Leicester Central

This section covers Leicester Central Station.

Although nearly everything at platform level has long gone there is still much that remains of Leicester Central Station, making it one of the most rewarding areas to explore.

Click here for a map of this area from Bing
Notes on using the Bing Map:
The map linked to is the Ordnance Survey map.
To see an aerial photograph of the area covered by the map click on the tab labelled “Ordnance Survey” at top right of the screen and select “Aerial”.
When finished with the map click on the browser “Back” button till you return here.

Update November 2002 - The Leicester Mercury displayed proposals by consultants of the Leicester Regeneration Company which showed most of the Leicester Central Station site replaced by a 100-berth Marina connected to the river Soar and the canal.  The rest of the site would be a small park.
Update August 2003 - The Leicester Mercury reported that the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment had expressed concern that the proposed construction of a marina on and around the site of Leicester Central Station would affect an area of major archaeological importance.
This area is near the centre of the site of Roman Leicester (Ratae Corieltauvum) and considerable Roman remains have been discovered in limited excavations.  This includes the Roman pavement, now moved to the Jewry Wall Museum, which was discovered some decades before the Central Station was built.  There are also medieval remains in the area and even indications of the iron age settlement which predated the Roman town.
As a result, the proposed site of the marina has been moved to north of Soar Lane, but there was no mention of any new plans for the station site.
Update February 2005 - The Leicester Mercury had a special supplement about proposals by the Leicester Regeneration Company for redeveloping the station site and the surroundings as the “Waterside Area”.  It stated that no decision had been made about the Leicester Central Station viaduct.  It could be demolished which would give access to important archaeology underneath, but there would then be the obligation to investigate it, which would take a long time and hold up the redevelopment.  Alternatively, the viaduct could be retained and used as “an elevated area of regeneration” featuring shops, bars, restaurants, and maybe housing, all with a good view over the Waterside Area.  The arches of the viaduct could also be redeveloped.
Update March 2007 - All had gone quiet about these proposals but the Leicester Mercury reported that the city council had approved planning permission for the regeneration of the area between the river and the Great Central station viaduct.  The scheme, which the developers hope can start by the end of the summer, includes a mix of flats, shops, and businesses, and will rival London’s regenerated Covent Garden.  “The railway arches could become workshops, artisan units, cafes and bars.”
Update Autumn 2014 - After an extensive archaeological excavation a large part of the area at the rear of the station is being redeveloped with student accommodation.
Update October 2017 - Planning permission has been granted and work has started to redevelop the remaining station building and parcels building.  Most will be retained with the later upper wall at the front being replaced by something more in keeping.  Plans, and a full report on the station building’s condition, can be found at http://rcweb.leicester.gov.uk/planning/onlinequery/Details.aspx?AppNo=20171085.  The port cochere has already been cleared of vehicle repair businesses, though these plans do not affect the vehicle repair workshops within the arches of the viaduct at the rear of the station.

Leicester Central Station

Leicester Central Station on Great Central Street.  The entrance hall is split into two and both parts are used by vehicle repair companies.  Although this is an old photograph, little has changed except for vegetation growing out of the line of stone in the wall (see later photograph below).  However, this photograph been retained since it is difficult to get a photograph without more vehicles parked around the near end.

Entrance hall, Leicester Central station

Inside the part of the entrance hall, now occupied by a car repair company.
Update October 2017 - This area has now been cleared pending redevelopment of the station.

Entrance hall, Leicester Central station

Inside this part of the entrance hall was occupied in 2001 by a construction company.
The bricked up rectangular entrance on the right led to the booking hall and on to a subway under the tracks, leading to stairs up to the platforms.
This area is now used for the maintenance of taxis and is much more full.
Update October 2017 - This area has now been cleared pending redevelopment of the station.

Parcels Offices entrance, Leicester Central station

Leicester Central Station with the entrance to the Parcels Offices on the left.

Parcels Offices entrance, Leicester Central station.

The entrance to the Parcels Offices.

Leicester Central station

Over all view of Leicester Central Station.  The new industrial units at track level can be seen on the left.  The low brick retaining wall left of centre and the roadway on the left to the factory units were built after the station was closed.  Behind the wall there used to be a turntable, and beyond where the turntable stood the tall building in the centre was the Parcels Office.
Update October 2017 - The modern length of wall with the buttresses has been demolished as part of the new development.

Platform level with parcels office, Great Central station, Leicester

At track level, standing where the Up Main Line ran, looking north.  The Parcels Office on the right had a siding with a small dock running alongside - the white van is parked across the sites of both of them.

Site of Leicester Central station platforms

At track level, looking back from as far as you can easily go (a company has fenced off the whole of the northern end).  This is looking south, towards London.

Old platform at Great Central station, Leicester

All Saints Road runs under the track bed which is supported by a bridge, just to the right of where the photographer stood to take the photograph above.
The bridge is still in place (see below) and no buildings have been erected on it.  This shows part of the bridge with a section of  the down-side, north bay platform still in place, complete with edging stones and paving slabs.  There is a similar section of the up-side, north bay platform behind the photographer.

A look around the outside of Leicester Central Station.

All Saints Road bridge, GCR, Leicester

Just to the north of the station entrance All Saints Road runs completely under the track bed and platforms.  This bridge is still in place to give access to the northerly industrial units on the site of the platforms.  The dark cavern under the bridge, which is home to dozens of pigeons, can be seen in this view from Great Central Street.

GCR viaduct, Soar Lane, Leicester

This photograph was taken after walking round the north end of the station to the rear and looking back along Soar Lane.  There was another very deep steel bridge across here.

GCR viaduct, Jarvis Street, Leicester

Turning and looking to the right shows this view of the rear of the station backing onto Jarvis Street.

GCR All Saints Road bridge, Leicester

Looking through the bridge over All Saints Road from the rear of the station.

GCR viaduct, Jarvis Street, Leicester

Looking north along Jarvis Street at the rear of the station.  There is great industry here in the arches of the viaduct with many car repair and re-spray businesses, working away underneath the industrial units on top!

Update March 2007 - The Leicester Mercury reported that the council had approved planning permission for the regeneration of the area here between the river and the Great Central viaduct.  The scheme, which the developers hope can start by the end of the summer, includes a mix of flats, shops, and businesses, and will rival London’s regenerated Covent Garden.  “The railway arches could become workshops, artisan units, cafes and bars.”

Demolition near viaduct

Update January 2017 - The regeneration of the area between the river Soar and the Great Central viaduct has started.  Demolition provided a panoramic view of the viaduct, though some of that panorama has been lost due to the building of the high-rise student accommodation on the left.  Eventually the land in the foreground will be redeveloped too.
To left of centre is the ex-GCR generator house.

Great Central generator house, Leicester

The ex-GCR generator house, across the road from the station, on the corner of Jarvis Street and Alexander Street.  The tower is visible in the photograph above, in the distance, on the left.

Rear entrance, rooms and chimney, Great Central station, Leicester

The regular pattern of the arches of the viaduct is broken opposite the old power house building where there was a rear entrance (the large black door) and some station rooms complete with the chimney built into the viaduct wall.

This was a rear entrance to the station and opened onto a wide passage which gave access to the lift to the platform, which was also reached from the front of the station by one of the three narrow passages shown in the old photographs of Leicester Central.  The entrance is positioned on Jarvis Street, opposite Alexander Street.  It is wide enough to accommodate small carts and could have been used to transport items to and from the platforms (e.g. perhaps beer barrels for the buffet) avoiding the passenger areas at the front of the station.
It is not known if it was used as an entrance by any travellers, such as workmen in nearby factories.

Entrance to chamber with Roman mosaic, Great Central station, Leicester

At the south end of the viaduct, just beyond the last of the full size arches, is the entrance to the chamber which was built over a Roman mosaic floor.  In 1977 the mosaic was moved to the Jewry Wall Museum a couple of hundred yards away.

The cast iron sign that used to be above the entrance describing the chamber — “In this chamber is a fine tessellated Roman pavement discovered in 1830”.

Looking down onto site of Leicester Central station

A view from the south looking down onto the site of Leicester Central station with Welles Street in the foreground.  The viaduct on which the station was raised is still intact, though the south end is in use as a car park and the north end has had a small industrial estate built on it. 

Looking down onto site of Leicester Central station, zoomed

Zooming in on the site of Leicester Central station to show more detail.  Behind the maroon car at lower middle is a short surviving section of platform, presumably over the chamber which had housed the Roman mosaic floor.  Behind, on the left are the industrial units, and to the right of them, beyond the blue fence, is the Parcels Office.

R101 aerial photograph of Leicester Central station

For comparison, above is an aerial photograph of Leicester Central station looking north taken from the R101 airship, apparently on 18th October 1929 during a test flight (see http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/was-it-a-bird-was-it-a-plane-no-it-was-r101/story-30079152-detail/story.html).  The R101 was later lost on its ill-fated journey to India.  The turntable is to the right of the centre, with Great Central Road just beyond running parallel to the station.  The River Soar / Grand Union Canal is in the foreground at bottom left.

Site of GCR bridge, Welles Street, Leicester

There was another steel bridge here, at the south end of the station looking east up Welles Street towards Holy Bones.  The retaining walls are covered in white glaze-faced bricks, as are those under the bridge at All Saints Road (above).  The Jewry Wall Museum (well worth a visit, especially to see the Roman mosaic which was moved from its vault within the station viaduct) and Vaughan college are just beyond the bridge on the right.
Note the building built across the track bed which can just be seen top right – this features in the photograph below.

Building over GCR track bed, Talbot Lane, Leicester

At the end of Talbot Lane looking northwards, with the Jewry Wall Museum and Vaughan College behind.  This office building can be seen in the photograph above on the right edge of the bridge, which can just be made out across the pavement in front of the car.
The track bed went straight through where this building stands, and Leicester Central South Signal box was sited on the left across the tracks.
In the early 1960s I would often cycle here on a summer evening with school friends to see the express fish train from Grimsby hauled by a “Britannia” class 4-6-2 . It would stop in the platform at Leicester Central station and take on water before continuing its journey south with its rake of white fish vans.  It is hard to imagine this now.

© 2001-2017   Text and photographs copyright Nigel Tout, unless otherwise indicated.