• The Clock Tower was built in the centre of the first traffic island in Britain
  • Built as a memorial to four of Leicester’s benefactors
  • The clock face was changed from blue to white in the 1970s

Meet me at the Clock Tower!

Generations of local people have met at Leicester´s Clock Tower, one of the city´s best known and most iconic landmarks.

The first traffic island in Britain

The Clock Tower was built originally as a solution to traffic congestion on the site of the town´s former hay and straw market in 1868. Horse drawn vehicles all converged on the area known as the Haymarket from six streets, causing chaos. It was decided that “The Haymarket Memorial Clock Tower” would be constructed as the first traffic island in the Kingdom.

Laying the foundation stone of the Clock Tower, 1868

An organisation was formed in 1867 to raise funds for the project, led by John Burton, who ran a photography business nearby. 472 members of the public contributed a total of 872 pounds, 2 shillings, and 9 pence, with the rest of the £1,200 needed to construct the tower provided by the Corporation of Leicester. The competition to design it was won by local architect Joseph Goddard.

A bottle containing coins, newspapers and the names of the town's Corporation was placed beneath the topmost stone when construction finished in 1868. In 1903 tramlines were laid round the Clock Tower and the system of junctions was the most complicated in Britain.

Clockwise from top left; Alderman Gabriel Newton, Simon De Montfort, Sir Thomas White and William Wigston

A memorial to Leicester´s benefactors

The Clock Tower was intended as a memorial to four of Leicester´s benefactors, carved by the stonemason Samuel Barfield.

Simon De Montfort was Earl of Leicester in 1239 and is remembered locally for giving townsfolk grazing rights on common land and for lifting certain taxes.

William Wigston was a wealthy wool merchant. In 1513 he founded Wigston´s Hospital for the poor. Money from his estate was used to found a Free Grammar School (still standing on Highcross Street).

Sir Thomas White established a trust fund in 1542 known as the “Town Hundred” which helped many local young men start up in business.

Alderman Gabriel Newton set up a trust for the education, clothing and apprenticing of boys. The former Alderman Newton School is now the King Richard III Visitor 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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