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.