Thursday, February 26, 2015

National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives building, Leicester

I read in the Leicester Mercury last week:
An iconic symbol of Leicester’s industrial past and radical working class traditions has been given listed-building status following a campaign to preserve it. 
The former Boot and Shoe Operatives Union Building, in St James Street, off Humberstone Gate, has been designated as a Grade II-listed building. It follows a campaign by the Leicester Group of the Victorian Society. 
The 103-year-old building, designed by city architects Harrison & Hattrell in the final year of Queen Victoria's reign, survives largely intact. 
Dr David Holmes researched the city’s boot and shoe industry as part of the Victorian Society's application to conservation watchdog, English Heritage. 
He said: “The building was threatened with conversion to flats which would have destroyed its fine interior. 
"We are particularly pleased because it is unique in Leicester as being the only major national trade union headquarters in the city."
So on Saturday I went to photograph it. It is a pleasing building, very much of its era. You can find it off Humberstone Gate in Leicester, behind Sainsbury's and across the road from the Spiritualist church.

The fact that the headquarters of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives was in Leicester probably explains a bit of local political history.

In 1945 the Harborough constituency was won for Labour by Humphrey Attewell, who was a full-time official with the union.

I remember a comment by John Shaw, who was a Labour councillor from Lutterworth while I was on Harborough District Council.

He is still going strong, unlike many people from those days who have since died and had roads named after them.

John told me that his own father, also a Labour activist, had said to him in 1945: "Well. son, that's the first and last time you'll see a Labour MP elected for Harborough,"


Phil Beesley said...

Boot and shoe operatives.

Jonathan Calder said...

Splendid fellows, but what about them?

Phil Beesley said...

Sadly, perhaps, they delivered stuff that we consume.

Piss poor workers making shoes for a gent whilst living in a hovel.