Leicester City Centre

On leaving the railway station turn right – there’s and enormous social housing tower block named Elizabeth House.

Architect: John Middleton 1976-79.

Next door a noisy neighbour the former British Telecom – St George’s Tower now Premier Inn with its newly acquired cladding of many colours.

Photo Steve Cadman

Next to City Hall architects: Barnish and Silcock 1938- the modest opening ceremony took place on 7th November 1938.

Once home to the Electricity Board Sowrooms specially furnished with a model kitchen for housewives who are interested in the modern uses of electricity in the home. A special theatre also presented weekly cookery demonstrations and a Service Centre displayed, sold and hired out electrical appliances.

Opposite City Hall the former Assurance Insurance HQ now Ramada Hotel.

Adjacent Halford House – former Leicester Temperance Building Society.

It was partly occupied by the firm of architects who built it in 1955-1959, Pick Everard Keay and Gimson. 

With its stunning clock surrounded by The Four Winds, by locally based artist Albert Pountney – he was head of sculpture at Leicester College of Art from 1947until 1960

Look out for the concrete planters known as Beckett’s Buckets – named for John Leslie Beckett, Leicester’s City Engineer and Surveyor 1941–64.

Lewis’s Tower on Humberstone Gate is all that remains of this Art Deco department store.

Up around the bend to the Curve Theatre Opened in 2008 by Her Majesty The Queen, designed by acclaimed architect Rafael Viñoly.

Originally designed and built in 1936 in the Streamline Moderne style by Robert Arthur Bullivant, and operated as an Odeon Cinema. The terracotta panels, which feature mermaids, were hand-moulded by William Neatby at the Lambeth premises of Doulton and Co.

The cinema was opened on 28th July 1938 with a screening of A Slight Case of Murder.

Grade II Listed August 1997 – the building has been restored and converted into a venue for corporate and social events renamed ATHENA.

Onward now to the Pfister & Vogle Warehouse – built in 1923 architects: Fosbrooke and Bedingfield for the Milwaukee based leather manufacturers.

Calling next at the Cardinal House Telephone Exchange 1970 – at 84m the tallest building in the city.

A sprawling complex of tower and outlying buildings.

No longer taking calls the Wharf Street Post Office and Telephone Exchange.

On 11 December 1959, the United Kingdom’s first drive-in post office opened. It was situated at the new Wharf Street Branch Post Office under the centre archway of the Wharf Street Telephone Exchange building in Leicester, which had a private road running through it.

Despite being announced in a burst of fanfare, the drive-in post office was ultimately considered to be a failure. From the initial 60 to 70 customers a day, this fell to 20 to 25 a day and, by 1963, the number of customers had tailed off to three per day and even this was not always maintained.

Postal Museum

Let’s carry on and park it in the Auto-Magic Lee Circle Car Park.

Much beloved of Sid James.

One of the oldest multi-storey car parks in Europe. When it opened in 1961, providing space for 1050 cars, it was also among the first automated public car parks, using coin-operated barriers. Beneath the six parking levels, the supermarket chain Tesco opened their first store outside London. Tesco was integrated with the car park above so that staff could take customers’ purchases direct to their cars. For some years the new supermarket featured in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest store by floor area in Europe.

The opening of the Leicester Tesco was a landmark event in the history of UK retailing and marked the beginning of self-service shopping, with customers required to use one of the company’s baskets or trolleys. A crowd of 2,000 gathered to see the opening of the store by ‘Carry On’ comedian Sid James in the presence of Sir Jack Cohen, founder of Tesco stores, who helped to pack bags at the check-outs. This was the first ‘discount store’ opened by Tesco.

Story of Leicester

Leicester Progressive Spiritualist Church

Epic House architects: Andrews, Emmerson & Sherlock 1963-1967

Formerly home to the UK’s first local radio station.

Crown House home to the Benefits Agency and County Court in the 1970’s

Let’s take a look at the Corah St Margaret’s Works – currently not working.

Corah was established by Nathaniel Corah, who began buying hosiery in Leicester to sell in Birmingham in 1815. The first extension was in 1882, when the company was the first in Leicester to introduce electric lighting to a factory. 

At the outbreak of World War II Corah had 4,500 employees but over half of that number left to join the Services or undertake war work.  Regardless of the reduced workforce the company produced 26 million knitted items for the government and processed around 250 million clothing coupons.  The engineering department was also extended to allow for the production of 80,000 gun parts and 30,000 parts for tank landing craft.

Despite all the innovation, good working practices, quality products and special relationship with Marks and Spencer, Corah was acquired by Coats Viyella in 1994.  The company was soon broken up and the St Margaret’s Works site closed within a decade.

Story of Leicester

The remains of the old Corah factory in Leicester city centre could be almost entirely demolished to make way for hundreds of 1,187 new homes.

Leicester Mercury

However here comes the cavalry:

C20 Society has joined Historic England and Leicester Civic Society in condemning plans to demolish the former Corah Factory, at the St Margaret’s Works site in the East Midlands city.

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