-west.

Nearby villages include Lount, Normanton le Heath, Smisby, Packington, Donisthorpe, Oakthorpe, Moira, Measham and Coleorton. The towns of Swadlincote, Burton-upon-Trent, Melbourne and Coalville are all within 10 miles (16 km) of Ashby, with the city of Derby 11 12 miles (19 km) due north.

The town is situated at the heart of The National Forest and approximately 24 miles (39 km) due south of the Peak District National Park. It lies on the A42 between Tamworth and Nottingham.


The town was known as Ashby in 1086.[4] This is a word of Anglo-Danish origin, meaning "Ash-tree farm" or "Ash-tree settlement".[5] The Norman French name extension dates from the years after the Norman conquest of England, when Ashby became a possession of the La Zouche family during the reign of Henry III.[6]

Ashby-de-la-Zouch Castle was built in the 12th century.[7] The town and castle came into the possession of the Hastings family in 1464 and William Hastings, 1st Baron Hastings enhanced its fortifications from 1473.[7] In the English Civil War, the town was one of the Cavaliers' chief garrisons under the control of Colonel Henry Hastings, 1st Baron Loughborough and commander of the North Midlands Army. When the town fell after a long siege in March 1646, it was counted a great relief to the surrounding towns and villages.[8]

Many of the buildings in Market Street, the town's main thoroughfare, are timber framed. Most of this structure is hidden by later brick facades. The Bull's Head public house retains its original Elizabethan half-timbering, although most of this was plastered over some years ago and can no longer be seen from the street.[9] A short distance further down Market Street is a shop, currently occupied as a LOROS Charity Shop, which retains its original Elizabethan timbers in full street view.[10] Regency buildings are also standing in this street. Bath Street has a row of Classical-style houses called Rawdon Terrace, dating from the time the 1820s, when the town was a spa destination.

The local upper school, Ashby School, previously Ashby Grammar School, is a mixed comprehensive school for 14–18-year-olds. It was founded in 1567. The town formerly had two other endowed boys' schools founded in the 18th century.

A local high school, Ivanhoe College, for 11 to 14-year-olds, is named after the historical novel Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott, which he set in the area of the castle. In Scott's novel the town hosts an important archery competition held by Prince John, in which Robin Hood competes and wins.

Manor House School is an independent day school in the centre of Ashby for boys and girls aged four to 16. The school is located between St Helen's Church and the ruins of Ashby's historic castle. Pupils travel to the school from a wide geographical area.

Notable buildings


Holy Trinity parish church
Methodist church
Congregational church
Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic church

St Helen's Church is Ashby's original Anglican parish church. It is a late 15th-century Perpendicular Gothic building. The outer aisles were designed by J. P. St. Aubyn and added in 1878.[11] St. Helen's contains notable memorials to various members of the Hastings family and other notables.[7] It also holds a rare 300-year-old finger pillory,[12] which may have been used to punish people misbehaving in church.[citation needed]

Holy Trinity Church is a Gothic Revival building designed by H. I. Stevens in the Early English Gothic style and built in 1838–40.[7] It has galleries supported by iron columns.[7] The chancel was added in 1866 and the ironwork chancel screen in 1891.[7]

The Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of Lourdes was designed by F. A. Walters and built in 1908–15[7] at the expense of the 15th Duke of Norfolk. It is neo-Norman, with three apses and a tower at the southeast corner.[7]

The Congregational Church was built in 1825 in a neoclassical style with Tuscan columns.[13]

The Methodist Church was built in 1867–68 in a Gothic Revival style.[citation needed]

Ivanhoe Baths

The Watertower at Ashby de la Zouch Cemetery

The Ivanhoe Baths was an 1822 Neo-Grecian building with a Doric façade 200 feet (61 m) long.[13] Unused, it was derelict by 1960,[13] and was demolished in 1962.[14][15] Mineworkers discovered a copious saline spring when working coal at Moira Colliery, 3 miles (5 km) west of the town, in 1805. Here developers built the Moira Baths, with a large hotel nearby for travellers. After a few years, however, it was decided to convey the water to Ashby, where the Ivanhoe Baths were built. The Royal Hotel, originally called the Hastings Hotel, was built in 1826 to accommodate visitors to the growing spa.[13] It has a Doric porte-cochère and additional Doric columns in its hall inside.[13]

Water tower

The Grade II listed, 19th-century water tower, located in the town's cemetery, on Moira Road, has been approved for conversion to a house, despite protests from English Heritage, Ashby Civic Society, and local residents.[16][17][18] The approval of the adaptation has proved controversial, as the water tower is a prominent landmark in the town, and a Grade II-listed building.[16] The renovation plan includes the construction of a three-storey stair tower and a two-storey glass conservatory. Given the tower's prominence and historical interest, there are fears that the additions may damage the tower and detract from its beauty. English Heritage has raised concerns about the amount of alterations to be made to the tower and advised that such plans should be abandoned.[16] Ashby Civic Society has attended every council meeting since proposals were submitted, to protest against the plans. It is looking for a "suitable conversion that safeguards the integrity of the building", and condemns the current proposals as "architectural vandalism of a landmark Grade II-listed building". "We are appalled that the objection of English Heritage, guardians of listed buildings, can be so easily brushed aside."[16]


In the 19th century Ashby's main industry was leather working. There was also a cotton textile factory and a glue factory. Ashby was surrounded by coalmines but was never a coal mining town itself. By far the largest employer in the town today is United Biscuits, providing about 2,000 jobs at its distribution centre, which stores its products and transports them nationwide, and its KP Snacks factory in Smisby Road. Its products include Hula Hoops, Skips, Nik Naks, Space Raiders, and Choc Dips. The firm formerly had a larger presence in Ashby. McVitie's biscuit factory on Smisby Road closed in 2004 with the loss of 900 jobs.[19]

Other employers in Ashby include Tesco, Ashfield Commercial & Medical Services, Timeline Communications, Eduteq Limited and TAC UK Ltd, a firm of energy consultants. Standard Soap Ltd., a significant industrial employer within Ashby de la Zouch since 1928, closed in early 2012, resulting in the loss of 155 jobs.[20] The city has a concentration of high-tech employers. The video game software house Ultimate Play the Game, was based in Ashby. Now called Rare, it has moved to Manor Park near Twycross.

The UK government's swine flu help-line centre for England was based at Ashby.


Willesley Park Golf Course is set in rolling countryside, partly in parkland and partly on heathland. The course was opened for play in April 1921. The first hole is played along an avenue of lime trees which once flanked the old coach road from the old Norman castle in the town to the now demolished Willesley Hall.

Ashby Hastings Cricket Club[21] was founded before 1831. Its ground, the Bath Grounds in the centre of Ashby, hosts Leicestershire CCC 2nd XI matches each year. The club runs three Saturday League sides, all of which play in the Everard's Leicestershire County Cricket League. The 1st XI play in the Premier Division, the highest level of club cricket available in Leicestershire, the 2nd XI play in Division 4 and the 3rd XI play in Division 8. The club also run a Midweek XI who play in the Premier Division of the Loughborough Cricket Association League and a Sunday XI who play friendly cricket. The club's Junior Section includes sides at Under 15, Under 13, Under 11 and Under 10 age groups.[22] A second club, Ashby Town Cricket Club[23] was formed in 1945.

Ashby RFC has its grounds in Nottingham Road. It plays in the League Midland 3 East (North). It also has mini and junior sections for girls and boys from age four, as well as seniors and seconds side and an O2 Touch team for players of all ages and both genders.[24]

The town also has a bridge club (Ashby Bridge Club).


The town was to be served by Ashby Canal from 1804 but the canal never reached Ashby, as it was constructed only to the town of Moira. Ashby had a station on the Leicester to Burton upon Trent Line of the Midland Railway from 1845. After the canal was abandoned in stages between 1944 and 1966, British Railways withdrew the passenger service and closed Ashby de la Zouch railway station in September 1964. The railway remains open for freight.

In the 1990s BR planned to restore passenger services between Leicester and Burton as the second phase of its Ivanhoe Line project. However, after the privatisation of British Rail in 1995, this phase of the project was shelved. In 2009 the Association of Train Operating Companies published a £49 million proposal to restore passenger services to the line, which would include reopening a station at Ashby.[25] The restoration of passenger train services remains part of Leicestershire County Council's Structure Plan as a project awaiting funding.[citation needed]

The nearest railway station is Burton-on-Trent, 8 miles (13 km) away. Leicester, 16 miles (26 km) away. It offers East Midlands Trains express passenger services to and from London St Pancras.

A511 Ashby bypass

The A50 Leicester to Stoke-on-Trent road and the A453 Birmingham to Nottingham road used to pass through the town centre. The heavy traffic, which previously travelled through the town, has been greatly relieved by the A42 and A511 bypasses, which replace the A453 and A50, respectively.

Bus routes provide an hourly direct service to Coalville and Burton-upon-Trent (Arriva Midlands 3, 9/9A & 16). The National Express coach network is available in Leicester, which has a daily direct service to London.

East Midlands Airport is 9 miles (14 km) north-east of Ashby. It provides flights to and from other parts of the UK and Europe.


Every May, Ashby holds an arts festival sponsored by the district council.[26] This features local artists, musicians, songwriters, poets, performers, and story tellers. The multiple sites around the town host exhibitions, musical performances, workshops and talks, and the town centre is decorated with flags and an outdoor gallery.

Ashby Statutes, a travelling funfair, is held every September. Instituted by Royal Statute, it was originally a hiring fair, where domestic servants and farmworkers would be hired for the year. During the fair in the 21st century, Market Street, the main road through the town (the former A50 trunk road), is closed for nearly a week. The traffic is diverted along narrower roads either side of Market Street. Locals call this event "The Statutes".

A song "Ashby de la Zouch (Castle Abbey)", written by Al Hoffman, Milton Drake and Jerry Livingston, was recorded by the Merry Macs in 1946 on Decca No. 18811. It includes the lines "If you wanna smooch and be happy as a pooch, go to Ashby de la Zouch by the sea."[27] (Ashby-de-la-Zouch is close to the centre of England, almost as far from the sea as is possible.)[28] In April 1946 the American jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus recorded a tune called "Ashby de la Zouch" with his band. The title or choice of song could have been an acknowledgement of guitarist Irving Ashby, who took part in the recording.[citation needed]

Notable people

In popular culture



  1. ^ "Area selected: North West Leicestershire (Non-Metropolitan District)". Neighbourhood Statistics: Full Dataset View. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 17 July 2011. 
  2. ^ "Town population 2011". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 5 June 2016. 
  3. ^ Scott, W (1907). The Story of Ashby de la Zouch. London and New York: White Lion Publishers. p. 245. 
  4. ^ Open Domesday: Ashby-de-la-Zouche
  5. ^ Watts, Victor; Insley, John; Gelling, Margaret, eds. (2004). The Cambridge Dictionary of Place Names. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. not cited. ISBN 0-521-36209-1. 
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Pevsner, 1960, page 51
  8. ^ Henry Hastings and the Siege of Ashby
  9. ^ "Modern photograph of The Bulls Head". Ashby Museum website. Ashby Museum. Retrieved 13 July 2012. 
  10. ^ "Photograph of 51 Market Street, Ashby de la Zouch". Ashby Museum website. Ashby de la Zouch Museum. Retrieved 13 July 2012. 
  11. ^ Pevsner, 1960, page 50
  12. ^ Nikolaus Pevsner, Elizabeth Williamson and Geoffrey K. Brandwood Leicestershire and Rutland, p. 79, at Google Books
  13. ^ a b c d e Pevsner, 1960, page 54
  14. ^ Nikolaus Pevsner, Elizabeth Williamson and Geoffrey K. Brandwood Leicestershire and Rutland, p. 84, at Google Books
  15. ^ Kate Noble The Game and the Governess, p. 420, at Google Books
  16. ^ a b c d KATIE BOWLER (29 November 2012). "Thumbs-up for water tower housing plan". Burton Mail. 
  17. ^ "Water Tower, Ashby-de-la-Zouch". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 25 May 2013. 
  18. ^ "Well loved Ashby landmark gets new lease of life". Fisher German. 
  19. ^ Annual and Transition Report, Foreign Private Issuer", SEC, 06 April 2005. Quote: "During 2003, we announced a proposal to close our biscuit factory at Ashby-de-la-Zouch by the end of 2004 to improve our factory utilization and enable us to effectively support growth in our priority brands. We transferred approximately one-third of production to other sites and completed the first phase of the redundancy program...During 2004...[we also completed the closure of our biscuit facility at Ashby-de-la-Zouch."
  20. ^ "Jobs lost as Standard Soap factory closes". BBC News. Retrieved 10 July 2016. 
  21. ^ Ashby Hastings Cricket Club
  22. ^ AHCC Web Site
  23. ^ Ashby Town Cricket Club
  24. ^ Club site [ Retrieved 10 July 2016.]
  25. ^ "Connecting Communities - expanding access to the rail network" (PDF). London: Association of Train Operating Companies. June 2009. p. 19. Archived from the original (pdf) on 29 July 2013. Retrieved 20 February 2015. 
  26. ^ "Ashby Arts Festival". Retrieved 10 July 2016. 
  27. ^ [2]
  28. ^ "Notes & Queries: Which British town is furthest from the sea?". the Guardian. 25 April 2012. Retrieved 10 July 2016. 
  • Curtis, John (1831). A Topographical History of the County of Leicester. Ashby-de-la-Zouch: W. Hextall. pp. 4–6. 
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus (1960). Leicestershire and Rutland. The Buildings of England. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. pp. 50–55. 
  • 'A Little Bit About Ashby de la Zouch' (includes words of the song Ashby de la Zouch by the sea)

External links

  • Community website for Ashby de la Zouch helping to promote the town and its businesses
  • The Online Guide to Ashby de la Zouch and Surrounding Area
  • A tongue in cheek guide to Ashby de la Zouch
  • The Ashby Churches
  • Ashby de la Zouch Museum website
  • History of Ashby de la Zouch Methodist Church
  • Ashby [-de-la-Zouch] in the Domesday Book
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