Abbey Hotel - Abbey Gate
Admiral Charles Napier - Causeway Lane
Albion - Albion Hill
Anchor - Charles Street
Antelope Inn - Silver Street
Artillery Man - Bedford Street
Baker's Arms - Friar's Causeway
Barkby Arms - Upper George Street
Bedford Hotel - Aylestone Road
Beehive - Augustine Friars
Belvoir Castle - Belvoir Street
Bird-in-Hand - Cumberland Street
Birstall Arms - Birstall Street
Bishop Blaze - Causeway Lane
Black Boy - Albion Street
Black Horse - Abbey Gate
Black Horse - Belgrave Gate
Black Horse - Braunstone Gate
Black Bull - Applegate Street
Black Lion - Belgrave Gate
Black Swan - Belgrave Gate
Boat and Engine - Bath Lane
Bohemian - Belgrave Gate
Bowling Green Inn - St. Peter's Lane
Bowl Turner's Arms - Belgrave Gate
Bower Inn - Coventry Street
Brewers' Arms - Belgrave Gate
Bricklayer's Arms - Bedford Street
Britannia - Belgrave Gate
Britannia - Castle Street & View
British Arms - Laxton Street
Bull's Head - Harcourt Street
Bumper Inn - Carley Street
Burgess Inn - Burgess Street
Butcher's Arms - Church Gate
Cape of Good Hope - Carley Street
Case is Altered - Belgrave Gate
Cattle Market Hotel - Aylestone Road
Clarence Tavern - Clarence Street
Coachmaker's Arms - Church Gate
Coopers' Arms - Bedford Street
Cottage - Luke Street
Cottage House - Bow Street
County Arms - Chester Street
Craven Arms - Craven Street
Cricket Players - Church Gate
Cricketers' Rest - Abbey Gate
Crispin's Arms - Jewry Wall Street
Crown and Anchor - Belgrave Gate
Crown and Cushion - Belgrave Gate
Crown and Cushion - Church Gate
Crown and Dolphin - Holy Bones
Crown and Thistle - Loseby Street
Curzon Arms - Taylor Street
Dannett's Hall - Dannett Street
Defiance - Craven Street
Dew Drop - Chester Street
Dew Drop - Laxton Street
Dolphin - Burleys Lane
Duke of Bedford - Bedford Street
Duke of Cumberland - Cumberland Street
Duke of Devonshire - Bay Street
Duke of Northumberland - Old Mill Lane
Duke of York - Southgates
Durham Ox - Belgrave Gate
Durham Ox - Belgrave Road
Durham Ox - Birstall Street
Durham Ox - Bowling Green Street
Durham Ox - Gordon Street
Earl Cardigan - Belgrave Gate
Earl Grey - Ashwell Street
Earl Howe's Arms - Braunstone Gate
Earl of Lancaster - Goswell Street
Earl of Leicester - Brunswick Street
Earl Stamford's Arms - Belgrave Gate
Eclipse Vaults - Eastgates
Eight Bells - Bedford Street
Elephant and Castle - York Street
Engine Inn - Queen Street
Fish and Quart - Church Gate
Fleur de Lis - Belgrave Gate
Forester's Arms - Dryden Street
Foundry Arms - Belgrave Gate
Fountain - Humberstone Gate
Fox and Grapes - Belgrave Gate
Freemasons' Arms - Braunstone Gate
Gardeners' Arms - Belgrave Gate
George III - Abbey Street
George and Dragon - Freehold Street
George and Dragon - Peel Street
George and Dragon - Talbot Lane
Gladstone Arms - Lower Hill Street
Gladstone Arms - Raglan Street
Gladstone Arms - Thames Street
Golden Ball - Bakehouse Lane
Grapes - Grapes Street
Griffin - Belgrave Gate
Hare and Hounds - Conduit Street
Heanor Boat - Rayns Street
Holly Bush Inn - Belgrave Gate
Horn of Plenty - Royal East Street
Horse Breaker's Arms - Belgrave Gate
Huntsman - Christow Street
Joiners' Arms - Chatham Street
Joiners' Arms - Midland Street
Jolly Millers - Marlborough Street
Junction - Bath Lane
Keek's Arms - Archdeacon Lane
Kenilworth - Church Gate
King's Head - Archdeacon Lane
King's Head - King Street
Lancastrian Castle - Arthur Street
Leger Tavern - Kenyon Street
Leicester Lifeboat - Chestnut Street
Leicester Volunteer - Watling Street
Leger Tavern - Kenyon Street
Lion and Lamb - Lee Street
Liverpool Cup - Liverpool Street
Lord Byron - Gravel Street
Lord Durham - Albion Street
Lord Lake - Burgess Street
Lord Nelson - Humberstone Gate
Loughborough House - Church Gate
Malt Shovel - Belgrave Gate
Malt Shovel - Church Gate
Maltsters' Arms - Church Gate
Marquis of Granby - Castle Street & View
Masons' Arms - Nichol Street
Mechanics' Arms - Alexander Street
Melville Arms - Melville Street
Midland Arms - Fox Street
Milk Maid - Bedford Street
Mitre and Keys - Applegate Street
Nag's Head - Belgrave Gate
New Found Pool Inn - Dannett Street
New Inn - Wood Street
New Leicester Tavern - Chester Street
New Plough - St. Margaret's Street
New Royal Arms - Gartree Street
New Town Arms - Milton Street
Noah's Ark - Belgrave Gate
Nottingham Arms - Belgrave Gate
Oddfellows' Arms - Yeoman Street
Old Bird in Hand - Orchard Row
Old Castle Inn - Castle Street & View
Old Cheese - Abbey Street
Old Trooper - Stoughton Street
Old White Hart - Metcalf Street
Ostrich - Belgrave Gate
Pack Horse Inn - Belgrave Road
Painter's Arms - Victoria Street
Palmerston Arms - Palmerston Street
Pineapple - Archdeacon Lane
Prince of Wales - Belgrave Gate
Prince of Wales - Church Gate
Prince of Wales - Crafton Street
Queen - Blackfriars Street
Queen Victoria - Church Gate
Queen Victoria - Southampton Street
Railway Hotel - Campbell Street
Railway Inn - Bridge Street
Railway Tavern - Samuel Street
Ram - St. Nicholas Street
Red Cow - Belgrave Gate
Reindeer - Duns Lane
Rose and Crown - Crab Street
Royal Artillery - Church Gate
Royal George - Charles Street
Royal Oak - Belgrave Gate
Royal Oak - Bridge Street
Royal Oak - George Street
Royal Standard - Charles Street
Rutland Arms - Belgrave Gate
Sailors' Return - Bridge Street
Salmon Inn - Butt Close Lane
Saracen's Head - Hotel Street
Sawyer's Arms - Lee Street
Seven Oaks - Friday Street
Seven Stars - Upper Brown Street
Signal - Sussex Street
Sir Henry-Halford's Arms - Aylestone Street
Sir Robert Peel - Bedford Street
Sir Robert Peel - Jarrom Street
Spittal House Inn - Belgrave Road
Spread Eagle - Charles Street
Stag and Hounds - Providence Place
Stag's Head - Augustine Friars
Stag's Head - Bridge Street
Stanley Arms - Stanley Street
Star - Church Gate
Star Inn - Belgrave Gate
Stockdale Arms - East Street
Stonemason's Arms - Burleys Lane
Sultan - Belgrave Gate
Sun - Church Gate
Tailors' Arms - Chatham Street
Telegraph - Belgrave Road
Terminus Hotel - Campbell Street
Three Crowns - St. Martin's
Three Cups - York Street
Town Arms - Pocklington's Walk
Unicorn - Carrington Street
Victoria - Charlotte Street
Victoria Hotel - London Road
Vine Tavern - Upper Vine Street
Wanlip Inn - Lower Willow Street
Warden-Arms - Richard Street
Welcome - Canning Place
West Bridge Tavern - Bridge Street
West End Inn - Duns Lane
White Bear Inn - Thornton Lane
White Horse - Belgrave Gate
White Lion - Bedford Street
White Lion - Cank Street
White Lion Inn - Belgrave Gate
Wilton Street Brewery Tap
Windmill - Church Gate
Windsor Castle - Brook Street
Wolf and Lamb - Charles Street
Woolcomber's Arms - Church Gate
Woolcomber's Arms - Royal East Street
Woolpack - West Bond Street
Some history of Leicester
Leicester, like most English towns and cities, has suffered from some terrible town planning. Much of the carnage started in the early 1960s and, like Birmingham, a lot of the destruction was for the benefit of the motor car. Some years ago I was saddened when strolling along Belgrave Gate for hardly any building from the Victorian period remains. What they did not remove from the landscape to make way for road expansion, they replaced with concrete and metal boxes. Where there were once over forty public houses only a couple are trading in the 21st century. However, rather than rant about town planners ruining Leicester, this introduction attempts to celebrate what is left for the visitor to enjoy. A good town trail is the best way to introduce yourself to a town or city so this is just one suggested route that takes in some of the important sights. Hopefully, some general history will unfold along the way. If you would rather get straight to the pubs then use the links for some of the taverns that have a page dedicated to them.
Despite having a whinge in the above paragraph, I still reckon Leicester is an underrated city. This is perhaps because Leicester has not produced as many famous people as its Midlands' counterparts. OK, it spawned the all-conquering football team led by Claudio Ranieri but I am talking about pioneers of science or industry. Compared with, say, Nottingham with its industrialists and intellectuals, or Birmingham which had an incredibly productive Lunar Society, Leicester has few entries in Britain's encyclopaedic dictionaries. However, whatever the city lacks in this field, it compensates with an excellent Roman legacy. Moreover, for those with a more contemporary outlook, today's Leicester is a gregarious city with a rich diversity of cultures making it an exciting place to visit.
No doubt there is a leaflet available in the Tourist Information Office that will guide the visitor around the city. This page simply covers a few highlights that I visited on one trip and for which I have since acquired old photographs. You can follow these notes and, of course, nip into an inviting hostelry or two en-route.
The natural starting point of any walk around Leicester is the square fronting the Town Hall. Replacing the old Town Hall [or Guildhall], the Queen Anne-influenced building was erected on the site of the former livestock market between 1874-6 to the designs of F. J. Hames. Art historian Nikolaus Pevsner described the Town Hall as 'remarkably free and comfortable-looking for its date and its official purpose.'
The square in front of the building is quite spacious and a valuable interactive part of the city's townscape. The square, with a fountain as a central feature, was also designed by Hames a couple of years after the completion of the Town Hall. Featuring four large Assyrian winged lions, the fountain was the gift of local businessman Israel Hart, a Liberal politician who later served as Leicester's mayor between 1893-4. Rather bizarrely, there is an identical fountain in Porto. The story is that the fountain was seen by councillors of the Portuguese city at the Paris foundry where it was being manufactured. Legend has it that they liked it so much they chose the same design for Porto's fountain. However, it is claimed that the story is arse-about-tit and that it was Leicester that copied Porto!
On one of my visits to the city, a woman dressed in period costume walked around the fountain for several hours plucking petals and clipping the thorns from rose flowers scattering them around the pavement. Apparently, it was a piece of living art. But that's ephemeral representation for you? Personally, I had some fun at the square's maze on Horsefair which was laid out in 1992 to celebrate the Year of the Maze. The maze was made up of bricks purchased by members of the public along with a few local celebrities including cartoonist Bill Tidy and Leicester City footballer Ally Mauchlen.
The buildings around Town Hall Square are such that your tour of the city will be delayed as you appreciate the splendour of this important civic space. It was not always so because up until the sixteenth century this area was outside of the town walls. As the name suggests, horses were bought and sold on the site of the square, along with sheep and other livestock. The town hall was partly built on Leicester's famous bowling green. Once erected, other important buildings would follow such as the Reference Library and the former Pickford's Building. Other notable buildings are in close proximity to the square.
Another Italianate edifice that pre-dates the Town Hall is the former National Provincial Bank. Designed by William Millican in 1868, the building on the corner of Horsefair Street and Granby Street was erected on the site of the Three Crowns Hotel, one of Leicester's coaching inns. Indeed, it is thought that it was from the Three Crowns Hotel that the last stage coach to depart from Leicester rolled out in 1866. The hostelry lasted for just three more years before it was replaced by the bank. Proving that the old adage of 'some things never change' was ever thus, labourer Rueben Wilson stole a load of lead from the new building.
At this point it is tempting to venture along Granby Street but I will return to this thoroughfare later. From the bank I walked through Market Place Approach and into what was the ancient enclosed town. This passage is roughly on the site of the old Goltre Gate, an additional gate within the walls of old Leicester through which prisoners were led to the Gallows Tree at London Road Hill. The Market Place was once surrounded by ancient taverns such as the Bull's Head, Green Dragon and White Hart. The prisoners were possibly allowed a last drop in one such tavern. They were imprisoned in a dungeon beneath a building known as The Gainsborough, a two-storey structure in which the magistrates took their seat. Damaged during the English Civil War, the Elizabethan building was replaced in 1748 by The Exchange and this in turn was replaced by the Corn Exchange.
The Market Place is dominated by the Corn Exchange. Erected between 1850-1, an early incarnation of the building served as a Market Hall. This was designed by William Flint. However, it was soon superseded by an additional storey to accommodate a corn exchange. The Italianate-style building was unique for the period. In designing a large two flight staircase to the front of the structure, local architect F. W. Ordish brought a flavour of Venice to Leicester. Admired in later years the building was not popular when first constructed. After a period of neglect in more recent times, the building was converted into a branch of Wetherspoon's.
The statue of John Henry Manners, 5th Duke of Rutland, stands in the Market Place. Indeed, it was the first public statue to be erected in Leicester. The bronze statue was created by Edward Davis in 1851 and exhibited at the Great Exhibition in London's Hyde Park. Unveiled in April 1852, the statue was originally sited in Castle Street.
A natural feature of the ancient Market Place was a large elm tree which stood in front of the Bull's Head Inn. Seating was placed beneath the tree and much commerce and town gossip was exchanged with refreshments provided by the tavern.
There are a number of interesting buildings fronting the Market Square, the oldest of which is thought to be Nos.7-9. The stuccoed exterior is hiding a timber-framed building dating perhaps from the 16th century. The shop front of the former Sarson's Wine Shop is Neo-Jacobean. The highly decorative carved wooden façade is thought to have been removed from another shop many years ago.
I now made my way towards the Clock Tower. There are a couple of routes and after following Gallowtree Gate I think I should have walked down Cheapside for more architectural interest because Gallowtree Gate has been ruined. The above photograph shows the thoroughfare when marble and Portland stone were used as building materials rather than glass, concrete and plastic. This view looks towards the Clock Tower and you can see the trams that once operated in the city centre. Leicester would be all the better for such a transport system in the 21st century.
This Edwardian photograph shows the Haymarket Memorial Clock Tower along with some of Leicester's old shops, including Salmon and Cluckstein who boasted they were 'The Pioneers of the Smoking World.' Erected in 1868, the clock tower was designed by Joseph Goddard, a member of a famous local family of architects who designed many of the city's important public buildings.
The Gothic clock tower is one of the most ornate of its kind anywhere in the country. There are spiral mouldings around the square shaft which indicate that there is a staircase inside. On the lower stage there are statues of Simon de Montfort, William Wiggeston, Sir Thomas White and Alderman Gabriel Newton, the work of Samuel Bardfield. For more than a century arguments have raged whether the clock tower should be relocated but the people of Leicester relate to the structure's position to such a degree it is unlikely to be shifted.
The Clock Tower was once in the centre of Britain's first traffic island as six roads converged here and it was created to ease congestion. With the addition of tram lines in 1903 the junction was one of great complexity.
From the Clock Tower I headed for the City Rooms in Hotel Street. Formerly known as the Assembly Rooms, this is one of Leicester's Grade I-listed structures. The three bay ashlar-faced building was designed by John Johnson in 1792. The front entrance features a porch with two pairs of Tuscan columns. The figures and the terracotta roundels on the exterior are the work of J. C. F. Rossi and J. Bingley. Opened in the autumn of 1800, the building originally served as a hotel, principally for the annual Race Balls. Indeed, it was noted for its magnificent Regency Ballroom. Susanna Watts, author of an early travelogue entitled 'A Walk through Leicester', wrote in 1804 : 'Here a room, whose spacious dimensions and elegant decorations, adapt it in a distinguished manner for scenes of numerous and polished society, is appropriated to the use of the public balls.' She went on to describe the room with 'its coved ceiling enriched with three circular paintings of Aurora, Urania and Night, from the pencil of Reinagle, who has also graced the walls with paintings of dancing nymphs ... uniting under the same roof, every convenience for the gratification of taste, and the amusement of the mind.' Susanna Watts was clearly enchanted by the place so it's worth asking to have a look at the place for yourself.
In front of the City Rooms is an enchanting figure entitled the Leicester Seamstress. It was designed by James Butler in 1990. One water source of old Leicester is still noted by an information plaque in St. Martin's Square. An engraved metal block set in the carriageway of Cank Street marks the site of a public well known as The Cank. It was first recorded in 1313. 'Cank' is an old dialect word meaning 'to gossip' or 'meeting place.' In this location is the former Natwest bank, a spectacular building featuring giant coupled columns on the upper floor and two round domed angle towers. It was designed by S. Perkins and Pick for Pares' Bank and built in 1900. There are a good number of Georgian buildings in the St. Martin's area, particularly the old Alderman Newton's Girls School, Church House and the Provost's House. A walk along Peacock Lane brings you into the Castle Park area of the city. The church of St. Martin's was one of six parish churches recorded in Leicester at the time of the Domesday survey in 1086.
St. Martin's was extended in the 14th and 15th centuries and restored in the 19th century. It is possible to see how the church looked before the Victorian restoration by looking at a drawing by Eliza Sultzer who captured the building on paper in 1833. The church was hallowed as the Cathedral of Leicester in 1927. The city had lost its cathedral status when the Vikings raided the Midlands during the 9th century when it was moved first to Dorchester-on-Thames and, later, Lincoln. The Victorian restoration is not without its critics but much of the work was faithful to the original. For example, the medieval spire was replaced in the 1860s with a new design by Raphael Brandon but the detail is a conscientious attempt to reproduce the Early English style. Other work by Brandon includes a clerestory in the Perpendicular style.
Inside the cathedral there is a memorial to King Richard III who was killed by the Earl of Richmond in the Battle at Bosworth Field in 1485. The play by William Shakespeare has given us the immortal lines of 'Now is the winter of our discontent' and 'A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!'
Wandering around the side of the cathedral you will find a route to the Guildhall, one of the city's finest timber-framed buildings. Built on a stone base, it was constructed around 1390 for the Guild of Corpus Christi which had been founded in 1347. It was around 1495 that it was first used as the Town Hall, a role in which it continued to be used until 1876. Inside the old Mayor's Parlour there is a rather splendid fireplace. Featuring decorated columns and curly strapwork cartouches, it dates from 1637 as does the Mayor's Chair.
Further along Guildhall Lane is Wygston's House, reputedly the home of the Tudor wool merchant Roger Wygston. At first it looks as though it is a Georgian brick building but when you wander through the garden to the side you discover the old timber-framed house. In more recent times the building was used as a museum and displayed fashion, textiles and crafts from around the world, alongside a reconstruction of a 1920s drapers shop.
The Wygston family accumulated considerable wealth but are viewed as large benefactors of Leicester. William Wygston, who served as Mayor in 1448 and 1503, also represented the borough at Parliament. Despite two marriages, he had no children so elected to provide for the poor of Leicester. Wyston[s Hospital was first established to house twelve elderly men and an equal number of old women. Constructed close to St. Martin's Churchyard around 1520, the building was first known as St. Ursula's Hospital. It served as a hospital until 1869 when it was superseded by a more modern facility further out of town. The old hospital was removed six years later.
Although some of ancient Leicester has been preserved much was lost when Vaughan Way was ploughed through the old Castle Park area. On the other side of this monstrous dual carriageway you will find a former hosiery factory which has been converted into the Guru Nanak Gurdwara. Although the opening times are restricted, there is a museum here which contains dramatic paintings and models illustrating the history of Sikhism and the sacrifice and devotion of its followers.
The oldest church in Leicester is dedicated to Saint Nicholas. It dates back to Saxon times. Indeed, it has been suggested that the building was the first cathedral of the city. The earliest record of a bishop here dates from 679. Although the building was altered by the Normans and again by the Victorians, it retains many examples of Saxon work, particularly in the windows inside and the north wall above the arcade. The Saxons and Normans used many of the Roman bricks readily available next door. A good example can be seen in the late 11th century tower which displays a herringbone pattern of Roman bricks.
And so to the star attraction of Leicester. Next to St. Nicholas' Church is the Jewry Wall, the largest Roman Civil building to survive in Britain. It is the only fragment of Ratae Corieltauvorum, the Roman town of Leicester, still standing above ground. The origin of the name Jewry Wall is unknown. There is no evidence of a Jewish quarter, with which the name might be associated. It forms part of the Roman public baths, the foundations of which are also visible. The building of the baths took place between about AD145-160. Some time later, from AD180-200, a reservoir was added in the southwest corner of the site to improve the bath's water supply. The Jewry Wall is thought to have survived because for a time it formed the west wall of the original Saxon Church of Saint Nicholas. Consequently, it survived whilst the rest of the Roman town was being demolished. Later the church was rebuilt away from the wall. A 19th century factory was cleared from the site in 1936 by the Corporation in order to build a new municipal swimming baths for the people of Leicester.
The Jewry Wall Museum records the archaeology and history of the Leicester and the county from prehistoric times to 1485. The Roman section contains a spectacular display of mosaic floors and wall paintings excavated around the city. The Peacock Pavement and the Blue Boar Wall paintings date back to AD150. The central octagonal panel of the Peacock Pavement consists of a magnificent Peacock. Its features are highlighted by the use of blue gloss. It is probable that it formed the floor of a residence of an important public official. It was found in 1898 and for many years, for one penny, it could be viewed in the basement of a corset shop. The Blue Boar paintings were found during archaeological excavations in 1958. Another major highlight of the museum is the Glen Parva Lady. She was found in 1866 in a field known as Rye Hill near to Lutterworth Road, Glen Parva, by men digging gravel. They thought that she was a recent murder victim, so they collected up the bones and called the police. The bones were not seen in the ground by an archaeologist but the following details are now known about her : She was 20 years-old when she died, she was 5' 6" tall, she was fairly wealthy [determined from the many objects buried with her], she died around 500AD [shown by the style of the brooches found].
Heading south to Castle Park and Gardens you will encounter a statue of King Richard III that commemorates his links with Leicester. In fact, there is a plaque on Bow Bridge which reads 'This Bridge was erected by the Corporation of Leicester in 1862 on the site of ancient Bow Bridge over which King Richard III passed at the head of his army to the Battle of Bosworth Field on 22nd August 1485.' The king returned over the bridge - but as a corpse. By all accounts Richard was a man of profound immorality and allegedly murdered his way to the throne before he was eventually challenged by the Earl of Richmond who, after his victory, was crowned as Henry VII. In reality, very little is known about the battle. Most of our knowledge is clouded perhaps by Shakespeare's highly dramatic tale of events. Within the park, one can wander up to the top of the motte of Leicester Castle looking towards the church of Saint Mary de Castro.
The motte of Leicester Castle was built by the first Norman lord around 1070 and would have had a timber fortification on the summit. The motte was once much higher but was lowered towards the end of the 18th century to create a bowling green. Unfortunately, the original layout of the castle has been lost. It is known that both Henry IV and Richard III occasionally stayed in the castle.
Founded in 1107 by Robert de Beaumont, the first Earl of Leicester, the church of Saint Mary de Castro was rebuilt in 1783 but is still famous for its surviving Norman features. It was probably built on site of Saxon church and has changed considerably over the centuries. For example, in 1160 the church was considerably enlarged with an extension to the chancel and an addition of the north aisle. More additions followed in the early 13th century and alterations were made in the 15th century. Interestingly, the churchyard is several feet higher than the surrounding ground, a result of centuries of burials. It is thought that Geoffrey Chaucer was married in the church and King Henry VI was knighted here in 1426.
Adjacent to the church of Saint Mary de Castro is the Castle Gate. This group of buildings comprises of two medieval timber-framed dwellings and a brick built house dating from the Georgian period. The Gateway would have housed the porter's lodge guarding the entrance to Castle Yard. The timbered posts of the gatehouse were probably built in 1445-47 when extensive reconstruction work took place after a fire.
Walk through the archway and you find yourself in front of the Great Hall, a building that has an elegant brick frontage dating from 1695. This conceals the remains of an important building which has been in continuous use for over 800 years. It is one of the few buildings in Western Europe with any of the original timbers surviving. The hall was built by Robert le Bossu, second Earl of Leicester, in about 1150. The hall was extensively rebuilt and the roof structure replaced in about 1523; but it fell into disrepair. It was used as a law court from the earliest times until 1992. It is recognised as one of the most important medieval secular buildings remaining in England. The Turret Gateway forms the exit to The Newarke. This archway, a part of the fortified gate, which had a turreted house above, formed the southern entrance to the castle enclosure. The complete gate and gatehouse were probably rebuilt in the late 14th century. The portcullis grooves can still be seen.
The new work, or the Newarke as it is known today, is a walled enclosure of about four acres, outside the castle boundaries, in which stood the noble Collegiate Church of Saint Mary. The Newarke Houses Museum was formerly two separate houses - Wygston's Chantry House and Skeffington House, both of which were built in the 16th century. Wygston[s Chantry House is the oldest and is the only Elizabethan urban gentry house in the country.
The two buildings house a rich collection and exhibits of domestic life. The ground floor even has a recreated Victorian street scene and a room setting of the 1600's. Items belonging to Daniel Lambert, Britain[s largest man, can be seen in the museum. Lambert is one of Leicester's legendary figures. When he was young he was a keen sportsman and it is alleged that he once fought a bear in the street. Lambert succeeded his father as keeper of Leicester's gaol. He remained in this post until its closure in 1805 by which time he clocked in at 50 stone. He became a wider celebrity when displaying his size to crowds in London for which he gained some wealth. On his return to Leicester he became a noted dog breeder until his death at Stamford in June 1809. By this time his weight had increased to almost 53 stone. It was reported that it took 20 men to haul his body into his grave.
Part of the old Newarke Hall had a number of holes knocked into it during the English Civil War so that guns could be fired. It is fortunate that they were never used because, in order to achieve an effective field of fire, the Newarke Houses would have been demolished. Adjacent to the Newarke Houses Museum is the Old Trinity Hospital. This was founded in 1331 by Henry, Earl of Lancaster and Leicester, as an almshouse to care for fifty senior citizens. The hospital was rebuilt in 1901 by Goodacre and Sons but much of the old chapel is original. Two of the windows of the chapel were taken from the church at Ashby Folville. A new hospital was built on the other side of the River Soar in 1995 and the old building was taken over by De Montfort University and renamed Trinity House.
The area behind the Old Trinity Hospital along the Soar is called Riverside Park. Flood alleviation work to the river in the 19th century formed the 'Mile Straight' which is popular for rowing. West Bridge was built in 1890 though there is an additional concrete monster next to it which was added in the 1970s. Next to the two bridges is the Terracotta Mermaids archway, saved when the city's wholesale vegetable market was demolished in 1968.
The Magazine Gateway, the original gateway to the Newarke, was built around 1410. During the English Civil War the Magazine Gateway was used for the storage of arms which is how it got its name. The original gateway, which may have been used as a prison at one time, was extended in 1894 to incorporate a drill hall. The building[s military role was such that it formed a corner of a barrack square. The structure has three arches, a vaulted canopy and ornamental square-stopped windows.
A little further south is the Jain Centre, housed in a former 19th century Congregational chapel which, during the 1980s, was converted into the grand Jain Centre. It is quite unique in the Western World. Jainism is an ancient religion whose doctrine rejects all forms of violence and treats all living creatures with love. The building is quite spectacular throughout and can be viewed with permission.
Further out from the city centre along Welford Road is the town's prison. Described as 'very Baronial' by Pevsner, it is a dramatic building which was designed by the county surveyor, W. Parsons, and built between 1825-8. The front of the prison features a bogus portcullis and is flanked by two round towers. Public executions were once carried out in front of the prison. One murderer attracted a crowd of 20,000 in 1847.
One of the most wonderful things about Leicester is New Walk - every city would be richer for a peaceful avenue such as this. It stretches from the city centre at Belvoir Street to Victoria Park which contains De Montfort Hall. When the avenue was first laid out in 1785 it was called Queen's Walk, following the line of the Roman Gartree Road. It has remained a pedestrian thoroughfare because in 1824 the City Corporation decreed that it should be 'for the purpose only of a footpath...' Fashionable buildings did spring up after around forty years but were allowed only on condition that they were constructed at least ten yards from the causeway. Consequently, a spacious air pervades to this day. The earliest houses were probably built in 1825 in the style of Regency classicism.
Halfway along New Walk is the remarkable building housing the city's Museum and Art Gallery. Designed by Joseph Aloysius Hansom, the man responsible for the lending library, it was built in 1836 as a non-conformist Proprietary School. Born in York in 1803, Hansom was also the inventor of the 'Patent Safety [Hansom] Cab' in 1834. He also designed Birmingham's Town Hall and the Roman Catholic cathedral at Plymouth. The Proprietary School was taken over as the Museum in 1849. For many years there were a couple of Russian cannons positioned in front of the museum. These were captured by the Leicestershire Regiment during the Crimean War. These have since been relocated.
Well, one may as well enjoy an amble along New Walk until arrival at De Montfort Hall, a public hall designed by Shirley Harrison and erected in 1913 at a cost of £21,000. Ashlar was eschewed in favour of painted rendering because the hall was originally meant to be a temporary structure. The hall was named after Simon de Montfort, the 6th Earl of Leicester. As a de facto ruler of England, he is credited with establishing Parliamentary democracy. Simon de Montfort's cinquefoil motif is displayed within Leicester's Coat-of-Arms.
This walk now starts to head back into the city centre via London Road and the railway station, perhaps calling into one of the hostelries. My route was along Salisbury Road to view Nos.146-154 Upper New Walk, an attractive row of five terrace houses. These were built between 1884-8 by Stockdale Harrison in the Queen Anne Revival Style. One can pick up the London Road via the former Victoria Road Baptist Church near the corner of University Road. The late 19th century Gothic-style building has more recently been adopted by the Leicester Seventh-Day Adventists. From here there is plenty of interesting architecture above the modern shop frontages.
The Masonic or Freemason's Hall is central to an interesting cluster of properties on the north-west side of the road. Dating from the early 19th century the Hall features a central porch with semi-circular entablature with narrow cornice and plain frieze supported on Tuscan columns.
Leicester's London Road Station was designed by Charles Trubshaw and built between 1892-4. The remaining legacy of three railway stations that stood in Leicester, the grand brick design features a long arched porte-cochère and a domed turret at its end. Charles Trubshaw designed many fine structures for both the London and North Western Railway and Midland Railway. He was appointed the Chief Architect to the Midland Railway in 1884, and remained in this post until 1905.
Close to the station's entrance is a statue of Thomas Cook, commissioned by Leicester City Council with assistance from British Rail and the Thomas Cook Company. Cook revolutionised modern tourism and invented the package tour. It evolved from his zeal for the temperance movement. Wanting to get teetotallers from Leicester to a rally in Loughborough, he hired and advertised a special train on the Midland railway; 570 people responded and made the return journey for a shilling on 5th July 1841. Within a few years Cook was organising attractive holiday tours; 350 tourists, for example, paid a guinea to travel by train and steamer to Glasgow, where they had vouchers for their hotels and were greeted with brass bands and the firing of cannons. Under his son, John Mason Cook, and grandsons, the firm expanded but was bought in 1992 by LTU, a German travel and air charter group.
Granby Street has some very fine buildings including the Grand Hotel, a commanding corner building designed by Cecil Ogden and Amos Hall in the German Renaissance style and built between 1897-8. The tiered tower on the corner has been compared to the London churches of Sir Christopher Wren. A little further on, past the junction on the opposite side of the road is the former Victoria Coffee House, an impressive building erected during Queen Victoria's Jubilee. Regarded as one of the finest Temperance Coffee Houses in England, it was opened by the Duchess of Rutland in 1888. Look upwards for the wrought-iron balcony, superb window detail and the octagonal and round turrets flanking the conical tiled roof. One of the finest structures designed by Edward Burgess.
Granby Street also boasts a lovely example of Art Nouveau at the Turkey Café which, although altered at the ground level, remains a delightful addition to the street[s townscape. It was designed for J. S. Winn by Arthur Wakerley. Born in Melton Mowbray, he served as Leicester's Mayor in 1897 before an unsuccessful bid for a seat in Parliament. He was responsible for a number of key buildings in Leicester and planned the suburb of North Evington. The Turkey Café features subtle coloured Doulton Carrara Ware. There is a Moorish style of architecture at play here and the building would be perfectly at home in Ixelles area of Brussels. Note the ceramic turkey sculptures perched on corbels beneath the arch springheads. And, of course, the crowning horseshoe-shaped panel featuring a turkey in ceramic tiles. Though not all original as some elements had to be restored, this is a very engaging building.
Enjoy a wander around this area if time permits. There is much to look at in Rutland Street and Belvoir Street. In the latter stands the Adult Education Centre, originally a United Baptist Chapel. Known colloquially as the 'Pork Pie Chapel,' it was designed by Joseph Hansom and built in 1845. The buiclass="maintext">Well, you are almost back to where you started so now it's time for a well-earned rest amid one of the city's fine establishments.
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Historic Leicester In Colour
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