Stories of Leicester city centre

Thu 28 Feb 2019

From the discovery of King Richard III’s body to the crowning of Leicester City Football Club as Premier League champions – working with Heritage Expert Lynda Callaghan and Creative Practitioner Andy Reeves, the Castle group discovered stories and quotes from Leicester distant and recent history.


The discovery of King Richard III in a car park

A search for Richard’s body began in August 2012, The archaeological excavation was led by the University of Leicester Archaeological Services, working in partnership with Leicester City Council. On the first day a human skeleton belonging to a man in his thirties was uncovered showing signs of severe injuries. The skeleton, which had several unusual physical features, most notably a severe curvature of the back, was exhumed to allow scientific analysis. Examination showed that the man had probably been killed either by a blow from a large bladed weapon which cut off the back of his skull and exposed the brain, or by a sword thrust that penetrated all the way through the brain… the University of Leicester announced on 4 February 2013 that it had concluded beyond reasonable doubt that the skeleton was that of Richard III.


Quotes from a Leicester resident during WWII

Air raid warning sounded at about 7.45pm. Incendiary bombs were dropping all around Granby Street before the sirens went off. Saw terrific fires. All top story of Lulhams ablaze. Went home  to Kimberley Road, up London Road. I reached the top of London Road/Evington Road when five terrific explosions and flashes were seen over our way. All the way home I saw flashes and explosions straight ahead. After being at home some time, we went to an air raid shelter opposite to St. Phillip’s Church, Evington Road. Many bombs dropped within a little way of it…


The Mods and Rockers of 60s Leicester

The Mods had a huge impact on the streets of mid-60s Leicester. They’d ride into town on their Vespas and Lambrettas to hit the coffee bars and hear the latest jukebox sounds from bands such as The Who, The Kinks and The Small Faces. It was part of the life of a Mod to have problems with the rockers, or Hell’s Angels. The rockers used to hang out down at the Roman Cafe, in Humberstone Road.

“We were at the Casino Ballroom at the top of London Road. A popular boxer, Alex Barrow, was there, a black guy, with two of his friends. Two rockers walked in, and one of the lads with Alex said ‘you hit my mate’ and knocked one of them flying. Within 30 minutes, hundreds of rockers were flying down London Road on their motorbikes heading for the club.”


The Effect of the Civil War

Then in 1642 came civil war between king and parliament. The king’s army laid siege to Leicester in 1645. The royal army was made up of 5,500 men. Inside Leicester there were only 2,000 defenders. Traitors left the town at night and revealed where there were weak spots in the walls. The royalists aimed their cannons at these spots and made breaches. The defenders tried to plug the gaps with sacks of wool but the royalist infantry attacked. They attempted to reach a breach in the wall near Newark 4 times but each time they were repulsed. The royalists then attacked a breach by the Eastgate. They caused the defenders to withdraw by throwing hand grenades among them. Then they swarmed through the breach. Soon Leicester was captured. The royalists then sacked the town killing many people.


A Quote from an Asian Immigrant to the City

“I came in search of fame and fortune but I didn’t find fame and didn’t find any fortune. Nevertheless I began playing for Leicestershire County Cricket Club and scored a century in my first game. There were very few Asian people in Leicester at the time and people would stop and look at me because to them, non-white people were quite different. Since then it has changed beyond recognition.”


A Quote from a Romany Living in Leicester

Elizabeth, a Romany, left Dublin, Ireland, when she was 16 to work for her aunt. She moved to Leicester after marrying her husband. “When I first came people couldn’t understand my accent. They weren’t very nice to us at all. We had to make the best of what we had.  “My parents didn’t like me marrying a Polish man. They went mad. We bought a house because my husband wasn’t willing to live in a caravan. I’m very happy to be who I am.”


Leicester City’s 5000-1 Premier League Win

The clock hit 96 minutes, and the seconds kept ticking away, 10, 12, 14, and then the whistle blew at 96:53. Everyone jumped up and started hugging and taking pictures and almost immediately the sound of honking horns blasted in through the open windows A man with no shirt, his chest covered in tattoos, jumped and waved a flag and rang a bell, all on the top of a rocking satellite truck. People pressed up against each other and sang and laughed. There were Asians and blacks and whites.The city celebrated together.  People who’d never cared at all about their hometown team before celebrated with lifelong fans. They all chanted “Leicester,” over and over again, one of them keeping time on a drum…


A Medieval Map of the City