Revealed Leicester

Leicester's historic past

Leicester is the biggest free-standing city in the UK. Free-standing, because it is surrounded on all sides by open country side. Whilst other cities blend into each other or merge into other urban areas, Leicester floats like an island in a rural sea.

The river Soar runs through Leicester - a small river by many standards, at some stretches, hardly wider than the Grand Union Canal, which connects London with Manchester, via Leicester.

Leicester came late to the industrial revolution and yet many of the key technologies and innovations of Victorian times where either tried first in Leicester or developed here. Much of late Victorian Leicester still survives. Unlike Coventry, Leicester escaped heavy bombing during the second world war.

Much of the Victorian inner city dates from the 1890s. Unlike Nottingham or Birmingham, Leicester did not have a huge problem of inner city poverty and slums. Neither did it have a legacy of collapsing heavy industry, leaving dereliction in its wake. For the most part, Leicester had clean industries, such as spinning and weaving.

Many of the large, old factory buildings and mills are still in use; some are being recycled by being converted into luxury apartments.

Leicester is surrounded by housing estates, some established during the boom in Council house building in the 1930s. North Braunstone, for example, was seen as being a garden town, modeled on the idea of a bright new future for working people. However, the planners forgot to introduce community services and facilities and there are still relatively few shops on the estate.

Although Leicester is a free-standing city, it is ringed with sub-urban towns, such as Braunstone, Ansty, Groby, Glenfield and Birstall.

In more recent times, outer-urban estates have been developed, such as Hamilton and Beaumont Leys.

In the 1960s there was another surge of public housing, with council estates such as New Parks being built, again on the so-called garden city model.

The opening of the M1 motorway put Leicester on the backbone of the new transport system. Leicester also became connected to Coventry and Birmingham via the M69.

Modern Leicester is characterised by its multi-cultural and socially mixed population. Immigration into the city began in the 1930s with the arrival of jewish communities. African and Caribbean peoples settled here during the late 1950s and 60s and later, peoples from the Indian sub-continent moved into Leicester. Other communities, such as the Poles, Latvians and Estonians have also made their home here. In the last few years, the UK Government has settled a large number of mid-European asylum seekers in the city. One of the biggest influxes was that of the Ugandan Asians and others from East Africa.

Many of these were traders and business people who brought wealth to the area. They acquired many of the lower-valued commercial and domestic properties, which is why there is was so little run-down or derelict property in the inner city, compared to other urban areas.

Certain areas of the city tended to become to various ethnic groups. Caribbean people congregated in Highfields and Asian peoples gathered in houses along the Belgrave and Melton Roads.

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