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  • Built in the area that was occupied by the a cattle market and 50 years later the Town Hall
  • It contains a magnificent 17th century organ, 100 years older than the building itself
  • Methodists were non-conformists. These were Christians who refused to “conform” to the Church of England and so set up their own churches

The chapel and the cattle market

Today Bishop Street Methodist Church occupies a prime location in the city overlooking Town Hall Square. This area before 1870 was used as a cattle market and the land around it was therefore cheap enough for the early Methodists to buy and build on. The chapel is one of the oldest buildings to survive in this part of the city and predates the Central Library (1904) and Town Hall itself (1873).

Cattlemarket and Bishop Street 1870s
The animal sheds of the cattle market are in the foreground and you can see the chapel in background, circa 1870

The Methodist architect and the royal organ builder

The chapel was built in the Georgian Neo-Classical style by the architect Rev. William Jenkins in 1815, himself a Methodist minister. Inside, a magnificent 17th century organ case by “Father” Smith, organ builder to Charles II, predates the chapel itself by over 100 years.

The Arthur Wakerley connection

Victorian Leicester was non-conformist in its religion, outlook and politics. Non-conformists were Christians who refused to “conform” to the Church of England and so set up their own churches. Many of the town’s most influential citizens and industrialists were nonconformist. Arthur Wakerley, a member of the chapel’s congregation, was Mayor in 1897 and a renowned Leicester architect who designed the Turkey Cafe on Granby Street.

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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.

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.

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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Faith & Belief

Central Mosque

First established in 1968 by a group of Pakistani Sunni Muslims, the Islamic Centre would go on to expand from a side street in Highfields to the grand Central Mosque on Conduit Street. The original Islamic Centre is still on Sutherland Street, made up of converted residential buildings and is certainly one of the oldest Mosques in Leicester.

Charles Street Baptist Chapel

Baptists were one of the largest Non-Conformist groups in Victorian Leicester and included influential men like Thomas Cook (the great travel pioneer and anti-alcohol campaigner), prominent manufacturers and civic dignitaries.

Grey Friars

Franciscan friars first arrived in Leicester in the early 13th century. Their friary occupied a large walled precinct south of St Martin’s Church (now Leicester Cathedral) and west of Leicester’s Saturday market place, between two important medieval thoroughfares, Friar Lane and St Francis’ Lane (Peacock Lane today).

Freemasons’ Hall

Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest non-religious, non-political and charitable organisations. It became established in Leicester in the 18th Century, with the first Lodges meeting in local public houses.

Leicester Abbey

Leicester Abbey (demolished around 1538) lay just to the north-east of medieval Leicester, beside the main road leading to Nottingham and Derby, in a pleasant spot next to the River Soar. A number of magnificent ruins related to the abbey complex remain today and can be seen in the grounds of Abbey Park.

story of leicester
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