• The name ‘Friar Lane’ is derived from the neighbouring Friary of the Franciscans or Grey Friars
  • New County Council offices were erected on the site of the gardens and outbuildings in 1920
  • In 1612 a stone pillar seen in in the garden was the last recorded location of the body of Richard III

A Garden Fit for a King

17 Friar Lane stands on was once part of the Friary of the Franciscans or Grey Friars (from the colour of their garments). After the Friary had been dissolved and demolished, in 1538, the land came into the possession of the Herrick family. Robert Herrick built a house and garden and in 1612 Christopher Wren, the future Dean of Windsor and father of the famous architect, walked with Herrick in the garden and was shown ‘a handsome Stone Pillar, three foot high’, which Herrick had erected and on which was inscribed the legend ‘Here lies the body of Richard III, sometime King of England.’ This was the last recorded location of Richard’s body. The estate passed from the Herricks to the Nobles, the Pares, and the Burnaby families in turn from the 16th century to the 19th.

17 Friar Lane

The land was divided in 1743 and the house at 17 Friar Lane, which appears to have been built for William Bentley sometime between 1759 and 1771, came into the possession of John Barratt in 1771. It then passed down through his family until it was leased in 1852 by Dr Benfield, a surgeon at the Royal Infirmary. The building is now reckoned to be the best looking house of its period surviving in Leicester.

A curious detail is that Dr Benfield built a gateway next to his house for access to the coach-house, but one of the piers of the new gate projected slightly onto the pavement. Because of this the doctor paid the Corporation a rent of one shilling on 1st July each year.

Council Property

Part of the land near 17 Friar Lane was sold in 1863 to the Alderman Newton’s Boys’ School who built a schoolhouse (now the Richard III Visitor Centre), while Leicester Corporation bought the estate from the Burnabys and briefly considered it as the site for the new Town Hall. After the death of the doctor and his wife the house was used by the Wyggeston Girls’ Junior School. In 1914 the property was divided into two lots, both of which were sold to the County Council who moved the County Health Department into the house, including the Public Health Laboratory in one of the servants’ bedrooms on the second floor. When the Council moved to their current base in Glenfield in 1968 it became the property of Leicester City Council, with the unbuilt land serving as a car park for Council staff.

Visitor information
Can be seen from street

Gallery

Roman Leicester

(47- 500) A military fort was erected, attracting traders and a growing civilian community to Leicester (known as Ratae Corieltauvorum to the Romans). The town steadily grew throughout the reign of the Romans.

Medieval Leicester

(500 – 1500) The early years of this period was one of unrest with Saxon, Danes and Norman invaders having their influences over the town. Later, of course, came Richard III and the final battle of the Wars of the Roses was fought on Leicester’s doorstep.

Tudor & Stuart Leicester

(1500 – 1700) The wool trade flourished in Leicester with one local, a former mayor named William Wigston, making his fortune. During the English Civil War a bloody battle was fought as the forces of King Charles I laid siege to the town.

Georgian Leicester

(1700 – 1837) The knitting industry had really stared to take hold and Leicester was fast becoming the main centre of hosiery manufacture in Britain. This new prosperity was reflected throughout the town with broader, paved streets lined with elegant brick buildings and genteel residences.

Edwardian Leicester

(1901 – 1910) Electric trams came to the streets of Leicester and increased literacy among the citizens led to many becoming politicised. The famous 1905 ‘March of the Unemployed to London’ left from Leicester market when 30,000 people came to witness the historic event.

Early 20th Century Leicester

(1910 – 1973) The diverse industrial base meant Leicester was able to cope with the economic challenges of the 1920s and 1930s. New light engineering businesses, such as typewriter and scientific instrument making, complemented the more traditional industries of hosiery and footwear manufacturing.

Modern Leicester

(1973 – present day) Industry was still thriving in the city during the 1970s, with the work opportunities attracting many immigrants from all over the world. While industry has declined in recent years, excellent transport links have made Leicester an attractive centre for many businesses. The City now has much to be proud of including its sporting achievements and the richness of its cultural heritage and diversity.

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