Public encouraged to help record Leicester’s working-class Victorian history

Posted by es328 at Jan 26, 2017 10:50 AM |
Online historical photograph collection showing many unidentified buildings locally has been digitally mapped by University of Leicester

Issued by the University of Leicester Press Office on 26 January 2017

People are being encouraged to share their memories of historic Leicester by contributing to a new digital map of ‘Vanished Leicester’ which has been developed by researchers at the University of Leicester.

The digital map uses a collection of photographs taken by retired architect Dennis Calow which show a number of buildings demolished in the post-war slum clearance programmes in Leicestershire.

The map, produced using Historic Digimap, the British Geological Survey website and Google’s Fusion Tables, allows users to interact with Calow’s collection of photographs.

The University of Leicester is now encouraging the public to get in touch with their memories to build up a history of the under-recorded buildings.

Dr Simon Dixon, Archives and Special Collections Manager from the University of Leicester, explained: “Recent years have seen an increase in the popularity of historical images of this type, which is reflected in the number of popular local ‘nostalgia’ pages on Facebook which regularly post historic images. These also allow users to record their personal memories of place through lively discussions about the images posted.”

In the mid-1950s, when the clearance of working-class Victorian housing resumed after wartime interruption, Calow became interested in the historical value of the pre-20th century buildings deemed fit for demolition.

The architect dedicated much of his spare time to taking photographs of them before the bulldozers moved in and by the 1970s around 12,500 houses had been demolished.

Of particular interest in the map is the sequence of dots around the Haymarket Centre, showing the buildings which were demolished to make way for the shopping precinct in 1973.

The loss of these buildings, and the town planning policies it represented, were lamented by Sue Townsend in her 1981 musical The Ghost of Daniel Lambert.

While a previous project received around 100 user-generated comments, such as Ernest Higgins’ note on Albert Doo’s chip shop on the corner of Hastings Road, many of the photographs have not yet been mapped.

Dr Dixon added: “There are still many photographs that don’t have stories attached to them. We are always pleased to see more comments added to the Vanished Leicester collection, and are grateful to all those who have already shared their memories or got in touch with us directly.

“Please keep these coming, and let us know if you can help identifying any properties we don’t currently have co-ordinates for.”

The ‘Vanished Leicester’ collection is available here

View the digital map ‘Vanished Leicester’ here

To share your memories of historic Leicester get in touch with the University of Leicester Special Collections on 0116 252 2056 or email

More information about the ‘Vanished Leicester’ project is available here:


Notes to editors:

For more information contact Dr Simon Dixon on email: or call +44 (0)116 294 4871.

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