Charles Street: a new inner urban thoroughfare of the twentieth century.
You may walk along Charles Street to Humberstone Gate on a regular basis. Does its shape strike you as odd? How old is
Charles Street? In fact, the street as it is now as a whole is a very recent thoroughfare, one of the first planning attempts to remodel what had become the urban core,
bypassing the Clock Tower, between London Road and Belgrave Gate. Upper Charles Street and part of Charles Street were in existence, but the section from Humberstone Gate to Belgrave Gate was a new creation. That explains its changes of direction.
It was not merely an exercise in modern town planning, however, of the Abercrombie school, but a local Keynesian-inspired
public expenditure during the depression. The far end of Charles Street was developed between 1931 and 1933. It must have had a startling impact on the
central area and the comparison of the new street with the buildings and streets on either side was immense. For example, it ran from old terraced housing
over Swain St. bridge (now St Peter's) to old courtyard housing near Bedford St. - Lee St. circle was developed some thirty years later. It was also a swathe of modernity
cut through the Victorian and Edwardian centre.
The project was directed by the Reconstruction Committee of Leicester City Council (the borough had attained the status of a city in 1919) in partnership with a
number of organisations, including the local branch of the RIBA. Kay Bee House received a local RIBA award.