Monday, 20 January 2014

Picture of the day: Leicester's West Bridge, and related musings

Today's "Picture of the day" column in the Leicester Mercury shows this brilliant picture of  Leicester's West Bridge:

Here is the text that goes with it:
This photograph of the West Bridge goes right back to the days when Leicester still had horse buses – not trams. Ooh look, here comes one now. The bridge was built in 1891 by John Butler and Co, of Leeds, whose tender of £2,999 17s. Id was within 2s 11d of the Borough Surveyor’s estimated costs of the work. That’s either consonance born of the painstaking work of two pernickety minds or a bit dodgy. One of the two. Anyway, when the bridge took shape across the water it was embellished with a decorative flourish rarely spotted by the drivers who whizz by each day. The stone heads that decorate the bridge’s towers are the cast of characters from The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer is reputed to have married at the nearby church of St Mary de Castro, which you can see in the background.
LCS Chairman Stuart Bailey provides further information:

The current bridge dates from 1893. The horse trams didn't run west of the clock tower as the old town streets were too narrow, so it was horse buses all the way until 1904 when the electric trams started. Of course this involved substantial demolition on High Street and St. Nicholas Street. Among the historic properties lost were Lords Place (1569) and John Bunyan's house (1676). The cleared land between Redcross Street and the river was Pickford's old yard, which became Castle Gardens - but not until 1926. The photo itself must have been taken from the Great Central's bridge over the Soar, which wasn't there until 1898. All this dates the photo to sometime between 1898 and 1903.

Speaking of horse buses, the photo below is of St. Nicholas Street and High Street taken c1892. It's the late afternoon rush hour - the Sun is in the west. The old house behind the lady's sun umbrellas is that of John Bunyan. (Well half of it actually - but that's another story). The view is from a first floor window of Norman's Factory, which stood above where the Roman Baths were to be rediscovered some 44 years later. It is looking down towards the Clock Tower. Nothing in this photo is there now - except St. Martins spire (1870). What a wonderful place this old city is!


  1. What a great photo. I'm trying to compile a database of Old Town photos, particularly St Nicholas Street, Redcross Street, The Hollow, Harvey Lane, Thornton Lane, Applegate etc...

    Do you have any other photos from these areas that you can share?

    1. Thanks for your feedback. Not sure about photos specifically relating to the areas you referred to, but you may find some at the amazing "Leicester Past & Present ~ A walk down Memory Lane" Facebook page at