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Leek, Staffordshire

LEEK, STAFFORDSHIRE, a market town in the Leek parliamentary division oi Staffordshire, England, 157 m. N.W. from London, on the Churnet Valley branch of the North Staffordshire railway. Pop. of urban district (1901) 15,484. The town lies high in a picturesque situation near the head of the river Churnet. The church of St Edward the Confessor is mainly Decorated, and stands in a churchyard commanding a beautiful view from an elevation of some 640 ft. There is here a curious pillar of Danish work ornately carved. An institute contains a free library, lecture hall, art gallery and school of art. A grammar school was established in 172,3. In the vicinity are ruins of the Cistercian abbey De la Croix, or Dieulacresse, erected in 1214 by Ralph de Blundevill, earl of Chester. The slight remains are principally embodied in a farm-house. The silk manufacture includes sewing silk, braids, silk buttons, etc. Cloud Hill, rising to 1190 ft. W. of the town, causes a curious phenomenon in the height of summer, the Sun sinking behind one flank to reappear beyond the other, and thus appearing to set twice.

Leek (Lee, Leike, Leeke) formed part of the great estates of /Elfgar, earl of Mercia; it escheated to William the Conqueror who held it at the time of the Domesday Survey. Later it passed to the earls Palatine of Chester, remaining in their hands until Ralph de Blundevill, earl of Chester, gave it to the abbey of Dieulacresse, which continued to hold it until its dissolution. The same earl in a charter which he gave to the town (temp. John) calls it a borough and grants to his free burgesses various privileges, including freedom from toll throughout Cheshire. These privileges were confirmed by Richard,abbot of Dieulacresse, but the town received no royal charter and failed to establish its burghal position. The Wednesday market which is still held dates from a grant of John to the earl of Chester: in the 17th century it was very considerable. A fair, also granted by John, beginning on the third day before the Translation of Edward the Confessor is still held. The silk manufacture which can be traced to the latter part of the 17th century is thought to have been aided by the settlement in Leek of some Huguenots after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. In the i;th and 18th centuries the town was famous for its ale. Prince Charles Edward passed through Leek on his march to Derby (1745) and again on his return journey to Scotland. A story in connexion with the Civil Wars is told to explain the expression "Now thus" occurring on the tombstone of a citizen, who by this meaningless answer to all questions sought escape on the plea of insanity.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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