AN OUTDOOR heritage trail that helps to bring Leicester’s 2,000 years of history to life has reached a new milestone, with 300 colourful information panels now installed on the city’s streets.
Since 2014, when the City Mayor’s idea for a series of on-street heritage panels first came to fruition, hundreds of Leicester stories have been researched, written up and reproduced on panels in neighbourhood and city centre locations, helping people to learn more about the history that’s all around them.
Charting the city’s development from Roman times to the present day and commemorating the people, places and events that have helped to shape the modern city of Leicester, the heritage panels are now an established part of the city’s streetscape.
City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “When I proposed that we celebrated Leicester’s long history with a series of heritage panels, I hoped they’d provide a useful introduction to the city’s history for Leicester’s growing number of visitors, while also showing those who live here how much we’ve got to be proud of.
“Our heritage panels take people on a journey through 2,000 years of local history, guiding them from the site of the city’s Roman Forum to the narrow streets of Medieval Leicester, and from the shoe factories of the city’s manufacturing heyday to the modern city we know today.
“They highlight the men and women who influenced life in Leicester and beyond, such as the travel pioneer Thomas Cook and the suffragette Alice Hawkins, show how new communities brought a new dimension to life in the city, and tell the stories behind the historic buildings that line our streets.
“Leicester’s history is undoubtedly one of its strengths, and as we mark the milestone of our 300th heritage panel, I hope that these easy-to-read information boards will continue to encourage people to find out more about our city’s extraordinary past.”
The most recent panels to be installed include the story of how East Gates got its name, a panel commemorating the birth place of Joseph Carey Merrick – who exhibited himself to Victorian audiences as ‘The Elephant Man’ – a reminder of Leicester’s tramway heritage at the art deco tram shelter at Western Park, and a panel remembering when the city council’s Charles Street offices were home to the Willie Thorne Snooker Centre.
There is also a new panel on the site of the council’s former headquarters on Welford Place.
New Walk Centre’s two curved office blocks loomed over Leicester for 40 years, until the structurally-unsound concrete buildings were demolished in 2015.
The demolition of one of Leicester’s least-loved buildings paved the way for the attractive mixed-use development of offices, apartments, retail units and public open space that occupies the site today.
More information about all of the panels on Leicester’s heritage trail – believed to be the largest of its kind in the UK – can be found on the Story of Leicester website.
A brand new souvenir brochure, listing all of the city’s heritage panels, will be available from Visit Leicester for a small charge later this year. The information will also be available to download free of charge.
Picture caption: City Mayor Peter Soulsby visits the site of the city council’s former headquarters, New Walk Centre, where a heritage panel on the revamped site remembers the largely unloved 1970s landmark.