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The Wakerley Trail (pt 1)

In the years around 1900, Arthur Wakerley perceived a need for good quality working class housing in Leicester, and to this end bought land comprising mainly brick pits and mud in the Spinney Hill/North Evington area. He set about creating a self-contained suburb which would provide everything its population required to work, rest and play. Where Asfordby Street meets Atkinson Street, Baggrave Street and Wood Hill he built a market place with a hall, surgery, shops, and a police and fire station. Wakerley charged low prices for sites to encourage factories to the area, and by 1914 there were 28 factories employing over 5,000 people in 31 different trades.
The Wakerley Trail starts off at the centrepiece of Wakerley's scheme, the Market Place, North Evington (1890). Unfortunately, the market was never a success; having become run down its market license was withdrawn in 1947, and it was only in 1982 that it was redeveloped as an open area with bandstand (1). There was also a fire station and police station on Asfordby Street (2). The third photo shows the Dutch-style gable on the Market Hall (3), which originally contained a coffee room, a surgery, and a barber's shop, and is now a Madressa (a Muslim school). Nearby, though not pictured, is the original home of the Anchor Boot and Shoe Factory whose co-operative housing venture built the Humberstone Garden Suburb, and a former works canteen which houses the Jam-e-Mosque.
In Halstead Street are the first houses and the first factory (1888) to be built in the area (4). Note that the houses and the factories are mixed in the same street, a deliberate feature of Wakerley's plans, although by the time St Saviours Road was developed the factories were on one side of the road and the houses on the other (see the next part of the Trail). At the end of Halstead Street are steps which lead up to Wood Hill. Turning up Wood Hill (5), the entrance enables a horse and cart to reach factories or workshops behind the houses, a common feature of the area. Prospect Hill (6) (both Wood Hill and Prospect Hill were built by Wakerley) leads to the top of a ridge which overlooks the Evington Valley from Granby Avenue (7) to one side, and Leicester and the Charnwood Forest from Hartingdon Street (8) to the other. Here, the Imperial Hotel (9) was built by Wakerley as a Temperance Hotel - he was a president of the Temperance Union - and is a prominent local landmark.
For all this, the area never had a focal point which worked. The lack of licensed premises or a meeting hall, and from 1904 a tram route to Leicester Market, all played a part in the community failing to develop an identity as Wakerley may have wished. That the area is as pleasant as it is now is down to the Council's restoration and conservation work of the 1980s.
The Trail moves down through Spinney Hill Park, through which runs the Evington Brook (10), and crosses East Park Road to Gwendolen Road (11), one of several streets named after members of Wakerley's family (Dorothy, Constance, and Margaret are further along).
Link to Introduction or The Wakerley Trail pt 2 or Wakerley Houses
The Market Square Fire/Police Station First housing and factory Wood Hill Prospect Hill Hartingdon Road The Imperial Hotel Spinney Hill Park Gwendolen Road Market Hall
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