• A busy industrial area for over 130 years, from 1850 to the 1980s
  • A large number of the historical factories have been re-purposed into residential and business use
  • Up to 8000 people lived in housing like ‘Cramant’s Cottages’ in Leicester in 1865

From residential neighbourhood to industrial quarter

The area where King Street now stands was originally developed from 1811 for residential use. Evidence of the neighbourhood that was planned can be seen in The Crescent on King Street, built as homes for business and professional people.   By the 1850s however hosiery merchants started building factories and warehouses here, transforming it into a busy industrial area that lasted until the 1980s.

Evidence of an industrial past

Many of the buildings on King Street still feature the names of the companies that once owned them.  Well-known hosiery businesses such as Wolsey Ltd., Pool Lorrimer & Tabberer Ltd., Herbert Driver Ltd. as well as a host of other trades such as wool merchants, printers and dyers all operated from here.  The warehouse at 35 King Street dates from 1845 and was constructed in a fashionable classical style for Richard Harris & Sons, hosiery manufacturers.

As Leicester´s industry disappeared from the city centre, the buildings it left behind were demolished or converted to alternative uses. The Wolsey building was demolished to make way for offices that housed the City Council from 1976-2015. Other industrial buildings became apartments and you can still see some of the names on the buildings. At the start of the 21st century people have moved back into King Street, returning it to the residential use originally planned for it in the early 19th century.

Cramant´s Cottages – Industrial workers cottages

Cramant´s Cottages were industrial workers’ cottages built between 1820 and 1830 at the back of 54 King Street. In the census of 1841 there were 22 people living in them, including Hannah Cramant, a schoolmistress, and her five children.  The cottages back onto a wall with no rear windows or door and are often referred to as ‘blind back’ houses.   It is estimated in 1865 there were 1,500 houses like this in Leicester with “between 7 and 8 thousand people sweltering in these wretched unhealthy abodes”.  The terrace was restored in the 1990s as a bar and is currently a nursery.

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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