Leicester Abbey was an Augustinian monastery, known as the Abbey of Saint Mary de Pratis, located in Abbey Park, Leicester.
The abbey was founded in the 12th century by Robert de Beaumont, the 2nd Earl of Leicester. It grew to become one of the richest religious houses in Leicestershire, acquiring many churches and land as well as several manorial lordships.
The abbey provided a home to approximately 35 Black Canons. One of these canons, Henry Knighton, is known for writing a chronicle at the abbey in the 14th century. The chronicle includes both Knighton's contemporary experiences, between 1377 and 1395, and a historical section recording events between 1066 and 1366. He also records the effects of the Black Death on Leicester, including the impact on the prices of food, grain, wine and cattle, and on changes in wages and the labour market. It also includes detailed death tolls for all of Leicester's parishes, revealing that one-third of the population of Leicester were killed by the disease.
In 1530, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey died at the abbey. He was travelling south to stand trial for treason. Wolsey was an influential minister in the government of King Henry VIII. He fell from favour after failing to secure papal permission for Henry to divorce his wife Katherine of Aragon. While en route from Yorkshire to London, where Wolsey would be held prisoner, he fell ill. Wolsey died on 30 November and the public were allowed to view his remains before he was interred within the abbey's church.
In 1538, the abbey was dissolved by King Henry VIII. It was quickly demolished, the building materials reused to build various structured in Leicester. A mansion was built on the site, later becoming known as Cavendish House. It was looted and destroyed by fire in 1645, following the capture of Leicester during the English Civil War. Parts of it remain in the Abbey Park.
In 1882, the Prince of Wales opened Abbey Park, after it was donated to the town council by the 8th Earl of Dysart. The remains of the abbey were lost, but were rediscovered during excavations in the 1920's and 1930's. A low stone wall was built on the foundations to indicate the layout of the abbey.