Leicestershire Historian

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Leicestershire Historian Volume 58 2022

Editor: Joyce Lee

Medieval floor-tiles from Leicestershire County Council Museum Collections (© Leicestershire County Council Museums) pictured alongside their equivalent Norma Whitcomb illustrations (© Norma R. Whitcomb) from The Medieval Floor-Tiles of Leicestershire.

Medieval floor-tiles from Leicestershire County Council Museum Collections (© Leicestershire County Council Museums) pictured alongside their equivalent Norma Whitcomb illustrations (© Norma R. Whitcomb) from The Medieval Floor-Tiles of Leicestershire.

Complete volume



Ned Newitt

Leicester’s Influenza Epidemic, 1918-1919

The 1918 flu pandemic was one of the most deadly in human history. Somewhere between 40 and 100 million died globally and between 228,000 and 250,000 died in Britain. During the nine months of the pandemic, there were about 1,600 deaths in Leicester and 863 in Leicestershire - a total of 2,463.

Caroline Wessel

Desford Aerodrome 1916-1953: How it changed the world and saved lives

There have been a number of small airfields in Leicestershire over the last century, but none deserve more special recognition than Desford Aerodrome. For it welcomed royalty, trained pilots for the Battle of Britain during World War II and was home to an aeronautical engineering business whose inventions changed the world of safety for pilots.

Lisa Thirlby

The Leicester Drama Society: 100 years 1922-2022

Late in the autumn of 1921, three friends met in a café in Leicester, perhaps The Turkey Café on Granby Street, to discuss forming a drama society in the City. The friends were Herbert Pochin, President of the West End Adult School, Walter Martin whose Walter Martin Players were already well known in the City, and Frank Clewlow who had recently left the Birmingham Repertory Company for a more secure career in the shoe industry. There was a widely held view in the provinces that the kind of drama produced in commercial theatre, particularly in London’s West End, was trivial. There was a wish to raise artistic standards and educate public taste. After this informal discussion, leading members of all the drama groups then operating in the City were invited to a meeting on 26th January 1922, where it was proposed that a society to be known as The Leicester Drama Society (LDS) should be formed.

Nigel North

The people behind the North Memorial Lecture -Alan North (1922-1987) and Joan North, née Strong (1924-2018)

The annual Alan and Joan North Memorial Lecture, now in its 34th year and presented by the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society (LAHS), was established by my mother in memory of my father in 1989; and from 2020 it has been in memory of both parents.

Jane Everitt

Fanny Deacon (née Potter) of Fleckney and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society

During the early nineteenth century anyone could set themselves up and sell whatever medicines they liked. Drugs were unregulated and unrestricted. The Apothecaries Act of 1815 introduced compulsory apprenticeships of 5 years and formal qualifications for Apothecaries under the licence of the Society of Apothecaries, but Chemists and Druggists had emerged as a distinct branch of the medical profession with the spread of fixed premise trading, rather than the fairs, markets and pedlars. The chemist’s business was not exclusively medical and pharmaceutical. Although specialising in herbs, drugs and chemicals, they also sold general groceries, ironmongery, books, clocks or as in Fleckney they were a drapers and Post Office.

Robin Jenkins

Making way for the University: from Base Hospital to University College

The route into Leicester along University Road is an interesting one. At one end is the creamy-white mass of the old Leicestershire and Rutland asylum and at the other are impressive villas, built when the thoroughfare was Victoria Road. The architecture of the expanding university itself is varied and striking, to say the least. On the other side, the Welford Road Cemetery gives rise to a multitude of thoughts too, with glimpses through the trees of the Gothic tombs of the town’s upper classes and the egalitarian white slabs of the Commonwealth War Graves.

Robert Nigel Thrubsaw

Charnwood Slate Gravestones as evidence for Trade Routes

Between Roman times and the late nineteenth century slate was quarried in various parts of the Charnwood Forest area of west Leicestershire. Although commonly referred to as ‘Swithland Slate’, in practice slate was extracted in at least three other parishes - Newtown Linford, Woodhouse Eaves and Groby. The Charnwood slate quarries went into decline from about 1870 after the railways made Welsh slate readily available. Canals seem to have had little influence on Charnwood slate distribution - presumably because there were no canals near this part of the Charnwood Forest and the nearest navigable river, the Soar, did not have connections with the national canal system until 1814.

Helen Sharp, Karen Slade, Tessa Askew

Norma Whitcomb and Leicestershire’s Medieval Floor-Tiles

Amongst the many reference books housed at Leicestershire County Council Museums’ stores there is a well-used and treasured copy of The Medieval Floor-Tiles of Leicestershire, written and illustrated by Norma R. Whitcomb and published by the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society (LAHS) in 1956. The book is an invaluable resource, not only when cataloguing the floor tiles in the collection, but also for placing them in the wider historical context of the medieval floor-tile industry. The beautiful, yet simple illustrations of the tiles capture the details of the designs which are often difficult to discern from worn or partially complete artefacts. It is a fascinating read and has appealed to many readers including those with no prior interest in the subject.

Cynthia Brown

Vegetarianism In Late Victorian Leicester

Vegetarianism might be thought of as a fairly modern movement, but it has firm roots in the nineteenth century. A national Vegetarian Society was established in Ramsgate in 1847 and moved its base to Manchester soon afterwards. It had 260 members within a year, aged between 14 and 76. Local vegetarian groups were also founded in major centres of population such as Birmingham, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Public figures who espoused vegetarianism included Isaac Pitman - better known for his shorthand system; Bramwell Booth of the Salvation Army; Mahatma Gandhi - a member of the committee of the London Vegetarian Society, and Annie Besant - a leading secularist and socialist. However, it was far from an elitist movement. Over half of the 889 members of the Vegetarian Society in 1853 were tradesmen, mechanics and labourers.

Dave Postles

Imprisoned insolvent debtors in Leicestershire in the long eighteenth century

In the early nineteenth century, three carceral institutions in Leicester housed debtors. In 1803, 1805, 1807 and 1809, the County Bridewell contained respectively seven, 15, 17 and 17 debtors. In the adjacent County gaol, together with but separate from felons, were incarcerated 18 debtors in 1802, a dozen the following year, eight in 1805, 11 in 1807 and 13 in 1809. In contrast, the Town Gaol provided hospitality for two to five debtors in alternate years between 1803 and 1809.

Ed Brown

Recent Publications

Ed Brown

Publications for Sale

Background image: Stagecoach map

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