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A Working Town

S. Russells & Sons' foundry in Leicester c.1920s

People have been making things in Leicester as far back as the Romans but the most obvious visual evidence of industry in the city comes from the mid-19th century onwards in the form of factories and warehouses.

The success of its hosiery and footwear industries, and the growth of textile giants such as Corah, Wolsey and Byford, led to the claim that Leicester “clothes the world” by the middle years of the 20th Century.  By 1936 the city was recognised as the second richest in Europe thanks to its booming textile industry.

While manufacturing has been in decline across the UK in recent decades there are many modern industries thriving in Leicester with firms based in and around the city focused on professional and financial services, advanced manufacturing and engineering, life sciences, space and digital technology and of course textiles design, manufacturing and technology.

Auto-Magic Car Park (Lee Circle)

Originally known as the Auto-Magic Car Park, Lee Circle is the oldest multi-storey car park in Europe.

Coronation Buildings

Once described as a “jolly piece of commercial vulgarity”, the Coronation Buildings marked both the Coronation of Edward VII in 1902 and Britain´s strong ties to its Victorian Empire.

Friars Mill

Friars Mills refers to a cluster of industrial buildings (some now demolished) that form an important link to Leicester´s textile heritage.

Alexandra House

A remarkable four storey building that was built originally to store bootlaces.

The Leicestershire Banking Company

The Grade II* listed building was designed by the prominent Leicester architect Joseph Goddard.

Shopping in Roman Leicester

The main shopping centre in Roman Leicester was the forum, but the town’s growing prosperity in the early 3rd century AD necessitated construction of a new market-hall, or macellum, on land to the north.

The High Cross

The area that is now Jubilee Square would have been at the very heart of medieval Leicester. On Wednesdays a market was held at the junction of what is now Highcross Street and High Street.

Glenfield Tunnel

The Glenfield Tunnel, when it opened in 1832, was the longest steam railway tunnel in the world. It forms part of the Leicester & Swannington railway network, the first steam railway in the Midlands and one of the first in the world.

Corah and Sons - St Margaret's Works

Corah was established by Nathaniel Corah, who began buying hosiery in Leicester to sell in Birmingham in 1815. He was born in Barlestone, Leicestershire in 1777 and trained as a frame-smith to produce garments on a knitting frame.

King Street

The area where King Street now stands was originally developed from 1811 for residential use. By the 1850s however hosiery merchants started building factories and warehouses here, transforming it into a busy industrial area that lasted until the 1980s.

West Bridge Station

Built in 1893, the station was added to one of the earliest railways in the world; the Leicester & Swannington Railway.

Pares's Bank

The present building is often said to be the most elegant bank in Leicester. It was designed by J.B. Everard & S. Perkins Pick for Pares´s Bank in 1901 but became Parr´s Bank (of Warrington and London) in 1902 following a takeover.

High Street

High Street follows a route that existed in Roman times, connecting East Gate to the Forum and Basilica (now Jubilee Square). In medieval times it was known as Forum Porcorum (‘pig market’) or Swinesmarket, but by 1524 had been renamed High Street to reflect its increased importance.

Leicester Market

Leicester Market has been a place of social and cultural importance since the 13th century when it became the centre for trade in the area. The first mention of it was in 1298 when a market larger than today’s took place ‘bounded by the city walls and the corn wall’, which was used by horse dealers to display the speed of their animals.

Abbey Pumping Station

This impressive Victorian building is a fitting tribute to the importance of the hygienic disposal of sewage. It is the only engine house in the world where you can still see four working examples of the Woolf compound rotative beam engine in one building.

Luke Turner & Co. Ltd.

In the mid-19th century the manufacture of elastic webbing for boots, stockings, braces etc. was a very profitable business in Leicester. Supplying both the footwear industry and hosiery, the Luke Turner company extended the uses to which the material could be put.

Makers Yard

The buildings at 82-86 Rutland Street, now Makers Yard, form the earliest surviving example of an unpowered hosiery factory in the East Midlands. They were originally built in stages between 1854 and 1863 for J. Brown and Sons, a hosiery manufacturer specialising in gloves.

LCB Depot

The aim of the LCB Depot is to support, develop and stimulate the city's creative businesses. Since opening in 2004 it has gone from strength to strength and has now become home to a thriving community of creatives that support the local economy.

Freeman, Hardy and Willis - Leicester Blitz

During Leicester’s ‘Blitz Night’ at 7.56pm on 19 November 1940, several bombs fell on businesses along Rutland Street, including the Freeman Hardy and Willis building.

Aylestone Road Gas Works and Gas Museum

The Works included many offices, stores and ‘retort’ houses where the coal was heated to make the gas. Production was increased many times over the years to keep up with Leicester’s growing population.

Gas Workers Cottages

The Gas Works operated 24 hours a day and so the workers needed to live close by. Leicester Corporation built 201-247 Aylestone Road for the gas workers in 1878. The 24, three-storey houses were the first council houses in Leicester.

The Vulcan Works

Brothers Josiah and Benjamin Gimson started their engineering business in 1842. The Vulcan Works was built for their Company between 1876 and 1879. It was one of the earliest in Britain to combine an iron foundry with an engineering works.

Weighbridge Toll Collector’s House

Leicester´s hay market used to be held in the area where the Clock Tower now stands. In the 1860s it moved to Humberstone Gate due to congestion from horse-drawn traffic.

Kirby & West Dairy

James Kirby, a ‘cow keeper’ started a dairy business in Highfields in the 1860s.

Leicester Union Workhouse

Following the Poor Law Amendment Act, the Leicester Union Workhouse opened in 1839 to help the most poor in society earn a living.

Statue of Liberty

Fredric Lennard and his five sons built a large shoemaking business, patenting the Liberty footwear brand in 1901. The replica Statue of Liberty was commissioned in 1919 for the company's large factory on Eastern Boulevard.

Wimbledon Works

The Wimbledon Works factory was built for the men's clothing business Hart & Levy, which grew rapidly with mass cheap production towards the end of the 19th century.

Fox’s Glacier Mints

Peppy the Polar Bear being introduced to another stuffed polar bear

Samworth Brothers

The Samworth Brothers connection with Leicester dates from 1986 when the family business purchased of famous Leicester pie makers, Walker & Son.

Dryad Handicrafts

In 1907 Harry Hardy Peach (1874–1936) founded Dryad Handicrafts.

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