Loughborough

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Loughborough (/ˈlʌfbərə/ LUFF-bərə or /ˈlʌfbrə/ LUFF-brə) is a town within the Charnwood borough of Leicestershire, England. It is the seat of Charnwood Borough Council and is home to Loughborough University. The town had a population of 57,600 in 2004, making it the largest settlement in Leicestershire outside the city of Leicester.

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 — John Taylor Bellfounders, which made the bells for the Carillon war memorial, a landmark within the Queens Park in the town, Great Paul for St. Paul’s Cathedral, and York Minster. The first mention of Loughborough is in the 1086 Domesday Book.

To the north of the edges of Loughborough, Dishley Grange Farm was formerly the home of agricultural revolutionist Robert Bakewell. The farm was also once home to the annual Leicestershire County Show.

The rail network is of growing importance in Loughborough, and with Eurostar international services from London St Pancras International, to which its twice hourly London service goes giving Loughborough railway station good links to the continent. East Midlands Trains are the InterCity operator running services to and from London to northern England, and provide local services throughout the East Midlands.

Rail routes run north–south through Loughborough along the route known as the Midland Main Line, going south to Bedford, Luton and London; and north to Lincoln, Sheffield, Leeds and York. Junctions at Leicester and Derby stations link with CrossCountry trains route, serving the far north east of Scotland and the south west of England.

Network Rail have recently are currently working to re-develop the station increasing the length of platforms and improving access. The local council are making improvements to the surrounding area.

There were at one time three railway routes to the town: the still operating Midland line; the Great Central Railway which had its own Central station, closed as a result of the Beeching cuts; and a branch line from Nuneaton, part of the London and North Western Railway. Today, the Great Central Railway line is the terminus of the south section of the Great Central Steam Railway heritage railway.

Brush Traction, a manufacturer of railway locomotives, is also located in the town, close to Loughborough’s railway station.

The M1’s Junction 23 is just to the west of Loughborough. The north of the town can be accessed from Junction 24, travelling through Kegworth and Hathern on the A6 road.

The River Soar passes by to the east of the town. Navigation from Loughborough north towards the Trent was achieved in 1778 by the Loughborough Navigation which terminates at Loughborough Wharf between Derby Road and Bridge Street. Subsequently the Leicester navigation was constructed connecting to the Loughborough Navigation at Canal Bridge. The Leicester navigation connects to the River Soar south of the town. Both form part of the Grand Union Canal.

The now derelict Charnwood Forest Canal once linked Nanpantan (on the West side of Loughborough) with Thringstone, with goods being carried into Loughborough by a horse drawn wagonway.

The centre of Loughborough’s shopping area is the pedestrianised Market Place and Market Street, which maintain a number of original art deco buildings, such as the building that currently houses the town’s cinema. A large outdoor market is held in the Market Place every Thursday and Saturday. There is a monthly farmers’ market. The first mention of a market in Loughborough is in 1221.

‘The Rushes’ shopping centre has also been built on the site of the former bus station and is occupied by national chains. The Rushes is linked to the town centre area by Churchgate and Churchgate Mews; the latter has independent shops.

There is major new development (The Eastern Gateway) planned for the area around the railway station with a new road and housing planned.

Loughborough has four museums, the largest being the centrally located Charnwood Museum, which houses a range of exhibits reflecting the natural history, geology, industry and history of the area. Nearby in Queens Park is the Carillon and War Memorial, home to a small museum of military memorabilia from the first and second World Wars. Loughborough Library is in Granby Street.

Also to be found in the town centre, near the fine medieval All Saints parish church, is the Old Rectory. Dating back to 1288 the remaining portion of the Great Hall has been restored and houses a small museum run by the Loughborough and District Archaeological Society.

Loughborough has for more than a century been the home of John Taylor & Co bell founders and the firm has a museum—the Bellfoundry Museum—located on two floors telling the story of bell making over the centuries.

A walk around the town reveals a mix of architectural styles and there are several interesting examples of Victorian and Art Deco buildings, while the oldest buildings are to be found clustered around the parish church and the Church Gate conservation area.

Although it has no dedicated art gallery, fine pieces of sculpture can be found in the town’s environs, including the ‘Sock Man’, a bronze statue celebrating Loughborough’s association with the hosiery industry. This can be found in the Market Place near the Town Hall, which itself contains a number of art works.

The Town Hall Theatre is the venue for a wide range of events, including concerts, exhibitions, musicals, comedy shows and a Christmas pantomime. The town also has a thriving amateur dramatic community, and many groups make use of the town hall for their shows.

Events are also organised by Charnwood Arts, a voluntary managed and professionally staffed body, which promotes a year round programme of professional performances across the borough. The organisation is responsible for The Picnic In the Park event, which was inaugurated in 1980 and is held in Queens Park in May. Streets Alive, jointly organised by Charnwood Arts and Charnwood Borough Council takes place at a similar time of year.

The Loughborough Canal Festival, which started in 1997, is an annual event in May centred around Chain Bridge. The event attracts around 10,000 visitors.

Great Central Railway is a heritage railway based at Loughborough Central Station, which is south of the town centre. It is operated largely by volunteers and trains run every weekend of the year and bank holidays, as well as daily during the summer.

Every November, the street fair takes over the centre of the town and closes the A6 and other roads. The fair runs from Wednesday afternoon until Saturday night. The fair has many rides, amusement arcades, food stands and games.

The town has an Odeon cinema. There are six screens in the theatre, which is built to an art deco style. The cinema was built in 1936 and over the years it has been named the Palm Court and Ballroom, Empire, Classic, Curzon and Reel.

Loughborough is twinned with Épinal, France; Gembloux, Belgium; Schwäbisch Hall, Germany; Zamość, Poland; Bhavnagar, India.

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