History at Leicester

Charnwood Roots

The Charnwood Roots project will explore the rich history of Charnwood Forest and the towns and villages that surround it.

Charnwood Roots is a partnership between professional historians, archaeologists, geologists and volunteers from the local community. Together we will:

  • Discover how people have lived, worked and enjoyed this unique part of Leicestershire across the centuries.
  • Explore the interaction between people and the landscape of Charnwood Forest, uncovering and explaining how the area’s resources have been exploited throughout history.
  • Learn how Charnwood’s geology and natural resources have shaped our towns and villages and the lives of local communities.
  • Uncover hidden stories form the darker side of Charnwood’s past and celebrate the many contributions Charnwood has made to the nation.

Charnwood is a special place. It has a distinctive landscape, different to the rest of Leicestershire. Its rugged upland character formed from pre-Cambrian slates and volcanic rocks contain internationally important fossils – some of the earliest evidence for life on earth. The underlying geology has shaped Charnwood’s history, its habitats and its unique heritage. It has influenced industry, patterns of settlement and employment, architecture and many other aspects of local life.

The Charnwood Roots project will use research and educational activities to increase local understanding of why Charnwood’s history is special.

The project

Starting from the earliest pre-historic settlements and coming right up to present day, Charnwood Roots will use a variety of research techniques to discover more about the history of this fascinating area. We will also provide opportunities and training on a large scale. This includes digging test-pits to understand more about the age and development of settlements around the forest, and carrying out building and landscape surveys, using clues in the physical environment combined with documentary evidence to unravel some of the secrets of Charnwood’s past.

The project runs from August 2013 to July 2017.


Charnwood Roots is based around four interlocking themes:

  • working lives
  • building communities
  • crime and conflict
  • landscapes of leisure


The project will involve more than 400 volunteers in the Charnwood Forest and Loughborough area. The goal is to build enthusiasm for Charnwood’s heritage and increase our knowledge of the area’s history. Charnwood Roots aims to reach a diverse range of audiences, including groups who do not normally participate in historical research or visit heritage attractions. The project will start with a series of events that include archaeological fieldwork, oral history projects, and documentary research and will culminate with a Heritage Festival, open to all.

Find out more about our volunteering opportunities.  

Victoria County History Trust

Charnwood Roots is a Leicestershire Victoria County History Trust initiative, part of a national research project to research and write a reference history of every town, village and hamlet in England. Leicestershire is one of the counties where this history is incomplete, with over 300 locations yet to be researched. The Charnwood Roots project is a very important part of completing this work for Leicestershire.

Leicestershire Victoria County History Trust is a registered charity (1128575) and a registered company (6683052).


The Charnwood Roots project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, with additional financial and in-kind support from the University of Leicester and a range of other local organisations.

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