Then and Now
Here you can see a selection of ‘then and now’ images of interesting places in and around Highfields. We start with the ‘then’ image; an archive photograph from sometime in the past 150 years which is contrasted with a ‘now’ image taken of the same place recently.
All of the ‘now’ images were taken by the Home Schooled Group that meet at Highfields Library on Wednesdays. The children were given disposable cameras to take home over a week and also took part in photography walks around Highfields learning about the history of the area and digital photography techniques.
In the 1970’s there were 5 tower blocks built in Highfields as a solution to the lack of housing in the area. Goscote house is one of these residential tower blocks. It is 22 stories high and contains 139 flats, making it one of the tallest buildings in Leicester.
The image above also shows the African Caribbean Centre located on the corner of Sparkenhoe Street and Maidstone Road. The African Caribbean Centre is a multi-use community centre that offers creative activities, classes and special events.
To find out more visit their website.
Melbourne Hall was completed in 1881 and stood at the top of one of the highest points near the City of Leicester. This made it a very prominent place that was visible from miles around.
Nowadays the Hall is surrounded closely by residential buildings and even though the octagonal roof is still visible from far away the building itself is obscured until you get very close to it. In 2012 Melborne Hall remains an Evangelical Free Church with a large and diverse congregation.
Swain Street Bridge
Laying at the most westerly point of the Highfields area, Swain Street Bridge takes traffic and pedestrians over the busy railway tracks that run north from Leicester Train Station.
The most startling thing about the 2 photographs above is how dramatically the skyline of Leicester has changed in a just over 50 years.
In the 1958 photograph the most prominent buildings that are visible above the rest of the City are all churches of some kind or another; a mixture of thin spires and square towers can be seen in all directions. The most well know is the Cathedral spire in the far distance in the centre of the image.
The Cathedral spire can still be seen in the 2012 photograph poking out from behind the rectangular white building right of centre. The 2012 image is dominated by high rise buildings that lay around the area of the Train Station and the City end of London Road.
Highfield Street Synagogue
There has been a Jewish community in Leicester since the middle of the 19th Century and at this time they were centred in the Highfields area. By the 1890’s the Jewish population had grown so much that the rented buildings which had been used as a synagogue became inadequate. As a consequence it was decided to build a new synagogue which was formally opened in 1898, one of the few provincial buildings designed specifically for that purpose.
The Highfields Street Synagogue was mostly funded by donations from Israel Hart and other local Jewish business men giving a vital place for the Highfields Jewish community to congregate and worship.
It is a red brick building, modern in style with a central front tower topped by a copper plated dome. It looks at right at home amongst the surrounding red brick residential terraced housing. The most noticeable change in the images above is the two evergreen trees in front of the Synagogue. Also notice the deciduous trees to the left and right of the entrance; they have grown twice as big in the 50 years between when the photographs were taken.
In 2011, due to falling numbers, the Synagogue was put up for sale and the congregation planned a move to new premises in Oadby.