We are regularly in the city and have wandered around the stunning medieval streets but there are other gems that we love and would like to share with you.
The Turkey Cafe
Turkey Café 1900 Granby Street, Leicester
The Art Nouveau style Turkey Café was designed by local architect and former mayor Arthur Wakerley. People at this time were fascinated by “orientalism” and the building reflects Wakerley´s interpretation of Turkish architecture. Turkey the country and turkey the bird are both themes woven into his design. The frontage of the building was covered in matt-glazed Carraraware made by the Royal Doulton Company.
Found on the west corner of the High Street another building with art nouveau features by Albert Edwin Sawday was built in 1902 for Thomas Edward Butler. His family’s business was as a ‘wholesale druggists’ whose products included ‘Sea Breeze Saline’, a headache remedy which is advertised on the façade. A full-rigged sailing vessel, together with the likeness of the proprietor in the guise of a medieval alchemist with pestle and mortar and carboys, were made from Royal Doulton tiles.
Top Hat Terrace
Top Hat Terrace was originally known as Victoria Terrace and is found on London Road. It was built in 1864 for Francis ‘Tanky’ Smith, a former Detective Inspector in the Leicester Borough Police who had a reputation as a master of disguise. Francis Smith was said to be one of the people on whom Arthur Conan Doyle based his fictional detective Sherlock Holmes.
The sixteen heads above the first floor windows represent some of Francis Smith’s disguises. They include a bishop, two jockeys and the top-hatted figure that gave the terrace its popular name.
This is 250m up London Road from the train station on the right hand side.
Smith resigned from the police in the early 1860s after a dispute with the Head Constable. In 1862 he was hired by the Winstanley family of Braunstone Hall to investigate the mysterious disappearance of James Beaumont Winstanley, High Sherriff of Leicestershire. A drowned body found in the Moselle river in Germany was identified as Winstanley’s later that year, and Smith was generously rewarded by the family for his efforts. This enabled him to build Victoria Terrace, designed by his architect son James Smith.
Braunstone Hall is now a super boutique hotel and restaurant in the middle of Braunstone Park called Winstanley House, not far off the M1 and blissfully peaceful. winstanleyhouse.co.uk
Leicester Banking Company
The Singer Building
Formerly known as ‘The Singer Building’ on the High Street, this was the Midland headquarters of the Singer Sewing Machine Co from 1904 to c 1965. This is an example of an Edwardian commercial property decorated with an Art Nouveau style faience façade also designed by the Leicester architect Arthur Wakerley and built between 1902 and 1904. With a great glass barrel-vaulted roof, below which rows of pictorial tiles depict ships in full sail. Above the first floor windows is a frieze of cartouches, suspended by pretend chains, showing animals under flags representing Commonwealth countries. There is a camel for Egypt, a kangaroo for Australia, a polar bear for Canada, a tiger for Burma, an elephant for India, and a kiwi for New Zealand.