Sightseeing in Leicester
In truth Leicester is neither quaint, nor full of historic places to visit. However, the few truly ancient or historic buildings it has are shown off well and the city is quite rightly proud of them. Here are a few of the sites worth seeing in Leicester.
The undoubted oldest structure in Leicester is the Jewry Wall. This is a section of ancient wall about 5m high and 23m long alongside Talbot Lane in the city centre. Originally known as Hadrian's bath House, it is part of what was the Roman baths, built there sometime around 130 AD. Unfortunately, unlike other Roman bath houses, due to an engineering error the aqueduct that was supposed to feed water into the baths was mis-aligned, resulting in the Roman bathers having to use a cistern to fill the baths by hand. A shocking state of affairs in those days! There is of course a Jewry Wall Museum, which also houses Roman artefacts, including Roman milestones from nearby Fosse Way and mosaic floor-tiles.
Enclosed in the same grounds as St Martin's, Leicester Cathedral, and in-between Guildhall Lane and Peacock Lane, is the Guildhall. This half-timbered building was originally built in the late fourteenth century and has, through the ages, been the Town Hall, a prison and a police station. Now open to the public, the warped beams and rickety floor in the Great Hall immediately demonstrate that you are in a truly ancient building. In 1642 part of it was occupied by the town's library, making it the third oldest public library in the country. For the more ghoulish visitors, it is reputed to be the most haunted building in Leicester. You can see the old prison cells and the conditions endured by their captives and if you wish, you can see the gibbet from which the bodies of the hanged were put on public display up until 1840. Whilst in this area you can also visit the cathedral. However, apart from the finely carved medieval wooden entrance porch, there is little evidence of the original eleventh century building.
Refurbished in 2006 and early 2007 Newarke House Museum is housed in two sixteenth century buildings, Wygston's Chantry House and Skeffington House, at the bottom of the Castle Gardens. Its main theme is the daily life of 'Everyman in 20th Century Leicester', with galleries dedicated to displays on the story of immigration into Leicester, the Teddy Boy era and a recreation of shopping in the 1940s. The museum also houses the history of the Royal Leicestershire regiment.
Another newly refurbished museum in Leicester is the New Walk Museum off Princess Road West, as you head out of the city centre to the South West. This is Leicester's oldest established museum and houses scientific and artistic collections. Current exhibitions include; Wild Space - looking at the biodiversity of the planet, Mighty Dinosaurs, Leicestershire's rocks, Ancient Egyptians, and of course, art galleries. The art galleries contain varied collections on themes such as; Our World through Art, Expressionism, The Captured Image, World art and Gallery Nine, which is devoted to the artistic expression of the multi-ethnic nature of the city.
Leicester is the home of the National Space Centre, which is off Corporation Road to the North of the city. If travelling to it by car, the road signage can be confusing. However, when near, you can't miss its distinctive shape. Unfortunately, you won't be able to see any rockets taking off from here as the National Space Centre is a museum concerned with space exploration. The centre has a constantly changing series of events and activities. However, it also houses permanent exhibitions such as space rockets, space capsules, satellites, orbiting the earth and exploring the universe. There is an emphasis on the National Space Centre being an interactive museum, so there's plenty to get involved in rather than being a passive viewer. After standing by the huge booster rockets that are on display, you can go to The Space Theatre, which takes you on a journey through the galaxy. The National Space Centre excels as an educational museum and supports a variety of educational activities.
Nearby to Leicester city is Market Bosworth, not necessarily in itself worth a visit although it is a pleasant village to see. The special thing about it is that nearby, to the south at Sutton Cheny, is the historic Bosworth Field, site of the famous defeat of Richard III by Henry Tudor. Here there is a visitor's centre to provide all the background information you might need before you proceed on a tour of the battlefield itself. There is an annual re-enactment of the last battle in the 'War of the Roses' on the week-end nearest to August 22nd, to commemorate the actual battle of 1485. NB. Archaeologists are currently re-assessing whether this was the actual site of the battle or not. If you visit it you may wonder how well the site matches the contemporary descriptions of it.
You might also consider visiting Belvoir Castle. Historic home of the Duke & Duchess of Rutland, it commands a beautiful view (belvoir) across the Vale of Belvoir. Dating back to Norman times it was almost completely destroyed during the 'Wars of the Roses'. The current building was completed in the 19th Century. Belvoir Castle is off the A1 near Grantham.