Thursday Doors

Thursday Doors local

Paradoxically, I live in a modern house in a conservation area called “Knighton Village”. Some of the houses at the top of the road are over a hundred years old and they have interesting doors.

This is at the end of the street, but there is no connection with EM Forster’s “Howards End”
Thank you note, below the miniature version of Durham Cathedral’s lion head knocker
I like the appearance of this simple, wooden door, with matching garden gate
Another lovely door, perfect for the conservation area
Beautiful colour, matching front door, portico, drainpipe and garage door.
This two-legged dragon is a new addition to the lilac-coloured door’s house roof. There are several dragons or “wyverns” perched on gables in the city. These monstrous creatures appear on the seal of Thomas of Lancaster, who used to be the Earl of Leicester.
Life Thursday Doors

Thursday Doors Mills 2

Back in the industrial wasteland, north of Leicester city centre, there is the huge Corah Factory. Nathanial Corah started his hosiery business in the 19th century and took advantage of government contracts to expand the business. Corah provided knitted goods for soldiers in both world wars. It was the first firm to contract with Marks & Spencer in the 1920s to provide knitwear. At its heyday in 1969, Corah employed almost seven thousand workers. The main factory was close to St Margaret’s church and an image of the church became Corah’s registered trademark.

The building is partially dilapidated, but small companies still occupy units in the complex.

Self storage units and fe home furniture (?) still occupy some parts of the Corah building.

In this part of the city you can find Watling Street. This is not the historic Roman road between Dover and Wroxeter, passing over the River Thames at London, and forming the county border between Warwickshire and Leicestershire; it leads to Abbey Footbridge over the Grand Union Canal.

The view north from the crossroads of Friday Street and Watling Street
Factory chimneys on the banks of the Grand Union Canal
The ladder, bottom left, is partly submerged in the water of the Grand Union Canal. Perhaps this is an emergency escape route from the metal door, top right, via the iron stairs.
On Frog Island, there is a white door, with a central knob and a notice to beware of the dog. There is a stained glass light above the knocker.
Further down the street, there is Slater Primary School. The gothic arches bring to mind the factory on Canning Place (see last week’s TDs). The fanlights of two small circles and a larger circle enclosing a Star of David are interesting. I have no idea why one door is scarlet, the other grey.
The Farben Works on Slater Street dates from 1914, housed a worsted spinning and dyeing company. The derelict site to the left is now rough ground used as a car park, but in 1867 a factory in the Italianate style stood here. Attempts to preserve the building failed when it burned down in 2005.
Boarded up Farben Works
Stayfree Music has taken over this factory. The doors are black and dull.
The River Soar joins the Grand Union Canal by Echo. According to Ovid, Echo was a nymph who fell in love with Narcissus, who, in turn, fell in love with his reflection.
This door is concealed by the mural of a fox in the forest. Leicester City Football Club is called the Foxes and there is a tradition of foxhunting in the shire.

Life Thursday Doors

Thursday Doors Mills 1

Leicester was the centre of the hosiery and knitwear industry from 1800 – 1970. Border Leicester and Bluefaced Leicester sheep provided excellent white wool. The River Soar drove the mills until the mid 19th century, when steam-powered machinery was introduced by Richard Mitchell. Miners dug coal from Coalville (where else?). The Grand Union Canal transported garments and stockings to market, until the railway network took over. Subsidiary industries grew up, specialising in manufacturing machinery, spinning high quality wool and worsted yarn, bleaching and dyeing factories.

Imported clothing, made with synthetic materials using cheap labour, caused the decline of the hosiery industry in Leicester 50 years ago. The “dark satanic mills” closed down, some falling into disrepair, others being converted into apartments or small business units.

When the dreary, grey, rain-sodden weather of February finally evolved into sunshine in early March, we wandered through the industrial heritage of the city centre and photographed some doors.

Leicester Central Station, of the Great Central Railway, was built at the end of the 19th century. It joined London (Marylebone) to Manchester, via Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield. It closed in 1969 when goods could be transported more efficiently by road. Last year the building was renovated and contains a bowling alley, sadly off limits because of the current covid restrictions.
Note the cranes above the arch. The derelict riverside areas of the city are being redeveloped.
Across Great Central Street, opposite the station, is Bryan’s Hosiery Factory, built during WW1. After WW2, Bryan’s employed Salvador Dali to illustrate an advertising campaign for their fancy stockings, using surrealist imagery. The adverts appeared in Vogue.

Next to Bryan’s, the Stibbe Company built knitting machinery in Maxim House, but the factory was demolished twenty years ago. It was famous for making circular knitting and seamless hosiery machinery.

Not the address of dark satanic mills…
Junior Street Hosiery factory was built in 1915. It was converted into a chemical factory in 1930 for thirty years. It then returned to making stockings for Corah and Richard Roberts for another thirty years. The company lost their contract with Marks & Spencer, and moved production overseas. It is now Chimney Apartments.
The clock on Chimney Apartments
Antique fire alarm
The rather fine gothic-arched windows belonged to Leeson’s Hosiery Factory. It now houses light industrial units. Canning Place has the graveyard of St Margaret’s Church.

Many thanks to Leicester City Council, which provided the heritage walk route with information about the buildings, that I used in the captions.