Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Southgates Underpass (Leicester)

[An image showing Southgates Underpass]This complex of underpasses in Leicester does an unusual thing – it actually gives something interesting to look at.

The underpasses run under the inner ring road, from Newarke Street and from Millstone Lane through to the Newarke, the historic area where Richard III lay in state before his burial at the Greyfriars.

Leicester City Council, to their credit, having created the pedestrian-unfriendly 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.

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