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  • 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 Yard

These six workers’ cottages were built between 1820 and 1830 at the back of 54 King Street. They are some of the only surviving ‘one up one down’ cottages that were typical of the working class housing built in Leicester in the first half of the 19th century.

The cottages were back-to-back and had no rear door or windows and are often referred to as ‘rear wall blank’ houses. They were built of red brick with a slate roof and tall chimney. The front door led directly into the ground floor room, from which a staircase led to the upper room. The yard had a communal water supply, from a well or cistern, and a ‘privy’ or toilet.

Cramant’s Yard was named after the landlord James Cramant 1783 – 1835. James may have been in the hosiery trade, and possibly built the cottages as an investment for his old age. As well as the cottages, he owned a workshop and a house at 40 & 42 King Street.

The first documentary evidence of the Cramant Cottages is from 1834. John Langton, of Cramant's Yard, was charged with ill-using his wife and family. In the census of 1841 there were 26 people living in five of the cottages, including Hannah Cramant, a schoolmistress, and her five children. 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”. 

Despite being designated as slums in 1958, the cottages escaped demolition. In 1984 some restoration work was done and they were ‘listed’ which protects them for the future. The terrace was restored in the 1990s as a bar and is currently a nursery.


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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