Ashby de la Zouch (often shortened simply to Ashby) is a small market town and civil parish in north west Leicestershire, England, within the National Forest. Prior to 1974, Ashby-de-la-Zouch had its own local government district, but since 1974, it has formed part of the North West Leicestershire local government district within the administrative county boundaries of Leicestershire.
It has a historic 15th century castle. The castle area was the setting for Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. A local high school is named after the book (Ivanhoe College, for 11 to 14-year-olds). 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.
The local upper school, Ashby School, previously Ashby Grammar School, is a mixed comprehensive school for 14 to 18-year-olds and has its roots in the 16th century. The parish church, St Helen's, houses a rare 300 year-old finger pillory, which may have been used to punish people misbehaving in church.
Many of the buildings in Market Street, the town's main thoroughfare, have timber framing, 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.
Other employers in Ashby include Standard Soap, Tesco, the art materials manufacturer Calder Colours, Ashfield Healthcare, Eduteq Limited and 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 Rare. They have since moved to a custom built premises at Manor Park, just down the road from Twycross.
The Midland Railway reached Ashby in 1845, placing the town on an important route between Leicester and Burton upon Trent. In the 20th century the passenger train service through Ashby was withdrawn. 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 as a branch of Leicestershire's Ivanhoe Line; however, it remains within Leicestershire County Council's Structure Plan as a project awaiting funding.
Formerly, both the A50 Leicester to Stoke-on-Trent road and the A453 Birmingham to Nottingham 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.
The nearest railway station is in Burton upon Trent, over 12.8 km (eight miles) away. Leicester railway station also provides an efficient 1hr 10 minute Midland Mainline high speed rail link to the London terminus station at St Pancras which became the home of international Eurostar trains in November 2007. Calls have been made for the Leicester to Burton upon Trent Line to be opened as part of the Ivanhoe Line. Ashby station closed in the 1960s.
East Midlands Airport is 9 miles (14.5 km) north of Ashby (approx. 12 mins drive) and provides flight connections in the UK and Europe.
Frequent bus routes provide an hourly direct service to Leicester and Burton-upon-Trent (Arriva Midlands X2 & 8) and the National Express Coach Network links to Leicester for intercity connections and a daily direct service to London.
The Statutes Fair is a funfair instituted by the Royal Statute held every September.
Ashby is twinned with Pithiviers.
On a tangential note, in April of 1946 the American jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus recorded a tune called "Ashby de la Zouch" with his band, 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.