Leicestershire’s heritage is really up my street, as it was famed for knitted hosiery. And anyone who knows me knows I like to knit socks. The more colourful the better. Sadly as the museums were still all closed I had to make do with looking for some of the public art. This sculpture across the road from the Castle Gardens represents the wool dyeing industry, which was an essential for fashionable footwear. Although William Elliot was not famed for creating colour but a pure and consistent black dye for gentlemen’s stockings made here back in the day, aka 18th century. (Circular sculpture behind the dye bucket is the Mermaids arch, which I shall discover more about next time we visit)
A lot of the hosiery was made in small workshops and hand finished in the workers homes. The Leicester seamstress pays homage to the women that did this. I reckon this stocking is rather more fancy than the socks I knit.
The clock tower was built by the Victorians to commemorate some of Leicester’s famous benefactors, including the wool merchant William Wigston, wool being used for spinning weaving and knitting. I didn’t linger as the clock tower is a prominent meeting place in the centre of town and there was an organised protest march gathering as I approached, I wasn’t sure social distancing was being respected so I left them to it.
Perhaps protesting is in Leicester’s heart, I think this campaigner is one we would have been proud to support. Alice Hawkins worked as a boot and shoe machinist in Leicester. She became a leading suffragette and through the Women’s Social and Political Union, campaigned for equal rights for women particularly the right for women to vote. She went to prison 5 times between 1907 and 1913 and was awarded the Hunger Strike medal. Sadly her husband Alfred was injured during a protest and broke his leg, although he was awarded a compensation of £100, Alice died a pauper. Women over 30 who met the property criteria gained the right to vote in 1918, ten years later the right to representation act was reformed to include all men and women over the age of 21 and again in 1970 the age fell to 18.
But it’s not all been work and no play. Back in 1996/97 Leicester’s fortunes were more athletic, their sporting prowess brought home the Coco-cola cup for the foot ballers, the Pillkington cup for the rugby players and the Britanic Assurance championship for the county cricketers in both 96 and 98. I confess to not knowing how they have done since, although one of the competitors on the BBC’s 2021 Great British Sewing Bee comes from Leicester .
Just in case you’re interested my socks are knitted on 2mm circular needles using yarn hand dyed by the yarn badger, https://theyarnbadger.com/ a lovely lady from Sheffield who specialises in making self striping sock yarn.