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From Leicester Mercury 5th May 2010

Life in a close community

Old estate plan
Humberstone Garden City

An inquiry about the garden suburb in Humberstone, referred to on bus destination blinds as "Garden City" has brought a response.

Margaret Upchurch, of Knighton, who has many memories of the area, sent me a book which sets out the story.

In The Growth of Leicester, edited by A E Brown and published in 1970, G C Martin writes that the garden suburb movement began with such places as Bedford Park, in London, with the idea of creating a better physical and social environment for those living there by creating green spaces, planting trees and ensuring houses had decent gardens so that their occupants could grow flowers and vegetables.

Bedford Park was a middle class development and its residents were well off, but the idea filtered down to the socially-minded civic leaders who wished to develop "garden cities" in their own areas.

Co-operatives were formed around the country and one such was the Anchor Tenants Limited (Leicester), which took its name from the Anchor Boot and Shoe Productive Society. By 1900 it had its own premises in Ashfordby Street, North Evington.

The shoemakers were alerted to the ideas of co-partnership housing through an article written by Henry Vivian in the Productive Federation Yearbook.

Martin states that the Anchor Tenants raised capital and found land east of Humberstone village and the first cottages were built on Keyham Lane. The first residents took up residence in 1908.

By 1910, "49 cottages were occupied and their gardens were well stocked as the company had made a bulk purchase of fruit trees and bushes".

The suburb expanded and by 1915 there were 95 houses along with three shops, an office, meeting room and a recreation room. The population was then 350.

Margaret tells me her grandparents on both sides moved into the first "cottages" as they were called, and she writes: "It was a great achievement by ordinary working men."

"In addition to the amenities mentioned was their small church building. The houses were rented, and when re-let, they had to be to relatives of the original families. I do not know if this is still the case."

"My parents grew up there and went to Humberstone Village School. In fact, the first Builder-Manager was my grandfather (George Hern) who died in the early years."

"We grandchildren loved going there and staying with Grandma; such happy days! It was surrounded by beautiful open countryside; a fine example of true co-operation among the close community that developed there."

"Their motto, now on the wrought-iron gates there, reads, if I remember, "Not greater wealth, but simpler pleasures."

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