Life Thursday Doors

Thursday Doors in Leicester

Snapped with my cheap smartphone in the Cultural Quarter of the city, Orton’s Brasserie is a posh restaurant, a homage to the (in)famous playwright, Joe Orton. He was born in Leicester in 1933. He wrote “Entertaining Mr Sloane” and “Loot”. A film about his life, “Prick Up Your Ears” was released in 1987, twenty years after he was murdered by his lover, Kenneth Halliwell.

He borrowed books from a public library, altered the book covers with cheeky illustrations, then replaced them on the library shelves. For this, he was arrested by the police (well, it was 1962). There are plans to erect a statue of Orton in Orton Square, outside the Curve Theatre.

In the foreground there is a rocket, part of the “Rocket Round Leicester” trail of 40 colourful spaceships in the city as part of a fundraising scheme for the local hospice (Loros).

The Curve Theatre with reflections. And a naked policeman (wearing his helmet).
There is a door somewhere along this glass wall of the Curve Theatre.
The Curve from Southampton Street. Apart from the hanging baskets on the lamp posts, check out the shrubs growing high up on the walls of Alexandra House, the yellow stone building.

Alexandra House was built at the end of the 19th Century as a warehouse to store bootlaces (you needed four storeys to store laces?). The architectural historian, Pevsner, described Alexander House as one of the finest warehouses in the country. Faire Brothers & Co supplied shoelaces worldwide, with brands like “Old England” and “Jumbo”. During World War Two, despite being damaged by German bombers, the factory produced millions of parachute cords.

During the war, rubber was a scarce commodity, so Faire Bros. invented and produced the rubber-free “Natty Grip” fitting for suspender belts and “Gripknit” flexible corsetry for servicewomen (“Women in Action”). The building was converted to 175 apartments a few years ago.

Beautiful craftsmanship on the upper floors.
You don’t get wonderful street name signs like this anymore

Life Thursday Doors

Thursday Doors Local

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.

Fine black door with leaded sections of the fanlight and brass trimmings.
An interesting door in maroon, with leaded windows. I like the snake-dragon supports holding up the shelter over the door.
Recessed door painted “duck egg blue”, again with leaded lights.
A black door with leaded lights.
Life Thursday Doors

Thursday Doors FA Cup

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.

There is even a Leicester City FC flag over the doorway to the cathedral (and there is also a hidden reference to LCFC winning the premiership title five years ago in one of its modern stained glass windows).

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.

Life Thursday Doors

Thursday Doors JWH

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.

This door without a handle is not part of John Woolman House
And neither is this distressed door. It is on Princess Street Backways.
Life Thursday Doors

Thursday Doors New Walk 4

Further down New Walk, the Holy Cross Dominican Priory is also a Roman Catholic church.

Red-brick 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.

This end terrace house is on the market for just over half a million pounds. I like the shade of blue for the front door and below the windows.

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.

The Dolls House is a nursery and play school on New Walk
The Little House, for little babies

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:

And 121 years later, in 2021

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.”

Round the back of New Walk there are some less photogenic doors. This white door isn’t even trying, it is having a lie down. Princess Road West Backways.
Life Thursday Doors

Thursday Doors on New Walk 2

Further down the walkway, there are some houses which have been converted into student accommodation and university departments.

X&Y occupying a flat-fronted, white-rendered Georgian facade

The next few doors have the same portico with fancy scrolling holding up a plain lintel

CBA? My crude interpretation of this three letter acronym is “Can’t Be Ar*ed”. But I like the stone work around the door and the fancy window above.

Life Thursday Doors

Thursday Doors on New Walk 1

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.

This is the beginning of New Walk, close to Victoria Park.

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.

This is the wrought-iron gateway to the car park at the top of New Walk. The red shield displays the city’s coat of arms. There is a Covid-19 testing station at the far end of the car park.

One of the gatehouses is now the premises of the Leicester Counselling Centre.

The charity, Leicester Counselling Centre, has been providing psychological support for the people of Leicester for forty years.

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!”

A pair of fine panelled doors with leadlights and a stone surround, with a Porsche parked outside.

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).

Number 15
Could Abacus House be the premises of a firm of accountants? Excel – ent, but a shame that the door is in the red.
Some of the wooden railings of houses on New Walk have sprouted fungi. As this railing can be replaced, I suppose it is non fungible (apologies for the pun)
Life Thursday Doors

Thursday Doors in the city centre

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.

This is an old coaching inn, called The Three Cranes. The windows have been boarded up, but you can still see the main entrance.
Here is a splendid old building on the corner of the street with a lovely door and lots of graffiti
The Fountain public house
This building used to be a cinema but it has not been used for that purpose for many years. How poignant is the signage – S-O-S.
This ancient building has been taken over by Age UK, a charity assisting older people in the UK.
This door has seen better days. I think that the shop doesn’t have a window to display goods and services, so the small posters stuck on the door tell the story.
Leicester has dozens of excellent curry houses
I bought a laptop from this shop in 1995. Sadly it is no longer trading.
I am finishing off with a bridge in Abbey Park. In 1530 Cardinal Wolsey died at Leicester Abbey, in ruins on the the left of the picture, but out of shot.
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.