Queen Street Quarter - A Leicester Heritage - Queen Street Quarter

Queen Street Quarter – A Leicester Heritage

The site of Queen Street Quarter holds a place in Leicester’s hosiery history. It used to be an active knitwear factory owned by Robert Rowley. Robert was born in 1846 and started business as a frame knitter in Wigston Street. He set up R Rowley & Co in Queen Street in 1867 but this was in a small building on what was a wood yard.
The Rowleys took advantage of modern technology and power operated machinery and in 1891 the firm had rapidly expanding work force.
In 1911 the factory suffered one of the worst fires seen in Leicester city as the nearby timber yard caught alight and spread to the factory.
Robert Rowley did not let this deter him and in 1913 he finished off constructing the building that is now Queen Street Quarter. His vision of constructing a factory made of new building mediums such as concrete and reinforced beams and floors was probably motivated by his fear of another factory fire. Today the beautiful building still stands as testament to his vision of creating a long lasting modern factory.

Two years before his death in 1936, Robert Rowley JP donated money to create 5 tram stops within the city. It is believed he invested in these Art Deco buildings to provide shelter for his staff working in the city who relied upon tram transport to get to work.

Robert Rowley Art Deco Tram Shelter
An original tram shelter donated by Robert Rowley

In 1936 Robert Rowley died, leaving an estate with a value of £813,931. In today’s money that is the equivalent of approximately £34,000,000!

When the First World War started Rowley and Co Ltd won lots of military contracts to provide clothing which kept the order books full and the company very busy however after the First World War the world wide depression hit caused a few set backs but the business continued to thrive and by the early 1940 became the third largest employer in the hosiery trade in Leicester.

The Second World War saw a return of military contracts, again producing clothing for the military and the Ministry of Aircraft Production actually accommodated part of the factory!
In the 1950’s the factory saw a down turn in knitwear business and closed the stockings section of the factory. The company never really produced its own recognised brand of product ((it did have a known socks brand that used the Peter Pan trademark); or became a fashion leader in any product instead it concentrated on manufacturing merchandise for the wholesale trade. During the 1960’s the decline of independent retail stores caused Rowley and Co ltd to build strong links with new and high street names that were starting to take hold on the retail market.

In 1962 the last family member, (grandson of Robert) retired from the family business and a new chairman was appointed however the success of previous generations was never achieved and after poor trading results the company was bought by manufacturing competitor Courtaulds.

In 1999 the factory closed its doors as low cost overseas manufacturing competition made UK production unprofitable.
The current premises were acquired by the current owners and converted into one of the finest places to live in Leicester.
If you would like to live in a building that has a deep connection with Leicester history call us on 0116 262 9222 or email us to check availability.

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