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Family Background

Mr Alex Acheson came to live in Highfields in 1938.
Mr Acheson, can you tell me how you came to be in the Highfields?

Both my wife and I, before we married, belonged to International Tramping Tours which organised trips abroad to frontier areas where there had been wars and arguments, and we both decided separately to go to the Pyrenees, Andorra, and that's where we met. I actually went there with a girlfriend. I have to say with a little trace of shame, that I dumped my girlfriend and got together with Margaret! That was in the August and we were married in December 1938. Then there was the question of looking for accommodation, a flat if we could. Leicester was very poorly supplied with flats just then, but just round the corner from where she lived in Connaught Street, she found a downstairs flat in Seymour Street which is at the back of the Collegiate School. We lived at number 13 which we always considered our lucky number because we met on the 13th August.

We think it had been occupied by a lady of easy virtue because all areas around railway stations tend to be red light districts, and although people say now that Highfields has gone downhill, it had been going downhill for a hundred years.

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Mr Bakhsish Singh Attwal came to Highfields in 1957.
B.S. Attwal MBE.

1951 – Worked as civil servant in India. Background; father & grandfather were farmers. Came to Coventry.

1957 – Settled in Highfields. Bought a house for 450, it had twelve bedrooms which we rented some out.

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Roger Cave came to live in Highfields in 1940, the year he was born.
My name is Roger John Cave and I was born in Leicester on 2nd March 1940.

Do you know where you were born?

Yes, I was actually born at Westcotes Nursing Home on the Narborough Road area of the city.

Can you tell me a bit about your family background?

Yes, my mother and father were both born in Highfields. Infact my father was born in Twycross Street just over the road from where we lived. After he got married (he was one of five brothers) the brothers gradually dispersed, one went to live in Carlisle, the others remained in Leicester. His mother and father carried on living in Twycross Street in Highfields until their deaths. My grandmother died in 1963 and my grandfather died in 1968. My mother's parents also lived in Highfields in Connaught Street. They lived there until they died. My grandfather died in 1955 and my grandmother died in 1973, I think she was about 89 when she died. Although my own mother died in 1946, (she was only 32) she died of Tuberculosis which was quite common in those days. From what my father has said she worked in an solicitor's office, but I believe it went bankrupt. She then worked in the hosiery trade until I was born. My father worked in a factory, I think he worked for a firm called Dalmers which made plasters for first aid treatment. During the war, he was in the Home Guard as he failed the medical to be taken into the regular army.

How many brothers and sisters do you have?

I have just got one step-brother. My dad remarried in 1950 to an Irish lady and she already had a son, so there were just the two of us.

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Helen Edwards interviewing Sandy Coleman for Highfields Remembered.
My name is Sandy Coleman and I was born on 25th of August 1944 in Bond Street, but my parents lived in Biddulph Avenue, off Biddulph Street, Highfields.

Had your parents lived in Highfields for long?

They lived there just after they got married. They bought a house and that must have been about three years before I was born.

Did you have family in the area as well?

Yes, we had an aunt that lived off the East Park Road, and she had a family.

Where your parents both from Leicester?

Yes, my father is from Wharf Street and my mother is from Merrydale which isn't there any more.

Are they in the Highfields area?

No, Humberstone Road area is Merrydale Road, and the centre of town is Wharf Street.

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Linda Cox who was born in 1948.
My name is Linda Cox, I was born in 1948 in a little terraced house in Beeby Road, just off Cottesmore Road and I lived there for the first 23 years of my life. I suppose you might say that I lived on the edge of Highfields – I remember, my dad always used to tell me that we 'live in North Evington', which I always found very amusing.

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Mr Boleslaw Dobski came to Highfields in 1947/48.
Mr Dobski, do you mind starting off by telling me your name and your age and where you were born.

I was born in Poland, near Gdansk of course, that was 1920. I just passed 75 two days ago so I am rather an old chap! I came to England through the Polish forces from Italy, and we settled here in 1946. We landed in Scotland and from there we have been slowly preparing for the Polish civil life through the Polish Resettlement Corps, we couldn't go back to Poland where we left some 5,6,7 years ago. So we had been stranded, we had no option. We had to start some civilian life and that was it.
I was stationed several miles from Leicester. Leicester was a focal point and there was plenty of work so we settled here in Leicester. Me and about a thousand Polish families settle here at that time in 1947/1948/1949. But of course, I say families, there were only perhaps a hundred families, and the rest were just single fellows. I was single then.

Yes. Did you speak English?

Well, only a few rudimentary words and so on. I was working for the quartermaster in the army, and we had to go to depots, so we had more or less been forced to learn some English in connection with the job. But in general, there were a few of us who mastered English, or had some knowledge of English before. English was not very popular in Poland before the war.

Had the war not got in the way, what would you have done if you'd have stayed in Poland?

If I'd stayed in Poland, I was prepared to go to a foreign trade school. It was a newly established school for foreign merchandise, as I already had my apprentice in merchandise and was supposed to go to school. Then the war broke out. I joined the army and happy ever after!

My ambition was to have my own business. My father was a farmer and we hadn't been that bad off, so if everything went alright I would probably start with a small shop, that was my idea. Before the war people were different. A tradesman was a sort of middle class respected fellow. That was before the war. You had your shop, or your own workshop or something, and was middle class. Today, people perhaps go for the high education for professionals and doctorships and so on, but before the war, people had been happy to have been independent with little businesses, so proper tradesmen, properly trained and that was my idea. Perhaps I would have developed a taste for something else later on, but that was the idea, to start a shop or something. But if I succeeded at the school of foreign trade, overseas trade, then probably I'd be looking at something else you see. But when you are eighteen, nineteen you just haven't got an idea and besides, everything was so quiet before the war, now everything is overblown. But before the war people had been quite happy to have live a decent small life, in little towns preferably. Yes, they were the good old days!

Yeah, let's go back, you've left the army, you've got a job at Imperial Typewriters.

Where did you live?

My first address was Melbourne Road, opposite the Polish church. You see, it is an old peoples' home now, but they were big terraced houses, three or four storeys, that's where I started. That was Melbourne Road, number 98 or something. Every second or third house was Polish at that time.

Did you have a whole house?

No, no we moved into digs because I was poor, when I was demobbed. Then I married of course and my wife was poor because she escaped from Poland. She was chased by the KGB! She just managed to escape from Poland through Austria, Czechoslovakia, Italy and to England. When we met here in England, we married. At that time she was a restaurant cook in Brighton. We met in the camp because she came to visit her brother. Her brother escaped from Poland in 1939/40 during the winter and went through Czechoslovakia, Hungary to Greece, from Greece to Turkey, from Turkey to Egypt and joined the Polish forces there. And so he came to England and then I got in contact with him and that's where I met my wife. That was a day! We got married and then we settled here in Leicester. There were two single army beds believe it or not on four bricks each, so if we wanted to make love, well that was funny I can tell you! We were young though, just imagine, an army bed on four bricks because there are no legs to it. Oh, my God!

There were eighteen people in the house! There were one, two, three families with children, three single fellows and three miners, three Irish men were miners. The house was full of people. Everybody was working. We would come home at night at six o'clock, all the women in the kitchen and we had been doing something else, making the fires and that. Of course we were very young at that time it didn't matter.

Did your wife work?

Yes, she worked in the hosiery industry. My wife was a widow when I met her. Her husband was killed in action in 1945 one week before the war ended. Her husband was working as a young staff officer in the general staff. When my wife came here and was working in the factory she was always crying until she got used to it, but then again she had no choice. I don't think she was happy but nobody was at that time.

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Dr Stuart Fraser lived in Highfields from 1946 the year he was born.
I'm Dr Stuart Muir Finlay Fraser, born in March 1946 in the Fielding Johnson Hospital on Regent Road in Leicester. Now, to give you, an explanation as to why I'm talking to you about Highfields, I think my family background would help a lot.

My grandfather on my maternal side was demobilised at the end of the 1st world war, he was a Scottish medical graduate, single, and had to basically find somewhere to work. He answered an advertisement in the British Medical journal where there was a practice of two doctor, working from Highfields, a Dr Young and a Dr Payne, one was a Scottish graduate and one was a London graduate and they were looking for a new partner. I don't know the stories about it but he eventually took up residence at 56 Melbourne Street in 1920, soon after he was demobilised. He was single, I don't know how much he paid to join the practice, as at that time you had to have some capital to buy into a practice. However,I know that it was well known within his family who were all from Scotland, his father was dead by that time, he had a widowed elder sister and he was one of the younger members of the family, and he borrowed money from his older widowed sister and used that as capital to buy his way into the practice. And in fact, from that date until his sister's death, he always paid her interest on the loan, which was his way of paying her back for her help into buying the practice. He came down in 1920 as a bachelor, and immediately took over residence of a very large house which had one, two, three, four- it had four large first floor rooms,large downstairs rooms, – a kitchen and a scullery and an attached surgery, a waiting room and small consulting room, and a dispensary and there was an attic room with two rooms in it. He took over residence here and infact brought his youngest sister down to keep house for him. She was probably in her early twenties, she still lives and she came down and kept house for him for six months as he was actually engaged to someone, and he married after he had been in practice for six months, and he lived in the house from 1920 till the 1930s when his practice had expanded and built up and he moved, to the Evington area, and his assistant stayed in the house and ran the practice from the surgery premises. Ah, so from this house, certainly my mother and her younger brother were both born and lived for quite a long period of time.

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Dr Stuart Fraser has lived in Highfields from 1946, the year he was born.
This is a tape made by Dr Stuart Fraser, General Practitioner, working from 56 Highfields Street, Highfields, Leicester. Made primarily for the purposes of the 'Highfields Oral History' project being organised by the Leicestershire and Leicester Councils' Library Services.

I have made an earlier tape with regard to my own personal experiences as a child living in Highfields. This tape has been made from a combination of sources of my own experiences of living in Highfields, my experience of working in Highfields as a General Practitioner from January 1972, and from my study of medical history nationally, and local medical history issues.

I haven't got any reference books or points in front of me, this is entirely made from memory. For the purposes of this, I have identified the Highfields area as that area lying to the east of the city of Leicester, marked out by the Midland Railway line to the west, the London Road to the south west, the Humberstone Road to the north, and Mere Road running from Humberstone Road through to London Road; Mere Road being, of course, the old parish boundary of -
St Margaret's Parish. Spinney Hill Park, Park Vale Road and the other areas, all being the northern part of the old Parish of Evington, based on the moated site, formally in Moat Road.

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Mr Tirthram Hansrani came to live in Highfields in the late 1940s.
My name is Mr Tirthram Hansrani.

I was born in Jilander in India. I am 72 now. I came to England in 1948. I worked in a Court. My brother was here in England. He had already been here for 8-9 years. My father had a good business in India. I only came for a holiday and to visit my brother. There was no other purpose. I had no vision of settling here. I went to Coventry in 1948 to my brother. He moved his business from Coventry to Leicester. I moved to Fosse Road and then onto Conduit Street. I bought it. It was number 1 Conduit Street. There were shops. Everything was there. Did not have to go far for shopping. I chose Highfields because I liked the house. The house was big. We bought it for 12,000. That house is not there anymore. It's been demolished.

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Mr Abdul Haq came to live in Highfields in 1963.
When did you come to Highfields Mr Haq?

I came to Highfields in 1938.

Where did you come from?


Where did you stay?

I lived in New Walk.

In a house?

Yes, opposite the museum, next door to Dr Somerville's house.

Did you come with your family?

No, I came on my own.

Did you move to Highfields?

No, from there I moved to Stoneygate and lived there for 11 years in a house next door to Dr Morris Milard. My wife arrived in 1963. I bought a house in Buxton Street (no. 33) and lived there until 1972.

Can you describe the house?

It was a terraced house, with 3 bedrooms, a bathroom, dining room and living room.


It was outside at that time.

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Mrs Hazel Jacques came to Highfields in 1942.
My name is Mrs Hazel Jacques and I was born off Saffron Lane on Repington Road, 1934. My age is 60.

Yes. that was in Highfields of course,


Not Highfields?

No, that was Saffron Lane Estate.

Ah. Right, so you moved to Highfields?

Yes, when my parents were ill and we had to go in a home.

And the home was in Highfields?

The home was on Mill Hill Lane to start with, then they send you to either a home for boys or a home for girls. The home for girls was on East Park Road.

Can you tell me about it, how it was run and how many children there were?
Well, when you first go there, it's the receiving home on Mill Hill Lane which is Highfields, and Matron Berridge ran that. It was for the poor years ago. And then any children that looked as if they were going to stay and couldn't return home, they went to Miss Hammonds on East Park Road, which I think is still Highfields.

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Mr Amarjit Singh Johl came to Highfields in 1964.
What is your name, how old are you and where were you born?

My name is Amarjit Singh Johl, I am 52 years old. I was born in Punjab, (a northern state of India) in 1942, I came to the UK in 1964.

What type of family do you come from and what were you doing?

My family were farmers. We still own our hereditary land in the village where I was born. I graduated in 1963 from Punjab University.

What was your motive for coming to the UK, and what did you think of the UK? Why did you choose Highfields as your residence?

Everybody thought that England was a very prosperous country and very rich and progressive. I thought as I was educated, I would be able to get a good job and earn a lot of money and go back to settle in India. In those days agriculture was not a profitable business and educated people did not want to go into farming.

How did you think of coming to UK after graduating from Punjab University?

My close friend was in London, and we used to communicate on a regular basis. He encouraged me to come, otherwise, I would not have made my mind up. I always wanted to join the army. I was selected as a Lieutenant in the Indian Army in 1963.

Could you tell me in detail as to your feeling and impression of Highfields? What was your first place to live in Highfields?

My aunt was living in Mere Road, Highfields, so it was natural to call it home. Nobody else had a family. All other relatives were single people. Everything seemed organised and systematic, I was not able to distinguish good and bad areas in those days. My father was already living in Leicester. My father wanted my stay with my auntie so I wouldn't miss family life.

Everybody used to do very hard work and long hours. Life was harsh and rough, I felt uneasy after seeing their lifestyle.

Where was your father living in those days?

He was living at East Park Road. He also owned another house at Mere Road which was rented to tenants. There were many people living at East Park Road.

How many people were living East Park Road?

I think about 10 people were living there. I was very upset to see this. There was no privacy and no facilities. I thought I wouldn't be able to live like that.

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Miss Alma Knight was born in Highfields in 1923.
First of all Miss Knight, could you tell me where you were born, and if you like, how old you are now.

Yes, I was born at 52 Gopsall Street, 6th of January 1923. Do you want to know anything about the house or how long I was there?

Yes please.

It was our parents' first home. I lived there with them until I was about three years old, and then we moved to 13 St Peters Road to live with my grandparents. My baby sister was born there but unfortunately she only lived a few weeks. I started to school while we lived there, and then we moved to 45 Gopsall Street. My other sister who is the youngest in the family, was born the year before the war started. Not actually in the house, at a nursing home.

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Mr Aidan Maguire came to Highfields in 1962.
This is Valerie Lea making a recording with Aidan Maguire on the 28th of June 1994.

Do you mind telling me where you were born?

I was born in a small village called Mountfield which is just 6 miles outside the main town which is called Armagh. It is the main town in the county of Tyrone in Northern Ireland.

When were you born please?

I was born on the 17th of August 1958, which was a Sunday.

Right, and could you give me some of your family background?

I am the only son in the family of seven. I have six sisters. My parents are John and Kathleen. I arrived in Leicester when I was four years of age with my dad and my sister Helen. We stayed at my aunt Agnes, she lived on Wellington Street in Highfields.

So you came here to join relatives that were already here?

Yes, we came to join relatives that were already here.

And tell me what brought you here?

I suppose it was work and chance of better housing really. At that time in Ireland, there wasn't a great deal of houses available especially for the ordinary working person.

When I came from Ireland, we lived in a village where there wasn't a great deal of people, so when you came to Leicester it was very scary.

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Marjorie Marston was born in Highfields in 1942.
Recording an interview with Marjorie Marston on 27 October 1994.

Marjorie can you tell me your age and your place of birth'?

I am 52 years old and I was born here in Leicester at number 3 Twycross Street in the Highfields area.

Were you actually born there?

I was actually born there, yes.

I come from quite a large family really. My father was in the army. My father's first wife was killed in the war and I have an adopted sister, an older sister, an older stepbrother and sister. I am the eldest of my mother's children and I have two younger brothers.

So how many of you were there in the house?

There would have been about seven of us wouldn't there?

So seven of you in the house?


We managed quite well, it was only a small house and as I say, my adopted sister was eleven years older than me, so she was well on the way to moving out by the time everybody else was growing up. We had a lot of fun, we enjoyed ourselves.

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Mrs Margaret Porter came to Highfields in 1923.
Memories Of Sparkenhoe Street, 1929 – 1946 by Mrs Margaret Porter (ne Hall).

I have very happy memories of living at the fish shop in Sparkenhoe Street opposite Gearys the chemists. We moved there when I was three (around 1929), taking over from Mr and Mrs Dave Whittaker who moved to the fruit and vegetable shop next door but one. Next to us on Sparkenhoe Street, was Mr Johnson (Jonty) the cobbler, then Whittakers' fruit shop, Pitchers' cake shop, a Post Office, and lastly Tantums, the newsagents where we bought all our birthday cards. There was also Billy Bares a cycle repairers. Beyond Tantums were the railings of the gardens leading to the front entrance of the workhouse (later known as Hillcrest Hospital).

On the other side of our shop was Jack Bamford, the butcher, which was on the corner of Sparkenhoe Street and Upper Conduit Street (now Maidstone Road). Next to Bamfords (or Mr Nichols) was a tobacconist, and another fruit and vegetable shop called Dunkleys. After that came Mrs Garners shoe shop, then a sweet shop run by a Miss Brown, and a drapers shop run by a Mrs Drake.

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Brett Pruce was born in Highfields in 1955.
Now could you tell me your name, age and place of birth please?

Yes, my name is Brett Pruce, I'm 39, and I was born in the front room of number 7, Stoughton Street in Highfields, Leicester.

Right, can you tell me about your family background, where your parents came from and that sort of thing?

Yes, my father was a Londoner, my mum's family originated in Cosby. They met during the war, or just before the war I should say. They married and the family ensued really. There were five children, my eldest sister is Gaynor, then came my brother Stephen, my sister Nina, then myself, and my younger sister Tracey.

That's just the nuclear family, have you got aunts, uncles, and grandparents in the area?

Oh yes, well, both sets of grandparents. My grandparents are dead now. My mother's grandparents were from Cosby. My dad's parents were both Londoners, but they've been dead for many years now, and my mother and father are dead too. Aunties and uncles on my mum's side; there's a sister who lives in America, and a brother lives in Enderby. On my dad's side; he has a brother and sister still alive, they both live in London.

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Mr Charan Singh came to Highfields in the 1950s.
My name is Charan Singh. I came to Highfields in the 1950s I think. I came here because of my younger brother who was already in Highfields. He used to write to me and tell me how good it was in England. We were farmers in India.

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Councillor Farook Subedar came to live in Highfields in 1972.
Councillor Farook Subedar
Thursday 29th September 1994.

Councillor, can you please tell me when you first arrived to England?

I came to England on 15th November, 1971.

Where did you stay?

I came to London, and moved down to Leicester on 22nd June, 1972.

And where did you move to in Leicester?

We moved to Highfields,and have been in Highfields ever since.

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Mrs Nora Swift was born in Highfields.
Mrs Nora Swift,

I was born at 57 Dronfield Street. When I was a few months old, my parents moved into Fairfield Street. At that time, I understand there were new terraced houses by the score to let and very nice they were too. I was sixth in the family out of nine, the last three being born at Humberstone Garden suburb, a newly built residential community.

I had an aunt who lived in Bakewell Street. In her backyard was a newly built garage which housed a beautiful car belonging to my mother.

My mother's family owned a printing business in Short Street, Leicester which still stands. My father worked for mother's family until 1914.

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Mary Thornley came to live in Highfields in 1912.
Would you mind telling me your name?

Mary Thornley.

How old are you?


So you were born in 1908?

Yes, that's right.

Can you tell me where you were born?

In Leicester, off the Evington Road, then I went to live in Highfields when I was four.

So that would have been 1912?


Where in Highfields did you live?

Evington Street.

What number, do you remember?


Can you remember much of your childhood before you went to school?

Well I suppose I did. I went to school at five and my grandparents lived with us as well so I had plenty of company before I started.

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Mr Eric Tolton was born in Highfields in 1916.
My name is Eric Tolton.

How old are you?


So you were born in 1916?

1916 yes.

Could you tell me where you were born?

Well, my first memory was on Mere Road but I might have been born in Cork Street, because my father had a tailors shop, just inside Cork Street. He was killed in the first world war. They had bought a house on Mere Road when it was first built up there.

Can you tell me what number Mere Road?


Was that one of the tall houses?

Not necessarily, no it wasnt. It was the first house round the corner on Mere Road.


Can you tell me something about your family background?

Well of course, as I say I lost my father in the first world war, I dont remember my him at all, but my mother was one of four children, My aunt Evelyn lived in Worthington Street and the other two, the elder boy lived in Southampton and the other one lived in Oswestry, actually he was a shoe shop manager.

Their parents, my mothers parents name was Davis and they lived at number 10 Holland Road. My grandfather worked at Richards, Bunny Richards the Ironmongers, he had been in the Marines. I understand he was one of the first to land in South Africa when the troops landed there. There were no quays or piers, it was a matter of getting out of the boat and clambering ashore.

Did you have any brothers and sisters?

Ive got a sister who is 92 years old. She has recently moved into Ainsworth House, Manor Road. She is not settling in very well as a matter of fact, but 92 is quite a big age to move.

My father was one of, oh dear, my uncle Bill, my uncle Jim, my auntie Annie, my aunt Emily. Two went to America, one son married an Indian and lived in an Indian Reservation.

In America?

In America, yes. Well, when I went to try and look up some old records, my mother was married from uncle Jims house. From what I gather, he looked after things and it was his son who eventually finished living up here, he is dead now. But when I was in my late twenties I should think, I went to see him. I became a Freeman at twenty-one. You take an oath in front of the Lord Mayor that sort of thing. I said Id like to take more interest and he got me interested in the Board of Deputies you see. We kept in touch and he came to live up here. I learnt quite alot from him about things in the past about my father and my mother as she wasnt one to talk about herself alot you see.

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Mrs Muriel Wilmot came to live in Highfields in 1927.
It's the 4th of August 1994, this is Margaret Speak and I am taping Muriel Wilmot.

Can I just ask you to state your name, age and place of birth?

Yes. Catherine Muriel, do you want my name or my maiden name?

Well your name now is Wilmot and your maiden name?


Your age?


Where were you born?

Ibstock, Leicestershire.

Do you come from a large family?

No, I am the only one.

Did you live with your parents?


When did you move to Highfields?

We didn't move to Highfields in the first instance, we moved to Hinckley Road.

When you did move to Highfields, do you remember how old you were?

Yes, I was about seven.

What was the reason for moving to Highfields?

Well, we moved from Coventry where we had settled to take on a business run by my mother's sister. As this was not a success, we moved back again to Leicester and then to Highfields.

Was there any reason why you chose Highfields?

Not really, it was just somewhere my father probably found, there wasn't a particular reason.

Did you find when you moved to Highfields that you missed the village atmosphere?)

Well, not me so much, but my mother didn't want to live in a village, it was her decision that we moved to Leicester in the first place. My father didn't want to move because he had been brought up in that atmosphere, but mother wanted to see shops, she wanted the town existence.

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.Mrs Dorothy Woodford was born in Highfields in 1921.
Born in 1921, the first 10 years of my life were spent in a small Victorian terraced house in Sparkenhoe Street. I remember we had a small front garden surrounded by substantial iron railings and a strong iron gate.

Our house was situated half way up the hill, backing onto Morrisons garage, and more or less facing Dr Beith's surgery on the corner of Lincoln Street.

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