Top Hat Terrace

Top Hat Terrace on London Road was originally known as Victoria Terrace when built in 1864.  It acquired the name Top Hat Terrace because of the sixteen stone heads that adorn the front of the building. The nickname Top Hat Terrace comes from the top hats worn by the police until 1872 and all of the 16 heads represent Detective Inspector Francis ‘Tanky’ Smith in various disguises. Tanky Smith was the first detective to be appointed after the Leicester Police Force was formed in 1836.  Leicester was a lawless place at this time with gangs of thieves infesting streets and alleyways and frequent robberies and street brawls taking place. Together with a second detective, Tommy Haynes, Tanky was credited with clearing up much of the town’s crime.  He was a master of disguise and infiltrated criminal gangs to obtain incriminating evidence.

When he eventually retired from the Police Force, Tanky set himself up as a private detective and his most famous assignment took place when was hired by the Winstanley family of Braunstone Hall to find James Beaumont Winstanley who had disappeared whilst touring in Europe. Tanky was richly rewarded for his efforts and invested his money in building Victoria terrace on London Road and developing Francis Street in Stoneygate.

Top Hat Terrace was designed by Tanky’s son, James Frances Smith, as a tribute to his famous father The terrace received a much needed facelift in 1987 thanks to a grant of £7,700 from Leicester City Council.