Then and Now
Here you can see a selection of ‘then and now’ images of interesting places in and around Belgrave. We start with the ‘then’ image; an archive photograph from sometime in the past which is contrasted with a ‘now’ image taken of the same place recently.
Most of the ‘now’ images were taken by the young people working on the project. The young people visited Newarke Houses Museum to learn more about the social history of Leicester and then went out taking photographs of their local area using Digital SLR cameras provided by Leicester City Arts & Museums Service.
British United Shoe Machinery
The British United Shoe Company was, for most of the 20th century the world's largest manufacturer of footwear machinery and materials, exporting shoe machinery to more than 50 countries. During the 1960’s and 70’s it was Leicester largest employer with more than 4,500 people working for the company.
The company collapsed in the year 2000 after more than 20 years of decline in business. This was due to much cheaper and more standardised footwear machinery being available abroad.
The main front of the company on Belgrave Road is now home to the Belgrave Commercial Centre, offering office and shop space for local business and includes a large car park at the rear.
Burleys Flyover - Thames Tower
The two flyovers near the start of Belgrave Road (Burleys Flyover and Belgrave Flyover) were built in 1976 to ease the extra traffic around the Belgrave area. They were part of the large scale construction project to build an inner ring-road in Leicester during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
The high rise building in the background is the Thames Tower office block, completed in the same year the black and white photograph was taken, 1976. It was redeveloped into residential apartments 2009, unfortunately this was just as the housing market collapsed and many of the apartments remain empty.
As you can see from the two images, some of this area has changed drastically and some not at all! The Champion Inn in the black and white photograph was a busy local pub owned by Burton Ales, it is now The Flamingo Bar & Grill. The building was acquired by the Matharoo family in 1995 who renovated the run down pub into the restaurant it is today.
The shops on the corner opposite to The Champion Inn were a mix of newsagents, greengrocers and to the left of the first image, Mottram Cycle Specialists. The change here is dramatic with all of the buildings cleared to make way for the widening of the road junction. This area is still used for retail with Furniture Direct now taking up the whole of the corner shop unit.
Using St Marks as a point of reference it is easy to see this difference in these images. St Marks was designed by the architect Ewan Christian and was finished in 1872. The whole area was a run down but well established community in the 1920’s and 30’s as you can see from the image below, taken on the same day as the one above.
St Marks stayed standing while the whole area around it was demolished as part of the Leicester slum clearance that happened during the first half of the 1900’s. Countless buildings and even whole streets were cleared. Most of these buildings had no running water; they were quickly put up without building regulation or any thought of safety and well-being.
Places like The Park Estate (Saffron Lane), Braunstone and New Parks were built to house all of the people displaced by the slum clearance programme, a lot of these people came from the Belgrave area.
Wolsey Knitwear Company
The Wolsey building was finished in 1923 and was the home of the renowned Wolsey Knitwear Company. The company was founded in Leicester in 1755 by Henry and Ann Wood making it one of the oldest textile companies in the world.
In more recent years the building was home to another local knitwear company Sangra Textiles. Leicester Housing Association purchased the building in 2009 for redevelopment.
Now the new building contains accommodation for people over 55 who have care needs, of the 102 new homes on the site, 62 are dedicated extra care apartments, with an additional 40 affordable homes for rent and low-cost ownership.
While most of the building was demolished a corner comprising of a six story wall topped with a large sandstone cameo of Cardinal Wolsey (after who the company was named) was retained and incorporated the construction.
Thanks and Acknowledgements