Leicester is a city steeped in 2000 years of history. From boards trodden by Shakespeare to the remnants of Roman Ratae, the walls and buildings of our city have so many stories to tell.

Over the past few years, more than 175 colourful panels have been installed all around the city centre and suburbs to give residents and visitors a glimpse into the hidden histories of Leicester. Find out about the history of a building, a person of special importance, or the religious and industrial history of the city.

We’ve now created a new Heritage guide which is aimed at helping you to navigate your way around the city and discover these panels as you go. We’ve put together this article to pick out just a few of the more interesting ones, but there are hundreds more to discover.


Our city’s history

Take a walk and discover the ancient history and origins of the city of Leicester, from the Roman forum and basilica that lay at the heart of Ratae Corieltauvorum (the Roman name for Leicester) to a better view of the castle which sat on top of the hill by The Newarke.

Explore the history of some of the city’s oldest buildings, the timber hall of Wygston’s house, dating back to 1490 or the Free Grammar School, one of the oldest schoolhouses in England which was built in 1573. Both of these historic buildings are now home to fantastic restaurants.

And we couldn’t go on without talking about the medieval Leicester of Richard III and the civil war. The Newarke was the beating heart of the town, with the castle and surrounding area welcoming a number of kings and even hosting the English Parliament.


The industrial and Georgian age

The face of Leicester was changed through the industrial revolution as wealth and prosperity came to the city and many of the grand villas and public squares we have come to love were created. New Walk dates from this period, created to link the city with the racecourse at Victoria Park. And Green Dragon Square, behind the market and corn exchange, was named for the Green Dragon Inn, which became notorious when its landlord was shot in 1778.

The success of Leicester’s industry, especially footwear and hosiery, led to large factories and warehouses being built and the city becoming the second richest in Europe by the 1930s. Much as today, with the likes of Mattioli Woods bringing their operations here, the city of Leicester also became a destination for international businesses to set up. The Imperial Typewriter Company was set up by American Inventor Hidalgo Moya in the early 1900s and quickly became one of the leading typewriter companies in the world.


The people and culture of Leicester

The panels also tell the stories of some of the most influential personalities in the city. People who left a mark on the city thanks to their investment, their activism, or their patronage. Thomas Cook is famed as the father of modern tourism and a number of buildings related to him are highlighted. You can also uncover the story of Tanky Smith, Leicester’s answer to Sherlock Holmes. And of course, Leicester’s role in the suffrage movement is commemorated in Green Dragon Square with the statue of Alice Hawkins.

A number of religious buildings are also included, serving to highlight the diverse and inclusive nature of our city. From historic churches to modern meeting places, Sikh Gurdwaras to the beautiful Jain Centre and so many more, you can explore the way in which people worship and come together to celebrate.


Historic villages and modern Leicester

Over the years, small villages on the outskirts of Leicester have become subsumed within the city’s urban sprawl, but many of them retain some of their character. Whether it’s Aylestone, whose original name ‘Aegel’s Tun’ dates back to Anglo Saxon England, the agricultural village of Braunstone which was listed in the Domesday Book, or the story of how the families of Knighton shaped this village which is now an affluent suburb.

The panels also pay tribute to more recent developments in the city, whether it’s the changing use of buildings or forgotten buildings which have shaped the modern city, or immortalising the success of our sports teams the panels show that the history of Leicester is still being written and there is much more still to come from our great city! So next time you're out for a wander, keep an eye out for our Heritage Panels and follow them down the rabbit hole to explore the history of our city.

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