Friday, 19 January 2018

The Singer Building


When I was a child Singer sewing machines were a big part of my life. My Grandma and Great Aunt, who I've talked about here, both used Singers in their dressmaking workshop. My earliest memory is of them being powered by treadle. I grew up to the sound of those machines, almost like a lullaby, the thrum of the needle as it raced across yards of cloth.

But then they had them converted to electricity some time in the 1960s and I never quite felt the same about the machines after that, although I'm sure it made work much easier for Grandma and Great Aunt.

Cut to last month, and I'm wandering through the City of Leicester gathering items to include in my MA assignment about being a flâneur, as I mentioned in my previous post. I'm standing near the top of High Street looking up at the magnificent Singer Building. It was built in 1902 as a showroom for the Singer Sewing Machine Co and although its official name is The Singer Building, it's often referred to as The Empire Building because it has the most amazing carvings of animals each sitting above a Union Jack, just beneath the first floor windows:
  • a kangaroo for Australia
  • a camel for Egypt
  • a mountain lion for Canada
  • a tiger for India
  • an elephant for Burma 
  • and an ostrich for Africa
I managed to get photographs of the elephant, ostrich and tiger:




I was standing, admiring this artwork, with my back to High Cross Shopping Centre. Some building work is being done to the High Cross shop fronts and so a hoarding has been erected. As I turned round the art style chosen for the hoarding was so dramatically different that I took a photograph of that too:










12 comments:

  1. That building is wonderful and sometimes if I am passing by and see someone who looks a stranger to the city will say. "Have you looked up and seen the carvings there-they are fascinating" and then a good conversation often ensues. The treadle Singer sewing machines have not been lost forever. Some are still around in local pubs-albeit with wooden tops-indeed my feet have been on some of those treadles recently!!!!!! Petra.

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    1. You've seen it too! Brilliant. I thought I was the only person who enjoyed gazing at it.

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  2. wow - great building. The shots you took remind me of Grand Central Station in NYC.

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    1. I've seen that station on the TV. It looks amazing.

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  3. Lovely post. That building is interesting. I can still smell those wooden drawers in the sewing machine which held the spools. My mother bought a Brother electric one later in life but much preferred the treadle, which was a good piece of furniture too.

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    1. Oh yes! The smell of the wood and the smell of that machine oil too.

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  4. Hi Ros - yes those Singer sewing machines were special ... my father and his brothers both converted theirs to electricity ... but I remember them. Fascinating contrast of frontages - thankfully one is temporary! Love the photos and history .. cheers Hilary

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    1. Yes, Hilary, we're hoping it's temporary....although it is beautifully done.

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  5. My grandfather was a tailor, Ros, and my mother inherited his treadle Singer. A wonderful machine it was too. She used it all the time I was still at home. Lovely photos and interesting history!

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    1. I didn't know your grandfather was a tailor, Val. Have you blogged about him, I wonder. I shall pop over and see.

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  6. Oh do I remember that lovely treadle machine. I had some kind of control over it. But when it went electric...I went ballistic.
    After a Domestic Science lesson when my skirt ended up at the end of the classroom cause I couldn't control the electric machine my teacher subtly suggested I should perhaps try some other aspect of domesticity instead of sewing!!

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    1. My domestic science teacher suggested I'd be better employed with a less practical subject too. I was a great disappointment in that respect to my Grandma and Great Aunt.

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