The History Behind Leicester’s Art Deco Tram Shelters


May 18, 1904, Leicester’s first tram service was underway. The event attracted crowds in their thousands. Today this may seem a bit confusing, thousands of people lining Leicester’s Clock Tower to witness a tramcar? But at that time nearly everyone in the city used public transport. The car was only in its infancy and the horse was still the main method of transport.

Leicester was entering into a new technological age of transportation, revolutionising everyday life for the common man. The city’s population were proud.

Car No. 76 on show at The National Tramway Museum.

30 years later, Robert Rowley, a renowned local knitwear and hosiery magnate in the city, donated five tram shelters at the extreme ends of the network. Rowley employed a great many workers who relied on the tramway system to get them to and from work and the shelters were considered an acceptable gift to the people of the City for their comfort whilst waiting for a tramcar.

Robert Rowley & Co Ltd

Robert Rowley & Co Ltd were based in Queen St and the firm occupied the same site from 1867 to 1999 (eventually becoming a part of Courtauld’s in 1968). Robert Rowley was the third-largest knitwear and hosiery manufacturers in the City with only Wolsey and Corah’s of a greater size.

Shelter Design

The shelters are of a concrete construction reminiscent of the 1930’s Art Deco, London Underground architecture. Four of the five shelters are of the same basic design, rectangular and with lozenge-shaped overhanging roofs. They are open along most of the side facing the road (with a low parapet above the roof carrying a plaque commemorating their donation) while the walls are glazed on their upper halves for most of their length. The windows are barred metal, with a distinctive chevron design on the corner windows.

Uppingham Road Tram Shelter

Uppingham Road terminus for Humberstone Park.

Hinckley Road Tram Shelter

Hinckley Road terminus for Western Park.

Narborough Road Tram Shelter

Narborough Road terminus – for the Braunstone Hotel and the Roxy Cinema.

Fosse Road North Tram Shelter

Fosse Road North.

The fourth shelter, on Fosse Road North, is of a slightly less elaborate design, not as tall and with simpler windows (though the chevron design is included in the central rear window), and a rectangular overhanging roof.

Western Boulevard Tram Shelter

Western Boulevard tram shelter.

Western Boulevard tram shelter was installed to serve a tramline that was never built. It was not used, as the line along the bank of the River Soar was not built.  A local businessman wants to turn the Western Boulevard shelter into a coffee shop (as you can read here).

The Shelters Today

Although the wooden benches that were once fitted inside have been removed and the window frames no longer contain glass they are regularly treated to fresh coats of paint to combat the graffiti that is infrequently scrawled upon them.

Replicas of the original plaques that once adorned these fine structures re-appeared around the year 2000 on four of the five shelters.

Unfortunately, the shelters are not listed and are at the mercy of the council.

All the tram shelters can be found on our Article Map: Click here.

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Some of the tram shelter photos are by Ned Trifle and his work can be viewed here: Ned Trifle

More information: Leicester Trams

Book Recommendations.

If you are interested in Leicester’s history then we recommend the following books (Click on the images or links below)

Fearless: The Amazing Underdog Story of Leicester City

The King’s Grave: The Search for Richard III

Leicester Murders

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Thomas is fascinated by the city's long and varied history. He also hates to discuss himself in the third person but can be persuaded to do so from time to time.

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