Thursday, 13 October 2011

Corporation and urban landscape

The reason one can admire Jewry Wall in central Leicester is that when the activities seized in the factory next door, the Leicester Corporation saw its opportunity and bought the site. There were plans to build public baths onto this site and the demolition work made the extent of the ruins obvious The importance and value of the standing structure had already been recognized and the Corporation sought to know more about its character through archaeological study. These were different times when there was no automatic system of planning requirements to deal with archaeology but any intervention was voluntary.

The original hope was that the plot next to the Jewry Wall would reveal the site of the civic forum but this turned out not to be the case. Instead of any modern baths the late 1930s excavations gave the city Roman baths the study of which continued in the late 1960s and early 1970s when this area went through an upheaval. At this time any hope that the area had at some point been a forum was abandoned. The standing wall itself was deemed to link with the bath complex and not be a temple as wished for by the antiquarians during the 18th and 19th century.

The laudable act of the 1930s excavation was later followed by the building of the St Nicholas circle, which cut Jewry Wall and its museum apart from the historic city centre. This made any connectivity with the Medieval and earlier Roman road plan difficult to perceive. Apparently, this placement of inner ring road was offset by the preservation of the New Walk, the 18th century promenade created south of the city centre. The brutality of the 1960s and 1970s had its momentary silver lining.

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