Art Education

The History of Art Education in Leicester

by Trevor Locke
This article was first published in Arts in Leicester magazine in 2013.

The history of what we now know as De Montfort University revolves around art. It was in 1870 that the first students attended classes in a disused warehouse in Pocklingtons Walk. Neither they nor their tutors could have imaged the institution of today – one of the most prestigious centres of learning in the country with its campus of award winning architectural splendours. In the same year, the Reverend James Went began to teach a series of technical classes at the nearby Wyggeston Boys School. Demand for lessons was so high that the Leicester School of Technology was founded in 1882.
Funds were raised to construct a new building and The Hawthorn Building came into existence in 1897, this being extended in 1909 and a new west wing being added in 1927. A £4 million refurbishment was completed in the year 2000. The first headmaster of the Leicester School of Art, Wilmot Pilsbury (1840-1908.) He was a noted landscape artist who arrived in Leicester in 1870. Pilsbury studied at the South Kensington Schools and at the Birmingham School of Art and was headmaster of the school from 1870 to 1880.
By the 1930s, the schools had been renamed the Leicester Colleges of Art and Technology.

City crest over a doorway at De Montfort University.

The Leicester Pageant

Art students helped to create a fabulous event held in 1932 – The Pageant of Leicester. It was a celebration of the city’s history that saw a large procession snaking its way through the streets. Costumes were made to depict key scenes from the past up to the opening of Abbey Park in 1882.

Participants dressed as Roman Soldiers through to Victorians and an Ox Roast was held. The event lasted from 16th to 25th June. even Stephenson’s Rocket made an appearance. Decorated floats advertised local industries.

A silent, black and white film exists of the Pageant, which can be viewed over the Internet on the University of Leicester website My Leicestershire History.

This remarkable piece of archive film and reveals a great deal that is of interest from Leicester in the 1930s. It was a substantial event involving a large cast of characters dressed in period costumes. The film shows the Roman Army, complete with a large number of live horses, a battle with the Vikings and the visit by Cardinal Wolsey, whose memorial can still be seen in Abbey Park. There are also scenes showing the Ox Roast and those showing the procession of motorised vehicles and some horse drawn floats through the streets, one of which was entered by the Leicester Hosiery Union. It was a bright sunny day and large crowds had lined the roadside to see it.
From the Crusades to the Wars of the Roses, the Pageant marked the landmark events of the history of Leicester. The various scenes were filmed in the grounds of Abbey Park and later in Leicester as the parade went past.

DMU is now homes to a number of specialist centres. One of these is the Institute of Creative Technologies. Launched in 2006, the Institute has initiated hundreds of collaborative research projects.
Working across the whole of the University and across many disciplines, its main concern is with the practice, theory and history of creative technologies. These include creative computing, interactive arts and media and networks and collaboration. Of particular interest is the Music, Technology and Innovation Research Centre. Activities here are concerned with a range of artistic creation focused on innovative application of new technologies to music. There is an active agenda to do with electroacoustic music studies and sonic arts.

Music, Technology and Innovation Research Center.

The Institute of Creative Technologies

Boots and shoes

There was a time when Leicester was an important centre for the boot and shoe industries. Boot and shoe makers began to increase from about 1793, driven by the needs for foot ware for the army. In 1835 Thomas Crick and J. Dilkes entered the shoe trade in Leicester and became large-scale manufacturers. Stead & Simpson became well known in the shoe trade from the 1850s. By 1934 the firm had 186 retail shops in the British Isles. The shoe industry grew steadily throughout late Victorian times and into the middle of the twentieth century.
See Foot ware Manufacture (McKinley Ed.)

At its height, the Leicester boot and shoe industry manufactured more goods than were produced anywhere else in Britain.
By 1900, the firm had over 300 shops. The rapid development of shoemaking and distribution in Leicester attracted a variety of associated trades, so that Leicester became the main source of production of shoe machinery and materials. David Holmes has lived in Leicester since 1960 and spent all his working life in the boot and shoe industry, working for the British United Shoe Machinery Company. David Holmes (University of Leicester) has undertaken research into the development of Leicester’s shoe industry.

Lace making

Whilst the making of lace has never been a large segment of Leicester’s manufacturing economy, it has played a significant part in the life of the city and its outlying towns such as Loughborough. The East Midlands became a centre for textile production in the late eighteenth century. It has been argued that lace making was introduced into this country by the Flemands or Huguenots.

Education and the economy

As Linda Butt’s account reveals, the history of development of Art Education needs to be seen in the content of the various industries and trades that have been dominant in Leicester. Whilst there has always been education in fine art, courses have also been a conduit for employment and skills, channelling people into the local factories and manufacturers.

The early days of art education in Leicester

This article is based on an Interview we did with Linda Butt, the Archivist of De Montfort University, made on 5th April 2012. The pieces in [square brackets] have been included by the Editor, based on separate research.

The School of Art opened for lessons in 1870. The development before that was quite long. They had been trying to get an institute going for about ten years before that. It kicked off with the Mechanics Institute. As was the case in so many of the industrial cities, efforts had been made to get an art school going until finally various philanthropists in the city got involved. Plans were put in place and preparations were made throughout 1869; in April 1870 the first classes were held, at a disused warehouse in Pocklingtons Walk. I don’t know the precise location of that building.

The history of art education went back before that at a national level. The Great Exhibition of 1851 kicked off the interest in good design in industry, The London School of Art (or school of design), had started in the 1750s, somewhat as a result of the European Tours that great people undertook. They were bringing back influences from Europe – from painting sculpture and architecture – and thought that Britain needed to start its own cultural efforts in that direction. In London the School of Design became the Royal College of Art (founded in 1837.)

[The RCA was founded in 1837 as the Government School of Design. In 1853, it became the National Art Training School with the Female School of Art in separate buildings, and, in 1896, it received the name Royal College of Art. During the 19th century, it was often referred to as the South Kensington Schools. See Richard Burchett, an early Headmaster, for more details on this period. After 130 years in operation, the Royal College of Art was granted its Royal Charter in 1967, which gave it the status of an independent university with the power to grant its own degrees.]

It always had an emphasis on design and applied rather than fine art. The Schools of art in the regional cities, were also set up primarily for design and there was a lot of pedantic teaching for shading, for drawing, from life or still life. The ultimate goal was to feed designers and artists in to industry, to whatever industry that city was supporting. In Leicester it was textiles, shoes, printing – Leicester was a very big centre for printing. They needed the kind of draughtsmen skills that could be taught at an institution.

So in 1870, the first classes were centred around art of various kinds. In the 1880s there were technical classes, starting at what was then the Wyggestons Boys School, organised by the Reverend James Went. Those carried on there and were augmented by the various engineering and draughtsmanship courses.

The Hawthorne building at De Montfort University

In 1890 the Hawthorn Building was built – although, at that time, is was known as the Leicester School of Art – it was named Hawthorn some time later. The building derives its name from John H. Hawthorn, the first headmaster of the newly established technical school. The technical classes then joined the art classes which had moved from Pocklingtons Walk up to a building that was on the side of the current New Walk Museum building, which was started as a school begun by non-conformists for their children. The art classes went into a wing on the side.

When the Hawthorn building opened in 1897, everything came on to our current site. The classes expanded to take in a lot more vocational education – architecture, building, food trades, textiles – art was very central to what was done and still is. The vocational courses that we teach now in textiles, shoe design, graphic design, interior design, still pull very much on that core of applied art.

A very good modern example of that would be the shoe that was designed for Catherine, The Duchess of Cambridge. That is so close to the original purpose of this establishment. You can see the link between 1870 to 2012.

Early courses were qualified. They were validated by the South Kensington body which was tied to the Victoria and Albert Museum, when the whole of arts and technology education was based in South Kensington. I believe that a lot of the examination papers were sent down there to be marked. Prizes were awarded from that body and the various standards were decided by that body. Our courses always have been externally validated and nationally accredited.

Initially it was thought that part time courses would be better for people who were already in employment, or who had other commitments, although there were always full time courses available, a lot of courses at that time where in the evening or at the weekends, when working people could come.

The tutors on those courses were highly qualified people. The first headmaster was Wilmot Pilsbury who was a very talented water colourist. He specialised in landscape painting and particularly that which included water. He got the school up and running and off the ground.

Benjamin Fletcher was another pivotal character and Principal of the school from 1900 to 1920, had been and still was a very able artist. When Augustus Spencer was appointed headmaster here he brought Fletcher along with him as a teacher. So Fletcher began his career here in 1888, taking up the principalship in 1900. Fletcher was an able artist and designer and also a noted pedagogue, who wrote pamphlets on how art should be taught. He was very influenced by the arts and crafts movement. He was a great friend of William Lethaby (1857 – 1931) and was close friends with Harry Peach who set up the Dryad business. That started by making cane furniture but widened out to arts and crafts in general. At that time the two of them were very influential in furniture design and tied up with the arts and crafts movement. Fletcher was pivotal to art teaching within the institution.

Some of the milestones in the development of art education?

I think it is difficult to give artistic milestones. The education that was offered and is offered, was built, very much in those early days, around the needs of local industry. The institution of course has changed out of all recognition, in that we went from being The College of Art of Technology, to being Leicester Polytechnic, and then to becoming De Montfort University. The training in art history and fine art has always been there. What has been added on have been specific courses, in graphic design, interior design which are now strong courses, and are leading directly into industry, which is really what we are here for.

They now run very much in the way that they always have. The Institution has changed around the courses, rather than the courses having changed around the institution. So there are very strong threads, of fine art, of history of art, of applied arts, of various kinds. These have continued through the changes in the institution, and are continuing now.

We are still training artists and designers, to go out into industry, into fashion, in to architecture, into shoe design, interior design, graphic design, which of course are the new names for printing, dress making, all the things that we did back in the early days. The Scraptoft campus offered teacher training and health studies, and youth studies, and dance. Community dance developed there, one of the earliest in the country, that has been continued now here, and links very closely with the Foundation for Community Dance. Performing arts were at Scraptoft but Fine and Applied arts were always here on the City Campus. Performing arts are still very strong. The departments have branched out into media studies, theatre and film studies. All of the new media have been incorporated into that.

Music and computer gaming

We are also now strengthening our teaching into computer gaming, which is a new strand of art education, so the new technologies have been brought in. Music forms a part of performing arts, particularly cutting edge modern music in that we have the links with Gavin Briers, that kind of very forward looking minimalist music, which was carried on there and that links with the American minimalist music.
That has actually branched out now, and seems to be basing itself again in the Baltic countries. There are composers in the Baltic countries, who have taken on that minimalist aspects of music, and there is some phenomenal work coming out of there. People like Arvo Part is a slightly different aspect of it but the strands are still there.
Scraptoft was linked into that and that is being continued here on the City Campus within the Institute of Creative Technology, which is pioneering electronic forms of music. We have the link with the Curve Theatre. We are training students go into theatre.

Our Theatre Studies students do productions at Curve, they are looking at modern play writes, and producing extremely good theatre. We are becoming increasingly known for music technology.
DMU Institute of Creative Technologies | DMU Music, Technology and innovation research centre.

Shoes and fabrics, dresses and corsets

We began teaching dress making, tailoring and shoe design, from quite early days when the college came into the Hawthorn building in the late 1800s. That would have been for people who were already in the trade, who wanted to learn that kind of skill. Dress making, tailoring was taught as a formal subject. There were also general craft classes, where embroidery would have been done, certain types of lace were made, competitions were held to design lace. Lace making was taught to women from Ireland so that they could augment their family income.

I don’t know what kind of lace that was, but there are mentions in the Annual Report – that prizes were given to students for their designs. Unfortunately we don’t have those designs now. The dress making courses fed into the city industries, as did tailoring.

In 1946 we began corsetry classes which fed into what we now call ‘contour fashion’. As rationing came to an end, after the second world war, the materials for that kind of garment started to become available. The college decided that that was a good area to go into and to get into an an early stage. That has always been one of our most successful courses, within the textiles area. We are still the only full time degree course in the country in Contour Fashion.

Shoe design was done from quite early days, but in various guises. In the early days it would have been called ‘cobbling trades’. After the end of the second world war when soldiers were de-mobbed, and needed a trade, we held classes, to teach those soldiers, how to make and repair shoes, so they could then go into civilian life with a trade.
Our most recent success is the student who designed a pair of shoes for the Duchess of Cambridge on the recent Royal visit. That is really coming full circle from 1870 when we started teaching designers and artists to feed into city industries, we are still doing this now.

Lace making

Lace making was particularly interesting. I found a photograph that was taken in the 1930s, of a women’s craft class. Most of them are doing embroidery; some of the women are working on large embroidery frames, so I would assume they are working on quite complex pieces.

One girl, right at the front of the class, is working on a bobbin lace pillow. The photograph is quite clear but not clear enough for me to see what kind of lace she is making but she seems to be using East Midlands Bobbins with a continental pillow. Quite how that combination came about I am not certain. I am not sure what kind of lace was made then, East Midlands-type laces had not at that time been developed.

There is a large collection of East Midlands Bobbins in the Museum and I do know that there was bobbin lace making in Leicester as early as 1610.

I wonder whether that girl in the photograph had brought her skills with her. If you look very carefully at the photograph, the girl sitting next to her, who is working at an embroidery frame, is wearing very antiquated clothing, that you would almost associate with peasant garments: a long skirt, hair in a coil round her head, shawl, and a frilly blouse. This does not look like the kind of garment that a 1930s girl here, would be wearing. It looks Eastern European.

Those two girls – if you look very closely at their features – I have a feeling they are sisters or possibly cousins. Now, if those two girls are related, and they have those skills, the centres of bobbin lace making (apart from England and Northern Europe) were in the region of what became Eastern Germany and Czechoslovakia. I do wonder whether those girls came out of Eastern Europe, prior to the outbreak of the second world war, brought their skills with them, and then were honing their skills in order to fit themselves for employment. It is just a surmise, because I have not had time to research the registers, but they look very much as if they might be of Eastern European extraction.

The Midlands would have been known in Eastern Europe as a centre for lace making at that time. Nottingham was machine lace, which is a very different discipline to hand made lace. The machines were developed in Nottingham because the technology was already there. There is no tradition of hand made lace in Nottingham – that resided in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and in Devon. Those were the centres of hand made lace.

Nottingham started to make machine lace because the skills and the factories and the know-how about to the build and maintain them was already there. Machines were then taken to Northern France, so the industry spread out but I am not aware of machine lace being produced in Eastern Europe.

There is some bobbin made lace in Leicester from 1610 and there is a notice (at that date) of money being given by a particular charity to a lace maker in Leicester to employ girls to make bobbin lace. Leicester was right on the very periphery of the hand made lace area but I do know that one of the Ellis family was a very competent lace maker and her collection of bobbins and lace appears to have formed the foundation of the collection within the museum. Agnes Ellis may have known some of the girls who trained here in the very early days. I am not aware of bobbin lace being taught as a separate subject here, which me think that the girl in the photo probably brought her skills with her rather than having learnt them here.

Published on 13th October 2015.

See also:

The history of music technology.



History Music in Leicester

The History of music in Leicester

a series of articles by Trevor Locke

See below for links to the articles in this series.


This series of articles traces the music that was heard and played in Leicester from contemporary times backwards. These articles are to be published in the magazine Arts in Leicester. The articles are concerned mainly with popular music; although classical music is not ignored, the focus is on the music of the people.

The Splitters at the Charlotte, October 2003. Photo: Harjinder Ohbi
The Splitters at the Charlotte, October 2003.
Photo: Harjinder Ohbi

All music is a reflection of the time in which it was made; it is part of the community; it is a cultural manifestation of the values, preoccupations and tastes of the people in whose time is was performed. Hence, we have to described the life and times of a period to fully understand its music.

The Delis Mix at The Exchange in 2012
The Delis Mix at The Exchange in 2012

The articles therefore annotate the life and times of the city of Leicester through the lense of its musical activities. It is both a contribution to local history and a timeline of the development of music.

Quaternery Limit at The shed in 2007
Quaternery Limit at The shed in 2007

My plan is to work backwards from the starting point of 2014. How far backwards? Well, in my original plan I go back to the time of the Romans; that being pretty much the start of written history. Anything before that period would require the results of archaeology because we would then be talking about pre-history, about which not a lot is known.

Kasabian in Leicester, August 2004 Photography by Harjinder Ohbi
Kasabian in Leicester, August 2004
Photography by Harjinder Ohbi

Articles already published

The music of today (2005 to 2014)

1990 to 2005

Part 1 – the noughties (2000 to 2005)

Part 2 – the 1990s music and the rise of the Internet (1990 to 2005)

Articles in preparation

The era of radio and records (1940 to 1990)

At some point in the future, my plan is to published a book about the history of music in Leicester. This will include a much fuller and more details account that the brief annotations in these articles.
My hope is that, by publishing the brief articles, people will offer details and contributions to the final book.

See also:

Chapter 1 – Music in modern times

Chapter 2 – part 1 – The 2000s

Chapter 2 – part 2 – The 1990s

Music and technology

References (referred to in the articles)


Sunday 9th August 2015

The History of Music in Leicester

The second in a series of articles. These articles lay the foundations for a book bearing the same title. In this respect the articles sketch and outline a more substantial work into which much more detail will be deposited. This article has cantered through the content and has omitted a great detail of detail. My aim in publishing this article (and those that will follow) is to stimulate interest in the subject of Leicester’s musical history. The problem for me, in writing these articles, is not what to leave out – but what to put in.

Music and Technology

Imagine, if you will, that you are suddenly transported into a world where electrical gadgets do not exist. Perhaps this is our world, of today, and an alien power had beamed around the globe, rays that have disabled every small electrical appliance. We have no computers, laptops, smart phones, pads, tablets, radios, televisions… everything that we used to listen to music had been disabled. Now you are living living a world where, the only way you can listen to music is to hear it played live, in front of you, by musicians playing wooden instruments or other kinds of devices that can make sounds but without the use of any electrical power.

You are now in a world that existed before the invention of electricity. The only way you can hear music is the way that our ancestors heard it. It is always live and it is always played on instruments that are powered by the hand or the lungs of those using them. Since the creation of the very first musical sounds, that is how people heard music.

In Leicester, the introduction and mass ownership of electrical goods defined and shaped musical tastes. The gramophone, the radio, the television, the Walkman, the transistor radio and eventually the Internet changed the way people listened to music and changed access to music. Music lovers were increasingly given access to the music of other countries, cultures and eras. The depended on the introduction of either batteries or the availability of public electricity supplies. The first homes in Leicester started to be lit by electricity in 1894. The electric light bulb was invented around 1880. Electricity supplies began from around 1894 in Leicester.

What I want to do, in this article, is plot the time line of the way that electrical technology has changed the way that the people of Leicester have found and listened to music. Peoples’ access to music was revolutionised by the mass availability of the radio and the record player. Later the widespread adoption of television sets further increased access to music in the everyday lives of ordinary people. In Leicester the broadcast media, the growth of record stores and later on the emergence of the Internet, gave people more access to music than was the case when their only choice was live music venues.

Radios, record players and the television

Prior to the emergence of radio and record players, music was performed live and listening to it would have been a relatively rare event for the majority of people. This was changed by the advent of the mass ownership of the record player or phonograph

an early phonograph
an early phonograph

The record player was invented in 1877 by Thomas Edison. Also known as the Phonograph or gramophone, the record player began with a rotating cylinder, being replaced by flat discs in the 1890s. It was not until the 1980s that the traditional large record was replaced by the compact disk

Phonograph cylinders
Phonograph cylinders

To begin with, the phonograph was the preserve of the rich and did not achieve mass ownership until the 1930s, when factories began to mass produce players at a price that was affordable by the average household. This happened in tandem with the mass production of cheap records.

The rise of record players gave people access to music on demand and meant that people could listen to songs far more frequently than was previously the case, when going to a live performance was the only way that people could hear music.

It was not until the mid to late 1980s that the record player would be widely replaced by the Compact Disk player.  The CD became commercially available from 1982 although its mass availability in the UK would have followed a few years later. A recordable CD – the CD-ROM – came out in 1983/5. It was not until the early 2000s that the CD player began to display the widely used audio cassette player. The first commercial CD was released in 1982 but it was not until 1988 that CD sales began to overtake those of the vinyl record. In the 1980s (and probably into the 1990s) unsigned local bands would have recorded their music on to cassette tapes, unless they were wealthy enough to produce their own vinyl records. In the 2000s, bands started to produce music CDs for their fans when players became cheap enough for the majority of fans to own one.

The early 1960s saw the introduction of the music cassette, a compact tape-player which began to reach a mass market when Sony introduced its Walkman in 1979.

Sony Walkman
Sony Walkman

During the late Victoria period and early twentieth century, musical instruments became more widely available. The guitar became a popular instrument that was easy to learn and which could be purchased either new or from shops that sold them second-hand. It was in late Victorian times that pianos became affordable and many homes began to have them. Prior to that it was only the better off in society who could afford to purchase and play musical instruments. This created a sense of being able to participate in music rather than being just a passive consumer of it.

It was the mass ownership of radio receivers that really transformed access to music as well as musical tastes. In the late 40s and early 50s,when I was a child, I remember the radio being more or less constantly switched on. Our family home also had a record player which was played frequently. My childhood was filled with music. We listened to the Home Service, the forerunner of what we now know as Radio 4. Whilst all members of my immediate family owned music instruments and could play them, my main access to music was through the radio. When I became a teenager, I had my own radio and could choose which programmes I wanted to listen to; so, in this regard, my experience is typical of my generation.

An early radio set
An early radio set

The first radio transmitter was erected in London in 1922. The BBC’s Broadcasting House opened in May 1932. Radio Leicester was launched on 8 November 1967. During the years of the second world war, the television service was suspended and everyone listened to the radio (mainly the Home Service.) Programmes such as ITMA attracted 16 million listeners. The Forces Programme was launched in 1940 initially for the troops in France.

I remember Family Favourites, which started in 1945, and, having parents from a naval background, this was required listening in our home. The programme had a huge influence on my childhood and my familiarity with popular music. Other programmes, such as Listen with Mother – boosted the importance of radio broadcasting in our home and I think that was the case for a very large number of other people born in the post-war period.

In 1959 the BBC began to broadcast Juke Box Jury and DJs like David Jacobs, Alan Freeman and Pete Murray, started to become household names. New programmes started like Pick of the Pops. Music stars were born; Elvis and Cliff Richard owed their emerging popularity to the radio, as well as to record sales in the shops. The radio introduced the top 40 chart programme and, on Sunday afternoons, a quarter of the population tuned in to listen to it.

Juke Box Jury 1959
Juke Box Jury 1959

This period also saw the rise of popular music magazines and newspapers, such as The New Musical Express, Melody Maker and Record Mirror. Paper-based national daily newspapers also printed stories about the world of music and its celebrity stars. The forerunner of The Leicester Mercury began in 1874. By the time Queen Victoria died in 1901, the Mercury was a widely read local newspaper and it had begun to include photographs. When World War Two ended in 1954, the paper reported ‘Hot off the press, the Mercury captured the mood of the nation by producing a special VE. edition, while 10,000 people attending a thanksgiving service in Town Hall Square.’ Even in those days, great moments in history saw people celebrating or doing things face to face. They might have read the news but their immediate reaction was to take to the streets in large numbers.

Even though the BBC had a legalised monopoly on broadcasting, people listened to pirate radio stations, such as Radio Luxembourg and Radio London in the 1960s. The 1970s and 80s saw a considerable growth in commercial radio stations. The English version of Radio Luxembourg began as early as 1933. Radio Caroline broadcast from a ship in the North Sea, outside of UK waters.

In the years from 1933 to 1939 the English language service of Radio Luxembourg gained a large audience in the UK and other European countries with sponsored programming aired from noon until midnight on Sundays and at various times during the rest of the week. 11% of Britons listened to it during the week, preferring Luxembourg’s light music and variety programs to the BBC. [Wikipedia]

Commercial radio made its mark on the audiences of Leicester in the 1980s.

Centre Radio was the first independent local radio station to serve Leicestershire. It was based as at the lavish Granville House, Leicester, England. Centre Radio launched on 7 September 1981 in a blaze of publicity. The station’s licence was re-advertised and won by Leicester Sound, which commenced broadcasting on 7 September 1984. Leicester Sound merged with Trent FM and Ram FM in January 2011 to form the regional station Capital FM East Midlands, based in Nottingham. [Wikipedia]

With the advent of mass ownership of television sets, people began to watch rather than to just listen to broadcast programmes. As a child, I vividly remember watching the live broadcast of the Coronation (2nd June 1953) on a small black and white TV set in my parents home.

An early TV set
An early TV set

Top of the Pops started in January 1964 and for many years of my early life, this was a ‘must watch’ programme, as much as listening to the radio on Sunday afternoons, to hear the latest chart hits. Today, festivals such as Glastonbury, can be watched on the television. On YouTube there are innumerable video films of artists performing at Glastonbudget and other open-air live music events in our local area.

The first music festivals began

Live music was by no means killed off by the broadcast media and the record industry. Music festivals began to be organised in the UK, bringing a whole new approach to live music and access to bands and singers.

1989 – believed to be the start of the Abbey Park Festival – would have been influenced by the growing national scene for music festivals, the largest of which began in the 1960s. Glastonbury began in the 1970s and the forerunner of the Reading Festival in the 1960s. It was not until 2003 that Download started on the borders of Leicestershire as a follow-up to the Monsters of Rock events held at Donnington Park between 1980 and 1996.

Free festivals were held in the UK between 1967 and 1990. Some people might remember Roger Hutchinson, who who created the iconic Stonehenge Free Festival poster of 1987.

Roger developed a passion for local history and for much of the decade was busy preserving barges and canals – seemingly light years away from tripping at Stonehenge, but I think connected . Whatever Roger was involved in, he gave it his all and he was, despite not being very well in the last three years of his life, creative and positive and keeping busy, whether it was making a film about taking his dog for a morning walk , or creating his superb drawings of his beloved Leicester for the canal group.

He died in 2010. Su Barton knew him. You can find out more about Roger Hutchinson on Facebook

Poster for the Stonehenge Free Festival
Poster for the Stonehenge Free Festival

Many people with a knowledge of music from the 1950s through to the 1980s have contributed to articles available on the Internet.

My friend and one-time publisher Alan Dearling’s book Travelling Daze vividly evokes the early times of the free festivals.

Music festivals have, since their inception, rejuvenated interest in live music. By 2010, around two million people attended music festival in the UK. National events, such as Download, Reading and Leeds festivals and Glastonbury, have attracted large numbers of music fans from Leicester. These days, we can get some ideas of this from the postings they make on Facebook and Twitter. Many local festivals have attracted large numbers of people: Simon Says…, Summer Sundae, Glastonbudget, Strawberry Fields, Cosby Big Love, Foxton Locks, White Noise, all of these have proven to be popular with the people of Leicester and Leicester shire over the years. Many other large-scale public events such as Caribbean Carnival and The Belgrave Mela have provided live music alongside their other activities.

My previous article gave details of the rise of music festivals in Leicester.

Record stores in Leicester

The mass ownership of record players changed the way that people in Leicester listened to music. Previously, only wealthy people could afford to buy them. As the electrical equipment manufacturing companies began to produce ever cheaper players, more and more people owned them and also the records to play on them. This gave rise to the record retail trade in Leicester. Rockaboom opened in 1988; it joined Facebook in 2010.

Rockaboom on Facebook

An early transistor radio
An early transistor radio

Ultima Thule was established in 1989, originally in Exchange Buildings in Rutland Street, moving later on to Conduit Street. It was run by Steve and Alan Freeman.

Ten years ago Leicester was full of independent record shops and they were a recognisable feature of our City Centre. Music fans spent hours flicking through hundreds of records on a weekend looking for that special edition picture disc, admiring the album covers referencing politics, fashion – you name it. [Raegan Oates writing in The Monograph in 2013].

St. Martin’s Records, originally in St Martins Square, later moved to Horsefair Street. Martyn Pole told me that he bought nearly all his records there when when has a DJ in the early 1980s. Leicester people will remember Ainsleys, Archer Records, Back Track Records, Boogaloo Records and St Martin’s Records. HMV’s store in the High Street and Virgin Records in The Highcross centre (then called The Shires) also provided retail outlets in the city centre. After 15 years 2Funky closed in 2012. In its time it was a popular destination for record-buyers, especially those wanting the more esoteric and experimental genres of music.

This web page gives a comprehensive list of Leicester record stores

The record label – as a company that published recorded music – is less important now than it has been in the past. This is due mainly to the rise of Internet-mediated sources of music such as iTunes.

The rise of the record labels and their relationship with live music created a constantly changing scene in many parts of the country during the 1950s [Firth, 2010]

BBC Broadcasting house
BBC Broadcasting house

Music and technology

What is clear is that how people gained access to, and listened to, music was dependent on, and was reflected by, the availability of technology, as far as the electrical epoch is concerned. We can therefore divide musical history into periods characterised by the technologies that gave people the music they wanted to hear. Before the invention of, and distribution of, recorded music in the nineteenth century, all music was live. As the availability of electrically-operated music players grew, so various periods of music emerged: the era of the radio, the record player, the television, the personal devise and the growth of the Internet. These all figure in the timeline that I have used to divide my account of Leicester’s musical heritage.

Trevor Locke

An early record player
An early record player


Firth [2010] Firth, Simon, 2010, Journal of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, 1,1

See also:

Previous Article The Music of Today


The History of music in Leicester

by Trevor Locke

Chapter 1 – Music Of Today

As soon as you write about today, it passes into the past. The word ‘today’ is an inherent misnomer. Today quickly becomes yesterday and ‘now’ is simply the present sliding into the past.

This series of articles traces the music that was heard and played in Leicester from contemporary times backwards. Contemporary times are those of the immediate past. Our journey starts in 2014; and works backwards.

The reason for this is that no music ever exists in isolation; all music (like any other form of art) has its roots; it takes its nourishment from the soil of its previous periods. Music is a tree that is sustained by the music of yesterday. What we hear ‘today’ cannot exist without the music made yesterday; this year’s music flowed from last year’s music, and so on, as far back as we can try to go.

These articles lay the foundations for a book bearing the same title. In this respect the articles sketch and outline a more substantial work into which much more detail will be deposited.

The articles are concerned mainly with popular music; although classical music is not ignored, my focus is on the music of the people. It is right that we should take, as our frame of reference, the whole community of Leicester. The music of Leicester is, and always has been, the cultural product of a wide variety of peoples. The people of this city are not, nor have they ever been, a monolithic group. Leicester is the typical city of diversity.

All music is a reflection of the time in which it was made; it is part of the community; it is a cultural manifestation of the values, preoccupations and tastes of the people in whose time it was made. Hence, we have to described the life and times of a period to fully understand its music. Music of the people will always reflect the times in which it was made.

Jak Skelly (left) and Tim Wilson (right) and the chorus of 'Rent' Photo: Pamela Raith photography
Jak Skelly (left) and Tim Wilson (right) and the chorus of ‘Rent’
Photo: Pamela Raith photography

Music for the Facebook Generation – 2005 to 2014

I am going to call the period from 2014 back to 2005, The Facebook Generation. Music in this period was (and of course, still is) influenced and mediated through the growing power of the Internet and, on the Internet, the social media platform of Facebook was (and is) pre-eminent.

Logo of Twitter
Logo of Twitter

Prior to the rise of Facebook, it was MySpace that provided musicians with their on-line existence. In 2014, nearly every band, singer, musician and rapper had a page on Facebook. From such pages, links took fans to other providers, such as Soundcloud, YouTube and Bandcamp, to name but a few of the many places in which the world of music could be found. Lists of Leicester bands, published before the ubiquity of Facebook, linked each group to its page on MySpace.

As soon as a new band was formed, a page for it was created on Facebook. MySpace was launched in 2003. Up to 2008 it was the most visited social media site in the world, until it was overtaken by Facebook.

Alongside the rise of these social media sites, we saw the growing dominance of the Google search engine. Previously, Internet users used devices such as Yahoo and Alta Vista to find things. YouTube was founded in 2005 and taken over by Google in 2006. Twitter began in 2006 and quickly became a popular item in the social media universe, with a large proportion of music acts opening accounts on it. All this is as true for Leicester and Leicestershire as it was for the rest of the United Kingdom and the world.

People on Facebook

It was not just the bands and singers that began to colonise the world of Facebook and social media. People concerned with and involve in musical could also be found there.

Trevor Locke joined Facebook in 2006 with a personal account in his own name. He added a photo album to his account called ‘Leicester rock stars’ in 2007. Andrew Stone of the Displacements and later Little Night Terrors joined Facebook in 2007. James Shaw and Jason Westall of The Utopians joined Facebook in 2007. The Utopians set up a group on Facebook in 2007 and had a single release at The Shed, on 9th October, using social media to publicise it. In July 2007, The Utopians played a ‘guerilla gig’ at a warehouse in Leicester, the secret location was messaged to friends at the last moment. The band set up a band page in January 2009. They also had a page on MySpace. Luke D’Mellow of The Utopians joined Facebook in June 2007. An events page for the Utopians, in 2007, included a show at The Shed on 20th December 2007 and indicated 17 guests going, including musician Raj Mohanlal, the members of the band and some of their close friends. Connor Evans (of Weekend Schemers) joined Facebook in August 2008. DJ Lisa Lashes joined Facebook in May 2009. These are examples of early adopters of what Facebook had to offer.

Lisa Lashes in 2014
Lisa Lashes in 2014

Between 2006 and 2014, the whole music in scene of Leicester found its way into the virtual reality of the brave new digital age. Bands recorded their music and made it available on the Internet. Singers filmed themselves for YouTube. Many music artists provided tracks on Soundcloud. For local music the Internet allowed something previously denied by the music industry – self publishing and self promotion.

Music and bands on the ‘web

In 2004, the domain name was registered. The Sheffield band Arctic Monkeys, which formed in 2002, was signed in 2005 but before that they had established a sizeable fan-base on MySpace. Reverbnation was launched in 2006, as a site for the independent music industry. Soundcloud was started in Germany in 2007. Between 2007 and 2009 it began to challenge MySpace as the main site for distributing music tracks. Bandcamp was founded in 2007.

By 2014, access to the Internet had become almost universal in the UK. The advent of mass ownership of mobile phones (connected to the Internet) began to replace the use of computers and laptops as the main devices that people used to see social media sites. Whereas access had been through computers connected to broadband, now people we spending their time on social media via their smart phones and a variety of hand-held devices. This increased the utilisation of social media.

The impact that this technology had on popular music was fundamental and far-reaching. It would be wrong to say that the Internet brought an end to the CD and the vinyl record but the significance of these media declined; music had become mediated through streaming and downloads through devices and websites such as iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and Bandcamp were being increasingly used to provide those tracks.

The Internet had a profound effect on music of all kinds. Music venues and festivals depended on social media to attract fans and to make ticket sales – at minimal cost. Most social media is free to use and this made it possible to put on a concert and sell tickets for it as almost no cost. Gone were the days of having print tickets and pay for expensive advertising in paper-based media.

Previously paper-based music magazines and newspapers began to close down in favour of on-line versions. In Leicester, The Monograph was published on paper for a relatively brief period of time. Even though the paper was supplemented with a website, its days were numbered. It could not be sustained as a physical product in a world where advertising revenues were increasingly gravitating towards online.

Record label A&R scouts began to work more on the Internet than at music venues. Whereas music scouts once depended on attendance at venues to see and to discover bans and singers, they now had only to sit in their offices and log on to Facebook and Twitter to find what they were looking for.

Website hosting became comparatively inexpensive up to 2014. Domains names could be registered for a few pounds and the emergence of content management services like WordPress, allowed websites to be constructed without recourse to the expensive fees charged by web designers. Having a band website became an increasing possibility for even the smallest of unsigned new groups. Although social media provided the mainstream of Internet presence, bands and singers continued to maintain websites as part of creating a professional image.

Miss Penny performing at Leicester Pride in 2014
Miss Penny performing at Leicester Pride in 2014

Getting your band on

The music of Leicester’s bands, singers and rappers (as presented on Facebook,Twitter and other parts of the Internet) began to take off from 2006 onwards. A few music acts started their own websites. In Leicester, there were some early adopters of customised domain names and websites.

In a list of Leicester rocks bands, published by Arts in Leicester, in 2009, links were given to each band’s website and the majority of these were on MySpace, most of them having dedicated addresses, like

The domain name was registered in 2002, one of the earliest domain names to be used by a band that originated in Leicester. Someone registered in 2004 for Leicester band The Screening. These were early adopters of the do-it-yourself breed of Internet users. By 2014, almost all of the musicians in Leicester’s rock bands had grown up with the Internet. Utilising it for their music was not difficult. Many of the city’s recording studios did well from this easy access to DIY outlets. Businesses grew up to service this market – such as companies specialising in the printing and replication of CDs. A Leicester company called Horus Music provided technical services for the publication of music.

The circumstances leading up to these developments are discussed in Chapter 2 of this series of articles.

The rise of the small venues

In the period between the early 90s and today, Leicester’s music scene became increasingly dominated by music venues, including The Charlotte and The Shed. The Shed started in 1994 and is still a significant venue for rock music, especially as a launchpad for new bands and singers. In 2000, Darren Nockles became a promoter at the Musician, a venue in Wharf Street East, previously called The Bakers Arms (there was also a pub called The Barkers Arms in Blaby and that too played a significant role in the history of Leicestershire music but for very different reasons.) The old Musician closed it’s doors for the last time on 31st December 2004 but re-opened in 2005. The Musician reopened on 1 February 2005, actually smaller than before because of the repositioning of the toilets, and live music continued unabated until May.

Venues closing down and reopening was not uncommon. The Charlotte closed several times only to re-open again under a new management. In 1989, Andy Wright took over the Princess Charlotte pub, having worked there since 1985 when it was a traditional public house. It’s name changed to The Charlotte and it began to be a permanent live music venue until it closed in 2010. 

Andy Wright, who once ran The Charlotte, mentions some of the bands that played there in 2006:

’22/01 Random Hand 25/01 Deaf Havana 27/01 Bad Manners 28/01 The Courteeners 29/01 Blood Red Shoes 30/01 King Creosote 03/02 Elliot Minor 10/02 The Subhumans 13/02 Robots In Disguise (From Mighty Boosh) 24/02 Rolo Tomassi 25/02 Turin Brakes 28/02 Ginger 29/02 One Night Only 06/03 Sonic Boom Six 17/03 The Rifles 19/03 Little Man Tate 29/03 Young Heart Attack 30/03 Malcome Middleton (Arab Strap) 03/04 Slaves To Gravity (again) 19/04 The Automatic 21/04 Ted Leo and the Pharmacists / Red Light Company 28/04 Dogs 30/04 Lightspeed Champion 01/05 Cud 04/05 Twisted Wheel 09/05 Spunge 12/05 Jesse Malin 14/05 Wednesday 13 30/03 The Subways 10/06 Glasvegas 22/06 Holly Golightly 25/6 Mystery Jets 26/06 UK Subs 08/07 The Business 10/07 Failsafe My Awesome Compilation 11/07 The Screening 08/08 The Dickies 21/08 The Death Set 03/09 Golden Silvers 10/09 Spear Of Destiny 01/10 Jonny Foriegner / Danananananakroyd 05/10 Iglu and Hartly 07 10 Team Waterpol 08/10 Cheeky Cheeky and The Nose Bleeds 09/10 Little Man Tate 15/10 Does It Offend You Yeah 16/10 Bromheads Jacket 19/10 Strung Out 25/10 The Long Tall Texans 26/10 Jersey Budd 29/10 One Night Only 30/10 The Pippettes 03/11 The Hunters Club 06/11 The Airbourne Toxic Event 10/11 Example 11/11 Fight Like Apes 13/11 Half Man Half Biscuit 16/11 Skinnyman 17/11 Grammatics 24/11 The View 26/11 Twin Atlantic 05/12 The Wedding Present 0712 The Holloways 10/12 Dreadzone 11/12 Streetlight Manifesto 14/12 Bury Tomorrow 18/12 Bad Manners 20/12 999/ The Lurkers 21/12 Diesel Park West. That was the quietest year of The Charlotte hence it’s closure in Jan 2009.’

The Soundhouse opened in 2010, in Southampton Street, behind the old offices of the Leicester Mercury, Prior to that the premises operated as The Queen Victoria pub and it was here that bands played from time to time. The Soundhouse has, since it started, operated as a specialised live music venue with a stage, sound desk, dedicated PA system and professional stage lighting.

The Soundhouse as it looked in 2011
The Soundhouse as it looked in 2011

The Donkey, in Welford Road, became a live music venue in 2005. This large pub provides a weekly programme of live music and many notable acts have performed there.

A cafe in the High Street – The Crumbling Cookie, rose to become one of the foremost venues for live music when it opened its room in the basement, called The Cookie Jar.

Alongside these small venues, the music life of the area benefited from the shows and concerts provided by the De Montfort Hall. A large proportion of the city’s music lovers attended shows there by national, if not world class, bands and artists.

Prior to its demolition in 2001, the Granby Halls served as a venue for music concerts, alongside its use as a sports centre. Opening in 1915, it was built as a training hall for the army in World War I. Having stood dormant for three years, the City Council pulled it down as it became an increasing cost burden. During the time when it was used as a large arena for rock concerts, it hosted shows by The Rolling Stones and Louis Armstrong among others.

It was not until 2010 that Leicester was to acquire a large-scale venue for music, with the opening of the O2 Academy in the grounds of the University of Leicester. One of the acts to perform on the opening night was Professor Green.

Prior to the opening of the O2, the University of Leicester students’ union held major rock concerts in the Queens Hall. The oak-panelled room now forms part of the O2 complex, being the medium-sized of three rooms, sometimes referred to as ‘O2.2’. The main hall of the O2 has a capacity of 1,450 and the smallest room – now called The Scholar, holds around 150.

Curve theatre opened and since then has provided a regular programme of musicals, dance shows and concerts. In the bar area, there are regular performances by singers and small acoustic groups.

Not far from Curve is Phoenix, the arts centre and cinema that has a large cafe area where live music concerts have been held from time to time. The names of both these venues have dropped ‘the’ from their titles. Phoenix hosted a series of shows, held on Saturday lunchtimes, mounted by Manic Music Productions. These shows were a showcase of talent for young music artists.

One of the larger venues in the city centre was The Firebug. It originally operated as The Firefly but changed its name to avoid confusion with another establishment. Gigs are held in a large room on the first floor, although music has also been put on in the ground floor bar area, on certain occasions. Upstairs the room has a stage with fixed lighting and there is a PA and sound desk operated by experienced sound engineers.

A venue called The Auditorium operated in the markets area of the city centre. Its premises originally served as an Odeon cinema and later a bingo hall and in its time it was one of the largest capacity centres in the city centre. The Auditorium music venue opened in September 2010. One of the best-known acts to perform there was the rap artist Example ( Elliott Gleave.)

The Exchange Bar opened, 20 January 2011, in Rutland Street. In its basement room live music events are held on a regular basis.

The Exchange Bar
The Exchange Bar

The Australian-theme bar Walkabout once hosted live music events. Standing in Granby Street, close to The Turkey Cafe, the bar closed in May 2015. The bar was part of a chain of venues operated by a company called Intertain. During the periods when live music was held in the bar, about one gig a week was usually held and often local bands were booked to play there.

In a large room above Walkabout bar, the venue Sub91 operated between its opening night in August 2010, when the show was headlined by The Damned through to its closure in December 2011.

The Music Cafe, in Park end Street (off Braunstone Gate) has been putting on live music gigs for many years. In 2005, Leicester organisation Get Your Band On put on a rock night there with Ictus, The A.I.Ds, No One Knows and Glitch. At that time the venue changed it name to The Music Cafe from its previous title The Jam Jar.

Many pubs in the city centre held live music events throughout the period 2005 to 2015. These included Time Bar (adjacent to the railway station), The Barley Mow in Granby Street, The Turkey Cafe (which held weekly open-mic nights), The Queen of Bradgate (in the High Street), Cafe Bruxelles (also in the High Street), O’Neills the Irish-themed pub in Loseby Lane, the building that housed Superfly and various other venues (on the corner of Wellington Street) and even Leicester’s longest established gay bar The Dover Castle has been known to put on live music events. One time gay nightclub Streetlife, now serves as a venue for music shows (though not for the gay community.)

Calamity Jane at Curve 2015
Calamity Jane at Curve 2015

Record shops

During the period when records were the usual media through which recorded music was heard, Leicester had a variety of record shops. Ainsleys record store closed in 2004. Wayne Allen was the manager of the store between 1983 and 2001. It was situated opposite the Clock Tower. He is credited with bringing some of the biggest names in music to the Leicester store, including Englebert Humperdinck, Radiohead, Del Amitri, St Etienne, Stereophonics, Shed Seven and Bananarama. He died in 2012.

Several other record shops in the centre of Leicester are remembered, including Back Track Records and Boogaloo, and in current times HMV, 2 Funky and Rockaboom records. People remember Revolver Records, Cank Street Records, Virgin records, BPM, Archers, Reef, Chakademas, Pliers, MVC, Village Square, A G Kemble, Archers, A T Brown, Brees, Dalton & Son, The Record Cellar, World Records in London Road, and Carousel.

The rise of the festivals

Mention has already been made of the importance of the Abbey Park festival, to the music of Leicester. Since the end of its era, several other annual festivals have grown to being important event in the musical calender of the city and county. The Abbey Park Festival, events between 2003 to 2005 formed a significant milestone in the development of the city’s festival-level live music.

The first Glastonbudget festival was held in 2005. Bands that played at the very first event included To Hell And Back, Meatloaf tribute band, Ded Hot Chilie Peppers, One Step behind (Madness tribute), Oasish and The Jamm. In 2006, the Glastonbudget Festival started to put on local original bands such as The Authentics, Ugli, Jack of Hearts, The Stiff Naked Fools, Ego Armalade, Proud To Have Met You, Platinum JAR and Ictus. by 2007, many more local original bands (called ‘new acts’ in the programme) played at Glastonbudget, including bands such as Ictus, Patchwork Grace, Skam#, The Mile, Subdude, Jack of Hearts, Black River Project, Utopians, Squid Ate Lucy, Codes, C*Bob, Purple and the Rains, Playing at Glastonbudget was for many of the new and original bands was a premium achievement.

The first Summer Sundae festival was held in 2001. The event is also called The Summer Sundae Weekender although when it started it lasted for only one day. It grew to become an important national event for indie and alternative music band sand artists. The festival was held in the De Montfort Hall and its surrounding grounds and lasted from Friday to Sunday. The last event was held in 2012 when the festival was brought to an end. Apart from acts of national standing, many local bands played on its various stages and along list of Leicester acts can be drawn from its programmes. All of the acts that performed throughout the life of the festival have been documented on Wikipedia. In July 2008, for example, Leicester band The Heroes won a competition to be the opening band on the main stage at Summer Sundae. A report at the time said: ‘Thousands of you voted and the results are in… The winners are… Leicester band The Heroes are to open The Weekender in Leicester.’ The Heroes guitarist Alex Van Roose went on to form Midnight Wire and lead vocalist Alex Totman went on to form Selby Court band.

A singer performing at Pride main stage in 2014
A singer performing at Pride main stage in 2014

The same building and its surrounding grounds are now the location of Simon Says… a music festival that employs a variety of stages as well as the main stage of the DMH. The first event was held in 2013.

The Hand Made Festival established itself as a major music event in Leicester’s yearly round of events. This festival also started in 2013, filling the gap, it is said, left by the disappearance of Summer Sundae.

Several general annual festivals also provide live music. At the Leicester Belgrave Mela, music was always present. When the event began to be held in Humberstone Gate, a large main stage included a day-long programme of music, singing and dance. The programme offered a mixture of classical Indian acts alongside the contemporary stars of Bollywood and the broadcast media. Mela events always had some kind of live music.

Leicester Gay Pride always provided a live music stage, since they began to be held at Victoria Park. National music acts performed as well as local artists. The festival site also included a dance tent in which DJs played recorded music.

Each year the Caribbean Carnival provided a large amount of music throughout the day. The parade had many floats on which were mounted sound systems to supply the dancers behind with the music for their routines. On Victoria Park, there was a main stage featuring singers and bands.

Dancers on the Caribbean Carnival parade
Dancers on the Caribbean Carnival parade

The City Festival began to provide music stages during its week-long programme of activities. In 2014, the stage in Humberstone Gate provided local artists with slots, the bands and singers being nominated by the local live music venues.

Alongside the festivals, a variety of other events have been held in Leicester, either annually or on a one-off basis. In June 2002 there was an event called Music Live that involved more than one thousands performers across six stages. A Golden Jubilee stage was held in Humberstone Gate and a Youth Music stage was situated next to the Clock Tower. World music was represented at a stage in the Town Hall square and classical music was provided at The New Walk Museum. Local bands that played included Ist, The Splitters, Stiff Naked Fools and many others.

In July 2014 the Leicester Music festival was held at the Tigers rugby ground. This ambitious event put on a number of big-name acts including Professor Green, Billy Ocean, Katy B and Tinie Tempah. Several local bands and singers also got to perform on the outskirts of the event but the only band to get a main stage slot was Violet Cities. They played because they had won a music competition called Play@LMF which had been organised to selected one band to play at the festival.

Several smaller festivals had established themselves by 2014 as part of the annual output of live music in the city. These included the Western Park festival, the Riverside festival, the Oxjam event, a music stage at the Foxton Locks festival and Cosby Big Love.

Just across the border, Download attracted a large attendance from Leicestershire’s music fans. One of the big national festivals, a few local bands got to play there on the smaller stages.

Strawberry Fields Festival took place each year in the Coalville area of the county. Founded in 2010, the festival has always provided openings for local bands and artists alongside big national acts and names.

In addition to festivals, some large-scale one-off music events have also been held in the city. Kasabian’s home-coming gig, held on Victoria Park, attracted a massive audience in 2013. The BBC held three events on Victoria Park, each attracting a crowd of around 100,000 people.  One Big Sunday was in Leicester in 2001, promoted by BBC Radio 1, with Coldplay, Kylie Minogue, Nelly Furtado, Dido, Victoria Beckham, Faithless, Craig David and Jamiroquai on the stage. A similar event also took place in 2002 and again in 2003. The stages provided platforms for the kind of big-name acts broadcast by Raio1 but there was no attempt to engage the services of any local bands or artists. The Abbey Park Bonfire nights featured live music and attracted some of the biggest crowds seen in the city; in 2009 Leicester band Autohype played to a crowd of over 20,000 at Abbey Park and a similar size of audience saw Jonezy and Curtis Clacey performing in a line-up headlined by The Vamps in 2013.

The totality of the supply of music – from the musicians of Leicester to their fans – was enormous between 2005 and 2014. In addition, many big name acts played in the city; touring bands came here to perform, music from acts of national importance was delivered at a range of venues and festivals and the small venues supplied a weekly offering of gigs. All of this represented an economy.

The music economy

Leicester developed a live music economy as venues, bands and festivals began to grow in size and number. As the number of live music venues grew, adding to pubs and clubs as places where live music could be performed, bands and artists began to put on their own gigs. It became possible for bands and singers to hire a small venue and promote their own shows (although this has always been the case historically for all types of music in the city and county.) From 2005 and up to 2014, many promoters took on the business of providing live music gigs, just as they had done in previous decades. Some of these became established names in the city; such as Wakeup Promotions, run by Paul Collins and Dreaming in Colour Productions, run by Elisabeth Barker-Carley. Many other names were found in this sector of the local music industry, some well respected for their work, others less so. It was a totally unregulated market, restricted only by the general laws of the land and the requirements laid down by the local authority for public events. The rise (and fall) of the larger venues (O2 Academy, Sub91, The Auditorium and so on) provided new opportunities for promoters to put on shows. Big name acts were booked at play at these events, together with a wide variety of local bands and singers.

Alongside live music we have already pointed to the growing economy of allied services, such as rehearsal rooms, recording studios and shops selling instruments and spare parts for them. In London Road, Sheehans music shop was a notable outlet for instruments, strings and other music-related merchandise. In Lee Street, Music Junkie became a well-known retail outlet. In the western side of the city, Narborough Road’s Intasound was the favoured shop for many musicians. Stores selling records and CDs were many, including national chains such as HMV and a variety of small, independent shops dotted around the city.

Recording studios too became a key part of the music economy. Yellow Bean Studios in the Narborough Road area established a widespread reputation and Deadline studios in Aylestone Road. In the city centre, HQ (opposite Primark) provided a small recording room, much favoured by solo artists. Quad Studios, in Friday Street, provided a range of services and was one of the long-established destinations for bands wanting to record their music with the aid of professional sound engineers.

With many hundreds of bands and singers in the area, the music economy flourished. Demand remained strong throughout this period, fuelled by the ambitions of a large market of amateur bands and singers, rappers and musicians who funded their musical aspirations from their own pockets, in the majority of cases.

Botown 2015
Botown 2015

Broadcast media also saw many ratio stations playing local music. Between 2005 and 2014, BBC Radio Leicester provided air-time for many local music acts. Changes in policy meant that local music diminished in significance from 2014 onwards. Independent stations such as Takeover and Demon FM played an important part in giving exposure to local music acts. Some very localised stations also provided air play for local acts, such as Hermitage FM in the north west of the county. Radio 2-Funky was available on-line and this radio station was probably the best for hip-hop, Funk and African and Caribbean sounds. With the rise of broadband on the Internet, Podcasts began to make an appearance as an alternative to live broadcasting. John Sinclair (previously a radio presenter for the BBC) began a series of regular podcasts featuring local bands and artists.

Music publishing had a chequered history during this period. The only paper-based magazine devoted to local music that ran for an appreciable length of time was The Monograph. On the Internet Arts in Leicestershire provided a magazine-style website from 2005 onwards until it was replaced in 2013 by Music in Leicester, having split off its music content from the remaining outlet devoted to the arts and history. In 2014 a project called ‘Leics TV ‘ was started. Leicestershire TV stated on its web site: ‘The aim is to make Leicestershire the most video connected county in Britain.’ Its founder, Rob Potter, said “The way we consume TV is changing. Technology will allow us to watch what we want, when and wherever we choose. Other than the big budget and mass audience films and programmes, most TV will be online content that we can easily search for on platforms like that meet our needs and interests”. A general arts and creatives magazine From Dusk to Dawn also featured music and musicians during its lifetime as a paper-based outlet.

Many music-related websites were founded from 2005 up to the present day. Many people remember that Pineapster was, in its day, the foremost website and forum for local music, a position that it held until the rise of Facebook.

Leicester’s music economy comprised venues, festivals, music stores, a wide range of services for bands and singers, media broadcasting, publishing and specialised services catering for the needs of musical acts. One thing that the local area lacked was professional music management. Very few individuals became music or band managers. It is true that many people acted as the managers for bands and singers, but this was almost always in a part-time capacity. Many bands were managed by the parents of musicians in them. The creation of music management agencies in the area was almost unheard of.

It is difficult to give a reliable and credible picture of Leicester’s music economy between 2005 and 2014. Few surveys were ever undertaken to provide quantitative data. In July 2012 a report was published by Leicestershire Music Education Hub. One of its stated aims was: ‘The Hub will also act as an advocate for music education, encouraging participation in music and providing innovations in delivery locally to improve music making for and by children and young people.’ Leicester-Shire Music Education Hub was a partnership of over 30 organisations as well as all schools, both Local Authorities and the Leicester-Shire Schools Music Service. National and regional partners included The Philharmonia Orchestra, The Darbar Arts Culture and Heritage Trust, Sinfonia ViVA and Soft Touch Arts Ltd. Other partners range from charitable trusts, community arts organisations, small businesses, national providers of music equipment and technology, colleges and choral groups, the report stated. Holding a wide brief, where music was concerned, the report was mainly concerned with education. Ambitious though it was, its impact is unclear and little data was provided about music in the local community. The inclusion of Soft Touch arts linked it to the community; this organisation had an important role to play throughout this period and included music alongside a wide range of other youth-related activities.

The music economy was amplified by the existence of a number of night clubs. The role of Streetlife has already been referred to above. Many people will remember places such as Mosh and The Fan Club as being destinations where recorded music was played by DJs and very rarely these venues also put on live bands. Mosh opened in 2003 and was, at one time, a very popular choice for the city’s students.

THE CARMAN by Bourne, , Choreography and Direction - Mathew Bourne, Music- Bizet, Designs - Lez Brotherston, Churchill Theatre, Bromley, London, UK, 2015, Credit - Johan Persson
THE CARMAN by Bourne, , Choreography and Direction – Mathew Bourne, Music- Bizet, Designs – Lez Brotherston, Churchill Theatre, Bromley, London, UK, 2015, Credit – Johan Persson

In addition to the regular gigs offered at the eight to ten permanent live music venues in this period, a variety of events were held that attracted large audiences to hear bands and singers. In particular, the Original Bands Showcase (known as the ‘OBS’) ran from 2004 through to the present day and resulted in one band becoming the overall winner in each year. The OBS was organised by VJT Promotions; a similar series called obsUnplugged was also organised, each year, to feature singers, acoustics groups and solo artists. Early on its time, OBS heats were held at The Shed music venue; more recently, all its events have taken place at The Musician. Other competitions and battle-of-the-bands type series were also held. Mention was made earlier of Play@LMF, in which bands competed for a place at the Leicester Music Festival in 2014. Several such events were held at The Shed and at the little cafe used as a music venue from time to time – The Pavilion on Victoria Park. A series called Empire Band of the Land was held; it was an independently promoted series of shows that took place at a variety of venues. These competitions had a varied effect on the music economy and their role within it has been controversial. It could be argued that such series of shows increased audience attendance at the venues in which they were held and that this was of benefit to the local music economy. In many cases, participating bands were required to sell as many tickets as they could for their performances as part of the deal. A series called Wanna Be A Rockstar was held at The Shed, promoted by David Norris. Also at The Shed, the Glastonbudget Music Festival held its annual auditions and, at these shows, organisers selected the bands and artists they wanted for their festivals. One of the requirements of these auditions was that a band or act should demonstrate its popularity by selling at least twenty tickets for their performance. It can be argued that such events increased ticket sales at venues, but this could have had a detrimental effect on other gigs held on the same nights. A considerable amount of debate has taken place about the pros and cons of such live music events with people being for or against them, in principle.

I have written before on the subject of Leicester’s music economy; see for example my article The economics of local live music, published in 2010 on my blog.

also in that year I wrote an article: What makes a good live music scene?, in which many of the issues concerning the local music industry were discussed on my blog.

So far I have focused on what might be called ‘western rock music’ and have not talked about the music of the many other cultures that contribute their own music to the life of the city. In particular, the Indian community is very music-friendly and large numbers of events took place that featured Indian bands and singers. Bollywood in particular played an important role in the music life of that community. Leicester’s African and Caribbean community played a major part in the existence and development of the city’s music both locally and at national level. in November 2013, the film 40 Years Of Black music in Leicester was celebrated with its premier at Phoenix arts. A review of this was published by Arts in Leicester

Jonezy at The Abbey Park Fireworks, supporting The Vamps
Jonezy at The Abbey Park Fireworks, supporting The Vamps

A number of Leicester born artists, or those that came to live in the city, contributed to recognition of our local music, during this period. Sam Bailey (who lived and worked in Leicestershire) won the popular television series The X-Factor in 2013. In the programmes that were broadcast in the run-up to the final show, she was seen talking about her job as an officer at Gartree Prison. Although Sam was born and grew up in London, she moved to Leicester and was resident here at the time she won the show.

Singer Sam Bailey will be appearing at Leicester Pride 2015
Singer Sam Bailey will be appearing at Leicester Pride 2015

Many other famous names in music are associated with Leicester and Leicestershire. Engelbert Humperdinck has frequently been quoted as a resident of the county. Kasabian is a world famous band, whose members – in particular Tom Meighan and Serge Pizzorno – attended Countesthorpe College. The Displacements, at one point signed to Rough Trade Records, came from Blaby. Many local bands went on to have careers of national importance; including, for example, Family, Gaye Bykers on Acid, Showaddywaddy, Diesel Park West, Gypsy, Cornershop, The Dallas Boys, Prolapse and many others. Laurel Aitken, the singer, lived in Leicester. John Illsley, the bass player from Dire Straights, was born in Leicester. Lisa Lashes, the internationally renown DJ lives in Leicester. Jon Lord was born in the city and was a noted musician and composer, best known for forming the band Deep Purple. Mark Morrison achieved notoriety as a singer. The list goes on and many distinguished musicians, singers and bands were listed on the web page published by Visit Leicester in their list of famous people

Lisa Lashes on stage in 2014
Lisa Lashes on stage in 2014

A singer who lives in Leicester, Carol Leeming, has become nationally renown for her music as as well as for her contribution to literature and the arts.

The achievements of these artists, connected with Leicester, has contributed to the national significance of the city and county and this has had a positive  impact on the local music economy.

The Bands

During this period, Leicester (and its surrounding county) had many bands; so much so, that I once said that Leicester had more bands per head of population than any comparably-sized city. Between the years 2005 and 2014, I published lists of bands from Leicester.

The current bands list is on the Music in Leicester magazine website.

Radio Active at the Shed Young Bands night 29th May 2014
Radio Active at the Shed Young Bands night
29th May 2014

As part of the Archive Project, I plan to publish lists of bands from previous years. For more about this see Music in Leicester.

Lists of Leicester bands are hard to come by on the Internet; the lists published by Arts in Leicester magazine and later Music in Leicester are a rare resources for those who are interested in contemporary bands from the city and county.

Some of the articles in this series will refer to specific bands. Providing a comprehensive analysis of bands would be an exhausting exercise. One resource (for those interested in Leicester bands) for the period 2013 to 2015 would be Music in Leicester website.

In Leicester bands play all genres of music; including, for example, indie, pop, metal, ska, post-hardcore, hard rock, reggae, punk, pop-punk, jazz, blues, electronica, psychedelic… there is hardly a style of music that is not presented in what local bands play.

Alongside rock, music acts also play hip-hop, rap, acoustic and other musical genres. Leicester is also home to many singers and solo artists whose music ranks alongside those of bands. For both live and pre-recorded music, Leicester has an outstanding and prolific offering.

Musicians playing at the opening of the Food Hall in 2014
Musicians playing at the opening of the Food Hall in 2014

More to come

This article has cantered through the content and has omitted a great detail of detail. My aim in publishing this article (and those that will follow) is to stimulate interest in the subject of Leicester’s musical history. This interest will, I hope, lead to more information being submitted that can, eventually, be added to my proposed book on this subject.

If readers wish to contribute anything, I suggest that the best way of doing this is to log on to Facebook and post to my personal page 

I have also made a group on Facebook called Leicester Music History, where information is posted about the progress of my work and other contributions are welcomed.


References referred to in the articles are given on a separate page


In my next article in this series, I will be looking at the period 1990 to 2005.

[This article was published on 7th August 2015. It was subsequently updated on 21st August to add some new material and to to make some corrections]

See also:

Music and technology (an article that forms part of this series)

What’s On In Leicester

News about the City Festival and Cosmopolitan Carnival

News just in

News about arts and heritage

A look at our sizable in-tray of press releases and announcements.

22nd January 2016

Moon Song at Curve

Leicester’s Curve theatre have partnered with Remploy to fund three performances of Bamboozle Theatre Company’s Moon Song, to be performed in its Studio at no cost to the audience on Mon 1 Feb. The intention behind these free performances is to offer assistance to young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) who are making the often difficult transition from childhood to adulthood.

Moon Song is an enchanting, space themed Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) production telling the story of Megan, who falls asleep and dreams of travelling to the moon. This production is carefully designed to accommodate the wide range of abilities within the autistic spectrum, through Bamboozle’s trademark interactive style.

The performances are part of a series of activities hosted at Curve and leading up to the Local Offer Live event which takes place at Curve on Wed 3 Feb.

Curve’s Chief Executive, Chris Stafford, said:

“Following the success of our recent Relaxed and Dementia Friendly performances of Oliver! our commitment to making theatre accessible to all is stronger than ever. We are thrilled to be working with Remploy to stage these performances of Bamboozle’s Moon Song for young people with SEND. It’s really important to us that Curve is renowned as a theatre where everyone can engage with the arts, and we look forward to welcoming special needs schools and SEND practitioners from across Leicester to these performances.

26th October


Organisers of the annual Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival are launching their search for the best Silver Stand Up Comedians. The Silver Stand Up Competition, organised in partnership with Silver Comedy and supported by Jasper Carrot, Arthur Smith and Sir Bruce Forsyth, will take place on Thursday 18th February as part of the annual Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival. Comedians aged over 55 are encouraged to enter for the chance to win the 2016 title. The deadline for the competition is Friday 8th January 2016 and further details are available by contacting
Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival set up the competition in 2012 to provide a showcase for older comedians. The first competition was won by Shelley Bridgman who continues to gig regularly across the UK and has helped launch the BBC search for the best script that promotes a positive portrayal of transgender characters. The 2013 winner was Marc Lucero, who regularly gigs across London and has appeared on BBC Breakfast News. On winning the competition, Marc said “I want to change the perceptions people have of the elderly and by winning this award I have proved that humour transcends age. Now we need to convince audiences that silver comedy is just as edgy and exciting as seeing the young bucks. Winning the Silver Silver Stand Up Award also proves it is never too late to start a new career.” The 2014 competition was won by comedian Peter Callaghan, who recently returned from performing as part of Old Folks Telling Jokes at the Edinburgh Fringe, and in 2015 the competition was won by Ed de Cantor. Ed had given up performing stand up aged 40, thinking he was “too old”. On winning the competition in 2015, he said “I am completely over the moon. Winning this competition is a dream come true.”

17th September 2015

Proposals set to transform Leicester’s Market

LEICESTER’s outdoor market could be set for a stunning transformation if new proposals are given the go-ahead.

City Mayor Peter Soulsby is considering major investment in the 800 year-old market, to ensure it is fit for the future and to complement the ongoing redevelopment work in the area.

The improvements would follow the construction of a new public square on the site of the old indoor market, and the repaving of the roads surrounding it, but would take priority over an extension to the Corn Exchange building.

Initial proposals for the outdoor market are to give it a fresh new look, with improved stalls, better lighting and new signage.

The revamp could include changes to the roof to make it more transparent, and the installation of LED lighting, which would save energy and reduce costs.

Shoppers and traders will be consulted on the proposals as part of the detailed design process, and it’s expected that final designs will go to the City Mayor for approval early next year.

City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “It’s clear that the work we’ve already done at the market has made a huge difference, with the new food hall providing customers with the attractive shopping environment they want.

“The creation of a new public square and improvements to the roads and pavements around the market will really transform the area, but they will also highlight the poor quality of the outdoor market.

“I am therefore proposing that improvements to the market should take precedence over the Corn Exchange extension, which is something we could look at again in the future when we have seen how the new public square is being used.

“The market has been a significant feature of the city for hundreds of years, and we need to ensure it retains that position for many more years to come.”

Consultation on the proposals for the outdoor market will begin in the next few weeks.

Project manager Mike Dalzell said: “We have a lot of preparation work to do to move utilities and carry out necessary changes to the highways, but our aim is for construction of the new square to begin in the new year and finish by autumn 2016.”

The first phase of the market redevelopment was completed in May 2014, with the opening of the bright and airy new food hall.

The food hall has already won several awards, including Best Food Market from the National Markets Association (NABMA) and Best New Building from the Leicester Civic Society.

[Source: Leicester City Council]

28th August 2015

Everybody’s Reading

Everybody’s Reading- September 26th – October 4th

This annual festival is packed with over 140 events in 60 venues over nine days. Libraries around Leicester will be taking part, hosting numerous events – these include: local author Bali Rai will be at New Parks Library to talk about his passion for football and books; listen to scary stories and get creative with book illustration workshops at Fosse Library; at Beaumont Leys Library we have Toddler Tales with stories for younger library visitors all about Autumn Animals, and at Evington Library we have Under The Sea where fishy tales will come to life.  Watching the Detectives and John Martin (Leicester’s ‘Mr Crime’) are two of the events at Central and Hamilton Libraries for crime readers out there.

Booster Cushion Theatre for Children will also be at Fosse, Westcotes, Pork Pie and Brite Centre libraries with their show for young children and parents – Big Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

This year also sees the welcome return of BLAM!, our promotion of all things comic-related. The event at Central Library on Wednesday 30th September is a slight change to the one advertised in the brochure in that we are excited to be hosting a talk by comic-writer, Jamie Delano.

Jamie has written for 2000AD and DC Comics, as well as titles such as Dr Who, Captain Britain and Hellblazer. If you have an interest in comics, either as a reader or a writer then this event is for you.

For more events and details on how to book plus ticket prices pick up a festival guide or download it at

28th July 2015

New film about Children’s Comedy

Sceene from Kenton Hall's film A Dozen Summers
Scene from Kenton Hall’s film A Dozen Summers

Leicester’s writer and director Kenton Hall is behind a new film. As the website asks:

Are you 12 years old? Have you ever been 12 years old? Are you planning to be 12 years old at some point in the future? If so, then this is the film for you. “A Dozen Summers” is a comedy about what it’s really like to grow up in the 21st century. Get ready to enter the world of Maisie and Daisy McCormack, twin sisters who have just hijacked a children’s film in order to tell their own story. Or possibly one about a ghost girl who eats teachers. They haven’t decided yet.

See the website for A Dozen Summers

The film will be screened at Phoenix from 21st August

6th July 2015

Plans for riverside Development

PLANS for a major programme of work to improve access to Leicester’s riverside have been announced.

Leicester City Council has teamed up with the Environment Agency and the Canal & River Trust to help enhance the river corridor through the city, as part of a wider programme of work to reduce flood risk.

The programme of improvements has been awarded up to £1.5million from the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP) Local Growth Fund, with £850,000 of this earmarked for a first phase of projects along the River Soar and Grand Union Canal due to begin over the next year.

The improvements are being match-funded by the Environment Agency, which has been awarded £33milllion of Government funding for a five-year programme of flood risk management in the city.

The Canal & River Trust has also allocated £500,000 towards the project, which will fund important maintenance, including ongoing dredging works, to help ensure the waterways are accessible, attractive and welcoming.

A new cycle link along the river between Loughborough Road and Thurcaston Road will be created, and plans are being drawn up to improve and extend the cycleway between the river and the Great Central Railway.

The Environment Agency will also undertake a five-year, £6million programme of flood relief in the Abbey Meadows area from next year. This will include culverts under Thurcaston Road and Loughborough Road, new cycle links, creation of new wetland and woodland areas, and other environmental improvements.

The Canal and River Trust will improve the existing towpath along the Grand Union Canal from the city centre to Watermead Park.

The programme also includes creating better access to the riverside at Sock Island, environmental improvements around Willow Brook, restoration of the old, redundant mill race at Frog Island, and new boat mooring alongside Friars Mill.

Read more about this

3rd July

Festival of Archaeology

Jewry Wall Museum will be hosting a series of special events as part of the city’s two-week Festival of Archaeology.

The museum will be helping to celebrate the city’s rich archaeological heritage with guided walks, talks, displays and family-friendly activities.

The 2015 Festival of Archaeology runs from 11-26 July, but kicks off with a preview event at the University of Leicester on Saturday (4 July). Staff from the city council’s museums service and volunteers from the Friends of Jewry Wall Museum will be on hand at the event, offering activities including coin striking and marching drills with a Roman soldier.

On Sunday 12 July, visitors to Jewry Wall Museum can join in with a free ‘Romans and Barbarians’ day. It will include the chance to watch a Roman army on parade, see demonstrations of Roman arms and armour and strike your very own Roman coin.

There will also be craft activities, family games and an exciting finale to the event when a Barbarian warrior queen arrives on her war chariot to defy the might of Rome.

Daily from 12-26 July, the museum will run tours of Leicester’s Roman bath house, with replica objects to handle. Tours take place from 12-12.50pm each day.

On 18 July, at 2pm, there will be an illustrated talk and book-signing from Gareth Williams, curator at the British Museum, on the topic of Viking warfare in the light of new discoveries. Tickets are £5 and can be booked on 0116 225 4971.

And as a finale to the festival, the museum will host a Viking warfare day on Sunday 26 July. A full Viking encampment will be set up amidst the Roman ruins of Leicester, just as it might have looked in the 9th century, when these lands fell under Viking rule. Admission is £2 for adults, £1 for children.

Cllr Piara Singh Clair, assistant city mayor responsible for culture, heritage, leisure and sport, said: “I’m really pleased that our staff are able to work so closely with the dedicated volunteers from the Friends of Jewry Wall Museum to put on so many great events for the Festival of Archaeology.

“These family-friendly events mean everyone can get involved in celebrating Leicester’s rich archaeological heritage.”

Find out more about the Festival of Archaeology 2015

Find out what to do at Leicester’s museums

1st July

St. Nicholas Circle gets revamp

improve pedestrian and cycling routes around Leicester’s St Nicholas Circle will enter its final phase next week.

The ambitious £1.7milllion scheme has already seen improvements completed on the south side of the busy junction. Wider pavements and a new cycleway have been constructed from Peacock Lane to St Augustine Road, where a lane of traffic has been removed.

A new cycle lane has also been created on the Southgates northbound slip road, and work to create a new entrance into the award-winning Castle Gardens is almost complete.

The project will now move on to the Jewry Wall side of St Nicholas Circle from Monday (6 July).

Existing footpaths will be widened and re-laid with high-quality block paving to create a joint-use footpath and cycleway. The number of traffic lanes will be unchanged on this side of the roundabout.
This stage of the project will also see the Harvey Walk footbridge, which spans the roundabout passing between the NCP car park and Holiday Inn, taken down. Work to create a new surface-level footpath in its place will take place next year.

The scheme is part of the Connecting Leicester programme and will create more attractive routes from the city centre to attractions like Castle Gardens, the Roman Jewry Wall and St Mary de Castro Church, which all lie outside the 1960s ring road.

22nd June

Reading for everyone

The programme for Everybody’s Reading festival is very, very close to being finalised. With a multitude of events taking place all over the city, there is definitely going to be something for everyone to enjoy. There are plenty of free events taking place in libraries, cafes, community centres and many more.

Highlights of this year’s festival include an exclusive schools only performance from Countryfile and Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton at one lucky school in Leicester, as well as children’s book-themed days at Gorse Hill City Farm, smelly perfume poetry workshop from the people who brought Lush to the High Street, crime writers, story tellers, poets and so many more workshops, exhibitions and readings.  There will be loads of opportunity to get involved with something to do with reading!

Everybody’s Reading 2015 runs from Saturday 26th September until Sunday 4th October 2015. Everybody’s Reading is a nine day festival taking place in over 80 venues across Leicester City including community centres, schools, cafes, bars, arts venues, libraries and museums.

The festival, now in its fifth year, is organised by the School Development Support Agency (SDSA) and is an off-shoot of the ‘Whatever it Takes’ initiative (see separate bullet point for more information on this initiative). The aim of the festival is to get Leicester reading by encouraging people to hear and attend spoken word, poets, authors and community writers.

Find out more from the Everybody’s Reading website

23rd June

The Damask Rose

A CENTURIES-old local tradition as kept alive when the Lord Mayor of Leicester attended the Damask Rose ceremony on 24th June.

The Lord Mayor, Cllr Ted Cassidy,  marked the annual custom when he received the symbolic peppercorn rent of a Damask Rose and four old pennies from the landlord of O’Neill’s, a pub in  in Loseby Lane.

The Lord Mayor said: “This is a local custom that dates back hundreds of years and I am delighted that we are continuing and protecting the tradition.”

Steve Thorn, landlord of O’Neill’s Leicester, said: “We here at O’Neill’s are happy to keep up this long-standing tradition and hope we can build on it in the future.”

Dating back to the 1600s, the Damask Rose ceremony survived until 2001 when the O’Neill’s chain took over the pub. The former Lord Mayor, Colin Hall, was instrumental in re-instating the ceremony in 2010.

In keeping with tradition, the Damask Rose ceremony takes place to coincide with the Feast of St John the Baptist and representatives from the Gild of Freemen of the City of Leicester will also be present.

11th June

Magna Carter celebrated

THE 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta was marked in Leicester with a packed programme of events. From Saturday, 13th June, people were able to find out how the medieval charter helped lay the foundations for the democracy we know today – and could learn how a baron with links to Leicester helped ensure the Magna Carta was sealed in 1215.

A an exhibition at the Guildhall – featuring a reproduction of the British Library’s copy of the Magna Carta – revealed the origins and impact of the charter, while an event at Leicester Market, on Saturday 13 June,  included medieval butter-making, traditional sweet-making and an appearance by the medieval rat-catcher.

The medieval Guildhall  – Leicester’s first town hall – hosted a Magna Carta day on Sunday, 14th June, when the Lord Mayor of Leicester talked to visitors about his role and local democracy, after musical performances from comedian Anthony King.

On Monday 15th June there was an opportunity to meet Baron Saer de Quincy – the rebel Leicester baron who helped ensure that King John accepted the terms of the Magna Carta. Baron de Quincy was joined by musicians from the Medieval Music Wagon at the special event at Leicester Market on Monday – the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta.

The event also celebrated the standardisation of weights and measures – enshrined in the Magna Carta – with a selection of old Leicester weights, measures and scales on display in the window of the market’s customer service centre.

“The Magna Carta enshrines many of the things we take for granted today, particularly the rule of law and the principle that nobody can act above the law,” said City Mayor Peter Soulsby.

More news updates will follow in due course.


Cultural Quarter

Leicester’s Cultural Quarter

The Regeneration years

by Trevor Locke

March 2015

The area in Leicester’s city centre that is known as The Cultural Quarter, has undergone substantial changes since it received its title. The area was called St. Georges, after the church that still stands in the vicinity. The area was urbanised between 1741 and 1857.  In 1989, St. Georges was designated a conservation area which was enlarged in 2003 and again in 2010. The area was at one time an important focus for industry and commerce and many factories and warehouses dominated the streets.

Urban regeneration

The run down St. George’s area with its many empty factories became the haunt of drug addicts, homeless people and criminals. The approach of the Council was to attract private developers to come in and bring all these empty factories back into use. The Exchange Building in Rutland Street (the former telephone exchange), Queen Street Apartments, St. George’s Mill, The Fair Brothers building at Alexandra House, and other city centre properties became flats and apartments for the growing number of students coming to the new De Montfort University as well as the growing number of young professionals finding working in the city’s growing design, digital and arts businesses. The large factory at the end of Wimbledon Street was converted into apartments known as St. George’s Mill.

The St. George’s area was transformed from one of run-down, empty factories and warehouses into one of residential, leisure and small business opportunities. On the outskirts of the area, the old Charles Street police station was converted into swanky offices.

City Council review

In 2008, the City Council undertook a review of what it called ‘The St. George’s Conservation Area.’  The Council, at that time, had 24 conservation areas.  The city was at the time complying with requirements to regenerate the inner city and had formed a regeneration company to do this. St. George’s had been designated as a regeneration area in 1989. In 2000 central government published its Urban Regeneration white paper. All across the UK, city centres were becoming run down and many large buildings became empty as businesses moved away or lost trade to foreign competitors.

As businesses went bust (or lost their trade to foreign competition) or moved away, Leicester inner city became increasingly run down and blighted.  Many of the once prosperous hosiery and knitwear factories became empty. The Council began to develop a vision of making the St. George’s Conservation Area into a ‘Cultural Quarter’ – the name that is now bears. The area was noted at that time for its ‘fine heritage of Victorian buildings.’ Not all the properties in the St. George’s area were fine; many were commercial slums and a number of these were demolished to make way for the site now occupied by Curve (which opened in 2008)  and Phoenix, the two flag-ship construction projects that are the icons of the Cultural Quarter.

Some interesting buildings


Curve designed by Raphael Vignoly
Curve designed by Raphael Vignoly

The centre piece of Leicester’s Cultural Quarter is CURVE, the name given to the new multi-million pound theatre designed by internationally renowned Rafael Viñoly Architects. Curve was the only new Theatre to be built in Europe in recent times. Opened by HM The Queen in November 2008, the building was given a prestigious award by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). It cost a staggering £65m to build and fit with the latest state-of-the-art equipment. With a main auditorium limited to 800 seats, critics saw the new theatre as being too small to attract many of the larger shows that now go to centres like Birmingham and Nottingham. Lauded by local councillors as “world class” and “iconic”, Curve now has a international reputation for its own productions and for touring shows.

The Church of St. George

1823-7. Architect William Parsons. Chancel built 1879 by Sir A. Blomfield. After a fire in 1911, the church was  restored by W. D. Caroe. The building is constructed in Ashlar in the  Perpendicular style, comprising: nave, north and south aisles, chancel and west tower with porches on each side. The aisles have battlements and crocketed finials at angles, gabled buttresses between tall windows with curvelinear tracery. West tower with twin ogee arch bell openings and clock face below in panelled frieze, panelled angle buttresses in three stages each gabled and topped by crocketed finial, pierced battlements. The tower originally had a spire. The galleries inside were destroyed in the fire of 1911 and not rebuilt. A place of worship with Grade II listing, it is now in use as a Serbian Orthodox place of worship in the centre of Leicester.

Deuce House

Deuce House in a building that stands at the corner of Wimbledon Street and Southampton Street. The name Wimbledon Street is said to commemorate military exercises by the Leicester Volunteers on Wimbledon Common around 1860. Sir Henry Halford was a Leicestershire man who formed a company of volunteer soldiers. He was also the first Chairman of the Leicestershire County Council. He was present at the formation of the National Rifle Association in 1861 at Wimbledon in London.  Originally it was built to house Deuce Designs, a knitwear company. The business that installed their factory in Deuce House must have associated Wimbledon with tennis (rather than with Rifle Shooting). Today the building contains 20 residential apartments. The planning application to convert the empty former hosiery factory into flats was put to Leicester City Council in May 1999.  The application was for the conversion of an existing four storey factory to 17 self-contained flats.  The applicant was a Mr. R. Ekaireb of London. The application was granted in July 1999. At the time the property was in Castle Ward. Deuce House overlooks both Wimbledon Street and Southampton Street; the latter was named after Lord Southampton (1804 to 1872). Previously it was called Brick Kiln Lane (up to 1843.)

The Atrium

In September 2000, another London-based company (Royalstone) applied to the City Council to convert an existing factory in Morledge Street, into 62 flats (car parking to be included.) The Application was approved in December 2000. The large three storey building in Morledge Street was converted into apartments called The Atrium.

Wimbledon Mills

In 2002, an application was made to convert another of the Wimbledon Street factories into flats.  This was known as Wimbledon Mills. This project was to provide 24 self contained flats between Deuce House and the next building down called, in the application,  ‘the former Cygnet hotel’ but later known as the Central Hotel the address of which is given as 57 Rutland Street (which at one time served as the Kosova Reception Centre.)

The Rowley Building (Queen Street Apartments).

In Queen Street, the large factory (The Rowley Building)  was converted into what we now call the Queen Street Apartments.’ It was formerly the knitwear factory of R. Rowley & Co, established in 1867 and was housed in this building from 1913 to 1999. The Rowley Building was home to R. Rowley and Co. Ltd which was established in a small building in Queen Street in 1867 by the 21-year-old framework knitter Robert Rowley. The warehouse burned down in 1911 and was rebuilt in 1913. The building was bought by Courtaulds in 1960s and closed in 1999. During the 1950s the company began to struggle with the decline of its fully-fashioned stockings and fully-fashioned knitwear departments following changes in fashion. In 1962 the family connection of the firm was severed with the retirement of the grandson and chairman of Rowley, Leslie C. Robertson, and in 1968, in common with wider trends of conglomeration, Rowley’s was bought out by the textiles giant Courtaulds. Masterminded by Frank Kearton, Courtaulds aimed to build a massive vertically-integrated textile empire consisting of a variety of textile businesses across the country, and later abroad. By the end of 1968 Courtaulds controlled around 20 per cent of the hosiery industry in Britain, and owned thirteen firms in the Greater Leicester area.

With reinvestment in plant, equipment and maintenance Rowley’s weathered the general decline in the hosiery industry experienced during the 1970s, and did not follow the movement of others out of the city centre to suburban industrial estates. This only prolonged the eventuality of decline, however, and by the 1990s the company struggled to compete with the lower production costs of the newly industrialising countries of the Far East. Courtauld’s payroll rapidly decreased from 80,000 in 1980 to 40,000 in 1986 then to 20,000 in 1994 as the group began to shutdown unprofitable subsidiaries. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s Rowley’s was a victim of these redundancies until finally, in 1999, the Queen Street location was closed altogether.

J. Herbert Marshall Music Depot

This building was constructed in the late 1870s for the wholesale and retail bookseller James Marshall. Not long after, in the 1880s, it was taken over by his son Joseph Herbert Marshall and used as a showroom for his piano wholesale business; its distinctive and impressive Victorian shop-front still survives today. The building now houses the Helsinki Nightclub.

The LCB Depot

The LCB Depot, B Block
The LCB Depot, B Block

The 1960s Leicester City Bus Depot at 31 Rutland Street was converted into a centre for business and the arts and now functions as The LCB Depot. It opened in July 2004. Not far from Curve and The Athena, is another new building, The Leicester Creative Business Depot. Converted from the entrails of the Leicester City Bus Depot, the two-block site now offers offices and studios for arts and creative businesses and organisations. It was in fact the birthplace of Arts in Leicestershire, when we had a studio there, three years ago (in the block shown in the above picture.)

Run by the City Council, the complex features rentable spaces, a cafe, an exhibition hall and meeting rooms. The project proved popular and nearly all of the units were filled within two years of the opening. The building housed the Leicester Comedy Festival and the organisers of the Caribbean Carnival were also based there for a while.

Makers Yard

Much later on, an old hosiery factory was converted into starter units for arts and crafts business – Makers Yard. The listed building is the oldest surviving hosiery factory in the East Midlands. It’s been sensitively restored into 10 studios which house a growing creative community of artists and designer-makers. In 1854 John Brown built a warehouse on the site and rented frame knitting machines. In 1862 Brown completed a complex of buildings and another warehouse. The hosiery industry was initially dominated by male workers, but women became a large portion of the work force when men left to first in the first world war. In the 1960s Leicester’s hosiery trade boomed and the city was said to ‘clothe the world.’ In the 1980s the building became known as the Charnwood Hosiery Factory. In 2002 the building became empty. It was granted Grade II listing status in 2006. As part of £1.05 million project – funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Leicester City Council – building was refurbished into a creative workspace. Period features such as cogs, wheels and original paintwork were retained to enhance the creative industrial feel of the building.

The Central Hotel

The one building that has escaped these developments is the Central Hotel, at the end of Rutland Street. Since being used as a hostel for refugees, it has stood empty and continued to be a blight on the area.


Phoenix, cinema and arts centre
Phoenix, cinema and arts centre

The new digital media centre, not far from CURVE, attracted sceptical comments about its location. The quality of its facilities and the inventiveness of its programmes is beginning to pay off. The centre in Morledge Street cost over £21 million and is a multi-use project including a cinema, work spaces for media businesses and apartments.


The Athena
The Athena

Standing right by the side of Curve, is The Athena Theatre. Converted from the 1938 Odeon Cinema, the Athena bears all the hallmarks of the Odeon Style of the 1930s. The re-vamped venue opened in 2005 and has a capacity of nearly 1,300 and now caters for shows, exhibitions, conferences and dinners.

Manhattan34 bar

Manhattan34 Bar
Manhattan34 Bar

Opened in September 2011, Manhattan 34 bar in Rutland Street is styled around the theme of the prohibition era in the 1920s. Run by Roop Kahlon and Chris Baker, the venue has a ground floor bar area and a basement room downstairs. Roop and Chris say they are “two of Leicester’s longest standing bartenders”. The ambience is fresh, clean and themed around the ‘roaring twenties’ in New York. Even the clocks are set to Manhattan Time. Hopefully they don’t call time by them! “No, we open and close according to Greenwich Mean Time”, Roop said.

The Soundhouse

The Soundhouse as it looked in 2011
The Soundhouse as it looked in 2011

At the back of the Leicester Mercury building stands one of Leicester’s new breed of live music venues. Occupying what used to be the old Queen Victoria public house, in Southampton Street, The SoundHouse opened in 2010 after an extensive refurbishment.
The old pub used to put on live music but the sound system and staging were less than adequate. The building stood empty for a couple of years, until new landlords moved in and invested in a considerable upgrade of the facilities, to turn it into the vibrant live music centre that we see today. A new stage was built, new production lighting was was fitted and a permanent sound system was installed. Whilst the main body of the building still retained the ambience of the twentieth century (and in some aspects, Victorian) pub, the performance area took on a whole new lease of life. In 2015 several refurbishments were made to the bar area.

Some of the material in this article was drawn from the old Arts in Leicester Magazine, articles published between 2011 and 2013.

This is an archive article

This page forms part of out archives

What a stroke of luck

23rd March 2015

What a stroke of Luck

The story of how King Richard III came to be buried in Leicester

Editor Trevor Locke looks at the life of Richard III and how his remains came to be discovered under a car park in Leicester.

Richard's statue with white roses placed by the public
Richard’s statue with white roses placed by the public

The bones of the mediaeval king, Richard III, were unearthed in the city of Leicester. If we ask ourselves why that happened, a remarkable story unfolds.

The week of 22nd to 27th March 2015 witnessed a series of events in Leicester that were of interest around the world. Tens of thousands of people converged on the city to see one of the biggest tourist attractions of the year; certainly for Leicester, if not for England.

The link between Richard and Leicester.

Part of the facade of Leicester Castle
Part of the facade of Leicester Castle

Richard III visited Leicester in 1483 when he stayed at Leicester Castle. Richard stayed at the castle in 1483 and wrote to the King of France, signing the letter ‘from my castle of Leicester.’  [Arts in Leicester]

During his short reign, Richard was continually on the move. He rarely stayed in the same place for long. He was either rushing round the country from one battle to another or attending meetings with nobles. These were turbulent times and there was continuing friction between the houses of York and Lancaster.

Why did the battle take place?

Richard was killed at the battle of Bosworth in 1485 at the age of 32. His life had been full of activities of one kind or another.  He was born into the House of York and to the Plantagenet dynasty – during the reign of Henry VI – in 1452, at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire. The period was marked by troubles and conflicts of interests – not uncommon in mediaeval times. When Henry VI died in 1471, the crown passed to Edward IV.  Likewise, when Edward IV died, his eldest son Edward was due to inherit the throne. Before that could happen, both Edward and his brother Richard were declared illegitimate. Under the law of time, this put paid to either one of them inheriting the crown. As the next person in line, with the strongest claim, Richard took the crown in 1483. Richard III might have been crowned King but there were many in the House of Lancaster who would like to depose him. Richard had close relatives who felt they too had a claim to the royal blood line.

In 1483, he became the Lord Protector of the realm, charged with looking after the affairs of the 12 year old King Edward V. Not only did he shoulder the complicated affairs of state but he also had to tackle rebellions by powerful nobles.  In July 1472, he married Anne Neville, daughter of the Earl of Warwick.  A couple of months earlier, in May, the Yorkists had defeated the Lancastrians at the battle of Tewkesbury. Even Richard’s marriage gained him enemies and he forced to give up part of his lands. The Pope even declared that his marriage was unlawful. When he was only nine years old, Richard was made Duke of Gloucester, a high status title in the ranks of the nobility. His lifetime saw many changes of land holdings and titles in the constant struggles between the houses of York and Lancaster.

Richard’s life was in a state of constant turmoil with battles, rebellions and power struggles  surrounding him throughout his life.

Why did the battle take place near to the small town of Market Bosworth?

Henry Tudor was so aggrieved about what Richard had done, by taking the crown in 1483,  that he raised an army with the intention of seizing the English throne and claiming it for himself. Henry and his army left France and landed in Wales. Richard’s scouts were sent out to report the movements of the Lancastrian army. When word of Henry’s invasion reached Richard III, he raised an army and headed out to fight Henry Tudor.  In August 1485, Richard III was at Nottingham when we heard of Henry’s invasion; Richard used Nottingham Castle as the headquarters of his army.

Richard’s army started to muster in Leicester on 16th August. Richard reached Leicester on 20th August; his aim was to prevent Henry Tudor from reaching London. The paths taken by the various armies lead them towards the Leicestershire town of Market Bosworth and it was near there they decided to pitch camp and prepare for battle the following day.

The site of the battle has become known as ‘Bosworth field’ but historians came to believe that it was actually fought on Ambion Hill, following writings in the 19th century. Archaeologists later decided on an alternative location, following detailed research of the area. This was close to the villages of Dadlington and Stoke Golding, to the south west of Market Bosworth. The area was a watery marshland.  By late afternoon, on the 20th August, Richard learnt from his scouts that the army of Lord Stanley was at Stoke Golding while William Stanley was at Shenton. Henry Tudor and his men were at Atherstone. The battle took place on 22nd of August; it lasted for about two hours and was over by noon.

During the battle, the 32 year old Richard was killed by two severe blows to the head. His body was stripped naked, thrown over the back of a horse and taken to Leicester.

After the king was killed, why was his body taken to Leicester?

Leicester was the largest big town; it was nearer to the scene of the battle than Nottingham. The victorious Henry, having been crowned king at Bosworth, wanted to reach London as soon as possible. Richard was buried in Leicester; but why not in London, where his wife Anne Neville was buried, after her death in March 1485, when she was interred in Westminster Abbey in an unmarked grave. Henry had to act quickly to keep ahead of the Yorkists who were all over the country.

King Henry feared that news of Richard’s death could cause civil unrest.  He decided that he needed to show people that Richard was dead. The corpse was taken to Leicester (rather than to Nottingham) and paraded through the streets.  His body was put on public display in the Church of the Annunciation, in The Newark, a Lancastrian collegiate foundation with which Henry Tudor had connections.

Leicester was known to be a place in which many people supported the House of York. Richard’s two visits to the town might have won him some friends and supporters there.  Henry Tudor knew that he would have to convince them that the king was in fact dead, if he was to avoid an uprising.

Richard was buried in the chancel of the priory church of the Grey Friars – a Franciscan priory that had stood in the centre of Leicester since 1230. The priory church had probably been built in around 1255. History writer Polydore Vergil records that the dead king was buried two days later without pomp or a solemn funeral.

He was buried by the Franciscan monks from Grey Friars  Priory. They dug his grave in the choir of their church, an appropriate position for someone of very high status. The choir was just in front of the high altar. Even the original stone commemorating Richard, was placed between the two sets of choir stalls in Leicester cathedral.  King Henry erected a tomb over the grave in 1495. We know very little what this tomb looked like, other than it was constructed from either alabaster or marble. After the dissolution of the Monasteries, the tomb disappeared and the site of Richard’s burial was lost for 500 years.

It is clear from the archaeological analysis of the skeleton and the earth in which it was found, that the king had been buried in a hurry. There was no detectable sign of a coffin, or even a shroud and the skeleton was lying in an odd position. Some believe that the body was still naked when the Friars placed it in the hole they had dug. It was however common practice to bury bodies naked but usually the dead were wrapped in a burial shroud or winding sheets.

Bear in mind that at this time, England was a catholic country; it would be nearly another fifty years before Henry VIII separated England from the church of Rome. After some years, Richard’s tomb was lost. During the reign of Henry VIII, the monasteries were dissolved and Grey Friars was dissolved in 1543.  Much of the stonework used in the building of the church was robbed away, some of it being used to repair the nearby church of St. Martins (at the time a parish church and now the cathedral.)

Richard III lies in repose
Richard III lies in repose

A story was told by the father of the architect Sir Christopher Wren, that whilst he walking in the garden that was once part of the Grey Friars Priory, accompanied by Robert Herrick,  they came across a pillar on which were inscribed the words ‘Here lies the body of Richard III sometime king of England.’

Why did they dig for the bones in a car park?

The Richard III Society had been bringing together people with an interest, in this enigmatic English king,  since 1924. With its numerous branches, located in various parts of the world, the Society’s aim had been to find the truth about a king who was surrounded by myth and legend. For more than 88 years the society tirelessly sought to find the monarch’s remains. The Society had plaques erected in various places to draw attention to Richard; they also had a stone, commemorating his death, placed in front of the altar of Leicester Cathedral.

In 1986, historian David Baldwin published an article about Richard’s grave in which he examined the historical evidence for where the king was buried and concluded that it probably lay underneath the St. Martin’s end of Greyfriars Street – almost exactly where it was in fact found 26 years later.

Leicester had the right experts to both conduct the dig and then to examine and analyse the finds. The excavation took place only a couple of miles from the University of Leicester. At the time that people were pointing their fingers at the car park in Leicester, prior to the commence of the dig,  the University was already acclaimed for two important areas of knowledge and expertise:  one was archaeology and history and the other was DNA. Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys discovered the technique for ‘genetic finger printing.’ He was the first person to produce a genetic finger print, in September 1984. Sir Alec’s work led to the development of this technique and it went on to be used in a variety of problem-solving fields. The  University of Leicester Archaeological Services team, an independent professional unit of archaeologists, embedded in the School of Archaeology and Ancient History,  was a prestigious outfit with a fine record for archaeological research . The existence of these two fields of expertise meant that the skills and knowledge required to dig for the remains of the long-dead king were available in the same city in which he was buried. Once the bones had been discovered, scientists at the local University where then able to apply their techniques to verify that he was in fact the long-lost monarch and to use mitochondrial DNA analysis to establish that these were in fact the remains of Richard III.

Had the car park site not been dug in 2012, it is possible that it would have been sold to developers and the site damaged by building work, the remains being either left undiscovered and built over or worse still disturbed by excavation for building foundations.

So, Leicester became the last resting place of a mediaeval monarch. A local university had all the technical skills and resources to both excavate his remains and to verify that the bones were in fact those of the long lost Plantagenet king.

That strikes me as being several strokes of luck.

Portrait of King Richard III
Portrait of King Richard III

See also:

Our article giving the background to the life and times of Richard III

The king’s remains arrive at Leicester Cathedral

Places of interest along the route of the procession

News about the reinterment

Our feature article on Richard III

Richard arrives at the Cathedral

Sunday 22nd March 2015

Richard III – the burial of the King – part 1

The king’s remains are brought to the Cathedral.

Trevor Locke reports on the transfer of the king’s remains from the University to the cathedral.

First edition, 23rd March

Today, the remains of the last Plantagenet king of England were brought to Leicester Cathedral in readiness for their re-burial on Thursday.


Crowds had gathered along the route of the funeral procession, not just in the Leicester but in the other places along the way:  Market Bosworth, Dadlington, Sutton Cheney, Newbold Vernon, Desford and Leicester Forest East. Some estimated that the crowds in the city were in excess of 35,000; more than double that number were present in the county along the route taken by the procession.

The hearse traveling through Leicester Forest East Photo by Kevin Gaughan
The hearse traveling through Leicester Forest East
Photo by Kevin Gaughan

It was bright afternoon, the sun shining down from a clear blue sky – which encouraged many people to turn out to view this historic moment in the life of the city and county.

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At the Clock Tower, a large screen was showing the live broadcast to masses of people who had assembled behind crash barriers that extended up to the top of the High Street and beyond.

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In Jubilee Square, another large screen was also broadcasting TV pictures to people who had assembled there.

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People choose all kinds of places to get a view of the procession as its passed.

Around St. Nicholas church people had filled every available position, long before the procession was due to arrive.


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The procession arrived at St. Nicholas Circle, led by the Mayors of Leicester and The Bishop of Leicester The Right Reverend Tim Stevens.

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Various other representatives of the city followed.

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In their red regalia, were the Guild of Freemen of the city.

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A band of Dhol drummers reflected the multi-cultural nature of today’s event.

KR3 March 22 for magazine 15

A large party of school children was carrying banners and flags that they had made.

The coffin was taken into St. Nicholas church, where a service was conducted.

The coffin was transferred to a horse-drawn gun carriage for the next leg of its journey around the city.

Overhead, helicopters hovered, high in the sky, their rumble troubling the otherwise fairly quiet scene below.

17: 30

KR3 March 22 for magazine 4

In the ground outside the south entrance to Leicester Cathedral, the media was setting up a large number of camera points. Media from 19 countries were here to cover the event.

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Priests dressed in a variety of coloured vestments were getting ready for the service and officials scurried around attending to last-minute details.

An air of restless anticipation pervaded the grounds as people awaited the arrival of the king’s cortege.

As I was writing up my notes, a film crew from Channel 4 arrived in front of me. Philippa Langley, from the Richard III society was interviewed by news presenter Krishnan Guru-Murphie.

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Philippa Langley was the driving-force behind the search for the remains of the king which result in the discovery of the bones in a car park in 2012.

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Diocesan Press Officer Liz Hudson was busy organising the large corps of media representatives, talking on her radio and doing a great job keep the vast media machine rolling forward smoothly. Much of the work of organising this internationally televised event required minute attention to detail.

The slow-moving procession wound its way through the streets of the city before finally arriving outside the south gate of the Cathedral.


A single bell began to chime from the tower of the Cathedral. The procession arrived in Peacock Lane, two soldiers in full medieval armour leading the procession on horseback; they rode into the grounds and took up position in front of the south porch.

KR3 March 22 for magazine 19

Various dignitaries took up their positions and the University of Leicester handed over the remains of the king to the Anglican Bishop of Leicester. Richard Buckley, the Project Director of the Richard III dig at the University of Leicester, formally handed the legal document transferring the custodianship of the remains to the Bishop of the Leicester and his diocesan colleagues.

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The coffin has been brought from St. Nicholas church by a horse-drawn gun carriage. The procession of was led by two horsemen dressed in 14th century armour, representing the pageantry of the occasion.

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The gun carriage, pulled by four horses, stopped outside the gate.  Along the processional route, many members of the public had thrown white roses on to it, as it passed them by.

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The coffin was brought into the grounds and taken into the Cathedral. The plain casket was made from English oak by Michael Ibsen,  a cabinet-maker from Canada and one of the descendents of the King, whose mDNA helped to prove the authenticity of the bones.

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Inside the Cathedral many people had gathered, representing a wide cross-section of the many faiths of Leicester and its various communities. After almost 523 years the last remains of Richard III were brought to the Church of St. Martin, which was standing at the time he was buried in the chancel of Greyfriars Monastery.  After his death at the Battle of Bosworth, in 1485,  Richard was given a hasty burial in a small grave, where he remained until 2012 when a team of Archaeologists from Leicester University discovered his bones, underneath a car park in the nearby buildings of the social services department.KR3 March 22 for magazine 23

The gun carriage was pulled by four horses.

Although he reigned for only two years, Richard III’s time as king of England was marked by unrest and conflict between opposing factions. The Tudor dynasty, whose king – Henry – vilified the deceased monarch.  Shakespeare (the favoured playwright of Elizabeth I) was instrumental in creating the myth that surrounded Richard, through his play Richard III.

The coffin of the king will be buried in a specially constructed tomb on Thursday 26th March.

See also:

Our feature article that gives the background to the life and times of Richard III

Our article that gives information about the various places that the procession went to or passed by

News and information about the reinterment events

Guide to procession route

20th March 2015

Background to the Richard III Processional Route in the City

Based on information provided by The Diocese of Leicester.

1) Bow Bridge

This bridge, built in 1863, replaces the original Bow Bridge that existed in medieval times.

The Bow Bridge and the Richard III Story

For the people of Leicester, the Bow Bridge has always had great significance to the Richard III story. King Richard crossed the bridge when leaving Leicester on his way to do battle at Bosworth and his corpse was brought back by the same route following his defeat. There was also a story that, after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, Richard III´s body was dug up by an angry mob and thrown into the River Soar.  This story, now disproved, is recalled on the plaque near the bridge erected by Benjamin Broadbent, a local builder, in 1856.

A white rose on Bow bridge
A white rose on Bow bridge

When the old bridge was demolished in 1861, the new bridge was designed by the city as a memorial to Richard III, its ironwork depicting the white rose of York, the Tudor rose, Richard´s White Boar emblem and Richard´s motto “Loyaulte me Lie” (Loyalty Binds Me). English place-names ending in -cester, often indicates that the place is the site of a Roman castra (a military camp or fort, but it can also apply to the site of a pre-historic fort.)

A red rose on Bow Bridge
A red rose on Bow Bridge

The Legend of the Old Woman and the Prophesy

According to folklore, King Richard´s spur struck part of the bridge as he rode out to Bosworth. An old woman watching his departure then predicted that when he returned to the town, his head would strike the same point on the bridge.  It is said the prophesy came true when the king´s corpse was brought back to Leicester slung over a horse.  This legend is recalled on plaques on the bridge.

2) Jewry Wall

The remains of the Roman bath house, known as 'Jewry Wall.'
The remains of the Roman bath house, known as ‘Jewry Wall.’

Ratae Corieltauvorum

Following the Roman Conquest of AD 43, Leicester or Ratae Corieltauvorum, as it was known, developed into an important Roman town. Many great public buildings were constructed including the baths in AD150. Today, the only visible reminder of Leicester´s Roman past is the remaining wall (of the baths complex) inaccurately known as ‘Jewry Wall.’ The wall is one of the largest pieces of Roman masonry still standing in Britain.

Roman life and the baths complex

Bathing was an important part of cultural and social life in Roman towns.  Bath-houses were places to exercise, relax, eat, socialise and make business transactions as well as getting clean. Access to the baths complex is thought to have been through the arches in Jewry Wall. You can discover more about the baths and Roman Leicester at Jewry Wall Museum.

The discovery of the Roman baths in the 1930s

Until the 1930s people believed Jewry Wall was part of a temple to Janus.  It wasn´t until 1936 when a factory was demolished to make way for new swimming baths that the Roman baths complex was discovered.  Pioneering archaeologist Dame Kathleen Kenyon led the excavations that were the first large-scale archaeological investigations of Roman Leicester.

3) St Nicholas Church

Leicester´s oldest place of worship

St Nicholas’ church is Leicester´s oldest surviving place of worship.  Built originally in Saxon times around the 9th or 10th centuries, it has been remodelled since but the original walls of the nave (main central hall) still remain. Other early features that can still be seen include Norman arches and the tower (added around the 11th century).

Roman connections

The church was built next to the surviving wall of the Roman baths, probably in use until the 4th century AD. Those who built the church clearly made use of Roman building materials as Roman tiles can be seen incorporated into Saxon windows on the north side and into the church´s facade. There are also Roman columns in the churchyard.

The changing fortunes of St Nicholas church

In the later Middle Ages St Nicholas was a poor church.  With no money for repairs, parts of the building were demolished after1600 and the spire was removed in 1805. In the 1950s and 60s slum clearance and new road schemes resulted in the parish losing most of its residents. After a brief spell as the Chaplaincy Church for both universities in the city, St Nicholas is now home to a congregation that values its membership of “The Inclusive Church Network”.

4) Jubilee Square
Was named Jubilee Square to mark the Queen’s 2012 visit to Leicester, the first stop on Her Majesty’s tour of Britain.
a. High Cross

The heart of medieval Leicester.  Markets were held here on Wednesdays and Fridays.  In 1577 the High Cross was built.  It provided shelter for traders, consisting of eight pillars in a circle holding up a dome.

The structure gradually fell into disrepair as the town developed and by 1773 most of it was pulled down to allow room for carriages to pass by.  Just a single pillar remained and a cross of granite set into the roadway now marks the spot where it once stood

b. Roman Forum and Basilica

Back in the 3rd century AD this area would have been the administrative and bustling commercial heart of Roman Leicester.  Beneath your feet lies what remains of the forum and basilica. To the west was the Jewry Wall public bathhouse and temple, to the north a macellum or market hall.
The forum was a large open square surrounded on three sides by colonnades containing shops. What remains of the colonnade can be seen at Jewry Wall Museum.  It would have acted as a market place as well as a centre for religious, social and political gatherings. It is likely the forum would have taken over 50 years to build.
On the fourth side of the forum was the basilica, a large aisled building which contained offices and would have served as Roman Leicester’s administrative and judicial centre.
It is thanks to the 21st century renaissance of Leicester and its new commercial and residential developments that we know so much about its ancient past. As old industrial buildings are demolished, archaeologists can move in to uncover evidence that gives us clues to what the city looked like over 2,000 years ago.

c. Wygston’s House

Built around 1490, this medieval house is now the oldest dwelling in the city.

Wyggeston's Hospital and Boys School, 1876
Wyggeston’s Hospital and Boys School, 1876

Who was Roger Wygston?

The initials RW appear several times on the painted glass panels belonging to this house, so we believe it was the home of Roger Wigston (1430 -1507), one of Leicester´s leading wool merchants. He was Mayor of Leicester three times as well as a Member of Parliament for the town.

The Story of the House

What you can see from the outside is a medieval timber hall overlooking a small courtyard. The front of the house (on Applegate) was rebuilt in 1796 in a more fashionable brick whilst the rear wing was added later in Victorian times over what was the medieval kitchen.

Why is the house important?

The Wigstons were a rich and important local family. William Wigston, Roger´s father, made the family fortune from the wool trade in the early 15th century. Roger´s nephew, also William, was a great benefactor of the town and founded Wyggeston Hospital in 1513 and later the Wyggeston schools.

5) Medieval Streets

Depiction of Leicester in the 15th century
Depiction of Leicester in the 15th century

Leicester´s medieval streets

Medieval Leicester lay within the old Roman walls. The town walls followed the lines of what are now Soar Lane, Sanvey Gate, Church Gate, Gallowtree Gate, Horsefair Street and Bath Lane in the West.  Four fortress-like gates provided the main entrances into the town known as North Gate, East Gate, South Gate and West Gate.

Today the area around Guildhall Lane, Loseby Lane and St Martins East and West gives a good impression of what medieval Leicester might have looked like with its densely built-up narrow streets.

The medieval High Street (now Highcross Street and Applegate) was the town´s main trading area and was lined with the houses of the wealthy and the more important inns.

What´s in a name?

Sanvey Gate – This is thought to be a corruption of Sancta Via (the Holy Way) and may have been a route for religious processions to St Margaret´s Church.

Loseby Lane – This is named after Henry de Loseby, a local 14th century landowner.  The cattle market was held here in the middle ages.

Gallowtree Gate – This derives from the road (“gata”) that leads to the gallows at the top of London Road

Cank Street – It is thought this is named after the public well that lay there

Butt Close Lane – The site of the town´s archery butts (a shooting field, with mounds of earth used for the target.)

Holy Bones – This name could be derived either from the discarded animal bones from the butchers trading close to St Nicholas Church or from the path leading to St Nicholas´churchyard. The 17th century scholar Edmund Gibson claimed the Romans built a temple here, dedicated to the god Janus. “An argument whereof is the great store of bones of beasts (which were sacrificed) that have been digged up,” he wrote. “On this account, that place in town is still called Holy Bones.”

Friar Lane – The lane runs alongside the site of a Franciscan friary, occupied by friars known as the “Grey Friars”. The Franciscan Friars (Orders of Friars Minor, often called the Grey Friars from the colour of their garments) came to England in 1224, around a year before the death of St Francis of Assisi, their founder. Friars differ from monks in that they are not a secluded community but work among the local people, on whose charity they are dependant. The nave of the friary church would have been accessible to the public, while the rest of the buildings were private. Medieval Leicester supported two other friaries, one Dominican and one Augustinian.

6) Highcross Street

a. Free Grammar School

One of the oldest schoolhouses in England

The school was built around 1573 using stone, timber and lead from St Peter´s church that had been demolished following an appeal to Queen Elizabeth I. The Royal coat of arms is displayed over the entrance.

What do we know of the pupils?

Remarkably, details of the school curriculum have survived. Pupils attended lessons six days a week with a half-day on Thursdays. Summer hours were 5am – 5pm with a two-hour break and in winter 7am-5pm. Subjects included English, Latin and Greek grammar and older boys were expected to speak Latin to each other.  At its height around 130 boys studied here but by the 1830s attendance had fallen dramatically as rival schools opened in the town. It closed in 1841.

Why is it important to the story of Leicester?

Thomas Wigston founded the school using money from his brother William´s estate.   You can see the name “Sir William Wigston” on the benefactors’ plaque on the Highcross Street side of the building. The Wigston family were great Leicester benefactors.

In later years the building was a carpet warehouse and a booking office for Barton Transport of Nottingham. It is now a bar and restaurant

b. The Blue Boar Inn (near to the site of the Travelodge)

On 20th August 1485 King Richard III spent his final night in Leicester at the Blue Boar Inn before riding out towards Bosworth to engage the forces of Henry Tudor in battle. He brought his own bed with him from Nottingham Castle, allegedly because he “slept ill in strange beds.” His bed was supposedly left at the inn, perhaps the intention being the king would return there after the battle.  The room he stayed in was described as a “large gloomy chamber” whose beams were decorated with representations of vine-tendrils.

What do we know of the Blue Boar Inn?

Built in the mid-15th century, the Blue Boar was one of Leicester´s principal coaching inns, a place where aristocrats and wealthy merchants would stay when moving around the county. Previously King Richard had stayed at Leicester Castle on his visits to the city but by 1485 the building was falling into disrepair.

Legend has it that the inn was originally called the White Boar, which was Richard´s emblem.  After the battle it is alleged that the landlord hastily painted the sign blue, a blue boar being the emblem of the Earl of Oxford, Henry Tudor´s chief supporter.

What remains of the Inn today?

Nothing remains of the Inn today however the University of Leicester have reconstructed a 3D model of what the Inn would have looked like from detailed plans found in a 19th century notebook.

7) High Street

a) The High Cross Coffee House, High Street (1895) now the Highcross pub

The High Cross Coffee House was designed by Leicester architect Edward Burgess, a Quaker. The exteriors of the coffee houses were deliberately ornate to attract customers.

Thomas Cook was a lifelong supporter of the “Temperance Movement” that encouraged people to give up drinking alcohol, believing drunkenness was the cause of many problems. Cook, a devout Christian, was a founder member, in 1877, of the Leicester Coffee and Cocoa Company Ltd. which set up 14 coffee and cocoa houses. Designed to keep people away from public houses, they provided affordable food and “nutritious, comforting and healthful beverages at the easy price of a penny a pint”.

The coffee houses, which were open to both sexes, were airy and comfortable with dining, reading and billiard rooms.

b) Coronation Buildings

Once described as a “jolly piece of commercial vulgarity”, the Coronation Buildings marked both the Coronation of Edward VII in 1902 and Britain´s continuing strong ties to its Victorian Empire.  The Leicester architect and philanthropist Arthur Wakerley, Mayor of Leicester in 1897, designed this Art Nouveau style building.  He also designed the Turkey Cafe on Granby Street.

A celebration of the British Empire

Building in Leicester's Victorian High Street
Building in Leicester’s Victorian High Street

Look up and you can see some panels with a Union Jack centre and animals representing parts of the Empire.  These are:
Africa – an ostrich, Australia – a kangaroo, Burma – an elephant, Canada – a mountain lion or cougar, Egypt – a camel, India – a tiger.

The Singer Building in Leicester's High Street
The Singer Building in Leicester’s High Street

How were the buildings used?

From their opening in 1904 until the mid 1960s the greater part of the Coronation Buildings was occupied by the main showroom and Midland head office of the Singer Sewing Machine Company.  It soon became popularly known as the “Singer Building”.

8) Gallowtree Gate

a) Clock Tower

The Clock Tower
The Clock Tower

Meet me at the Clock Tower!

Generations of local people have met at Leicester´s Clock Tower, one of the city´s best known and most iconic landmarks.

The first traffic island in Britain

The Clock Tower was built originally as a solution to traffic congestion on the site of the town´s former hay and straw market. Horse drawn vehicles all converged on the area known as the Haymarket from six streets, causing chaos. It was decided that “The Haymarket Memorial Clock Tower” would be constructed as the first traffic island in the kingdom.  The competition to design it was won by local architect Joseph Goddard. A bottle containing coins, newspapers and the names of the town´s Corporation was placed beneath the topmost stone when construction finished in 1868.  In 1903 tramlines were laid round the Clock Tower and the system of junctions was the most complicated in Britain.

A memorial to Leicester´s benefactors

The Clock Tower was intended as a memorial to four of Leicester´s benefactors, carved by the stonemason Samuel Barfield.

Simon De Montfort was Earl of Leicester in 1239 and is remembered locally for giving townsfolk grazing rights on common land and for lifting certain taxes.

William Wigston was a wealthy wool merchant. In 1513 he founded Wigston´s Hospital for the poor. Money from his estate was used to found a Free Grammar School (still standing on Highcross Street).

Sir Thomas White established a trust fund in 1542 known as the “Town Hundred” which helped many local young men start up in business.

Alderman Gabriel Newton set up a trust for the education, clothing and apprenticing of boys. The former Alderman Newton School is now the Richard III Visitor Centre.

b) East Gates Coffee House, Church Gate (1885) Now Cruise Clothing

The East Gates, opened by the duchess of Rutland in 1885, was described as “built in the domestic style of the 15th century, and both internally and externally much admired”.

Thomas Cook was a lifelong supporter of the “Temperance Movement” that encouraged people to give up drinking alcohol, believing drunkenness was the cause of many problems. Cook, a devout Christian, was a founder member in 1877 of the Leicester Coffee and Cocoa Company Ltd. which set up 14 coffee and cocoa houses. Designed to keep people away from public houses, they provided affordable food and “nutritious, comforting and healthful beverages at the easy price of a penny a pint”.

The coffee houses, which were open to both sexes, were airy and comfortable with dining, reading and billiard rooms.

c) Thomas Cook Building

The Thomas Cook building
The Thomas Cook building

Who was Thomas Cook?

Thomas Cook was the pioneer of popular tourism and founder of the international travel company Thomas Cook and Son. He was also a devout Baptist and Temperance (anti-alcohol) campaigner who died in Leicester in 1892. He is buried in Welford Road Cemetery.

How did the travel business start?

In 1841 Cook organised a Temperance excursion from Leicester to Loughborough on the recently opened Midland Counties Railway. More excursions followed and thanks to him in 1851 over 160,000 people went by train to see the Great Exhibition in London.  European tours began in the 1850s and in the early 1870s Cook himself conducted the first “round the world” tour. Panels on the exterior of this building show scenes from the history of the business including the Nile expedition of 1884 when Cook steamers assisted in the relief of Khartoum.

What do we know about the building itself?

The building was commissioned by Thomas Cook´s son, John Mason Cook, who took over from his father and was responsible for much of its success. The ground floor housed the excursion, tourist and shipping office alongside the foreign banking and exchange department. It was designed by local architects Goddard, Paget and Goddard and opened in 1894.

9) Leicester Markets

a) The Corn Exchange

Leicester's Corn Exchange building
Leicester’s Corn Exchange building

A touch of Italy in Leicester

The Corn Exchange, now a distinctive city landmark, was originally built as a place for dealing in grain in 1850.  The ground floor was designed by William Flint whilst the upper floor, bridge and clock tower were added by F.W. Ordish five years later. Ordish´s design was criticised at the time but today the Corn Exchange is a source of civic pride. Its distinctive venetian-style bridge or exterior staircase is often referred to as the “Bridge of Sighs”.

A building for trade, civic and judicial functions

Many Victorian towns built corn exchanges in market places for farmers and merchants to trade corn and grain to meet the demand for food created by the expanding urban population. They were often unsuccessful as traders preferred to use local inns and the importation of grain from America reduced usage still further. Leicester´s Corn Exchange continued to be used for civic and judicial functions however.

A stage for Leicester´s great civic events

The Corn Exchange provided a distinctive central point in Leicester.  Due to its size, and the fact its external staircase could act as a podium, it was used for a range of important meetings and occasions. Ramsay Macdonald used it for canvassing in the election of 1906 and a service to mark the coronation of George V was held there in 1911.  In 1931/2 the hosiery union used the Corn Exchange to broker a solution to the strike by Wolsey hosiery workers.

10)  Silver Arcade – Silver Street

An arcade for Victorian shoppers

During the 19th century, shopping arcades became fashionable.  Hoping to capitalise on their popularity, J.E. Hodding, a solicitor, commissioned local architect Amos Hall in 1899 to design one for him.

What is special about the Silver Arcade?

Silver Arcade has some unusual features, for example it is one of only two surviving Victorian arcades in Britain with four storeys.  Whilst shops lined the ground floor, the arcade is also unusual for its time in providing showrooms and offices, rather than apartments, on the upper floors. According to the original plans, WCs for women were provided at ground level only, as it was “not anticipated females will be employed above the ground floor”.  This assumption was soon proved wrong as tenants on the upper floors in 1906 included two tailoresses.

Who were the tenants of the Silver Arcade?

Local trades directories show that over the years units were occupied by haberdashers, drapers, tailors, boot manufacturers, confectioners, newsagents, tea and refreshment rooms, book sellers, singing teachers, hairdressers and rope makers as well as commercial travellers, estate agents, debt collectors and even a trades union.

Its future in doubt, Silver Arcade closed in 2000, but was able to re-open again in 2013 following an award-winning refurbishment that included two new lifts. It is now occupied by a range of independent retailers, specialist craft firms and a restaurant.

11) Granby Street – top end

a) Turkey Café – Granby Street

The Turkey Cafe
The Turkey Cafe

Turkey – country or bird?

The charming Art Nouveau-style Turkey Cafe was designed by local architect and former mayor Arthur Wakerley.  People at this time were fascinated by “orientalism” and the building reflects Wakerley´s interpretation of Turkish architecture. Turkey the country and turkey the bird are both themes woven into his design. The frontage of the building was covered in matt-glazed Carraraware made by the Royal Doulton company.

“A place to give rest to the body and pleasure to the eye”

Once finished, the Turkey Cafe was leased to the restaurateur John Winn, opening in 1901. The family continued to run it until the 1960s.  Cafes were popular in Edwardian times as they provided respectable meeting places for women and were promoted by anti-alcohol campaigners as an alternative to pubs

Advertisements from 1911 show that Winn´s had its own bakery and roasted its coffee each day “by the Most Efficient Mechanical Process Invented”. They claimed to serve “the finest coffee the world produces, roasted hourly, ground hourly, and retaining all its delicious aroma”

Changes to the Cafe

In 1911 the cafe was extended to provide a Smoke Room for gentlemen and extra tearooms. A “Ladies´ Orchestra” gave performances twice daily. The cafe regularly hosted social events and the meetings of local clubs and societies.  The building has been frequently remodelled, both inside and out, but in the 1980s Rayners (Opticians) restored the exterior using original architect drawings.

12)  Cultural Quarter
The emerging Cultural Quarter has transformed the St. Georges area of Leicester from the city’s former textile and shoes hub into a thriving area for creative industries, artists, designers and crafts people.

Curve designed by Raphael Vignoly
Curve designed by Raphael Vinoly

At the heart of the Cultural Quarter is the ultra-modern Curve Theatre, designed by international architect Rafael Vinoly. Curve has a growing reputation and one of the country’s leading producing theatres, including world premieres alongside shows direct from the West End.

Phoenix - cinema and digital arts centre
Phoenix – cinema and digital arts centre

Phoenix cinema, digital arts centre and café bar brings inspirational film and art through its varied events programme, exhibitions and educational activities. Phoenix is part of the Phoenix Square development, home to architects and designers in creative workspace units, creating a unique cultural environment. Phoenix have developed 2 apps to help reveal the hidden history of the Cultural Quarter – find out more about these apps on the Story of Leicester website.

Leicester Creative Business Depot
Leicester Creative Business Depot

The Leicester Creative Business Depot (LCB Depot) on Rutland Street provides incubator units for new and emerging creative businesses with the Fuel café for visitors.
Makers Yard, Leicester’s newest studio space for professional artists and designer-makers. Located in the oldest surviving hosiery factory in the East Midlands, the factory has been lovingly restored into a charming and purpose-built complex, ideal for practices such as fashion, textiles, ceramics and wood-working.
For art lovers there’s a developing connection of gallery spaces, with independent artist studios and gallery space, Two Queens, showcasing leading contemporary art in a converted factory space. There are also digital art exhibitions on show at Phoenix Square, and exhibition spaces at LCB Depot, including Pedestrian Arts and Fabrika, both independent arts centres in Humberstone Gate.

a) Curve
Curve is a spectacular state-of-the-art theatre based in the heart of the Leicester’s vibrant Cultural Quarter.
Opened in 2008 by Her Majesty The Queen, our award-winning building, designed by acclaimed architect Rafael Viñoly, offers a completely unique visitor experience.
Unlike any other theatre in the UK, we have no traditional backstage area. Audiences can enjoy the full theatre making process, peek behind the scenes and maybe even spot an actor or two dashing from the stage to their dressing room or enjoying a coffee in our Café. Our curved façade is made from 1,192 tonnes of steel and 46000m² of glass.
Managed by Leicester Theatre Trust, Curve is a registered charity providing engaging world- class theatrical experiences for our local communities. We enable people of all ages and backgrounds to access, participate in and learn from the arts, nurturing new and emerging talent, and creating world-class theatrical experiences.

b) Orton Square

John Kingsley Orton was born in Leicester in 1933 and from the age of two, lived on the Saffron Lane council estate.  After winning a scholarship to RADA in 1951, he met Kenneth Halliwell, an actor and writer seven years his senior.  Halliwell would become Orton’s friend, mentor, lover and, eventually his murderer.

Between 1964-1967, Joe Orton contributed to an exciting working class culture that swept through the nation.  A promiscuous and openly gay man at a time when homosexuality was actively persecuted by the police, Orton was the rising star of an ‘alternative British intelligentsia’.

His first stage play, Entertaining Mr Sloane, was a huge success while his second, Loot, won the coveted Evening Standard award for Best Play.  However, Orton’s success as a playwright and celebrity put a distance between himself and Kenneth Halliwell that the latter found increasingly difficult to cope with.

In August 1967, Halliwell, by now suffering from severe depression, murdered Orton before killing himself.  His suicide note referred to the contents of Orton’s diary as an explanation for his actions.

c) Makers Yard

Part of Leicester´s hosiery story

The buildings at 82-86 Rutland Street, now Makers Yard, are the earliest surviving example of an unpowered hosiery factory in Britain.  They were originally built between 1854 and 1863 for J. Brown and Sons, a hosiery manufacturer specialising in gloves.

Home working to factory mass production

The buildings of Makers Yard show how the hosiery trade changed from a home-based to a factory-based industry. The door and two windows to the right of the building were part of the original warehouse built in the mid 1850s This was used for storage and distribution of items made by outworkers in their own homes. Knitters left their homes and came to work in the factory at the rear of the site when it was completed in 1860.  The factory has larger windows to let in the light needed for the knitters to see their work. A second warehouse, with carriage access to the left, was added in 1862-3.

Later owners

By the 1890s J. Brown and Sons had left Rutland Street and the building was shared by smaller firms, mainly related to the leather industry. Hosiery manufacture returned to the building in the 1980s with the last firm, Charnwood Hosiery, making military socks for the Falklands War and sports socks for football clubs like Manchester United and Liverpool.

Makers Yard today

The building was refurbished in 2013 and now provides workspace units for creative entrepreneurs. Many original features have been retained.
For details of the creative businesses operating from Makers Yard and details of public events held here visit

d) Alexandra House

Alexandra House
Alexandra House

A bootlace warehouse

This remarkable building, described as “one of the finest warehouses in the country”, was built originally to store bootlaces.   It was designed by Leicester architect Edward Burgess in 1897 for Faire Bros. Ltd, one of the largest boot and shoe lace manufacturers and exporters in the world.  By the 1920s the building housed 2,000 employees, was illuminated throughout by electric light, had six hydraulic lifts and even a private telephone exchange for 100 telephones.

Faire Bros. & Co. Ltd

Many of the Faire Bros. & Co. bootlace brands, such as “Jumbo” and “Old England” could be purchased throughout the world. The company also made suspenders, braces, garters and belts in ten factories around the country.

During World War II the company supplied products for the war effort including 21,500,000 yards of parachute cords and 9,000,000 boot and shoelaces. In response to the wartime rubber shortage they invented the “Natty Grip” suspender fitting. The company even presented a Spitfire to the RAF Fighter Command, naming it “St George” after the company´s main trademark.

Alexandra House and Faire Bros today

Another invention linked to this building is the treasury tag, still made by Faire Bros today and used in offices around the world.  Alexandra House has now been converted into apartments.

e) Pfister & Vogel Warehouse

Leather warehouse and offices

Built in 1923, this striking building was originally constructed as a leather warehouse and offices for the American-based Pfister & Vogel Leather Company.  Designed by local architects Fosbrooke and Bedingfield, this four storey, three bay building was designed for the efficient handling of different types of leather and features an unusual mix of architectural styles.

Pfister & Vogel Leather Company

Pfister & Vogel was a worldwide company based in Milwaukee. By the late 19th century Milwaukee was the largest tanning centre in the world and Pfister & Vogel owned the first and largest tannery there. The investment the company made in such a distinctive building demonstrates the level of confidence foreign companies had in Leicester´s footwear industry during the interwar period.

The building today

Pfister & Vogel were sole occupants of the building until the late 1930s after which time they shared it with other leather merchants and textile related companies.  In recent times the building has undergone a 1.2m award-winning restoration to convert it into apartments and a bar/restaurant. It was renamed Leather Factors in 2009 in recognition of its origins.

13) Rutland Street

a) The Grand Hotel

The Grand Hotel (now called The Ramada Jarvis)
The Grand Hotel (now called The Ramada Jarvis)

b) The Leicestershire Banking Company

Banks played a crucial role in the growth of trade and industry in 19th   Century Leicester. The Leicestershire Banking Company (formed 1829), was owned by shareholders, most of whom were businessmen from Leicestershire. By the early 1870s the company had outgrown their existing premises and commissioned the prominent Leicester architect Joseph Goddard to design new ones. Built in the French Gothic Revival style, the new bank features many carved exterior details by local stonemason Samuel Barfield who created the figures on the Clock Tower.

What does the building tell us about banking in the 19th Century?

The Midland Bank building (later owned by the HSBC)
The Midland Bank building (later owned by the HSBC)

Local banks like the Leicestershire had limited assets and were vulnerable to the collapse of businesses to which they had loaned money or to large numbers of investors suddenly withdrawing their funds. The elaborate design of the bank, both inside and out, was therefore designed to inspire confidence in depositors, while fire-proof corridors and rooms with safes in the basement ensured the physical safety of valuables.

What happened to the building later?

The turn of the century saw the Leicestershire Bank merge with the London City and Midland Bank. The building became a branch of the Midland Bank and then HSBC.  More recently it was acquired by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), also known as the Hare Krishna Movement, who extend a warm welcome to all visitors on Sundays. For more information about the building visit

14) Belvoir Street & Town Hall Square

a) The Town Hall

The clock on the town hall
The clock on the town hall

Guildhall to Town Hall

Leicester was still using the medieval Guildhall as its Town Hall right until the mid-19th century.  By the 1870s however it was no longer adequate to support a rapidly growing industrial town. The old cattle market site was chosen for a new Town Hall and a competition held to design it. Leicester born architect Frances J. Hames won the commission with his modern Queen Anne style design. The new Town Hall housed the Council offices and Council Chamber,  law courts, Sanitary Department, School Board and 30 lamplighters.  The Borough Police moved into the basement (where there were 13 cells) whilst the Fire Brigade had a station behind the building.

What is unusual about the Town Hall?

Look carefully and you can see it has been built on a sloping site with an extra storey levelling it up at the Horsefair Street end. The construction period is reflected in the different dates on the front gable (1875, the intended date of opening) and wrought iron gates at the main entrance (1876).

A modest but elegant square

The town hall square
The town hall square

Frances J. Hames also designed Town Hall Square with its fountain, the gift of Alderman Israel Hart, the first Jewish Mayor of Leicester. Alderman Hart was a pioneer of readymade men’s’ suits. There is an identical fountain in Oporto, Portugal.

b) Women´s  Social and Political Union Shop

What was the Women’s Social and Political Union?

The Women’s Social and Political Union, led by Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst and better known as the Suffragettes, was formed in 1903 to campaign for votes for women. Frustrated at the lack of progress by existing organisations campaigning for the female vote, the WSPU promised, “Deeds not Words”.  One of its most prominent members was Mrs Alice Hawkins, a shoe machinist at the Equity co-operative shoe factory in Western Road.

Deeds not Words

The campaign tactics of the WSPU were more militant than those of the “suffrage societies”.  Rather than write letters they would hold open-air meetings, disrupt political gatherings and take part in national demonstrations.  Window-breaking, cutting telephone wires, vandalising golf courses and arson were among their tactics, actions for which many suffragettes were imprisoned. Alice Hawkins herself served five prison terms.

Why was the WSPU shop important?

The WSPU shop at 14 Bowling Green Street opened in 1910. It sold postcards, pamphlets, badges and other “Votes for Women” merchandise as part of the propaganda campaign and to raise funds for the cause.  It also provided a base for the local branch organisation – and a place for women to spend the night of the 1911 Census, refusing to be counted in protest at their continuing lack of a parliamentary vote. They had to wait for this until 1918, when the vote was extended to women over 30.

c) Belvoir Street Chapel

Joseph Hansom and the “Pork Pie Chapel”

Affectionately known as the “Pork Pie Chapel”, Belvoir Street Chapel was designed by Joseph Hansom, inventor of the horse–drawn cab.

Built in 1845 to accommodate a growing Baptist congregation, it was designed for up to 1,500 people and included lecture and schoolrooms.  Its circular interior was lit by gas presenting a “brilliant appearance”.

Special trains brought people to its inauguration in 1845 and the guest speaker, Dr Harris, remarked that “he never saw a chapel so beautiful; never met with one so easy to speak in; nor one in which the congregation presented so beautiful a prospect as this did, from its architectural arrangements”.

Why is it important to the Story of Leicester?

Non-conformists were Christians who refused to “conform” to the Church of England and so set up their own churches. They held considerable political and economic power in Victorian Leicester. Baptists were a particularly large and influential group and included the likes of Thomas Cook, prominent manufacturers and civic dignitaries.

Hansom Hall

By the 1940s the congregation had united with the Baptists of Charles Street Chapel and in 1947 the building was sold. Today it forms part of Leicester College and is referred to as Hansom Hall, after its architect.

15) New Walk

Welcome to New Walk
New Walk is a rare example of a Georgian pedestrian promenade. Laid out by the Corporation of Leicester in 1785, the walkway was intended to connect Welford Place with the racecourse (now Victoria Park) and followed the line of a Roman trackway, the Via Devana.  Originally named Queen’s Walk, after Queen Charlotte, consort of George III,  it was eventually the popular name of the “New Walk” that survived.  Almost a mile long, New Walk has been a Conservation Area since 1969, ensuring its unique character is protected.

16) Greyfriars Friary

This panel marks the location of the former Greyfriars Friary complex.

Greyfriars Friary and the Richard III Story

Following his death at the Battle of Bosworth in August 1485, King Richard´s naked corpse was brought back to Leicester slung over horse. His body was put on public display to prove he was dead and then removed by the Franciscan friars of Leicester to be given a simple Christian burial in the choir of their church in the Friary complex.

What do we know of the Greyfriars Friary?

Established in Leicester in the 12th century, the Friary was home to the Franciscan order, also known as Grey Friars after the colour of their habits.  The friars would have spent their days going out into the community to preach, beg and hear confessions. The Friary itself would have consisted of cloisters, a chapter house, a church and accommodation for the friars.

Finding King Richard III´s grave

Although archaeologists from the University of Leicester knew King Richard had been buried in the Greyfriars Friary when they started their dig, locating his actual grave site was very difficult. Henry VIII had ordered the demolition of the Friary in 1538 and over the following centuries the land had been redeveloped and built over many times. By the 21st century, what had once been a religious friary had become a site for office conversions and a car park. The excavation that took place here in August 2012 not only advanced our knowledge of the Greyfriars site but was to reveal the final resting place of a king.

What remains of the Friary today?

A small piece of grey stone wall is all that remains of the Friary today.  This can be found in a car park  near to the Cathedral end of New Street next to an attendant´s hut.
17) Herrick’s House – Friar Lane
Robert Herrick (Heyrick), three-times mayor of Leicester.[26] Herrick built a mansion fronting onto Friar Lane,[17] with extensive gardens over the east end of the Friary grounds. These gardens were visited by Christopher Wren Sr. (1589–1658) in 1611, who recorded being shown a handsome stone pillar with an inscription, “Here lies the body of Richard III, some time King of England”.[27] The Herrick family, who also owned the country estate of Beaumanor, near Loughborough,[28] sold the mansion to Thomas Noble in 1711,[27] who, like Herrick 130 years before him, represented Leicester in Parliament.[29]
18) King Richard III Visitor Centre – Dynasty, Death and Discovery
Following the discovery of King Richard III remains in autumn 2012 the City Mayor announced the development of a King Richard III Visitor Centre. The Centre was developed by the council working in partnership with a range of organisations including Leicester University, Richard III Society, Leicester Cathedral and  Demontfort University.  As part of the development we set up a Trust to manage the ongoing delivery of the Centre.
On the ground floor of the Visitor Centre, Dynasty tells the much debated story of the king’s life and times in a medieval England racked by decades of fighting in the Wars Of The Roses. Visitors will be able to discover the story behind Richard’s rise to power as the last king from the great house of Plantagenet and the reforms he made during his short reign.
Death gives visitors the chance to learn about the Battle of Bosworth and how betrayal led to the king being cut down in the thick of battle while defending his crown and his return to Leicester.
On the first floor, Discovery unearths the astonishing story of the research, archaeology, science and painstaking analysis that led to the discovery and identification of the long-lost remains of the king.
Exhibits include both a partial and the full facial reconstruction, giving visitors the chance to see the work in progress and the final reconstruction of Richard. There is also a replica of Richard’s skeleton, printed using 3D technology. The skeleton clearly shows his curved spine, as well as his battle injuries, including the fatal blow.
Through interactive displays, visitors will be able to match up DNA and discover the process used to identify the remains. A suit of armour is also on display and those visiting the exhibition will be able to learn how it protected the wearer.
Visitors return to the ground floor to complete their experience with a visit to the site of King Richard’s burial, preserved in a quiet, respectful setting and with a contemplative atmosphere, fitting for the last resting place of a slain warrior and anointed monarch.

20) Leicester Cathedral

Leicester Cathedral
Leicester Cathedral

Situated in Peacock Lane, the construction of the original St Martin’s Church was started in the 12th century by the Normans. It was rebuilt in the 13th and 15th century.  Being so close to the Guild Hall meant that the church had strong links to the merchants and gilds and it became the ‘Civic Church’. As the principal church where all civic services were held it was therefore the natural choice to become the cathedral for Leicester in 1927 when the Leicester diocese was re-created. After a period of over 1,000 years, when the last Saxon Bishop had fled from the Danes, Leicester again had its own bishop
Although the core of the church is 13th century, Leicester Cathedral today is predominantly a Victorian building as the outer walls were heavily restored in the 19th century. The tower and spire, designed by the architect Raphael Brandon, were rebuilt in the 1860s. The porch, designed by J.L. Pearson, the architect of Truro Cathedral, was constructed as a memorial to four vicars of St Martin’s, who were all members of the Vaughan family.
The church has two south aisles and the outer aisle was once the chapel of the Gild of Corpus Christi. St George’s Chapel can be found to the left of the south door. This was originally dedicated to the Gild of St George and at one time displayed a life-size figure of St George on horseback near the altar. This was taken out and borne through the streets on a wheeled stage on the Gild’s feast day until the custom was abolished in 1547. Today the chapel houses memorials and colours of the Leicestershire Regiment from 1688.
A large memorial stone slab commemorating Richard III was laid in the Cathedral in 1980 and can be found in the Chancel floor. The announcement on 4th February 2013 that the remains found in the Greyfriars car park were indeed those of Richard III was a momentous day for the City of Leicester. The subsequent announcement, that the remains would be interred in Leicester Cathedral means that preparations are now underway to prepare a suitable resting place for the former King.
21) The Guild Hall

Leicester's medieval Guild Hall
Leicester’s medieval Guild Hall

The Guild Hall dates back to medieval times and would have been a building of importance during the time of Richard III.  The Great Hall, built in 1390, was a meeting place for the Guild of Corpus Christi, a select group of influential businessmen and gentry founded in 1343.  This Guild was the richest in the town and a powerful force in medieval Leicester. The emblem of the Guild, the Host and Chalice, is featured in a 15th century stained glass window in the Mayor´s Parlour.   The Guild had their own altar in the Church of St Martin (now Leicester Cathedral) and used the Great Hall for banquets at times of high festivals.

Many of the Guild´s members were associated with the Corporation of Leicester so they began using the Guildhall as a place of assembly. By 1563 the building had become Leicester´s Town Hall and the ground floor of the west wing became known as the Mayor´s Parlour.

The Medieval Guild Hall today

This impressive and important medieval building narrowly escaped demolition in 1876.  At the time people considered it old-fashioned, gloomy and unsuitable for its purpose as a civic building.  In 1922 the building was completely restored and opened to the public.

See also:
History of Leicester Part 1

History of Leicester Part 2

Our article on Leicester Castle


Richard III Reinterment news

Page last edited:  29th April 2015

29th April

New events tell Richard III story

Visitors to Leicester Cathedral will now be able to discover for themselves the history and legacy of Richard III’s life and death, thanks to a new programme of events and activities, part funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The programme includes:

– New information panels telling Richard III’s story;

– Guided tours led by well-trained and professionally supported volunteer guides;

– A new guide book;

– On-line information;

– Workshops and resources for schools, supported by an Education Officer and;

– Display of the Coffin Pall, processional banners and the ceremonial crown from the reinterment service.

Alongside the King Richard III Visitor Centre and Bosworth Battlefield heritage site, Leicester Cathedral is now a nationally important location for visitors to explore and enjoy this unique heritage, understanding better the life, faith, legacy and significance of Richard III’s final resting place. HLF has provided £94,100 towards the total project costs of £189,000.

19th March

The Bones of a King: Richard III Rediscovered

The only book written by the full team of experts who uncovered the king.

The Bones of a King is published by Wiley
The Bones of a King is published by Wiley

Written specifically for the general reader, The Bones of a King: Richard III Rediscovered will publish on 26th March, the day of the king’s reburial at Leicester Cathedral.

The dramatic story of Richard III, England’s last medieval king, captured the world’s attention when an archaeological team led by the University of Leicester identified his remains in February 2013. The Bones of a King presents the official behind-the-scenes story of the Grey Friars dig based on the research of the specialists directly involved in the discovery.

The book is published by Wiley.

The Bones of a King is available on Amazon.

15th March 2015

Richard III looms large in Leicester

As the re-interment of the last of the English Plantaganet kings approaches, we look at the story so far and at what is coming up, as the world’s media prepares for a trip to our city.

January 17th

Roads and travel

Leicester City Council told us:

VISITORS coming to Leicester to watch the final journey of King Richard III are being offered advice on how best to travel into the city.

Thousands of people are expected to come into the city on Sunday, March 22, as a procession carrying the king’s remains makes its way from the Leicestershire countryside into the city on its way to Leicester Cathedral. An influx of spectators and well-wishers are expected to line the route, which includes the A47 Hinckley Road, Bow Bridge, St Nicholas Church, and a short tour of the city centre before the coffin is handed over to the cathedral. Detailed information for visitors is now available, explaining the best routes to get into the city, the Park and Ride service, parking availability on the day, cycling and walking routes and vantage points for people to view the cortege.

For more information see the Council’s website.

January 13th

Latest pictures from inside Leicester Cathedral

5th February

scroll down for latest photos

King Richard’s Prayer Book given modern twist

Artwork inspired by King Richard III’s prayer book and produced by pupils of 81 Leicester and Leicestershire schools appears in a new book published today, Thursday 5th February, called “Our Book of Hours”. King Richard’s own illustrated Book of Hours was found in his tent by the victorious soldiers of Henry VI, after the Battle of Bosworth. As Leicester Cathedral prepares to rebury King Richard’s mortal remains on 26th March, the new Book of Hours will be launched by the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd. Tim Stevens and many of the young artists at the King Richard III Visitor’s Centre at 11.30am. The book features 91 full colour plates of stunning, creative pieces of art. Students at local schools were invited to interpret passages from the Bible and their vibrant artwork is presented in a 188 page hard cover book printed by local company, Gartree Press. A leather bound presentation version of “Our Book of Hours” is being prepared. It will be on display in Leicester Cathedral from the week of King Richard’s reinterment. King Richard’s Prayer Book will be in the Cathedral for the period of reinterment, on loan from Lambeth Palace. Copies of “Our Book of Hours” can be reserved from Christian Resources in St Martins House and the King Richard III Visitor’s Centre and costs £20.00.

11th February

Leicester Funeral Directors appointed for Richard III’s final journey

King Richard III’s final journey will be overseen by Funeral Directors A J Adkinson & Son of Oadby.

On Sunday 22 March the King’s mortal remains will be transported by the company from the University of Leicester, via the battlefield villages of Dadlington and Sutton Cheney to the Bosworth Battlefield Centre. After a short ceremony, the cortège will move to Leicester, where the King’s coffin will be transferred to a horse drawn hearse for the final leg of the journey around the City Centre arriving at Leicester Cathedral at 5.45pm. “We’re tremendously excited to be involved in such a landmark event for Leicester,” says Company Director Jenny Gilbert. “It is always a privilege to be given the responsibility of providing funeral services for anyone, but to be involved with the interment of a former King of England really is a huge honour for us. As one of the oldest independent and family run Funeral firms in Leicester we are taking great pride in our role in the day’s events. It promises to be a truly once in a lifetime occasion not just for us but for everybody who will witness it.” Miranda Cannon Project Director of the Leicester Cathedral Quarter Partnership Board says, “A J Adkinson & Son made an excellent bid to play a key role in this historic occasion. They were able to clearly show to us a real understanding of what was needed and demonstrate a real depth of experience and expertise that is already proving invaluable to us in planning the reinterment events. We are of course especially pleased that a local firm was successful and shows what great talent and expertise we have in our county.”

13th February

Leicester Cathedral ready to receive King Richard III

Inside Leicester Cathedral Courtesey of King Richard III website
Inside Leicester Cathedral
Courtesy of King Richard III website

The first phase of the internal reordering of Leicester Cathedral has been completed in readiness for the reinterment of King Richard III at the end of March. For the last 26 weeks, builders Fairhurst Ward Abbotts (FWA) have been working in the Cathedral while it remained open to the public. The stunning conversion includes a new Sanctuary under the tower for the main altar, the creation of Christ the King Chapel at the east end of the building and the construction of an Ambulatory (a walking space) in which the King Richard III’s tomb will be built. “The transformation of our Cathedral is so striking and more than we even hoped,” says the Very Revd. David Monteith, the Dean of Leicester.

Building work inside Leicester Cathedral Courtesey of King Ricard III web site
Building work inside Leicester Cathedral
Courtesey of King Ricard III web site

“Suddenly we have become aware of the soaring arches and spacious beauty of our building. The craftsmanship is fantastic. All will be ready for March and the re-interment of Richard III.” The project overcome several challenges, including discovering a number of underground crypts during the excavation works. Working closely the archaeological team which discovered the remains of King Richard III, the builders lowered the height of these crypts and covered the voids. “We’re proud to have played a role in such an important project and feel very privileged to have created a resting place for a King,” says Matt Webster Conservation Director of FWA. The mortal remains of King Richard III will be received by the Cathedral on 22nd March and will lie in repose for three days before being reburied on the 26th March 2015.

Building work at Leicester Cathedral Courtsey of King Richard III website
Building work at Leicester Cathedral
Courtesy of King Richard III website

Richard’s coffin

The lead lining to be placed inside the coffin of King Richard III has been created by Leicester firm Norman and Underwood and Dr Jon Castleman, chairman of the company, will be the man with the last glimpse of the King as he welds shut the lead lid.
Jon said: “It will be my privilege to lead weld the lid once the king is placed in there.” He added that it was an honour to be chosen to make the ossuary.”
Read more about this

Film footage reveals potential ‘Killer Blow’

University of Leicester video shows injury on inside of skull – Injury to interior surface of cranium revealed, Injury consistent with a sword or the top spike of a bill or halberd. The film is among 26 video sequences being made available to media by the University of Leicester.
“It was one of those eureka moments which Carl Vivian happened to capture on film which we will all remember.”- Professor Guy Rutty, University of Leicester/Home Office forensic pathologist
New film footage revealing for the first time details of the potential killer blow that claimed the life of King Richard III has been released by the University of Leicester.
Find out more

23rd February

Route of cortège announced

The precise route King Richard III’s cortège will follow through Leicestershire has been published today.
Read more about this and see the route as a map
See the full route that the cortège will take
26th February

Royal visitors

The Dean of Leicester is delighted to announce that Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex is to attend the reinterment Service for King Richard lll on Thursday March 26 at Leicester Cathedral. She will be joined by their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. In his capacity as Patron of the Richard III Society, The Duke of Gloucester will also be attending Compline, the Service of Reception on Sunday 22 March at Leicester Cathedral.
The Very Revd. David Monteith, Dean of Leicester says: ‘We are highly delighted and honoured to receive three members of the Royal Family to the reinterment of King Richard. I know that our city and county will offer a very warm welcome to our principal guests’.
[from King Richard in Leicester website]

Bosworth reinterment event

Leicestershire County Council will be making 2,000 tickets available next week for an event to mark King Richard III’s final journey. The Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre event, which includes an afternoon service led by the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, the Bishop of Leicester, takes place on Sunday, 22 March.

The county council has already announced a series of events to take place at Bosworth from Monday, 23 March to Sunday 29 March. The programme, which supports the permanent battlefield exhibition, includes:

  • Series of daytime and early-evening talks, including ‘Arming King Richard III for battle’ with Dominic Smee, the King’s ‘body double’ in a TV documentary;
  • Battlefield tours to the likely site of King Richard III’s demise in battle;
  • What Remains of Richard III? – a play about King Richard III’s reputation;
  • Book launch by historian John Ashdown-Hill;
  • Hawkwise falconry displays and guided walks

March 4th

Channel 4 announces reburial coverage plans

The programmes:
Richard III: The Return of the King – Evening of Sunday 22nd March
This programme will capture the climax of the procession of the King’s mortal remains back to the site of his death at Bosworth Battlefield through the streets of Leicester and the service that marks the king’s reception into Leicester Cathedral with a sermon given by Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols. Channel 4 will also assemble leading historians, actors, politicians, descendants of the King and key participants in his rediscovery, to ask who Richard really was and what his place in British history should now be.
Richard III: The Burial of the King – Morning of Thursday 26th March
Live coverage of the reburial service, attended by members of the Royal Family, as the King is formally reinterred at the east end of the Cathedral. Guests at the service and key players in the King’s story will join Jon in the studio beforehand and afterwards, and a series of short films will offer glimpses of the preparations for this unique event and explore the debates surrounding it.
Richard III: The King Laid to Rest – Thursday evening
A final programme showing highlights of the reburial service from earlier in the day and – live – a last moment of intimate ceremonial, in which those who led the campaign to find Richard and his descendants, gather to bid the King a final farewell.
The Bosworth beacon, lit when Richard’s remains arrived back at the site of his death on Sunday morning, will be extinguished as the massive tombstone is revealed for the first time.
Find out more from King Richard in Leicester web site

6th March

Richard III videos made available to public

Historic collection chronicles dig, discovery and identification of the last Plantagenet monarch. The University of Leicester is making a suite of documentary footage available to media and the public ahead of the reburial of King Richard III.
Hours of video footage captured by documentary maker Carl Vivian is available via the University’s YouTube site and extracts are being provided to media crews for their own news and feature outputs.
In total, 20+ videos are being made freely accessible on the University of Leicester YouTube Channel and 26 sequences from these videos are being made available to the media. The videos include the historic very first moment University of Leicester archaeologist Mat Morris discovered human remains- on the first day of the dig. In it, Mat can be seen looking at a human leg bone uncovered within hours of the 2012 Grey Friars archaeological dig starting. He confirms it is an articulated skeleton, records it as Skeleton One and covers it over so it is protected until more is known about its context within the site. Eleven days later Skeleton One was uncovered and displayed staggering circumstantial evidence for it being the remains of King Richard III.
You can view that clip here
Mat said: “Finding the skeleton’s leg on Day 1 was the first significant medieval discovery of the project, although at the time we had no idea how significant it would prove to be. The skeleton was the first material evidence that we were digging in the right area and that the friary must be in the vicinity but at this point on the first day the person could have been buried anywhere, inside the church, outside in the graveyard, in one of the other friary buildings. It took another eleven days to establish that the grave was in the right area of the church to investigate further, with spectacular results.”
The videos made during this project are all available on the University of Leicester YouTube channel and include a pre-dig interview with lead archaeologist Richard Buckley in which he describes the chances of finding Richard as a long shot; the dig and the burial; identifying the remains; the fatal blow; injuries to the remains; DNA analysis and conclusion.
Also included are the Judicial Review decision, the tomb design and much more.
Carl Vivian, from the University’s Creative Services team, said: “It’s been an incredible adventure and an enormous privilege to be able to follow the story of the search, discovery and identification of King Richard III. From the outset it seemed so unlikely that his remains would be found and then he turns up in trench one on the very first day of the dig – you just couldn’t make it up.”
“I’m extremely proud of the record that I’ve made of this project and hope people enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed recording these truly historic moments.”
Members of the public can view the videos using the following links:
Richard III videos on-line
Pre-dig Interview with Richard Buckley
The Archaeological Dig
The Burial
Removing a Tooth for DNA Analysis
Discovering the Fatal Blow
Identifying the Remains
Injuries to the Remains
The Scientific Outcome
The DNA Analysis & Conclusion
Hair and Eye Colour
The Break in the Male Line
Is the Skeleton Found in Leicester Richard III?
Uncovering the Church of the Friars Minor Leicester
Opening the Medieval Stone Coffin Found at the Richard III Burial Site
The Judicial Review Decision
The Tomb Design
The Date of the Re-interment
Cathedral Memorial Stone Lifted

King Richard III Visitor Centre
[University of Leicester Press Office]

9th March

Tomb makers

…the man who’s made the tomb for King Richard III in Leicester Cathedral. James is one of the more remarkable of the many fascinating people I’ve met in the course of this unparalleled journey that the discovery of King Richard III’s remains has brought about. I’ve mentioned him before, but having just returned form another visit to his workshop
James is one of the more remarkable of the many fascinating people I’ve met in the course of this unparalleled journey that the discovery of King Richard III’s remains has brought about. I’ve mentioned him before, but having just returned form another visit to his workshop in Rutland I’m filled again with admiration for his craftsmanship, attention to detail – and just plain old-fashioned stubborn determination to get the job done!
The tomb’s design was, as is well known, not without controversy, being developed by Josh Mccsh, our architect, in collaboration with Chapter, the fabric group, and subject to the overall approval of the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England. But once it was settled last March most people will have given little thought to how it would actually be made. It’s just one bit of stone on top of another, after all, isn’t it? Wrong! Granted the top stone – the swaledale fossil – is one large piece. But finding the right stone, for both size and orientation, transporting it to the workshop, and then beginning the painstaking task of slicing, polishing and finishing it is a specialist task above all specialisms. For a starter, how do you turn a 3 tonne block of fragile stone over to cut the other face without risking it breaking? (There’s not another one on the shelf you can reach for.) And there’s the cross to cut into it – without damaging it – and the internal facets to fix and polish. Just one of the tasks where James has invented a tool which didn’t exist, to smooth down those tricky internal faces.
Find out more

New film footage provides unique insight…

The University of Leicester has released a unique insight into the archaeological dig that has captured the imagination of the world, with new film footage of a second excavation at the site where the remains of King Richard III were discovered in 2012.
The sequence – an 11 minute time-lapse video – documents the month-long dig undertaken by archaeologists at the University of Leicester in July 2013. This is the first time such a behind-the-scenes insight has been revealed into the archaeological process. Mathew Morris, the Grey Friars Site Director from the University of Leicester’s Archaeological Services (ULAS) narrates the video to describe the archaeological process of excavating the car park. He said: “This is a bit of the excavation that you don’t often get a chance to see. The video shows all aspects of the dig. This was a much bigger excavation than our first on this site when we discovered Richard III, and was our last chance to document the archaeology before the Visitor Centre was built on top of the car park. “This second dig was key to providing us with more information about the relationship of Richard III’s grave to the rest of the church. We were able to excavate the additional graves we had identified during the first dig and also found evidence of a new friary building. This film footage is a great way to capture all of the aspects of the dig.”
The footage was taken from a camera positioned looking down onto the dig from the old school building which is now the Richard III Visitor Centre. At the time the building had no electrical power so the camera was run from a car battery which was changed every four days. Over the 28 day period, the camera took more than 50,000 individual still images which were then rendered into the final clip, a process that took over 40 hours.
Carl Vivian, Video Producer explained: “The University of Leicester has always been keen to record and make all aspects of the Richard III project freely available, and when the second dig was announced, it was suggested immediately that a time-lapse recording should be made to allow for the whole process to be viewed. This is another fascinating insight into the hard work that has underpinned the search and discovery of the remains of Richard III.”
The University is releasing 26 video sequences to illustrate the key events in the discovery, science and reburial of the last Plantagenet King.
Carl added: “The search and discovery of Richard III has been an extraordinary adventure and part of why it has been so unique is the fact that the archaeologists and scientists have allowed every step of the journey to be recorded, so everyone can see and share the moments of each discovery being made. I’m really proud of the recordings we’ve made and the part they play in telling the story.”
You can see the time-lapse sequence here:
· Time-lapse Recording at the Richard III Burial Site
For more information about the 2013 Grey Friars excavation, please visit the ULAS news blog
[University of Leicester Press Office]

12th March

Funeral feast

University of Leicester archaeologists identify ingredients for medieval dishes served during King Richard III’s reign

Medieval Armour Courtesy of KingRichardIII website
Medieval Armour
Courtesy of KingRichardIII website

Museum volunteers recreate medieval recipes using University research for an event at Jewry Wall Museum on Sunday 22 March
Archaeologists from the University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) have lent their expertise towards a series of medieval recipes designed to provide insight into the culinary dishes that may have been served up during the reign of King Richard III.
Margaret Adamson, a volunteer with the Friends of Jewry Wall Museum, has come up with a series of recipes based on archaeological finds and documentary research on ingredients found in Leicester by ULAS.
A selection of these dishes, including a medieval vegetable soup called pottage and Bosworth jumbles – or biscuits – will be available to taste during a free public event at the Jewry Wall Museum on Sunday 22 March to coincide with the first day of the reinterment of King Richard III.
Margaret said: “These foods are examples of what may have been available at a local inn, such as the Blue Boar Inn, for ordinary people.
“There are some medieval recipe books and written accounts which tell us about food mainly for the rich and a display of replicas showing examples of these will also be on show and will remain at the museum until Sunday 29 March.”
Angela Monckton, Consultant in Environmental Archaeology for ULAS, said: “Specialists at ULAS have identified a number of ingredients and food types available in Medieval Leicester, mainly from environmental archaeology which involves sieving soil samples from excavated sites to examine for microscopic plant and animal remains. “The plant remains include cereal grains and seeds which can be identified to find the crops, herbs and vegetables present at different periods of time.
“Animal remains include fish bones and scales of freshwater and sea fish, and bird bones together with animal bones as food remains. These results have been collected from a number of sites over the years, particularly from the Highcross excavations in Leicester.
“Seeds and cereal grains can be preserved by charring if burnt accidently, while organic remains can become mineralised by the sewage in cesspits – a sure way of finding out what was eaten – both of which are common in Leicester.”
Following previous success with a recipe booklet entitled ‘A Taste of Roman Leicester’, Angela and Margaret are working on a follow up booklet called ‘A Taste of Medieval Leicester: Food fit for a King?’ which should be available to visitors of the museum in the summer.
Margaret added: “I have used what is known about local ingredients and old recipes to imagine what food may have been served at a local inn to visitors to the town. Food history is very important because without food there would be no history.”

Medieval food
Medieval food

Margaret’s Medieval tasting will take place from 11.30am to 3.30pm on Sunday 22 March at Jewry Wall Museum, the same day King Richard III’s coffin will leave the University and begin its journey to Leicester Cathedral.
The free public event ‘Medieval Leicester and King Richard III’ will also feature a demonstration of a knight dressing for battle, the history of the Battle of Bosworth, medieval music, craft activities for children and much more.

Medieval dishes courtsey of KingRichardIII website
Medieval dishes
courtsey of KingRichardIII website

The food display will remain at the museum until Sunday 29 March to mark the end of the reinterment week.
[University of Leicester Press Office]
13th March

What do we really know about King Richard III?

Factual and fictional portrayals of the last Plantagenet King explored at public open day on Saturday 21 March
Public open day on Saturday 21 March from 10am to 4pm on University of Leicester campus. The event will take visitors on a journey of Discovery, Knowledge and Identification
Takes place in the week of the reinterment of King Richard III
Experts will share insights into the portrayals of Richard III throughout history, from Shakespeare’s ‘hunch-backed toad’ to the modern-day examinations of his dialect, at a public open day at the University of Leicester. At the exclusive event on Saturday 21 March, the general public will also have the opportunity to hear from modern-day relations of the last Plantagenet King who were involved in the identification of the remains and learn about the legal process surrounding his reinterment in Leicester.
A full schedule of free interactive and hands-on workshops and talks will take place on the University campus from 10am to 4pm, including:
David Baldwin: ‘Leicester’s Lost King’ An analysis of King Richard’s reign and character by the historian who first identified the likely location of the grave.
Tracey Elliot: ‘A Moot Point’ and Sean Thomas: ‘Burial Rights’An exploration of the legalities around the discovery of Richard III, followed by an explanation of the subsequent judicial review into the issuing of the exhumation license.
Dominic Smee: ‘Body of Evidence’ How one man’s journey into the role of Richard III has altered our understanding and perceptions of the man and the warrior.
Michael & Jeff Ibsen and Wendy Duldig: ‘Bloodline’ How does it feel to discover you’re related to Richard III? The descendants share their stories in this facilitated discussion
Philip Shaw: ‘The King’s Speech’ How documentary evidence gives us clues to the dialect and written practices of Richard III.
Mary Ann Lund and Sarah Knight: ‘A Rose By Any Other Name’? Exploring the ‘real’ King Richard by comparing and contrasting historical and literary accounts of Richard III.
Nicole Fayard: ‘The ‘Other’ Richards’ Without the constraints of the need for historical ‘accuracy’, discover how King Richard III is portrayed in performances of Shakespeare’s play across Europe.
The event will take visitors on three journeys, starting with The Discovery Journey – which looks at the excavation and post excavation work carried out by archaeologists.
Then there is the science behind the find.
The Identification Journey will look at the DNA and genealogy research which linked Richard III to his modern day relations and proved beyond doubt that the skeleton was that of the former Plantagenet king.
Finally, The Knowledge Journey looks at the ongoing research and what academics have learned as a result of the one of the most important archaeological finds of all time.
Organiser Jim Butler, Events and Engagement Manager for the College of Arts, Humanities and Law, said: “For the first time since his discovery we are giving the public access to both the key people and the spaces that were crucial to the discovery and identification of Richard III.
“In addition to the first-hand accounts of the team that searched for and discovered King Richard’s remains, the public will be able to engage with the historic research and the science in a uniquely hands-on way to gain a real sense of the huge scale of the work undertaken across the University.
“In addition to the thirteen expert talks there will also be 27 hands-on activities which include opportunities to extract DNA from organic matter, witness the awesome power of an arrow fired at plate steel, have their own DNA profiled, examine real skeletal remains and sample a medieval banquet.”
Dr Richard Buckley said: “Like other members of the team, I’ve given many talks on the discovery – we have been to venues in most English counties, not to mention a few abroad as well.
“What continues to surprise me is the excitement the project generates.
“It’s done so much for the profile of archaeology and even after two years people are still fascinated with the story – and why wouldn’t they be, I still have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.”
Visitors do not need to book to attend any of the events. However, if spaces are limited it will be organised on a first-come-first-served basis.

21st March

Richard day at Leicester University

A free day of family-friendly activities celebrating the University of Leicester’s research, discovery and identification of Richard III will be held on Saturday 21 March. Free interactive and hands-on workshops and talks take place from 10am – 4pm at the University of Leicester campus and the experts involved in the discovery and identification of the remains will be available to speak to media about their work.

See also:
Our news page for items relating to Richard III’s reinterment
The background to Richard III
More news about Richard’s reinterment
Opening of the KR3 visitor centre