Being a Tourist in my Hometown

My Hometown

I was going to write about knitting this week, but instead I’m writing about my hometown. I’ve lived in various cities in several countries and found the residents are always proud of their city. I’ve come to the conclusion that people from my hometown are unassuming, modest and industrious. They tend to denigrate their city rather than express pride.

During the last 10 days things have been changing. The eyes of the world have been upon us and we are seeing our city in a new light. As I write this blog post, I’m watching my hometown on the television, seeing places that I have visited many times. My hometown is Leicester and today we reinter the remains of King Richard III.

Statue of Richard iii outside Leicester Cathedral

Leicester has always had an unusual relationship with Richard III. He is remembered in pub names (Richard III on Highcross Street and The Last Plantagenet on Granby Street), street names (Richard III Road) and a school (Richard III Infants and Nursery School). There is a certain amount of feeling that Richard III has been misrepresented in history.

His story is well known, since he lost his life nearby at the Battle of Bosworth and was said either to have been thrown off Bow Bridge or buried somewhere in Leicester. Most of medieval Leicester is long since gone, so I don’t think anyone thought that the remains of Richard III would be found. Or could be identified. Or that so many people would be interested when they were. After all, no one is ever interested in Leicester.

On Tuesday, after work, we attempted to visit the cathedral. Shortly after joining the queue we were told that we were unlikely to get in that evening. The queue started in Jubilee Square, passed down Applegate, round the corner onto Peacock Lane, then zig-zagged in front of Cathedral gardens, passed along the side of Cathedral gardens and zig-zagged in front of the cathedral. So, a very long queue!

Since it was very cold, we decided to abandon queuing and stroll around the area. Even in the heart of medieval Leicester, there are few original buildings remaining, but it is full of attractive, interesting buildings from many eras and well worth a visit. I’m going to restrict myself to showing you two of the oldest buildings, otherwise this blog post might not end!

Nearly Demolished!

The Guildhall is on Guildhall Lane which passes along the north side of the cathedral. It was built around 1390 as the Guildhall of Corpus Christi. It has had various functions since then, and at one point was so dilapidated that it was nearly demolished. Now it is a museum and performance venue.

The Guildhall, Guildhall Lane, Leicester was built around 1390.

Wygston’s House

If you continue to walk down Guildhall Lane, you will come to the very modern Jubilee Square where you will see another timber-framed building. This is Wygston’s House. I loved visiting it as a child when it was a costume museum; there were several rooms set out as shops from different eras. Now the contents are elsewhere and you can only visit on Heritage Sundays.

Wygston's House, Applegate, Leicester is the best preserved medieval house in Leicester.

St Martin’s Cathedral

Queues outside Leicester Cathedral, waiting to view the coffin of Richard iii

Early Wednesday morning I returned and joined a far shorter queue. It was a cold, but sunny morning and cathedral staff were out chatting to people as they waited. Many white roses had been placed in front of the cathedral.

White roses placed outside Leicester Cathedral for Richard iii

Queuing also gave me time to study the cathedral building. I’ve been told that this is the smallest in England. Rather unassuming, like my hometown! It wasn’t built as a cathedral, which is why it is not that grand. There has been a church here for about 900 years, but it only became a cathedral in 1927.

Gargoyle on Leicester Cathedral

Stunning Embroidery

Once inside the cathedral we walked a short distance to coffin. It was on a simple wooden stand covered in a beautiful velvet, embroidered funeral pall. This was designed and made by Jacquie Binns, a local artist.

On one side there are modern figures representing those involved in the search for, identification of and reinterment of the remains of Richard III.

Coffin of Richard iii in Leicester cathedral

On the other side the medieval mourners represent the life and times of Richard III. The figures are shown in the manner of a medieval tomb.

Coffin of Richard iii in Leicester cathedral

The funeral pall will go on display in the cathedral after the reinterment is over. It is a reminder, not only of Richard and the recent events, but also that in the times of Richard, textiles were some of the most valuable possessions due to the skills and time required to produce them.

Not a Yorkshire Rose

Carved cinquefoil on porch to Leicester Cathedral

This is the porch outside the North door of the cathedral. You might think that the carving is a Yorkshire rose, but actually it is a Cinquefoil. This was first used, as an emblem, by the Earls of Leicester in the 13th century. Cinquefoils from various eras, in wood, stained glass and wrought iron, can be found all over the city. Indeed, the cinquefoil is still used by many organisations, including Leicester City Council, Leicester City Football Club and Leicester Civic Society.

A Tourist in My Hometown

We have a large group of friends who once lived in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire. Although some have moved away, we meet up once a year for a day out together. A few weeks ago we met in Leicester. It was interesting to share my hometown with those who had not been there before or had not visited for a long time. During the last 20 years Leicester has changed beyond recognition. I did feel a sense of pride in showing people the gems around the city; and we only scratched the surface!

We met in a Victorian pub called The Salmon. You might imagine that a pub with such an unusual name would be well-known, but many of us did not even know where it is. Imagine my surprise to discover that it is on the street where my grandparents lived when my father was born. Maybe my grandfather drank there!

This was followed by a visit to either the New Walk Museum or the King Richard iii Visitor Centre. This was my first visit to the visitor centre; it is very good. There are exhibits about the life and times of Richard III, his reputation and the discovery and identification of his remains. And since genetic fingerprinting was developed a Leicester University, it is apt that this technology was used to identify the remains of King Richard III when discovered in Leicester.

We reconvened in another pub before visiting one of Leicester’s many Indian restaurants. A good time was had by all and a note made to be a tourist in my hometown more often!

If you want to visit Leicester take a look at the Visit Leicester website.

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