Hinckley is a market town in southwest Leicestershire, England. Since 1974 it has been administered by Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council. It was formerly an urban district. Hinckley is the second largest town in the administrative county of Leicestershire, after Loughborough. (The City of Leicester is a unitary authority--outside the administration of the county.)
Hinckley has a history going back to Anglo-Saxon times; the name Hinckley is Anglo Saxon: "Hinck" is someone's name and "ley" is a meadow. By the time of the Domesday Book in 1086, Hinckley was quite a large village, and grew over the following 200 years into a small market town—a market was first recorded there in 1311. There is evidence of an Anglo Saxon church - the remnants of an Anglo Saxon sun-dial being visible on the diagonal buttress on the south-east corner of the chancel.
In 2000, archaeologists from Northampton Archaeology discovered evidence of Iron Age & Romano-British settlement on land near Coventry Road and Watling Street. In 2001 the area became known as Saxon Paddock and named as such by public meeting in 2009, the community and area lies just inside Leicestershire.
In the 17th century, the town developed a hosiery industry, producing stockings and similar items. Hinckley played a prominent part in the English Civil War. Its proximity to several rival strongholds—the royalist garrisons at Caldicote, Ashby de la Zouch and Leicester, those of the Parliamentarians at Tamworth and Coventry, and the presence of parties of troops or brigands occupying several fortified houses in nearby Warwickshire—ensured frequent visits by the warring parties. The local townsfolk were forced to decide whether to declare their allegiances openly or attempt to remain neutral—with the risk of having to pay levies, ransoms, and fines to both sides. In March 1644, Hinckley was occupied by a group of Royalist troops, though they were soon driven out by a force of Parliamentarians, who took many prisoners.
The Civil War years were a particularly unsettled time for the clergy in and around Hinckley. Parsons with parliamentary leanings like Thomas Cleveland, the vicar of Hinckley, suffered sequestration by the Leicester County Committee, like some of his "malignant" neighbours accused of visiting royalist garrisons or preaching against Parliament.
The town was visited by both parliamentary and royalists troops from the rival garrisons, particularly parliamentary troops from Tamworth, Coventry and Astley Castle in Warwickshire. Troops from Coventry garrison were particularly active in the town, taking horses and "free quarter" and availing themselves of 'dyett and Beere', and taking some of the inhabitants hostage for ransom. Royalist troops raided the town to threaten those with parliamentary sympathies. The notorious Lord Hastings of Ashby de la Zouch is recorded to have "coursed about the country as far as Dunton and Lutterworth and took near upon a hundred of the clergymen and others, and carried them prisoners … threatening to hang all them that should take the Parliament's Covenant". Parliamentary newssheets record that on the night of 4 March 1644, Hastings's men brought in "26 honest countrymen from several towns" intending to take them to Ashby de la Zouch, along with a huge herd of cattle, oxen and horses from the country people and a minister named Mr Warner. These prisoners were herded into Hinckley church and asked "in a jeering manner, 'Where are the Round-heads your brethren at Leicester? Why come they not to redeem you?'"
At the time of the first national census in 1801, Hinckley had a population of 5,158: twenty years later it had increased by about a thousand. The largest industry in the early 19th century was the making of hosiery and only Leicester had a larger output of stockings. In the district, it was estimated ca. 1830 that 6,000 persons were employed in this work.
Castle Street is the first known location of 'Luddism', where disgruntled workers, replaced by machinery in their jobs, took sledgehammers to the machines. Joseph Hansom built the first Hansom cab in Hinckley in 1835.
The area was subject to new housing developments in the 1950s, 1960s and 1990s.