Harborough District

Coordinates: 52°28′43″N 0°55′14″W / 52.4785°N 0.9206°W / 52.4785; -0.9206
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Harborough District
Market Harborough, the largest settlement and administrative centre of the district
Market Harborough, the largest settlement and administrative centre of the district
Shown within Leicestershire
Shown within Leicestershire
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Constituent countryEngland
RegionEast Midlands
Administrative countyLeicestershire
Admin. HQMarket Harborough
 • TypeHarborough District Council
 • MPs:Alberto Costa,
Alicia Kearns,
Neil O'Brien
 • Total229 sq mi (592 km2)
 • Rank61st
 • Total100,481
 • RankRanked 244th
 • Density440/sq mi (170/km2)
Ethnicity (2021)
 • Ethnic groups
Religion (2021)
 • Religion
Time zoneUTC+0 (Greenwich Mean Time)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+1 (British Summer Time)
ONS code31UD (ONS)
E07000131 (GSS)
Ethnicity97.9% White

Harborough (/ˈhɑːrbərə/) is a local government district in Leicestershire, England. It is named after its main town, Market Harborough, which is where the council is based. The district also includes the town of Lutterworth and numerous villages and surrounding rural areas. In the north of the district it includes parts of the Leicester Urban Area, notably at Thurnby, Bushby and Scraptoft. Covering 230 square miles (600 km2), the district is the largest by area of the eight districts in Leicestershire and covers almost a quarter of the county.

The neighbouring districts are Blaby, Oadby and Wigston, Leicester, Charnwood, Melton, Rutland, North Northamptonshire, West Northamptonshire and Rugby.


The district was created on 1 April 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972, covering the area of four former districts, which were all abolished at the same time:[2]

The new council was named Harborough, after its largest town of Market Harborough.[3]


Harborough District Council
Founded1 April 1974
Barbara Johnson,
Liberal Democrat
since 15 May 2023
Phil Knowles,
Liberal Democrat
since 15 May 2023[4]
Seats34 councillors
Political groups
Administration (19)
  Liberal Democrat (13)
  Labour (3)
  Green (3)
Opposition (15)
  Conservative (15)
Length of term
4 years
Last election
4 May 2023
Next election
6 May 2027
Meeting place
The Symington Building, Adam and Eve Street, Market Harborough, LE16 7AG

Harborough District Council provides district-level services. County-level services are provided by Leicestershire County Council. Much of the district is also covered by civil parishes, which form a third tier of local government.[5][6]

Political control[edit]

The council has been under no overall control since the 2023 election, being run by a coalition of the Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Greens, led by Liberal Democrat councillor Phil Knowles.[7]

The first election to the council was held in 1973, initially operating as a shadow authority alongside the outgoing authorities before coming into its powers on 1 April 1974. Since 1974 political control of the council has been as follows:[8][9]

Party in control Years
Conservative 1974–1987
No overall control 1987–2007
Conservative 2007–2023
No overall control 2023–present


The leaders of the council since 2000 have been:[10]

Councillor Party From To
John Fort Conservative pre-2000 28 May 2003
Robin Totten Liberal Democrats 28 May 2003 10 May 2006
Simon Galton Liberal Democrats 10 May 2006 16 May 2007
Graham Hart Conservative 16 May 2007 Aug 2008
Alistair Swatridge Conservative 8 Sep 2008 Nov 2009
Michael Rook Conservative 25 Jan 2010 20 May 2013
Blake Pain Conservative 20 May 2013 18 Sep 2017
Neil Bannister Conservative 12 Oct 2017 20 May 2019
Phil King Conservative 20 May 2019 15 May 2023
Phil Knowles Liberal Democrats 15 May 2023


Following the 2023 election the composition of the council was:[11][12][13]

Party Councillors
Conservative 15
Liberal Democrats 13
Labour 3
Green 3
Total 34

The next election is due in 2027.


Since the last boundary changes in 2019 the council has comprised 34 councillors, representing 19 wards, with each ward electing one, two or three councillors. Elections are held every four years.[14]


Harborough District Council is based at the Symington Building, located in the centre of Market Harborough. The building was originally a corset factory, built in 1884.[15] The council purchased the building in 1980 and converted it to become its offices and meeting place, as well as providing a new library for the town.[16] The building is also shared with Harborough Museum, the register office and Job Centre Plus.


Lutterworth, the only other town in the district and the second-largest settlement

Situated in the south of East Midlands but linking to Northamptonshire and the South East Region, and between the West Midland and East of England Region with access to three national transport routes - the M1 motorway the Midland Main Line railway and the A14 East West national trunk road, the district has always occupied an important strategic position.

The landscape of the district comprises both pastoral and upland characters.[17] Generally the A6 Market Harborough to Leicester Road forms the boundary between each. The lower pastoral landscape of South Leicestershire is found to the west of the A6 whilst the more undulating upland landscape of High Leicestershire is found to the east.

South Leicestershire consists of gentler country around Lutterworth and Kibworth. Low hills swell out of shallow valleys and villages are pinpointed by church spires peeping above dark spinneys. Near Foxton and Gumley the Laughton Hills tumble down to the Grand Union Canal and Welland Valley, forming one of the best landscapes in this part of the district.

High Leicestershire consists of the tract of land between Market Harborough, Tilton On The Hill and towards Melton Mowbray and forms some of the loneliest countryside in the Midlands. Many villages were deserted centuries ago and remote hills such as Robin-a-Tiptoe in the parish of Tilton peer out over pastures and the occasional farmhouse.

The infant River Avon and River Welland form the southern border of the district with Northamptonshire with sources at Naseby and Sibbertoft respectively.

Brampton Valley Way, the former Northampton to Market Harborough Railway,[18] is now a car free 'linear' park. It provides a 14 mile long walking, cycling and, in parts, horse riding route.


Despite Harborough District being the largest in Leicestershire by area it is primarily rural in nature and its population density is relatively low. Population growth for the district is nonetheless healthy and is set out below:

Population growth in Harborough District
Year 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001 2011 2016 2021 2031
Population 42,469 51,390 58.093 59,941 67,601 76,598 85,382 90,400 94,000 101,000
Census[19] ONS[20] ONS Projections[21]

The principal centres of population (from 2011 Census) are Market Harborough (21,894), Lutterworth (9,353) and Broughton Astley (8,940) to the south of the district and county. There are four large villages of over 3,000 population - Kibworth (5,455); Fleckney (4,894); Great Glen (3,662) and Thurnby and Bushby (3,301) - these evidence the transition from the relatively densely populated Leicester Urban Area into the countryside/farmland of rural Harborough. Other villages include Scraptoft (1,804), Houghton on the Hill (1,524), Husbands Bosworth (1,145), Great Bowden (1,017), Gilmorton (976), Ullesthorpe (903) and Billesdon (901). The District has 17 parishes with populations between 500 and 3,000, 40 parishes with populations between 100 and 500 and 28 parishes with populations of below 100 (mid-2004 population estimates).[22]

Built heritage[edit]

Stanford Hall, Leicestershire is located in the south west of the district. The village of Stanford-on-Avon is in Northamptonshire but the house and park are on the Leicestershire bank of the River Avon

The Grand Union Canal (old) cuts across the district from Husbands Bosworth to Newton Harcourt with a spur to Market Harborough which leaves the Canal at Foxton.

Hallaton Treasure: More than 5,000 silver and gold coins, around 2,000 years old, were found at a site near Hallaton around 2002. The internationally important finds are exhibited at Harborough Museum.[23][24]

The Eyebrook Reservoir straddles along the Harborough District's border with the county of Rutland. The reservoir serves as a popular trout fishing area and bird watching area, with nearby Eye Brook Valley Woods as a beautiful and natural small forest area for walking. The Reservoir and woods are cared for by the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust and are SSSIs.

Social and sporting[edit]

The Harborough District has a long association with fox hunting and is the base for the Fernie Hunt.[25] Although hunting wild animals with dogs has stopped following the Hunting Act 2004, the Fernie Hunt continues to operate under the three principal exemptions to the Act - trail hunting, hound exercise and flushing coverts to a bird of prey. A historical account of fox hunting in the Harborough District (when the hunt was known as Mr Fernie's Billesdon Hunt) is available in the book "Annals of the Billesdon hunt (Mr. Fernie's) 1856-1913 : notable runs and incidents of the chase, prominent members, celebrated hunters and hounds, amusing stories and anecdotes" by F. Palliser de Costobadie.[26] Also see an earlier guide to the fox hunting country north of Market Harborough published in 1882.[27]

Community organisations[edit]

The Harborough Youth Council[28] was set up in 2007 to represent the views of young people (aged 13–19) and aims to improve life for young people. It holds a District Youth Conference each year where young people give their views in front of district councillors. The HYC meets usually once per month, and sends representatives to CYCLe (County Youth Council Leicestershire).

The Harborough District Sport and Activity Alliance[29] aims to make sport and physical activity accessible for all people throughout the Harborough District enabling them to fulfil their potential through sport and physical activity.

Civil parishes[edit]

Most of the district is covered by civil parishes. The pre-1974 urban district of Market Harborough is an unparished area. The parish council for Lutterworth has declared that parish to be a town, allowing it to take the style "town council". Many of the smaller parishes have a parish meeting rather than a parish council.[30]


  1. ^ a b UK Census (2021). "2021 Census Area Profile – Harborough Local Authority (E07000131)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 5 January 2024.
  2. ^ "The English Non-metropolitan Districts (Definition) Order 1972", legislation.gov.uk, The National Archives, SI 1972/2039, retrieved 22 August 2022
  3. ^ "The English Non-metropolitan Districts (Names) Order 1973", legislation.gov.uk, The National Archives, SI 1973/551, retrieved 22 August 2022
  4. ^ "Deal Struck to Run Harborough District Council". 15 May 2023.
  5. ^ "Local Government Act 1972", legislation.gov.uk, The National Archives, 1972 c. 70, retrieved 31 May 2023
  6. ^ "Election Maps". Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 17 October 2023.
  7. ^ "Labour, Lib Dems and Green Party form coalition to lead Harborough District Council | Harborough Mail".
  8. ^ "Compositions calculator". The Elections Centre. 4 March 2016. Retrieved 10 August 2022.
  9. ^ "Harborough". BBC News Online. Retrieved 2009-09-23.
  10. ^ "Council minutes". Harborough District Council. Retrieved 18 August 2022.
  11. ^ "Local elections 2023: live council results for England". The Guardian.
  12. ^ "Charnwood result - Local Elections 2023". BBC News.
  13. ^ "Harborough District Council". BBC News.
  14. ^ "The Harborough (Electoral Changes) Order 2017", legislation.gov.uk, The National Archives, SI 2017/1124, retrieved 29 October 2023
  15. ^ Historic England. "Symingtons Factory (Grade II) (1074442)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 29 October 2023.
  16. ^ "Council agree on £1m tender for offices". Leicester Daily Mercury. 31 October 1980. p. 42. Retrieved 29 October 2023.
  17. ^ Harborough District Official Guide (undated)
  18. ^ "Brampton Valley Way - Northamptonshire County Council". March 8, 2013. Archived from the original on 2013-03-08.
  19. ^ Vision of Britain through time
  20. ^ mid year estimate
  21. ^ ONS population projections 2014 base / projections uplifted by '21-1000/'31-1,200 given underestimation at 2016 - 1,100/
  22. ^ Leicestershire County Council website
  23. ^ "Leicestershire County Council | Serving the people of Leicestershire". www.leicestershire.gov.uk.
  24. ^ "Treasure Hunting TV". treasurehunting.tv.
  25. ^ "Fernie Hunt". geocities.com. Archived from the original on 27 October 2009.
  26. ^ Palliser Costobadie, F. (June 2008). Annals of the Billesdon Hunt. ISBN 9781409781387.
  27. ^ Elmhirst, Edward Pennell (October 2008). The Hunting Countries of England, Their Facilities, Character, and Requirements. ISBN 9780559225239.
  28. ^ "The Jitty - Harborough - Home". Archived from the original on 2009-11-17. Retrieved 2009-05-21.
  29. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-08-10. Retrieved 2009-05-21.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  30. ^ "Harborough". UK Local Councils. Retrieved 29 October 2023.

External links[edit]

Communities and organisations
Heritage and attractions
Sporting and social

52°28′43″N 0°55′14″W / 52.4785°N 0.9206°W / 52.4785; -0.9206