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Blitz Night

Leicester’s worst night of Second World War bombing was around Highfields in November 1940. 108 people died in the City, on this ‘Blitz Night’. On 19 November, at 10.40pm, three large bombs fell on the crossroads of Sparkenhoe, Saxby and Stoughton Streets. Saxby Street Methodist Church received a direct hit. Luckily 40 people in the Wesleyan Chapel schoolrooms next door (now Sparkenhoe Primary School) only had minor injuries. At 56 and 58 Saxby Street, six people died.

St Peter's Church on St Peter's Road was badly damaged during the bombing. The West windows were blown out and the church roof was badly damaged. There's still damage that is visible; holes in the stonework of the West door show shrapnel damage created on the night of the bombing.


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The picture was taken by a reader from the old Pex Knitwear factory

I've a great nostalgic treat for you today: there's so much in this amazing rare colour photograph that I hardly know where to begin.

It was taken over 50 years ago, from the old Pex knitwear factory, later the Land Registry office, by reader Richard Marvin, of Leicester.

Immediately below is the flat roof and parapet of the 1930s Art Deco-style extension, which was demolished in the 1990s, although the main factory building, designed in the late 1940s by leading Leicester architect William Flint, remains.

To the right are the Castle Gardens. The Great Central Railway crossed the road on a bridge just a few yards past West Bridge.

The road sweeping round to the left is Applegate Street and the road leading off to the left is Bath Lane.

The West Bridge can just be seen in the foreground.

There's a policeman on point duty as blurred vehicles whizz by. Imagine how much traffic there would be at this spot today.

The tower of St Nicholas Church is in the centre of the upper part of the picture, with the Jewry Wall visible just below it.

The lighter-coloured building to the immediate left of the Jewry Wall is the new Vaughan College and Jewry Wall Museum under construction.

The roof and distinctive turret of the old Vaughan College can be seen immediately right of the church tower.

The former Leicester District Land Registry Office, once the Pex knitwear factory

All the buildings beyond this, in the centre right of the photo, have been demolished and replaced by the Southgates Underpass development, St Nicholas Circle, the monolithic and drab Holiday Inn, an office block and a multi-storey car park.

The old network of historic streets is still there: Harvey Lane (the roof of the once famous Baptist chapel is prominent), Thornton Lane, St Nicholas Street, Bakehouse Lane and Lower Redcross Street.

Applegate Street was full of small shops and a few of them can be seen here. The West End Coffee Bar was the former Mitre and Keys pub, which in old prints and photos of this area. Next to it is Manning's newsagent and Loraine's ladies hairdressing salon and Frank Johnson wholesale tobacconists.

Further round the corner, but out of sight, were the Woodworkers Store, which later moved to Belvoir Street and a watch repairer, a saddler, Throsby's printers and Bell's house furnishers.

On the opposite side, where the red van is, was J Friswell the cycle dealer, Judge's opticians and Lowe's the stationers. All these have also gone in the name of road widening, but I think the building with the roof glass on Bath Street is still there. Here, it is Winn's bakery, which supplied cakes and bread for the numerous Winn's cafes in the city centre. Later, it became Brucciani's bakery and is still serving that purpose.

In front, there's a nice line-up of vehicles, from the right, a Wolseley 1500 and Austin A33 van, a Ford Popular van, a Morris Oxford MO series, an Austin A55 Cambridge and, parked in front of the entrance, an Austin Westminster Farina and beyond it an Austin Somerset.

On the horizon, well to the left of St Nicholas's tower, there's a striking building faced in white stone between the brickwork. This is Maxim House, a factory owned by the G Stibbe and Co Ltd, the hosiery machinery manufacturers, on Great Central Street. This has now been demolished but the large factory next to it, then occupied by E W Bryan, hosiery manufacturers, is still there.

What a view.

By Austin J Ruddy

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What did Medieval Leicester look like?

Medieval Leicester’s Roman origins

Medieval Leicester lay within the old Roman walls. The town walls followed the lines of what are now Soar Lane, Sanvey Gate, Church Gate, Gallowtree Gate, Horsefair Street and Bath Lane in the west. Four fortress-like gates provided the main entrances into the town known as North Gate, East Gate, South Gate and West Gate. The Roman town walls were maintained throughout the medieval period, it was not until the later 15th century that they began to be pulled down and the stone reused for other purposes.

Until about the 13th century, the layout of streets and property boundaries was heavily influenced by the surviving remains of Roman structures.  The medieval High Street, for example, respects the corner of the Roman forum, suggesting its walls were still visible. Other boundaries and medieval buildings appear to have used Roman walls as part of their construction.

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Leicester’s oldest civic building

A meeting place for the Guild of Corpus Christi

The Guildhall dates back to medieval times and would have been a building of importance during the time of Richard III. The Great Hall, built in 1390, was a meeting place for the Guild of Corpus Christi, a select group of influential businessmen and gentry founded in 1343. This Guild was the richest in the town and a powerful force in medieval Leicester. The emblem of the Guild, the Host and Chalice, is featured in 15th century painted glass window fragments in the Mayor’s Parlour. The Guild had their own altar in the Church of St Martin (now Leicester Cathedral) and used the Great Hall for banquets at times of high festivals. Originally the Great Hall had a beaten earth floor which would have been laid with rushes and heated by an open hearth, with smoke rising to the roof.  The Guildhall in its present form incorporates a later Tudor extension to the original Great Hall.

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The Early Development of Council Houses in the City

In November 1918, the Prime Minister David Lloyd George stated that Britain should build 'homes fit for heroes'. Parliament decided to make local councils responsible for providing new housing.

In 1919 Leicester City Corporation had 1,455 people needing a house and began building houses on the Coleman Road Estate in North Evington and the Tailby Estate in West Humberstone. By October 1924, 746 houses had been built on these estates.

In 1924 building started on the Park Estate, now known as the Saffron Lane Estate. 1,000 houses made from concrete were built on the estate and 500 were built on the Braunstone Estate. They were called 'Boot' houses after the building company Henry Boot which built many council houses across the country. The concrete Boot houses were quicker to build than standard brick houses. They weren't cheaper to build to than standard houses, costing £465 per house compared to £395 for a brick house, but needed less skilled labour. There was a severe shortage of skilled labour to build the new council houses. During this time, it was estimated that only 140 construction workers out of a total of 4500 in the city were building council houses.

In 1925 the Corporation brought the 1,200-acre Braunstone Estate. The plan was to build 1,200 houses on the site.  The estate was carefully planned in the Garden Suburb style; where there were wide streets with trees, open spaces and grass verges. The houses had gardens and were very light; bungalows were provided for elderly people.

One of the early estates to be built was Braunstone. Seen here is Meadwell Road

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