• One of the first automated public car parks in Europe
  • Contained the largest store (Tesco) in Europe when it opened
  • The whole building is a double helix shape to maximise parking space

One of the oldest multi-storey car parks in Europe

Originally known as the Auto-Magic Car Park, Lee Circle is one of the oldest multi-storey car parks in Europe. When it opened in 1961, providing space for 1050 cars, it was also among the first automated public car parks, using coin-operated barriers. Beneath the six parking levels, the supermarket chain Tesco opened their first store outside London. Tesco was integrated with the car park above so that staff could take customers’ purchases direct to their cars. For some years the new supermarket featured in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest store by floor area in Europe.

A self-service shopping revolution

The opening of the Leicester Tesco was a landmark event in the history of UK retailing and marked the beginning of self-service shopping, with customers required to use one of the company’s baskets or trolleys. A crowd of 2,000 gathered to see the opening of the store by ‘Carry On’ comedian Sid James in the presence of Sir Jack Cohen, founder of Tesco stores, who helped to pack bags at the check-outs. This was the first 'discount store' opened by Tesco.

Love it or hate it

Lee Circle is typical of many concrete structures built in the 1960s and demonstrates the impact of the car on town planning at the time. Its design made no attempt to hide its purpose of storing as many vehicles as possible within the space available, using a complex interleaved spiral or double-helix system to maximise space. There have been calls for the demolition of this ‘ugly’ structure, but today many regard it as a local heritage asset.

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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