The Craxford Family Magazine Red Pages

{$text['mgr_red1']} Leicester 9

A walk down King Dick's Road - and back again

By Alan D Craxford


This is the third of three articles written after a visit we made to my ancestral home in August 2005. The first (358: Our family home) described my parent's house, the second (Growing up on Fosse Road North) was a more general overview of the neighbourhood in which I grew up, went to school and where I made my first tentative steps towards adulthood. We are talking roughly about the ten years between 1955 and 1964. Now I am taking a long and pensive stroll back both down memory lane and down the main highway from home to the centre of the city of Leicester.

If you have travelled with me over the previous two episodes you will recall that we lived on Fosse Road North in the West End of Leicester at most about three miles from the city centre. Our house was in a terrace near the junction of Fosse Road North and Central, Glenfield Road, Kirby Road and King Richard's Road. Also although it is not apparent from the map, we were at the top of a promontory geographically speaking so that there were quite steep gradients down the roads to the north, east and west.

I shall keep to the same format I used in the first article describing times past ("THEN") and ending with a brief commentary on the present ("NOW"). I shall also scatter a little quiz of the times as we progress. You might like to refer back to the previous Fosse Road article for clues to these first few questions. You will find the answers through the link at the end of the page.

Q.1.: What is the basic rent if another player lands on your property 'Piccadilly'?
Q.2.: Which soap character died in a stable blaze in 1955?

Q.3.: In which year was free school milk for the over-7s stopped?
Q.4.: Which film did I see on my first date?

Then: A walk down King Richard's Road

Wan's Chinese take away

Wans Chinese Take Away

King Richards Road was a busy thoroughfare and bus route and it was also the main centre for shopping and our community life. In an age before the supermarket there were enterprises of all trades, shapes and sizes. In the early days our choice of venue was determined by the choices of our parents. So, let's pick up our baskets and let me take you on a stroll down the lane of my memories. I cannot pretend that I will remember the name of every retailer or even put them into their proper historical place on the map but the following have left some persisting impressions on the synapses of my brain. One other thing that has come to mind as I put this article together was just how olfactory life was back then - things smelled!!

What better place to start than on the left hand side of the road on the corner with Fosse Road North. First off we find Mrs Missen in charge of the Kandy Kasket (it was originally Golland's sweet shop). All our favourite comestibles are laid out in easy reach (liquorish whirls, gob stoppers that changed flavour and colour as you sucked, sherbert lemons, those flying saucer things made out of rice paper and filled with fizzy powder, "Victory 'V'" lozenges that really were made with chloroform and ether). My favourite is the Frys Five Centre bar (6d, thank you).

Next door is the fruit shop (in later years Father and I used to trade trays of over-ripe fruit for bottles of home made wine) and then the West End Veterinary Practice which was not Smokey's idea of a day out. In the same block was a Chinese take-away (Wan's Garden) - "Chicken and Chinese Mushrooms and a Chicken Fried Rice, please".

Ken the barber

Cooper's grocery (left); Fish & chips (Monica's) and Ken Smith's (right) A.1-2

Just around the corner of Flora Street was Cooper's, the grocers. We were well served with eateries within easy walking distance even in those early days. In the next blocks (between Flora, Dannett and Kate Streets) was the fried fish shop (labelled Monica on the old photograph above) serving every evening and most lunchtimes ("cod and six, when you're ready!" - that was one shilling for your fish and sixpence for the chips: 7½p in today's money - piping hot and wrapped in a recent edition of the Leicester Mercury). Next door was ("short back and sides and plenty off the top") Ken Smith's salon, father's barber for many a year. The aura of Bay Rum flooded the pavement whenever he was open. At the end of the row on the corner of Dannett Street was the "Crow's Nest" (locally called "Crowies" by its patrons), an austere white painted Everard's public house which had an attached off license next door.

The old Kandy Kasket
Theshoe shop

The old Crow's Nest (left); The shoe shop (right) A.3-4

A little further down the hill was a family owned pork butcher (Lane and sons - their advertising slogan was "All roads lead to Lanes") who baked pork pies and prepared black puddings fresh on the premises. You can read about the significance of these delicacies in one of the other articles. I can still smell that concoction of meat and pastry and herbs and spice. On the corner of Clara Street was a shop, which in my day, sold baby goods, prams and the like (it subsequently became a shoe shop). Nestled against the wall (just discernable from the photograph) is a telephone box - well visited in my younger days.

Lanes, the pork butchers
Pie and black pudding

Lanes shop today (left); A local delicacy (right)

On the opposite side of the road was the Post Office and the Co-op (Leicester Co-operative Wholesale Society) where Mum usually went for her main grocery shopping. I recall that the main grocery counter was to the right when you walked in - with the bacon slicer and weighing scales prominent on the counter top. Tinned goods and non foods items were to the left. In those days there were no credit cards and, although Green Shield stamps put in an appearance late on, there were very few customer loyalty schemes. Everyone, it seems, had their "divi number" - the account where their (in our case 1/- - one shilling - in the £1) dividend was deposited. Everyone, it seems, knew their number by heart. My father's number (weren't we ALL encouraged to use it) was 15702. Much later I acquired my own account - long defunct but still remembered - 144943!!

In this group of shops was a greengrocery business run by Mr Andrews and there was the Co-op chemist on the corner of Catesby Street. Nearby, there was another of the locality's drinking establishments, The Richmond, this one the tippling place of preference of our parents. There was also a second barber's shop (mens' hairdresser and stylist) run by a strange elderly little man. Unlike the aforementioned establishment whose customers could be viewed from the street, the door and windows were shrouded in curtains and advertisements for those products that you would expect a man's corner shop to advertise! I have to admit that I went there throughout my teens and was happy enough with the end results.!

Corner of Tudor Road

The corner of Tudor Road (about 1958) (1)

Beyond Kate Street the slope of the hill bottoms out and King Richard's Road made a lazy turn to the left as it approached Tudor Road. There were lots of tiny shops along this stretch, many having seen better days. There was the cobbler's shop with Victorian lasts, hunks of leather, nails, rubber soles and heels, dust - and that leathery, gluey aroma. There were two or three bakers and cake shops (I recall Kirk's and Kinton's) which served teas in a space at the back. There was Mrs Mitchell wrapped in overcoat and long shawl presiding over her gloomy and ramshackle newsagency at five o'clock in the morning. There was another little sweet shop (conveniently placed half way along the road to school) that sold chocolate covered sugar mice. There was the hardware and D-I-Y shop - more properly called the ironmonger.

On one corner of Tudor Road stood Cant's the butcher. Mr Cant was a jolly, bluff, bald-headed individual somewhat akin to Fred Elliott (of Corrie fame). On the other was the Worthington's Grocery Store (at some stage wasn't this also the "Home and Colonial"?). Tudor Road usually marked the boundary of family shopping expeditions.

A 1960s record player

Record Player

Eddie Cochrane: Three Steps To Heaven single

Eddie Cochrane 1960

However I did discover West End Electrics - a radio and record shop - in the summer of 1960. Prior to that time grammophones and records were somewhat frowned upon in the household as 'loud' or 'American' or 'Vulgar'. With Mother's collusion I bought a record player on weekly credit (£9 19s 6d over 20 weeks) and a choice of 45s. Singles in those days cost 6s 8d (three for £1). I do remember vividly my first purchases: "Because They're Young" by Duane Eddy, "Three Steps To Heaven" from Eddie Cochran, "So Sad" by the Everly Brothers and Elvis' "A Mess Of Blues" - a song which was released to coincide with his discharge from the American Army. In those early days there was hardly a week went by when a new record wasn't added to the collection and I gave up reading comics and started buying the NME.

Q.5.: Earlier in the year, the Everlys topped the chart with "Cathy's Clown".
What public spectacle took place at the same time?
Q.6.: Mary Radleigh, Mary Simpson, Mary Cotter and Mary Field featured in which publication in the 1950s and 1960s?

It's off to work we go

A typical Leicester back alley
A side street passageway

Alleys and passageways (2)

Brenda and I both had our first experiences of work on King Richard's Road. I began a paper round, for a short time initially in the afternoon but then graduating to the morning shift. I recall earning about a £1 a week getting up in all weathers to be down at the Mitchell's shop at six o'clock ready to take out a heavy bag of papers and magazines. Mrs Mitchell was up even earlier than that - dressed as above, an inveterate smoker with the dog end of a Capstan Full Strength dangling from her lips - marking the corners of the newsprint with 31A Dannett or 12 Muriel. The round took me into the back closes and passageways off the side streets that ran from King Richard's Road and Glenfield Road as far as Muriel Road. Looking at the map now does not suggest this to be a particularly arduous route but at the age of thirteen an hour and a half before breakfast and school could often be a penance. I do remember that the days before Christmas could be very rewarding and one year I was given over £25 in tips.

Brenda found a Saturday job with Mr Andrews the greengrocer. Her main function, particularly during the autumn and winter was to wash the earth off the celery under a freezing cold water tap in the back yard. She was always susceptible to chilblains as well!! From there she progressed to the Co-op Chemists where the senior assistant was happy to tell the customers that she had weighed her on the same baby scales that were still in use to that day. Brenda does note however that at least the place was warm. She also recalls that there were times when gentleman customers would come in but would fidget uncomfortably in the background until one of the older people appeared. They wouldn't ask her to serve them and at her age then she could not understand why!. Brenda also remembers working in the small cafe of one of the local bakers in 1966 during the World Cup matches. The television was switched on in the afternoons and there were some people who would made one cup of tea last the whole match!!"

Ah! Happy Days!!"

Q.7.: What were you never alone with in the 1960s?
Q.8.: What was Horace Batchelor of KEYNSHAM, Bristol always trying to sell you?

And so back to school....

Alderman Newton's Boys School School crest

The School crest(3)

Commemorative plaque to Richard III, Bow Bridge, Leicester

Commemorative plaque

In 1957 I passed my 11+ and duly went on to Alderman Newton's Boys School; a grammar school near to the Cathedral in Leicester. I walked up and down King Richard's Road twice a day in each direction as it was considered near enough and convenient enough to go home for lunch. After Tudor Road the trip took you past the walls and gates of the King Richards Secondary Shool for Girls. Beyond that there were three bridges: one, the railway, passing over the road; two, carrying the canal and the River Soar, passing under the road. The first bridge was the bridge over the canal and technically at this stage the road gave way to St Augustine Street. It is said that Richard III banged his head / bruised his foot on the way to the Battle of Bosworth Field during the War of the Roses and that later his body was dumped into the river over the bridge that was there at the time. Whatever the story there is a commemorative plaque set into the wall nearby. (A second plaque refuting this story was placed alongside the original about ten years ago. For details see our Readers Letters page.)

I had my own minor trauma at some point in the same spot - walking along gazing over the bridge and staring into the torpid waters below. I struck my head on one of the decorative moldings sustaining a small cut. With a thin trickle of blood leaking from my temple, I went on to school but was a bit woozy through the morning. I was therefore ordered home at the Headmaster's behest, shepherded by a classmate, Adrian Leaf, a curly haired lad who was already six inches shorter than me. I am told we presented as an odd pair to Mother on our front doorstep!

"Five feet of heaven in a ponytail... "

Richard Piccaver painting

Leicester, West Bridge 1957: Richard Piccaver (6)
A West Bridge and Railway Viaduct Gallery

We are now in the West Bridge area of the city. Historically this is where the old Roman Road, the Foss Way, crossed the River Soar. In my time, the West Bridge itself still crossed the river on the far side of the railway bridge. The road also joined Duns Lane - at that time the inner aspect of Hinckley Road (the A47).

Local artist David Weston (5), who was also a pupil at Alderman Newton's although slightly earlier than my time, has produced some superbly evocative paintings of trams and trains around Leicester - none more so than those of West Bridge. Richard Piccaver (6) included the magnificent panoramic view of the viaduct in his Great Central Railway series. There were three or four small shops under the spans of the railway bridge including Ellis' fishing and tackle shop. The toe path along the river was a favourite place for local anglers throughout the year. Our school also had us using it for cross country running when the weather was too inclement to play Rugby.

Foxes Glacier Mint

Leicester mints

Down in this area too were two long-established and nationally well-known firms: Pex (manufacturers of knitwear and hosiery) and Fox's (of Glacier Mint fame). Facing away from the bridges and on the other side of the river was the Castle Gardens. The road to school led past a huge waste and scrap metal merchant (Piggott's, I think) that gave off the aura of damp and rust and carbolic.

Leicester buses - old and alternative livery

Leicester City buses

There were three bus routes out from the City centre which went over West Bridge and along King Richard's Road: 12 (Groby Road); 16 (Glenfield Road) and 19 (Imperial Avenue). In my universe there were four bus stops - under the railway bridge; Tudor Road; outside the Post Office and then (for the 16 and 19) outside St Paul's Church. From there these two routes continued down Glenfield Road. The No. 12 turned right into Fosse Road North and stopped directly outside our house. In those days a child's fare (valid until you left school!) from West Bridge was 1d to the Post Office and 2d to St Pauls. The adult fare was 2d and 3d.

It was on the No 12 around 1960 that teenage love caught up with me for the first time - an affair that I have to say went unrequited (mind you even now I have no idea what 'quited' love was so I don't know how you would get requited, let alone find yourself in the opposite condition). Susan had been a classmate at junior school. She had moved on to one of the principal girls' grammar schools and at times she went home along this route. At others she took another bus which went to Pool Road from the opposite direction. I took to mooning around under West Bridge waiting for the bus 'on the off chance' that I could ride with her. She was quite a sporty person too and would deign to meet me on occasions and would thrash me all around a tennis court at the Western Park. I don't think she ever had any similar thoughts or inclinations and after a time increasingly she went home on the No 15!. I believe she married an architect (or was he a lawyer?) even before I had finished at University. However the catchy little ditty mentioned in this heading was current at the time and suited my impressions of her!!

Q.9.: "What Is Love" was a hit by the American group, The Playmates. What was the name of their infuriating motoring song?
Q.10.: What caused Katie Boyle to break down in tears on Juke Box Jury in 1961?

Consulate Cigarette packet


At other times I would walk home with Alan Frith as far as the St Paul's Church junction and then sit on the low wall outside Estonia House mulling over the world, the future and smoking a last fag. "Hold on a minute, cigarettes?". Well, this is 1962, cigarette smoking was a popular majority habit, all your peer group were at it, advertising was freely displayed (TV, cinema, billboards) and Sir Richard Doll's conclusions (made in the late 1950s) were not yet generally known. I had started during those paper round days. Park Drive were sold in flimsy packs of five and Mrs Mitchell would sell cigarettes in twos wrapped in a twist of newspaper. I had the collecting bug for a time amassing a large stack of Kensitas coupons (whatever happened to them? I don't think they were ever traded!). Father smoked his Senior Service and Mum sucked on the occasional Craven 'A'. I'm not sure that I ever really liked the taste of tobacco smoke and that is perhaps why I bought ('Cool as a Mountain Stream') Consulate. I finally gave up the habit taking my last smoke on a tube train to Harrod's sale in London when 20 Benson & Hedges sold for 35p.


The old Pex factory. The West Bridge is in the distance

The old Pex Building

So, what's so special about King Dick's Road that merits an article of its own? Well, unlike the other thoroughfares of my youth - which may now appear more time weary, a little more shabby than I remembered, it isn't there any more. It isn't just a matter of people moving on, businesses closing and others opening in their place. No, it has physically gone, bulldozed, obliterated - as if some petty bureaucrat, ashamed of the area's past, has expunged it from memory with the stroke of a planning pencil. Compare this current map of the local area (7) with the one reproduced at the beginning of this article.

In the late 1960s, the central ring road had replaced the area where Pigott's scrap yard stood and a huge roundabout - St Nicholas Circle - took its place complete with a Holiday Inn on top. In 1970-71 a Compulsory Purchase Order was made under the Housing Act of 1957 to clear terraces and slums and allow the development of the western approach to the city along the A47 (8).

The Great Central railway ceased passenger traffic even during my years and the Central Station was closed. Now the railway bridge has been removed and with it the little businesses that sheltered in its lea have disappeared. The Pex building is no longer a factory. It has been redeveloped and now houses the offices of the Land Registry. (9) Other Grand Redevelopment Schemes are now afoot on the other side of the riverbank to create the Leicester Waterfront (10).

The old Kandy Kasket
The Crows Nest public house

Glenfield Road East, August 2005: The old Kandy Kasket (left); The new Crow's Nest (right)

For most of its length, King Richards Road was demolished and recreated as a dual carriageway which veered away from its junction with Fosse Road North, crashing through a new junction with Fosse Road Central to merge with Hinckley Road. The housing along Noble Street was cleared; 1,084 houses disappeared under this order. A few premises were left on the northern side of the road (including Lane's the butcher) as far as Clara Street but, indignity of indignities, even this last vestige of yesteryear was not allowed to keep its old name, and this part of King Richards Road became Glenfield Road East. The Kandy Kasket is no more but Wan's Garden Cafe and the Vet's practice still operate. A new hostelry has been built on the eastern corner of Flora Street - bearing the name of the much older and now disappeared public house I mentioned earlier that used to cater for its clientelle a little further down the road.

King Richards Road today
St Pauls Church today

View east from Fosse Road corner (left); View towards St Pauls Church from Kate Street (right) August 2005

From the corner of Fosse Road North, what was once a bustling community is now an opened vista which looks straight down towards the city centre. The slope of the hill seems foreshortened and Tudor Road now feels only moments away by foot. Even the bus routes have been altered (although you can still catch the No 12!), and the old brown and cream Leicester City buses themselves have been superceded by private concerns.

A Number 12 bus To City Centre.

The Number 12 inbound

It should not surprise me for such changes are the inevitable price of progress. It should not concern me either as I have not lived in Leicester for so long. And yet it does, the romantic in me does give pause for thought. This is my past, these are my roots, this was my heritage, these are my memories; I was a part of it and once I did belong.

Continued in column 2...

The next part of my personal history after leaving Leicester can be found at Spirit of delight: Part 1. Queen's College Dundee

Answers to QUIZ 2 questions are on Page 7: Editorial

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Footnote: A brief history of the West End Part 2 - KING RICHARD'S ROAD

Geoffrey of Monmouth, a twelfth century monk and chronicler, maintained that Leicester was founded by and named for King Lear about 800 years B.C. Although King Lear is now considered to be myth, there is much to suggest that the Iron Age settlement was a centre for the worship of a pagan water god, Leir. The time frame coincides with the occupancy of much of Britain by the Celts (11, 12). After the invasion in the first century A.D., Leicester was an important Roman garrison in the centre of England sited midway between Exeter and Lincoln where the Fosse Way crossed the river Soar. At that point, the river split into two channels making it a suitable place to ford. The town's Roman name was Ratae (meaning rampart) Corieltauvorum (or Coritanorum) so derived from the ancient Celtic tribe, the Corielauvi, who had their capital there. The garrison was on the east side of the river but by the fourth century there had been some building on the west side.

The medieval town of Leicester was enclosed on three sides by walls which ran roughly along the line of Sanvey Gate to the north, Church and Gallowtree Gate to the east and Millstone Lane to the south. The castle and the walls were built soon after the Norman Conquest. The western boundary was the river Soar on which eastern bank was the West Gate. The land outside the walls was agricultural and was divided into a number of fields. The West Field was recorded in the Domesday Book and was known as the manor of Bromkinsthorpe. After the Norman Conquest it was divided into two portions which were centred on Westcotes Hall to the south and Welsh Hall to the north. (13).

The first West Bridge was probably built early in the twelfth century. This replaced the ford crossing of the River Soar outside the West Gate. It was rebuilt around 1325 with a small chapel on top of it and remained in place until 1841. The island in the middle of the Soar at this point contained the Priory of St Augustine. The road on the island split, one limb leading southwards to the Braunstone Bridge, the other carrying on westwards to the Bow (sometimes called Welsh) Bridge. Both these bridges were probably built before 1300.(14)

Dannet Hall and Watts Causeway

Members of the Danet family were known to be living in Bromkinsthorpe during the reign of Henry III (1207 - 1272). As their fortunes improved they gained ownership of the land and towards the end of the fifteenth century ownership of the hall passed to them which they renamed Danet Hall. The variability of the spelling of their name over the centuries is particularly noted. Gerard Danet, a Privy Counsellor to Henry VIII left £10 in his will 'to mend a bridge between my house and Friars Augustine, Leicester'.(15). It remained in their possession until the middle of the seventeenth century after which it was leased out to several different occupants.

Danet Hall

Danet Hall Estate about 1789 (16)

In 1701, the estate was acquired by John Watts who demolished the old and built a new hall on the site. John was a descendent of the Watts family who had been bellfounders in the town since the sixteenth century. He also gave his name to Watts Causeway, the lane which ran across the estate. (17, 18). The Hall lay on a small rise on the north side of Watts Causeway from which the town could be clearly seen. The grounds included a paddock. He was Receiver-General for the county and by lending money was instrumental in bringing the hosiery industry to the town. He died in 1742. One of his descendants, also John Watts, was largely responsible for raising funds to establish the Leicester Infirmary in 1771. The family are commemorated in the east end of the chanel in the church in the Leicestershire village of Medbourne. By the end of the 1780s, the Dannet estate had passed by marriage into the hands of the Bentley family.

The area to the south of the estate, up to its border with Hinckley Road, was taken up with a large cherry orchard. Tradition has it that this dated from Roman times. Excavations in 1782 and in the summer of 1798 had discovered some pieces of Roman mosaic pavement but on both occasions the area was reburied.

Dr Joseph Noble, born 1798, was the last resident of Dannet's Hall. He was a councillor and alderman of the town - a post he resigned to become elected Member of Parliament. In 1851 Dr. Noble allowed the Corporation and the Literary and Philosophical Society to carry out excavations to try to find the Roman remains found in the previous century in the 'Cherry Orchard'. These proved to be large areas of tesselated flooring which were subsequently dated to the fourth century AD. (19) The finds were donated to the Leicester museum. Further excavations in 1971 in the line of Norfolk Street unearthed the outline of a large Roman villa. Dr Noble died of cholera on a visit to Spain in January 1861. His daughters built a hospital in Malaga in his memory.

King Richard's Road development

There was a rapid expansion of the old town westwards across the River Soar in the middle decades of the nineteenth century (21). The population of Leicester in 1801 was about 17,000; in 1861 was 68,052 and was rising at the rate of 10,000 every ten years, much of which went to power the demands of the hosiery and boot and shoe trades. There had been disquiet over the overcrowded, cramped and insanitary conditions prevailing in many parts of the old inner town. A report by Joseph Dare, a Unitarian social missionary in 1864 concluded that "that there are at least 1,000 dwellings in this town that have neither back doors nor windows. So that allowing five inmates to each, which will be found under the mark, as the lower the grade of the population the thicker is the crowding together, there are no less than between seven and eight thousand sweltering in these unhealthy abodes. " (22).

After Dr Noble's death, the Dannett Hall estate was purchased by the Leicester Freehold Land Society and the hall was demolished. At that time, there were two roads, which ran from Leicester to Hinckley and to Narborough respectively, which were the chief highways of the district. These had once been turnpikes and probably represented the route of old Roman highways. The lesser roads in general either followed the ancient lanes, or, more frequently, the field boundaries as they existed in the early 19th century. Watts Causeway was described as a wooded leafy lane. The only building of any note in the the district was Wyggeston's Hospital (23). In 1864, two factories, a couple of businesses and three inns were recorded clustered around the west side of the Bow Bridge.(24)

The old Bow Bridge was demolished in 1861. It was replaced by a bridge with a cast iron superstructure which incorporated the white rose of York motif. By 1870, Watts Causeway had been renamed King Richards Road although the actual date is unclear. Development had continued apace along both sides reaching the north - south thoroughfare, the Fosse (initially Foss) Road and in side streets between it and parallel-running Noble Street. The speed and density of this new development did not meet with universal approval. Physician Dr John Barclay commented in 1864: "Coming round to Hinckley Road, we find the most surprising changes. Danett's Hall is swept away, and new streets laid out on its site, so that it is almost impossible to convince oneself that within a very few months Danett's Hall stood there at all. I cannot forbear the expression of a regret that the Danett's Hall estate was not secured as a place of recreation for the public - a People's Park. 50 or 100 years hence, if we go on increasing at our present rate immense sums will probably have to be laid out to purchase breathing space for the inhabitants." (25) In 1872, the same Joseph Dare reported: "Our confined courts are the nurseries of vice, disease and death. It is discouraging to observe that in several of the newly built parts of the town, as between Flora Street and Clara Street on King Richard's Road and other localities, there are inter-buildings springing up between the streets as originally laid out. Rows of small scamped tenements approached from the main street, through narrow arched passages, choke up what ought to be gardens and breathing spaces." (22)

Bow Bridge 1861
Bow Bridge 1955

The old Bow Bridge 1861 (26) (left); The new Bow Bridge 1955 (27) (right)

At the same time, a new church, St Pauls, was planned on the corner of Glenfield Road and Kirby Road. A description of the neighbourhood at the time of its inception was included in a book written immediately after the first World War to celebrate the church's first fifty years of service. "We have before us at this moment two maps of the borough, one dated 1868, the other undated, but bearing evidence of publication before 1876. In the earlier one the main thoroughfare leading from Bow Bridge is, curiously enough, lettered 'Watt's Causeway' to a point just east of Kate Street, thence to Fosse Road as 'King Richard's Road'. On the north side, after passing the large Bow Bridge Works, the only streets then finished appear to have been those from Kate Street to Flora Street, and these only as far north as Noble Street. On the south side streets appear as completed only from the Bridge to Coventry Street, but, except as regards the western side of Coventry Street, they run, as fully-built thoroughfares, through to Hinckley Road. From Coventry Street to the Fosse Road this side of King Richard's Road is one long blank. In the later map the whole of King Richard's Road (which, oddly enough, only appears under that name from Bow Bridge to Kate Street, the upper section being specified as 'Watt's Causeway', the naming of the two sections in the earlier map being thus exactly reversed), with the exception of a short stretch on the north side from the Bridge Works to a point near Kate Street, is shown as fully built." (21)

Towards the twentieth century

Further significant development followed the passing of the Leicester Improvement Act of 1881. The results of these changes can be seen by comparing the two maps of the area drawn in 1887 and 1901. The river was widened and the old West Bridge was replaced in 1890 as part of the Flood Relief Scheme. The area between Kate Street and the Bow Bridge works was filled in. A whole new estate of streets was laid out behind Noble Street between the Fosse Road and the (new) Tudor Road. An extension of the Great Central Railway saw the line cross the river and the West Bridge on a one and a half mile long blue brick and iron girder viaduct. Residents of the properties so destroyed were rehoused in the new terraces and in Newfoundpool. A new station immediately behind Tudor Road was added to the Leicester to Swannington railway in 1893.

West Bridge viaduct

West Bridge and the railway viaduct about 1960

King Richard's Road became a bustling thoroughfare for the next fifty years. The two views above show the block on the south side of the road between Buckingham Street and Catesby Street: the earlier one looking towards West Bridge; the later one looking towards Fosse Road. The shop on the corner belonged to greengrocer and upholsterer, Ernest Arthur Pinder in 1906. The premises were still a greengrocery just prior to the second World War. A 1938 street directory confirms that many establishments had maintained the function they had in the 1900s and the names of several proprietors were recognisable to the author in the 1950s. The public house on the corner of Dannett Street (just discernable on the right of the 1913 photograph) was originally called the Newfoundpool Inn. It became known as the Crow's Nest in respect of the landlord Frederick Alfred Crowhurst. This had been a family affair as his father and his mother before him had held the licence and the business back before 1891. In that same block, there had been a barber and a fried fish shop since before 1928.

In the early 1900s, the West End became part of Leicester's electric tram system. In 1904, one line ran up Hinckley Road, along Fosse Road to Woodgate and then back to High Street via the Central Station. From 1915, route 4 trams ran from High Street up King Richard's Road, turning into Fosse Road North and proceeded to Groby Road. Tram services became too costly to extend and caused increasing traffic holdup problems. They were phased out in stages in favour of buses. The King Richard's Road service stopped in 1939; the last tram in Leicester ran in 1949.

There had been waves of slum clearance programmes in various areas of the city from the years after the first World War. Major demolition and redevelopment schemes were drawn up in the 1950s and by the middle of the 1970s some 12,500 slum houses had been removed. Improvement to road links were also in demand. In the West End, structurally sound housing was compulsorily purchased by the Council in 1970 to enable 'outworn terraces' to be cleared and King Richards Road to be redeveloped into the A47 western approach road.

The brave new world which had consumed the Dannet Hall estate to expand the town westwards had itself barely lasted one hundred years.

And finally: King Richard III

Richard III leaves for Bosworth Field

'The March from Leicester' (29)

Richard III was the last king of the Plantagenet dynasty and ruled England for two years between 1483 and 1485. Leicester tradition has it that he crossed Bow Bridge on three occasions. Prior to the Battle of Bosworth Field, he stayed at the Blue Boar Inn on the old High Street because Leicester Castle was considered not fit to receive him. The following morning, Sunday August 21st, he rode out from Leicester 'crossing Bow Bridge with great triumph and pomp' on his way to do battle at Bosworth. In accounts given as early as 1625, Richard was said to have caught his spur on a large stone on the bridge. An old crone in the crowd made the prophesy that when he returned to the town, his head would hit the same spot.

Richard was killed in the battle and was taken back to Leicester, his naked body slung over the back of a horse. His head is claimed to have hit the same stone completing the prophecy. He was buried in a simple grave in the grounds of church of Greyfriars which was close to the south wall of the town. The friary was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538. One version of the legend has it that the bones of Richard III were dug up by a mob and thrown into the river from Bow Bridge. An alternative suggests that Richard's remains were buried in the graveyard of the Priory of St Augustine on the island close to Bow Bridge. There had apparently been a stone inserted into a nearby wall marking the spot for the benefit of visitors to the site. At the time of the demolition of the old Bow Bridge, it became necessary to remove this wall too. Master builder Benjamin Broadbent obtained permission from the owner of the estate to place a new memorial to the King into the wall of a new building at the spot which he crafted at his own expense. The inscription read "Near this spot lie the remains of Richard III, the last of the Plantagenets". This plaque cemented the legends.

There had always been detractors from these theories of the fate of Richard III's body. After the dissolution, the Greyfriars site passed through many hands. In the early seventeenth century, Robert Herrick, Mayor of Leicester, built a mansion over the east end of the friary site and was said to have placed 'a handsome stone pillar' with the inscription "Here lies the body of Richard III, some time King of England" in the garden (30).

Over the next couple of centuries, the precise site of Greyfriars became lost to new road schemes and progressive building programmes. In 1863 the then current owner, a Mrs Parsons, sold a plot of land which enabled the trustees of Alderman Newtons Boys School to build new premises. In 1920, the boys moved to vacant premises at the other end of Peacock Lane allowing the establishment of a new Girls School. When the Girls School moved to a new building on Glenfield Road in 1959, the Boys School expanded into the vacated building.

The third trench

Old school playground (31)

My Hayman: Biology Master

Mr Hayman (32)

So it was when the author of this article attended the school between 1957 and 1964. Part of the upper floor contained the biology classroom and laboratory, the preserve of schoolmaster Harry Hayman. Photographs of the building clearly show the white painted conservatory which projected out over the playground which housed his plants and other specimens. It was there I passed my A-level examinations.

The excavations on the site in 2012, the discovery of bones and the subsequent investigations have proved that Richard III never moved from Greyfriars after his burial. The site of his final resting place, probably in the Cathedral opposite, remains to be decided at the time of writing. But how odd to think how close my feet walked through his legend and passed by his remains for so long. The old school building is to become the Richard III visitor centre.

Just one final wrinkle continues to niggle in this history. What was Richard III doing on Bow Bridge in the first place. We know that he left Leicester by the West Gate and it seems likely if he had to move an entire army from one place to another, mainly on horseback, with all the accompanying carts, foot soldiers and entourage, he would have taken the easiest route. The Roman road system was designed for just that purpose but the line of the appropriate road (the Mancetter Road) actually into the town is unclear (33). As mentioned above, early maps of Leicester and the area to its immediate west show its main routes to have been the two turnpikes to Hinckley and Narborough. If this was the route Richard took, then it is more likely that after he crossed West Bridge, he would have turned left along the axis of Duns Lane and Braunstone Gate, crossing Braunstone Bridge to arrive at the Hinckley turnpike. In his Leicester Past and Present Volume 1, Jack Simmons only mentions West Bridge in his description of the day.

Crossing Bow Bridge would have taken him into the Danet Hall estate. The extent of the pathway on the western side of the bridge in the middle ages is far from clear, indeed it is not uniformly marked on maps of the era. Had he bivouaced his forces in Danet family's fields for the night? There is no evidence to suggest that the family exhibited either Yorkist or Lancastrian sentiments. There had been a villa on the hillside in Roman times which presumably had a pathway leading to it. The site of the armoured king and his glittering hordes yomping up the hill and across the fields and cherry orchard would have been a remarkable site for the occupants of the hall.

Further Reading

Leicester Glimpses book
Past and Present Vol 2
The book The Slums of Leicester (2009) by Ned Newitt

The book covers

As well as the articles and source material indicated in the reference list below, we recommend the following books for background reading.
1. "Glimpses of Ancient Leicester in Six Periods" by Mrs T Fielding Johnson. Clark & Satchell, Leicester 1906. The author gives a cogent if contemporary view of the development of Leicester from Roman to late Victorian times. Agnes Paget was the second wife of Thomas Fielding Johnson a Victorian businessman and philanthropist. He was a member of the board of the Leicester Royal Infirmary and a ward was named in his memory. Text available for perusal at: Glimpses of Ancient Leicester Internet Archive, University of Toronto
2. "Leicester Past and Present" by Jack Simmons (1974) Eyre Methuen, London ISBN: 0-413-30890-1. In two volumes "Ancient Borough" and "Modern City" treats the same timeline as "Glimpses" but with a different emphasis and a more modern approach. Both are liberally illustrated.
3. For an authoritative guide to the housing stock and the overcrowding which ensued in Victorian Leicester we recommend "The Slums Of Leicester" by Ned Newitt (2009), The Breedon Books Publishing Company Limited, Derby. ISBN: 978-1-85983-724-5. The book comprises a photographic record of many of the streets and courtyards in the centre of the city prior to the slum clearances of the 1930s and early 1970s. It is illustrated with contemporary accounts of residents who lived there.


Photographs A.1 - 4 are copyright and were taken in 1971 by Dennis Calow. They appear in the section "Vanished Leicester" in the My Leicestershire History website and are reproduced here under the terms of this Creative Commons Licence.

A.1 Cooper's grocery King Richard's Road 133-145, 1971
A.2 Fish shop and Ken Smith's King Richard's Road 133-137, 1971
A.3 Crow's Nest and off license King Richard's Road 125-131, 1971
A.4 Corner of Clara Street King Richard's Road 109A-121, 1971

A vote of thanks

The author would like to express his thanks for the help, comments and suggestions from the following in the construction of this article: Stephen Butt, Leicestershire and Rutland Archaeological Society ; Colin Dannatt for genealogical data on the Danet family; Laura Hadland, Jewry Wall Museum, Leicester; Chris Jinks, Leicester Transport Heritage Trust Ltd.; Dave King, St Paul and St Augustine Worship Centre, Leicester; Richard Piccaver (artist) at Richard Piccaver Art; Dr Phil Stone and Peter Hammond, the Richard III Society; Graham Turner (artist) Studio 88 Ltd. and Ellena Johnstone, Osprey Publishing; Chris Pyrah and Rob McCoy in confirming contemporary geographic details.



Parts of this article appeared in the September 2018 edition of the Journal of the Leicestershire & Rutland Family History Society (Journal No. 173 pages 40 - 46) (34)


1. Photographs of King Richard's Road (1956) and Tudor Road (1958): "Images of Leicester" - The Leicester Mercury; Breedon Books 1995
2. Passageways and Courtyards Terraced houses in Leicester at the East Midlands Oral History Archive
3. Alderman Newton's school badge. Old Newtonians RFC
4. "On the trail of King Richard III in Leicester" 24Hour Museum: Leicester pages
5. David Weston's web site David Weston - Artist
6. 'Leicester, West Bridge, 1957': painting © Richard Piccaver. Reproduced with permission.
7. Leicester City Centre:Cycle Map (part) at Leicester City Council
8. Post War Slum Clearence Leicester City Council
9. The Land Registry, Leicester Bede Island Photographs at the East Midlands Oral History Archive
10. Leicester's Regeneration - "The Waterside"The Leicester Regeneration Company
11. King Leir of Leicester: Leicestershire History September 2012
12. White, William: History of the Borough of Leicester in History, Gazetteer and Directory of Leicestershire and the small County of Rutland pages 59 to 115 Sheffield England 1846
13. Billson, Charles J. MA. The Open Fields of Leicester.The Leicestershire Archaelogical and History Society, First published 1925.
14. Billson, Charles J. MA. Chapter VII. The Six Bridges Mediaeval Leicester. First published 1920 Wikisource.
15. Dannet Hall and maps: Early Dannatt Pedigree 13th - 18th century - A site complied to assist anyone researching the name Dannatt (and its variants)
16. Throsby, J: Danet's Hall (lithograph and description) in Seats in Leicestershire: Select Views in Leicestershire from Original Drawings pages 262 - 265 1789
17. Middleton, Lydia Miller Hugh Watts Dictionary of National Biography, 1860 - 1900 Volume 60. on Wikisource
18. Genealogy of John Watts 1861: Leicester lookup Reply No 19 from Mike of Leicester: Leicestershire forum
19. Johnson, Peter: The Mosaics of Roman Leicester: Leicestershire Archaelogical and History Society
20. The "Cherry Orchard mosaic": Photograph © Jewry Wall Museum; Leicester Arts and Museums Service. Reproduced with permission
21. Hextall, John Edward MA and Brightman, Arthur L. BA: Fifty Years of Church, Men and Things at St Pauls, Leicester 1871-1921: John Edward Hextall: L Bell & Co. Leicester 1921.
22. Quotation from Report of the Leicester Domestic Mission: Joseph Dare 1864 and 1872; in "The Slums Of Leicester" by Ned Newitt (2009)pages 36 and 37
23. Bromkinsthorpe: Manors A History of the County of Leicester: Volume 4: City of Leicester. British History on Line
24. Watts Causeway: Wright's Midland Directory Leicester & Loughborough with Burton-on-Trent 1864 Page 31 Special Collections Online University of Leicester. Reference used in accordance with this Creative Commons licence
25. Barclay, John MD, FRCP: 'Modern Leicester' Lecture given to the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society, February 22nd 1864. Reprinted in Wrights Midland Directory (Leicester & Loughborough with Burton-on-Trent) C.N. Wright Nottingham 1864
26. The Old Bow Bridge, Leicester: Illustrated London News Page 134 February 9th 1861
27. "Focus of a bustling area swept away": Bow Bridge in Leicester Mercury 1955
28. King Richard's Road: from old postcards 1906, 1913 and 1937: Leicester Past and Present ~ A walk down memory lane: facebook
29. 'The March From Leicester': King Richard III leads his army out of Leicester, past Austin Friars and over Bow Bridge, en-route to Bosworth and his fateful confrontation with the invading army of his adversary for the throne, Henry Tudor. From the book "Bosworth 1485" Painting © Graham Turner, Osprey Publishing, 1999. Reproduced with permission
30. Burial of Richard III: Greyfriars, Leicester Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia
31. Trench 3. Excavations for Richard III's grave 2012. Alderman Newton's School © RobinLeicester, and licenced for reuse under this Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Licence
32. "Mr Hayman"; Alderman Newton's Boys School Leicester (1962): Photograph courtesy of Nigel Baker
33. McWhirr Alan D.: The Roman Road from Leicester to Mancetter. Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society, 1967
34. Leicestershire And Rutland Family History Society website.

Added: October 3rd 2005
Last updated: May 11th 2016

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