Transport planning

11th October 2016

Transport and car use

by Trevor Locke

Going to the shops. Something that most adults need to do regularly; some on a daily basis. Back in the 80s there were two cars in our household and we did groceries shopping monthly. We drove to a supermarket and brought home enough produce to feed our family for about four weeks. The supermarket was about four miles away from the house. Petrol was cheap and I had a company car which was provided free of charge by my employer. How times have changed, Now I do not have a car. I take the bus into town to go to the big supermarket; if I need a bottle of milk or a loaf of bread I walk to the local shop. How we shop and where we go to do our shopping raises a number of key issues about how we plan our towns and our urban environments.

Going to the shops

Even when I do what I call a ‘main shop’ I walk around the supermarket with a basket rather than pushing a trolley. Because I have to carry it all home on the bus, I do not purchase more than I can carry – hence the basket. When the basket gets really heavy I stop buying. It’s simple but mainly because I have only myself to feed rather than getting in food for an entire family. And a cat. Apparently there are still many people who get into their car and drive to a shop they could perfectly easily walk to. So I have read. Why? Fear of being on the streets? Idleness? Habit? Who knows; have any surveys ever been done to uncover the facts about this? Which is more pressing as an issue: transport congestion or obesity? Are the British becoming a nation of fat, lazy people? If you agree with that, and many would not, we are lagging far behind the Americans on that score. Walking to the shops is good; it’s a healthy thing to do. It’s an economically healthy thing to do as well. Local shops sustain communities. Someone commented recently that ‘The corner shop has been replaced by the out of town hypermarket and a car became necessary to shop there.’ Prices are higher in local shops than in supermarkets. I know that; I have to take the bus into town to buy food because my local branch (of the same supermarket) charges more for the same products than does its city centre,  bigger branch of the same supermarket chain. Incidentally, I do not pay to use buses; I have a pass that gives me free travel so I do not have to factor in the cost of the bus fare (it would still save money to shop in town even if I did need to pay to get there.)

We all need to get around; whether this is for work, education, shopping, entertainment or visiting people, our choices of how to travel are based on time, money and convenience. Do town planners really see in that way?

What about trams?

In 2015 our local newspaper ran a story about trams. ‘The Big Question: Should Leicester have a tram system?’ reported on a design for a tram network for Leicester. Not the first time this idea has surfaced. As the article pointed out, Leicester had a tram network that closed in 1949. But then there are trams and trams. Today’s trams, like the ones that run in Nottingham, provide clean, comfortable, convenient transport. Great if your destination is near to a tram stop. A poll on the page of the same article indicated that 75% of those who voted said ‘yes’ to having a tram system. The article did not review the case in favour of trams – it just reported that a route map has been designed. Not that anyone was actually planning to start a tram network; it was all hypothetical. The response of the Leicester Mayor – Peter Soulsby – seemed to pour cold water in the idea. The bus service is Leicester is generally quite good; it depends on routes and what time you want to travel but by and large buses run almost everywhere and bus lanes play their part in keeping them moving. They do however burn diesel. That is not good. They can be expensive, in pence per mile compared to alternative forms of transport. Leicester does not suffer from the kind of inner city traffic congestion that we see in many other English cities. I can’t say how they achieve this but we do not see traffic jams much even during peak hours. There are some technical issues with fixed-line transport. Bus lanes and cycle lanes might well have something to do with the difficulty of trying to create the tracks for trams on roads that have for decades been designed for cars. Leicester’s arterial roads tend to be narrower than their equivalents in other cities. This might have something to do with the fact that traffic moves more freely. Single or two lane motorways might allow traffic to move more quickly than three or four lane motorways. It’s a strange thing about road traffic – it does not always work the way you think it would or should.

Centres and suburbs

Leicester is one of the country’s free-standing cities; as the capital of the county of Leicestershire, it is surrounded on all sides by green fields. Not even Nottingham can boast of that. Leicester is a city that sits inside a catchment area of about two million people. That is a statistic of immense importance to the economy of our city. As a key economic and social area within the East Midlands, Leicester depends on the transport infrastructure for the easy movement of people. Our city has various outlying estates and suburbs that house the majority of the resident population. People need access to the city for jobs, entertainment, sport, shopping and culture. They not only have to be able to get into the city but they have to be able to get home again after their visit. As someone who is dependent on buses, I am painfully aware of the importance of a good bus service to the prosperity of the city. With our ageing population, people are increasingly dependent on bus and train services. It’s not just the cost per mile of transport, it is also about the availability of the public transport services. The population of the UK is growing and the older segment of it is increasing, a fact that has important implications for local transport policies and provisions.

One area that has come in for much comment and debate in recent times is the availability of late night buses and trains. Like a lot of cites, Leicester depends on its night-time economy. As a city we have a very vibrant and pluralistic night-time offering, including music, entertainment, sport and culture.

The transport systems do not serve that economy well. As any bus user in this city will tell you, it is easy enough to get into the city during the day but getting home after a show or a festival or a gig is fraught with problems. Buses to outlying suburbs, villages and neighbourhoods often stop at ridiculously early times, making it impossible, for some people, to get into the city and back again. It is one thing to have a catchment area of two million people, it is quite another to make it possible for the majority of that population to make use of Leicester as a destination for entertainment or even for jobs.

Jobs and cars

As the pattern of employment changes, more and more people are becoming dependent on public transport to access employment. The jobs market is offering work but more and more of it is shift work, with the higher-paid jobs being in the evening and overnight. More will need to work beyond the current retirement age and this will increase demand for social transport. Older people may well find it increasingly difficult to run private cars and will become dependent on public transport. The rate of car ownership has been increasing with more families owning more than one car; this has been fuelled by the growth in employment for women and the need to have two cars to be able to cope with both journeys to work and to school.

Congestion is a disease

Trams might well prove to me a positive innovation for Leicester but I doubt we will see them again in my generation’s time. Meanwhile, we have to wrestle with the problem of increasing traffic on the roads for people trying to get into Leicester and those trying to get from it to other parts of the country. Road traffic in England is increasing; it has been going up over the past four years. This, according to the Government, reflects growth in the UK economy and possibly lower fuel prices. Car traffic has been going up. Light goods vehicle traffic has also been increasing; probably, I would guess, due to the increasing use of online purchasing and its consequential need for road delivery.

Over the last twenty years traffic has increased by 17/19% for all vehicle types and for cars has gone up by 12.6% and 70% for light goods vehicles, according to the Government website. Meanwhile, the use of bus services has been going down in the long trend; passenger kilometres have declined by 0.6% since it peaked in 2007. By comparison passenger journeys on light rail systems, such as trams, has reached its higher ever recorded level. The use of buses and coaches has been going down since 2010. In the same time period, the use of cars and taxis has varied by has begun to increase dramatically in recent years.

Living near transport

Access to public transport also affects housing; with the policy of demanding more and more housing in the green belt, provision of adequate transport is of considerable importance. Building housing in the green belt places more pressure on private transport if the provision of buses, trams and commuter trains is not planned to increase. Building houses and flats away from the main employment destinations, inhibits the ability of residents to either walk or cycle to work.

Where city centres have concentrations of work opportunities – particular in retail and hospitality – it make more sense to develop urban accommodation than to hope that people will be able to access affordable housing in the out-lying areas and be still able to get into the city centres to find work.

It is easy for planners and policy-makers to assume that everyone drives their own car and that public transport is just for the poor and disadvantaged. That is a widely held myth, in my experience. Policy-makers want to see a shift away from the car to other forms of transport such as walking and cycling, for environmental reasons. Leicester has pockets of poverty and one that is bound to ensure that they remain is transport poverty.

Transporting the public

Over the next decade and beyond, more people will become dependent on public transport. It is no use providing affordable housing if we fail to provide affordable transport to go with it. Car ownership is not only about being able to afford to buy and car and run it. The cost of owning a house often forces people to stop having their own transport. More and more younger aged people are continuing to live with their parents because it takes them so long to save enough money to afford the deposit for a mortgage. What limit’s their ability to save is owning a car and the costs of having to pay for a car in order to get to work or indeed to get out to do the shopping. So many supermarkets (where the best prices can be had) are situated where only car owners can get to them. Having a transport policy that meets the real needs of urban and outer-urban dwellers must be a key issue for governmental policy-makers and planners. Public transportation needs to address both the availability of buses, trams and taxis and also the fares that are charged. Short distance fares are often more expensive that long-distance ones even where flat-fare tickets are available. One reason why transport issues concerns me is the close connection between the importance of the late-night economy and the availability of transport. The strategy for developing buses services cannot pivot solely on the need for night-time travel but putting this specific issue in a broader context is, in my view, essential.

Planning Leicester

Much of what Leicester is grappling with at present, when it comes to planning and transport policies, is to do with the city centre and, to some extent, the balance of outer-urban and inner-city economics. Our city centre is fairly busy and has managed to avoid some of the problems seen in comparable cities with businesses closing down and high streets shop voids. The shopping area of our city centre is fairly small and compact; it is especially good for pedestrians with its traffic free streets. The distribution of car parking in the centre is probably fairly good – but I am not the best person to know about that because, as I say, I do not drive. If shopping in Leicester’s centre lacks anything it is variety; it is less than good when it comes to the mix of shops and range of goods that are available. Many shoppers, who are looking for something out of the ordinary, travel to other town, such as Nottingham, because they can not find what they are looking for in Leicester. The mix of retail outlets on High Streets is dwindling across the whole country. That goes some way to explaining why so many people are taking to on-line shopping to secure the items they want – small, specialist shops are just not available locally.

Writings

10th October 2016

Homelessness

Today I published my essay about homelessness in the UK. It focuses on what it means to have a home and why this is important.

Read my article about Homelessness.

4th December 2015

Housing policy

I am revising my book on housing policy in the UK, taking into account some of the changes that took place earlier this year in the autumn statement and new policies emerging as a result of the political changes, particularly in the Labour party.

Once I have finished the revision, I plan to offer the book for publication.

Holiday

My novel Holiday (working title) is now in its final draft. I plan to seek a publisher for it early next year.

The novel tells the story of a group of English teenagers who go on a package holiday to Italy in 1966.  Holiday mixes moments of humour with poignancy, light-hearted frivolity with catharsis, and silliness with seriousness, into a heady cocktail of anecdotes, images and stories. It unravels the complexities of youth, the struggles of adolescence and the clash of cultures with the adventure of discovery in a foreign land. It deals with sexual awakening and the start of the transition from childhood to adulthood.

18th August 2015

I am writing about …

I write about a lot of different things.  During August and September  I am doing the following work:

House Bricks:  I am revising and updating the series of four articles I wrote for Arts in Leicestershire magazine on the history of house building and current housing policy issues. The new version is being completely revised and updated.  When finished, I hope to have this published as  book by a publisher. Read my introduction to the original series.

The Trench is my second novel. Its story is about a live music venue, in the 1980s, the bands that play there and the people who go to it.  It is a work of fiction but melts together a range of experiences that I have had in venues across Europe. When it is finished I will offer it to literary agents for publication.

Holiday: is my first novel. Set in the 1960s, it tells the story of a group of teenagers who go on a packaged holiday in Italy. It dwells on various themes: adolescence, the clash of cultures, European art and religion, the age-gap, and the experience of growing up, sexual awakening and adventure. When it is finished I will offer it for publication.

The History of Music in Leicester: is intended eventually to be a book, this is currently being published in chapters on Arts in Leicester magazine. The first chapter is already available online. This was followed by chapter two which deals with the period from 1990 to 2005. I am now working on the third part of the series, which looks at music between the end of the second world world and the beginning of the 1990s. I hope to publish this in October.

The History of Leicester,  my magnum opus,  covers the history of Leicester from the present day back to Roman times. Its perspective is the built environment and it looks at two thousand years of habitation through the buildings that people constructed and the houses in which they lived. This will eventually become a book; before then a variety of articles will be published to supplement those already on Arts in Leicestershire magazine.

The History of Food: is an article intended for publication in Arts in Leicester magazine. It traces the development of food, farming, distribution and the economics of food production and how cooking is a vital part of the local history of a community. It is part of the History of Leicester series.

The Economics of live music:  having already written on this subject before [Locke, 2010] I am preparing a follow-up article which delves more deeply into the economics of the local music business. In this article I look at how live music venues are struggling to survive in an age of digital music consumption. See my article on the economics of live music, from 2010.

See a list of previously published works of Trevor Locke

House bricks part 2

17th April 2015

House bricks

past, present and future

by Trevor Locke

Part 2 – Housing, employment and transport: why we need joined up policies.

House bricks Photo Alamy
House bricks
Photo Alamy

In part 1, i looked at bricks and other kinds of building materials, asked if there can be viable alternatives to traditional materials and considered how building design might change to take account of the rise of new materials.

In part 2, I move on to discussing the kind of policies that are increasingly playing a part in the supply of accommodation.

The need for affordable homes.

Are people ready to move away from standardisation and traditions? If the media is to be believed, the average Jess and Joe want to get married and start a family. They want to own a home of their own.  But does Mr & Mrs Average want to live only in the traditional house?  Through the medium of television, we have seen people who have abandoned the traditional notion of the house and built themselves a home from materials you would not find on the average housing estate – such as blocks of straw. Others have done away with the conventional idea of a slate roof and covered their structures with grass.

In post-war Britain there was a trend to build ‘pre-fabs’ – prefabricated houses built in bits in factories and then assembled on site.  Prefabs were cheap, cheerful and provided a quick fix to the shortage of housing after the blitz. The decades of the 1940s through to the 1960s brought us the baby boom. As those generations grew into adulthood, demand for housing increased. Recently, the lack of access to mortgages, following the financial crash of 1998, has led to an increase in rented properties.   Couples and new families, not wanting to be stuck at home with their mums and dads, are going out to find rented accommodation.  In the urban areas this is fairly easy but in the countryside, it is much more of a problem.  House-prices in rural areas are very widely beyond the reach of workers in villages and rural areas.

Today, the baby boomers of the 60s are down-sizing.  Having brought up their families, couples find themselves living in houses that are bigger than they need. So, couples aged 60 and over are moving into smaller properties.  Whilst this should be releasing houses for occupation by younger people,  the problem is that house prices have increased and the mortgages needed to buy these properties are hard to come by.

Politicians have made a big thing about new-build.  To them, housing supply is all about new build. In order to get anywhere near the level of demand for houses that there in England today, the solutions are always stated as being about building new homes. Only the more radical politicians give credence to the idea that the supply of housing might also include a wider set of options.

Housing is the key to everything

If you do not have a home, you cannot get a job.  If you do not have a suitable home, you are going to find it difficult to marry and start a family. Most people who are homeless are also likely to be unemployed. It’s not just a question of being homeless. Often the problem is more about inappropriate housing and unsuitable accommodation. Energy poverty rides on the back of inappropriate housing; people who live in accommodation that is not suitable are likely to suffer from high energy costs, which will lead either to inadequate heating or people failing to feed themselves properly to keep up with the demands of energy suppliers. Poorly built houses are also likely to suffer from damp, drafts and lack of insulation.

It is said that we need 250,00 new homes.  In that context what do we mean by ‘new?’ Do we mean new build or do we mean more supply of housing stock of all kinds. Around four million people are now renting their homes. In many continental countries, renting is standard; now that house-ownership is so difficult in England, renting looks like it might become the standard approach to securing accommodation. For policy makers, the issue is one of renting not being as secure, for tenants, as it ought to be.

Housing and employment

Most people in this country need two things: somewhere to live and a job to fund it.  There is a reciprocal relationship between housing and employment. People need a home in order to get and hold down a job;  people need jobs in order to be able to fund a home.

If we are to have policies that work, we must be able to make housing and employment work together in a way that reinforces them both. How does the housing market relate to employment? What proportion of the labour market can afford housing?  What people are being paid relates directly to the type of housing they can access. Those with well-paid jobs, that have long-term prospects,  will be able to attract mortgages. Mortgage providers are less keen to fund those whose jobs are short-term or occasional – such as those on zero hours contracts. It is not always the level of pay that gives access to mortgages – it is more to do with the long-term prospects for continued employment that will fund a mortgage over its term (typically 25 years.) People who are on zero hour contracts are not good prospects for mortgage providers. Precarious employment contracts are not good for  home-ownership and access to mortgages and leases.

Despite the fact that the UK has a record level of employment – the best since 1971 – home ownership is as low as it was in the 1970s. Can government policies be synchronised so that there is both full employment and a strong supply of housing? Traditional home owners (in terms of their employment status) are becoming a small proportion of the labour market. People who have to survive on precarious jobs are finding it more and more difficult to gain access to suitable housing. The Labour Party’s pre-election headlines have placed emphasis on increasing the supply of new build housing; but if they do not have synchronised policies for employment, too few people who will be able to buy into that housing and the policy will fail. What people need to access new build housing are jobs that offer long term stability and a predictable income. Around 15% of the labour force is now self-employed. There has been a huge increases in people gaining their primary income from a small business.  “Nowadays, although it is not impossible for someone who is self-employed to secure a mortgage, it can certainly be a difficult process because lenders are far less willing to take what they see as a risk on those with a ‘non-standard’ income”, claims the Thisismoney website. Lenders want to see a history of business success and to be convinced that this will continue over the life of the loan. That immediately places people into age categories.

In 1971 half the population was renting and the other half owned their homes. The number of people in work is now at its highest level since 1971. What proportion of people who are employed can afford access to housing?  We hear a lot about the difficulties that people have in securing a mortgage, especially for those aged 20 to 25.  These might be people who are in work but the kind of earnings they have do not give them access to housing. If we now have record numbers of people in housing, why are so many not able to get a mortgage or cannot afford to rent suitable homes?

Guy Standing has written about The Precariat,  a social class formed by people suffering from precarity, which is a condition of existence without predictability or security. Many of these are people whose income is precariously based on things like zero-hours contracts. These are casual workers who lack a long-term reliable income, the kind of income which would allow them to secure permanent housing. If your job cannot be replied on to provide you with enough money over a long enough period of time, then you are likely to have difficulties in accessing the kind of housing you desire. Housing requires permanent employment, a stable income over a long period of time and a level of income that will convince mortgage-providers and people who lease or rent apartments that you are a reasonably safe bet. Zero-hours contracts might offer a hand fix for some people, for some of the time, but in the long term the creating disadvantage in terms of housing.

Employment and transport

Some parties have added transport into the housing/employment equation. Some have gone on to put this in a regional context.  We can look at England as a whole but when you regionalise the equation, there are areas of the country that need special attention. Some local authorities have developed policies that address the issue of the supply of land as being the key to dealing with meeting housing needs.  Policy therefore has to balance two sets of supplies:  jobs and homes. This also needs to consider travel to work areas – the ability of people with jobs to travel to work, to areas away from their homes. This is where transport comes in – if the supply of transport lags behind the supply of housing and the availability of jobs (within a travel-to-work area) then people are going find it difficult to get housing within a reasonable distance of where they want to live. The choice of where to live, for a majority of families,  dictates where their work places can be. They have to take into account their relatives – particularly dependents  – access to schools and access to heath care, if they have specific needs in that respect.

Formulating housing policy is a non-starter if not related to employment and education and, some would argue, transport policy.  Joined up policies are the most likely to be credible and effective because they pull together these variables that all depend on each other. If we want our housing policy to succeed we have to make sure that the labour market has a sufficient proportion of employed people who have the kind of income that is required for stable home ownership (whether via mortgages, leases or tenancies.) The more people whose jobs fall into the short-term, precarious end of the labour market, the more difficult it is going to be to have a robust housing policy. Allowing employers to lead the market for jobs is bad for the economy as a whole;  it is free-marketism of the worst kind. Allowing more and more employers to indulge in short-term and zero-hours contracts is harmful for the economy as a whole.  It is a practice that cannot join up jobs, homes, education and transport and for that reason it does the country no good at all.

In part 3, I will look at some of the issues that affect the supply of housing stock, how we can make better use of land and possible options for addressing the short-fall in housing supply.

References

Office of National Statistics, A century of home ownership and renting in England.

Guy Standing (May 24, 2011). “The Precariat – The new dangerous class”. Policy Network.

Planning Advisory Service. Objectively assessed need and housing targets – technical advice note, 2014.

This is money (website) Blocked by the banks? How to get a mortgage if you are are a small business owner or self-employed, October 2014

The Brick Industry Association, Why choose brick, USA

Tudor Brickwork by Gerard Lynch.

Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Bill 2014-15.

Home building and renovating. The self build and custom house building bill.

See also:

Introductory article to the house series

House bricks part 1

House bricks part 2

House bricks part 3

House bricks part 4

Housing

16th April 2015

Housing

history, policy and practice

House bricks Photo Alamy
House bricks
Photo Alamy

Our new section of the magazine looks at housing.  The kind of homes that people built, the materials they used and the way that houses changed over the course of history has been touched on in many of the article we have already published.

In a series of articles to be published over the next few days, we look at housing and the materials used to construct homes and move on to a discussion about the future of how we live and the kind of buildings we might be calling ‘home’ in the future.

Houses form a key part of our narrative about the history of Leicester.  We have argued already that the best way to understand any community – in history as well as in contemporary times – is to look at how people live, cook and entertain themselves.  In this context, considering how people live, the kind of homes they build and the materials they use to construct their houses is a key part of any historical account.  Water, supply, drainage, sanitation, cooking and waste-disposal are fundamental elements of understanding communities, cities, towns and villages.

In the forthcoming series of articles about bricks and mortar, we begin with a brief look at the basic units of construction,  before moving on to the wider policy implications for meeting the supply of housing.  This series of articles will deal mainly with the present and the future, whilst placing that focus in a historical perspective.

A debate about housing is very apposite to the current time, as political parties launch their manifestos in the run up to the general election. Housing in a subject that all parties will want to say something about.  We hope that our series of features on bricks and mortar will lend something to those debates – as we consider the future of housing and its historical perspectives.

Later in the year, we will place the themes of these article in a Leicester context as look at the history of housing in our city and what might lie ahead for the new political policy-makers.

Trevor Locke

Trevor Locke has a masters degree in Urban Policy

See also:

House bricks part 1

House bricks part 2

House bricks part 3

House bricks part 4

 

RomanLeicester

20th October 2014

History of Leicester Part 2

The Romans in Leicester

By Trevor Locke

Introduction

It was after the Iron Age and the era of Roman settlement that we saw the earliest formation of Leicester as a place of continuous human settlement. Many experts believe that there was already a community in place, on the banks of the river Soar, by the time the first Roman legions arrived.
Roman contact with the early people living in the British Isles goes back long before the invasion of 43 AD. It was during the second century BC that Roman traders crossed the channel and began to trade with the people living in, what we now call, England. They traded commodities such as metals and grain, wine, jewellery and possibly weapons. Much of this would have been transported by boats using coastal routes and rivers that lead to major settlements. Before the Romans there were no made-up roads, only tracks that were rough and followed the routes made by herds of wild animals. Travel by water was often the easiest and quickest way to get around. The Romans cut canals and drainage ditches such as Fosse and Raw Dykes.) One of the oldest trackways known to exist in pre-historic Britain was The Ridge Way, which ran which ran from Wiltshire to the River Thames. About 87 miles in length, it is thought to have been used for some five thousands years. It had a series of Hill Forts, used to defend it. It was a trail that was not made up in any way or maintained. It often followed a route along high ground, on the ridges of hills. Similarly the Icknield Way, ran for about 100 miles from Buckinghamshire to Norfolk (in today’s language – such areas did not exist in pre-history.) The Sweet track in the Glastonbury fens, Somerset, is believed to be the oldest purpose built road in the world and has been dated to the 3800s BC. The Fosse Way was constructed by The Romans in the first century and it possible that they followed the routes of pre-historic trackways. The most important prehistoric route through the territory of the Coritani was the Jurassic Way.
People were mainly organised into tribes and the Romans would have visited them to negotiate diplomatic agreements well as to trade. There is evidence that the Romans visited Britain and had relationships with the Iron age tribes here, particularly in the south of the country. Even before the Romans came here, England was known for its rich farmland and agricultural produce – which might well have been one of the reasons why the Roman Empire wanted to overrun and rule it. Various areas of England also provided metal ores such as tin and iron. The East Midlands provided a good deal of minerals, including lead from Derbyshire and Iron, which had been mined before the Roman invasion particularly in Lincolnshire, Rutland  and adjacent parts of Leicestershire (Todd 1973). Iron production was a significant part of Roman industry in the East Midlands. A large number of sites have been discovered in the area. This included all stages of production, from ore extraction through to the making of iron implements [3]. The evidence shows the existence of mining, smelting and smithing. In fact the East Midlands was the third most important area for iron production in Britain. Much of the iron deposits occurred on the Jurassic Ridge (the Jurassic Limestone belt across the east Midlands.) Evidence of bronze and iron age metal working has been discovered at Beacon Hill. Metal working moulds were found at Breedon on the Hill and Ketton.
The quarrying of stone was another aspect of Roman industry, given the large amount of building construction that went on. The quarrying and working of stone flourished in the second century. Various types of stone found in Leicestershire provided building stones and even coffins in many parts of Britain. The Romans made good use of the limestone of the Jurassic Ridge and the volcanic rocks found in Charnwood. They quarried Granite at Enderby, Groby, Mount Sorrell and Markfield to provide stones for the buildings (Baths, Forum and walls) in Leicester. They also used slate from Swithland. Stone was also used by Cortianian craftsmen to fashion statues and carvings, probably at workshops in Leicester and Lincoln  (Todd, 1973). It is likely that stone would have been transported by water rather than by road ways, as far as possible.

Leicester before the Romans arrived.

Leicester was already settled in the Iron age. There were iron age hill forts at Beacon Hill, Burrough Hill, Breedon on the Hill and Ratby (Clay, 1988). Archaeological finds show that people were living on the banks of the Soar early in the first century AD. Todd (1973) argues that pre-Roman Ratae may presumably have been an extensive and disarticulated scatter of huts. Even so, it was an important centre within the territory of the Coritani.  The Settlement at Leicester probably evolved from a small site originating about 50 BC, which over the next hundred years, grew to an area of about forty acres along the eastern side of the River Soar (Clay, 1988). Other archaeological sites give us a clue as what the area was like around Ratae, prior to the Roman invasion.
In the year 2000, an open air ritual site was discovered in Hallaton in East Leicestershire. It was one of the most important discoveries in recent years from the Iron Age and Early Roman Britain. Over 5,000 Iron age and Roman coins were found on the site. Most were made locally and issued in about 20 to 50 AD. These coins were probably made by members of the Corieltavi tribe. The Hallaton Hoard included one of the oldest Roman coins to be found in Britain. It was dated to around 211 BC – long before the Roman invasion. The coin is thought to have been minted in Rome.
In 2014, a hoard of Roman and late Iron Age coins was found in Dovedale, in the Peak District, discovered in a cave where they had lain there for over two thousand years.  According to the BBC report, ‘Archaeologists discovered 26 coins, including three Roman coins which pre-date the invasion of Britain in AD43, and 20 other gold and silver pieces which are Late Iron Age and thought to belong to the Corieltavi tribe.’ In 2012 ten gold coins were discovered on farmland in Peatling Magna, near Market Harborough. They are thought to have been made in Europe between 60 and 50 BC. This suggests that there was contact between people in this area and those on the continent of Europe. When the Roman army arrived in Leicester, local people would already have been trading with people in Europe. People in Leicester were producing coins in the late Iron age; these were Corieltauvian coins (Clay, 1988).
The discovery of Roman coins in Leicester and Leicestershire, which pre-dates the invasion of AD 43, suggests that the area was important as a centre of trade between the British Isles and Europe. Local people would have been familiar with the Romans before the conquest of the country during the reign of the Emperor Claudius. Prior to the Roman invasion, Leicester had become one of the most important settlements in the Midlands.
Britain enjoyed diplomatic and trading links with the Romans in the century since Julius Caesar’s expeditions in 55 and 54 BC, and Roman economic and cultural influence was a significant part of the British late pre-Roman Iron Age [2].
Late Iron age life revolved around farming. The area around Leicester would have been divided into fields, for growing crops or providing pasture for animals. At this time we know that two types of wheat were grown: Emmer and Spelt. These varieties generated high yields from Iron age farming methods, so much so that some of it was exported to Europe. Iron age farmers had domesticated cattle, pigs and sheep. Leicester was also located near to woodlands that provided timber for building and branches for fuel. Clay maintains that up to 200 trees would have been needed for the construction of a single Iron age roundhouse. The most common type of building that would have been found in pre-Roman Leicester was the circular roundhouse, constructed from wood, with walls made of wattle and daub and a roof made of thatch (Clay, 1988). Apart from these dwelling houses, people also built structures to house their animals, barns for storage and sometimes separate cooking areas.

The origins of Roman Leicester.

Prior to the Roman Invasion of AD 43, the settlement on the banks of the Soar seems to have become an important centre for the Coritani tribe (Corieltavi or Corieltavauri).  They would have had trading connections with south east Britain and beyond, perhaps extending into other parts of Europe.

Excavations have revealed pottery from France, Italy and southern Spain in Iron age tribal settlements. The Coritani ranged across what is now Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and parts of South Yorkshire. They were a collection of like-minded people who shared the same outlook and social practices. Ratae was the capital  town (civitas) of the tribe; the Romans called it Ratae Coritanorum (in effect what we would today call the local authority.)  The name Ratae is though to be Celtic in origin. Excavations at the Jewry Wall site found pottery and some bronze objects from the Iron age and which are believed to have associated with the Coritani tribe, although this is far from certain (Todd, 1973). Discoveries of late Iron age pottery in Leicester indicates a considerable time-spread of occupation (Whitwell, 1982). There is archaeological evidence that the Roman town of Ratae was built on a site that had Iron age origins and which might well have been a regional centre for the Coritani tribe. The finds date from the first century. Todd refers to ‘Iron Age C’  pottery and to coins dating from this period. The picture that emerges is that there was a tribal settlement on the Soar in the late Iron age and that the Coritani was the principal people who administered the region surrounding the site of present-day Leicester. Todd (1973) argues that the boundaries of the Coritani tribe were not clearly defined.
Prior to the occupation of the Romans, there was little or no written accounts of the Coritani, other than inscriptions on coins and the evidence offered by other artefacts. The writer Claudius Ptolemy (circa AD 90 to circa 168) referred to them in his Geographia. In this he compiled all that was known about the world at the time of the Roman Empire. His work was often based on sources derived from earlier writers. He mentions the Coritani and believed them to be based at Lindon (Lincoln) and Rhage (Ratae.) A Roman source – the Antonine Itinerary –  contains reference to the region occupied by the Coritani and refers to Ratae as the tribal capital.

The Roman Invasion

Four legions of the Roman army probably landed in Kent in 43 AD (some people believe, or we might say the south coast if we do not want to be so specific.) Within a matter of weeks they had seized the important capital of Camulodunum (the place where Colchester now stands) and the legions founded their base there, in the 40s,  on the site of the Celtic stronghold.  During the year they rapidly overran the southern areas and the tribes put up little resistance. Legion XIV came from Colchester along the new roads arriving at the Fosse Way near to Ratae [1]. The Roman army reached the area of the Coritani in the years immediately after 43 AD (Liddle, 1982).

Todd (1973) argues that  the Coritani do not figure in the surviving Roman accounts of the occupation of Britain between AD 43 and about AD 70 (based on studies between 1965 and 1970.)  There is no evidence of how they reacted to the Roman invaders. Within one or two years of the invasion, most of the territory of the Coritani was under Roman rule. The Romans set up a network of forts based on the routes of Ermine Street and the Fosse Way. The eastern part of England was occupied by the ninth legion (Legio IX Hispana) together with their auxiliary troops. In the early phase of their campaign they established marching camps. The Legio IX Hispana was sent north towards Lincoln (Latin: Lindum Colonia) and within four years of the invasion it is likely that an area south of a line from the Humber to the Severn estuary was under Roman control. Legio XIV might have been joined by IX and the two legions might have worked together on the conquest of the Coritani (Whitwell 1982).

That this line is followed by the Roman road of the Fosse Way has led many historians to debate the route’s role as a convenient frontier during the early occupation. It is more likely that the border between Roman and Iron Age Britain was less direct and more mutable during this period however. [4] Forts were constructed to house troops during the winter or as temporary bases. These were often positioned at river crossings or road junctions and the general pattern that we see from where they are positioned suggests that one was constructed on the banks of the Soar where the road crossed the river from west to east. A forty foot ditch was found on land adjacent to the Soar, in which first century Samian pottery was found (Whitwell, 1982). At least two ditches of probably military origin have been found. A V-shaped ditch, steeper on the north face than the south, was discovered; pottery from the filling suggested that it was disused after about 65 AD. Metalwork from the town suggests both legionaries and auxiliaries were present (Liddle, 1982). There may be credible evidence that the Roman forts were sited away from the main part of the Coritani settlement.
Some kind of post, possibly a fort was established, at Ratae,  by Legion XIV (they were withdrawn in 66 or 67 but sent back in about 69). A second fort was constructed between 55 and 65 AD. The army was camped here during the Claudio-Neronian period and quite possible constructed a fort not long after their arrival. The Romans were aware of the tactical importance of Leicester. It was situated in the heart of the country where roads converged, and with an important river flowing through it. It is believed by archaeologists that a Roman military base (or fort) was established on the eastern bank of the Soar, just below the native Iron Age settlement, and became the new home of the conquering Legion XIV. The fort housed about 500 men and was surrounded by a ditch and earthen rampart. It was built to guard the intersection of two of Britain’s greatest Roman roads – Fosse Way and Gartree Road – at the river crossing. With the arrival of the Roman army, came money. Traders and other settlers gathered near the fort. A minor civilian settlement such as this was called a vicus. [1]
It seems likely that the Roman army conquered much of southern Britain and the Midlands within about 20 years. Major campaigns continued until around 83 AD, including responding to the revolt lead by Boudicca in 60 – 61.  The invasion of 43 was under the emperor Claudius who reigned from 41 – 54. The Romans’ main interest in the British Isles would have been, arguably, metals and grain. The Roman armies were under the rule of Governors.  Aulus Plautius was the first governor of Britannia from 43 to 47. Scapula disarmed the Britons in 47. Aulus Didius Gallus was governor from 52 to 57 and Quintus Veranius from 57 to his death in 58.
The military garrison is unlikely to have remained at Leicester for long after 70 AD, argued Todd (1873) and at around this time the civitas Coritanorum would have become an independent administrative unit.  The date at which the Roman armies left Rate is unclear; Whitwell (1982) believes that evidence from the excavation of forts suggests it would have been around 80 AD. Although the legions left, a civil administration was left in place. The civitas was somewhat similar to our present-day county council. The whole country was divided into civitates. Later the word civitas became synonymous with the word city.

Ratae as an important town

According to one source

Leicester was unaffected by the Boudicca uprising however, and between AD 71 and AD 85, the province more than doubled in size. But in AD 83, the Roman occupation began to evolve. The Roman army in Britain was considerably weakened by a sudden recall of men to the continent. By AD 92, Britain had lost its major Roman legions. The Leicester forts were evacuated and the town was no longer a military stronghold. But it remained under Roman rule. As the soldiers departed, the forts were dismantled and land handed over to civilian use. The vicus (the civilian settlement outside the walls of the fort)  of Leicester was granted the power of local legislation and became a civitas capital of Britain. That meant it was an administrative centre of a tribal territory – in effect, the capital of the East Midlands. [1]

If this account is credible it would suggest, I would argue, that there was little resistance to the Romans by the Coritani; in fact the development of Leicester as an important civic centre of government suggests that the people who were there when the Romans arrived decided to get on with them rather than fight them. It is possible that these members of the Coritani had already traded with the Romans. In other parts of Britain there was struggle against Roman rule and that would have taken many of the soldiers away from Ratae.

The Roman settlement at Leicester.

The very name Ratae Corieltauvorum gives us a clue to how people responded to Roman occupation.  Ratae means ‘ramparts’ and harks back to the Iron age fort that probably stood on the northern banks of the Soar. Corieltauvorum refers to the Coritani tribe for whom the settlement was their civitas or centre for government. A similar situation could be found in Colchester where an iron age fort became the base for the Roman army.

Todd (1973) argues that the withdrawal of military garrisons from the tribal territory in the last first century implies that government of the region was now formally handed over to tribal authority of the municipal civitas.  In the last years of the first century, Leicester (or Ratae) became the hub or the tribal organisation, its principal meeting place and where its records were kept.  The more wealthy and influential members of the Coritani lived there. Later in the Roman period, the town appears to have been granted the status of a municipia. This indicates that the inhabitants had become thoroughly Romanised and some of its residents would have become Roman citizens.
The Roman settlement is thought to have been a rectangular area, surrounded with perimeter fortifications, in which there were four gates. There is doubt about whether the river side of the enclosure was walled, like the rest. Because the river itself offered a natural barrier, it is thought that the walls on this side were not as extensive as the rest. The surrounding walls began to be demolished in the fifteenth century as suburbs grew up.
The Fosse Way was an important Roman Road linking the fortresses of Exeter and Lincoln. This passed near to Ratae Corieltauvorum. Following the Roman invasion, the Fosse Way marked the western frontier of the Roman territory. The current A46 follows the path of the Fosse Way between Lincoln and Leicester. Nearing the city, it’s route is now marked by Melton Road and Belgrave Road. It would have terminated roughly at the position of Clock Tower and continued along the line of the present Narborough Road.

As the invading legions pushed northwards, it is thought they would have crossed the Soar near to the present West Bridge. This is likely because that was the point at which prehistoric routes would have crossed over the river, at a point which would have offered a suitable crossing, based on the shallowness of the water and the lie of its banks.
Early in the second century, the town was built up using a grid pattern. The streets defining the insula appear to have been laid out at the end of the first century (Whitwell, 1982). The square blocks resulting from the grid pattern were known as insulae.   It was around 130 to 140 AD that the forum was constructed (Whitwell, 1982). The basilica and baths were constructed between 150 and 160 (around 145 according to Liddle), the ruins of which can now been seen at the ‘Jewry Wall’ site.  Substantial town houses were also built, having central heating, floors of fine mosaics and painted walls.  There was also a temple dedicated to the god Mithras (there were other temples.)

This signifies that Ratae was an important seat of government and continued to be so right into the fourth century by which time many of the local inhabitants had become Romanised. It is likely that the civitas Coritanorum was recognised by the late first century with Ratae as its administrative capital (Whitwell, 1982). A Forum was constructed, from around 120,  immediately east of the public baths. The Forum had a central courtyard surrounded by rooms and on the northern side there was a Basilica. There were shops and a great Hall. The whole structure might have been completed by 130 to 140 (Todd, 1973.) There was a commercial area known as the marcellum (built in around 180 AD) which would have been a feature of many Roman towns of this time. It is thought likely that the market accommodated a variety of markets and trades with goods being traded from many parts of Europe. In Vine Street there were villas that had central heating system called hypocausts. One fine villa started life as a row of houses that fronted on to the junction of two streets.  These were then linked together and extended and had corridors that surrounded a central court yard.
The surviving remains (still above ground) is known as the Jewry Wall  part of the baths complex constructed by the Romans.  The complex includes a large basilica an exercise hall and the bath houses. The remains that can be seen today were the dividing wall between these two. It contains two entrances between the baths and the exercise hall.  There was rooms for cold bathing and possibly containing plunge pools. There were warmer rooms and rooms for hot bathing.  Much of what we know about the plan of the structure is derived from similar sites, many of which have been excavated in other parts of the country, particular at Bath. The site was extensively robbed of its stone, some of which was used to build the nearby church of St. Nicholas and some taken by incoming Saxons for the construction of their buildings.
After the end of Roman occupation, as the great Roman buildings fell into ruin, their stone was used to build new structures, such as the church of St. Nicholas. The regular pattern of the Roman streets began to be overlaid by the buildings of later centuries as ground level rose several feet above what would have the level of the original Roman town. I recently looked at research into the Roman settlement of Ratae on the banks of the river Soar. The researchers drew a cross section showing how the level of occupation in Roman times was very substantially lower than the current surface. The Roman surface was several metres below the current day surface. This begins to explain why archaeologists have to dig down to find earlier remains of settlements. In their report the researchers put forward a number of reasons why the level has increased. They postulated that generations of building was one of the factors why deposition raised the level.  Many other factors can be guessed. Whilst the course of the river has not changed that much in 2000 years (at this particular location) its contours have. The flow of the river changed a lot over that time. Flooding might also have deposited some layers, although Ratae was sited on a ridge over looking the river, so alluvial deposits cannot be a major factor. Deposition of waste and rubbish over centuries of occupation might well have contribution to the changes we see in surface level.

The decline of the Roman period.

Roman influence began to decline in the late fourth and fifth centuries. Alterations were made to the defences of Roman towns, including the construction of towers and ditches. This was probably in response to increasing raids by tribes from Europe.

Defended towns were more able to withstand attack but the open settlements were far more vulnerable and many of them declined. The production of pottery continued even after 400, as did metal working, which had become well established during the Romano-British period. There was a large cemetery at Thurmaston with graves dating from the middle of the fifth century. The positioning of Anglo-Saxon burials close to those of Romans is evidence for foederati. (Whitwell, 1982).  Foederati were nations or tribes that provided Rome with military service in exchange for various benefits.
These were cremation burials, indicating Anglo-Saxon influences. The Saxon-type burials might have been those of the soldiers that were brought to the country as part of the army in the last fourth century. These people came from communities in Europe that had been federated to the Empire. The Roman villas began to be disused after the 4th c. Anglo-Saxon pottery has been found at some villa sites but this might indicate that the buildings were used only temporarily and were not maintained once their Roman occupants had left. The incoming Anglo-Saxons took over the farms but built their own residences on new sites rather than using the villas left behind by the Romans. It is likely that the land that used to belong to the villas continued to be farmed. Despite increasing archaeological evidence of early Anglo-Saxon farming, the relationship between the old Roman farms and those of the incoming Saxons is far from clear.

Leicester as a microcosm of England.

Many historians have viewed Leicester as being a microcosm of England – throughout its history. There is much about the place that reflects and echoes what was happening in the rest of the country. Leicester is in the centre of England and in its way of life, it activities and people, it is typical of middle England. The things that happened in the rest of England also happened in Leicester. The history of Leicester reflects and contains pretty much everything that happened in the rest of the country. This is a justification (if any were needed) for the study of Leicester’s past. Of course the same could be said for many other long-established English towns but Leicester’s position in the centre of the country and its two thousands years of human habitation make it a mirror of English life.
Next:  Coming up – Leicester and the Anglo-Saxons.

References

[1] The website http://www.thiswasleicestershire.co.uk/2012/11/roman-leicester.html
[2] Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ratae_Corieltauvorum
[3] Roman iron production in Britain:: technological and socio-economic landscape development along the Jurassic Ridge, British Archaeological Reports,  380, 2004.
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_conquest_of_Britain#Crossing_and_landing

Clay, Patrick, 1985, Excavations in Bath Lane, Leicester, Leicestershire Museums, Arts Galleries and Records Service, Archaeological reports series No.10.
Clay, Patrick, 1988, Leicester Before The Romans, Leicestershire Museums Service.
Clay, Patrick, 2002, The Prehistory of the East Midlands Claylands – aspects of settlement and land-use from the Mesolithic to the Iron age in central England, University of Leicester.
Frere, Sheppard, 1978, Britainnia -a history of Roman Britain (third edition, extensively revised), Routledge & Kegan Paul
Henig, Martin, 1995, The Art of Roman Britain, BT Batsford Ltd
Jarvis, Paul 1986 `The early pits of the Jewry Wall site, Leicester’, Trans Leicestershire Archaeol Hist Soc 60, 1986 7-15
Liddle, Peter, 1982, Leicestershire Archaeology – the present state of knowledge, Volume 1 To the end of the Roman period, Archaeological Reports Series Number 4, Leicestershire Museums, Art Galleries and Records Service
Todd, Malcolm, 1973, The Coritani, Duckworth.
Whitwell, J B, 1982, The Coritani – some aspects of the Iron age tribe and the Roman Civitas, BAR99
Wilkinson, Philip, 2000, What the Roman did for us, Boxtree

Watch documentaries about the Roman invasion of 43 AD On Youtube

See also:

The History of Leicester, Part 1

Leicester Castle

Queen Aethelaed

Heritage news

Find out more about the Story of Leicester

 

BuildingsNews

News about buildings and building projects in Leicester

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26th April 2016

New bus station to open in Charles Street

Artist's impression of the interior of the new bus station in Charles Street. Courtesy of Leicester City Council.
Artist’s impression of the interior of the new bus station in Charles Street.
Courtesy of Leicester City Council.

Leicester City Council has confirmed that bus services will begin to operate from the revamped station from Sunday, May 8, but people will get a first chance to see inside the new building at an opening event planned for Saturday, May 7.

City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “The new Haymarket Bus Station will help dramatically improve services for bus passengers. I am delighted that passengers now have just a few days to wait until they can see the benefits for themselves.

“The new building and the improvements made to the surrounding street scene have provided a tremendous lift to what was becoming a rather rundown-looking part of the city centre.

“This ambitious redevelopment has provided the city with a new bus station that is fit for the 21st century. It will make a huge difference to the journeys of thousands of people who travel into the city centre by bus every day, and I am grateful for the patience they have shown during this challenging project.”

Built on the same site as the old 1990s facility, the new bus station will offer almost double the number of departure bays – increasing from 12 to 23 – providing capacity for over 100 buses per hour.

As a result, a number of bus shelters have been removed from Charles Street, between Belgrave Gate and Humberstone Gate, where pavements have also been widened and re-built in high quality block paving to provide a safer and more attractive route for shoppers and other visitors.

The new bus station building – which has replaced a collection of old, run-down bus shelters – will provide comfortable waiting facilities, real-time bus information displays and a passenger information point in its modern concourse. There will also be a kiosk and public toilets, including baby changing facilities and a new Changing Places toilet for people with profound disabilities and their carers.

People visiting the new bus station during the opening event on Saturday, May 7, will have the chance to explore bus travel through the ages with examples of vintage vehicles and the bus operators’ latest fleet vehicles on show. There will also a range of information stalls and other activities on offer. The open event will run from 11am until 5pm.

18th February

Old bank given new lease of life

PLANS to convert a disused 19th century bank and bring it back into use as a new delicatessen have been backed with a city council heritage grant.

The former Bank of Ireland Savings Bank, at 4 St Martins, is one of the first buildings to be awarded a grant from the Greyfriars Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI).

The city council-run scheme, which is backed by £1.1milllion of Heritage Lottery Fund cash, will help drive the restoration and regeneration of at least 20 of the most historically important buildings in the Greyfriars conservation area, to the south of Leicester Cathedral.

A grant of up to £200,000 has been awarded to Nottingham-based Delilah Fine Foods who plan to revamp the Grade II-listed Victorian bank building and bring it back into use.

The company has secured planning and listed building consent to convert the old bank into a delicatessen and café, with three apartments on the upper floors. Delilah Fine Foods has won awards for a similar deli, which it opened in a converted Grade II-listed former bank building in Nottingham’s Victoria Street.

City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “This is an absolutely smashing building, right on the gateway into Cathedral Gardens.

“I am thrilled with the plans to bring it back into use as a deli, which will see it reopened as a place for people to enjoy, after years of it being boarded-up.

“The award of this THI grant means that we can help to bring a fantastic piece of our architectural heritage back into use, and also attract a new, independent business into Leicester.

“Delilah Fine Foods have an excellent record of sensitively converting heritage buildings. We simply wouldn’t have seen this level of interest in this part of the city centre two years ago.”

[Source: Leicester City Council]

15th October

Granby Halls site development

The Granby Halls
The Granby Halls

PLANS for the proposed sale of land on the site of the former Granby Halls have been announced by Leicester City Council.

The 1.66 acres (0.67 hectares) of land, located next to the Leicester Tigers Stadium at the junction of Welford and Aylestone Road, will be marketed for sale from Friday (16 Oct).

Prospective buyers will have to provide an outline of their proposed future use of the site when submitting their offer for the land.

The city council has put in place a site development brief which provides guidance on the type and size of development that will be permitted on the site.

This gives a variety of potential uses, including offices, hotel use, student accommodation, or community facilities, in a building of between five and eight storeys. Apartments could also be included as part of a mixed-use scheme.

Open space must be maintained between the Granby Halls site and the Tigers ground, to provide a public concourse.

The city council, which owns the land, currently leases it to NCP and Leicester Tigers for car parking.

City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “This is a major city centre location. Now that work on the new car park at Leicester Royal Infirmary is nearing completion, we can begin to think about how this important site can be put to the best possible use in the future.

“We want to see something of high quality being developed here. It’s important that any building on this site should be of architectural merit and that future use is not at odds with people who live in the area, or with the neighbouring prison, hospital or sports stadium.

“That’s why we’ve chosen to implement a development brief on the site, and will not sell until we have assurance that the proposed development is the right one for this part of the city.”

[Source: Leicester City Council]

24th September 2015

Waterside development

AN INDUSTRIAL building on a main route into the proposed Waterside regeneration area is set to be bought by the city council.

The property, at 65 Great Central Street, is to be bought with vacant possession. The proposed purchase is part of the city council’s wider plans for the regeneration of Waterside. It will be paid for with Government cash awarded for regeneration in the area.

City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “The acquisition of properties like this will help move forward our plans for the wider regeneration of Waterside over the coming years.

“This is a rather unattractive industrial building located on an important route into the Waterside.

“Improving the gateways into the area, and reconnecting the city centre with its riverside, is a key part of our vision for the regeneration of this part of the city over the next ten to 15 years.”

17th August 2015

New Walk Centre

One of the UK’s leading financial advice firms has been confirmed as the first tenant of a new development at the site of the former New Walk Centre.

Wealth management and employee benefits business, Mattioli Woods plc, has announced it will move into offices at the planned new development on the site of the former council offices.

The firm, which has been based at Grove Park in Enderby since 2005, advises over 6,000 clients with assets under management, administration and advice in excess of £5 billion.  The company employs over 300 staff in Leicester, and the move will allow it to expand and create in excess of 150 new job opportunities.

Earlier this year, Leicester City Council announced that local developer Ingleby, part of the Sowden Group, had been appointed to regenerate the site, which is currently in the process of being cleared following the demolition of New Walk Centre in February 2015.

Plans for the site include two buildings based around a central public open area on New Walk, combining office space, apartments and ground-floor retail.  If planning permission is granted, work is expected to start on site before the end of 2015, with the development being completed and new tenants in place towards the beginning of 2017.

Leicester City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “This is a real vote of confidence in the city centre that a firm with the calibre of Mattioli Woods will be setting up its office at this key development site.  It is a local firm with a proven track record, which was originally based in the city until it moved out in 1998.

“Developments such as this are creating valuable business space, and I hope this will be the first of many firms realising the benefits of being based in the heart of a thriving city centre.”

Mattioli Woods Chief Executive Officer, Ian Mattioli, added: “We are really excited about our move, which for me is a move back home.  The Mattioli family are proud of our Leicester roots, which go back hundreds of years.”

Commenting on the new office, he said: “We are a fast-growing local business with ambitious expansion plans over the next few years, which is a key driver for the move.  The new city centre office will provide us with an ultra-modern working space with great transport links, giving us the opportunity to service both existing and future recruitment needs even more efficiently.”

Roy Coley, Managing Director of the Sowden Group, said: “We are thrilled that our scheme was chosen to redevelop the site of the former New Walk Centre.  We would like to thank our team of architects and support professionals, all of whom are based in the East Midlands, for all their hard work on what is a very exciting mixed-use scheme.

“We are a local developer and to have attracted a company of the quality and calibre of Mattioli Woods cannot be under estimated.  We hope the success of this scheme will encourage more high quality companies to locate to Leicester city centre.”

Leading multi-professional consultancy practice Pick Everard, which is based in Charles Street, has been chosen to provide professional Independent Project Monitoring and Advisory Services for the flagship project.  The company was chosen due to its vision, the high standards of its work and the ability to cope with a project of this size within a fast-track timescale.

[Source: Leicester City Council]

20th April 2015

Soar Island competition attracts worldwide talent

AN INTERNATIONAL architecture competition to find a winning vision for the future of Leicester’s Soar Island has attracted entries from across the globe.

Over 80 entries – including ideas from as far afield as Japan, Spain, Hong Kong, Italy and America – have been submitted.

The competition has been organised by Leicester City Council and RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) and invited architects to submit ideas for the potential future use of the two-acre Soar Island, at the heart of Leicester’s Waterside. Members of the public will be able to comment on the initial designs submitted by the five shortlisted entrants at a public exhibition due to take place in Leicester in early summer.

Glenn Howells, acting as RIBA advisor for the competition, said: “The range and type of proposals we saw was impressive. The competition entries showed how a wide variety of activities and environments could potentially be created on the island.

“It prompted much discussion amongst the judges as to what form of development would best deliver the maximum benefit for this exciting, emerging quarter of Leicester.”

Andrew Smith, director of regeneration at Leicester City Council, said: “Soar Island is a unique part of the city and has the potential to be an interesting focal point in the Waterside development area.

“We’ve been really pleased with the level of interest shown in the competition and the range of visionary ideas submitted which we are using to help us shape our thinking on how to make the most of this potential development site.

“This process has already captured the imagination of the architectural community and we are looking forward to hearing what local people think of the ideas. Ultimately, this competition will help to build developer interest and confidence in our plans for the regeneration of the Waterside area.”

[Source: City Council}

2nd September 2014

New Walk centre demolition

THE crumbling office blocks at New Walk Centre are due to be brought down in a controlled initiated collapse early next year.  Leicester City Council has today announced the method to be used to demolish its former headquarters, following 10 weeks of investigations and preparatory work by demolition contractors on the site.

The offices were handed over in July to demolition firm DSM, who have since been carrying out preparatory works and enabling work to help establish the safest and quickest method of taking down the buildings. The chosen method – known as a controlled initiated collapse – will bring the two tower blocks down into their own footprint in a matter of seconds.

It is widely used in the industry, as a quick and safe method of demolition. It will be subject to stringent safety conditions and overseen by the Health and Safety Executive and police. Following the demolition, teams of specialist cleaners will move in immediately afterwards to clean up the resulting dust so that roads, homes, and businesses near to the demolition site can return to normal that same day.

Further details will now be drawn up on exactly when the process will take place, along with arrangements for road closures and vacating businesses and homes nearest the site. Further testing on the site over the last few weeks has revealed that the other possible methods of demolition – including gradual dismantling by ultra-high reach machine – would be impractical due to the decaying state of the building.

Leicester City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “Contractors have spent the last 10 weeks gradually stripping the building of fixtures and fittings and carrying out numerous investigations and testing work to see how the building can be brought down safely. “Given the very poor condition of the building, they felt that slowly dismantling it would be too risky for the contractors working on it, and that bringing it down very quickly would be far safer.

“This method means the buildings can be demolished, the surrounding area cleaned and the roads and businesses re-opened all within the same day. “We’ll now be in further discussions with DSM to set a date for the demolition and make the necessary arrangements.

“We’ll also be working closely with residents and businesses to ensure they know in plenty of time how it will affect them, and how we will be helping them.” As part of the agreement with contractors, the site will be leveled and left as a vacant brownfield plot for future development.

The New Walk Centre plot is considered to be a prime city-centre development site easily accessible from Leicester Station, New Walk and the heart of the city’s shopping area.

[Source: Leicester City Council]

See also:

Our feature article on housing

More about buildings

History of Leicester part 1

20th June 2014

Part 1 of our series of articles on the history of Leicester

The History of Leicester

2000 years of continuous habitation

Leicester’s pre-history

By Trevor Locke

The relationship between people and the buildings they occupy has always been a fascinating topic of research and debate. From the time when men ‘lived in caves’, to the times when they built their homes from mud and dung through to today’s gleaming spires of steel and glass, buildings have shaped the lives of the people who lived and worked in them.

Humans have lived and died in Leicestershire for many thousands of years. More and more evidence is coming to light about the pre-history of our local area. Humans have left traces of their existence in the area we now call Leicestershire, since they first arrived in the area, probably after the end of the last ice age.

Before and after the Ice Ages

Evidence of man’s presence in our country can be dated back to before the Anglian ice age, around 500,000 years BC. Our knowledge of pre-historic Britain has developed considerably in recent years with new finds from the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods being unearthed.

Hundreds of artefacts have been gathered from sites around Leicestershire, giving us some insights into the life of people before they began to construct buildings, when they were primarily hunter-gatherers, living off what the land could provide for them.

The start of houses

After the end of the ice age, around 10,000 to 8,000 BC, humans began to form settlements. It was in the Mesolithic era that permanent dwellings began to be erected.

In the bronze age, people began to build homes, plant crops and tend cattle, sheep and pigs. They built round houses that were constructed from local materials.

One of the first homes to be discovered in the UK was built in the Bronze age, in 4,000 BC. The round house was made of wood and probably had a roof made of thatch or turf. It was discovered in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, at Flag Fen, by the television archaeological programme Time Team (Series 7, Episode 9). It was set in a landscape of fields and track ways. Based on what the dig discovered, a re-construction of the roundhouse was made. It was a significant find; it suggested that people were beginning to form a settled way of live, based on farming. This was around 1,500 BC. They established fields with boundaries and kept animals to provide them with meat. Settling in one place allowed people to spend more time on the creation of artefacts, including jewellery and tools and many of these have been discovered in burials. The dead were buried close to the places where people lived.

The new discoveries at Star Carr in Yorkshire threw new light some of the very earliest evidence of buildings. Hunter-gatherers are believed to have created permanent settlements in which ceremonial and economic activities took place.

As the ice melted, sea levels rose and the low-lying bridge of land that connected ‘Britain’ to the European continent was flood and created the islands we know as the British Isles, around about 6,500 BC (or BCE – before the common era.)

Man was active here at a time when our country was still connected to the mainland of continental Europe. The first humans arrived here about 25,000 years ago. In that time, between ice ages, Britain was connected to Europe by an area called Doggerland. People were able to walk here from Europe, prior to the time when the land became an Island separated by the English Channel.

The very first buildings

The people who lived after the end of the Ice Age were predominantly hunter-gatherers who lived a largely nomadic life-style. People chose the sites for their settlements carefully, based on the needs of the community – for access to water for drinking, washing and fishing – to avoid water (by choosing higher ground that would not get flooded) and where they could grow crops and tend animals.

Being on higher ground they could also command a view of the surrounding land, enabling them to keep an eye out for intruders or groups that might attack their settlements.

New discoveries have overturned the belief that the construction of domestic buildings in Britain did not begin until around the time of the Iron age, 5,000 years ago.  It was common for people to build round houses in this country; in other parts of Iron Age Europe, people lived in rectangular houses [British Museum.]

In fact one structure was discovered in North Yorkshire that dates back to the Stone Age, 8,500 years BC (the Star Carr site.) Archaeologists believe that they might have found one of the first ‘houses’ to have been constructed in the British Isles.

The Star Carr site

Tombs (barrows) were constructed in the Megalithic period; the burial of the dead preceded the wide-scale construction of permanent domestic structures.

Stone Henge, in Wiltshire, is thought to have been constructed about 2400 and 2200 BC. A roundhouse was discovered in Orkney that is thought to have been constructed about 700 BC. There is some evidence that suggests that the earliest prehistoric groups lived a nomadic existence, sheltering in tents made from animal skins. In Neolithic times people began to erect long houses as early as 5,000 to 6,000 BC (on mainland Europe.)

It was during the Bronze age that pottery began to appear. Vessels have been found that were decorated with distinctive groove patterns dating back to 3000 BC. This beaker period goes back to the end of the Neolithic and early Bronze Age periods. The first figurative art appeared in the late Neolithic period.

In the bronze and iron ages, people built their houses from the materials they found around them – trees, straw or reeds or turf for roofing, mud or clay to fill in the holes and cracks.
Apart from houses for people to live in, enclosures were also constructed for animals, such as cows and sheep, and these could have formed an integral part of the early settlements.
When these buildings were abandoned, they rotted back into the earth, leaving only tell-tales signs (such as post-holes) as to how they had been constructed.

There were no sewers; people dug pits into which they put their refuse and broken pots and other unwanted materials.  Archaeologists discovered a lot about the life-styled of Iron and Bronze age people from the rubbish they left behind.

The dead were often buried close to human habitations (indeed, sometimes even inside them.) How people dealt with the dead changed over time, customs changing from burial to cremation but other practices have also been discovered.

It was not until the (much later Roman times) that people began to use stone in construction. Early houses were invariably round; it was the Romans who brought the idea of square or rectangular buildings to this part of the country. There is evidence that some rectangular houses were built before the Romans but it  is the round floor plan that is the most common.

Early houses were built without plans being drawn. There were no architects, quantity surveyors and probably no people who specialised as builders. Knowledge of how to construct buildings was handed down from one generation to another. What materials to use and how to put them together was part of a group’s traditions. People would probably have known how to fell trees, which trees to cut, what materials were available in the woods or from the swamp areas or from river banks.

Tools were relatively primitive; saws and hammers were rare but some kinds of tools must have been used to shape wood or to cut reeds to the desired length. Examples of bronze age axes have been found – the adze was used to work wood and had a bronze head attached to a handle made of wood. Ditches were often dug around the outskirts of houses or settlements and implements must have been used for this.

Tools used by farmers have been found, dating to the iron age. These were used to harvest crops. Axes have been found dating to this period. ‘The main frame of roundhouse would have been made of upright timbers, which were interwoven with coppiced wood – usually hazel, oak, ash or pollarded willow – to make wattle walls. This was then covered with a daub made from clay, soil, straw and animal manure that would weatherproof the house. The roof was constructed from large timbers and densely thatched’ [BBC history.]

Buildings and art

For centuries buildings have reflected the cultural and artistic values of each generation. We see the ornate carvings and elaborate stonework of the Gothic era, the middle ages and the Victorians and marvel at the embellishments that adorn some of our notable public buildings and monuments. How do we recognise and appreciate the message that modern and contemporary buildings gives us? Today’s architects look for beauty in simplicity. Buildings are designed to be machines for living and working. Functionality determines their layout and external appearance. There is no evidence that Bronze or Iron age huts were decorated in any way; the ornamentation of buildings probably did not start until the Romans radically changed the way buildings were constructed.

When we look back at the Leicester of our forebears, much of which we can still see on our streets, we can glimpse the lives they used to lead. Buildings in our city centre suggest a past of wealth and prosperity, economic and commercial success and the desire of the powerful and successful to aggrandize their social status.
Leicester is a place that has seen human habitation since before the Romans arrived and has always been a major point on cross-country routes. There are indications of settlements on the banks of the Soar in the Iron age. If this is correct then Leicester is a place that has seen over two thousand years of continuous human habitation.

As we look through the buildings that stand as milestones in the history of Leicester/shire, we can see them telling us about the history of England. From the Roman invasion, through to the Wars of the Roses, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, The Reformation, the Industrial Revolution, the rise of Modernism, these epochs reflect changing attitudes to art and culture as well as being a testament to the political and social currents of their times.

We can tell a lot from the rubbish tips and cess pits of our ancestors. One wonders if future archaeologists will be digging in the land-fill sites of today’s world for clues to the life of everyday people.
The excavation of the past is often about buildings and artefacts – the things that people have left behind them in the earth. A lot is also learned from the burial of the dead; if you want to understand the life of people in the past, grave yards are a good place to start.
If we want to understand the artistry of the past, we have to understand the social context in which artisans worked and in which people consumed and used their products and creations. It is only through painstakingly collating and piecing together a mass of evidence, that we can develop a picture of the earliest inhabitants of the area we now know as Leicester.

Prior to the Iron Age, humans were largely nomadic hunter gatherers. The only evidence we can find are their stone tools, left behind as they moved from place to place, together with indications of how they disposed of their dead.

From around 50 B.C. a settlement developed along the east bank of the Soar and this can be seen as the origin of modern Leicester, argues Malcolm Elliot. The Iron Age and the era of Roman settlement saw the earliest formation of Leicester. In the year 2000, an open-air ritual site was discovered in Hallaton in East Leicestershire.

It was one of the most important discoveries in recent years from the Iron Age and Early Roman Britain. Over 5,000 Iron age and Roman coins were found on the site. Most were made locally and issued in about 20 to 50 AD. These coins were probably made by members of the Corieltavi tribe.

The Romans in Leicester

Prior to the Roman Invasion of A.D. 43, the settlement on the banks of the Soar seems to have become an important centre for the Coritani tribe (Corieltavi or Corieltavauri.) They would have had trading connections with south-east Britain and beyond, perhaps extended into other parts of Europe. Excavations have revealed pottery from France, Italy and southern Spain. The Coritani ranged across what is now Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and parts of South Yorkshire. They were a collection of like-minded people who shared the same outlook and social practices.

Whilst it is likely that they had a settlement on the banks of the Soar, this was not their principal centre. Ratae Coritanorum was the capital town(civitas) of the tribe, lying on the route from London to Lincoln.
The Roman settlement is thought to have been a rectangular area, surrounded with perimeter fortifications in which there were four gates. There is doubt about whether the river side of the enclosure was walled, like the rest. The Romans frequently established their forts on (then) pre-existing Iron age or Bronze age sites. Beneath the remains of Roman forts is it common to find much earlier  archaeology.

The Fosse Way was an important Roman Road linking the fortresses of Exeter and Lincoln. This passed near to Ratae Corieltauvorum. Following the Roman invasion, the Fosse Way marked the western frontier of the Roman area. The current A46 follows the path of the Fosse Way between Lincoln and Leicester. Nearing the city its route is now marked by Melton Road and Belgrave Road. It would have terminated roughly at the position of Clock Tower and continued along the line of the present Narborough Road.

As the invading legions pushed northwards, it is thought they would have crossed the Soar near to the present West Bridge.  Early in the second century, the town was being built up using a grid pattern. It was around 125 to 130 A.D. that the forum, basilica and baths were constructed, the ruins of which can now been seen at the Jewry Wall site. Substantial town houses were also built, having central heating, floors of fine mosaics and painted walls. This signifies that Ratae was an important seat of government and continued to be so right into the fourth century.

As the great Roman buildings fell into ruin, their stone was used to build new structures, such as the church of St. Nicholas. The regular pattern of the Roman streets began to be overlaid by the buildings of later centuries as ground level rose several feet above what would have the level of the original Roman town.

Leicester – 2000 years of diversity

Discovery of pagan burials from Roman times in Leicester
A fascinating documentary on Channel Four TV tonight (1st May 2013) throws new light on Roman life in fourth century Britain. In the series Stories from the Dark Earth, archaeologist Julian Richards looked at the pagans of Roman Britain. What stood out for me was his depiction of Romano-British society as being ethnically and culturally diverse. He looked in particular at two burials: a wealthy man from Roman Winchester and a lavishly appointed grave of a woman in the heart of London. The Winchester man had received a pagan burial. He was someone who had been born and bred locally. The wealthy woman found in London, however, had come to this country from Rome itself. Artefacts found in the grave site suggest that she might have been a follower of the cult of Bacchus.
In his narrative to the programme, Richards suggests that those who inhabited major Roman towns, such as Venta Belgarum (Winchester) and Londinium (London), were not just a mixture of indigenous peoples and Romans from Italy, but a much more ethnically diverse community of people who had arrived in this country from a very wide range of European origins and, in all likely, from other parts of the Roman Empire including the Middle East and North Africa.
By the time of the decline of the Roman Empire in Britain, from the fourth century onwards, many indigenous inhabitants had become Romanised, so that their way of life, religious beliefs and culture characterised them as Roman.

If this was the case in towns like Winchester and London, then we might surmise that this would also have been the case in Leicester. There is evidence that suggests that larger Roman towns and settlements were cosmopolitan places in which we would have found people from all over the empire.

The presence of people from North Africa in British Towns is well documented. Dr Simon James has commented: Before Roman times ‘Britain’ was just a geographical entity, and had no political meaning, and no single cultural identity. [The Peoples of Britain]
Arguably this remained generally true until the 17th century, when James I of England and VI of Scotland sought to establish a pan-British monarchy.

The British Isles have always been the home to people who have moved here from other parts of Europe, Africa and the Middle and Far East, ever since the time when the first settlers walked into our land when it was still joined to the European landmass, prior to the formation of the English Channel.

From the decline of the Roman empire to the Norman invasion of 1066, the area was dominated by the Anglo-Saxons, people descended from the Germanic tribes of Europe.  Evidence from the archaeology of the rest of the UK suggests that the Roman army was made up of people from many areas of Europe, North Africa and Middle and Far Eastern places, such as Syria and parts of what is now Turkey.

Walking around what we now call Leicester (back in the times of the Romans), you would have seen a variety of faces: white, brown and black skins and witnessed an astonishing melting pot of ethnic and cultural mixes.

The Dark Ages

After the Romans had gone, The Saxons came. 1,400 years ago the country was invaded by people from the area of Europe now called Germany. This period is sometimes referred to as the Dark Ages. So little is known about this period that it appears to be a dark hole in the history of the British Isles. The archaeology is so frustratingly difficult that you might as well call it The Dark Stainages; The Saxons left so little behind, that much of the evidence comes from stains in the earth. Painstakingly scraping through layers of soil, dark patches appear where post holes were made, or red patches where fires once burned. There was however, pottery. One of the most important excavations took place in Leicestershire in 2008 when Time Team came to Knave Hill and Tony Robinson lead the team in digging up part of a hill South West of Leicester.

People walking in the fields found pieces of pottery and noted down exactly where they had been found. This gave the diggers a clue to where they should put in their trenches – where there was the highest concentration of pottery finds.

This is what modern archaeology is all about – taking a systematic approach and using well established techniques; It’s not about luck, it’s about methods. Digs are frequently about finding tell-tale traces in the soil – pits and ditches – that tell us that there was human settlement there once and if we are lucky we find pottery shards in them to give us dating evidence.

At Knave Hill there was excitement when archaeologist Matt Williams found several large pieces of pottery from the late Iron age – the period before the Romans arrived. Both the Romans and the Saxons often settled on sites previously occupied in earlier times, from the Bronze Age through to the late Iron Age.

Most Saxon buildings were built from timber, they had wooden walls and the roof consisted of thatch. All that rots away after the buildings have been abandoned, leaving only faint traces from which the type and extent of the buildings can be analysed, using a great deal of evidence gathered from many sites across the country.

Humans settled in certain places according to the nature of the local countryside. These people began to mingle with the people who were already here – the Celts. The very earliest people to colonise our land – after the end of the last ice age – were people who wandered across from the European continent at a time before the British Isles were separated by what is now the Channel. Between around 45 AD and 412 AD, there were the Romans. It was not surprising therefore that evidence of Roman occupation was found on the same site. The Romans often took over Iron Age settlements and the finds helped to prove this.

Working with the Time Team crew was archaeologist Peter Liddle and a team of volunteers from The Langtons. The Saxons established administrative areas called hundreds. The boundaries of these areas often follow natural contours such as rivers, hills and roads. A study of the local landscape enabled the team to predict where settlements might have been. Rivers were important as a source of water and fish, while higher ridges and hills offered a good place to live to avoid the flooding in the lower-lying river valleys.

The Romans built roads but these would have often followed earlier courses that had been established in the stone age. Those tracks could have been laid down by the migration of herds of animals.
The excavations at Knave Hill suggest that  there had been around a 100 people living and farming in a settlement of huts surrounding a central Hall.

Scientists have plotted the migration of Peoples from Europe, using analysis of DNA. It was suggested that about ten percent of the population were of Saxon and Viking origin. Waves of invaders did not obliterate the indigenous Celtic population but integrated with them. Astonishingly, their DNA can still be found in the people of the 21st century. So, the Dark Ages is perhaps a misnomer. A growing amount of evidence has been dug up to throw light on the people of this time and of course there is the poetry.

About this article

This text is taken from the old Arts in Leicestershire web site. It originally formed the commentary to the pages in the Architecture section. The text on this page had been edited a little from the original. We plan to republished the whole of the old magazine’s Architecture Section, as part of the heritage section of our new Arts in Leicester website.

See also:

Part 2 – The Romans in Leicester

The history of the Arts in Leicester Magazine

News about Richard III

Find out more about the Story of Leicester

New Food Hall

Food hall opens on Friday

Page last edited: 27th May 2014.

THE BRAND new food hall at Leicester Market opens its doors to shoppers on Friday (23 May), one year to the day since contractors started work on site.

The grand opening of the stunning glass and timber building will feature live entertainment, special offers, and the chance to try some tasty food samples – provided by the food hall traders and prepared by the market’s resident chef.

Musicians playing at the opening
Musicians playing at the opening

Music from The Wahoos will get the party started at 10.30am, with BBC Radio Leicester’s Jo Hayward overseeing the countdown to 11am when the food hall will open for business.

Sir Peter Soulsby cuts the ribbon
Sir Peter Soulsby cuts the ribbon

City Mayor Peter Soulsby – who will be joined by one of the food hall traders to cut the ribbon – said: “The opening of the new food hall marks the completion of the first phase of our plans for the market – and the beginning of a new chapter in Leicester Market’s 700-year-history.

“The building itself is stunning, and I would like to thank the designers and the contractors – including many local businesses – who have done such a great job on such a difficult site.

“After so long in the gloom of the old indoor market, the traders will be looking forward to moving into their bright and airy new premises – and I’m sure that shoppers will enjoy buying their meat, fish and cheese in the authentic market environment that the new food hall provides.”

Eight stalls, selling fresh meat, fish, seafood, game and poultry, as well as artisan cheese, fresh bread, cooked meats, olives and other delicatessen favourites, will fill the 5,500sqft hall.

Natural light will flood through the building’s glazed façade and specially-coated glass panels will reduce glare inside the food hall, while a clever lighting scheme will highlight its stunning ceiling and distinctive curved roof.

Alison Ireland of Sherwin’s Cheese Company – which has traded on Leicester Market since 1977 – said: “All the traders are really excited about the grand opening on Friday.

“As a thank you to all our customers who have supported us loyally over the years, and to all those people who will be shopping with us for the first time, we’ve come up with a range of money-off deals to make our first days of trading extra special.

“We look forward to welcoming customers – old and new – to our new food hall on Friday.”

Full details of the special opening offers available at each stall in the new food hall – including live lobsters for just £9.99 – are available at http://www.leicestermarket.co.uk/shopping/special-offers

Adam Piotrowski, the market’s development officer and resident chef, will be cooking up treats throughout the morning on Friday – including hot sausages, spicy ribs and sautéed prawns – with a selection of breads, cheeses and chutneys also available for tasting.

All the food samples served at the opening event will be available to purchase from the food hall.

Robo Chefs entertain the crowd
Robo Chefs entertain the crowd

Entertainment will continue until 3pm, with performances from the Comedy Chefs and the Fairly Fresh Fish Company, who’ll bring their unique comedy puppet act to the Market Place.

The new food hall will be open from 9am to 5.30pm from Monday to Friday, and from 9am until 4.30pm on Saturdays.

Eight businesses will trade from the hall: Andrew Sykes; Frank Lee and Son; Keith Ashmore; Trawlerman; Gibsons; Country Fayre; Sherwin’s Cheese Company; Mroz Sausages.

The new food hall – designed by architects Greig & Stephenson – is the first phase of the city council’s £9.2 million redevelopment plan for Leicester Market. Planning permission to demolish the old 1970s indoor market has already been granted, with demolition due to be complete by early 2015. A new square will be created in its place, and an extension built to the rear of the Corn Exchange. Phase two of the scheme is due to be completed in the summer of 2015.

See also:

Opening of new food hall.