A History of the County of Leicester: Volume 4, the City of Leicester. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1958.
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The ancient parish of St. Margaret consisted of two parts: that within the borough boundary, which is the area under consideration in this section, lay entirely outside the walled town and extended over the East Field of Leicester. The remaining part was the chapelry of Knighton, which is discussed separately since it lay outside the borough boundary until 1935. (fn. 1) The Bishop's Fee, a manor and liberty belonging to the Bishop of Lincoln, (fn. 2) was included in the part of the ancient parish within the borough, but its exact boundaries are not clear and its constitutional position was doubtful from its earliest existence. It is not known how it came into the hands of the Bishop of Lincoln and the suggestion that it had belonged to the Anglo-Saxon bishopric cannot be substantiated. Neither is it at all clear to what extent the liberty was manorialized, although the bishop had a grange near St. Margaret's Church, the 'curia' referred to c. 1205. (fn. 3) It was probably the ruins of this building, or perhaps even the vicarage, which Leland saw and erroneously described as an episcopal palace. (fn. 4) There seems to be no recorded occasion on which a Bishop of Lincoln actually stayed in Leicester during the Middle Ages. The episcopal house at Liddington (Rut.) was normally used. (fn. 5) The position of the Bishop's Fee in relation to the town was evidently felt to be difficult and dangerous even by the 12th century. Efforts by the earls of Leicester from 1143 onwards to gain control of the land outside the East Gate were rendered unsuccessful by the settlement of c. 1217 mentioned below. (fn. 6) Thereafter the struggle was between the Bishop's Fee and the borough and it turned largely upon the question of the borough's right to levy taxes in the liberty, a point which emerged as early as 1086. In 1322 Belgrave Gate was held to lie within the borough, although the possibility of its being drawn outside through its proximity to the Bishop's Fee was clearly exercising the town authorities. (fn. 7) The rest of the area was largely exempt from the borough's financial exactions, but the bishop's burgess tenants were still subject in some legal matters to the jurisdiction of the borough court. The administrative and geographical unity of the Bishop's Fee seems to have been more important than its possible manorial unity. (fn. 8) The persistent quarrels between the Bishop's Fee and the borough have been described elsewhere. (fn. 9) They continued throughout the town's history until the town finally gained control of the whole of the east suburb in 1835. (fn. 10)
The area of the civil parish, excluding Knighton, was 1,138 acres in 1891. (fn. 11) The civil parish was dis solved in 1896 when the whole borough of Leicester was made into a single civil parish. (fn. 12) The part of the ancient parish within the borough boundary was bounded by the Soar on the north, the Gartree road to the west and south-west, and by the line of Mere Road on the east and south-east. To the west, the parish boundary ran down New Walk and Wellington Street, crossed to Newarke Street, Oxford Street, Millstone Lane and Horsefair Street to Gallowtree Gate. From there it ran north along the line of Churchgate and Sanvey Gate, a little way along Northgate Street and then by a winding course through the streets to the east to reach the river by the North Mill and follow it eastwards to Belgrave Lock. (fn. 13) There is some doubt as to whether St. Margaret's Pasture and the Abbey Meadow were in the ancient parish or not. They were held not to be by the Inclosure Commissioners in 1764 and again by the Tithe Commissioners in 1850. Both these authorities stated that the pasture and the Abbey Meadow were part of the chapelry of Knighton. (fn. 14) Under the Divided Parishes Act of 1882, part of the Abbey Park (formerly Abbey Meadow) and St. Margaret's Pasture were transferred from Knighton parish to St. Margaret's. (fn. 15)
The focal point of the east suburb in the Middle Ages lay at its western edge, by the East Gate of the borough, at the place where the Clock Tower now stands. In the Middle Ages, this spot was known as the Berehill, the name being in use as early as 1260. (fn. 16) The Berehill was a mound outside the gate, which was surmounted by a cross, and it later became known as the Round Hill, Roundel, or Coal Hill, the place where coal was for many years brought to be sold from the pits. A pair of stocks also stood there. The cross was repaired in 1565–6 but was demolished in 1575 or 1576, together with the cage which stood by it. The purpose of this cage is uncertain, but it seems most likely to have been an instrument of punishment associated with the stocks. A new cage was built on the spot in 1600. About 1750 Assembly Rooms were built on the site, consisting of a large upper room supported upon a colonnade, which also contained shops. The building faced Humberstone Gate, and the shops, which were at the back, looked into High Street. (fn. 17) About 1805 the whole building was converted into shops and also housed a coal-weighing machine. (fn. 18) During the last century there was considerable agitation for the removal of the building, which obstructed the road in the very centre of the town, and it was finally demolished in 1862. (fn. 19) In 1868 public subscriptions were raised for the erection of the Clock Tower as a memorial to four men considered to have been the greatest benefactors to the borough, Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, William Wigston, Sir Thomas White, and Alderman Gabriel Newton. The competition for the design was won by the Leicester architect, Joseph Goddard. The tower, which is 80 ft. high, is a fine example of Victorian Gothic monumental architecture. The main part is built of Ketton stone, but the four statues at the base are of Portland stone and the pillars at the angles of the tower are of polished granite and serpentine. The total cost was £1,000. (fn. 20)
From the Berehill, four streets radiated into the suburb. To the north, Churchgate led to St. Margaret's Church, along the line of the town ditch, but the name seems not to have been used until the late 15th century. It first appears in 1478. (fn. 21) The vicarage is in Churchgate, next door to the church. It is an 18th-century house of two stories, with a slate roof and a moulded stone cornice and parapets. An earlier vicarage, clearly in a very bad state, was repaired by prebendary John Lound in 1568. (fn. 22) In 1323 the vicar's servant was charged with killing another man and his goods were valued. The vicarage then consisted of a hall, granary and kitchen, as well as cellars and stables, and seems to have been of considerable size. (fn. 23) Archdeacon Lane (first mentioned in 1465) (fn. 24) and Plowman Lane (mentioned in 1305) (fn. 25) ran off Churchgate to the east. Churchgate led into Sanvey Gate, which ran from east to west just outside the borough's north wall. The earliest name for this street (first mentioned 1322) was the 'Skeyth', a Danish word, meaning 'course' or 'race-course', and it was perhaps the scene of horse-racing. By the 15th century it had become known as Senvey Gate, and it has since acquired a false etymology as the sancta via. (fn. 26)
Belgrave Gate, which was not within the Bishop's Fee, is first mentioned in 1287, (fn. 27) and Barkby Lane, later to be one of the first areas to undergo intensive development, was so called at least as early as 1352. (fn. 28) Belgrave Gate led to the parish boundary, over two arms of the river, and past St. John's Hospital and the Spital Hill, also known as the Cock Muck Hill. (fn. 29) Belgrave Gate was later part of the LeicesterLoughborough turnpike, but was taken over by the borough in about 1855. (fn. 30)
The Haymarket, which joins Belgrave Gate and Humberstone Gate, behind the Berehill site, was known as Gosewellgate in the Middle Ages, the name occurring as early as 1305. (fn. 31) This name was still in use in the 17th century but was changed when the hay market was held there in the 18th century. (fn. 32) Humberstone Gate, later part of the Uppingham turnpike, is mentioned in 1286 (fn. 33) and Gallowtree Gate in 1290. (fn. 34) Spa Place (nos. 36–42) is the sole block of any interest remaining in Humberstone Gate. It is a terrace, set back from the street, consisting of four large 18th-century brick houses. The two centre doors lead out of a semi-circular Tuscan porch and all four doors have traceried fanlights. The houses were probably built in or about 1793 when advertisements for the spa (a chalybeate spring) first appeared in the Leicester newspapers. (fn. 35) Miss Watts, writing of this 'range of new and handsome buildings', says that 'though furnished by the proprietor with neat marble baths and every convenient appendage for bathing' the spring was 'not found sufficiently impregnated with mineral properties to bring it into use'. (fn. 36) The venture failed a few years after the houses were built and only their name remains to remind Leicester of their origin. From 1798 the building was used as a General Baptist college, founded by the Revd. Dan Taylor and endowed with property in Nottingham. (fn. 37) It was closed c. 1860, (fn. 38) since when the houses have been separately occupied.
The whole of the road from the East Gate to the parish boundary by Victoria Park Road was known as Gallowtree Gate, taking its name from the gallows which used to stand at the end of Evington Footpath. (fn. 39) The part of the road which is called Granby Street seems only to have been so named at the very end of the 18th century. Throsby does not use the name, but it is mentioned by Miss Watts, who says that 'many ranges of buildings . . . [have] . . . been here erected within the last fifteen years', and this probably also marks the change in the name. (fn. 40) New streets in the area were laid out in 1808–9, Bishop Street (formerly Bishopsgate) and Belvoir Street being the most important. The new streets ran westwards to link Granby Street with the newly laid-out Bowling Green Street. This area was regarded as a good residential suburb and remained so until the middle of the 19th century. (fn. 41) The Liberal Club in Bishop Street (closed 1936) was built from designs by Edward Burgess in 1885–8. (fn. 42) The section of Granby Street from Belvoir Street to the junction with London Road was the original part, but the name is now applied to the whole stretch from London Road to Horsefair Street. Gallowtree Gate, Granby Street, and London Road all formed part of the Loughborough to Market Harborough turnpike, and the parishioners of St. Margaret's were called upon to provide labour for road repairs as late as the beginning of the 19th century, although by that time most of their services were commuted for a money payment. (fn. 43) The borough took over the maintenance of the road as far south as De Montfort Street in 1855. (fn. 44) The London Road toll bar, which stood by the Marquis Wellington public house at the top of the hill, was removed in 1851 and another one built at the southern edge of Victoria Park. (fn. 45) Granby Street was widened in 1868 (fn. 46) and about the end of the century many new buildings were erected. The first part of the Grand Hotel was built by Cecil Ogden in 1899; (fn. 47) the second part, facing Belvoir Street, was built soon afterwards by Amos Hall. (fn. 48) The Midland Bank, one of the most startling buildings in the town, is by Joseph Goddard and was built in 1870–2, in a singular blend of the Gothic and Oriental styles. (fn. 49) The National Provincial Bank is by William Millican and was built in 1870. (fn. 50) The Institute for the Blind is by J. B. Everard and was completed in 1882. (fn. 51) Of the three coffee-house buildings in the parish, the only survivor is the former Victoria coffee-house in Granby Street built by Edward Burgess in 1888, (fn. 52) its striking Turkishstyle dome now sadly blackened. The whole character of the street was changed at the end of the 19th century. Of the buildings which were demolished, the former News Room, at the north corner of Belvoir Street and Granby Street, is probably the greatest loss. It was built in 1838 by the Leicester architect William Flint and was demolished in 1901. (fn. 53) There are some early 19th-century house-fronts on the east side of the street. The former Temperance Hall, now the Essoldo Cinema, was built by James Medland in 1852–3. (fn. 54) The formation of the company which promoted its erection was largely the work of Thomas Cook, the excursionist, whose own temperance hotel had been established next door to the hall since 1841. (fn. 55) The building has a very striking facade of three giant Corinthian columns on a rusticated base, supporting a deeply moulded pediment. The bold lines of the design were broken in 1955 by an awning of metal and plastic and a large neon sign. As the Temperance Hall, the building was the headquarters of the Leicester Temperance Society, but was also used as a general public hall for lectures, meetings, and concerts. (fn. 56)
The City Lending Library stands at the corner of Wellington Street and Belvoir Street and was opened in 1871. (fn. 57) The building in which it is housed was erected in 1831 by William Flint as a meeting hall for the Liberal opposition party in the town, the Town Hall having been closed to them by the corporation. (fn. 58) After the passing of the Municipal Cor porations Act, the New Hall, as it was called, became a public lecture- and concert-hall, also housing the Leicester Mechanics' Institute and, until 1848, the museum of the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society. (fn. 59) The building has a plain classical façade in cream stucco, divided into three bays by groups of paired pilasters. There is a double doorway in the central bay in a projecting porch. The cast-iron railings in front of the building are of a pleasant and simple design. By 1905 the building was too small to house the whole of the library and all but the lending section was moved to a new building in Bishop Street, built with funds given by Sir Andrew Carnegie. (fn. 60)
In Welford Place, just to the east of Wellington Street, is the office of Samuel Stone, the solicitor and town clerk (1835–72), also built to designs by William Flint, in 1842. (fn. 61) It too is a two-storied stucco building, with five windows on each floor, of which the centre three break forward. The windows are divided by Ionic columns. The central door is in a moulded stucco case with a small cornice on console brackets. The building is fronted with contemporary cast-iron railings. Also in Welford Place is the Leicestershire Club by Joseph Goddard, built in 1876. (fn. 62) The streets to the south of Belvoir Street largely consist of warehouses and small houses, dating from the period of expansion in the early 19th century.
There are many important industrial and commercial sites in the parish. The Gas Works, near Thames Street off Belgrave Gate, were established in 1821. (fn. 63) The wholesale vegetable market in Halford Street was completed in 1902 by Walter Brand. (fn. 64) Of the factories the two most important are probably Gimson & Co.'s Vulcan Works, built in 1878 over an area of 3 acres to the south of Humberstone Road near the railway, (fn. 65) and Corah's St. Margaret's Works, which was begun on its present site in 1865. (fn. 66) The architect of the first part was William Jackson of Lowesby Lane. The open yard of the factory then stretched as far as the canal, but nearly the whole of a very large site is now covered with buildings. Extensions to the original building were made on about nineteen separate occasions up to 1941. (fn. 67) The parish contains many more factories. Faire Bros.'s building in Rutland Street is an interesting late 19thcentury building in terracotta, designed by Edward Burgess in 1898. (fn. 68)
In 1086 Remigius, Bishop of Lincoln, held 10 carucates of land in Leicester. These are not described in Domesday in the section which deals generally with the borough. At least part of the holding was outside the walls, and from the fact that it is all described in carucates it seems likely that it was entirely extra-mural. (fn. 69) This estate was known from an early date as the BISHOP'S FEE, and the name remained in use until the 19th century. (fn. 70) In 1086 the bishop had seventeen burgesses, who, it is clear from the entry, were not paying geld with the borough. About 1138, Robert le Bossu, Earl of Leicester, gave ten more burgesses to the then bishop, Alexander, in satisfaction for damage inflicted upon the bishop's property by the earl and his men. These ten burgesses lived within the walls. (fn. 71) Between 1143 and c. 1217 a complicated series of transactions took place, whereby Bishop Alexander granted his manor of Knighton and his lands in the suburbs of Leicester to the earl, who in turn granted them to Leicester Abbey. (fn. 72) A settlement was made in 1203–4, when the bishop was granted lands in Asfordby, Seagrave, and Thurmaston as compensation for the lands granted to the earl, but it was reversed in 1218, when the status quo of 1143 was restored and Knighton manor and the Bishop's Fee were restored to Lincoln. About 1230 the Countess of Winchester held land from the bishop to the value of ½ knight's fee; at the same date nine other knights' fees in various parts of the county were linked with the bishop's Leicester manor. (fn. 73)
The bishops of Lincoln continued to hold their manor outside the East Gate until 1547, when it was granted to the king with other lands. (fn. 74) The Bishop's Fee does not seem to have been granted out again until it was given to William Parr, Marquis of Northampton, shortly before his death in 1571. (fn. 75) In 1583 the queen was holding it again, (fn. 76) and six years later she granted it to John Wells and others. (fn. 77) In 1604 it was in the hands of John Sedley, who granted it in that year to Sir Henry Harrington. (fn. 78) Harrington died in 1607 and the manor passed to his son-in-law, Sir Richard Morrison, who was asked in 1612 to declare by what right he held it. (fn. 79) About 1628 it was held by William Cavendish, Earl of Devonshire, and after his death in that year by his widow, Christian, in trust for her younger son, Charles. (fn. 80) Charles Cavendish was killed during the Civil War, (fn. 81) but the manor remained in the possession of the earls of Devonshire until at least the end of the 17th century. (fn. 82) After 1683 the descent is lost until 1764 when the manor was in the hands of Lord William Manners. (fn. 83) There is no indication of how it came into his possession. The earls of Dysart obtained it through the marriage of Louisa, Countess of Dysart in her own right, to John Manners of Grantham Grange (Lincs.), Lord William's illegitimate son and his heir, in 1765. (fn. 84) The earls of Dysart remained the owners until 1877, when the corporation of Leicester purchased the fee simple of their holding, then reduced to some 92 acres. (fn. 85)
Very little is known of the administration of the Bishop of Lincoln's estates in Leicester. About 1230 the bishop then held 6 carucates in demesne, with five free tenants, each of whom provided a man to perform harvest duty in the autumn. No mention of any villein is made. The bishop had a flock of 200 sheep. (fn. 86) In view of this lack of information, the economic history of St. Margaret's parish centres upon the East Field. The East Field was the largest of the fields which lay round the borough of Leicester. It extended from Belgrave Gate to the line of the Gartree road and north-west along the parish boundary to the junction of Belgrave Road and Melton Road. The area of the East Field, and of a meadow adjacent to it, just before the inclosure under an Act of 1764, was 773 acres. (fn. 87) The field was divided into three parts, or separate fields, upon which rotation of crops presumably took place. The three divisions were wedge-shaped, the first (Nether Field) lying between the Belgrave and Humberstone roads, and the second and third between the Humberstone and Gartree roads. The northern part of this section was called the Middle Field and the southern, at least after 1612 when the conduit head was built there, (fn. 88) Conduit Field. Underground pipes led from here to the conduit in the Market Place, and until the 19th century this was the town's only artificial water-supply. The conduit was abandoned in 1841. (fn. 89)
The meadow attached to the East Field lay to the north, between the Belgrave road and the river, extending to the parish boundary. Of this meadow, one part, the Abbey Meadow, between two arms of the Soar, seems at one time to have been attached to either the East Field or to the manor of Knighton, but passed into the possession of Leicester Abbey. The precise date at which the abbey acquired it is unknown, but it seems probable that it was in 1143, at which time the Bishop of Lincoln's lands outside the East Gate as well as at Knighton had been granted to the founder of the abbey. (fn. 90) It is, however, not definitely known that the Abbey Meadow ever belonged to the bishop, and before being acquired by the abbey it was perhaps the property of the earl and his successors. But in view of the fact that in 1764 and 1850 the Abbey Meadow was held to be part of the chapelry of Knighton, (fn. 91) it seems possible that it had been once attached to the bishop's manor there and that the Inclosure and Tithe Commissioners were recording information at those dates whose explanation lies in the 12th century. In 1650 a yardland at Knighton claimed pasture rights in the Abbey Meadow. (fn. 92) The Abbey Meadow extended over most of the area between the two arms of the river, with the exception of the western end, which certainly belonged to St. Margaret's parish and was known as St. Margaret's Pasture. The Abbey Meadow formed part of the grant of Leicester Abbey property which was made to William Parr, Marquis of Northampton, in 1550. (fn. 93) From that time its ownership descended with that of Leicester Abbey parish, although it was virtually part of the parish of St. Margaret, whose parishioners and the burgesses of Leicester had grazing rights there. The town races were run on the Abbey Meadow until 1742. (fn. 94) The meadow was purchased from the Earl of Dysart by Leicester Corporation in 1877 in connexion with the flood prevention scheme and most of it was made into a public park, which was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1882. St. Margaret's Pasture was purchased at the same time and also forms part of the park, which was laid out by Barron & Son of Derby. The architectural work was carried out by the Leicester architect, James Tait. (fn. 95) The common rights held by the parishioners of St. Margaret's in the Abbey Meadow and St. Margaret's Pasture were extinguished when the corporation purchased the land, £2,000 being paid in compensation for rights in the Abbey Meadow and £380 for those in the pasture. (fn. 96)
The other pieces of meadow attached to the East Field were Dent's Meadow and two closes known as the Leroes. Dent's Meadow lay to the north-west of the Abbey Meadow and was bounded by the Willow Brook, the river, the parish boundary, and the road to Belgrave. It was possibly named for Edward Dent, a freeholder of the East Field in the 17th century. (fn. 97) The Leroes lay to the south of Dent's Meadow. One was sold to the Leicester Navigation Company in 1793 and was purchased in 1878 by Leicester Corporation, (fn. 98) which took over the Belgrave Gate Gas Works established there in 1821. (fn. 99) The other was also sold to the canal company and then to the corporation. It was the site of the Lero refuse destructor from 1894 to 1936, (fn. 100) and of an electricity station, originally set up to provide current for the tramways, from 1904 to 1920. (fn. 101)
The burgesses had rights of pasture in all these pieces of meadow. In a survey made about 1230 the fees to be paid for pasture were 2d. for each animal belonging to a burgess living within the walls and 1d. for those living outside. (fn. 102) In the 16th century disputes arose about the pasturing of hackney horses in the meadow between 1 August and 1 May. In 1552 Henry, Duke of Suffolk, was called in to arbitrate on this matter. His award provided that hackneys, up to the number of 40, could be pastured at a cost of 4d. each. It seems, although the terms of this award are not quite explicit, that by this time the privilege of pasturing cattle was limited to the parishioners of St. Margaret's and St. Leonard's, the latter paying 2d. for every cow, up to two from each household. It may be, on the other hand, that St. Leonard's parish receives special mention in the award because there was then doubt as to whether it was part of the borough or not, but this seems to be unlikely, considering the terms of the award. (fn. 103) In 1633 these rights of pasturing horses and mares were reaffirmed by the borough authorities, probably because of the growth of separate farms within the fields. (fn. 104) Before the passing of the Act for inclosing the East Field, in 1764, the rights of the borough as a whole seem to have been extinguished. The inclosure award assumes that only the parishioners of St. Margaret's had pasture rights and then only in Dent's Meadow and in the open fields from the end of harvest-time until 11 December. (fn. 105) The inclosure commissioners did not consider the Abbey Meadow and St. Margaret's Pasture, which were held to be in Knighton manor. (fn. 106)
The allotment of land to the parish authorities at the inclosure was made in lieu of these rights in the open fields. St. Margaret's Parish Piece, as this was afterwards called, lay at the north-east end of the former Nether Field, and was in 1956 occupied by the Cossington Street Recreation Ground and a row of houses facing Belgrave Road. (fn. 107) After the allotment was made, the land was let yearly by the vestry and the rental distributed, at first to the poor and later to the parish charity and Sunday schools, both Anglican and nonconformist. (fn. 108) This practice was continued until 1892, when a private Act of Parliament (fn. 109) enabled the parish to sell the land to the corporation. The money thus obtained was invested and is used to provide pensions for elderly parishioners. (fn. 110)
In the inclosure award of 1764 fifteen allotments were made, varying in size from that of William Manners, the chief lord, who received over 300 acres, to one of only 2 roods. The East Field was estimated to contain 34 yardlands. There is very little mention of old inclosure except in that part of the fields immediately touching the built-up area of the borough. Mary Nedham, the tenant of the glebe, received an allotment of 93 acres. Other recipients were the churchwardens and overseers of St. Margaret's, who received the 17 acres of their Parish Piece, and the mayor and burgesses of Leicester, who received 4 acres as a corporation, and a further 41 as the trustees of the Trinity Hospital. The rest of the land went in allotments of under 100 acres to various freeholders of the parish, and certain roadways were specified. The mere, or boundary between Leicester and Belgrave, was made the responsibility of St. Margaret's in exchange for another piece of land which was given to Belgrave. The tithes were commuted for £110. (fn. 111)
The developments which followed the inclosure are very clearly shown upon a map of the parish which was made by John Eagle in 1805, when the greater part of the parish was still pasture. (fn. 112) In 1801 only 50 acres of the whole parish were arable, 26 of them growing turnips; some were probably small allotments. (fn. 113) Eagle's map shows houses along Belgrave Gate and Humberstone Gate, although even these were not very heavily populated as yet. The first area to be developed for both industrial and residential purposes is clearly shown on the map, between Belgrave Gate and the new canal, the Leicester Navigation. The development of this district went on for about 25 years after about 1791, stimulated by the canal and by the new public wharf. (fn. 114) This also gave its name to Wharf Street, the most important of the new streets which appeared at the same time between Humberstone Gate and Belgrave Gate. One of the very first of these to be built up was the former Barkby Lane, now Bedford Street. (fn. 115) The first part of Charles Street was built about 1800. (fn. 116) These are the developments which are apparent on Eagle's map, and if this is compared with that of T. and G. Ellis of 1828 (fn. 117) the difference is remarkable. By 1828, the whole of the area between the canal and Belgrave Gate was built upon as far east as the present Abbey Park Road, although there was still an area of 'intended streets' immediately to the north-east of St. Margaret's Church. To the south, the built-up area extended to the end of the present Charles Street, while to the east, the line of Rutland Street (Dogkennel Lane in 1805) and Wharf Street was heavily built up on both sides. There are also some signs of ribbon development along Humberstone and Belgrave Gates. The building of St. George's Church, completed in 1827, (fn. 118) is an indication of the increase in the population of St. Margaret's parish. Farther to the south, up the road to London, the new streets were also beginning to appear: Northampton Street, Conduit Street, and Prebend Street were already partly built in 1828 and two other streets, then both marked as 'Occupation Road', were laid out. One of these was probably the road later known in part as Sparkenhoe Street and in part as St. Peter's Road. The other is not traceable, as its northern end is now blotted out by the line of the railway. More intended streets are shown running between the former Sand Pit Lane (now Willow Bridge Street) and Humberstone Road. One interesting feature of the development is that a great many of the new streets were laid out along the lines of the former field boundaries, especially on the south side of the parish. (fn. 119) Southampton Street, Queen Street, Cotton Street, and Conduit Street are but a few examples.
The intensive development of the area between the canal and Humberstone Gate, with Wharf Street at its centre, seems to have been completed soon after 1828. The differences between the maps of 1828 and 1857 (fn. 120) are by no means so striking as those between the maps of 1805 and 1828. The building of the Midland Counties Railway in 1840 (fn. 121) took a considerable amount of the land which might otherwise have been used for house-building, and development in the years 1828–57 is very much more noticeable in the area to the south of the railway, where building was only beginning in 1828. It may be noticed that the first intensive development in Leicester, in the area of Wharf Street, soon had its critics. As early as 1847 it was described by a Polish refugee then living in the town: 'The numerous small, dark and dirty streets, with their miserable huts and pestiferous atmosphere . . . are built in long rows called Wharf Street, Northampton Street, Sanvey Gate, Archdeacon Lane, Burley's Lane, Cumberland Row, and many more; and each of them, with its twenty still more miserable branches, constitute the size of the town; with its pale, thin, dull-looking people, who seem to be ready for eternity, yet are clinging to the streets.' (fn. 122) Some of these houses and streets were pulled down when the new Charles Street was laid out in 1930–5, (fn. 123) and when Belgrave Gate was widened at the same time. Further work was done before the war, when the Lee Street car park was laid down upon the site of more slum property. (fn. 124) In 1956 the central area was filling with large new blocks of offices and shops. In 1955 work began upon the clearance of the Wharf Street area itself, which has thus completed the cycle from Industrial Revolution development to slum clearance. The site to be cleared has St. Matthew's Church at its centre. This is to be retained, but many of the smaller streets and alleys are to be obliterated to make way for large new blocks of flats. (fn. 125)
Development beyond the line reached by 1857 was perhaps encouraged by the building of the Great Northern Railway line from Tilton to Leicester in 1882 and the opening of the Belgrave Road Station. (fn. 126) Only a small area had been laid out in streets beyond the station by 1886. (fn. 127) Between Humberstone Gate and the Midland Counties Railway, 'third class' (working men's) houses were built, and in 1864 a speaker to the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society lamented that there was as yet no outlet from Sparkenhoe Street to Evington Lane, so that the workers could reach the country. (fn. 128) He also demonstrated the rise in the value of land by showing that land in Queen Street was then selling for £1 a yard, which had been 10d. a yard. Vacant lots in Humberstone Gate were quickly built up, and the abandoning of the old cricket ground in Wharf Street in 1860, (fn. 129) after which it was built up, is symptomatic of the 'land hunger' which was evident in the centre of Leicester in these years.
The development of the area to the south of the Midland Railway line took place between about 1860 and 1880. Upper Kent Street was built up in 1862 (fn. 130) and the same year saw sales of building land in Upper Conduit Street and Sparkenhoe Street. (fn. 131) One of the first large buildings in this area must have been the Leicester Union Workhouse in Sparkenhoe Street, which was built by William Flint in 1838 (fn. 132) to replace the old one, erected originally for St. Margaret's parish in 1810, which had stood in the middle of Humberstone Gate, on or near the site of the present (1956) weighbridge. (fn. 133) The old workhouse was sold in 1839, although it was not demolished until 1866–7, when the site was exchanged with the corporation for that of the present Vestry Hall, also in Humberstone Gate. (fn. 134) Flint's workhouse in Sparkenhoe Street was rebuilt in 1850–1. (fn. 135) This building is still in use and in 1956 was known as Hillcrest Hospital. Houses built in this area were of the 'second class', not working-class dwellings, but not large houses. The reason given for this by one authority was that the area was difficult to approach as in 1864 no street had yet been built to link Sparkenhoe Street with the London road. (fn. 136)
Recent development in the parish has taken the form of residential estates on the outskirts and industrial building in the centre, large parts of which are now occupied by factories. In 1956 the building of many new factories, with some blocks of flats and offices, was being planned, especially in the Charles Street and Humberstone Gate areas and in Wharf Street, where extensive clearance for this purpose took place in 1955.
In 1086 there were three villeins and twelve bordars living in the Bishop's Fee. (fn. 137) In 1564 164 families lived in St. Margaret's parish, (fn. 138) although 40 years later only 8 people paid subsidy. (fn. 139) This is surprising in view of the known prosperity of the parish in the earlier part of the 16th century. (fn. 140) By 1670 there were 34 houses in the Bishop's Fee, paying tax on a total of 114 hearths, a very high average number of hearths to each house, which indicates the prosperity of this particular part of the parish. (fn. 141) The inducement to escape from the control of the borough authorities and go to live in the Bishop's Fee was very strong. The part of St. Margaret's parish near the walls was one of the poorest areas of Leicester at the end of the 17th century. (fn. 142) In 1801 the population of the civil parish was 5,809. (fn. 143) Throughout the last century it increased steadily until in 1891, the last year in which the population of the ancient parish is given separately, it was 92,929. (fn. 144)
St. Margaret's parish was governed by the usual parish officers until 1819, although these were more than usually independent of the borough owing to the peculiar position of the parish. The growth of population in St. Margaret's parish during the early 19th century meant that independent arrangements had to be made for such things as keeping watch, for street lighting, and for the all-important relief of poverty. (fn. 145) The control of the workhouse was a particularly important matter. The very strong sentiment of independent parochialism led to the adoption of the Vestry Act of 1819 and the formation of the St. Margaret's Vestry, (fn. 146) which made possible the election of a representative parish council and the appointment of a salaried overseer. The object of this was to reduce the power of the borough justices and to give the parish more say in its own financial affairs. The justices, however, still retained considerable control over the parish, and it seems clear that they encouraged the overseers to deceive the vestry and act independently. (fn. 147) The vestry had almost as much difficulty in controlling the parish finances after adoption of the Act as it had had before. In spite of great opposition from the borough, the parish pressed for and obtained in 1832 an Act establishing a select vestry. (fn. 148) By the terms of this Act the parish gained complete control over the parochial officers and the conditions of the Act were an adequate safeguard of parish funds. (fn. 149) The vestry consists of 20 persons, together with the vicar and churchwardens, who are appointed by the borough authorities from a list of 30 submitted by the parish. (fn. 150)
Gradually during the last century most of the duties of the select vestry were taken over by the borough. Poor Law administration was given over to the Leicester Board of Guardians in 1836 (fn. 151) and public health to the local board of health in 1849. (fn. 152) The vestry still dealt in 1956 with the parish charities and with other purely parochial matters, such as the election of churchwardens. (fn. 153)
In 1086 the Bishop of Lincoln held two churches in Leicester, which were presumably St. Margaret's and its chapel of St. Mary Magdalene, Knighton. (fn. 154) The dedication of neither is given in the survey and it is not known how they came into the possession of the bishop. Knighton remained a chapelry of St. Margaret's until 1878. (fn. 155)
By the beginning of the 13th century St. Margaret's Church was a prebendal church of Lincoln Cathedral. (fn. 156) It has been suggested that the prebend was united with the post of Archdeacon of Leicester but this does not seem to have been an invariable practice. (fn. 157) The prebendary had the rights of presentation to St. Margaret's vicarage and its chapelry until 1878, when the prebend was dissolved, Knighton was created a separate parish, and the advowson of St. Margaret's Church was vested in the Bishop of Peterborough. (fn. 158) The Bishop of Leicester now presents to the church. (fn. 159)
As a prebend, St. Margaret's parish was also a peculiar, free from the jurisdiction of the archdeacon, and the prebendary held his own court to enforce ecclesiastical discipline among the inhabitants. The business of the court had largely lapsed by the 19th century and few records of its proceedings survive from any age. (fn. 160) In 1849 it was reported that no contentious business had been undertaken during the previous year, (fn. 161) but the court continued to meet until 1857. (fn. 162) The peculiar was dissolved in 1878. (fn. 163)
The vicarage was ordained in 1277, (fn. 164) the vicar being allotted various profits of the church, six marks from the prebendary and the profits of the land at 'Lethpol' or 'Lachepol' which had been given to the prebend during Grosseteste's episcopacy. (fn. 165) The site of 'Lethpol' is not known, but it lay near St. John's Hospital, which gave it to the prebend.
The prebend was valued at £20 in 1254 (fn. 166) and at £30 13s. 4d. in 1291. (fn. 167) No valuation is given in the Valor Ecclesiasticus, but Nichols gives two valuations, one of £33 and the other of £27 6s. 3d., both for 1534. (fn. 168) The vicarage was valued at £17 8s. 5d. in 1535 (fn. 169) and at £440 in 1831. (fn. 170)
The prebendary was entitled to the great tithes of St. Margaret's and of Knighton chapel. (fn. 171) In 1535 these were farmed by the executors of Richard Sacheverell, (fn. 172) and in 1654 the wife and executors of Thomas Chapman, a sergeant at law, claimed the tithes from the estate of Dr. John Walcot, the late prebendary. (fn. 173) One of Chapman's executors was Ambrose Saunders, whose descendants still farmed the tithes in 1764, when they were commuted for £110. (fn. 174) From before 1846 until after 1888 a Miss Fenwick was the impropriator, (fn. 175) but in 1894 the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were repairing the chancel, for which the impropriator had previously been responsible. (fn. 176)
In 1764 just over 93 acres of glebe were allotted to the incumbent at the inclosure of the common fields. (fn. 177) These were then held by Saunders, the farmer of the tithes, in trust for a Mary Nedham. The land upon which St. George's Church was built was part of this allotment; the meadow which was attached lay to the north of the Abbey Meadow. (fn. 178)
The guild of St. Margaret and St. Katherine had an altar in the church of St. Margaret. (fn. 179) This guild was founded in 1355–6 to find two priests to celebrate mass twice a year for the brothers and sisters of the guild. The guild was a social and religious one of the usual type. About 1388 it possessed land in Leicester to the value of 14 marks a year. In 1545–6 the guild had a hall, on the east side of Churchgate, in which the chaplains lived, and most of its property was in St. Margaret's parish. The total gross value of the property was then £20 10s. 1½d. The chaplain's stipends were £10 13s. 4d. a year, and when all expenses had been paid the guild was left with a profit of nearly £7 a year. The guild was dissolved before 1550, when the guildhall was granted to Edward Pease and James Wylson and part, at least, of the land to Robert Catlyn. (fn. 180)
The church of ST. MARGARET stands at the north-east corner of Churchgate. A church, presumably on this site, is mentioned in Domesday Book, (fn. 181) but no trace of this remains in the present building, although fragments of an aisleless church, thought to date from pre-Conquest times, have been found beneath the present floor level, near the chancel steps. (fn. 182) Other fragments discovered by excavation lead to the conclusion that in the late 12th century extensions were made to the church in the form of transepts, (fn. 183) traces of which (the responds for the arches and the outer wall of the east bay of the present nave) remain today. There was probably a central tower which was demolished when the transepts were built. (fn. 184) The existing building dates from the 13th to 15th centuries. The present aisles are of the late 13th and early 14th centuries, although narrow aisles had been built earlier. Extensive additions and rebuilding took place in the 15th century, probably in and about 1444, when Bishop Alnwick of Lincoln ordered the levying of smoke farthings as contributions towards the reconstruction of the tower. (fn. 185) At the same time as the tower was built, a clerestory was inserted above the nave and the chancel rebuilt and probably extended.
No further structural alterations seem to have taken place until the very beginning of the 19th century, when new tracery was inserted in the east windows of the aisles, 'in an abortion of the Batty Langley style', apparently by William Firmadge. (fn. 186) The chancel was restored in 1846, when the east window, which had been blocked up since the beginning of the century at the least, was repaired and filled with stained glass. (fn. 187) In 1860 the chancel arch was taken down and rebuilt and parts of the outer wall of the church were refaced at the same time, the window arches and jambs renewed, and new tracery inserted. The architect of this restoration was Sir George Gilbert Scott, who designed the east windows of both aisles, to replace those inserted by Firmadge. The new windows were inserted in 1864. (fn. 188) In 1882 a further restoration was completed. This was carried out by George Street, one of his last works. He replaced the crumbling stonework of the outer walls, restored the porch, and added new interior roofs for the aisles and a new pavement. (fn. 189) In 1894 the Ecclesiastical Commissioners repaired the outer wall of the chancel. (fn. 190) A new clock was set in the tower in 1899. (fn. 191)
The present building consists of a chancel of four bays, nave, and north and south aisles each of seven bays, with a clerestory above the nave, west tower, south porch, and a new vestry on the north side of the chancel. The building is mainly of sandstone ashlar, almost entirely refaced, although some good detail and rich carving remain in the decorative stonework, especially on the coping and buttresses of the chancel and on the porch.
The tower rises to a height of some 108 feet. Its west wall is flush with the west wall of the church, so that the tower stands enclosed in the nave, supported upon two great pillars, which are also the two western pillars of the nave arcade. Of its four stages, the top two are diminished by weathered offsets, and the top one has four tiers of decorated arcading round the belfry windows. There are buttresses at the angles on each face, except at the south-west, which has a half octagon stair, splayed to circular a little below the parapet and topped with small battlements. From the foot of the top stage of the tower, the buttresses become diagonal and end at the base of the parapet. The tower rises to an embattled parapet, decorated with cinquefoil panels, pinnacles, and gargoyles. The belfry is lighted on each face by two pointed cinquefoil lights embraced under an ogee-headed hood mould. The third stage has three-light windows, in the centre of each of which is an openwork clock dial. There are two-light windows on the north and south faces of the second stage; the west face has a statue niche above the wide modern west window. Below this is the west doorway, the arch of which rests upon the carved heads of a king and queen. The door itself is modern, except for the upper panels.
The chancel is of four bays, divided on the outside by buttresses between the pointed four-light windows. The east window is similar but of five lights. There is a doorway in the second bay from the east on the south side, balanced on the north side by the entrance to the vestry. The pavement is of modern red and yellow tiles. The interior of the chancel is very richly carved and at either side of the east window are decorated niches for statues. There is a piscina on the south wall, adjoining a triple sedilia. The altar is dated 1935. The reredos was designed by G. F. Bodley and was erected in 1899. (fn. 192) The removal of the 18th-century altar-piece revealed traces of the painting with which the niches beside the east window had originally been decorated. On the north side of the altar is a table tomb, with the alabaster figure of an abbot in full robes, John Penny, Abbot of Leicester. He died in 1520, and the tomb, originally said to have been in the abbey, was probably moved to St. Margaret's after the Dissolution.
The nave and aisles are each of seven bays, with a window in each bay of the aisle. In the third bay from the west in the south aisle is the porch. This is of two stories, with a battlemented parapet and pinnacles, and windows in the south face above the door and at each side. The ceiling is vaulted and the door itself is probably the original one. The top floor of the porch still retains its fire-place. There is another doorway in the north aisle, the door of which has very fine 13th-century hinges. The pavements of nave and aisles are partly of modern tiles and partly of stone, including a number of memorial slabs. The carving of the chancel is repeated round the windows of the aisles. In the nave floor there is a 15th-century incised slab to William and Agnes Barbor, 1444, and another which bears no name or date but which is incised with a hammer and tongs. (fn. 193) The font is in the south aisle. It dates from the 15th century and is octagonal, decorated with quatrefoil and trefoil panels. Near to it is a dug-out chest with iron fastenings. At the east end of the north aisle is a well, which very probably dates from the 13th century. (fn. 194)
The roofs throughout the church are of the kingpost type, with some 15th-century timbers, although for the most part these were replaced in the last century. The eastern bay of the chancel has been decorated in colour.
The registers date from 1615. There is no plate earlier than 1844. The old plate was sold in 1848, when most of that now in the church was purchased. (fn. 195) There are twelve bells: (1–4) cast by Thomas Eayre in 1738; (5 and 7–10) by Hugh Watts in 1633; (6) by Thomas Eayre in 1739; (11–12) added in 1921. (fn. 196) The original six bells were said to have been cast by Thomas Newcombe at the end of the 16th century. The first and second bells were originally cast in 1711 by Abraham Rudhall at Gloucester, but they were recast in 1738 when William Fortrey of King's Norton gave the third and fourth bells.
The former organ was built in 1773 and restored in 1923. A new organ, incorporating parts of the old one, was installed in 1954. (fn. 197)
The chapel of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST stood at the far end of Belgrave Gate, near the hospital of St. Mary Magdalen and St. Margaret, (fn. 198) but it belonged to the hospital of St. John and seems to have had no connexion with the other hospital despite many assertions to the contrary. (fn. 199) It was in existence before 1382, when it was the refuge and preachingplace of the Lollards William Smith and Richard Waytestathe, and later of William Swynderby. (fn. 200) The chapel seems to have been deserted when Smith took up his abode there, and it was probably occupied by the Lollards until Archbishop Courtney's visitation of 1389, which resulted in their prosecution and disgrace. (fn. 201) In 1464 a composition between the guild of St. John and St. John's Hospital arranged that the guild was to hold a service twice weekly in the chapel. (fn. 202) The chapel passed to the Crown at the dissolution of St. John's Hospital and formed part of the grant of the hospital's lands which was made by Elizabeth I to the borough in 1589. (fn. 203) The chamberlains' accounts record that in 1603–4 the chapel was let as a house to William Farmer for 40s. yearly. (fn. 204) In 1630 it was occupied by Thomas Chapman, who was made recorder of the borough in 1624; it was then still known as St. John's Chapel. (fn. 205) Nothing more is known of it.
From the ancient parish of St. Margaret many new ecclesiastical parishes have been created to meet the needs of a growing population. The church of ST. GEORGE was the first new church to be built in the borough since the Middle Ages; it was built in 1823–7 and the parish was separated from that of St. Margaret in 1853. (fn. 206) The church was designed by William Parsons, (fn. 207) the county surveyor, and stands on land which formed part of the glebe of St. Margaret's parish. The style is Decorated. In 1879 a new chancel was built and other alterations made, including the removal of the gallery; the architect of this restoration was A. W. Blomfield. An oak screen was built in the tower arch in 1892 to replace the gallery. (fn. 208) The church was almost ruined by a fire in 1911 and in 1913 the rebuilding was undertaken by W. D. Caroe. The nave was a total loss and the tower and chancel required heavy restoration. (fn. 209) The Bishop of Leicester is patron. (fn. 210)
CHRIST CHURCH in Bow Street was built by public subscription in 1839, when the parish was formed from that of St. Margaret. The architect was again William Parsons. (fn. 211) The church, of red brick with no tower, was restored in 1876 and again in 1905, (fn. 212) but is (1956) scheduled for demolition. The church was closed in January 1956 and the parish merged with that of St. Matthew. (fn. 213) The living was in the patronage of trustees. (fn. 214) ST. MARK'S Church in Belgrave Gate was built in 1870–2 at the cost of W. Perry Herrick of Beaumanor to the designs of Ewan Christian. (fn. 215) The church was built of Charnwood slate, with a tower and spire rising to a height of 168 feet. There are stone dressings and the interior of the church is lined with red brick. In 1903 the church was extended westwards and restored. (fn. 216) The parish of ST. JOHN THE DIVINE was formed in 1854 from that of St. George and the church was built in 1853–4 in Ashwell Street, off London Road, to the designs of Sir George Gilbert Scott. (fn. 217) As built, the church had a spire striped with bands of coloured brick, which received a good deal of criticism (fn. 218) and has since been removed. ST. PETER'S parish was formed in 1874 from those of St. Margaret and St. George. The church, at the corner of Sparkenhoe Street and Highfield Street, was begun in the same year but was not completed until 1879. The architect was G. E. Street and the church was built as a memorial to the first Earl Howe. (fn. 219) ST. HILDA'S Church in Melbourne Road was built in 1891 by the firm of Goddard and Paget and is a chapel to St. Peter's. (fn. 220)
In 1867 ST. MATTHEW'S parish was separated from that of Christ Church and the church in Chester Street was built by Sir George Gilbert Scott. (fn. 221) It is a large building of Mountsorrel granite and is as yet (1956) incomplete, lacking the tower and spire which formed part of the original design. St. Matthew's and St. Peter's parishes were again divided in 1877 to form the new parish of ST. SAVIOUR. The architect of this church was once more Sir George Gilbert Scott. The church is of red brick and is perhaps the most successful of all Scott's Leicester churches. It was endowed by the Revd. F. G. Burnaby and was completed between 1875 and 1877. (fn. 222) Previously part of St. Matthew's parish had been combined with part of St. George's to form the parish of ST. LUKE. The church in Humberstone Road was built in 1868 to the designs of Bellamy and Hardy of Lincoln, after a competition in which their plan was in fact placed third, but it was selected on account of the inexperience of the other two architects. (fn. 223) The church was restored in 1892 (fn. 224) but was demolished in 1949. (fn. 225) The parish was divided between Christ Church, St. George's and St. Matthew's. (fn. 226) In 1937 a suggestion had been made that the church should be moved stone by stone to Braunstone to serve the new housing estate. (fn. 227) In 1918 the parish of ST. JAMES THE GREATER was created from that of St. Peter. (fn. 228) There had been a temporary chapel on the site of the church in London Road between 1881 and 1899, when the present building was begun. The chapel had been built from the materials of the hall built for the Church Congress. (fn. 229) The church was designed by Henry Langton Goddard and was completed in 1914. (fn. 230) The church of ST. ALBAN in Harrison Road was built in 1905 on the creation of the parish from those of St. Mark and St. Michael and All Angels, Belgrave. Howard H. Thompson was the architect. (fn. 231) The Bishop of Leicester is the patron of all these churches. (fn. 232)
Robert Auceter by will proved in 1633 gave to the poor a yearly rent of £1 from his house in Northgate Street. In 1656, under the will of his widow, Elizabeth, the rent was recharged on a house near Belgrave Gate, now in Garden Street. The sum was still being paid in 1955, although it lapsed for a short time in the 19th century, and was distributed in the form of bread. (fn. 233)
A house in Swan Street, Loughborough, known in the 19th century as the Grape Vaults, is first mentioned as the property of St. Margaret's parish in 1786, although it is not known how or when the parish obtained it. In 1837 it was let for £11 yearly, of which 5s. was given to the vicar, the rest being distributed among the poor at Christmas. In 1899 the house was sold and the proceeds invested in stock. (fn. 234)
John Bass by will proved in 1764 left £5 yearly from the profits of his coal and wood-weighing machine on the Coal Hill at Leicester. The money was to be distributed in the form of coal to the poor of the parish, and was paid until 1828 when the owners of the machine refused further payments. (fn. 235)
Sarah Ward left £60 by will in 1774 in trust for distribution to six poor widows on New Year's Day. The distribution lapsed for a time but was revived in 1837 and is still (1955) continued. (fn. 236)
John Nichols left £100 by will proved in 1815 to be invested and the interest distributed among poor housekeepers on St. Thomas's Day. It was duly distributed in 1955. (fn. 237)
In 1782 six houses on Cock Muck Hill, off Belgrave Gate, which had been used for housing the poor, were pulled down when Belgrave Gate was widened. They were rebuilt in the present Abbey Street, around an open court, and were used for six poor persons not receiving relief and appointed by the parish officers. These houses have also been demolished and three bungalows in Overton Road were in 1947 devoted to a similar purpose, under the control of the select vestry. As the occupants died the income was merged with the general charities fund. At an unknown date before 1782 Catherine Holmes left money to provide coal on St. Thomas's Day for the inhabitants of these houses. The money used to be charged upon a house in Belgrave Gate, formerly the Black Lion Inn, but in 1782 it was redeemed by a payment to the parish officers. (fn. 238)
St. Margaret's parish also receives payments from Leicester Corporation under the Ive, Courteen and Blunt Charities, and from the Trustees of Leicester General Charities under the Heyrick Bread Charity. (fn. 239)
The charity originating from St. Margaret's Parish Piece is described above. (fn. 240)