Walk 37: Leicester City Centre: A multi-cultural stroll

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 2.5 miles (4.02km)

Time to walk: Fairly quick really – just over an hour

Difficulty: Easy & all on street paths

Parking: Plenty of parking in Leicester

Public toilets: Loads of cafes, bars etc en-route

Map of the route:  


This is an interesting little walk that we found to do in the afternoon following the Richard III walk in the morning. It takes in a few of the places we’d already visited & misses out quite a few of the Asian shopping streets we could have, but it’s still good

The 10th largest city in England, Leicester is very diverse. An estimated 40% of the population were born or descended from overseas countries, in particular South Asia, East Africa & the Carribean

The modern name of Leicester can be split into two roots, lexemes or historical morphemes LEI & CESTER. The etymology of LEI is sometimes given as Lerion or the legendary King Leir, but it appears, instead, to have derived from a former name of the River Soar reconstructed as Ligera or Ligora. The second part, CESTER, is from the Old English -Ceaster (Latin “castrum”) meaning of “fort” or “fortified city”

The city’s motto is ‘Semper Easdem’ which translates as ‘Always the Same’. Yet Leicester’s always changing & the city centre looks completely different to when we last visited. As we’ll see the latest development area is around its historical market

Towards the end of this walk it crosses with our Richard III walk so we won’t repeat anything but just refer you that walk

Let’s Walk!

1. Our starting point is Leicester’s Railway Station which is really apt as many great adventures start when you arrive by train…


Opened in 1840 this was one of the first railway stations in Britain. It was rebuilt in 1894. Today it’s operated by East Midlands Trains, & is on the main line from London St Pancras to Sheffield & Nottingham

Love the facade…



Before moving on just have a look to the left of the entrance where there’s a statue of one of Leicester’s most famous sons…Thomas Cook who lived in nearby Market Harborough


Cook’s idea for travel trips came to him while “walking from Market Harborough to Leicester to attend a meeting of the Temperance Society”. With the opening of the extended Midland Counties Railway, he arranged to take a group of 540 temperance campaigners from the railway station to a rally in Loughborough, 11 miles away. On 5th July 1841, Thomas Cook arranged for the railway company to charge one shilling (5p) per person included tickets & food for the journey

Cook was paid a share of the fares actually charged to the passengers. This was the first privately chartered excursion train to be advertised to the general public. During the following three summers he planned & conducted outings for temperance societies & Sunday school children. In 1844 the Midland Counties Railway agreed to make a permanent arrangement with him providing he found the passengers. This success led him to start his own business running rail excursions for pleasure, taking a percentage of the railway tickets

On 4 August 1845 he arranged accommodation for a party to travel from Leicester to Liverpool. In 1846, he took 350 people from Leicester on a tour of Scotland, however his lack of commercial ability led him to bankruptcy. He persisted & found success when he claimed that he arranged for over 165,000 people to attend the Great Exhibition in London. Four years later, he planned his first excursion abroad, when he took a group from Leicester to Calais to coincide with the Paris Exhibition. The following year he started his ‘grand circular tours’ of Europe. During the 1860s he took parties to Switzerland, Italy, Egypt & United States. Cook established ‘inclusive independent travel’, whereby the traveller went independently but his agency charged for travel, food & accommodation for a fixed period over any chosen route. Such was his success that the Scottish railway companies withdrew their support between 1862 and 1863 to try the excursion business for themselves

The rest as they say…is history…Thomas Cook

2. So facing the station turn right & move along London Road towards the end of it & turn left into Conduit Street…




…& follow it down to the end at the junction with Sparkenhoe Street…


Wonder if Tony owns this?

Wonder if Tony owns this?

3. So here’s another culture as on the left’s the Leicester Central Mosque…


The first Muslim family came to Leicester from South Asia in the 1920’s & opened a spectacle shop. The first mosque was built in 1968 by a community of Pakistani Muslims who had emigrated there. The Central Mosque was built in 1988 & features a prayer hall for 1500 worshippers, a school & a community hall

Leicester’s now home to around 35,000 Muslims, roughly 10% of its population

4. Turn right onto Sparkenhoe Street. At the mini roundabout is culture number two…The African Caribbean Centre


Leicester’s multicultural population includes many people from the African – Caribbean community, some of who came here in the 1940’s after World War II. The first Caribbean people migrated to the city came from the island of Barbuda

The Centre was rebuilt in 2011 & is used for programmes & classes as well as just socially

5. Continue up the hill to the church on the left & then turn right into Highfield Street…



Highfield Street contains many religious community centres including the Islamic Information Centre, the Bangladesh Cultural Centre, a Hindu temple & a synagogue – we told you it was a multicultural walk!!


6. The Islamic Information Centre‘s on the left…


The Centre opened its doors to the general public in August 2008 with the intention of linking various communities together through creating awareness & a clear understanding of Islam. The Centre prides itself through its unrivalled pictorial gallery, exhibiting various facets of Islam. Their exhibition allows people to totally immerse themselves in a plethora of rich Islamic culture. The centre takes you on a journey from 7th century Arabia, right through to 21st century contemporary Islam

The ground floor incorporates the foundation of islamic creed & fundamentals of Islam, Who is Allah? Has there been any mention of Him as a diety in previous scripts? What does He wish for us? Qura’n.. what does it actually teach? Who is Muhammad? Did he take various ideals from different nations & compile the Qur’an? Is it true he could not read or write? These questions are unveiled in this gallery exhibition through multimedia presentations

The first floor highlights the contributions of Muslim scientists in the different fields that make up our modern world today. Also it gives information on the rights of “women in Islam”

The second floor relates to “The Qur’an and The Prophets”. There’s copies in many languages including Chinese, Korean, Spanish, English & a unique complete copy in braille!

The main gallery… The Prophets, tries to answer questions such as: How old was Adam when he died? Where did Noah’s flood actually take place? Was the Prophet Muhammad mentioned by Jesus?

It looks superb & somewhere we’ll plan a visit to

7. Continue down the road stopping outside the Leicester Synagogue



Built in 1898 this was for years the only Orthadox Synagogue in Leicestershire. The Jewish community in the city dates back to the 1850’s & there was once a huge community here. The numbers expanded after World War I when many emigrated from Poland & Latvia, setting up tailoring businesses

Following World War II the population increased further as Jews fled Nazi Europe. After the war though many moved to other UK cities. Today there may be as few as 1000 orthodox Jews living in the city

8. At the bottom end of the street there’s some tasty looking restaurants…



…& at the junction with London Road turn left up the hill


London Road’s one of the city’s busiest streets & also home to numerous curry houses – click on the link below & take your pick!


Many people from this culture began arriving in the city after 1948 when the British Nationality Act gave people who lived within the British Commonwealth the right to move to Britain

In the 1970’s over 20,000 came from Uganda following persecution by Idi Amin

9. At the traffic lights at the top cross the road towards Granville Road & Victoria Park…



Where the road bends right at the end is one of Leicester’s most well known concert venues…De Montford Hall



If you’ve never been to a concert here then you must go as it’s a fantastic venue

The Hall also hosts the Hindu festival of Navratri dedicated to Shakti. There’s roughly 45,000 Hindus & 12,000 Sikhs in the city. Leicester also hosts the largest celebration of Diwali outside of India & there are over 70 different languages spoken in the city

10. Instead of following the road round to the right head straight on into Victoria Park



Victoria Park covers 69 acres & has facilities for various sports, including tennis, basketball, bowls, croquet, football & cricket. A skate park has recently been added & there’s an adventure playground for young children

The park was historically part of the South Fields of Leicester & was used from 1806 to 1883 as a racecourse. A Victorian grandstand stood in the park until the mid-20th century. It was damaged by a German bomb in 1940 & later demolished, with the new pavilion built on the same site & opened in 1958. Leicester Fosse (who later became Leicester City Football Club) played here on various occasions between 1884 & 1890

11. On the left’s the War Memorial, a quadrifrons arch, designed by Edwin Lutyens & built in 1923. The memorial is a Grade I listed building


At the memorial turn right down an ornamental walkway known as the “Peace Walk”



There’s some nice memorials along here…



Exit the park through the Memorial Gates at the bottom…


12. We’re now in the middle of Leicester University so cross the road & head straight down the hill towards the railway bridge…


Leicester’s home to two universities, De Montford & Leicester University – this one’s the latter. Around 25,000 students come here from over 70 countries…




Leicester formed links with Ethiopia in 1996 when The College of Medical Sciences was set up in Gondar. This has now developed into University status & has over 10,000 students

13. Pass the fire station on the left & then under the railway bridge at the bottom of the hill…



14. Cross over the road into Nelson Mandela Park



There’s no evidence that Nelson Mandela ever visited Leicester so there’s actually no physical link between him & the city

The park was created in 1986. Continue towards the Memorial Stone near the play area…



There appears to be something “ugly” sitting in the middle of a roundabout over to the left…



15. Exit the park onto Welford Road & glimpse briefly at the home of Leicester Tigers to the left…



16. That’s long enough, turn right & walk past the tall red brick wall…



17. This is HM Prison Leicester



HM Prison Leicester holds people on remand to the local courts, as well as sentenced prisoners

The prison was designed by William Parsons to resemble a castle. The oldest part dates from 1825 & it was opened in 1828. The gatehouse including the adjoining building to north & south & the perimeter wall are grade II listed

Between 1900 & 1953, eight executions took place at the prison. The last was that of John Reynolds, convicted of murder at Leicester Assizes & hanged on November 17, 1953

In 2001 Leicester hit headlines as a ‘failing prison’ & David Ramsbotham, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, declared that it should be shut down. In 2004 the Prison Reform Trust described Leicester as one of the most overcrowded prisons in the country

In November 2006 an inspection report from the Chief Inspector of Prisons criticised Leicester Prison after nine inmates died there in a 28-month period. Continued overcrowding and poor health at the prison were also highlighted

It does look a foreboding place, almost as bad as that Rugby Ground so let’s get out of here…

18. Continue past the prison…




On reaching The Bricklayers Arms cross the road down Carlton Street…



19. Turn right at the junction onto Oxford Street…


…& after a couple of hundred yards stop outside the white temple on the right…



20. This is yet another religious community in the city – the followers of the Jain faith. Jainism began in India & believes that time rotates in a cosmic circle. This temple is the first in the world to bring together in one building all the main sects of Jains. Inside are 44 carved pillars showing scenes from Jain legends


The temple is open to the public Monday – Friday between 2pm – 5pm & is well worth a visit

21. Continue up the road where we come to Leicester’s other University…De Montford



This University’s named after Simon De Montford, the 6th Earl of Leicester. He was renowned for leading the barons’ revolt against Henry III & called the first elected parliament in Europe. He’s therefore recognised as one of the founding fathers of modern democracy & Napoleon Bonaparte described him as “one of the greatest Englishmen’

22. The building we can see ahead of us is the Magazine Gateway &, if you want to know more visit our King Richard III Walk

Walk 36: Leicester City Centre: King Richard III Walking Trail

Pass by the Gateway & cross the busy road at the pelican crossing into Friar Lane…



23. At this point, if you wish to visit the Cathedral & Richard III Visitor Centre we’d refer you to the above walk. Turn left up New Street & past the car park where Richard III was found…




24. At the top of the street is Leicester Cathedral where Richard III now rests…



Again…see the above walk for more details

25. Turn right at the top of New Street & pass the new Visitor Centre…


…entering St Martins


To the left are ‘The Lanes’ – well worth a visit


26. Our route though turns right down Hotel Street as we’re keen to have a look at Leicester’s famous Market. There’s some quirky shops, bars etc around this area…




27. We need to turn left at the next crossroads into Market Street South, but before doing that there’s an interesting statue over the road…



The Seamstress is a much-loved statue in Leicester City Centre & represents the importance to the city of the hosiery industry. The Seamstress is shown putting a seam into a stocking

The statue was sculpted by James Butler, who also created two other statues we’ve passed…Richard III, near the Cathedral & the Thomas Cook Statue, which we saw at the start of this walk

28. Move down Market Street South towards the Market…there’s a lot of redevelopment going on around this area



29. The Indoor Market’s recently reopened & is fantastic. Complementing the outdoor market that’s been at the heart of Leicester for more than 700 years, the food hall sells fresh meat, fish, seafood, game & poultry, as well as artisan cheese, fresh bread, cooked meats, olives & other delicatessen produce

Features include a stunning timber ceiling under a curved zinc roof & a glazed façade that floods the building with natural light, while helping to connect the indoor activity with the outdoor market




The opening of the new food hall marks the completion of the first phase of the council’s £9.2million redevelopment of Leicester Market




30. Continue into the Market itself


Around 800 years old, it moved to the current site around 700 years ago & is the largest outdoor covered market in Europe. In the centre stands the Leicester Corn Exchange. The Market is protected by a Royal Grant issued by Henry III in 1229 which means that no other markets can be set up in the city centre




Have to say if we lived in Leicester we’d be like the French & shop daily for the freshest ingredients…



31. Well what a treat that was! Exit the Market through the archway…


…turning right into Horsefair Street which leads into Town Hall Square


32. On the corner is an impressive War Memorial…




33. It’s an impressive square with an ornamental fountain & an even more impressive Town Hall…




What a lovely place to end this walk. We have to say it’s been a real eye-opener & Leicester’s trying really hard with its regeneration programme

We’ll definitely be back to spend a day visiting some of those religious centres plus, of course, that amazing Market

Go Walk!

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