The Growth of Leicester

A few weeks ago archaeologists were showing remains beneath the old Stibbe Factory, whichthrew new light on Roman and Medieval Leicester.

Over the years, the medieval city would enjoy mixed fortunes economically until the coming of industrialisation, from the end of the eighteenth century onwards. This inevitably resulted in pressure on land for housing.

Abbey Park WindowAs the population grew, the eyes of the city fathers looked towards expansion into the open country surrounding the old town. This expansion would eventually reach out towards the surrounding villages which had always been proud of their individual identities. Real tension mounted as different villages began to feel threatened by the growth of their big neighbour and the spread of the suburbs as the nineteenth century progressed.

Belgrave village illustrates this move well as new streets developed to the north of the city, eventually spreading ever outwards along the Loughborough and Melton roads.

Alarm bells soon rang in other villages. Leafy Knighton saw new communities spread through the areas of Highfields and Stoneygate, which were very much seen as part of the city.

The push for expansion continued, just as resistance grew ever more vociferous. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Aylestone, Humberstone and Evington each succumbed to the pressure for inclusion within the city boundary.

Interestingly, to the west of Leicester, disputes arose about the parish of Braunstone. Eventually both the parish church and Baunstone Hall were included in the city whilst the southern half of the parish remains an integral part of the county to this day!

The issue of the extension of the city's boundaries still raises its head from time to time. Some city politicians cast their eyes at the surrounding areas of Greater Leicester where they see a potential for increasedrateable values and more building land. Needless to say the residents of such districts as Oadby, Blaby, Birstall and Glenfield are not particularly happy at the prospect.

In the meantime we can still contemplate the historical features of the former villages now within our city, and recognize that they have certainly not completely lost their identities.

Roger Blackmore