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The Music Hall and Theatre History Site
Dedicated to Arthur Lloyd, 1839 - 1904.

 

The Victoria Pleasure Grounds and Temple of Wonder, Welford Road, Leicester

An article written for this site by David Garratt in 2011

Leicester Theatres

An 1867 advertisement for Clewe's Victoria Pleasure Grounds, Leicester - Courtesy David Garratt.The Victoria Pleasure Grounds and Temple of Wonder were situated on a site fronting Welford Road, Leicester near to the Toll Gate. They are first mentioned on 29th June 1867, when 'the grounds will be open for dancing and amusements every Saturday afternoon during the season.'

Right - An 1867 advertisement for Clewe's Victoria Pleasure Grounds, Leicester - Courtesy David Garratt.

These pleasure grounds were owned by my great, great, great Grandfather Joseph Clewes who for many years kept the 'Coach Makers Arms' public house in Church Gate Leicester. There is a record of an application for an alcoholic licence By Joseph Clewes for the 'Storks Head and Victoria Pleasure Grounds' in 1867 at the annual Brewers Sessions, where his application was objected to by Mr Freer, clerk to the Visitors of the Lunatic Asylum, on behalf of the institution. It was stated that 'an injunction had been applied for to close the Victoria Pleasure Grounds, it being found to interfere materially with the carrying on of the business at the Asylum'. It seems the Asylum lost the objection and the licence was granted to the Joseph Clewes.

Records show that in 1870 there was a Cricket match held between the 'Caxton Eleven' and the 'County Standard' teams, the 'Caxton Eleven' winning 93 runs to 28.

In May 1875 Joseph Clewes held a sensational attraction of 'Madam Angelo' who walked a thousand miles in a thousand hours, day and night, around a railed enclosure inside The Temple of Wonder, which was a large wooden building. She was billed as 'The Champion Female Walker Of The World'. A Mulatto Lady and a native of Calcutta, who it is said 'astonishes all creation with her graceful style of walking'.

A notice in the ERA of the 2nd of May 1875 advertising for 'Talent' to accompany 'Madame Angelo's great 1,000 miles walking feat' commencing on Whit Monday

Above - A notice in the ERA of the 2nd of May 1875 advertising for 'Talent' to accompany 'Madame Angelo's great 1,000 miles walking feat' commencing on Whit Monday.

A sketch of an 1875 poster advertising Madame Angelo 'The Champion Female Walker of the World!' by David Garratt.On Saturday and Monday afternoons a military band was in attendance. In order to ensure regular periods of rest, her hours of walking were a quarter to 2, 4, 6, 8, and 12. Admission was 3d (1.5 pence today) when the band was playing, and 2d (1 p ) at any other time. No dogs nor disorderly persons admitted. The Era Newspaper reports that on Sunday alone 5,000 people visited the Temple of Wonder to see her walk.

Left - A sketch of an 1875 poster advertising Madame Angelo 'The Champion Female Walker of the World!' by David Garratt.

My Grandfather also told me that Joseph Clewes had employed a famous wire walker as an attraction, but not many paid to see him at the Victoria Pleasure Grounds, as the public could see him high up on the tightrope above the show grounds from outside, for free, without having to pay admission. Needless to say this attraction was a financial flop. He also employed a Balloonist to rise high above the show grounds and to descend by parachute from the balloon, but again this was another financial flop for the same reason that people could see him from outside for free.

The Victoria Show grounds and Temple of Wonder sadly are no more, and on the site today are accommodation units for the University of Leicester students, and a 'Homebase' DIY store together with an access road to Freemans Common, now an industrial estate.

The site of the Victoria Pleasure Grounds, Leicester in March 2011 - Courtesy David Garratt

Above - The site of the Victoria Pleasure Grounds, Leicester in March 2011 - Courtesy David Garratt

The above article was written for this site by David Garratt and kindly sent in for inclusion in 2011. The article and most of its accompanying images are © David Garratt 2011.

If you have any archive images of this venue that you are willing to share please Contact me.

Archive newspaper reports on this page were collated and kindly sent in for inclusion by B.F.

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