Skip to content
  • In the early 1800s Leicester’s ‘high fields’ was a rural area on the edge of town. It was known for its good drinking water and was dotted with windmills
  • Several schools were built in the area to cater to the growing population. The first was the Collegiate School in 1836
  • In 2012, twenty-five countries were represented by the population of Highfields, making it one of the most diverse areas of the City

An area on the edge of town

In the early 1800s Leicester’s ‘high fields’ was a rural area on the edge of town. It was known for its good drinking water and was dotted with windmills. There were a few houses on London Road, Conduit Street, Glebe Street and Prebend Street. By 1881 there were 15,000 people living here. New streets were laid out and more properties built. Highfields had a mix of big houses, smaller properties for working class people, factories and places of worship.

Development of Highfields 002
A shop in Highfields, 1983

Houses, schools and churches

By the end of the 1800s roads like College Avenue were being developed which allowed more houses to fit into a small area. Rental properties became available and larger houses were beginning to be split into apartments. The area had several schools for the growing population. The first was the Collegiate School in 1836 then schools were opened on Charnwood Street, Medway Street and Melbourne Road. There were also many places of worship including a Quaker Meeting House, Synagogue, Roman Catholic Church and mission halls.

A diverse area of Leicester

Its location near the railway station, and plenty of housing, meant that people from many countries settled in Highfields. Around World War II many Jewish people came to live here. The 1950s welcomed people from Africa and the Caribbean. Later, in the 1960s and 70s people from India and East Africa arrived. All came to call Highfields their home. In 2012, twenty-five countries were represented in Highfields, making it one of the most diverse areas of the City.

Visitor information
Local neighbourhood

Gallery

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.

Medieval Leicester

(500 – 1500) The early years of this period was one of unrest with Saxon, Danes and Norman invaders having their influences over the town. Later, of course, came Richard III and the final battle of the Wars of the Roses was fought on Leicester’s doorstep.

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.

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.

Change time period...
  • Roman Leicester
  • Medieval Leicester
  • Tudor & Stuart Leicester
  • Georgian Leicester
  • Victorian Leicester
  • Edwardian Leicester
  • Early 20th Century Leicester
  • Modern Leicester
story of leicester
Your ultimate guide to visiting the city