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  • The Leicester Boys Club was set up in 1897 to help disadvantaged young boys, and included seaside holidays at Mablethorpe
  • Girls joined in the excursions in 1900 and slept in wooden chalets while boy stayed in tents
  • Shaftesbury Hall was built in 1906 as official headquarters for the club and still houses the holiday centre headquarters

Lady Rolleston and the street boys of Leicester 

Lady Rolleston was concerned about the welfare of young boys who were selling newspapers on Leicester’s streets. Most had no shoes, were poorly dressed and were often the sole breadwinner in their family during times of high unemployment. In 1897 she set up the Leicester Boys Club to help them, followed by seaside holidays at Mablethorpe as a break from their harsh life.  

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The Leicester Poor Boys and Girls Summer Camp 

For many of Leicester’s ‘poor boys’, the summer camp at Mablethorpe was the first time they had seen the sea. Their adventure of a lifetime began at the Belgrave Road terminus of the Great Northern Railway. At first, only boys were catered for, staying in tents on Mablethorpe’s sand dunes. Later, wooden chalets were built for girls, followed by purpose-built homes. Lady Rolleston made use of her husband’s connections to appoint local wealthy businessmen to the Charity’s board. They in turn encouraged their employees to donate money from their wages to help fund the holidays. 

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Shaftesbury Hall 

Shaftesbury Hall was built c.1906 as the headquarters of the Leicester Poor Boys Summer CampShaftesbury Hall was named after Lord Shaftesbury, a politician who campaigned to improve the lives of working children. The upper floor remains the headquarters of the Leicester Children’s Holiday Centre (Mablethorpe) and still provides disadvantaged local children with a free traditional seaside holiday. Today’s holiday excursions still set off from, and return to, Shaftesbury Hall. 

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Can be viewed from the road


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.

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.

Victorian Leicester

(1837 – 1901) The industrial revolution had a huge effect on Leicester resulting in the population growing from 40,000 to 212,000 during this period. Many of Leicester's most iconic buildings were erected during this time as wealthy Victorians made their mark on the town.

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.

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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