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.

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4 thoughts on “Charnwood Street – what’s in a name?

  1. Many thanks for posting that explanation and research of how the streets around Charnwood Street were named. I was born in Farnham Street in between Edward Street & Basil Street. Your post has made a useful addition to my family tree account. Thanks again.
    Arthur Beyless

  2. I remember my time living near Charny. I used to live at Number 14 Newby Street. I have many fond memories living there. I met my wife there Patricia White. she used to live in the Off licence at the top of the road. The corner of Newby street/Charnwood Street. We got married in 1969 and we are still married to this day. We used to spend a great deal of time in Charney. I remember one time, I used to have an Alsation Dog, (he did look a bit like a Wolf), who used to love playing, and guarding Bricks. One time I had a knock on our door, it was the Police. My dog (rex) was in the middle of Charney, guarding a brick, stopping the traffic. I had to go up and get it off him, as no one would go near him. Now I guess he would have been shot. The Police then had a more, caring community attitude.. I was force to go to Sunday School at the Church in Newby Street. I remember one time, cannot remember the occasion, but my Mum made me a purple suite made out of Crape Paper, to attend this function. I hated that suite so much.. As I have said I have so many good memories of living on Newby Street, the parties, the bonfires we used to have, and of course the snow we used to get. But still the schools remained open. Not like today a small snow shower, freezing condition. The schools are closed. Don’t wish to go on but I could.

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