Melton Mowbray (known locally as Melton) is a town in the Melton borough of Leicestershire, England. It is to the northeast of Leicester, and southeast of Nottingham. The town lies along the course of both the River Eye and the River Wreake and has a total resident population of 25,554.
There is industrial archeology including the Grantham Canal, the remains of the Wreake navigation. Windmill sites, ironstone working and smelting archeological evidence suggest that Melton borough was densely populated in Bronze and Iron Ages. Many small village communities existed and strategic points at Burrough Hill and Belvoir were fortified. There is also evidence to suggest that the site of Melton Mowbray in the Wreake Valley was inhabited before Roman occupation (43A.D).
Evidence of settlement throughout Saxon and Danelaw period (8th/9th centuries) is reflected in many place names. Along the Wreake Valley, the Danish suffix "by" is common, as is evident in Asfordby, Dalby, Frisby, Hoby, Rearsby and Gaddesby. In addition, a cemetery of 50-60 graves, of Pagan Saxon origin, was found in Melton Mowbray. Although most villages and their churches, had origins before the Norman Conquest of 1066, stone crosses at Asfordby and Sproxton churches and Anglo-Saxon cemeteries as found at Goadby Marwood, Sysonby and Stapleford, are certainly pre-Conquest.
Melton Mowbray has been a market town for over 1,000 years. Recorded as Leicestershire's only market in the 1086 Domesday Survey, it is the third oldest market in England. Tuesday has been market day ever since royal approval was given in 1324. The market was established with tolls before 1077.
Legacies from the Medieval period include consolidation of village and market town patterns; in Melton Mowbray, Bottesford, Wymondham, and Waltham-on-the-Wolds. The latter had a market in medieval times that continued until 1921, and an annual fair of horses and cattle. Many buildings in Melton Market Place, Nottingham Street, Church Lane, King Street and Sherrard Street have ancient foundations. Alterations to number 16 Church Street revealed a medieval circular stone wall subjected to considerable heat. This is probably the `Manor Oven' mentioned in 13th century documents. Surveys of 5 King Street show it to be part of an early medieval open-halled house. It may be part of the castle or fortified Manor of the Mowbrays, which existed in the 14th century.
King Richard and King John visited the town and may have stayed at an earlier castle. In 1549 following the Dissolution of the chantries, monasteries and religious guilds, church plate was sold and land purchased for the town. Resulting rents were used to maintain Melton School; first recorded in 1347 and one of the oldest educational establishments in Britain. Funds were also used to maintain roads, bridges and to repair the church clock.
Local notable families seem to have had divided loyalties, although the War ended with great rejoicings outside the "Limes" in Sherrard Street, home of Sir Henry Hudson. His father, Robert Hudson founded the "Maison Dieu" almshouses opposite the Church in 1640, which complement the stone built "Anne of Cleves House" opposite. This was built in 1384 and housed chantry priests until the Dissolution. It was then included in the estates of Anne of Cleves by Henry VIII, as a divorce settlement in the 16th century, although there is local debate about whether she ever stayed there or not. Anne of Cleves house is now a public house which is owed by Everards Brewery, a Leicester based brewery, and she never stayed there
Stilton cheese originated near Melton Mowbray, and is still made in the town today. Stilton cheese takes its name from the village of Stilton, 80 miles north of London, where it was marketed to travellers on the Great North Road, though no Stilton was ever made there.
Although supermarkets routinely carry pork pies with the label "Melton Mowbray", there is in fact a specific "hand-raising" process and recipe which marks a pie as a Melton Mowbray pork pie. In the centre of Melton on Nottingham Street, there is a "ye olde pork pie shoppe" (Dickinsons & Morris) where one can buy true Melton pork pies. On 4 April 2008 the European Union awarded the Melton Mowbray pork pie Protected Geographical Indication status, following a long-standing application made by the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association. As a result of this ruling only pies made within a designated zone around Melton, and using uncured pork, will be allowed to carry the Melton Mowbray name on their packaging.
The phrase painting the town red is said to have originated in Melton back in 1837. Out celebrating a successful hunt, the Marquess of Waterford and his hunting party found several tins of red paint which they daubed liberally on to the buildings of the High Street, some traces of which can still be seen on doors of older buildings in the town. Other sources report the phrase originated in 1880's America. When persons from the red light district frequented other parts of the town, they were said to be 'painting the town red' by bringing their questionable activities and therefore associated colour with them. The earliest known printed record can be found in the New York Times from July 1883; used by the drunken Democrats in Newark. There are other references dating from around this time and they all are either from America or describe events in America. There is also a picture labelled "A Spree at Melton Mowbray." and subtitled "or doing the Thing in a Sporting-like manner". It is dated 1837, the same date as the Marquess' event. It appears to take place on what is now called Leicester Street and depicts men in hunting clothes climbing on Swan Porch (a building in the market place), fighting and a gentlemen apparently being robbed. There is no mention of any red paint. Of course this sort of thing may have been common in Melton Mowbray at this time and there is no evidence that the picture depicts the same events. What is certain is that the physical evidence appears to support the town was painted red. However this does not necessarily mean that the phrase came from the event.
The Melton Mowbray event was recorded as happening in the early hours of 6 April 1837. It was later recorded in the London Examiner. Henry Alken's pictures A Spree at Melton Mowbray and Larking at the Grantham Tollgate are said to illustrate the event
They can be see at http://www.meltonmowbraytownestate.co.uk/files/paintingthetownred-600.jpg and http://www.meltonmowbraytownestate.co.uk/files/paintingthetownredswanporch-600.jpg
The events were depicted in a play called The Meltonians at The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1838.
Melton Mowbray is home to a rare example of early town government. The Melton Mowbray Town Estate was founded at the time of the reformation, in 1549, when two townsfolk sold gold sequestered from the church and bought land to be held in trust for all inhabitants. The Town Estate provided early forms of education, the first street lighting, and today owns and operates the town's parks and sportsgrounds, and the town's market.
In 2000, the East Midlands Regional Assembly (EMRA) was based in a building also on Nottingham Road.
Petfoods came to the town in 1951 as Chappie Ltd, employing over two thousand people, and now employs around one thousand. It became Petfoods in 1957, and became Masterfoods in January 2002. At Melton, it makes four million items of petfood every day, which is less than it used to. Masterfoods now have their UK headquarters close to Melton at Waltham-on-the-Wolds.
Melton's St. Mary's Church is the largest and "stateliest" (according to a guide by W. G. Hoskins) Parish Church in Leicestershire, with visible remains dating mainly from the 13th-15th centuries. Sir Malcolm Sargent was a former organist of this church. Some of the visible stonework of the cathedral-sized St. Mary's Church dates from 1170 [lowest section of the tower, with Norman windows] although there was certainly one or more Anglo-Saxon churches on this site before the Norman one. Its 100 foot tower dominates the town, and is a rare example of a parish church with aisled transepts (one of only five in the country) a feature usually reserved for cathedrals.
The church forms part of the Framland church trail along with 14 other churches in the 'Framland area'. Copies of this leaflet are available from Melton Tourist Information Centre.
Melton's largest school is King Edward VII with around 2,000 pupils, aged between 11 and 19. The school was founded in 1908. King Edward VII Upper School, also has the first school-based Eco-Centre and a large computer-based learning centre (ILIAD).