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  • In medieval times pupils attended the school six days a week
  • Founded by famous benefactors of Leicester, the Wigston family
  • Built with material from the demolished St Peter’s Church

One of the oldest schoolhouses in England

The school was built around 1573 using stone, timber and lead from St Peter´s church that had been demolished following an appeal to Queen Elizabeth I. The royal coat of arms is displayed over the entrance.

free grammar school
The building as it may have looked in when being constructed. Mike Codd / University of Leicester Archaeological Services

What do we know of the pupils?

Remarkably, details of the school curriculum have survived. Pupils attended lessons six days a week with a half-day on Thursdays. Summer hours were 5am – 5pm with a two-hour break and in winter 7am-5pm. Subjects included English, Latin and Greek grammar and older boys were expected to speak Latin to each other. At its height, around 130 boys studied here, but by the 1830s attendance had fallen dramatically as rival schools opened in the town. It closed in 1841.

Free grammer School plaques
The plaques on the side of the building

The Wigston Family connection

Thomas Wigston founded the school using money from his brother William's estate. You can see the name “Sir William Wigston” on the benefactors’ plaque on the Highcross Street side of the building. The Wigston family were great Leicester benefactors.

In later years the building was a carpet warehouse and a booking office for Barton Transport of Nottingham. It is now a bar and restaurant called ‘1573 Bar & Grill’.

Find out how to visit.

Visitor information
Public access to the restaurant


Roman Leicester

(47- 500) A military fort was erected, attracting traders and a growing civilian community to Leicester (known as Ratae Corieltauvorum to the Romans). The town steadily grew throughout the reign of the Romans.

Tudor & Stuart Leicester

(1500 – 1700) The wool trade flourished in Leicester with one local, a former mayor named William Wigston, making his fortune. During the English Civil War a bloody battle was fought as the forces of King Charles I laid siege to the town.

Georgian Leicester

(1700 – 1837) The knitting industry had really stared to take hold and Leicester was fast becoming the main centre of hosiery manufacture in Britain. This new prosperity was reflected throughout the town with broader, paved streets lined with elegant brick buildings and genteel residences.

Victorian Leicester

(1837 – 1901) The industrial revolution had a huge effect on Leicester resulting in the population growing from 40,000 to 212,000 during this period. Many of Leicester's most iconic buildings were erected during this time as wealthy Victorians made their mark on the town.

Edwardian Leicester

(1901 – 1910) Electric trams came to the streets of Leicester and increased literacy among the citizens led to many becoming politicised. The famous 1905 ‘March of the Unemployed to London’ left from Leicester market when 30,000 people came to witness the historic event.

Modern Leicester

(1973 – present day) Industry was still thriving in the city during the 1970s, with the work opportunities attracting many immigrants from all over the world. While industry has declined in recent years, excellent transport links have made Leicester an attractive centre for many businesses. The City now has much to be proud of including its sporting achievements and the richness of its cultural heritage and diversity.

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