A Brief History
Merdegrave is what Belgrave was known as until the Norman Conquest in 1066 when the name was changed to make it sound like a more pleasant place. The meaning of Belgrave is; Bel – beautiful in French, and grave – meaning grove, as in a grove of trees. So the literal meaning is: Beautiful Grove.
Belgrave is mentioned in the Domesday Book where it is listed as land given by the King to Hugh de Grandmesnil who was appointed as the first High Sheriff of Leicestershire in 1066. The land was made up of a mill, 24 acres of meadow and land for 6 ploughs.
The Village of Belgrave (which was located along the Loughborough Road) and surrounding lands were owned by various Dukes and Earls over the next few centuries. It is thought that there were at least 2 manors in Belgrave during the 11th and 12th Centuries, leading to some disputes over who owned what.
By the 16th century the area and manor is owned by John Belgrave who died in 1521. His family continued to hold it until the beginning of the 17th century, when after having been mortgaged several times it was sold, probably between 1635 and 1645. After this it was owned by a variety of wealthy families such as the Byerleys, the Pultneys, the Edwyns and the Davenports. In 1831 it was in the possession of Henry Harrison, who probably acquired it when it was put up for sale in 1826. It remained the property of the Harrison family until at least 1877.
The Census tells us that in 1801 Belgrave had more than 148 persons out of the population of 601 engaged in trade and industry with socks being the main item being made. Knitwear was made in people’s homes all around Leicester during these times; it was the main source of income for a lot of families.
In 1845 Belgrave had a population of about 1,200; by 1900 this had grown ten times to reach 12,000. Today the population is around 11,000 - slightly less than 100 years ago.
As Leicester grew it absorbed the outlying villages into the City boundaries. In 1874 Belgrave was still a separate place from Leicester City connected by road and horse drawn tram. As both Leicester and Belgrave grew the land separating them became built up and by 1900 there were no fields at all between the village and City making Belgrave a suburb of Leicester.
Today Belgrave is a bustling area with many shops, factories and houses catering to the local, mostly Asian community.