The story of our magnificent new Leicester home
In just a few weeks’ time, our transformation of one of Leicester’s most historic banking halls into a 200-seat restaurant will be complete.
The daily transactions of loans, mortgages and current accounts will be replaced by the sounds and smells of one of Britain’s fastest-growing steakhouse restaurants.
But what of the building itself, a magnificent Grade II* listed monument to the commercial growth in the city at the turn of the 20th century? We delved into the history of the newest restaurant in Leicester.
When our new home was built, the Model T was a twinkle in Henry Ford’s eye, Queen Victoria was still on the throne and the first Labour MP was elected to Parliament.
In Leicester, the Pares’s Leicestershire Banking Co was in the process of tearing down one historic building and replacing it with an even more imposing one.
The old Pares’s Bank pictured in 1898
The new building, designed by local architect Samuel Perkins Pick, was Pares’s head office until the bank was taken over by Parr’s Bank Ltd in 1902.
That, in turn, was subsumed by the London County and Westminster Bank in 1918, which eventually changed its name to the much snappier NatWest Bank (but not until 1970).
Built in the baroque revival style, the “new” building demonstrated the increasing commercial success of Leicester at the turn of the century.
The new building in the 1900s shortly after it was built
The bank in the 1930s
The architecture was heavily influenced by the 18th century works of John Vanbrugh (Blenheim Palace) and Nicholas Hawksmoor (worked on St Paul’s Cathedral), and was described by Nikolaus Pevsner as “remarkably ambitious” and an “explosion in scale” for Leicester.
Dominating the city’s Market Place Conservation Area, the building was described in Walks Through Victorian Leicester (Leicester Victorian Society) as “impressive, even lyrical…the whole exuding the confident air of Land of Hope and Glory. Its friezes, carvings and cupolas mark this building out as a notable landmark in the area”.
Acclaim for the building also came from the Victoria County History, which said in 1958 it was “one of the best pieces of modern architecture in Leicester”.
Inside the bank in the 1920s
The imposing, half-panelled banking hall features a shallow dome and central skylight, which has been revived to offer glimpses of the night sky.
The panelling, made from incredibly rare Brazilian mahogany, is the subject of painstaking refurbishment to maintain the original splendour of the surroundings.
The ancient Roman geometric concept of a sphere within a cube is employed as a motif throughout the design of the hall, clearly visible in the original plan drawings below.
The original ground floor plan
And part of the inside today, with our own plans
Sitting close to the site where the remains of King Richard III were discovered – and round the corner from the new visitor centre – the building forms part of the historical centre of Leicester.
The Market Place Conservation Area stands on land that was once part of the Roman town of Ratae Corieltauvorum and has therefore been occupied for almost 2000 years.
The open air market is at least 700 years old, leading to the belief that a wealth of, as yet undiscovered, Roman and medieval archaeology lies beneath the present streets and buildings.
We’re delighted to be breathing new life into this grand structures after it has laid empty for more than a decade, and look forward to welcoming the people of Leicester back into one of its most important buildings on October 14.
How our new Leicester restaurant will look
Why not enter our competition to win one of four tables (value up to £160 per table) for opening night? All you need to do is give a few details and you’ll be entered into a prize draw.