Many lives of Leicester

Archaeology shows that Leicester was a celtic settlement in the Iron age, long before the Romans arrived and created a garrison town. With Romans and soldiers and access to a navigable river, the community naturally grew. We didn’t have to wander far to see some old buildings. Sadly there is very little left of the castle other than a few walls.

Old castle walls

But the castle grounds weren’t wasted as they were incorporated into the more modern homes.

Inside thd GuildHall

Commerce thrived, and wealth was acquired which needed showing off. Leicester has one of the countries oldest surviving guildhalls built 600 years ago. It’s now a museum, showing off it’s finery.

Magnificent fireplace in the guildhall

Guildhalls frequently became the town’s courthouses and prisons, Leicester’s being no exception, proudly showing off it’s gibbet iron. This one is a replica of one used to display the executed body of James Cook. He was hung for a grusome murder infront of a 30000 strong crowd in 1832, and that was before social media was banned from showing grizzly images. Apparently criminals weren’t always dead before they were hoisted up for public display.

Gibbet Iron, no longer in use

Thomas Cook (no connection to the afore mentioned murderer) was born in Derbyshire but made his home in Leicester. It was here that he set about encouraging social improvement through education and consumption of less alcohol. He saw the emerging railway as a means to create this opportunity and in 1841 he organised his first escorted tour. He took a group of 500 people 12 miles from Leicester to Loughborough to attend a temperance meeting, it cost 1 shilling. The rest they say is history.

Thomas Cook overseeing the building work at the train station

Leicester also played a pioneering role in the knitwear industry, introducing machinery to manufacture hosiery, there are knitting machines on display in the Abbey Pump house. However it is the Leicester Seamstress that is commemorated with a city centre sculpture where she is sewing up the stocking seams by hand.

The Leicester Seamstress

Space to explore

One of Leicester’s attractions is the National Space Centre

We’ve seen the brown signs as we’ve whizzed by on 4 wheels but never had the time to stop and investigate. So now that we were close enough to walk into space, it was time to take that giant leap. We invited Tim to join us for the day as he has a degree in astrophysics, I thought he might be able to give Eric some intelligent conversation.

National Space Centre.

Tim and Eric discussing the practicalities of living on the ISS

It was an interesting venue, even though it was geared towards the millions of little aliens swarming beneath our feet from the many school visits taking place. We got a better view looking up

Satellite in the rocket tower.

But being true boaters, once we’d done space, we nipped across the road to the Abbey Pumping Station, a free entry museum, (unlike the expensive NSC) which showcases Leicester’s industrial and technology heritage in magnificent Victorian building

Unlike the space industry where, practicality and weight take high priority, the Victorians added finesse to their structures.

Both eras are awesome but beauty is subjective and if I’m honest I be hard pushed to say which venue I enjoyed more.

It’s a good half hours walk back into the town centre, more if you stop to enjoy the cherry blossom along the river. But there is mooring beyond the museum’s and I’d strongly recommend visiting both if you’re feeling flush, (and yes you’ll see how an astronaut toilet works) and definitely visit the pumping station if you’ve got an hour to spare.

National Space centre

Abbey Pumping Station

From Car Park to Cathedral

Via the Castle Garden. We weren’t sure if we’d get a mooring in central Leicester but even though we’d been enjoying some glorious cruising weather, it seemed most boats were still tucked up for the winter. The waterways quiet and moorings plentiful, so we had a whole pontoon to ourselves. The pontoon itself has a locked gate into the gardens and the gardens are locked to the public at 5.30 each day, meaning not only did we get an extra level of security but our own private garden and castle ruin to enjoy in the evening.

Castle gardens

This is our first visit to Leicester, it seems a friendly city, not too big, the usual array of commercialism and a sense of pride in its history.

Most notably, Richard III. In 1485 he was defeated by Henry Tudor and killed at the battle of Bosworth. This was the last battle of the War of the Roses and marked the end of the middle ages in England. His body was unceremoniously buried in Leicester’s Greyfriars church although according to wiki, in the garden, not the car park. Henry Tudor, now King Henry VII, did pay £50 (£40 000 today ) to have a monument erected but over the years the site was lost. Until in 2012 research lead the RIII society to a council car park, ironically to a reserved bay marked with an R. During their first excavation human bones were discovered, which we now know to be those of Richard. After a bit of wrangling, he was ceremonially reburied in Leicester Cathedral.

Richard III

We’ve never been ones for paying homage at tombs, but we were both touched by the simple dignity that surrounded this new grave.

I particularly liked the modern stained glass that overlooked the tomb, (photo taken from the web)

Leicester Cathedral stained glass