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...