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Last Saturday I wrote about Frog Island and the disappearing remains of the old Great Central railway line through Leicester, inspiring Alex Foster to discover Nottingham Arkwright Street station in the process. That station, incidentally, was built by the contractors Logan & Hemingway, in which my political hero J. W. Logan was a partner.
The Great Central through Leicester returned to the headlines this week with news that the city council wants to demolish the most notable remaining structure. On Friday the Leicester Mercury reported:
And today came a follow-up report in the Mercury:
Leicester City Council is expected to agree plans to demolish the city's historic Bowstring Bridge in private discussions next week.
A secret report leaked to the Leicester Mercury shows a deal is now in place to help De Montfort University build a swimming pool and sports centre in the West End.
On Monday, the council's cabinet is expected to agree to spend up to £472,000 demolishing the Victorian bridge by January.
It is also thought they will agree to sell the remainder of the viaduct, in Duns Lane, and adjacent land to the university for an initial £1 fee.
Leicester City Council leaders said today that they will not publicly discuss proposals to demolish the city's iconic Bowstring Bridge.
The authority maintains that a report showing the costs of selling land and the Duns Lane viaduct to De Montfort University makes it too confidential to talk about in front of the press and public at a meeting of its ruling cabinet on Monday ...
Furious protesters are planning to stand outside the Town Hall before the meeting at 1 pm on Monday to show their anger at being unable to attend.
It crosses Braunstone Gate and the River Soar, and next to is one of Leicester's most celebrated pubs, the Pump & Tap, which will also be demolished if the council and university have their way. At present its beer garden extends into the railway arches.
The Bowstring Bridge's Wikipedia page tells its recent. After the Great Central closed in 1969, this stretch of the line was bought by the city council and used for a footpath and cycleway. The council received a Manpower Services Commission grant to engage craftsmen to supervise young people in painting the bridge green and cream.
In 1997 the bridge was closed to the public after the demolition of the Kirby & West dairy. Flickr has a photograph from 1984 showing the buildings that were lost.
Since then the bridge has been left to decay, presumably in the hope that it will become unsafe and make demolition less controversial. Yet someone got on to it earlier this year and lived to post the resultant video on Youtube. Great Central Railway Through Leicester also has some photos taken on the bridge.
Both are careful to be polite to De Montfort University (we called it Del Monte when I was studying at Leicester University), because they have the money to take on the sort of project the campaigners have in mind.
Walking around Leicester today brought home to me just what a power universities are in many cities now. Whole suburbs are taken over, changing the fabric and the feel of life there. In Leicester, for instance, the area around the Magazine Gateway is currently one big building site.
The "knowledge economy" we hear so much takes a concrete form here, but it should not be at the expense of valuable survivals from earlier episodes in a city's history. The Bowstring Bridge should be saved.