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Loughborough (/ˈlʌfbərə/ (listen) LUF-bər-ə) is a market town and unparished area in the Charnwood borough of Leicestershire, England, the seat of Charnwood Borough Council and Loughborough University. At the 2011 census the town’s built-up area had a population of 59,932, the second largest in the county after Leicester. It is close to the Nottinghamshire border and short distances from Leicester, Nottingham, East Midlands Airportand Derby. It has the world’s largest bell foundry, John Taylor Bellfounders, which made bells for the Carillon War Memorial, a landmark in the Queens Park in the town, of Great Paul for St Paul’s Cathedral, and for York Minster
The earliest reference to Loughborough occurs in the Domesday Book of 1086, which calls it Lucteburne. It appears as Lucteburga in a charter from the reign of Henry II, and as Luchteburc in the Pipe Rolls of 1186. The name is of Old English origin and means “Luhhede’s burh or fortified place”.
The first sign of industrialisation in the district came in the early 19th century, when John Heathcoat, an inventor from Derbyshire, patented in 1809 an improvement to the warp loom, known as the twisted lace machine, which allowed mitts with a lace-like appearance to be made.
Heathcoat, in partnership with the Nottingham manufacturer Charles Lacy, moved his business from there to the village of Hathern, outside Loughborough. The product of this “Loughborough machine” came to be known as English net or bobbinet. However, the factory was attacked in 1816 by Luddites thought to be in the pay of Nottingham competitors and 55 frames were destroyed. This prompted Heathcoat to move his business to a disused woollen mill in Tiverton, Devon.
In 1888 a charter of incorporation was obtained, allowing a mayor and corporation to be elected. The population increased from 11,000 to 25,000 in the following ten years.
Among the factories established were Robert Taylor’s bell foundry John Taylor & Co and the Falcon works, which produced steam locomotives, then motor cars, before it was taken over by Brush Electrical Machines. In 1897, Herbert Morris set up a factory in the Empress Works in Moor Lane which become one of the foremost crane manufacturers by the mid-20th century.
There was also strong municipal investment: a new sewage works in 1895, then a waterworks in Blackbrook and a power station in Bridge Street in 1899. The corporation took over the Loughborough Gas Company in 1900.