Last week’s search for an urbanscape led to me finally having an excuse to bring my XT-10 into work with me. What follows is a series of shots (not all, that would have been a lot of photos) of my walks through this amazing city. Leicester has a history that predates the Romans; however, the Roman city of 2,000 years ago is still here in places and signs of each incarnation of Leicester (which is Old English for ‘Roman Town on the Ligore (Celtic tribe) lands’ – extremely loosely translated) are everywhere.
Constructed in 1390, the Guildhall is still in use to this day in its spot opposite the Cathedral, which has stood on this spot in various forms for about 900 years, since the first Saxon church was built here. I love to walk these cobbles – it feels, for a few moments, as though I’ve entered a tunnel of time and peace, where thousands of feet have walked for almost 700 years.
The cobbles past the Guildhall lead to the marvelous Cathedral Gardens. The entire square in front of the Cathedral was redone for the interment of Richard III in March 2015. It has created a great open area and there are often people sitting on the benches. The buildings opposite are Peacock Lane. This lane used to house the Franciscan Grey Friars Priory, which is where Richard III was taken after his death. The Richard III museum is located atop the parking lot of Grey Friars Social Services where Richard III’s body was finally found in 2012.
Just beyond the Richard III Museum is Hotel Street, named for a hotel that was constructed in the 1790s, but never used as a hotel. The large white building is the old Westminster Bank and it sits opposite 18th century shops.
This lane has been here since the early 1700s at least when when it was an access to the market. The new market building on the right is a beautiful addition. I love how it curves gracefully to match the curve in the street. When the sun hits the Georgian buildings, the colours make me smile on my way through to my office.
The Corn Exchange is a grand building on the edge of today’s market and is where the grain traders used to be. There has been an Exchange on this site for about 300 years, but this building was constructed as a single-storey building in about 1850. Six years later, the second floor was added, but not wanting to disrupt things in the existing building, they put a set of flying stairs on the outside so the second floor could be accessed. At first the stairs were reviled, but today they are considered an excellent example of Italianate architecture. During the 20th century at one point the second floor was used as a ballroom. There was talk of it being returned to that use a couple of years ago.
There has probably been a market on this site since about Saxon times, but the current location was in use and sanctioned as a Saturday market back in 1298. In the Middle Ages, it probably included the lane known as Market Place. At some point, the Wednesday and Friday markets from other parts of the old town were moved into this area. It was an open area where stalls could be set up daily by the various merchants. It wasn’t until the 1930s that permanent stalls and a canopy were put into place to make conditions better. Today, Leicester Market is arguably the largest outdoor market in Europe, and also one of the longest running with a documented history going back about 700 years. I love walking through in the morning as the market opens, listening to the traders call out, whistle or sing as they work. “Morning, darling,” one or two of them now call to me was I weave my way between the stalls every day.
I love this early morning view of Granby Street. When the sun hits the ornate architecture and the walls seem to shimmer. In the distance is the Grand Hotel. Granby Street as it is today was formed in the 18th and 19th centuries and used to run from the Grand Hotel at Belvoir Street (pronounced ‘Beaver’, don’t ask) to opposite the train station on London Road. This end was still considered part of Gallowtree Gate, which got its name for obvious reasons, and which used to run along what is now Granby Street toward the Gallowtree on London Road opposite the Victoria Park Gates.
A view of Leicester’s rooftops from my office building – from the conical roof of the Victoria Coffee House (late 1800s – run by the Temperance Movement) to the clock tower of the Town Hall. In the centre is the incredible French Pavilion rooftop of what used to be the Leicestershire Bank, constructed in 1874.
At lunch, I decided to see how the pedestrian zone trial was going over at Orton Square, named for the great playwright, Joe Orton. The ultra-modern Curve Theatre is at the left, with the 1930s Art Deco, Odeon Theatre at centre and the Queen’s Building (built 1897 probably in honour of Queen Victoria) which has at times been a snooker hall and sex club, but now houses a hair salon.
This was an unexpected bit of wilderness in the midst of a busy city. It drew me in and it was in this churchyard I found the Urbanscape Challenge entry.
The Church of St George the Martyr was the centre of the Church of England Parish of St George. Built in the early 1800s, it was the first church built in Leicester after the Reformation. It originally had a steeple, but that was destroyed in a fire in 1911. Now it is the Serbian Orthodox Church of St George the Great Martyr.
I took several shots of this part of the church trying to capture the feel of it, but this is definitely one of my favourites.
Still in St George’s churchyard. I didn’t want to leave.
From the corner of Charles & Rutland, the busy mid-day city. The Victoria Coffee House’s iconic roof predominates.
Built in a Franco-German Renaissance style the Grand Hotel dates from 1896-1898. It sits on the border of the wider, Victorian period Granby Street and the narrower and somewhat older Gallowtree Gate end of Granby.
The magnificent Leicestershire Bank sits north of the Grand Hotel on the way to Gallowtree Gate. I’m standing outside the former Victoria Coffee House, frequented by Thomas Cook (yes, that Thomas Cook) who was a member of the Temperance Movement and a lifelong tea-total.
I love this view of Granby Street from the falafal stand at Gallowtree Gate, in part because of the white lettering advertising Fox & Son in the orange brick of the turret just in front of the Victoria Coffee House roof. This intersection, where the pedestrian area of Gallowtree Gate meets the one way systems of Horsefair Street and Granby Street is always busy during the day and into the evening.
My route back to the bus at the end of the day is a bit different than in the morning. It takes me past the hotel that Hotel Street is named for. The magnificent building on the left was constructed in 1792, but they ran out of money before it was done. It was bought and completed in 1800, and used as public assembly rooms, then as a magistrates building. Today, it houses the City Rooms, a conference facility that has finally, brought the building back to its hotel origins by opening four hotel rooms.
Cank Street was named for the public well that stood at this end of the street. The well is first documented in 1313 and the cattle market was here from the 1500s to the 1700s. I love walking through this area every day and often imagine what it must have been like to gather around the well, located at the orange brick building opposite, to gather water and gossip.
The statue of Richard III used to sit in Castle Gardens, but when Richard was found and the Visitors Centre was built just behind where I was standing, the statue was refurbished and moved here, where visitors leave white roses at its base. He looks down Peacock Lane past the former location of Grey Friars, his next to last resting place.
Cathedral Garden is lovely in spring, and its rosy tulips lead to the entry to St Martins House, originally the Wyggeston Hospital, established in 1513 and providing shelter and care to the poor on the location until it was torn down in the 1870s. The current building was erected as a boys’ grammar school in 1877. The Diocese of Leicester acquired it in 2008 and it now houses the administration offices of the Cathedral as well as a the choir rehearsal area and shop. It adjoins the Guildhall at one corner.
This used to be a parking lot and bus stand area, but for the Queen’s 60th anniversary celebrations, Jubilee Square was created. It shows off the local architecture beautifully and opens directly onto the pedestrian areas at Guildhall Lane and the High Street. This is where I get off the bus every morning and reboard in the evening. To the right is the front of St Martin House, behind that is Leicester Cathedral’s spire.