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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.

By Dr Alfred Prunesquallor

Maverick doctor with 40 years experience, I reduced my NHS commitment in 2013. I am now enjoying being free lance, working where I am needed overseas. Now I am working in the UK helping with the current coronavirus pandemic.

7 replies on “Thursday Doors Mills 1”

I love these brick and stone buildings. I can see how walking around here would require many stops. I really enjoyed the history you provided. I do like it when some of the historic industrial sites are preserved. I especially like the train station. Thanks for sharing with Thursday Doors.

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Its great that a viable use has been found for such a wonderful old building. I hope the bowling alley can resume post lockdown. Looks a fascinating heritage walk!

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