Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Colin's Little Known Facts: Arty Underpass

[An image showing Colin's Little Known Facts: Arty Underpass]There is a complex system of underpasses in Leicester, which do an unusual thing – they actually give something interesting to look at.

I’m speaking of the underpasses which run under the inner ring road, from Newarke Street and from Millstone Lane through to The Newarke.

Now I don’t like underpasses, or to give them their other name, subways. I don’t like, as a non-driver, being bunged down out of sight beneath a road. It seems to me that, if a separation in levels between wheeled traffic and pedestrians is deemed necessary, a sensible society would route the traffic underground and let people breathe in the comparatively fresh air above.

Leicester City Council, to their credit, having created the underpass system in the 1960s, did in the 1990s try to improve the situation and make them less threatening.

Part of this was to create better lighting, which certainly helps.

But what comes into the category of actually interesting, though, is the fact that the whole complex has along its walls a series of mosaics.

These are on a wide variety of subjects. They include the tool bar that appears on computer screens; Christian and other religious symbols; mathematical symbols; and a maze, of the type that was once common in England. Only a few of these survive today, notably at Saffron Walden in Essex and Wing in Rutland.

Remember that there are two subways, which come together at The Newarke, and that each subway has an exit leading to the otherwise inaccessible Magazine Gateway.

The whole thing, dating from the early 1990s, is the largest expanse of modern mosaic, as opposed to Roman work, in Europe.

It was all designed by one lady, whose name I’m afraid escapes me. Can anybody remind me who she was? She certainly deserves to be remembered.