Just a few interesting doors close to home for this week’s entry. They all have leaded lights, a feature of private homes from 1860 to 1930 according to Wikipedia. They look a bit more gothic than Frank Lloyd Wright.
On Saturday 15th May 2021, Leicester City Football Club won the Football Association Cup for the first time since the club was founded in 1884. The club is older than Arsenal and Chelsea (whom Leicester beat in the final 1-0).
Leicester City is a relatively small football club, whose stadium only seats 32,312 fans. The club has a reputation for being the underdog and has tremendous support from the citizens of Leicester – see this small selection of doors with posters and LCFC flags.
The top four clubs in the premier league go through to the European Championship competition. Sadly, Leicester dropped to fifth place on the final day of the season, and missed the cut. This was the first time LCFC dropped out of the top four during the entire 2020/21 season.
John Woolman was a famous Quaker in the 18th Century. He lived in New Jersey and was a strong abolitionist. In 1772 Woolman sailed to Britain to speak out against slavery. Instead of taking a passenger’s cabin, he showed his egalitarian spirit by lodging with the crew. When he arrived in London, the Quakers were rather taken aback by his shabby clothing, but when he spoke condemning the injustice of slavery, he was accepted.
To spread the word, he set off to travel north to York but declined to travel by stagecoach because he felt it was cruel to drive the horses so hard. Instead, he walked, preaching against slavery en route. Sadly, he picked up smallpox along the way and died just after reaching York. He is commemorated by the establishment of John Woolman House. This is a Quaker residential home for older people, close to New Walk. The doors facing New Walk are painted in bright colours.
Further down New Walk, the Holy Cross Dominican Priory is also a Roman Catholic church.
Opposite the church, there is a terrace of Victorian villas. Twenty years ago, this was the site of the Night Shelter, for homeless people. A new shelter for rough sleepers, the Dawn Centre, was built next to the main railway station, and the Victorian terrace was gentrified and sold.
Not far away, down New Walk there is a bar called Revolution. They probably sell lots of vodka, to get you hammered and sickle the next morning.
King Street joins New Walk by Welford Place. King Street was the location of several factories which have now been converted into apartments. Compare the photographs below:
Just out of shot on the left hand side of the above image is the public house, the King’s Head. It has a historical blue plaque attached to the wall. Normally, blue plaques make you aware that at some time in the past, a famous person lived in the building. But this plaque commemorates the incredible achievement of Leicester City Football Club winning the Premier League in 2016, a true case of David beating a gang of Goliaths, against all odds. Well, a few lucky punters accepted odds of 5,000 to 1 on this unlikely event.
There is some student accommodation in King Street. This window in the style of Piet Mondrian allows steam to escape from the laundry room.
Shops are opening with the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions. The name “Mrs Brown” refers to a cup of tea, used to disguise taking a tea break, as in “I just have to go and meet Mrs Brown.”
Further down the walkway, there are some houses which have been converted into student accommodation and university departments.
The next few doors have the same portico with fancy scrolling holding up a plain lintel
New Walk is a Georgian promenade, set out by Leicester City Corporation in 1785 to connect Welford Place in the city centre with the racecourse (now Victoria Park) to the south. This walkway follows the Roman road, the Via Devana. Originally, it was called “Queen’s Walk” (after Queen Charlotte) but it is know referred to as “New Walk”. For over 50 years, it has been protected as a conservation area.
The fine houses of New Walk are now offices occupied by accountants, lawyers, dentists. My own dentist’s premises are just out of shot in the photograph above. However, 200 years ago, rather than working here, professional people had their homes here.
One of the gatehouses is now the premises of the Leicester Counselling Centre.
Many years ago, a counsellor asked me to take charge of one of my patients as she was expressing suicidal thoughts during a counselling session. I drove to the centre and as I escorted my patient out of the door, I tripped over a grid (not present in the above picture) and fell. My patient said, “That would be a first, ME taking YOU to the Accident and Emergency Department!”
The walkway has several pleasant parks and open squares along its length. The Oval is oval-shaped, popular in the past with children’s nannies. De Montfort Square is larger and has a statue of the Minister, Robert Hall, who supported efforts to improve the working conditions of hosiery workers in Leicester. One of his sermons is entitled, “On the Advantages of Knowledge to the Lower Classes“(1810).
In Leicester, we have been locked down for almost a year because of the coronavirus pandemic. It has been tricky to find new doors to post each Thursday as non-essential journeys are prohibited. I am permitted to buy food at the local market, so by varying my walking route, I can capture new doors for your delectation.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Many thanks to Leicester City Council, which provided the heritage walk route with information about the buildings, that I used in the captions.
Victoria Park used to be a race course in the centre of Leicester. When the horse races shifted south to Oadby, Victoria Park became a … park. These crumbling Victorian villas are situated on the southern edge of the park.