On hair and hairdressers…

A report in a local newspaper about a mass meeting of the Leicester and District Hairdressers’ Association in 1907 reminded me that there were several hairdressers in Charnwood Street within living memory. George Ager at 275, also a tobacconist, was one of them – see my previous blog at https://cib2.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/george-ager-a-charny-hairdresser-and-tobacconist/ for more about him. In the 1920s others included Ernest Toone at 224 – popularly known as ‘Lilting’, so I’m told! – and George Harry Buckby at 130. Mr R. Lord remembers that Toone’s also sold snuff in paper packets – loose and weighed on scales – and that hairdressers’ shops in Charnwood Street were always full at dinner time (what we now call lunchtime) with boys from Gimson’s engineering works in Vulcan Road.

eileen's hairdresser

Eileen’s hairdresser just before the demolition of Charnwood Street in 1970 (Michael Westmoreland)

Toone’s still appears in a local directory in 1954, but Corrigan’s footwear shop had taken over the premises by 1960. J.T. Tate also appears in 1954 as a hairdresser at 155. In 1960 the shop was occupied by the Janlyn Toy Co., but Eileen’s ladies’ hairdresser was also there by 1969. The other ladies’ hairdresser that many people remember was Eunice’s at 112, there from at least 1954 to 1960 and maybe longer. Lorraine Gee-Nichols recalls that: ‘Each Friday afternoon or evening my mum would take me with her when she went to have her hair washed and set or permed at Eunice’s hairdressers, and as a treat we always popped into Paddy’s Swag Shop and I was allowed a little treat’.

Hairdressing might seem a straightforward occupation, not unduly subject to rules and regulations – but the mass meeting of hairdressers in Leicester in 1907 suggested otherwise. The Leicester Chronicle of 4 May 1907 tells us that this was held at the White Swan in the Market Place, and there was ‘a large attendance’. Mr Rainbow, late President of the National Federation of Hairdressers was among those present. The ‘prime motive’ of the meeting was to obtain better rates for hairdressers, who had had ‘greater responsibilities’ placed on them as tradesmen over the past few years. This included the greater liability ‘forced upon them’ by legislation and actions in the courts. ‘No man who had the welfare of the trade at heart would complain of this’, Mr Rainbow said:

but they must recognise these things and shape their course accordingly. Today they were compelled to have better fitted up saloons [sic], cleaner surroundings, better instruments, and the sterilisation of all they used, for the protection of customers against many imaginary evils. Again, they had to face heavier rents, rates, and taxes all round. He appealed to the members of the trade to stand firm, so that their charges might be such as would enable them to earn a living’.

hair preservationWorries about hair loss were nothing new at this time, however, to judge from an advertisement for a ‘Consulting Hair Specialist’, G.F. Moss of 70 Sparkenhoe Street in Horn’s Illustrated Guide to the Places of Interest in Leicester in 1905. This was accompanied by ‘Before’ and ‘After’ photos of the Verger of St Peter’s church in Leicester, claiming that ‘Your hair restorer has effected a permanent cure’. Maybe… but the risk of having an expensive hair-do ruined by rain was permanent enough. The Illustrated Guide also had an advert for Kendall’s in Granby Street, suppliers of umbrellas, sunshades, walking canes and ladies furs. ‘Above all you must have a good umbrella’, it said next to picture of a family taking shelter – and if it happened to break, Kendall’s would also re-cover it ‘equal to new’ from 1s. 6d (7.5 p).

Charnwood Street – what’s in a name?

A view of Farnham Street showing the residential part of the Post Office (Paul Dorrell)

A view of Farnham Street showing the residential part of the Post Office (Paul Dorrell)

If you’ve ever wondered how Charnwood Street and some of the other streets in the area got their names, here’s what I’ve found out about them.

The land on which Charnwood Street was built from the early 1870s was sold to the Leicester Freehold Land Society (FLS) for £1,100 an acre in 1868 by a Mr Farnham . The Minutes that record this sale don’t give his full name, but it was almost certainly Edward Basil Farnham of Quorn Hall. This would explain how Edward Street, Basil Street and Farnham Street got their names – and as Quorn Hall was on the edge of Charnwood Forest, why the main road in the development was named Charnwood Street.

Other streets, including Newby and Preston, were named after members of the Freehold Land Society board. James Preston was one of the original directors of the FLS, and was described in his obituary in 1871 as a man of ‘perseverance and energy in promoting the prosperity and usefulness of the Society’. Shenton Street took its own name from the Surveyor of the Leicester and Leicestershire Benefit Building Society, which was also involved in developing the area.

The Leicester Freehold Land Society was founded in 1849, and Charnwood Street was its ninth estate. The original purpose of Freehold Land Societies was to enable working men to acquire a vote in elections to Parliament by becoming holders of land with a value of at least 40s a year. Land was purchased from members’ subscriptions, and then divided into lots and allocated through a ballot: the Charnwood Street estate itself was divided into 720 lots.  Working men in towns who paid rent of £10 a year or more were granted a parliamentary vote in 1867, so the Society had already outlived this purpose by the time Charnwood Street was developed – but its directors went ahead on the grounds that it would return ‘a fair profit to those who wish to sell, and will be found a very good site for those who intend to build’.

* The above information is based on ‘Charnwood Street, Leicester: the first fifty years’, an article that I wrote for the 2014 edition of the Leicestershire Historian, the journal of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society. This is available in libraries, or from the Honorary Librarian, Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society, The Guildhall, Guildhall Lane, LE1 5FQ, for £10 including p&p. Please make cheques payable to LAHS.

A teacher’s memories of Charnwood Street School…

Here are some memories from Mrs Ann Keyworth, Deputy Head of Charnwood Street Infants School in the 1970s, who was interviewed by the East Midlands Oral History Archive in 2002.* She started there part-time in 1965, teaching English to some of the Asian children at the school. The Head of the Infants School at that time was Mrs Beech, who she remembered as a ‘brilliant teacher… a lovely person':


She was brilliant at controlling 200 children in the school hall. If someone was misbehaving she just used to stop and say “Somebody at the back doesn’t want to sing any more?. You could give her 200 children in the hall with the piano, and not a word.

Charnwood Street School under repair. It was opened as a Board School in 1877.

Charnwood Street School under repair. It was opened as a Board School in 1877.

She recalled the celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the opening of the school in 1977, including displays of wedding photos from each decade since the 1870s. The children also drew 100 houses from different periods of time. These were then put up in the corridors to show how houses had changed over the ages – though some of the children, of course, were still living in houses built in the Charnwood Street area from the 1870s. She also had a look through the old school Log Books to see how the school itself had changed. Unlike Mrs Beech, the first headmistress:

was a demon. She was so strict… One poor student teacher who had lost the front door keys of the school got into the most awful row… When the children came back to school in the afternoon after dinner, the front doors were locked, and if they were late they couldn’t get in.

When the Asian refugees from Uganda came to Leicester in 1972, a lot of the children attended Charnwood Street School. Diwali and Eid were celebrated as well as Christmas, and the children also went on a trip each year – the older ones to the zoo, the five year olds and Nursery class to Abbey Park, and the six year olds to Bradgate Park. These trips were particularly popular with those children who hadn’t visited the countryside before. On one visit to Bradgate Park, walking through the woods:

I suggested to them that we might see the Three Bears, or Robin Hood, or even Owl and Tigger, because I used to tell them the Pooh Bear stories… so we were all looking for these sorts of things, and we found a little wooden hut which they decided must have been the Three Bears’ house, and we found a hole in a tree which was Owl’s house, out of Pooh Bear, and this little boy stopped while I was holding children up to look through this hole to see if they could see Owl, and he said to me… “Mrs Keyworth, nothing here is made”… It sent a shiver down my spine. I looked around and I thought, it’s all growing, and he knew what he meant… an amazing concept for a child of six.

In 1981 the Infants School amalgamated with the ‘upstairs’ – the Junior School – to become Charnwood Street Primary School, and Mrs Keyworth became Deputy Head of the whole school.  – though she left soon after this to work as a supply teacher. I wonder of anyone remembers her?

* East Midlands Oral History Archive (EMOHA), 1070, EM/045. My thanks to Colin Hyde of EMOHA for permission to reproduce these extracts, and for the photograph.







Christmas shopping in Charny…


(Photo by Michael Westmoreland)

In case you didn’t see it, there was a letter in the Leicester Mercury earlier this week (10 December 2014)  from Barbara Watson of Melton with some memories of shopping at Paddy’s Swag Shop in Charnwood Street in the 1950s and 1960s. She remembers buying a little Christmas tree from there in 1964 for 2s 6d (12.5p in today’s money), It was eight inches tall and decorated with candles and baubles – and she’d just put it up again for Christmas 2014!

There are more memories of Paddy’s Swag Shop – and of Christmas in Charnwood Street – at https://cib2.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/paddys-swag-shop/ and https://cib2.wordpress.com/2012/12/24/christmas-in-charny/.

Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas and New Year.

More about Sacred Heart…

Sacred Heart book coverI was recently loaned a history of Sacred Heart Parish, whose church and school in Mere Road were both attended by Roman Catholics in the Charnwood Street area. From this I can add some more information to the memories that have already appeared on this website.*

The church was established as a Mission in 1883 by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nottingham, which bought a small house at 33 Mere Road for use as a presbytery to serve this ‘large and growing suburb’. In the following year the Bishop of Nottingham reported that, near to the house:

an excellent site has been secured and walled in, large enough to contain a large church with school and presbytery, conveniently. The school has been built, and serves at present as a chapel, seating about 150 persons… The chapel is well attended… The Catholic population of the Mission is between 300 and 400 (p7)

The school was actually used as a temporary church for six years until a corrugated iron chapel was built – popularly known as the ‘Tin Tabernacle’. This was used for 34 years, until it was replaced with a new purpose-built church in 1924 and removed to St Gregory’s church in Sileby to serve as a parish hall. The new sacred Heart church was designed to accommodate 350 people, with more space on benches along the side aisles. The high altar was a memorial to those who died in the First World War, and their names were also carved in stone in the church porch. It was officially opened on 27 March 1924 with a High Mass attended by the Mayor and Mayoress of Leicester, Cllr. and Mrs J. Mantle Hubbard.

The book also notes that the role of the parish priest expanded in the later 19th century to embrace that of ‘mission provider, financial director, education supplier and welfare officer’ as well as spiritual advisor. Those at Sacred Heart tended to stay only for a short time until the arrival in 1904 of Canon Henry Lindeboom, a Dutchman, who served until 1938. As well as the school itself, Sacred Heart also provided clubs and other activities for children. In the post-World War II period these included Boy Scouts, Cubs, Girl Guides, Brownies, a youth club and a choir, sports days and day trips to Skegness.

Sacred Heart tin tabernacle programmeIn 2008 the 125th anniversary of Sacred Heart Parish was celebrated with a play, The Tin Tabernacle, devised and acted by its parishioners, and the publication of this book. The above extracts are just a part of the story, but they may also bring back some memories of Sacred Heart’s more recent past.

* Faith Built on Love: a history of Sacred Heart Parish, Leicester, 1883 – 2008 by Kate Myers (2008). For memories of Sacred Heart school, see https://cib2.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/sacred-heart-school/ and https://cib2.wordpress.com/2013/07/20/sacred-heart-and-sister-columba/


Children on Charnwood Street – do you recognise anyone?

The photograph at the top of this page was taken by Michael Westmorland just before Charnwood Street was demolished in 1970. It shows some children near the corner with Edwyn Street. Here’s a close-up of that part of the picture which extends to the corner itself, and also shows a boy with a bicycle. I can’t make it any larger without blurring the image – but does anyone recognise any of the children? Please leave a comment and tell us if you do!

charny with children close up croppedMany thanks to Michael for permission to use the photograph.


Photos of streets in the Charny area…

I was recently pointed in the direction of a website, Highfields Remembered, which has photos of Charnwood Street and other streets in the area. I would never have thought of looking there, as strictly speaking Highfields is a separate area of Leicester – but they include photos of Basil Street, Edward Street, Farnham Street, Newby Street, Occupation Road, Preston Street, Shenton Street and Vulcan Road. You can find them at http://highfields.dmu.ac.uk/photos.html.

Thanks to Roy Freer for telling me about this website.