Monday, 9 May 2016

Leicester (Part 4 - East)

For this final look at Leicester we have mainly put away the grand civic buildings and strayed into the more gritty world of commerce and industry. It is pleasing to see the number of clocks that still remain on such buildings, although some of them could do with some urgent love and attention.

But the gateway into this world is a church - St Peter's church on St Peter's Road. This is the Anglican St Peter's, not to be confused with the Catholic St Peter's elsewhere in the city, nor indeed with the one in the suburb of Belgrave (which I now realised I must of walked within 100 meters of without seeing it, and hence missing its clock)

This St Peter's had its foundation stone laid on 14 November 1872 and was consecrated on 18 April 1874. The architect was G E Street, most famous for the Royal Courts of Justice in London, but also designer of numerous churches and other buildings. For example, he also designed St Peter's churches in Little Aston, Helperthorpe, Swinton, Malvern, Chalvey, Filkins and Treverbyn.

We move now into the commercial world, if not yet into the industrial one. Sometimes you are just surprised by what you find when you go out looking. Walking along residential streets you turn a corner, and not only is there a clock which you weren't expecting to see, but it is nicely displayed on a pink building.

This is the offices of P A Todd & Company, Solicitors on the corner of East Park Road and Chesterfield Road. And thanks to their website ( , I not only know that the company was formed in 1998 and moved into this building in 2014, I also know that this used to be the Evington Cinema.

Which helps to explain the unusual design of this building and its location.

Further research led me to Issue 258 (February / March 2016) of the Evington Echo (, which reveals that the cinema was opened in 1916 and closed in 1978. Following a fire in 1984, the main auditorium was demolished in 1989 and the site used for flats. So what we have today is just the frontage.

So we move on to another surprise. A mini-castle at the end of a cul-de-sac off a residential road.

I don't know anything about this building, except that I'm glad it's there.

More industry. This is St Saviour's Road.

Whilst the clock face on this side looks in good repair...

...that facing the road is not looking so good.

A little bit further along St Saviour's Road is the Corona Works building. This was home to Frederick Pollard & Co (as witnessed by the clock). Founded in 1911, the company specialised in the manufacture of drilling machinery.

Next up is this more modern clock on East Park Road.

This is the Vulcan Works in Vulcan Road. Built in 1876-78, it is supposedly the earliest engineering factory built in Leicester.

It was home , until 1986, of Gimson & Co, who amongst many other things built the beam engines at Abbey Pumping Station (see earlier post).

And finally, we visit the Haramead Business Centre, in Haramead Road.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Leicester (Part 3 - North, West and South)

Today we cover all the clocks outside of the central area that are to the north, west or south. The east is yet to come.

Leicester North is the southern terminus of the Great Central Railway. It is not the best way, transport-wise, of getting from Loughborough to Leicester as it takes much longer and costs much more (on gala days at least) than the main railway, and leaves you on the outside of the outer ring road (aka the middle of nowhere). This of course never use to be the case as the tracks used to continue into the heart of the city.

At least the GCR has restored some of the link, and provides a fine two-track heritage railway.

The current station building dates from 2002.

A shortish trek south brings us to the Abbey Pumping Station on Corporation Road (a great civic name for a road). This is now a great, free entry, museum with all sorts of fascinating exhibits, the best of which have to be the magnificent beam engines. If you are ever in the area you really ought to pay a visit.

Anyway, there is also a clock on one of the outbuildings.

Which as it now houses the visitor toilets, it is appropriate that it is a Gents clock.

Next up is Leicester College, and its building off Belgrave Gate.

Nearby is what is now known as The Empire, a banqueting hall suitable for weddings and other similar functions.

You can get a glimpse of it from the northern edge of the city centre, peering under the concrete flyover of the ring road and to the left of the tastefully coloured large shed of a building. Not the greatest part of the city.

The building was originally the church of St Mark, built in 1869 - 72. Actually quite difficult to find any information as most web searches refer you to the Empire in Leicester Square, London.

I love this next clock. Quite brutal in its design, and sort of out of place in relation to its surroundings.

Leicester seems to have a bit of an obsession with clock towers (hurrah), and so we get this beauty on the pavilion building of Victoria Park. The park itself is quite an odd place (for which read good), with a large open space with a huge Lutyens-designed war memorial on one edge and this clock tower on another. Oh, and also flanked by the architecturally diverse University of Leicester buildings.

The pavilion was either built in 1948 or 1958, depending on which website you believe. The park itself was opened in 1882.

Now for a clock with no hands.

This is Clarendon Park Congregational Church (completed 1886) on the junction of London Road and Springfield Road.

A nice piece of carved clock face, just a bit useless without the hands.


So let's move on to the University of Leicester, and more specifically the Rattray Lecture Theatre.

That blue blob on the wall is this little beauty. And of course this is another clock featured in "An Introduction to the History of Timekeeping - The Leicester Time-Trail" by Allan Mills. The astronomical clock uses "three independent quartz crystal oscillators to generate impulses based on solar, lunar and sidereal time".

It was installed in 1989, and is 8 feet in diameter.

You can see this next clock from all sorts of different vantage points, but it was quite difficult to pin down what it actually was. Clearly another clock tower, but part of which building? Or was it a standalone folly, or remnant of a demolished structure?

Turns out it is actually part of the fire station, which is also the headquarters for the county brigade. It is certainly more fancy that any fire station tower that I have seen before (perhaps there could be another blog on fire station towers - although probably there already is. I must check later).

The fire station is in Lancaster Road by the way.

Guess what? Yes, another clock tower. This time on a building housing The Counting House eatery.

Why The Counting House? Because this used to be the counting house for the livestock market. Although the land all around is now various retail units, some obvious clues to its former use can be found on the boundary railings:
Although the weather vane on top of the tower is a bit confusing!

The market was open from 1872 to 1988. The counting house was converted to its present use in 1996.

Time for another tower? Of course, this is Leicester, the world capital of clock towers. This is the National Gas Museum in Aylestone Road. Built in the 1870's, the building is the gatehouse to the former gas works.

The National Gas Museum (although I doubt that there are many local gas museums) was opened on 29 April 1977 - we probably all should go there next year to celebrate its 40 birthday. It houses the "world's largest and most significant gas history collection" ( Although I would never have paid a visit if it wasn't for the clock, it is a surprisingly interesting experience. And it is free, so what have you got to lose?

More industrial buildings, another clock tower. This time we are in Knighton Fields Road East, at the impressive Wheatsheaf Works.

The building dates from 1891, and was extended in 1900. It was originally the Cooperative boot and shoe factory, the largest of its kind in the world.

Long closed as a factory, it is now being converted into residential accommodation. A shame really, but at least it means that this impressive brick building is saved from demolition.

And finally, not really Leicester at all, but the town of Wigston to the south of the city. and if you thought that the National Gas Museum was a bit specialist, Wigston is the home of the Framework Knitters Museum. Unfortunately it was closed on the day I visited.

This is All Saints church.