• Famous for its Indian food, fashion, spices and jewellery shops as well as hosting the largest Diwali celebrations outside of India
  • The road runs along the line of an ancient Roman road that linked Leicester to Lincoln
  • The area has a long history of being a manufacturing hub; from footwear and knitwear to heavy machinery

An ancient road

The Golden Mile refers to the length of the Belgrave Road from its junction with Abbey Park Road to the turning for Loughborough Road. It is actually a very ancient road, roughly following the line of the Roman Fosse Way from Leicester to Newark and Lincoln. There is some debate about what “Golden Mile” refers to. The most popular view is it relates to the many businesses trading in gold and jewellery. The road is also famous for its seasonal lights that celebrate Diwali and Christmas.

From large industry to small businesses

The story of the Golden Mile is one of resilience and enterprise. For many years Belgrave Road was a thriving area with large companies such as Wolsey and the British United Shoe Machinery (BUSM) company sharing the nearby streets with many smaller workshops and businesses. BUSM was Leicester’s largest manufacturing company, employing 4,000 people at its peak. The main BUSM factory building on the Golden Mile is now the Belgrave Commercial Centre. The company folded in 2000.

The opening of Belgrave Station in May 1882. Leicestershire Record Office

To service the sheer volume of workers in the area a railway station was opened in 1882. Belgrave Station was one of several train stations in Leicester, and was the station most people used for their annual holiday to the east coast. Thousands of Leicester people set off for Skegness, Mablethorpe, or other coastal resorts from here. The line closed in 1962 and the area near the station was turned into a car park and shops.

In the 1960s and ‘70s the area was in decline. Many industries based in the area had closed and the houses built for their workers were often empty. These Victorian terraces, however, provided affordable housing for newcomers from India and Pakistan. Many Asians fleeing Uganda from 1972 also lived there. The incoming Asian community set up small and efficient businesses, applying their previous trading experience. In the early days they were often reliant on close family ties and support, as well as their international networks.

The Golden Mile today

The new influx of people rejuvenated the area and, along with improvements to the built environment, created the Golden Mile that we know today. Belgrave Road is now a huge market place for Indian food, fashion and spices as well as what is claimed to be the highest concentration of Indian jewellery shops in the UK. 

The annual Diwali (Hindu festival) celebrations in October are often said to be the largest outside of India and have an international reputation. Find out more about Diwali celebrations in Leicester.

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A City of Diversity

Faith in Roman Leicester

Leicester has been a place of diverse culture and faith for some 2,000 years. A confirmed Roman temple has been discovered and references to other temples have also been found.

Leicester Cathedral

Leicester Cathedral is at the physical heart of the Leicester, situated in Leicester’s Old Town. The Cathedral famously houses King Richard III’s tomb.

Great Meeting Unitarian Chapel

Built in 1708 as a “Meeting House of Protestant Dissenters”, the Great Meeting is the earliest example of a major brick building in Leicester.

Wesleyan Chapel

Today Bishop Street Methodist Church occupies a prime location in the city overlooking Town Hall Square. This area was used as a cattle market and the land around it was therefore cheap enough for the early Methodists to buy and build on.

Belvoir Street Chapel

Affectionately known as the “Pork Pie Chapel”, Belvoir Street Chapel was designed by Joseph Hansom, inventor of the horse–drawn cab.

Secular Hall

This is the only building in Britain that is entirely devoted to secularism. Secularists believe religion should have no privileged role in civil and state activities. It was a very controversial idea in Victorian times.

Highfield Street Synagogue

The Highfields Street Synagogue was mostly funded by donations from Israel Hart and other local Jewish business men, it opened in 1898.

Saffron Hill Cemetery

The cemetery was formally opened by Cllr H Carver JP, Lord Mayor of Leicester in October 1931. Muslim burials have taken place at Saffron Hill since June 1963. Saffron Hill contains the first purpose built Muslim Chapel or Janazgah in Western Europe.

Central Mosque

First established in 1968 by a group of Pakistani Sunni Muslims, the Islamic Centre would go on to expand from a side street in Highfields to the grand Central Mosque on Conduit Street. The original Islamic Centre is still on Sutherland Street, made up of converted residential buildings and is certainly one of the oldest Mosques in Leicester.

Jain Centre

What we know today as Leicester´s Jain Centre started life in 1863 as a Congregational Chapel (an independent church).

Guru Nanak Dev Ji Gurdwara

Leicester's first Sikh gurdwara now occupies a building that used to be a knitwear factory.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

Located on the corner of Catherine Street and Gypsy Lane is the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Mandir (BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha), a white limestone Hindu temple. The mandir building is a former denim factory and it has now become one of the largest and most stunning mandirs in the Midlands.

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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