Many people in the Charnwood Street area worshipped at St Saviour’s church. Like other churches in inner areas of Leicester, its congregation dwindled as houses were demolished and people moved elsewhere, and it was closed in 2005. When it was put up for sale in 2011 several people wrote to the Leicester Mercury with their memories of the church and the school that was attached to it – including pumping the church organ as children! One article on 21 December 2011 also recalled Father John Anderson, who was vicar of St Saviour’s from 1974 to 1982, and said to be ‘a very popular figure in the community’:
During his time in charge of the church the building was beautifully maintained and services dignified and relatively well-attended… the sight of the church today, derelict and abandoned on its hill… would break his heart.
Others remembered the headmaster and headmistress of the school in the 1950s, ‘Pop’ Allen and his wife: ‘Very strict and disciplined it was, with a slap on the back of the hand with a ruler if caught being naughty. Both Mr Allen and his wife were church dignitaries, so scripture (religious studies) was big on the agenda’ (24 September 2011). Robert Davies, who was married at St Saviour’s in the 1940s, recalled a reunion 30 years later of couples married there:
… as we entered the church ‘Pop’ Allen came up the aisle to meet us. He said ‘Hello Davies, how are you?’. Now he had not seen me for over 37 years. What a memory he had to remember me after all that time. I suppose it was because he used to give me the cane almost every day, because of my bad handwriting. It never improved… (2 July 2011)
St Saviour’s was opened by the Bishop of Peterborough on 21 June 1877, a few years after the development of the Charnwood Street area began. It was the gift of Rev F.G. Burnaby, who owned the land on which it was built and laid the foundation stone in 1875. The church itself cost £11,500, but the parsonage, schools and an endowment for the future support of all three brought the total to £25,000.
It was designed by the eminent architect George Gilbert Scott in Early English (13th century) style, and – apart from the spire – built entirely of red brick. As one description noted in 1888, it was a large church built for a growing population:
The town has been extending very rapidly in this direction, and although the erection of St Peter’s Church supplied the wants of a proportion of this district, it was seen that in a few years it would be wholly inadequate for the population which would occupy the numerous new streets now being laid out in the healthy open region towards the Humberstone Road…
The nave is 92ft. long and 54 ft. wide, with transepts and aisles on either side… The chancel is 40 ft. long and 54 ft. wide… The height of the spire is 155 feet. In the bell-chamber of the tower there is a magnificent peal of eight bells, cast by Taylor and Son of Loughborough… There is a very handsome brass lectern, in the form of an eagle, which bears the inscription ‘Gloria inExcelsis’. The altar is approached by seven steps of Groby slate.
St Saviour’s also became an important social centre for the area, with entertainments such as that in July 1886 where:
… a large number of the parishioners and friends in the St Saviour’s district partook of an excellent tea in the schoolroom attached to the church. About 300 persons sat down and enjoyed a beautiful repast, after which an adjournment was made to the boys’ schoolroom, where a capital entertainment took place… sufficiently varied to please every taste, while the quality of the music [including songs and a piano duet] was very satisfactory.
The church is Grade II*-listed, which restricts development that would significantly change its character or architectural integrity. In 2013 it looked as if it might be bought and developed as a venue for events – but at the time of writing I am not sure if this is going ahead. Does anyone know what might be happening to it – or maybe you have memories of your own to add?