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  • At first New Walk was called ‘Queen’s Walk’ after Queen Charlotte, wife of George III
  • New Walk originally led to the horse racecourse which was replaced by Victoria Park in 1882
  • The Victorian era public baths on New Walk were fed by a fresh water spring that’s 90 feet below the surface

Pedestrian promenade since 1785

New Walk is a rare example of a Georgian pedestrian promenade. Laid out by the Corporation of Leicester in 1785, the walkway was intended to connect Welford Place with the racecourse (now Victoria Park) and is said to follow the line of a Roman trackway, the Via Devana. Originally named “Queen’s Walk”, after Queen Charlotte, consort of George III, it was eventually the popular name of the “New Walk” that survived. Almost a mile long, New Walk has been a Conservation Area since 1969, ensuring its unique character is protected.

Living on New Walk

Houses built at the lower end of New Walk in the 1820s were the first on the walkway and were designed as “genteel residences” for the families and servants of businessmen and professionals. Development was controlled however to protect the public’s enjoyment of the walkway. Houses had to be at least ten yards from the Walk, fenced off by iron railings, and there was no access for carriages onto New Walk itself. In 1840 one resident described New Walk as “the only solely respectable street in Leicester”.

The houses around central New Walk date from the 1850s and 1860s and would have been the homes of merchants, manufacturers and professionals. Residents in the 1880s included Josiah Gimson, head of a large engineering firm, whose home (No. 112) is now part of the Belmont Hotel.

Last to be developed along New Walk were the large Victorian houses of its upper section (dating from the 1880s). Many were designed by the architect Stockdale Harrison. They reflect the growing prosperity of Leicester’s business and professional classes who preferred to live away from the town centre.

New walk king street 1951
New Walk in 1951, Leicestershire Record Office

Public buildings and green spaces

The first public building on New Walk was a Roman Catholic chapel (1819) on the site of what is now Holy Cross Priory. A Nonconformist Proprietary School was opened in the 1830s and later became the Town Museum (now Leicester Museum & Art Gallery). The Albion Tepid Baths at 5 New Walk were built in the 1840s and used warm water provided by a sewing cotton factory at No 32 King Street.

Central New Walk contains two green spaces; The Oval (traditionally popular with children’s nannies) and De Montfort Square with its statue of Robert Hall, a 19th-century Baptist minister. Hall was a great public speaker who campaigned for better conditions for local hosiery workers. The Belmont Hotel building (on the corner of De Montfort Street) started life as a school for young ladies. Opposite is St Stephen’s United Reformed church, originally built on London Road near the railway station. It was moved here in the 1890s to make way for a hotel.

How has New Walk changed since 1785?

Most houses on New Walk were designed for large families with servants. By the later 19th Century, as family size fell, some became lodgings or apartments. More were sub-divided into offices or converted for educational use in the 20th Century, and by the 1970s New Walk had been transformed from a residential area into one dominated by commercial activities. Despite these changes it has managed to retain its unique character as an urban promenade.

Find out more about the history of New Walk by visiting the 'Friends of New Walk' website.

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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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