At the time of Thomas’ death, he owned 63 properties within, what is now Leicester. The overwhelming characteristic of these property holdings is that, with a few exceptions, they are positioned in the newly expanding working class suburbs. Normally located in streets that are laid out in the 1880s with typical well-built terraced housing erected to meet the demands of people seeking jobs in the surrounding factories.

Lorraine Road, Aylestone Park



Aylestone Park[1] is about 2 miles south-west of the city centre on the road towards Lutterworth. Thomas Messenger owned 4 properties in Lorraine Road which lies to the east of the Lutterworth Road and south of Leicestershire County Cricket Ground. Lorraine Road appears to have been laid out in the early 1880s, with an initial row of thirteen terraced houses being built on the north side towards Belmont Street around the mid-1880s. A later phase of building probably in the 1890s occurred at the other end of the road, towards Milligan Road, again brick built but larger probably three-bedroom terraced houses, standing slightly back from the pavement, with small front gardens.



The most likely group of houses owned by Thomas Messenger are four terraced houses, built between 1884[2] and 1904[3], adjoining the corner of Lorraine Avenue and Florence Street. They still exist, fronting directly on the pavement and are brick built with flemish bond. Allowing for later alterations they probably all originally had shallow segmental arched tops to the windows and doors, with brick heads. They also have a dentil brick course running along about half way up the wall between ground and first floor level, together with a 3-brick wide dentil course at roof level. The house on the corner of Lorraine Road was probably originally built as a shop, with an original doorway[4] opening onto the corner of Lorraine Road and Florence Street. If so, the terrace was built prior to 1895, when the shop was occupied by Henry Ingram[5].


Lorraine Road area, Leicester – 1904 OS Map

Canning Place and Barston Street, St. Margaret’s

In Thomas Messenger’s will, it states that he owned “thirteen messuages in Canning Place and Barston Street”. However, in the local trade directories for 1895 and 1899, very few residential properties are listed on Canning Street and none on Barston Street.




Canning Place and Barston Street lie just to the north of present city centre, almost adjacent to St. Margaret’s Church. In fact, Canning Place which is only around 100 yards long runs alongside part of the northern edge of St. Margaret’s[6] graveyard. Barston Street, also a very short street, ran at right angles to Canning Place up to what was Devonshire Street. Today, Canning Place still fronts the graveyard, with a three-storey brick factory, known as the Leeson building on the opposite side. Barston Street has fared less well and has essentially be removed, although officially is still appears to be a cul-de-sac, it has essentially been absorbed into the Walkers Midshire Food factory.


Barston Street, Leicester

Whilst today no housing remains on either Canning Place or Barston Street, on the 1884 OS Survey Map a number of terraced residential properties appear particularly along Barston Street. Canning Place had a flourmill and hosiery works, as well as one or two dwellings.


Canning Place & Barston Street, Leicester – 1887 Town Plan


Church Gate

Church Gate, still exists, running from the end of St. Margaret’s Way down to where Gallowtree Gate, Humberstone Gate, Belgrave Gate and Eastgate meet near the Clock Tower in the city centre. In his will, he references owning 5 warehouses, including Nos. 50 and 51. These were located on opposite sides of Church Gate, not far from the Mansfield Street and St Peter’s Lane junction; however, they have been replaced by a set of later buildings.



In 1887[7], No. 50 Church Gate came up for sale being described as an “extensive and commodious family residence”, with a three-storied warehouse to the rear, occupied by Mr. J.H. Newcombe, a fancy hosiery manufacturer. There was also a large yard at the back paved with blue bricks. The residence with a 24ft. 6in. frontage onto Church Gate had six bedrooms, an entrance hall, parlour, sitting room, kitchen, scullery, cellars, three WC.’s and a room over the gateway leading to the rear. The whole occupied about 204 square yards with a depth of about 75ft. off Church Gate. Around the time of Thomas Messenger’s death[8], it was occupied by Francis Douglas of ironmongers Messrs Francis & Whittington, who were located next door, with Messrs Bedford & Manton, sand paper manufacturers occupying the rear.

Almost directly opposite was No. 50 which at the time had a large Court (Court D) to the rear. In 1899,[9] it was occupied by Mark Taylor, a tailor.

No. 50, Church Gate, Leicester
No. 51, Church Gate, Leicester



Lancaster Street, North Evington

North or New Evington, as it was originally known, lies about a mile east of the city centre and was again laid out in the 1880s. It was transferred into the Leicester County Borough in 1892 as North Evington civil parish and finally absorbed into Leicester civil parish in 1896[10].



At the time of writing his will, Thomas Messenger owned 16 properties on Lancaster Street, which was probably laid out prior to 1886, when 60,000 yards of building land, described as the Spinney-Hill or East Park Building Estate, was offered for sale by auction on 19th July[11]. Originally Lancaster Street only ran from Nottingham Road to Green Lane Road[12]; however, it was quickly was extended beyond Green Lane Road, after the straightening and channelling of the Bushby Brook. The extension, which is a cul-de-sac, was built across the original course of the brook. On 30th May 1892[13], another tranche of building land, on the East Park Building Estate, was sold at auction. This amounted to 49,500 yards, divided into 13 lots. The significance of the building estate can be judged by the fact that it had its own estate office initially on Nottingham Road and then Green Lane Road with James Mee[14] as the bailiff.

The earliest houses appear to be those built on the extension to the north east of Green Lane Road. These were built between 1886 and 1887, forming a terrace of 17 houses, with four distinct designs. The first house is significantly larger than the rest of the terrace and built to a different design. The other sixteen houses appear uniform, all are brick built fronting directly on the pavement; however, there are three distinct but subtle groups, the first is a group of 8 houses, followed by a group of 4 and finally another group of 4. The differences relate to the type and detailing of the lintels and corbels. The top end of the terrace originally abutted up against a boot and shoe factory[15], variously occupied by Durtson & Burbidge[16] and George Durston & Co.,[17] both boot manufacturers. The houses on the opposite side of the road, which were built around the same time, form a terrace of 26 houses in two distinct groups. The first of 18 are much grander and at the time known as villas or houses, whilst the others in this part of the road were simply referred to as cottages. The large houses were originally six roomed with bay windows, standing behind an iron palisade fence. The most striking features of the terrace are the modillions and Flemish style pediments between pairs of houses. The remaining eight houses at the end of the row have similarities to both the very plain houses on the opposite side as well as the grander houses further along the row. All appear to have been heavily modified over the years but all probably originally had bay windows and sat behind an iron palisade fence. These houses may have been started by Charles Roberts, a builder who before falling into bankruptcy built eight houses followed by another eleven. However, he did not finish these because he broke his leg, with another builder, Charles Wright[18], being asked to complete them. During the bankruptcy hearing, Charles Roberts estimated the property to be worth £3,500 and thought that he could have cleared 20 per cent[19].


Lancaster Street, Leicester – 1904 OS Map

Beyond Green Lane road towards Leicester Street is a short terrace of six houses all directly fronting onto the pavement and built prior to 1904[20]. Whether this terrace was built prior to Thomas Messenger’s death is uncertain.

The remaining terrace which was built around 1897, just a few years prior to Thomas’ death lies between Leicester Street and Nottingham Road and comprises of thirteen houses. Similar to elsewhere, the terrace faces directly onto the pavement and gives the superficial appearance of a single build; however, there are four distinct types. Starting nearest to Leicester Street is a double fronted house, whilst all the others are single fronted; next comes a group of four, known as “Model Houses”, with a build date of 1897. Next is a group of six houses and finally a group of two, which are characterised by having a different roofline.


Auction Notice – The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 10 December 1887

It is difficult to be definitive as to which 16 houses Thomas Messenger owned but it may well have been the group of 16 plain houses on the north-west side of Lancaster Street, beyond Green Lane Road. They were built at the correct time and offered for sale at auction in mid-December 1887 in four lots[21]; each lot consisting of “four recently-erected messuages, with out-buildings”. Each house was at the time attracting a rent of 5s. per week.


Knighton Fields Road

Thomas owned six properties on Knighton Fields Road[22], which lies between Welford Road and the railway line about 1½ miles south of the city centre. The original road stopped at the railway line and on its southern side around the 1890s, a number of brick terraced houses were built, mostly with bay fronts and small front gardens.



Exactly where on Knighton Fields Road these six properties were located is unknown. The 1890s houses look to be slightly superior quality and larger than most of the other terraced houses that Thomas Messenger appeared to have owned elsewhere in Leicester.

In 1891, the Cooperative Wholesale Society built a factory on the northern side of the road. Known as the Wheatsheaf Works, it was once the largest shoe and boot factory in the world. In 2012, the old factory was in the process of being redeveloped by Urban Rhythm into 172 ‘high quality‘ homes.




  1. An area lying to the north-east of the original Aylestone village, Aylestone Park, an area of housing, lies between Aylestone Road and Saffron Lane. The first parcel of land, some 218,000 square yards, known as the Aylestone Park Estate was sold in 1870, on which Cavendish Road, Richmond Road and Lansdowne Road were built. Further pieces of land were subsequently sold off for housing in a southerly direction, until all the available land was eventually sold-off and built-on. Aylestone Park now forms a suburb of Leicester.

  2. Ordnance Survey Map.

  3. Ordnance Survey Map.

  4. Which is still visible.

  5. Kelly’s Directory of Leicestershire & Rutland, 1895.

  6. St. Margaret’s is one of the five ancient churches.

  7. The Leicester Chronicle and Leicestershire Mercury, 3rd December 1887.

  8. Wright’s Directory of Leicester, 1899.

  9. Wright’s Directory of Leicester, 1899.

  10. A History of the County of Leicester: volume 4: The City of Leicester; Editor – R. A. McKinley; Published 1958.

  11. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 10th July 1886.

  12. Green Lane Road was initially known as Green Lane.

  13. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 21st May 1982.

  14. By 1895 James Mee had moved to become the collector at the Burnaby Estate Office, 45, East Park Road (Kelly’s Directory of Leicestershire & Rutland, 1895). In 1899 he was still working for the Burnaby Estate but their office had moved back t0 Nottingham Road (Kelly’s Directory of Leicestershire & Rutland, 1899).

  15. Subsequently replaced by 6 houses forming a small terrace with bow windows and set-back from the road.

  16. Kelly’s Directory of Leicestershire & Rutland, 1908.

  17. Wright’s Directory of Leicester, 1911.

  18. Who also went bankrupt a few years later.

  19. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 1st November 1890.

  20. Ordnance Survey Map.

  21. The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, 10th December 1887.

  22. Now known as Knighton Fields Road East.