South Wigston

South Wigston

infobox UK place
country= England
latitude= 52.5802
longitude= -1.13288
official_name= South Wigston
shire_district= Oadby and Wigston
shire_county= Leicestershire
region= East Midlands
constituency_westminster= Harborough
post_town= South Wigston
postcode_district= LE18
postcode_area= LE
dial_code= 0116
os_grid_reference= SP580984
map_type= Leicestershire

South Wigston is a suburb of Leicester in England. It is outside of the city boundary, forming part of the Oadby and Wigston district of Leicestershire.

Geography and administration

It is situated to the west of Wigston Magna, specifically west of the Midland Main Line. The locally famous "Crow Mills" area has been the site of a grain mill since the thirteenth century, though the present mill (now a private dwelling) was built later on the original footings. The Mill is on the north bank of the River Sence and backs onto the nearby Grand Union Canal, which generally forms the southern boundary of South Wigston. The first major development of the area came following the arrival of the Midland Railway Company's Wigston Junction, goods yard and three stations. Industrial and residential buildings, St Thomas the Apostle church (1893), Primitive Methodist church (1900, demolished, now Best Close), Wesleyan Methodist church (1886), Congregational church (1897), United Reform Church, the Clarence Hotel (1890, now the Marquis of Queensbury PH), and the Grand Hotel (circa 1880s, currently unoccupied, incorporates the former Venetia House) were built in the triangle of land between the Wigston junction to Rugby line (dismantled), the Wigston to Nuneaton line (Leicester to Hinckley) to the north and Saffron Road to the west. Much of the building work (including both hotels and his former home Venetia House) was commissioned by local hero Orson Wright (circa 1880s).

Although all three railway stations were closed, a new South Wigston station has been built on the Nuneaton line and is served by CrossCountry. Trains take passengers eastwards to Leicester, and westwards towards Birmingham New Street.

The famous musical artist Gertie Gitana performed at the Clarence ballroom, and one of its rooms was named after her.

Notable local clergy include Bishop Robin Woods, who was vicar of South Wigston between 1946 and 1951.

The land enclosed by the Wigston to Rugby line (dismantled), Midland Main Line and the Grand Union Canal started to be developed around Lansdowne Grove at the start of the twentieth century with town houses becoming a conservation area in the late 1980s early 1990s, and later a sizeable council estate, industrial estate and in the 1990s another large housing estate.

South Wigston has seen considerable change in recent times, and there are plans for the future development of the area. Tesco opened a new supermarket in October 2005 along with a 24-hour petrol station, creating jobs for the local area. Soon after the Kwik Save supermarket on Blaby Road closed down. Station Street is currently witnessing redevelopment of formerly industrial buildings, now being converted into residential dwellings. There are a variety of possible plans for disused factory and warehouse buildings on Canal Street also. There is also a belief that South Leicestershire College is looking to relocate to Canal Street. There is already a sign erected for South Leicestershire College in the site of the former factories on Blaby Road, although it is also believed that South Leicestershire College is also looking to acquire the site of The Old Grand Hotel (known to locals as the 'The Grand', which used to be famed for its meat raffles before it closed down), although the for sale signs on the Grand still suggests it's still for sale. Previous owners of the large factory between the southern end of Canal Street and the Rugby railway line (dismantled) were Dunmores Biscuits whose large factory chimney dominated the local landscape. They were later bought out by Nabisco who in turn were bought out by McVities/Jacobs. Further up towards Blaby Road north of the Grand Hotel was Atkinson's hosiery factory which was a major employer in the area for some years after the war as was Dunmores. In Irlam Street opposite the biscuit factory was 'Morrison Electricars' who used to make electrically powered vehicles such as milk floats. Other notable businesses who were in South Wigston were 'Premier Drum' (used to be in Canal Street, now in a modern factory on Blaby Road near the railway bridge), Constone (concrete pipe makers) at Saffron Lane and Marshall's Coal who were in the yard opposite Blaby Road Park.


Before the establishment of South Wigston in 1883, the area was largely open fields. The canal, which runs south of the township, was opened in 1792, and a house stood by the Countesthorpe Road near the bridges over the river and canal. In 1840 a railway line was created between Leicester and Rugby which ran to the east of where Canal Street stands today. Another line to the north of Kirkdale Road was established in 1872.

To the east of the Countesthorpe Road and Canal Street junction was Crow Mill which is recorded on The County Sites and Monuments Register as a medieval windmill. The building was a post mill where the whole structure could be turned into the prevailing wind. The mill survived into the twentieth century and is shown as disused on the 1886 Ordnance Survey Map, though it had gone by the second edition of the map in 1914.

The town of South Wigston was developed in the late nineteenth century by the owner of a large brickworks. The settlement follows the tradition of establishing 'model' towns set by Victorian philanthropists at places such as New Lanark and Saltaire and continued in towns such as Bournville and Port Sunlight. Unlike the majority of these other towns however, South Wigston was not just intended to house workers in the brickyard. Other commercial premises, particularly associated with the clothing industry, were established right from the start.

Like model settlements such as Saltaire, the settlement pattern is generally laid out as a grid and most of the housing is in terraces. Most of the houses are of similar type (though some were slightly bigger and had front gardens) with just a few larger houses on Orange Street, Blaby Road (until many were converted to shops) and particularly Saffron Road built to house wealthier residents. The clear provision of different sizes and standards of housing to suit different 'classes' of occupiers is not so great as in many model towns.

Although there are differences of detailing between the terraces and groups of houses, the area has a very strong character. The principal reason for this is that the buildings were seemingly all built using bricks from Orson Wright's Wigston Junction Brick Works. The majority of traditional buildings are therefore of red brick with a colour range towards orange and purple, with a few houses of gault brick or with such brick used as detailing. Whilst decorative brickwork is used for the eaves, window and door heads and boundary walls, it is rarely used for the window surrounds and mullions. These appear to have been standard off-the-peg designs in most cases.

In terms of town planning, Blaby Road was the main cross route and was lined by many of the shops and public buildings. Canal Street was the home of most of the industrial and manufacturing concerns and had shops on some street corners and some public buildings especially at the north end. Countesthorpe Road had some industrial uses and public buildings. The schools were all located off Bassett Street, whilst the housing was generally located on east west orientated streets south of Blaby Road and north-south running streets north of Blaby Road. This was presumably to avoid very long streets of terraced properties which might have appeared rather monotonous.

The 1886 Ordnance Survey Map shows the beginnings of the settlement. The brickworks are the largest single concern to the west of Saffron Road. Blaby Road is the most developed road with three terraces of properties along the south side; one of 25 properties to the east of Countesthorpe Road, one of 18 to the east of Dunton Street and a smaller terrace from the corner of Canal Street to the level crossing and South Wigston station. On the north side of Blaby Road, the only buildings were four terraced properties to the west of Station Street.

Other buildings completed by 1886 included houses on the west side of Glen Gate and Station Street with three buildings on the north side of Kirkdale Road and a block of four houses on the east side of Station Street. South of Blaby Road, there was a long row of seemingly very small cottages on the west side of Countesthorpe Road (where a car park is today) and a block on the north east end of Timber Street which probably had a shop on the corner and a pair of houses fronting Canal Street.

A larger pair faced them on the east side of Canal Street and to the north was a large factory called the Perseverance Works. Countesthorpe Road was the main route to the south and this went under the railway, past Crow Mill and out into open countryside. The line of much of Canal Street, together with the streets north of Timber Street had been laid out, whilst north of Blaby Road two tracks existed though seemingly they were relocated to later become Fairfield and Leopold Streets.

The Duke Of Clarence Hotel was situated on Blaby Road; this was very much the centre of South Wigston's social life for the first 50 years of the new township.

Development continued apace in the next few years and by 1893, many new houses along the streets off Canal Street with some larger houses on Orange Street had been built. Blaby Road continued to be developed for houses, shops and some public buildings as well as the site of Orson Wright's own house, Ashbourne, on the corner of Glen Gate. St Thomas' Church was built (minus the tower) in 1893 to replace the 'tin church' which continued in service as the Sunday school until it was replaced in the late 1920s. North of Blaby Road, terraces were built on Leopold Street, Fairfield Street and Glen Gate.

The settlement developed very quickly and was largely complete by the time Orson Wright died in 1913. Thereafter the main development was the provision of local authority housing on the undeveloped sites. Some of this was in terraces, the rest in more typical semi detached forms.

By 1914 over 600 houses together with more factories, shops, churches and schools had been built. Despite this, vacant lots (or 'greens' as they were popularly known) were a feature of most of the streets in the town and were used as informal play areas. In the late 1920s many of these were built on to provide Local Authority Housing in terraced form on Kirkdale Road and some of the surrounding streets with semi detached houses on several other streets.

A park was formed beyond the eastern railway line in 1929 as the major amenity land and the biscuit factory developed. The brick works however had ceased production in the early 1930s, though there were still a number of major employers in the area including Toon and Black's Footwear factory on Saffron Road and Morrison the Electric Vehicle

Manufacturers who took over Brunswick Mills between Garden and Irlam Streets in the 1930s.

In the later twentieth century, Orson Wright's house was demolished and replaced by shops, two of the schools off Bassett Street were demolished, Toon and Black's factory redeveloped and virtually the whole block between Irlam and Garden Streets was redeveloped for housing in 2004 to 2005. The biscuit factory on Canal Street has expanded but many of the old industrial concerns, large and small, are now empty or underused.


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