People and Shopping

A postcard showing Belgrave Road in 1904

A postcard showing Belgrave Road in 1904. The pole in the centre holds the electricity cables used by the tram system

Village Life

Up until the early 18th Century Belgrave was a purely agricultural village, occupied by farmers and land owners. The building of Belgrave Hall in 1709–13 for Edmund Craddock marked the beginning of the village's life as a residential suburb for the wealthier of the Leicester trades people.

Slowly the village grew in size throughout the 18th and early 19th Centuries, with canals being dug to the north and south of the village in 1791. This provided greater trading and transport links with the City of Leicester allowing Belgrave to grow even more quickly.

By 1882 the Belgrave Station was complete and the village had grown in size so much that it was pretty much a suburb of the City. Trade flourished and so did the population with more people living in Belgrave in 1900 then there is today.

The busy streets of Belgrave

The busy streets of Belgrave; looking towards the City from left of where the Belgrave Flyover is now situated

Quickly Changing

During the early 20th Century Belgrave became a hub for factories producing knit ware, hosiery, shoes and engineering components. Employment was high and with new factories, shops and people moving to the area life was relatively prosperous.

This is one of the main reasons that Belgrave has had such an influx of migrants moving to the area – plenty of jobs and accommodation that was also close to the City.

India gained its independence 15 August 1947 which caused huge displacement of settled populations, a lot of these people looked to migrate to other places. This combined with the British Nationality Act 1948 (which gave every Commonwealth citizen the right to move to Britain) led to the first large wave of Asian migrants to Leicester.

Saree Mandir shop in the 1980's when it was located next to the Belgrave Neighbourhood Centre.

Saree Mandir shop in the 1980's when it was located next to the Belgrave Neighbourhood Centre. It has now moved further along Belgrave Road away from the City

Brand New Stock

The influx of migrants reached its peak between 1968 and 1978 during which time Leicester received more than 20,000 displaced East African Asians, more than anywhere else in the country. These people were mostly from Uganda, leaving because of the expulsion of the Asian population by General Idi Amin. Many Asian people relocated from Kenya at this time as well.

This new community needed different kinds of shops than the ones that already existed in Belgrave, ones that stocked traditional foods and clothes. One of the first non-white owned shops on Belgrave Road was the Dil Khush sweet shop which opened around 1964. This was just the start of the shopping area that has become a known as ‘The Golden Mile’.

Milans shop in the 1980's – the first shop to sell sarees in Belgrave

Milans shop in the 1980's – the first shop to sell sarees in Belgrave

Golden Mile

When Milans opened in 1969 at 114 Belgrave Road it was the only shop on Belgrave Road to sell sarees. By the end of the 1970’s Belgrave began to resemble how it looks today, a wonderful mix of independent shops and restaurants.

Belgrave is now nationally famous now for its clothing and jewellery as well as its varied restaurants and food shops.

Find out more about migration to England by visiting the Moving Here website. You can find stories about Leicester by using the search function.

Read more about the migration of Ugandan Asians to Leicester and their impact on the Belgrave shopping area here: Kampala to Leicester


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Then and Now