Places of Worship
As long as Highfields has existed as a residential area there have been religious buildings to provide the locals with places of worship. One of the largest and oldest is Melbourne Hall, on the corner of Melbourne Road and St. Peters Road. This unusual building is situated at the highest part of Highfields and was visible from most of the City at the time it was completed in 1881.
Melbourne Hall catered to the mostly Christian population of Highfields at the time it was built but even then there was a growing Jewish community in the area.
Highfield Street Synagogue
By 1849 there are records showing Jewish people living in Leicester, many were shopkeepers, often associated with various clothing or tailoring manufacturing trades but they were also found in retailing; particularly in Leicester Market.
Israel Hart moved to Leicester during the 1860’s and in 1874, the Leicester Hebrew Congregation began to be mentioned in the Jewish Chronicle, a national paper for the Jewish Community. Israel was a business man who founded the tailoring firm Hart and Levy. He was an important man in Leicester and went on to hold the position of Lord Mayor of Leicester a total of 4 times.
The Highfields Street Synagogue was mostly funded by donations from Israel Hart and other local Jewish business men. It gave a vital place for the Highfields Jewish community to congregate and worship.
Leicester Central Mosque
After the World War II many migrants from all over the world began to move to the UK and Leicester. Highfields became one of the most popular places to settle for the many Caribbean and South Asian migrants who came to England during this time.
The Caribbean community were already served by the local Churches but the Muslim South Asian community had no established places of worship at this time.
The first Islamic Centre in the area was created in 1968 by a group of Pakistani Sunni Muslims. The Centre is still based at Sutherland Street and is one of the oldest Mosques in Leicester. During the 1970s the growing population of Muslims required facilities for Islamic activities on a large scale which couldn’t be catered for by the many small Mosques that had been establish in Highfields. The solution was to create a purpose built Mosque in the Highfields area.
This solution came in the form of the Leicester Central Mosque, located on the corner of Conduit Street and Sparkenhoe Street. On Saturday 27 August 1988 the foundation of the Mosque was laid in a ceremony attended by eminent Muslim scholars from all over Britain and overseas. The Mosque provides a main prayer hall providing prayer facilities for 1,500 people; it also includes a reception, offices, a school, a community hall, Imam’s residence, a mortuary and a guest house.
Highfields has had a long history of different religions existing side my side in a vibrant and varied community; today is no different. With established Indian, Jewish, Irish, Polish, Somali, Pakistani, and Caribbean communities currently living in Highfields it can be considered one of the most culturally diverse places in Leicester.