Did you ever partake in this rite of passage for Leicester children? Sitting on and slipping off the two cannons that have stood guard around the city for the over a century.
Two cannons taken as trophies at the Battle of Sevastopol now stand guard outside Leicester’s Newarke House Museum. They have pride of place at the entrance to the museum and have been in the city for over 150 years.
The Victory at Sevastopol, 1855.
By September 1855, Sevastopol had fallen. 128,387 British, French, Russian, Turkish and Sardinian men had lost their lives at the siege. This spelt the beginning of the end of the Crimean War.
News of the fall of Sevastopol first reached Leicester in September 1855. The newspaper, The Leicester Chronicle (not related to the website) received a telegraph message in the morning and immediately posted it in their window.
First, the majority of the town was not convinced. However, a man by the name of George Read was convinced and set off with his pals to Spinney Hills, where they merrily fired three small cannons for an hour in celebration.
By eight o’clock that evening, and after more news was received, the bells of St. Margaret’s Church started to ring, and didn’t stop until midnight. Soon, the pubs of Leicester were full of flags, banners and streamers. The town was a sea of red, white and blue.
The cannons arrive at Leicester. 1858
On the 23rd January 1858, a train pulled up at Leicester Station bearing two trophies: a pair of Russian guns.
A great crowd gathered, discharging firearms and waving flags, showering the trophies and their escort with pride and patriotism. The cannons were mounted on richly-decorated horse-drawn drays.
They had an escort of mounted troops and followed by a military band whilst they were paraded through the streets of the town to New Walk Museum.
Location of the cannons.
The guns stood outside of Leicester’s New Walk Museum for 111 years before being moved to the new Leicestershire Regimental Museum. This new museum was to open at one of the city’s most recognised landmarks, The Magazine, in 1969.
At this location in 1972, a small van crashed into one of the cannons.
In 1998 they were sent for special conservation treatment. They were again re-positioned in front of New Walk Museum. Whereat the time the museum was holding a Royal Tigers’ exhibition (the Tigers being the nickname of The Leicestershire Regiment).
These important historical landmarks now stand outside Newarke House Museum, a symbol of the military might of the by-gone Empire.