Leek is the principal town of the Staffordshire Moorlands and the most important centre on the south western edge of the Peak District. It stands on a hill in a large bend in the River Churnet and is locally known as 'The Queen of the Moorlands'.
The town was mentioned in the Domesday Book as 'Lec' but there was certainly a settlement here well before that because the churchyard contains two crosses - one is in Mercian style but is damaged and can be dated to the 10th century while the other is a magnificent 11th century Norse style cross.
The Normans gave this area to the Earls of Chester and Ranulf the 6th earl founded Dieu la Cres abbey here in 1210. Until its dissolution in 1537 the abbey was the major economic and cultural centre of the area. The ruins lie across the Churnet 2km north of the town centre but there is now little to see of what must once have been a fine building.
Bonny Prince Charlie passed through in 1745 and Thomas Brindley (the builder of the Bridgewater Canal) built a water mill here in 1750 - this has been restored to working order and is now a fine museum.
In the late 18th and 19th centuries the town changed from a sleepy market town to a centre of silk weaving and several large mills were constructed, one of which can be seen looming above the road to Macclesfield. Leek boomed and the population multiplied during this time but nothing now remains of the silk industry in Leek.
The town still has a lively shopping centre and a market every Wednesday and is a good centre from which to explore the south and west of the Peak.