Sunday, 14 November 2010

Good Old Leicester

The proofs of my latest book have arrived. The book is called Hometown History Leicester and it’s a children’s history book. It’s exciting to see how the editor has converted my plain text into brightly coloured spreads. She has made my words come alive and it was a delight to check them...

...but the editor has also presented me with a tough task. I have to write a biog in no more than 30 words explaining why I enjoy writing about local history for children. And there’s the problem. Where to start? How to get it all squashed into 30 words?

I’ve lived in Leicester all my life and I’ve always been fascinated by its history. My favourite outing as a child was to the Newarke Houses museum and it’s still a great place to visit. I used to teach history and I love writing for children. That’s forty-six words. I have some editing to do.

Researching and writing this book was a pure delight but I fear I’ve become an LHB – a Leicester History Bore. In fact here are just five of my many fascinating facts.

Fascinating Fact No. 1

Leicester (or Ratae Corieltauvorum as it was once called) was important to the Romans. It was a strategic point where the River Soar could be crossed without drowning in mud and so well worth defending.

(This picture shows the Roman Jewry Wall and remains of the Roman baths.)

 Fascinating Fact No. 2
The Anglo-Saxons established a market in High Cross. We now have a new and glitzy High Cross Shopping Centre not far from that original site. 

 Fascinating Fact No. 3

AND the Vikings, who preferred to set up a market of their own, did so on the same site where our Leicester market is today. 

(This is Leicester Market, the biggest covered, outdoor market in Europe.

Fascinating Fact No. 4

The Guildhall was built by the local religious guilds. When Henry VIII abolished them, the Leicester Corporation bought it for their town hall.

It’s still in use today. You can visit the Victorian cells or stand in the Great Hall where the Tudor Mayors held huge banquets where indecent amounts of food were served up while the Leicester poor were most likely starving in the streets.

 Fascinating Fact No. 5
With the Industrial Revolution came a need to improve our transport system. George Stephenson attended a meeting at Leicester’s Bell Hotel. (I remember that pub. It was opposite Lewis’s.) His son, Robert Stephenson worked on The Comet, Leicester’s first steam engine, and George brought it to Leicester on a canal boat and then drove it on its maiden journey from the brand new West Bridge station.

Are you asleep yet? There’s more and if I’ve wetted your appetite then the book will be out in May/June 2011. (Watch this space. I may mention it again!) It’s aimed at 8 to 10 year olds but it makes a good read for any age (a completely unbiased opinion!)

And now I’m off to edit my biog. “I’ve lived in Leicester all my life and...



  1. I love fascinating facts.
    I'm from Darlington, where George Stephenson's first locomotive 'Locomotion No. 1' is on display in my local museum.
    It's always interesting to read other people's local history.
    Good luck with the biography!

  2. Hi Jenna, glad you enjoyed my fascinating facts. Darlington museum sounds fascinating. Might just come and visit in the spring.

  3. These are wonderful and interesting facts and pictures. Love it! Thanks for sharing!!

  4. Hmm. Hope you don't mind, here's what I've come up with:

    I’ve always lived in Leicester. My favourite childhood outing was to the Newarke Houses museum, still a great place to visit. Used to teach history and love writing for children.

  5. Hi Nancy. Glad you enjoyed them.

    Thank you so much for that Marisa. I've got three draft versions - four now with yours :-) and I'm going to sleep on them. Things always read differently the following day.

  6. Well you have me hooked! Because I love history, too, and I'm an Anglophile who has never been there, although my ancestors are from England and Wales. I'm intrigued by your Leicester stories and think it's wonderful that you have so much passion for the history there, and are able to translate that into stories for children. I would love to read your book!! It sounds delightful.

  7. Not boring at all! These are just lovely, and wonderful story fodder :D

  8. Ros,
    You know what a soft spot I have for our old hometown ......last time I got together with my other 3 sisters, one of them (Helen the artistic one) presented each of us with a beautiful poster /collage she had made of Leicester complete with pics of all our old schools, homes, Bradgate Park, Old John, De Montfort Hall, Guildhall, War Memorial, the shul, clock tower, Abbey Park, the market etc etc.
    It has pride of place in all our homes.

    I remember enjoying writing history projects at school about the town - and your book sounds terrific.

  9. Hi Karen and thank you so much. I'll bet Utah has a pretty fascinating background as well though.

  10. Thanks Merrilee, and yes, they have given me one or two ideas for stories. All I need now is a bit of oomph to get down to writing them.

  11. Hi Ann, I knew you'd like those photos. What a lovely idea of Helen's to make a poster/collage for you all. You can't beat a good dose of nostalgia.

  12. How wonderful to learn all of this reading your wondrful Blog. Thank you for the lesson, I am most certainly coming back for more and yes, please remind us of the book due date we can order it. As always...fluffy hugs and washed wet licks from Poppy and Barney for you and Rod. x

  13. Sounds/looks wonderful!!!

    Bios are hard! Good luck with the editing :)

  14. How interesting - I love reading new facts about places! I've never been to Leicester.

    Good luck with your bio - isn't it the WORST, trying to write about yourself?

  15. I love this! I'm a history major (and planning on trying my hand at historical mid-grade next), so I love any and all history posts. Please do tell us more about this one as publication draws closer!

  16. Thanks Talli, the bio is done and emailed.

    Hi Amie and thanks, I will no doubt be mentioning the book again!