WHERE      
LEICESTER HAS
WORSHIPPED


(Part of) Introduction, Page 2/3

Evident from the lists are the changes in amount of worshipping accommodation that has been available such as the rapid increase in the number of both conforming and dissenting churches that occurred during the Victorian era. (Far more were dissenting - maintaining Leicesterís tradition of non-conformity.) This increase was partly due to the strong religious revival of the time, but mostly due to the need to serve the large influx of people from the rural districts during Leicesterís industrialisation. (The growth of Leicester at that time was among the fastest in England.) Also, the trend in the opposite direction can be seen with closures in the city centre particularly in the early and middle part of the following century. This was mostly due to a change in attitude to religion around the time of the First World War and the depopulation that occurred during slum clearance and inner city development. However, new churches appeared in the suburban areas.
From the listís notes information can be gained, for example, of the modest accommodation used by some churches at their foundation. Most meetings started in a small way, of course, often after separation from a parent church, and although many started in hired rooms or halls (or even front rooms) the origins of others have been unusual. Several held their first services in barns, whilst a cowshed was used by Belgrave Methodists and tents employed by the Gwendolen Road mission and Clarendon Park Baptists. More unusual was the use of a room in a spinning mill by the Northgate Street Methodists and a railway waiting room by the West Humberstone Gospel Mission. This mission still runs today although now in its own building.
Many other mission rooms and halls have been opened in the city and are included on a separate list because they were all, to some degree, used as places of worship. However, not all saw worship as their primary function - especially in their early years. The first, the Leicester Domestic Mission, was started in 1845 in All Saints Open by Unitarian Joseph Dare, primarily to teach self improvement to the working classes by offering practical as well as spiritual help. Many others followed, set up by the larger churches and chapels (though some non-sectarian) in the poorer areas near the centre of the town. They varied greatly in their function, some doubling as adult and Sunday schools, lecture and meeting rooms, and in times of real hardship distribution centres for soup and bread. Others were effectively small churches used to bring the church to the people who could then attend services among their own social class without inhibitions (and not having to wear a ĎSunday bestí which they may not have had).
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Where Leicester Has Worshipped © 2008 Andrew Moore, Laurel House Publishing.