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Latitude: 52.6363 / 52°38'10"N
Longitude: -1.1288 / 1°7'43"W
OS Eastings: 459052
OS Northings: 304642
OS Grid: SK590046
Mapcode National: GBR FHJ.RT
Mapcode Global: WHDJB.MZNT
Entry Name: The Secular Hall
Listing Date: 8 June 1990
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1074752
English Heritage Legacy ID: 188855
Location: Leicester, LE1
County: City of Leicester
Electoral Ward/Division: Castle
Built-Up Area: Leicester
Traditional County: Leicestershire
Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Leicestershire
Church of England Parish: The Resurrection
Church of England Diocese: Leicester
This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 06/12/2012
Nos 73 and 75
(The Secular Hall)
Hall belonging to the Leicester Secular Society. 1881, designed by Larner Sugden. Brick with terracotta, stone faced to ground floor; tiled roofs.
Plan:central hall block (2 storeys with large basement), with attendant's apartment ranged around small courtyard; entrance range with ancillary rooms and offices. Free Flemish Renaissance style. 3 storeys. Lively show front to Humberstone Gate: tower to right, regular 3-bay range to left under large interrupted gable; tall central round-headed window rising through all upper floors with varied pilasters and corbelled canopy with terracotta sunbursts to soffit, and a frieze over lower lights bearing the symbols of Libertas, Justicia and Veritas. Side bays with corbelled canted oriels set within projecting pedimented surrounds to 1st floor, and small square windows to 2nd floor, also in projecting surrounds, with frieze of swags. Recessed porch under wide 4-centred arch, flanked by large 2-light windows with original glazing bars; and carriage entrance under segmental arch to left, each ground-floor element divided by pilasters with terracotta busts in pedimented niches representing Voltaire, Thomas Paine, Robert Owen, Jesus and Socrates. Tower with 2 and 3-light square-headed windows to all floors above ground level; tiled pyramidal spire. Large and dramatic external stack to right return with panelled shafts. Interior: many small rooms with simple contemporary details. Upper hall is the most elaborate room, 8 bays, false hammerbeam roof, balconies at both ends, and a dado (now largely obscured but probably surviving throughout) made up of panels of decorative tiles. A committee of experts at the Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society confirmed in October 2012 that the tiles are Dutch imports and may have been donated by William Morris. A newspaper report in the Leicester Croncicle and Leicestershire Mercury from 1881 refers to Marks and the Durlacher brothers as the suppliers of the tiles. This firm was one of the first to import Dutch tiles to Britain.
Historical interest: this is the first Secular Society hall in the world and one of the few surviving in its original state outside London. Secular societies were established as free-thinking rationalist bodies to provide working people with a positive alternative system to the Christian churches. Many famous figures addressed meetings here including Kropotkin, Joseph Mccabe, George Bernard Shaw and William Morris whose 'Art and Socialism' lecture was given here for the first time.
Sources: Leicester Chronicle and Leicestershire Mercury, Saturday, 5 March 1881
Listing NGR: SK5905204642
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