Sunday, November 5, 2017

Leics Be Having You!

Last week, it was time for another excursion, this time into one of the neighbouring cities in the East Midlands. My travelling companion was none other than Matt, up from Bristol for a couple of days and he was very excited, as was I, to finally explore the city of Leicester.

Leicester  is a city and unitary authority area in the East Midlands, and the county town of Leicestershire. The city lies on the River Soar and close to the eastern end of the National Forest.
In the 2011 census the population of the City of Leicester unitary authority was 329,839 making it the most populous municipality in the East Midlands region. The associated urban area is also the 11th most populous in England and the 13th most populous the United Kingdom.
Leicester is at the intersection of two major railway lines—the north/south Midland Main Line and the east/west Birmingham to London Stansted CrossCountry line; as well as the confluence of the M1/M69 motorways and the A6/A46 trunk routes. Leicester is the home of Leicester City, a club that caused a major upset by winning the 2016 Premier League title, the first new English championship winners for several decades at the time.

The name of Leicester is recorded in the 9th-century History of the Britons as Cair Lerion (whence Welsh Caerlŷr), and in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as Ligora-ceastre. In the Domesday Book of 1086, it is recorded as Ledecestre. The first element of the name, Ligora or Legora, is explained as a Brittonic river name, in a suggestion going back to William Somner (1701) an earlier name of the River Soar, cognate with the name of the Loire. The second element of the name comes from the Latin castrum which is reflected in both Welsh cair and Anglo-Saxon ceastre.
Based on the Welsh name (given as Kaerleir), Geoffrey of Monmouth proposes a king Leir of Britain as an eponymous founder in his Historia Regum Britanniae (12th century).

Leicester is one of the oldest cities in England, with a history going back at least two millennia. The native Iron Age settlement encountered by the Romans at the site seems to have developed in the 2nd or 1st centuries BC. Little is known about this settlement or the condition of the River Soar at this time, although roundhouses from this era have been excavated and seem to have clustered along roughly 8 hectares (20 acres) of the east bank of the Soar above its confluence with the Trent. This area of the Soar was split into two channels: a main stream to the east and a narrower channel on the west, with a presumably marshy island between. The settlement seems to have controlled a ford across the larger channel. The later Roman name was a latinate form of the Brittonic word for "ramparts" (cf. Gaelic rath & the nearby villages of Ratby and Ratcliffe), suggesting the site was an oppidum. The plural form of the name suggests it was initially composed of several villages. The Celtic tribe holding the area was later recorded as the "Coritanians" but an inscription recovered in 1983 showed this to have been a corruption of the original "Corieltauvians". The Corieltauvians are believed to have ruled over roughly the area of the East Midlands. It is believed that the Romans arrived in the Leicester area around AD 47, during their conquest of southern Britain. The Corieltauvian settlement lay near a bridge on the Fosse Way, a Roman road between the legionary camps at Isca (Exeter) and Lindum (Lincoln). It remains unclear whether the Romans fortified and garrisoned the location, but it slowly developed from around the year 50 onwards as the tribal capital of the Corieltauvians under the name Ratae Corieltauvorum. In the 2nd century, it received a forum and bathhouse. In 2013, the discovery of a Roman cemetery found just outside the old city walls and dating back to AD 300 was announced. The remains of the baths of Roman Leicester can be seen at the Jewry Wall; recovered artifacts are displayed at the adjacent museum.

Knowledge of the town following the Roman withdrawal from Britain is limited. Certainly there is some continuation of occupation of the town, though on a much reduced scale in the 5th and 6th centuries. Its memory was preserved as the Cair Lerion of the History of the Britons. Following the Saxon invasion of Britain, Leicester was occupied by the Middle Angles and subsequently administered by the kingdom of Mercia. It was elevated to a bishopric in either 679 or 680; this see survived until the 9th century, when Leicester was captured by Danish Vikings. Their settlement became one of the Five Burghs of the Danelaw, although this position was short-lived. The Saxon bishop, meanwhile, fled to Dorchester-on-Thames and Leicester did not become a bishopric again until the Church of St Martin became Leicester Cathedral in 1927. The settlement was recorded under the name Ligeraceaster in the early 10th century.
Following the Norman conquest, Leicester was recorded by William's Domesday Book as Ledecestre. It was noted as a city (civitas) but lost this status in the 11th century owing to power struggles between the Church and the aristocracy and did not become a legal city again until 1919.
Geoffrey of Monmouth composed his History of the Kings of Britain around the year 1136, naming a King Leir as an eponymous founder figure. According to Geoffrey's narrative, Cordelia had buried her father beneath the river in a chamber dedicated to Janus and his feast day was an annual celebration.
During the C14th the earls of Leicester and Lancaster enhanced the prestige of the town. Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster and of Leicester founded a hospital for the poor and infirm in the area to the south of the castle now known as The Newarke (the "new work"). Henry's son, the great Henry of Grosmont, 4th Earl of Lancaster and of Leicester, who was made first Duke of Lancaster, enlarged and enhanced his father's foundation, and built the collegiate Church of the Annunciation of Our Lady of The Newarke. This church (a little of which survives in the basement of the Hawthorn Building of De Montfort University) was destroyed during the reign of King Edward VI. It became an important pilgrimage site because it housed a thorn said to be from the Crown of Thorns, given to the Duke by the King of France. The church (described by Leland in the C16th as "not large but exceeding fair") also became, effectively, a Lancastrian mausoleum. Duke Henry's daughter Blanche of Lancaster married John of Gaunt and their son Henry Bolingbroke became King Henry IV when he deposed King Richard II. The Church of the Annunciation was the burial place of Duke Henry, who had earlier had his father re-interred here. Later it became the burial place of Constance of Castile, Duchess of Lancaster (second wife of John of Gaunt) and of Mary de Bohun, first wife of Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV) and mother of King Henry V (she did not become queen because she died before Bolingbroke became king). John of Gaunt died at Leicester Castle in 1399. When his son became king, the Earldom of Leicester and the Duchy of Lancaster became royal titles (and the latter remains so).
At the end of the War of the Roses, King Richard III was buried in Leicester's Greyfriars Church. The site of that church is now covered by more modern buildings and a car park. There was a legend his corpse had been cast into the river, while some historians argued his tomb and remains were destroyed during the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. However, in September 2012, an archaeological investigation of the car park revealed a skeleton which DNA testing helped verify to be related to two descendants of Richard III's sister. It was concluded that the skeleton was that of Richard III because of the DNA evidence and the shape of the spine. In 2015 Richard III was reburied in pride of place near the high altar in Leicester Cathedral.

On 4 November 1530, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was arrested on charges of treason and taken from York Place. On his way south to face dubious justice at the Tower of London, he fell ill. The group escorting him was concerned enough to stop at Leicester. There, Wolsey's condition quickly worsened. He died on 29 November 1530 and was buried at Leicester Abbey, now Abbey Park.
Lady Jane Grey, a great-granddaughter of Henry VII who reigned as England's uncrowned Queen Regnant for nine days in June 1553, was born at Bradgate Park near Leicester around 1536.
Queen Elizabeth I's intimate and former suitor, Robert Dudley, was given the Earldom of Leicester.
The Corporation of Leicester opposed the efforts of Charles I of England to disafforest the nearby Leicester Forest, believing them to be likely to throw many of its residents into poverty and need of relief. Sir Miles Fleetwood was sent to commission the disafforestation and division of lands being used in common. Riots destroyed enclosures in spring 1627 and 1628, following a pattern of anti-enclosure disturbances found elsewhere including the Western Rising.
Petitions challenging the enclosures were presented by the Corporation of Leicester and borough residents to the King and Privy Council. They were unsuccessful so petitioned the House of Lords in June 1628 who however supported Fleetwood but asked for proceedings made by the Crown against the rioters to be dropped. Compensation made to the legal residents of the forest was reasonably generous by comparison with other forests. The Corporation received 40 acres (16 ha) for relief of the poor.

Leicester was a Roundhead stronghold during the English Civil War. In 1645, Prince Rupert decided to attack the city to draw the New Model Army away from the Royalist headquarters of Oxford. Royalist guns were set up on Raw Dykes and, after an unsatisfactory response to a demand for surrender, the Newarke was stormed and the city was sacked on 30 May. Hundreds of people were killed by Rupert's cavalry and reports of the severity of the sacking were further exaggerated by the Parliamentary press in London.

The construction of the Grand Union Canal in the 1790s linked Leicester to London and Birmingham. In 1832, the railway arrived in Leicester in the form of The Leicester and Swannington Railway which provided a supply of coal to the town from nearby collieries. The Midland Counties Railway (running from Derby to Rugby) linked the town to the national network by 1840. A direct link to London St Pancras Station was established by the Midland Railway in the 1860s. These developments encouraged and accompanied a process of industrialisation which intensified throughout the reign of Queen Victoria. Factories began to appear, particularly along the canal and river, and districts such as Frog Island and Woodgate were the locations of numerous large mills. Between 1861 and 1901, Leicester's population increased from 68,100 to 211,600 and the proportion employed in trade, commerce, building, and the city's new factories and workshops rose steadily. Hosiery, textiles, and footwear became the major industrial employers: manufacturers such as N. Corah & Sons and the Cooperative Boot and Shoe Company were opening some of the largest manufacturing premises in Europe. They were joined, in the latter part of the century, by engineering firms such as Kent Street's Taylor & Hubbard (crane makers & founders), Vulcan Road's William Gimson & Company (steam boilers & founders), and Martin Street's Richards & Company (steel works & founders).
The politics of Victorian Leicester were lively and very often bitter. Years of consistent economic growth meant living standards generally increased, but Leicester was a stronghold of Radicalism. Thomas Cooper, the Chartist, kept a shop in Church Gate. There were serious Chartist riots in the town in 1842 and again six years later. The Leicester Secular Society was founded in 1851 but secularist speakers such as George Holyoake were often denied the use of speaking halls. It was not until 1881 that Leicester Secular Hall was opened. The second half of the 19th century also witnessed the creation of many other institutions, including the town council, the Royal Infirmary, and the Leicester Constabulary. It also benefited from general acceptance (and the Public Health Acts ) that municipal organisations had a responsibility to provide for the town's water supply, drainage, and sanitation. In 1853, backed with a guarrantee of dividends by the Corporation the Leicester Waterworks Company built a reservoir at Thornton for the supply of water to the town . This guarrantee was made possible by the Public Health Act 1847 and an amending local Act of Parliament of 1851. In 1866 another amending Act enabled the Corporation to take shares in the company to enable another reservoir at Cropston, completed in 1870. The Corporation was later able to buy the waterworks and build another reservoir at Swithland, completed in the 1890s.
Leicester became a county borough in 1889, although it was abolished with the rest in 1974 as part of the Local Government Act. The city regained its unitary status apart from Leicestershire in 1997. The borough had been expanding throughout the 19th century, but grew most notably when it annexed Belgrave, Aylestone, North Evington, Knighton, and Stoneygate in 1892.

In 1900, the Great Central Railway provided another link to London, but the rapid population growth of the previous decades had already begun to slow by the time of Queen Victoria's death in 1901. World War I and the subsequent epidemics had further impacts. Nonetheless, Leicester was finally recognised as a legal city once more in 1919 and, in 1927, again became a cathedral city on the consecration of St Martin's Church as the Cathedral. A second major extension to the boundaries following the changes in 1892 took place in 1935, with the annexation of the remainder of Evington, Humberstone, Beaumont Leys, and part of Braunstone. A third major revision of the boundaries took place in 1966, with the net addition to the city of just over 450 acres (182 ha). The boundary has remained unchanged since that time.

Leicester's diversified economic base and lack of dependence on primary industries meant it was much better placed than many other cities to weather the tariff wars of the 1920s and Great Depression of the 1930s. The Bureau of Statistics of the newly formed League of Nations identified Leicester in 1936 as the 2nd-richest city in Europe and it became an attractive destination for refugees fleeing persecution and political turmoil in continental Europe. Firms such as Corah and Liberty Shoes used their reputation for producing high-quality products to expand their businesses. These years witnessed the growth in the city of trade unionism and particularly the co-operative movement. The Co-op became an important employer and landowner; when Leicester played host to the Jarrow March on its way to London in 1936, the Co-op provided the marchers with a change of boots. In 1938, Leicester was selected as the base for Squadron 1F, the first A.D.C.C (Air Defence Cadet Corp), the predecessor of the Air Training Corps.
The years after World War II, particularly from the 1960s onwards, brought many social and economic challenges. Mass housebuilding continued across Leicester for some 30 years after 1945. Existing housing estates such as Braunstone were expanded, while several completely new estates – of both private and council tenure – were built. The last major development of this era was Beaumont Leys in the north of the city, which was developed in the 1970s as a mix of private and council housing. There was a steady decline in Leicester's traditional manufacturing industries and, in the city centre, working factories and light industrial premises have now been almost entirely replaced. Many former factories, including some on Frog Island and at Donisthorpe Mill, have been badly damaged by fire. Rail and barge were finally eclipsed by automotive transport in the 1960s and 1970s: the Great Central and the Leicester & Swannington both closed and the northward extension of the M1 motorway linked Leicester into England's growing motorway network. With the loss of much of the city's industry during the 1970s and 1980s, some of the old industrial jobs were replaced by new jobs in the service sector, particularly in retail. The opening of the Haymarket Shopping Centre in 1971 was followed by a number of new shopping centres in the city, including St Martin's Shopping Centre in 1984 and the Shire Shopping Centre in 1992. The Shires was subsequently expanded in September 2008 and rebranded as Highcross. By the 1990s, as well, Leicester's central position and good transport links had established it as a distribution centre; the southwestern area of the city has also attracted new service and manufacturing businesses.
Since the war, Leicester has experienced large scale immigration from across the world. Many Polish servicemen were prevented from returning to their homeland after the war by the communist regime, and they established a small community in Leicester. Economic migrants from the Irish Republic continued to arrive throughout the post war period. Immigrants from the Indian sub-continent began to arrive in the 1960s, their numbers boosted by Asians arriving from Kenya and Uganda in the early 1970s.
In 1972, Idi Amin announced that the entire Asian community in Uganda had 90 days to leave the country. Shortly thereafter, the Leicester City Council launched a campaign aimed at dissuading Ugandan Asians from migrating to the city. The adverts did not have their intended effect, instead making more migrants aware of the possibility of settling in Leicester. Nearly a quarter of initial Ugandan refugees (around 5000 to 6000) settled in Leicester, and by the end of the 1970s around another quarter of the initially dispersed refugees had made their way to Leicester. Officially, the adverts were taken out for fear that immigrants to Leicester would place pressure on city services and at least one person who was a city councillor at the time says he believes they were placed for racist reasons. The initial advertisement was widely condemned, and taken as a marker of anti-Asian sentiment throughout Britain as a whole, although the attitudes that resulted in the initial advertisement were changed significantly in subsequent decades, not least because the immigrants included the owners of many of "Uganda's most successful businesses."
Forty years later, Leicester's mayor Sir Peter Soulsby expressed his regret for the behaviour of the council at the time.
In the 1990s, a group of Dutch citizens of Somali origin settled in the city. Since the 2004 enlargement of the European Union a significant number of East European migrants have settled in the city. While some wards in the northeast of the city are more than 70% South Asian, wards in the west and south are all over 70% white. The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) had estimated that by 2011 Leicester would have approximately a 50% ethnic minority population, making it the first city in Britain not to have a white British majority. This prediction was based on the growth of the ethnic minority populations between 1991 (Census 1991 28% ethnic minority) and 2001 (Census 2001 – 36% ethnic minority). However Professor Ludi Simpson at the University of Manchester School of Social Sciences said in September 2007 that the CRE had "made unsubstantiated claims and ignored government statistics" and that Leicester's immigrant and minority communities disperse to other places.
The Leicester Multicultural Advisory Group is a forum, set up in 2001 by the editor of the Leicester Mercury, to co-ordinate community relations with members representing the council, police, schools, community and faith groups, and the media.

Leicester is a fine city with an extensive and diverse history and it was now time to see what gems could be found in a few of its drinking establishments. The day of our trip turned out to be Halloween and were very much intrigued to see whether the real ale scene in these parts was one of magic or a thing of horror. We arrived in Leicester by train, just after 11.30am and it wasn't long at all until we'd located the first venue on the day's itinerary. Located right next to the station entrance, our day was to begin at The Parcel Yard.
Image result for parcel yard leicester

This modest looking shop frontage leads into a spacious former sorting office and parcel yard for the adjacent station. Owned by Steamin' Billy brewery, this is a modern bar with contemporary furnishings and quirky features. There is a small seating area just inside the door and a small flight of steps leading into the larger lower level which houses the bar and more seating, including a row of booths opposite the bar with lights above made from old bowler hats. The bar has a strong beer focus, featuring craft keg taps and, more importantly, 6 handpulls, 4 of which are in use during our visit. Our choices to start the day were Steamin' Billy 1485, Steamin' Billy Billy, Butcombe Adam Henson's Rare Breed and Charnwood Black Hen. We opted for the Billy (4.3%), contract brewed for the pub chain by Belvoir Brewery. This is a light, golden three hop English bitter with a pronounced floral flavour and aroma followed by a lingering aftertaste. It's a very nice beer on which to begin and the venue itself is brilliant and considerably bigger than it looks from outside!

To continue our trip, we now headed towards the city centre proper, which is only a short walk away, in search of our next location. Located on a main thoroughfare through the shopping precinct, is the Barley Mow.

Image result for barley mow leicester

This is a traditional town centre boozer that operates as part of the Everards estate. A refurbishment in early 2013 took away the much loved pool table in favour of an ale house theme which now boasts 13 handpumps in banks of 5, 3 and 5. As it is part of the Everards chain, I was holding high hopes for the Barley Mow. The interior is long and a study in bare wood floors with seating arranged around the edge, the bar along one wall and a couple of TVs, both on mute, at opposite ends of the room. Whether it was due to the time of day or it being a relatively quiet midweek afternoon, only 1 of the aforementioned handpumps was in use, offering Everards Tiger. Thankfully the beer quality made up for the disappointment in choice and this is always a positive sign. There was enough evidence on show that suggests that their is a wider choice at busier times so I'm prepared to extend the benefit of the doubt in this case.

Our next stop was the customary visit to a local Wetherspoons, in this case accessed after a short walk to The Last Plantagenet.

Image result for last plantagenet leicester

Named after Richard III, the last Plantagenet king, who stayed in Leicester prior to his death at Bosworth Field in 1485, this is potentially the largest pub floor space in the city. Typical Wetherspoons décor, complete with the obligatory trek to the toilets, features a curved bar to one side that utilises 15 handpumps, in 3 banks of 5. 14 of these are in use whilst we're there, offering an interesting choice. The beers to decide between are Doom Bar, Abbot Ale, Ruddles Bitter (all doubled up), Caledonian Trojan Horse, Fort Oatmeal Porter, Hogs Back Farnham White, Vale Steam Punk, Arcadia Autumn Wheat, Woodforde's Tundra, Theakston Pink Grapefruit and Atlas Nimbus. Matt, now sufficiently recovered from the hangover he was nursing, plumped for the Steam Punk. I was intrigued by the Woodforde's Tundra and so decided to give this a go. This proved to be an excellent choice. Billed as a white IPA, Tundra is a very drinkable, very refreshing pale ale with a nice hop balance and a dry, crisp aftertaste, all for just 4.6%! There were quite a few customers already in during the time of our stop which is perhaps no surprise given the general popularity of Spoons and the fact that it was lunchtime. This was a very nice pub in the chain with some excellent beer on offer too!

We veered slightly away from the city centre for our next location which takes pride of place on a street corner. Featured in the Good Beer Guide, our next stop was the Ale Wagon.
Image result for ale wagon leicester

Originally the Queens Hotel, the pub was built in 1931 to replace a Victorian hotel on the adjacent corner It still retains its 1930s interior, including an original oak staircase, and has two rooms with tiled and parquet flooring either side of a central bar. Hops decorate the drainpipes. The pub was originally owned by Ansells then, after years of neglect and deterioration, it was acquired by the present owners, the Hoskins family, who opened it as their first tied house in 1999. Internally, the walls feature photos of the former hotel, the pub itself in the 30s and Hoskins Brewery. The bar itself features 12 handpulls, 11 of which are in use, offering for our delectation Thistly Cross cider as well as Tiny Rebel Cwtch, Hop Back Taiphoon, Hoskins Brothers Old Hoskins Porter, Belvoir Dark Horse and doubles of Hoskins Hob, Hoskins IPA and Hoskins Green & Gold. On this occasion, I decided on the Taiphoon (4.2%) from Wiltshire's Hop Back Brewery. This is a clean-tasting, light, fruity beer with hops and fruit on the aroma, complex hop character and lemongrass notes in the taste, slight sweetness balanced with some astringency in the aftertaste. It's a punchbowl of flavours and very refreshing, especially when enjoyed in the environs of this wonderful pub with its traditional charm and original features. A hidden gem indeed.

It was back into the Everards stable for the next pitstop. Making our way back into the side streets of the city centre, we soon arrived at The Globe.
Image result for globe leicester

A pub since 1720, ales used to be brewed here using water from the well under the pub. The current pub is a non-listed, late 18th century Georgian building that has been owned by Everards since the late 19th century. Until 2001, entry was into a congested irregularly-shaped lobby area with a small servery on the left hand side. A sympathetic remodelling has since taken place, creating a new, central island servery which retains some of the original bar features, with small rooms around. An interesting historical feature was the small snug to the right of the entrance, which has been retained albeit with some modernisation. There is an upstairs function which has its own bar and downstairs is decorated with local historical photographs and bricabrac. The gas lights have been restored and are used on special occasions. This was the first Everards pub to return to selling real ale. Whilst the building already has a long history and retains features of this, there are other aspects of the past that still remain. Prior to use as a pub, the building is believed to have been both a cattle merchants and accommodation for women awaiting execution at nearby Gallowtree Gate. This appears to have left an impression or two in the form of apparent hauntings. These take the form of a woman who appears on the stairs, two disagreeing brothers seen and heard arguing over the bar and a young boy in the cellar notorious for turning off the beer lines. Speaking of beer lines, the bar is fully equipped with 10 handpumps, divided across both sides of the bar, featuring a variety of regular and guest beers. On this occasion, the beers are Everards beers are Beacon Hill, Tiger (x2), Sunchaser, Old Original (x2) and Pumpkin Pie, accompanied by Wadworth Treacle Treat and two ciders, namely Rosie's Pig and Woodhall's Wizard's Sleeve. Whilst Matt mistakenly ordered Wizard's Sleeve thinking it was an ale, I went for the Old Original which was fantastic and tasting just as it should, no less than you'd expect from an Everards pub. Thankfully Matt rather enjoys cider so his mistake ended up being nothing of the sort by the end. This is a very old and yet very cosy pub that is definitely worth a visit!

It was something slightly different in order for our next stop. Whilst it was still an Everards property, it was significantly different in both style and atmosphere. Next up was the Rutland & Derby.
 Image result for rutland and derby leicester

This Good Beer Guide listed pub has an open plan interior and a contemporary ambience. The long bar is directly opposite the front entrance while off to the left is a lounge bar styled area which leads to a restaurant area on a raised level. At the back is a brick-paved courtyard with a metallic spiral staircase that leads to a rooftop terrace. The bar features 5 handpumps, offering a choice between Lilley's cider, Everards Sunchaser, Greene King Grubber, Everards Tiger and Heritage Masterpiece. This time, I decided on the Masterpiece, courtesy of Burton's Heritage Brewery. At 5.4%, this is an IPA big on flavours. It features aromatic hops, cereal notes and hints of smoke and spice enhanced by a fragrant, fruity character and a top note of fresh bread. A full, luxurious mouthfeel combines with a subtle peppery flavour. It was certainly an impressive tasting beer! As well as a good choice of beer, the bar also featured a barmaid who was unmistakably from the West Country, Bath as it turned out. Only Matt could travel to the Midlands and bump into someone from his neck of the woods in a pub he's never been to! It certainly made this pub even more memorable!

There was a bit more walking involved now, which took us past the Leicester branch of Brewdog, sadly too soon for it to open, and along to our next stop. We now visited the Bowling Green.
 Image result for bowling green leicester
Originally dating mostly from the 18th century, this is a Grade 2 listed building that has existed under a number of different incarnations. One of the oldest pubs in Leicester it was previously owned by Ansells under the name the Old Bowling Green. Following spells as the Fullback & Firkin and the Scream-branded Polar Bear it was given a makeover in 2015 by current owners Stonegate which has resulted in a more traditional pub, a return to its original name and a blending of older features with modern tastes. Two original fireplaces were uncovered during this refurbishment and load bearing truss in the front entrance dates to the 14th century. The front parts of the building are old and beamed with panelling. The rear areas have been opened out and are more modern with music, games and sports TVs. The rear features an enclosed courtyard seating area. 5 of the bars 8 handpumps were in use, featuring Lilley's Mango cider, Lilley's Crazy Goat, Robinson's Dizzy Blonde, Robinson's Delilah and Caledonian Deuchars IPA. Despite exposing myself to a lot of Robinson's beer during my recent Stockport trip, Delilah was a new one on me so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to give it a go. This turned out to be a very delicious pale ale with a good balance of hops and citrus flavours and a smooth, dry backbone. It was now an opportune time to have some food and we both enjoyed a very good burger whilst perched on stools at a high table near the bar.

Suitably nourished, we continued on our way. Our next stop wasn't too much further away and we now arrived at the Sir Robert Peel.
Image result for sir robert peel leicester

Another Everards pub in their traditional heartland, the pub is named after the man who was twice Prime Minister between 1788 and 1850 and who is largely responsible for creating the concept of modern policing thanks to the introduction of the Metropolitan Police Act in 1829 whilst home secretary. This has been an Everards house since 1901 and was refurbished by them in a traditional style in 2013. 9 handpumps are located on the bar here, 7 of which were in use whilst we were there. Our options were Orchard Pig Hog Father, Everards Tiger (x2), Wadworth Treacle Treat, Everards Beacon Hill, Heritage Masterpiece and Everards Sunchaser. My choice of the Sunchaser was well founded and this was excellently kept!

We had 2 stops left on our day's agenda and our next was a short distance away at the Bricklayers Arms.
Image result for bricklayers arms leicester

This Victorian corner pub was run by the Oakland family in the 1880s and owned by Beeston Brewery which was taken over by Shipstones of Nottingham in 1922. The pub was extended in 1983 to incorporate the adjacent shop and became an Irish bar in 1995 whilst under Greenalls' ownership. It then passed into the ownership of Scottish & Newcastle when it was refurbished and reverted to its original name. Having been closed for 2 years, it reopened in March 2015. The interior consists of one large open plan L-shaped room with a partially covered courtyard/smoking area at the rear. 4 handpumps sit on the bar, half of which are available offering a choice between St. Austell Tribute and the pub's own Welford Road Ale. Matt and I are both big fans of Tribute so it doesn't take us long to decide on this. The beer is in good condition and certainly helps detract from the couple having a 'disagreement' at the bar.

There was just time for one more stop before our return journey and this was the 3rd of the day's pubs to feature in the Good Beer Guide. The day was to conclude at the King's Head.
Image result for the kings head leicester

This pub started life as a tiny city centre local, owned by M&B which was extended to its current size in 1993. It was acquired by Black Country Ales and reopened after a refurbishment in 2012. Inside it boasts an open fire, whilst a roof terrace ensures that is popular with the local real ale community. 12 handpumps take pride of place, with 10 of these in use during our visit, offering an interesting variety of beers namely Black Country Pig in the Wall, Black Country Fireside, Black Country Blackcurrant, Black Country Black Rat Cider, Lister's Special, Peerless Jinja Ninja, Salcombe Gold, Lister's Limehouse and Swan Lily Little Legs. Brewed by Swan Brewery of Leominster, Herefordshire, Lily Little Legs (4.4%) is a traditional English pale ale with lots of hop flavour and fruity aromas that lead to a juicy hit backed up with a hint of malty bitterness. It's well balanced and a very nice way to end the day.

Leicester had been intriguing. It had been a pleasure being able to explore a city I've heard many good things about, in the company of one of my best friends. It didn't disappoint. The pubs in Leicester are typical for those of such an historic city being varied, interesting and numerous. The beer choice is excellent and allows for a wide variety of options even in the presence of a local brewery with as much clout as Everards, who are still very much a force and rightly so as their beers and pubs are largely responsible for ensuring that real ale still holds a presence in this particular part of the country. There are many more pubs to be explored in the city and so a return trip is a virtual necessity. Overall, this is definitely the best way I could have imagined spending Halloween. Lots of treats and very little trick.