Those of you who read the text accompanying my photographs of doors will know that I enjoy making puns. This is a brilliant name for a restaurant, unfortunately closed by covid restrictions, in Leicester Cultural Quarter.
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).
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.
Narrow boats. On the Grand Union Canal just south of Leicester, by Kilby Bridge. The doors are not the most noticeable features of the canal boats.
I was not aware that there are some TD contributors who are especially enamoured with corner doors. I have a couple here from Leicester’s Clarendon Park .
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.
The Belmont Hotel is situated on New Walk where it meets De Montfort Square. The building used to be the home of Ernest Gimson, described by the art critic Nikolaus Pevsner as “the greatest of the English architect-designers” (according to Wikipedia). Through the dining room window, you can see a table set for afternoon tea. Hopefully we will be able to eat at restaurants soon.
The next few houses are neighbours, from 104 to
This door is slightly different, a modern attachment to the main house.
Across the bridge over Waterloo Way, the houses change character. I like the wrought iron work on the first floor balconies.
More New Walk Doors next week.
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).
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.
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.