• This vibrant shopping district has a long history stretching back to the Romans
  • Il Rondo Ballroom hosted many famous musicians over the years including The Who, Cream and John Lee Hooker
  • Silver Street once had a 2,000 capacity classical music venue ‘The Royal Opera House’

From medieval streets to modern shopping

The area known as ‘The Lanes’ dates back to medieval Leicester with the street pattern remaining much the same for many centuries. Roughly following the ancient Roman road that connected the west and east gates of the town the street has had various names over the years but by 1587 it was known as Silver Street. The name probably comes from the silversmiths that had set up shop in the area. ‘Lowesby Lane’ is first mentioned in 1448, while the name Cart’s Lane doesn’t appear on the maps until the 18th century.

A place of entertainment

The only surviving old pubs in the area are the Globe and the Crown & Thistle (which is now part of O’Neill’s). In 1815 Nathanial Corah would meet in the Globe every Saturday morning with stockingers who had goods to sell. Nathanial’s descendants would go on to form the hugely successful Corah hosiery company. The Crown & Thistle was the only licenced premises that the Lord Mayor of Leicester could enter wearing his chain of office. For many years a ceremony was held on 24th June when the Lord Mayor called to collect the ground rent, which consists of a damask rose and four old pennies.

 

Today the area is a vibrant shopping district with many independent retailers

The Royal Opera House on Silver Street was built in 1877 and could hold up to 2,000 people.  The final performance at the Opera House was in 1960, when the building was demolished to make way for the Malcolm Arcade.

A famous venue on Silver Street was the Il Rondo Ballroom. It had been a dance hall for some years but became a major part of Leicester’s youth scene in the mid-1960s when it started to host live rock and pop music. Major bands such as the Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Who and Cream played here, as well as many big names of the British jazz scene. In particular, Il Rondo was where many Leicester locals got a chance to see American blues performers such as Howling Wolf, John Lee Hooker and Champion Jack Dupree

Unique shopping

Since the 1960s Silver Street and The Lanes area has been known as a charming part of Leicester, full of small independent shops selling a wide range of items. It's a perfect example of how a carefully conserved past can create a vibrant future.

Find out more about visiting The Lanes.

Visitor information
Public access

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.

Change time period...
  • Roman Leicester
  • Medieval Leicester
  • Tudor & Stuart Leicester
  • Georgian Leicester
  • Victorian Leicester
  • Edwardian Leicester
  • Early 20th Century Leicester
  • Modern Leicester
story of leicester
Your ultimate guide to the city