Weekly City Spotlight: Leicester


Leicester’s Haymarket Memorial Clock Tower

The city of Leicester is located in the East Midlands of England, on the River Soar and close to the National Forest.  With a wide range of attractions, Leicester is a historic place to visit, steeped in Roman history, with numerous museums including the New Walk Museum and Jewry Wall, as well as the recent and fascinating discovery of Richard III’s final resting place.  The Cultural Quarter provides for the opportunity to explore galleries and exhibitions, with the amazing Curve Theatre a sight to behold. Leicester is also a prime shopping location with High Cross and the Haymarket Shopping Centre, as well as catering for those looking for something different with The Lanes, St Martin’s Square and Church Gate home to many specialist shops and hidden retail treasures.  With the Grand Central Railway offering a step back in time to the magnificent age of steam, there are also many architectural delights to enjoy in this culturally diverse city.

Historic Leicester
Ratae Corieltauvorum was the name given to the area of Leicester by the Romans, and evidence of their time in the city remains today with the Roman baths and pavements still in existence, recalling a time when the Celtic Corieltauvi tribe were also active in what became a Roman Military outpost.  Following the successful invasion by the Danes, the area developed further and it became a fortified town.  Referred to in the Domesday Book as Ledecestre, this translates to the camp of dwellers on the Legro (river), Leicester would be granted City Status in around 670, however it lost the Status in 11th century, with it finally restored in 1919.

With the industrial revolution came a time of great change for Leicester, which up until this time had been a market town, and the area would see rapid growth as it became a hub for manufacturing.  Companies involved in shoemaking, engineering and textiles operated in the area, benefitting from the rail and canal network which had been built, providing vital links to Birmingham and London.  Companies such as the Cooperative Boot and Shoe Company, Taylor & Hubbard and Gimson and Company were just a number of those who had extensive plants within the area.

Now owned by PepsiCo, Walkers is a name associated with Leicester and dates back to the 1880’s when Henry Walker moved to Leicester, initially taking over a Butchers shop.  Following the issues surrounding rationing after the War, the then Managing Director R E Gerrard shifted the focus from meat to crisps, at a time when the snacks were becoming more popular.  Walkers today manufacture crisps in Leicester from one of the biggest production sites in the world, and currently local lad Gary Lineker is the face of their advertising campaigns.

Richard III
Leicester has recently been confirmed as the site of the final resting place of Richard III, who was King of England from 1483-1485.  A major excavation took place in 2012 at the Greyfriars site, with confirmation received in February this year from the University of Leicester, that the skeleton found on the site of the church was indeed that of the King.  Richard III is recognised as being the last of our King’s to die in battle, having lost his life during the Battle of Bosworth Field. The Richard III Visitor’s Centre is due to open in Spring 2014, where the life of the King and his connections with Leicester can be explored further.

Popular Culture
Leicester is a historic and cultural city, and has also been a focus in popular culture.

Films & TV
Jadoo (2013), written and directed by Amit Gupta, Jadoo is a comedy which follows the lives of 2 brothers who are both chefs.  During a heated argument the family recipe book is ripped in half and this results in the opening of separate restaurants in direct competition with each other.  Starring Tom Mison, Amara Karan, Sophiya Haque and Adeel Akhtar, the film was shot in various locations in Leicester including the Golden Mile, Belgrave Road and Cossington Street Recreation Park.

Zombie Undead (2010) – Shot throughout Leicester, this horror movie was written by Kris Tearse and directed by Rhys Davies, with Sarah played by Ruth King, trying desperately to find safe shelter and save the life of her heavily bleeding father, but things take a turn for the worse when she finds herself in a strange and dark building, and her senses tell her she is not alone.

Local author Lynda Page has set many of her bestselling books in Leicester, with Page often opting to set her novels in the 1950’s and 60’s.  With over 20 novels to her name, titles such as A Perfect Christmas and A Mother’s Sin are amongst the celebrated page-turning saga style collection by Page, both of which are based in Leicester.

Sue Townsend, another author to hail from Leicester featured the city in the highly popular Adrian Mole Diaries, with the series following Mole from his Secret Diary aged 13½ to the Prostate Years.

The Right to an Answer by Anthony Burgess also features Leicester, with character JW Denham returning to Leicester from Tokyo to attend to his dying father.  With Mr Raj and Ted Arden also featuring in this tale, corruption and greed are a key focus in this novel.

Social Media
Additional information on Leicester can be found on its official website Visit Leicester as well as its Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts.

Famous Faces
Graham Chapman – the famous actor, writer and comedian and of course member of Monty Python, was born in Leicester on 8th January 1941.  Having worked as a writer for the BBC together with John Cleese in the 1960’s, he was best known for his leading roles in The Life of Brian and The Holy Grail.  Sadly, Chapman passed away aged just 48.

Gary Lineker, OBE – born in Leicester on 30 November 1960, the former English Striker began his football career at Leicester, before playing for Everton, Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur.  Lineker also earned 80 caps for England, and following his retirement from the game, now enjoys a career in TV presenting.

Biddy Baxter – Former Editor of the BBC children’s programme Blue Peter, Biddy Baxter was born in Leicester in 1933.  It was Baxter who was responsible for the famous Blue Peter Badge which she devised in 1963, along with instigating the annual appeals which proved so popular with the audience, and remain a key part of the programme today.



National Space Centre

National Space Centre
This distinctive building which features a 42 metre tall tower, essential to house the massive upright rocket under which you can enjoy refreshments, brings space to a new dimension for the thousands of visitors it attracts every year.  Located on Exploration Drive, the Centre includes the Sir Patrick Moore Planetarium, a 360 degree space theatre, as well as an array of interactive exhibits allowing you to explore space and the planets, as well as meteorites, satellites and rockets.  A fun and educational attraction for all the family to enjoy.

Leicester Guildhall
Situated on Guildhall Lane, entry is free to this Grade I listed building, the majority of which dates back to the 15th Century.  Originally used as the Town Hall, it was also the home of the first police force in Leicester and today includes a museum which is currently housing an exhibition on Richard III. Famous visitors to the Guildhall are said to include Oliver Cromwell and William Shakespeare.

Haymarket Memorial Clock Tower
Located in the centre of Leicester, the Haymarket Memorial Clock Tower provides for a popular meeting place and is the point where 5 of the major city streets meet.  Built in 1868 and the design of Joseph Goddard, the ornate tower features statues of the 4 Sons of Leicester – Thomas White – Founder of St John’s College, Oxford and civic benefactor supporting local business people with interest free loans. Gabriel Newton – Mayor of Leicester who established a charity school in Leicester, leaving all his money to benefit the poor through education. Simon de Montfort the 6th Earl of Leicester and William Wyggeston (Wigston) – Mayor of the Corporation of Leicester and English wool merchant.
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