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Heritage panels bring buildings' past to life

Published on 05 April 2017

MORE of the stories behind some of Leicester’s most interesting buildings and places have been brought to life in 20 new heritage interpretation panels.

Amongst the recently-installed panels are the stories of the city knitwear factory that provided underwear to both Captain Scott and Roald Amundsen, the church whose vicar helped lead the 1905 March of the Unemployed, the houses that offered cheap lodgings to migrant workers in the middle of Leicester’s worst slums, and the oldest multi-storey car park in Europe.

There are also panels celebrating Leicester’s pubs  – with a panel outside the Marquis Wellington on London Road – its shoemaking industry, and its streets, with a new panel telling how the Roman ‘Forum Porcorum’, or Swine Market, became ‘High Street’ in the early 16th century.

All of the panels are part of a major project that celebrates Leicester’s 2000-year history.

“These new panels tell the fascinating histories of these familiar places and give a glimpse into the city's past,” said City Mayor Peter Soulsby.

“This latest batch of panels includes stories from the Belgrave Road and London Road areas – encouraging people to explore beyond the city centre and discover more of Leicester’s rich heritage.

“Leicester has much to be proud of, and I hope that all of these informative panels will help make local people more aware of the history that’s all around them.”

To launch the latest panels, the City Mayor joined heritage champion Cllr Adam Clarke, assistant city mayor Cllr Piara Singh Clair and members of the British United Shoe Manufacturing (BUSM) history group to unveil a new heritage panel outside the Union Works building on Belgrave Road.

The former BUSM employees helped the city council with the project by providing content and images for the new panel.

In its heyday, BUSM was the world’s largest manufacturer of footwear machinery – and as recently as the 1960s and 70s, it was Leicester’s largest employer. Its founder, Charles Bennion, presented Bradgate Park to the people of the county in 1928, and his name lives on in nearby Bennion Walk.

Other new panels in the Belgrave Road area feature the Golden Mile and the Belgrave Neighbourhood Centre, together with stories about St Mark’s Church and the lodging houses of Britannia Street. 

Three new panels have been installed on Granby Street, highlighting Thomas Cook’s Temperance Hotel – whose façade can still be seen at number 121 – the YMCA building, which houses Leicester’s oldest theatre, and the General Newsroom at the corner with Belvoir Street, with its classical motifs and decorative Greek muses.

As well as the Marquis Wellington, three other sites on London Road now boast new heritage panels. The stories of Thomas Cook’s house, Thorncroft, the Evington Footway – which is thought to roughly follow the line of a Roman road that linked Leicester to Colchester – and the Stoneygate Tram Depot are also told in new interpretation panels.

Leicester’s heritage information panels can be seen in shopping centres, on medieval churches, near former warehouses and in front of the city’s iconic landmarks such as the Clock Tower and Corn Exchange.  They can also be seen in Leicester’s historic villages, including Aylestone, Belgrave and Evington. 

More than 100 panels have been installed around the city in the past three years, charting Leicester’s journey from Roman times to the modern era.

The panels are grouped in themes to tell different chapters in the city’s story, and each theme is colour-coded to make them easy to identify.

To find out more about the Story of Leicester, visit the website at www.storyofleicester.info