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Ashby de la Zouch, often shortened simply to Ashby, is a small market town and civil parish in North Westmarker Leicestershiremarker, England, within the National Forest. It is twinned with Pithiviersmarker in north-central France. The castle was of importance from the 15th to the 17th centuries. In the 19th century the town became a spa town and was connected to Burton upon Trent and Leicester by railway. Before the growth of Coalvillemarker it was the chief town in north-west Leicestershire. Nearby villages include Normanton le Heathmarker, Packingtonmarker, Donisthorpemarker, Oakthorpemarker, Meashammarker, Coleortonmarker, and Moiramarker.

In the 19th century the main industries were ribbon manufacture, coal mining and brickmaking.Before the arrival of the Midland Railway in 1845, the town was served by Ashby-de-la-Zouch Canal. When the railway arrived it placed the town on an important route between Leicestermarker and Burton upon Trentmarker. Passenger train service through Ashby was withdrawn when Ashby station closed in the 1960s.


"Ashby" is a word of Anglo-Danish origin, meaning "Ash-tree farm" or "Ash-tree settlement". The Norman French addition dates from the years after the Norman conquest of England, when the town became a possession of the La Zouche family during the reign of Henry III.

It has a historic 15th century castlemarker. In 1464 the town and castle came into the possession of the Hastings family. Later the town was one of the Royalists' "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.

Many of the buildings in Market Street, the town's main thoroughfare, are timber framed, but most of this is hidden by later brick facades. The Bull's Head pub retains the original Elizabethan half-timbering. There are also Regency buildings in this street. Bath Street has a row of Classical-style houses dating from the time that the town was a spa.

The local upper school, Ashby Schoolmarker, previously Ashby Grammar School, is a mixed comprehensive school for 14 to 18-year-olds and has its roots in the 16th century (founded in 1567). There were formerly two other endowed boys' schools of 18th century foundation.

A local high school, Ivanhoe Collegemarker, for 11 to 14-year-olds, is named after the book Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott which was set in the area of the castle. The town is also often rumoured to have hosted an important archery competition held by Prince John, in which Robin Hood competed and won (also described in Scott's Ivanhoe).

Notable buildings

The Parish Church of St Helen (late 15th century) is the original church of Ashby and contains interesting memorials to various members of the Hastings family and others: it also houses a rare 300 year-old finger pillory, which may have been used to punish people misbehaving in church. The Church of Holy Trinity was built in 1838-40 (architect H. I. Stevens of Derby) in the Early English style. It has galleries supported by iron columns and an ironwork chancel screen.

The Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of Lourdes (architect F. A. Walters) was built in 1908-15 at the expense of the 15th Duke of Norfolk whose wife had been Lady Flora Hastings. It is in a fine neo-Norman style with three apses and a tower at the south-east corner. The Congregational Chapel is in classical style (1825) and the Methodist Church of 1867-68 is Early English.

The Ivanhoe Baths, a fine neo-Grecian building of the 1820s, were demolished in 1962.


By far the largest employer in the town is United Biscuits, which provides about 2000 jobs. One of its production plants closed in 2004, resulting in the loss of 900 jobs.

Other employers in Ashby include Standard Soap, Tescomarker, Ashfield Healthcare, Eduteq Limited, TAC. There is also a concentration of high-tech employers. Ashby was home to the video game software house Ashby Computer Graphics, also known as Ultimate Play The Game, now called Raremarker. They have since moved to a custom built premises at Manor Park, just down the road from Twycrossmarker. Ashby’s success with technical innovation continued when Internet specialists Gardener-Newman Ltd. relocated to Ashby in 2000.

In the 19th century the main industries were ribbon manufacture, coal mining and brickmaking.

It is home to the government's swine flu help-line centre.


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 was founded before 1831. Its members enjoy playing on one of the finest grounds in the region, located in the centre of Ashby, the Bath Grounds host Leicestershire CCC 2nd XI matches each year. The club run three Saturday League sides, all of whom play in the Everards 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.

Other recreation includes Ashby Town Cricket Club, formed in 1945.


A511 Ashby bypass
Before the arrival of the Midland Railway in 1845, the town was served by Ashby-de-la-Zouch Canal. When the railway arrived it placed the town on an important route between Leicestermarker and Burton upon Trentmarker. Passenger train service through Ashby was withdrawn when Ashby station closed in the 1960s. The Leicester - Burton railway continues to run through the town, but now it carries only freight. In the 1990s there was an unsuccessful plan to restore passenger services on the the Leicester to Burton upon Trent Line as a branch of Leicestershire's Ivanhoe Line. However, it remains within Leicestershire County Council's Structure Plan as a project awaiting funding.

The nearest railway station is in Burton upon Trentmarker, over 12.8 km (eight miles) away. Leicester railway stationmarker also provides an efficient 1hr 10 minute Midland Mainline high speed rail link to the London terminus station at St Pancrasmarker.

Formerly, both the A50 Leicestermarker to Stoke-on-Trentmarker road and the A453 Birminghammarker to Nottinghammarker road passed through the town centre. The heavy traffic which previously travelled through the town has been substantially relieved by the A42 and A511 bypasses, which replaced the A453 and A50 respectively.

Frequent bus routes provide an hourly direct service to Coalville and Burton-upon-Trent (Arriva Midlands 3, 9/9A & 16) and the National Express Coach Network links to Leicester for intercity connections and a daily direct service to London.

East Midlands Airportmarker is 9 miles (14.5 km) north of Ashby (approx. 12 mins drive) and provides flight connections in the UK and Europe.


Every August, Ashby holds an arts festival currently sponsored by the district council. This features local artists, musicians, song writers, 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 funfair, is held every September. Instituted by Royal Statute, it was originally a hiring fair when domestic servants and farmworkers would be hired for the year.The main road through the town (the old A50 trunk road), is closed for nearly a week and traffic diverted along narrow side streets. The fair runs for about half a mile and alternates on either side of the street from year to year to help shopkeepers.

In April 1946 the American jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus recorded a tune called "Ashby de la Zouch" with his band, then dubbed Baron Mingus and His Octet. It was issued as a single on 4 Star Records but has never been reissued in any form. Rather than having much to do with the town, the title was probably a nod to guitarist Irving Ashby's participation in the record session.

Paul McCartney visited the town after the break up of the Beatles and before his Wings era. He had longed to perform live as this had become impossible in the Beatles later years. "We got into a van and headed up the M1. We turned off and stopped in somewhere called Ashby de la Zouch but could not find anywhere to play."

Notable people


  1. Watts, Victor et. al., (2004) The Cambridge Dictionary of Place Names, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. ISBN 0 521 36209 1
  2. [1]
  3. Henry Hastings and the Siege of Ashby
  4. AHCC Web Site
  5. Ashby Arts Festival

External links

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