Leicester (lĕs´tər), city and unitary authority (1991 pop. 324,394), central England. The city is connected by canals with the Trent River and London, and it is also a railway center. Leicester was of industrial importance as early as the 14th cent.; the making of hosiery, knitwear, and shoes are long-established industries. Other manufactures are chemicals, aniline dyes, textiles, textile and woodworking machinery, and light-metal products. The University College, now the Univ. of Leicester, was founded in 1918 and chartered as a university in 1957. DeMontfort Univ. was established in 1992. Immigration since the 1970s has made Leicester Britain's most ethnically diverse city (in terms of the percentage of nonwhite residents).
Leicester was the Ratae Coritanorum, or Ratae, of the Romans, whose Fosse Way passes nearby. It was also a town of the ancient Britons and was one of the Five Boroughs of the Danes. Its antiquities include the Jewry Wall, a Roman structure 18 ft (5 m) high and 70 ft (21 m) long (near which extensive Roman relics have been found); remains of a Norman castle; and the ruins of an abbey founded in 1143, in which Cardinal Wolsey died in 1530. Several of the churches (St. Nicholas, St. Mary de Castro, and All Saints) show Norman work, and Trinity Hospital is a 14th-century foundation. Leicester Cathedral, originally St. Martin's, dates to Norman times but was largely restored in the late 1800s. Richard III stayed in Leicester the night before he was killed in the battle of Bosworth Field. His body was brought back to Leicester for burial, and his remains, which had been lost, were rediscovered in 2012.