Redcross Street

Greyfriars Townscape Heritage Initiative

The History of 3 Redcross Street, Leicester

3 Redcross Street is now known as 31 Peacock Lane.[1] It was developed in two phases by Thomas Crick (1803 – 1879) whom Patterson describes as the “…the father of the Leicester shoe industry…”.[2]

Crick was responsible for patenting the shoe riveting process by which he was to become a wealthy man.[3] White says that his initial factory was set up in Highcross Street in response to a strike by the shoe hands of Northampton who were protesting against the introduction of new machinery.[4]

Crick built a combined factory and warehouse at 3 Redcross Street in 1857 (pictured above), providing about 9,250 square feet of space over three floors.[5] This had to be extensively rebuilt under the supervision of JG Thompson & Son of Bradford after a serious fire on the evening of 29th June 1927 destroyed the roof and much of the second floor.[6]

This first of Crick’s developments was demolished in August 2006 to make way for the current City Block building.[7] This factory was built of red brick in Flemish bond, the ground floor façade consisting of brick piers on protruding stone plinths. Window and door reveals were of dressed stone with heavy key stones to those on the ground floor. Two parallel stone band courses separated each of the storeys.

With the success of his patents Crick formed a partnership, Thomas Crick & Son, with his son John Throne Crick which valued the business at £24,920.00 on 1st January 1863.[8] They then went on to build a four storey extension on land immediately adjacent to the east in 1864, (just visible on the right of the picture above) which afforded an extra 6,000 square feet of production space as well as 1,500 square feet in a basement.[9] Manufacturing capacity would have more than doubled.

The best description of Crick’s expansion at this time is provided by Holmes who details both the employment figures and technological innovations.[10] The façade of this additional factory, which was designed by Robert Johnson Goodacre (1826 – 1904) of 5 Friar Lane, is retained to the present day, now fronting a modern development of student flats.[11] Again built of red brick in Flemish bond the façade has bands to each of the first, second and third storeys, the window reveals at all levels are of dressed stone blocks with heavy keystones and at the wall plate there is a deep, over-sailing, bracketed timber eaves cornice.

Both buildings have a lengthy history of minor alterations which can be traced through the building plans collection at the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland.[12] Perhaps the most intriguing change was the raising of the roof of the 1857 building by 9 inches in 1906 during the ownership of Thomas Lawrence (1843 – 1911).[13] This alteration, which might be thought to entail a disproportionate amount of work for a very small gain, was supervised by the architects Wakerley & Wells, but the building plan offers no explanation of the purpose.

Although Crick’s business flourished John Throne Crick (1831 – 1867), Thomas’ partner and only son, died in 1867 aged just 36, and then Thomas’ wife of 39 years, Elizabeth, died two years later in 1869. Crick became a philanthropist and the factories were occupied by the York Tanning and Currying Company Limited with which it is possible Crick may have remained for a time as manager.[14]

However, on 5th February 1875, Crick sold the factory premises to Sir James Meek (1815-1891) of Middlethorpe Lodger, York for £10,600.[15] Meek sold on to Thomas Lawrence for the same figure two years later on 29th March 1877.[16] By this time the buildings had been in the occupation of Mr Johnson, Messrs Cooper & Co, and Messrs Gascoigne & Co.[17]

On the 1887 Ordnance Survey Map the site is described as the Bee Hive Boot and Shoe factory, and the directories from 1877 to 1909 list the occupier as John Cooper & Sons Limited.[18] Lawrence describes himself as a manufacturer of boot and shoes as late as the 1901 census and it seems that he probably owned the John Cooper business.[19] Lawrence retained the buildings until his death in 1911 and his estate continued to hold them until 20th September 1920 when both were sold to boot and shoe manufacturer Horace Hollingworth (1879 – 1948). [20]

Hollingworth immediately split the land, selling the 1857 building to H Seal & Co Limited, elastic web manufacturers who had been tenants since 1909, for £7,500, and disposing of the 1864 extension to John Frederick Carnall (1870 – 1951), a hosiery manufacturer, and similarly a sitting tenant since 1909, for £6,750.[21]

H Seal & Co removed temporarily to Whitwick as a result of the 1927 fire, but otherwise continued in occupation of Redcross Street until 1938 when AE Holt (Leicester) Limited became their tenants.[22] Seals held the building until 14th June 1954 when they sold it to Holts for £6,000.[23] Carnall sold the 1864 extension to Arthur Noel Edington (1898 – 1978) on 31st March 1933 for £5,610 18s[24] Edington in turn sold it to A. H. Broughton & Co Limited on 18th August 1947 in consideration of his receiving 50,000 1s shares in that company.[25]

Both Edington and Broughtons each carried on the hosiery business under the Carnall name until it became part of Courtaulds in [1971], so it seems very likely that each of these sales was part of a wider transfer of the business as a going concern.

Broughtons remained the owner of the building until they sold it in 1980 and it was thereafter held by a succession of investment landlords enduring a somewhat forlorn existence hosting a series of nightclubs including “Club 147” and providing a platform for various mobile telephone masts.

References

  1. Following the construction of the Southgates underpass it was for a time known as No 45 St Nicholas Circle, and then 24 Carey’s Close.
  2. A Temple Patterson, Radical Leicester: A History of Leicester 1780 – 1850 (Leicester: University College Leicester, 1954) p. 388.
  3. [Reference to the patents at the B/L Business and I/P Centre]; Will of Thomas Crick, The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland: Great Glenn 1879 R. p. 268.
  4. William White, History, Gazetteer and Directory of the Counties of Leicester and Rutland (Sheffield: William White, 1877) p. 276.
  5. The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland: Building Plan Leicester Borough 1857/885, 6th March 1857.
  6. Leicester Mercury 30th June 1927 p.1,headline and cols. 1 -2, Leicester Mail 30th June 1927 p. 7, cols. 3-4 (picture only); The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland: Leicester City Building Plan 33469, 2nd September 1927.
  7. [Reference to City Block planning permission].
  8. Indenture of partnership 20th June 1863, The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland: DE 3225/32.
  9. The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland: Building Plan Leicester Borough 1864/168, 12th February 1864.
  10. David Holmes “Development of the boot and shoe Industry in Leicester during the nineteenth century” Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society vol. 83 (2009) p.175ff at p. 183-4.
  11. The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland: Building Plan 1864/168, 12th February 1864. As to Goodacre see Alison Felstead, Jonathan Franklin & Leslie Pinfield, Directory of British Architects 1834 – 1900 (London: Mansell, 1993) p. 359 and WT Pike, A Dictionary of Edwardian Biograph: Leicestershire & Rutland (Edinburgh: Peter Bell, 1985) p. 153.
  12. Some care is needed because not all the permissions were implemented, for example Borough of Leicester Plan 11786 for new drainage submitted by Thomas Lawrence in October 1904 was superseded by a different scheme in March the following year.
  13. Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland: Leicester City Plan 13264, 26th October 1906.
  14. Conveyance 12th August 1871 Thomas Crick to Samuel Crick and 14 others, being trustees of Crick’s Retreat Almshouses, The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland: DE3225/34 (alms houses); J. G. Harrod & Co Postal and Commercial Directory of Leicestershire and Rutland (London & Norwich: J.G. Harrod & Co., 1870) p. 496 col. 1.
  15. Copy Abstract of the Title of the Personal Representative of Mr Thomas Lawrence Deceased to Freehold Messuages of Tenements Warehouses and Buildings in Redcross Street and Highcross Street in Leicester (1920) (private).
  16. Copy Abstract of Title (above fn 15).
  17. William White, History, Gazetteer and Directory of the Counties of Leicester and Rutland (Sheffield: William White, 1877) p. 397 col. 2.
  18. 1887 Ordnance Survey Leicestershire, sheet xxx I.10.24 1/500th. John Cooper & Sons Ltd company number 50650 see TNA:PRO:BT31/15712/50650, and from 1919 John Cooper and Sons (Beehive) Ltd company number 155610 see TNA:PRO: BT31/24674/155610 and same BT34/4368/155610.
  19. 1901 Census TNA:PRO:RG13/2967 f 5.
  20. Copy Indenture of Conveyance 23rd September 1920 Horace Hollingworth to H Seal & Co. Limited (private). The entry identifying the conveyance of 20th September 1920 is in a schedule and no sale price is given.
  21. Copy Indenture of Conveyance 23rd September 1920 Horace Hollingworth to H Seal & Co. Limited, and copy Indenture of Conveyance 24th September 1920 Horace Hollingworth to John Frederick Carnall (both private).
  22. Kelly’s Directory of the City of Leicester 1938 (London: Kelly’s Directories Limited, 1938) p. 243, col.3. H Seal & Co. nevertheless retained premises in Whitwick where they continue to the present day.
  23. Copy conveyance H Seal & Co Limited to A E Holt (Leicester) Ltd 14th June 1954 (private).
  24. Copy conveyance John Frederick Carnall to Arthur Noel Edington 31st March 1933 (private).
  25. Copy conveyance 18th August 1947 Arthur Noel Edington to A.H. Broughton & Co Limited (private).