Monday, June 24, 2013

North Evington Market Square

North Evington, a late 19th-century industrial suburb of Leicester, was developed by Arthur Wakerley - architect, mayor of Leicester and unsuccessful Liberal parliamentary candidate. Exploring it today, you notice how houses and factories were built next to one another in a way that goes against the planning philosophy of the 20th century.

At the suburb's heart was the market square that Wakerley laid out. Jean Farquhar describes it in her Arthur Wakerley: 1862-1931:
Wakerley built a Market Hall at the north end of the Market Square, with splendid Dutch-style gables and some art nouveau stained glass, which housed a temporary police station, a coffee room, a surgery, and a barber's shop.
And she quotes the Leicester Daily Post as saying:
"Only those who have visited New Evington, Leicester, can vividly realise the immense advantage of the offer and the boon it is likely to prove to the entire district."
But, says a University of Leicester page on Wakerley, the market never thrived and its licence was eventually withdrawn in 1947. In 1982 the square was redeveloped as the open space with a band stand that you see now.

Today the market hall is occupied by a madrasah (there is now a large mosque on the south side of the square) and, though the photo above shows the splendid gables, the art nouveau stained glass has long vanished.

The west side of the square is occupied by the police and fire stations that Wakerley built. Jean Farquhar, relying on a memoir of the Edwardian era, writes:
The relationship between the North Evington community and its Police seems to have been a happy and confident one: factories lodged their keys in the Police Station nightly, and numbers of children 'got lost' in order to be given refuge in the warm Station until claimed. To see them enjoying the hospitality provided out of the staff's own pockets. gave little impression of the supposed fear of policemen by children.
She continues:
A similar happy relationship seems to exist today between the Police and the many Asian children who live around the Police Station, who have been observed entering the station and enquiring "Got 'ny stickers?"
That was written in 1984, but the police station on the market square at North Evington has since closed. Its homely lines make it easy to imagine the good police/community relations claimed for the area.

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