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  • 20 Glebe Street is one of the oldest buildings in Highfields
  • One of its owners, Sydney Gimson, was brother to famous Arts & Crafts designer Ernest Gimson
  • Sydney hosted many famous political figures at the house because of his links to the Secular Society

A New Home in Highfields

20 Glebe Street was built in the 1820s and is one of the oldest buildings in Highfields. Sydney Gimson and his wife Jane, known as Jeannie, moved there in the Spring of 1889. Sydney was the eldest son of Josiah Gimson, founder of the Leicester company Gimson & Co. Sydney and Jeannie married in 1886 and first lived on Upper Tichbourne Street, also in Highfields. Highfields had a rural feel but was still close to the Gimson family home on New Walk.

Sydney and Jeannie Gimson in 1904

Furnishing 20 Glebe Street

Sydney asked his brother Ernest to help choose things for his new home. Sydney and Jeannie spent £100 on the initial furnishings including a sideboard, couch, easy chair and curtains. Ernest picked the items from London shops, including Morris and Co., and he designed two of the pieces himself.

Sydney and Jeannie continued to buy furniture from Ernest, including a cabinet made of ebony, inlaid with mother-of-pearl. It was designed by Ernest and is now in Leicester Museum and Art Gallery.

Sydney’s Leicester Life

In 1910 Sydney became a councillor where he had a particular interest in the town’s museum and schools. Sydney was also a prominent member of Leicester Secular Society and was host to many of the Society’s speakers. Famous speakers and visitors to 20 Glebe Street included playwright George Bernard Shaw and suffragist Millicent Garrett Fawcett. Jeannie died in 1923. Sydney continued to live at 20 Glebe Street until his death in 1938.

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Roman Leicester

(47- 500) A military fort was erected, attracting traders and a growing civilian community to Leicester (known as Ratae Corieltauvorum to the Romans). The town steadily grew throughout the reign of the Romans.

Tudor & Stuart Leicester

(1500 – 1700) The wool trade flourished in Leicester with one local, a former mayor named William Wigston, making his fortune. During the English Civil War a bloody battle was fought as the forces of King Charles I laid siege to the town.

Georgian Leicester

(1700 – 1837) The knitting industry had really stared to take hold and Leicester was fast becoming the main centre of hosiery manufacture in Britain. This new prosperity was reflected throughout the town with broader, paved streets lined with elegant brick buildings and genteel residences.

Victorian Leicester

(1837 – 1901) The industrial revolution had a huge effect on Leicester resulting in the population growing from 40,000 to 212,000 during this period. Many of Leicester's most iconic buildings were erected during this time as wealthy Victorians made their mark on the town.

Edwardian Leicester

(1901 – 1910) Electric trams came to the streets of Leicester and increased literacy among the citizens led to many becoming politicised. The famous 1905 ‘March of the Unemployed to London’ left from Leicester market when 30,000 people came to witness the historic event.

Modern Leicester

(1973 – present day) Industry was still thriving in the city during the 1970s, with the work opportunities attracting many immigrants from all over the world. While industry has declined in recent years, excellent transport links have made Leicester an attractive centre for many businesses. The City now has much to be proud of including its sporting achievements and the richness of its cultural heritage and diversity.

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