Hosiery; the main manufacturing light industry in Leicester, Leicestershire – from 19th century to late 20th century – produced a variety of clothes, shoes, and there was also a vibrant mechanical engineering industry.
Names such as Corah, Wolsey, Bentley, Stibbe, the British United Shoe Machinery Company and the British Shoe Corporation were well known nationally and internationally.
Due to the scale of the clothing industry in Leicester it was named the second richest city in Europe in the 1930s. Working for one of the big companies came with a healthy social life, with many sports and social clubs linked to each of the factoriesin the early 20th Century Leicester was renowned as a place where there was always work for both men and women
Today only a very few of these ‘big’ names remain in business. There are well-known names such as Next, Dunelm, Bostik, Walkers and a host of companies involved in manufacture and engineering, but the giants of the past are no more.
Industry has not abandoned Leicester at all – there are many products still made in this city, but the hustle and bustle of factories and workshops downtown is now an ancient story – same with the rest of the United Kingdom.
The ‘rise and fall’ of industry in the city has left a legacy of buildings and places that have been shaped by industrial activity but now retrofitted for other non-manufacturing work spaces like offices, accommodation, cafes, bars and restaurants.