Guide to procession route

20th March 2015

Background to the Richard III Processional Route in the City

Based on information provided by The Diocese of Leicester.

1) Bow Bridge

This bridge, built in 1863, replaces the original Bow Bridge that existed in medieval times.

The Bow Bridge and the Richard III Story

For the people of Leicester, the Bow Bridge has always had great significance to the Richard III story. King Richard crossed the bridge when leaving Leicester on his way to do battle at Bosworth and his corpse was brought back by the same route following his defeat. There was also a story that, after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, Richard III´s body was dug up by an angry mob and thrown into the River Soar.  This story, now disproved, is recalled on the plaque near the bridge erected by Benjamin Broadbent, a local builder, in 1856.

A white rose on Bow bridge
A white rose on Bow bridge

When the old bridge was demolished in 1861, the new bridge was designed by the city as a memorial to Richard III, its ironwork depicting the white rose of York, the Tudor rose, Richard´s White Boar emblem and Richard´s motto “Loyaulte me Lie” (Loyalty Binds Me). English place-names ending in -cester, often indicates that the place is the site of a Roman castra (a military camp or fort, but it can also apply to the site of a pre-historic fort.)

A red rose on Bow Bridge
A red rose on Bow Bridge

The Legend of the Old Woman and the Prophesy

According to folklore, King Richard´s spur struck part of the bridge as he rode out to Bosworth. An old woman watching his departure then predicted that when he returned to the town, his head would strike the same point on the bridge.  It is said the prophesy came true when the king´s corpse was brought back to Leicester slung over a horse.  This legend is recalled on plaques on the bridge.

2) Jewry Wall

The remains of the Roman bath house, known as 'Jewry Wall.'
The remains of the Roman bath house, known as ‘Jewry Wall.’

Ratae Corieltauvorum

Following the Roman Conquest of AD 43, Leicester or Ratae Corieltauvorum, as it was known, developed into an important Roman town. Many great public buildings were constructed including the baths in AD150. Today, the only visible reminder of Leicester´s Roman past is the remaining wall (of the baths complex) inaccurately known as ‘Jewry Wall.’ The wall is one of the largest pieces of Roman masonry still standing in Britain.

Roman life and the baths complex

Bathing was an important part of cultural and social life in Roman towns.  Bath-houses were places to exercise, relax, eat, socialise and make business transactions as well as getting clean. Access to the baths complex is thought to have been through the arches in Jewry Wall. You can discover more about the baths and Roman Leicester at Jewry Wall Museum.

The discovery of the Roman baths in the 1930s

Until the 1930s people believed Jewry Wall was part of a temple to Janus.  It wasn´t until 1936 when a factory was demolished to make way for new swimming baths that the Roman baths complex was discovered.  Pioneering archaeologist Dame Kathleen Kenyon led the excavations that were the first large-scale archaeological investigations of Roman Leicester.

3) St Nicholas Church

Leicester´s oldest place of worship

St Nicholas’ church is Leicester´s oldest surviving place of worship.  Built originally in Saxon times around the 9th or 10th centuries, it has been remodelled since but the original walls of the nave (main central hall) still remain. Other early features that can still be seen include Norman arches and the tower (added around the 11th century).

Roman connections

The church was built next to the surviving wall of the Roman baths, probably in use until the 4th century AD. Those who built the church clearly made use of Roman building materials as Roman tiles can be seen incorporated into Saxon windows on the north side and into the church´s facade. There are also Roman columns in the churchyard.

The changing fortunes of St Nicholas church

In the later Middle Ages St Nicholas was a poor church.  With no money for repairs, parts of the building were demolished after1600 and the spire was removed in 1805. In the 1950s and 60s slum clearance and new road schemes resulted in the parish losing most of its residents. After a brief spell as the Chaplaincy Church for both universities in the city, St Nicholas is now home to a congregation that values its membership of “The Inclusive Church Network”.

4) Jubilee Square
Was named Jubilee Square to mark the Queen’s 2012 visit to Leicester, the first stop on Her Majesty’s tour of Britain.
a. High Cross

The heart of medieval Leicester.  Markets were held here on Wednesdays and Fridays.  In 1577 the High Cross was built.  It provided shelter for traders, consisting of eight pillars in a circle holding up a dome.

The structure gradually fell into disrepair as the town developed and by 1773 most of it was pulled down to allow room for carriages to pass by.  Just a single pillar remained and a cross of granite set into the roadway now marks the spot where it once stood

b. Roman Forum and Basilica

Back in the 3rd century AD this area would have been the administrative and bustling commercial heart of Roman Leicester.  Beneath your feet lies what remains of the forum and basilica. To the west was the Jewry Wall public bathhouse and temple, to the north a macellum or market hall.
The forum was a large open square surrounded on three sides by colonnades containing shops. What remains of the colonnade can be seen at Jewry Wall Museum.  It would have acted as a market place as well as a centre for religious, social and political gatherings. It is likely the forum would have taken over 50 years to build.
On the fourth side of the forum was the basilica, a large aisled building which contained offices and would have served as Roman Leicester’s administrative and judicial centre.
It is thanks to the 21st century renaissance of Leicester and its new commercial and residential developments that we know so much about its ancient past. As old industrial buildings are demolished, archaeologists can move in to uncover evidence that gives us clues to what the city looked like over 2,000 years ago.

c. Wygston’s House

Built around 1490, this medieval house is now the oldest dwelling in the city.

Wyggeston's Hospital and Boys School, 1876
Wyggeston’s Hospital and Boys School, 1876

Who was Roger Wygston?

The initials RW appear several times on the painted glass panels belonging to this house, so we believe it was the home of Roger Wigston (1430 -1507), one of Leicester´s leading wool merchants. He was Mayor of Leicester three times as well as a Member of Parliament for the town.

The Story of the House

What you can see from the outside is a medieval timber hall overlooking a small courtyard. The front of the house (on Applegate) was rebuilt in 1796 in a more fashionable brick whilst the rear wing was added later in Victorian times over what was the medieval kitchen.

Why is the house important?

The Wigstons were a rich and important local family. William Wigston, Roger´s father, made the family fortune from the wool trade in the early 15th century. Roger´s nephew, also William, was a great benefactor of the town and founded Wyggeston Hospital in 1513 and later the Wyggeston schools.

5) Medieval Streets

Depiction of Leicester in the 15th century
Depiction of Leicester in the 15th century

Leicester´s medieval streets

Medieval Leicester lay within the old Roman walls. The town walls followed the lines of what are now Soar Lane, Sanvey Gate, Church Gate, Gallowtree Gate, Horsefair Street and Bath Lane in the West.  Four fortress-like gates provided the main entrances into the town known as North Gate, East Gate, South Gate and West Gate.

Today the area around Guildhall Lane, Loseby Lane and St Martins East and West gives a good impression of what medieval Leicester might have looked like with its densely built-up narrow streets.

The medieval High Street (now Highcross Street and Applegate) was the town´s main trading area and was lined with the houses of the wealthy and the more important inns.

What´s in a name?

Sanvey Gate – This is thought to be a corruption of Sancta Via (the Holy Way) and may have been a route for religious processions to St Margaret´s Church.

Loseby Lane – This is named after Henry de Loseby, a local 14th century landowner.  The cattle market was held here in the middle ages.

Gallowtree Gate – This derives from the road (“gata”) that leads to the gallows at the top of London Road

Cank Street – It is thought this is named after the public well that lay there

Butt Close Lane – The site of the town´s archery butts (a shooting field, with mounds of earth used for the target.)

Holy Bones – This name could be derived either from the discarded animal bones from the butchers trading close to St Nicholas Church or from the path leading to St Nicholas´churchyard. The 17th century scholar Edmund Gibson claimed the Romans built a temple here, dedicated to the god Janus. “An argument whereof is the great store of bones of beasts (which were sacrificed) that have been digged up,” he wrote. “On this account, that place in town is still called Holy Bones.”

Friar Lane – The lane runs alongside the site of a Franciscan friary, occupied by friars known as the “Grey Friars”. The Franciscan Friars (Orders of Friars Minor, often called the Grey Friars from the colour of their garments) came to England in 1224, around a year before the death of St Francis of Assisi, their founder. Friars differ from monks in that they are not a secluded community but work among the local people, on whose charity they are dependant. The nave of the friary church would have been accessible to the public, while the rest of the buildings were private. Medieval Leicester supported two other friaries, one Dominican and one Augustinian.

6) Highcross Street

a. Free Grammar School

One of the oldest schoolhouses in England

The school was built around 1573 using stone, timber and lead from St Peter´s church that had been demolished following an appeal to Queen Elizabeth I. The Royal coat of arms is displayed over the entrance.

What do we know of the pupils?

Remarkably, details of the school curriculum have survived. Pupils attended lessons six days a week with a half-day on Thursdays. Summer hours were 5am – 5pm with a two-hour break and in winter 7am-5pm. Subjects included English, Latin and Greek grammar and older boys were expected to speak Latin to each other.  At its height around 130 boys studied here but by the 1830s attendance had fallen dramatically as rival schools opened in the town. It closed in 1841.

Why is it important to the story of Leicester?

Thomas Wigston founded the school using money from his brother William´s estate.   You can see the name “Sir William Wigston” on the benefactors’ plaque on the Highcross Street side of the building. The Wigston family were great Leicester benefactors.

In later years the building was a carpet warehouse and a booking office for Barton Transport of Nottingham. It is now a bar and restaurant

b. The Blue Boar Inn (near to the site of the Travelodge)

On 20th August 1485 King Richard III spent his final night in Leicester at the Blue Boar Inn before riding out towards Bosworth to engage the forces of Henry Tudor in battle. He brought his own bed with him from Nottingham Castle, allegedly because he “slept ill in strange beds.” His bed was supposedly left at the inn, perhaps the intention being the king would return there after the battle.  The room he stayed in was described as a “large gloomy chamber” whose beams were decorated with representations of vine-tendrils.

What do we know of the Blue Boar Inn?

Built in the mid-15th century, the Blue Boar was one of Leicester´s principal coaching inns, a place where aristocrats and wealthy merchants would stay when moving around the county. Previously King Richard had stayed at Leicester Castle on his visits to the city but by 1485 the building was falling into disrepair.

Legend has it that the inn was originally called the White Boar, which was Richard´s emblem.  After the battle it is alleged that the landlord hastily painted the sign blue, a blue boar being the emblem of the Earl of Oxford, Henry Tudor´s chief supporter.

What remains of the Inn today?

Nothing remains of the Inn today however the University of Leicester have reconstructed a 3D model of what the Inn would have looked like from detailed plans found in a 19th century notebook.

7) High Street

a) The High Cross Coffee House, High Street (1895) now the Highcross pub

The High Cross Coffee House was designed by Leicester architect Edward Burgess, a Quaker. The exteriors of the coffee houses were deliberately ornate to attract customers.

Thomas Cook was a lifelong supporter of the “Temperance Movement” that encouraged people to give up drinking alcohol, believing drunkenness was the cause of many problems. Cook, a devout Christian, was a founder member, in 1877, of the Leicester Coffee and Cocoa Company Ltd. which set up 14 coffee and cocoa houses. Designed to keep people away from public houses, they provided affordable food and “nutritious, comforting and healthful beverages at the easy price of a penny a pint”.

The coffee houses, which were open to both sexes, were airy and comfortable with dining, reading and billiard rooms.

b) Coronation Buildings

Once described as a “jolly piece of commercial vulgarity”, the Coronation Buildings marked both the Coronation of Edward VII in 1902 and Britain´s continuing strong ties to its Victorian Empire.  The Leicester architect and philanthropist Arthur Wakerley, Mayor of Leicester in 1897, designed this Art Nouveau style building.  He also designed the Turkey Cafe on Granby Street.

A celebration of the British Empire

Building in Leicester's Victorian High Street
Building in Leicester’s Victorian High Street

Look up and you can see some panels with a Union Jack centre and animals representing parts of the Empire.  These are:
Africa – an ostrich, Australia – a kangaroo, Burma – an elephant, Canada – a mountain lion or cougar, Egypt – a camel, India – a tiger.

The Singer Building in Leicester's High Street
The Singer Building in Leicester’s High Street

How were the buildings used?

From their opening in 1904 until the mid 1960s the greater part of the Coronation Buildings was occupied by the main showroom and Midland head office of the Singer Sewing Machine Company.  It soon became popularly known as the “Singer Building”.

8) Gallowtree Gate

a) Clock Tower

The Clock Tower
The Clock Tower

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. 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.  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.

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 Richard III Visitor Centre.

b) East Gates Coffee House, Church Gate (1885) Now Cruise Clothing

The East Gates, opened by the duchess of Rutland in 1885, was described as “built in the domestic style of the 15th century, and both internally and externally much admired”.

Thomas Cook was a lifelong supporter of the “Temperance Movement” that encouraged people to give up drinking alcohol, believing drunkenness was the cause of many problems. Cook, a devout Christian, was a founder member in 1877 of the Leicester Coffee and Cocoa Company Ltd. which set up 14 coffee and cocoa houses. Designed to keep people away from public houses, they provided affordable food and “nutritious, comforting and healthful beverages at the easy price of a penny a pint”.

The coffee houses, which were open to both sexes, were airy and comfortable with dining, reading and billiard rooms.

c) Thomas Cook Building

The Thomas Cook building
The Thomas Cook building

Who was Thomas Cook?

Thomas Cook was the pioneer of popular tourism and founder of the international travel company Thomas Cook and Son. He was also a devout Baptist and Temperance (anti-alcohol) campaigner who died in Leicester in 1892. He is buried in Welford Road Cemetery.

How did the travel business start?

In 1841 Cook organised a Temperance excursion from Leicester to Loughborough on the recently opened Midland Counties Railway. More excursions followed and thanks to him in 1851 over 160,000 people went by train to see the Great Exhibition in London.  European tours began in the 1850s and in the early 1870s Cook himself conducted the first “round the world” tour. Panels on the exterior of this building show scenes from the history of the business including the Nile expedition of 1884 when Cook steamers assisted in the relief of Khartoum.

What do we know about the building itself?

The building was commissioned by Thomas Cook´s son, John Mason Cook, who took over from his father and was responsible for much of its success. The ground floor housed the excursion, tourist and shipping office alongside the foreign banking and exchange department. It was designed by local architects Goddard, Paget and Goddard and opened in 1894.

9) Leicester Markets

a) The Corn Exchange

Leicester's Corn Exchange building
Leicester’s Corn Exchange building

A touch of Italy in Leicester

The Corn Exchange, now a distinctive city landmark, was originally built as a place for dealing in grain in 1850.  The ground floor was designed by William Flint whilst the upper floor, bridge and clock tower were added by F.W. Ordish five years later. Ordish´s design was criticised at the time but today the Corn Exchange is a source of civic pride. Its distinctive venetian-style bridge or exterior staircase is often referred to as the “Bridge of Sighs”.

A building for trade, civic and judicial functions

Many Victorian towns built corn exchanges in market places for farmers and merchants to trade corn and grain to meet the demand for food created by the expanding urban population. They were often unsuccessful as traders preferred to use local inns and the importation of grain from America reduced usage still further. Leicester´s Corn Exchange continued to be used for civic and judicial functions however.

A stage for Leicester´s great civic events

The Corn Exchange provided a distinctive central point in Leicester.  Due to its size, and the fact its external staircase could act as a podium, it was used for a range of important meetings and occasions. Ramsay Macdonald used it for canvassing in the election of 1906 and a service to mark the coronation of George V was held there in 1911.  In 1931/2 the hosiery union used the Corn Exchange to broker a solution to the strike by Wolsey hosiery workers.

10)  Silver Arcade – Silver Street

An arcade for Victorian shoppers

During the 19th century, shopping arcades became fashionable.  Hoping to capitalise on their popularity, J.E. Hodding, a solicitor, commissioned local architect Amos Hall in 1899 to design one for him.

What is special about the Silver Arcade?

Silver Arcade has some unusual features, for example it is one of only two surviving Victorian arcades in Britain with four storeys.  Whilst shops lined the ground floor, the arcade is also unusual for its time in providing showrooms and offices, rather than apartments, on the upper floors. According to the original plans, WCs for women were provided at ground level only, as it was “not anticipated females will be employed above the ground floor”.  This assumption was soon proved wrong as tenants on the upper floors in 1906 included two tailoresses.

Who were the tenants of the Silver Arcade?

Local trades directories show that over the years units were occupied by haberdashers, drapers, tailors, boot manufacturers, confectioners, newsagents, tea and refreshment rooms, book sellers, singing teachers, hairdressers and rope makers as well as commercial travellers, estate agents, debt collectors and even a trades union.

Its future in doubt, Silver Arcade closed in 2000, but was able to re-open again in 2013 following an award-winning refurbishment that included two new lifts. It is now occupied by a range of independent retailers, specialist craft firms and a restaurant.

11) Granby Street – top end

a) Turkey Café – Granby Street

The Turkey Cafe
The Turkey Cafe

Turkey – country or bird?

The charming Art Nouveau-style Turkey Cafe was designed by local architect and former mayor Arthur Wakerley.  People at this time were fascinated by “orientalism” and the building reflects Wakerley´s interpretation of Turkish architecture. Turkey the country and turkey the bird are both themes woven into his design. The frontage of the building was covered in matt-glazed Carraraware made by the Royal Doulton company.

“A place to give rest to the body and pleasure to the eye”

Once finished, the Turkey Cafe was leased to the restaurateur John Winn, opening in 1901. The family continued to run it until the 1960s.  Cafes were popular in Edwardian times as they provided respectable meeting places for women and were promoted by anti-alcohol campaigners as an alternative to pubs

Advertisements from 1911 show that Winn´s had its own bakery and roasted its coffee each day “by the Most Efficient Mechanical Process Invented”. They claimed to serve “the finest coffee the world produces, roasted hourly, ground hourly, and retaining all its delicious aroma”

Changes to the Cafe

In 1911 the cafe was extended to provide a Smoke Room for gentlemen and extra tearooms. A “Ladies´ Orchestra” gave performances twice daily. The cafe regularly hosted social events and the meetings of local clubs and societies.  The building has been frequently remodelled, both inside and out, but in the 1980s Rayners (Opticians) restored the exterior using original architect drawings.

12)  Cultural Quarter
The emerging Cultural Quarter has transformed the St. Georges area of Leicester from the city’s former textile and shoes hub into a thriving area for creative industries, artists, designers and crafts people.

Curve designed by Raphael Vignoly
Curve designed by Raphael Vinoly

At the heart of the Cultural Quarter is the ultra-modern Curve Theatre, designed by international architect Rafael Vinoly. Curve has a growing reputation and one of the country’s leading producing theatres, including world premieres alongside shows direct from the West End.

Phoenix - cinema and digital arts centre
Phoenix – cinema and digital arts centre

Phoenix cinema, digital arts centre and café bar brings inspirational film and art through its varied events programme, exhibitions and educational activities. Phoenix is part of the Phoenix Square development, home to architects and designers in creative workspace units, creating a unique cultural environment. Phoenix have developed 2 apps to help reveal the hidden history of the Cultural Quarter – find out more about these apps on the Story of Leicester website.

Leicester Creative Business Depot
Leicester Creative Business Depot

The Leicester Creative Business Depot (LCB Depot) on Rutland Street provides incubator units for new and emerging creative businesses with the Fuel café for visitors.
Makers Yard, Leicester’s newest studio space for professional artists and designer-makers. Located in the oldest surviving hosiery factory in the East Midlands, the factory has been lovingly restored into a charming and purpose-built complex, ideal for practices such as fashion, textiles, ceramics and wood-working.
For art lovers there’s a developing connection of gallery spaces, with independent artist studios and gallery space, Two Queens, showcasing leading contemporary art in a converted factory space. There are also digital art exhibitions on show at Phoenix Square, and exhibition spaces at LCB Depot, including Pedestrian Arts and Fabrika, both independent arts centres in Humberstone Gate.

a) Curve
Curve is a spectacular state-of-the-art theatre based in the heart of the Leicester’s vibrant Cultural Quarter.
Opened in 2008 by Her Majesty The Queen, our award-winning building, designed by acclaimed architect Rafael Viñoly, offers a completely unique visitor experience.
Unlike any other theatre in the UK, we have no traditional backstage area. Audiences can enjoy the full theatre making process, peek behind the scenes and maybe even spot an actor or two dashing from the stage to their dressing room or enjoying a coffee in our Café. Our curved façade is made from 1,192 tonnes of steel and 46000m² of glass.
Managed by Leicester Theatre Trust, Curve is a registered charity providing engaging world- class theatrical experiences for our local communities. We enable people of all ages and backgrounds to access, participate in and learn from the arts, nurturing new and emerging talent, and creating world-class theatrical experiences.

b) Orton Square

John Kingsley Orton was born in Leicester in 1933 and from the age of two, lived on the Saffron Lane council estate.  After winning a scholarship to RADA in 1951, he met Kenneth Halliwell, an actor and writer seven years his senior.  Halliwell would become Orton’s friend, mentor, lover and, eventually his murderer.

Between 1964-1967, Joe Orton contributed to an exciting working class culture that swept through the nation.  A promiscuous and openly gay man at a time when homosexuality was actively persecuted by the police, Orton was the rising star of an ‘alternative British intelligentsia’.

His first stage play, Entertaining Mr Sloane, was a huge success while his second, Loot, won the coveted Evening Standard award for Best Play.  However, Orton’s success as a playwright and celebrity put a distance between himself and Kenneth Halliwell that the latter found increasingly difficult to cope with.

In August 1967, Halliwell, by now suffering from severe depression, murdered Orton before killing himself.  His suicide note referred to the contents of Orton’s diary as an explanation for his actions.

c) Makers Yard

Part of Leicester´s hosiery story

The buildings at 82-86 Rutland Street, now Makers Yard, are the earliest surviving example of an unpowered hosiery factory in Britain.  They were originally built between 1854 and 1863 for J. Brown and Sons, a hosiery manufacturer specialising in gloves.

Home working to factory mass production

The buildings of Makers Yard show how the hosiery trade changed from a home-based to a factory-based industry. The door and two windows to the right of the building were part of the original warehouse built in the mid 1850s This was used for storage and distribution of items made by outworkers in their own homes. Knitters left their homes and came to work in the factory at the rear of the site when it was completed in 1860.  The factory has larger windows to let in the light needed for the knitters to see their work. A second warehouse, with carriage access to the left, was added in 1862-3.

Later owners

By the 1890s J. Brown and Sons had left Rutland Street and the building was shared by smaller firms, mainly related to the leather industry. Hosiery manufacture returned to the building in the 1980s with the last firm, Charnwood Hosiery, making military socks for the Falklands War and sports socks for football clubs like Manchester United and Liverpool.

Makers Yard today

The building was refurbished in 2013 and now provides workspace units for creative entrepreneurs. Many original features have been retained.
For details of the creative businesses operating from Makers Yard and details of public events held here visit

d) Alexandra House

Alexandra House
Alexandra House

A bootlace warehouse

This remarkable building, described as “one of the finest warehouses in the country”, was built originally to store bootlaces.   It was designed by Leicester architect Edward Burgess in 1897 for Faire Bros. Ltd, one of the largest boot and shoe lace manufacturers and exporters in the world.  By the 1920s the building housed 2,000 employees, was illuminated throughout by electric light, had six hydraulic lifts and even a private telephone exchange for 100 telephones.

Faire Bros. & Co. Ltd

Many of the Faire Bros. & Co. bootlace brands, such as “Jumbo” and “Old England” could be purchased throughout the world. The company also made suspenders, braces, garters and belts in ten factories around the country.

During World War II the company supplied products for the war effort including 21,500,000 yards of parachute cords and 9,000,000 boot and shoelaces. In response to the wartime rubber shortage they invented the “Natty Grip” suspender fitting. The company even presented a Spitfire to the RAF Fighter Command, naming it “St George” after the company´s main trademark.

Alexandra House and Faire Bros today

Another invention linked to this building is the treasury tag, still made by Faire Bros today and used in offices around the world.  Alexandra House has now been converted into apartments.

e) Pfister & Vogel Warehouse

Leather warehouse and offices

Built in 1923, this striking building was originally constructed as a leather warehouse and offices for the American-based Pfister & Vogel Leather Company.  Designed by local architects Fosbrooke and Bedingfield, this four storey, three bay building was designed for the efficient handling of different types of leather and features an unusual mix of architectural styles.

Pfister & Vogel Leather Company

Pfister & Vogel was a worldwide company based in Milwaukee. By the late 19th century Milwaukee was the largest tanning centre in the world and Pfister & Vogel owned the first and largest tannery there. The investment the company made in such a distinctive building demonstrates the level of confidence foreign companies had in Leicester´s footwear industry during the interwar period.

The building today

Pfister & Vogel were sole occupants of the building until the late 1930s after which time they shared it with other leather merchants and textile related companies.  In recent times the building has undergone a 1.2m award-winning restoration to convert it into apartments and a bar/restaurant. It was renamed Leather Factors in 2009 in recognition of its origins.

13) Rutland Street

a) The Grand Hotel

The Grand Hotel (now called The Ramada Jarvis)
The Grand Hotel (now called The Ramada Jarvis)

b) The Leicestershire Banking Company

Banks played a crucial role in the growth of trade and industry in 19th   Century Leicester. The Leicestershire Banking Company (formed 1829), was owned by shareholders, most of whom were businessmen from Leicestershire. By the early 1870s the company had outgrown their existing premises and commissioned the prominent Leicester architect Joseph Goddard to design new ones. Built in the French Gothic Revival style, the new bank features many carved exterior details by local stonemason Samuel Barfield who created the figures on the Clock Tower.

What does the building tell us about banking in the 19th Century?

The Midland Bank building (later owned by the HSBC)
The Midland Bank building (later owned by the HSBC)

Local banks like the Leicestershire had limited assets and were vulnerable to the collapse of businesses to which they had loaned money or to large numbers of investors suddenly withdrawing their funds. The elaborate design of the bank, both inside and out, was therefore designed to inspire confidence in depositors, while fire-proof corridors and rooms with safes in the basement ensured the physical safety of valuables.

What happened to the building later?

The turn of the century saw the Leicestershire Bank merge with the London City and Midland Bank. The building became a branch of the Midland Bank and then HSBC.  More recently it was acquired by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), also known as the Hare Krishna Movement, who extend a warm welcome to all visitors on Sundays. For more information about the building visit

14) Belvoir Street & Town Hall Square

a) The Town Hall

The clock on the town hall
The clock on the town hall

Guildhall to Town Hall

Leicester was still using the medieval Guildhall as its Town Hall right until the mid-19th century.  By the 1870s however it was no longer adequate to support a rapidly growing industrial town. The old cattle market site was chosen for a new Town Hall and a competition held to design it. Leicester born architect Frances J. Hames won the commission with his modern Queen Anne style design. The new Town Hall housed the Council offices and Council Chamber,  law courts, Sanitary Department, School Board and 30 lamplighters.  The Borough Police moved into the basement (where there were 13 cells) whilst the Fire Brigade had a station behind the building.

What is unusual about the Town Hall?

Look carefully and you can see it has been built on a sloping site with an extra storey levelling it up at the Horsefair Street end. The construction period is reflected in the different dates on the front gable (1875, the intended date of opening) and wrought iron gates at the main entrance (1876).

A modest but elegant square

The town hall square
The town hall square

Frances J. Hames also designed Town Hall Square with its fountain, the gift of Alderman Israel Hart, the first Jewish Mayor of Leicester. Alderman Hart was a pioneer of readymade men’s’ suits. There is an identical fountain in Oporto, Portugal.

b) Women´s  Social and Political Union Shop

What was the Women’s Social and Political Union?

The Women’s Social and Political Union, led by Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst and better known as the Suffragettes, was formed in 1903 to campaign for votes for women. Frustrated at the lack of progress by existing organisations campaigning for the female vote, the WSPU promised, “Deeds not Words”.  One of its most prominent members was Mrs Alice Hawkins, a shoe machinist at the Equity co-operative shoe factory in Western Road.

Deeds not Words

The campaign tactics of the WSPU were more militant than those of the “suffrage societies”.  Rather than write letters they would hold open-air meetings, disrupt political gatherings and take part in national demonstrations.  Window-breaking, cutting telephone wires, vandalising golf courses and arson were among their tactics, actions for which many suffragettes were imprisoned. Alice Hawkins herself served five prison terms.

Why was the WSPU shop important?

The WSPU shop at 14 Bowling Green Street opened in 1910. It sold postcards, pamphlets, badges and other “Votes for Women” merchandise as part of the propaganda campaign and to raise funds for the cause.  It also provided a base for the local branch organisation – and a place for women to spend the night of the 1911 Census, refusing to be counted in protest at their continuing lack of a parliamentary vote. They had to wait for this until 1918, when the vote was extended to women over 30.

c) Belvoir Street Chapel

Joseph Hansom and the “Pork Pie Chapel”

Affectionately known as the “Pork Pie Chapel”, Belvoir Street Chapel was designed by Joseph Hansom, inventor of the horse–drawn cab.

Built in 1845 to accommodate a growing Baptist congregation, it was designed for up to 1,500 people and included lecture and schoolrooms.  Its circular interior was lit by gas presenting a “brilliant appearance”.

Special trains brought people to its inauguration in 1845 and the guest speaker, Dr Harris, remarked that “he never saw a chapel so beautiful; never met with one so easy to speak in; nor one in which the congregation presented so beautiful a prospect as this did, from its architectural arrangements”.

Why is it important to the Story of Leicester?

Non-conformists were Christians who refused to “conform” to the Church of England and so set up their own churches. They held considerable political and economic power in Victorian Leicester. Baptists were a particularly large and influential group and included the likes of Thomas Cook, prominent manufacturers and civic dignitaries.

Hansom Hall

By the 1940s the congregation had united with the Baptists of Charles Street Chapel and in 1947 the building was sold. Today it forms part of Leicester College and is referred to as Hansom Hall, after its architect.

15) New Walk

Welcome to New Walk
New Walk is a rare example of a Georgian pedestrian promenade. Laid out by the Corporation of Leicester in 1785, the walkway was intended to connect Welford Place with the racecourse (now Victoria Park) and followed the line of a Roman trackway, the Via Devana.  Originally named Queen’s Walk, after Queen Charlotte, consort of George III,  it was eventually the popular name of the “New Walk” that survived.  Almost a mile long, New Walk has been a Conservation Area since 1969, ensuring its unique character is protected.

16) Greyfriars Friary

This panel marks the location of the former Greyfriars Friary complex.

Greyfriars Friary and the Richard III Story

Following his death at the Battle of Bosworth in August 1485, King Richard´s naked corpse was brought back to Leicester slung over horse. His body was put on public display to prove he was dead and then removed by the Franciscan friars of Leicester to be given a simple Christian burial in the choir of their church in the Friary complex.

What do we know of the Greyfriars Friary?

Established in Leicester in the 12th century, the Friary was home to the Franciscan order, also known as Grey Friars after the colour of their habits.  The friars would have spent their days going out into the community to preach, beg and hear confessions. The Friary itself would have consisted of cloisters, a chapter house, a church and accommodation for the friars.

Finding King Richard III´s grave

Although archaeologists from the University of Leicester knew King Richard had been buried in the Greyfriars Friary when they started their dig, locating his actual grave site was very difficult. Henry VIII had ordered the demolition of the Friary in 1538 and over the following centuries the land had been redeveloped and built over many times. By the 21st century, what had once been a religious friary had become a site for office conversions and a car park. The excavation that took place here in August 2012 not only advanced our knowledge of the Greyfriars site but was to reveal the final resting place of a king.

What remains of the Friary today?

A small piece of grey stone wall is all that remains of the Friary today.  This can be found in a car park  near to the Cathedral end of New Street next to an attendant´s hut.
17) Herrick’s House – Friar Lane
Robert Herrick (Heyrick), three-times mayor of Leicester.[26] Herrick built a mansion fronting onto Friar Lane,[17] with extensive gardens over the east end of the Friary grounds. These gardens were visited by Christopher Wren Sr. (1589–1658) in 1611, who recorded being shown a handsome stone pillar with an inscription, “Here lies the body of Richard III, some time King of England”.[27] The Herrick family, who also owned the country estate of Beaumanor, near Loughborough,[28] sold the mansion to Thomas Noble in 1711,[27] who, like Herrick 130 years before him, represented Leicester in Parliament.[29]
18) King Richard III Visitor Centre – Dynasty, Death and Discovery
Following the discovery of King Richard III remains in autumn 2012 the City Mayor announced the development of a King Richard III Visitor Centre. The Centre was developed by the council working in partnership with a range of organisations including Leicester University, Richard III Society, Leicester Cathedral and  Demontfort University.  As part of the development we set up a Trust to manage the ongoing delivery of the Centre.
On the ground floor of the Visitor Centre, Dynasty tells the much debated story of the king’s life and times in a medieval England racked by decades of fighting in the Wars Of The Roses. Visitors will be able to discover the story behind Richard’s rise to power as the last king from the great house of Plantagenet and the reforms he made during his short reign.
Death gives visitors the chance to learn about the Battle of Bosworth and how betrayal led to the king being cut down in the thick of battle while defending his crown and his return to Leicester.
On the first floor, Discovery unearths the astonishing story of the research, archaeology, science and painstaking analysis that led to the discovery and identification of the long-lost remains of the king.
Exhibits include both a partial and the full facial reconstruction, giving visitors the chance to see the work in progress and the final reconstruction of Richard. There is also a replica of Richard’s skeleton, printed using 3D technology. The skeleton clearly shows his curved spine, as well as his battle injuries, including the fatal blow.
Through interactive displays, visitors will be able to match up DNA and discover the process used to identify the remains. A suit of armour is also on display and those visiting the exhibition will be able to learn how it protected the wearer.
Visitors return to the ground floor to complete their experience with a visit to the site of King Richard’s burial, preserved in a quiet, respectful setting and with a contemplative atmosphere, fitting for the last resting place of a slain warrior and anointed monarch.

20) Leicester Cathedral

Leicester Cathedral
Leicester Cathedral

Situated in Peacock Lane, the construction of the original St Martin’s Church was started in the 12th century by the Normans. It was rebuilt in the 13th and 15th century.  Being so close to the Guild Hall meant that the church had strong links to the merchants and gilds and it became the ‘Civic Church’. As the principal church where all civic services were held it was therefore the natural choice to become the cathedral for Leicester in 1927 when the Leicester diocese was re-created. After a period of over 1,000 years, when the last Saxon Bishop had fled from the Danes, Leicester again had its own bishop
Although the core of the church is 13th century, Leicester Cathedral today is predominantly a Victorian building as the outer walls were heavily restored in the 19th century. The tower and spire, designed by the architect Raphael Brandon, were rebuilt in the 1860s. The porch, designed by J.L. Pearson, the architect of Truro Cathedral, was constructed as a memorial to four vicars of St Martin’s, who were all members of the Vaughan family.
The church has two south aisles and the outer aisle was once the chapel of the Gild of Corpus Christi. St George’s Chapel can be found to the left of the south door. This was originally dedicated to the Gild of St George and at one time displayed a life-size figure of St George on horseback near the altar. This was taken out and borne through the streets on a wheeled stage on the Gild’s feast day until the custom was abolished in 1547. Today the chapel houses memorials and colours of the Leicestershire Regiment from 1688.
A large memorial stone slab commemorating Richard III was laid in the Cathedral in 1980 and can be found in the Chancel floor. The announcement on 4th February 2013 that the remains found in the Greyfriars car park were indeed those of Richard III was a momentous day for the City of Leicester. The subsequent announcement, that the remains would be interred in Leicester Cathedral means that preparations are now underway to prepare a suitable resting place for the former King.
21) The Guild Hall

Leicester's medieval Guild Hall
Leicester’s medieval Guild Hall

The Guild Hall dates back to medieval times and would have been a building of importance during the time of Richard III.  The Great Hall, built in 1390, was a meeting place for the Guild of Corpus Christi, a select group of influential businessmen and gentry founded in 1343.  This Guild was the richest in the town and a powerful force in medieval Leicester. The emblem of the Guild, the Host and Chalice, is featured in a 15th century stained glass window in the Mayor´s Parlour.   The Guild had their own altar in the Church of St Martin (now Leicester Cathedral) and used the Great Hall for banquets at times of high festivals.

Many of the Guild´s members were associated with the Corporation of Leicester so they began using the Guildhall as a place of assembly. By 1563 the building had become Leicester´s Town Hall and the ground floor of the west wing became known as the Mayor´s Parlour.

The Medieval Guild Hall today

This impressive and important medieval building narrowly escaped demolition in 1876.  At the time people considered it old-fashioned, gloomy and unsuitable for its purpose as a civic building.  In 1922 the building was completely restored and opened to the public.

See also:
History of Leicester Part 1

History of Leicester Part 2

Our article on Leicester Castle