Braunstone - A Short History

This photograph from 1862

This photograph from 1862 shows Edmund Jones (1814-98) who was the local village blacksmith, dentist and veterinary surgeon for Braunstone at this time

Braunstone is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 where it is referred to as Brantestone.   The Lord of the Manor is shown to be Hugh de Grantemesnil, one of William I’s most powerful barons.  Situated on the edge of the Leicester Forest,  which extended as far a Bendbow Spinney, Brantestone  was just a small farming village at this time and the Domesday Book notes that although it was worth 20 shillings in the time of Edward the Confessor, it is now worth 60 shillings with land for 4 ploughs.  Over the centuries the place name had many spelling variations including  Braunceston (1253) and Brandeston (1299).  The final spelling of Braunstone was only generally accepted in the nineteenth century.

Drawing of Braunstone Hall

Drawing of Braunstone Hall

There was a universal decline in prosperity during the fifteenth century and by 1415 the manor house in Braunstone had been reduced to farmhouse status although the number of yeoman farmers in the area had increased and Braunstone was a place of quiet prosperity by the sixteenth century.  The land changed ownership several times over the next few centuries and by 1505 Edward Hastings and Thomas Grey were the joint overlords of Braunstone.    

Records from 1563 show that there were now 24 families in Braunstone but towards the end of the 16th century the traditional pattern of village life was broken by enclosure. Brought about by the leading landowners the result of enclosing the land was that many villagers left and half the available land was turned over to pasture.  Leicester Forest was enclosed in 1628 and the villagers of Braunstone received compensation for the loss of Forestry Rights.

In 1650 James Winstanley purchased the Hastings family estate for £6.000

Reference

Wilshere, J. 1983 Old Braunstone, Leicester, Leicester Research Dept. of Chamberlain Music & Books

Map of Braunstone Council Estate; 'The Growth of Leicester' A.E. Brown (ed)

Map of Braunstone Council Estate; 'The Growth of Leicester' A.E. Brown (ed)

Braunstone Council Estate

‘Homes Fit for Heroes’ had been Lloyd George’s election pledge after the First World War and council house building on the Coleman Road Estate began at the end of the war.  The 1923 Housing Act recognised that major new building programmes were needed. However, it was not until 1924 that any large housing schemes were introduced.

 
South Braunstone

In 1925 1,200 acres of the Braunstone estate were compulsorily purchased from the Winstanley family .  The two city councillors who were mainly responsible for ensuring that the land was acquired for housing were named Hallam and Gooding and their names are still commemorated on the estate through the naming of Gooding Avenue and Hallam Crescent. The first families moved in by 1927 and by 1931 there were over 2,500 houses built. Open space provision was now an essential element of urban planning and 167 acres of the Winstanley Estate was designated to become Braunstone Park.   This was to form the centrepiece of recreational activity with many trees and wide grass verges included in this newly designated ‘garden suburb’.

North Braunstone

Despite the building of the new estates there was still an urgent need to clear the slum areas of the city.  People on low incomes could not afford the rents of the new houses and the slums were not emptying.  Local Authorities were instructed to restrict themselves to slum clearance and rehousing. Between 1936 and 1939 the larger estate of North Braunstone was built to accommodate families moving from slum housing within the city which was being demolished.  When the poorer families had lived in the centre of the town there had been established networks such as casual work, second hand shops and pawnbrokers.  None of these facilities, which provided social support, were to be found on the new estate.  It was generally assumed that providing better housing conditions was a sufficient method of countering the poverty experienced by these tenants but no thought had been given to preserving communities. It was some of the poorest of families from the Wharf Street slums who moved into the North Braunstone Estate and the concentration of these particular poor and needy families earned North Braunstone the title of ‘Dodge City’, reflecting the fact that so many debtors were concentrated in one area. 

Reference

Brown, A.E. (ed), 1970 The Growth of Leicester, Leicester: Leicester University Press

D, Nash & D, Reeder, (eds)  1993 Leicester in the Twentieth Century, Stroud: Alan Sutton Publishing

N, Ewitt. 1990 The Slums of Leicester, Derby: Breedon Books Publishing