• Rev F.L. Donaldson, a Christian Socialist was a leader of the ‘March of the Unemployed to London’ in 1905
  • The interior has dramatic murals depicting the hardships of the working classes
  • The school, teaching children of the parish, closed in 1960

A church for the working classes

When first built around 1870, St Marks Church was surrounded by large industrial buildings. Heavy industry in the area included iron foundries (from where nearby Foundry Lane gets its name) and textile factories. St Mark’s was one of the main working class parishes of Leicester.

The Revd F.L. Donaldson and the March of the Unemployed

The most famous vicar of St Mark’s was the Revd F.L. Donaldson, one of the leaders of the Leicester March of the Unemployed to London in 1905. He saw the consequences of unemployment first hand in his parish, writing in 1896 : “In this parish there is represented much of the tragedy and pathos, shame and horror of modern social conditions – infant mortality, child labour, underpayment or sweating of men and women, decadence of physical life, consumption and premature death”.

Donaldson’s Christian Socialist ideals live on in a series of dramatic murals he commissioned for the church, two of which depict the poverty, pain and sorrow he had encountered among his parishioners. The murals are now covered by internal walls designed to protect them.

St Mark’s CE Junior and Infant School

The school near the church opened in 1874 and was one of many church schools providing an education to the children of the working classes. Often the vicar would act as the teacher. It served the children of the parish until the 1960s.

The church closed in 1986, reopening in 2005 following an award-winning restoration as the Empire Conference and Banqueting Centre.

Visitor information
Can be seen from the street

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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