28 May 2024

How Princess Charlotte
was a music venue in
Leicester but is now
an oriental supermarket

The Charlotte or the Princess Charlotte seen through the arches of the Magazine Gateway in Leicester (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Patrick Comerford

The Princess Charlotte was once a well-known pub in the centre of Leicester, on a busy corner of Oxford Street, Vaughan Way and Newarke Street, close to De Montfort University. Later, as the Charlotte, it was a popular live music venue. But today it is the Farmlands Oriental supermarket.

The Princess Charlotte was named after the only daughter of the future George IV who died in 1817 at the young age of 22. She was once seen as a sign of hope and an alternative to both her unpopular father and her mentally ill grandfather. Her death was a cause of deep, public mourning throughout Britain. In Ireland, she soon gave her name to Charlotte Street, Charlotte Row and Charlotte Quay in Dublin, Charlotte Street in Wexford, Carlow and Sligo, and Charlotte Quay in Limerick.

The former Princess Charlotte in Leicester dates from some time before the death of Princess Charlotte, and may have been built on the ruins of a Roman building. It stands at a busy junction, facing the Magazine Gateway, also known as Newarke Gateway, now a solitary landmark by the side of Leicester ring road.

The Magazine Gateway was originally the main gateway of a walled enclosure built ca 1400, giving access to the religious precinct of the Newarke. The vaulted archway was open to traffic until 1905. The gatehouse rooms have been used as a porter’s lodge, guest accommodation, prison, militia building, and regimental museum.

The pub music scene in Leicester before the 1980s has been described as ‘sparse.’ Most bands performed at working men’s clubs, dance halls and night clubs like the Nite Owl and Il Rondo.

For 20 years, the Charlotte was the go-to venue in Leicester for live music … today it is the Farmlands Oriental Supermarket (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

The Princess Charlotte took on a new role and identity in 1989, and a year later dropped the title ‘Princess’ from its name, becoming ‘The Charlotte.’

The fondly-remembered Oxford Street venue showcased the likes of Radiohead, Oasis and the Stone Roses in its heyday in the 1980s and in the early 1990s, and it was a must on the schedules of most touring bands.

The Charlotte became a nationally recognised ‘circuit venue’ on the live music scene, and found itself at the heart of a vibrant music scene of Madchester, Grune and Britpop. In 1998, the old bar was knocked through to double the capacity from 200 to 400.

For 20 years, the Charlotte was the go-to venue for live music. Under the ownership of Andy Wright, groups such as Oasis, Radiohead, the Arctic Monkeys, Snow Patrol and Kasabian played there. Other performers there included Blur, the Cranberries, Pulp, the Proclaimers, the Stone Roses, the Killers, Macavity’s Cat, the Buzzcocks and Primal Scream.

The venue had a number of house bands, including Armour, Gealic Bread, Mask and the Rise. These house bands often acted as warm-up for the main acts.

After the operating company behind the venue went into administration, it was announced on 15 January 2009 that the Charlotte was facing closure. And so began the slow process of an internationally-recognised music venue coming to an end.

Two months later, it was announced on 10 March 2009 that the Charlotte would remain closed for the foreseeable future. However, it reopened on 8 October 2009. It was then announced later that the last night would be on 13 March 2010 and that the site would be developed into student flats.

The venue closed, but on 11 April 2014 the Charlotte re-opened briefly as a pub hosting occasional live music sessions. The upstairs and rear was converted into flats, and in August 2015 the Charlotte was taken on by two real ale pub landlords from Leicester.

The Charlotte reopened as an independent real ale pub that October, serving microbrewery real ales from around the country seven days a week. But the Charlotte closed as a pub once again in February 2017, and its next role in Leicester was as the Farmlands Oriental Supermarket. Andy Wright continued to promote music in other venues across Leicester.

Today, the premises are owned by Ben Koa, who moved to Leicester from Malaysia. He told local newspapers: ‘I didn’t get the chance to see a band play there, but I know all about the Charlotte. I know it was an iconic music venue that showcased many bands, and some who went on to become household names.’

Meanwhile, the Magazine Gateway is closed and under lock and key. It is managed by the Leicester Museum Service, but is only open to the public by arrangement.

The Magazine Gateway is closed and under lock and key … it is open to the public only by arrangement (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

On the other hand, Queen Charlotte – the other contender for giving her name to many streets in towns throughout these islands – originally gave her name to the New Walk in Leicester, which was first known as ‘Queen’s Walk.’

New Walk is a rare example of a Georgian pedestrian promenade. It was laid out by the Corporation of Leicester in 1785, and was intended to connect Welford Place with the racecourse, now Victoria Park. It is said to follow the line of a Roman pathway, the Via Devana.

It was first named ‘Queen’s Way’ after Queen Charlotte (1744-1818), the wife of George III and grandmother of Princess Charlotte. However, the popular name of ‘New Walk’ survived. New Walk is almost a mile walk, and has been a conservation area since 1969, ensuring its unique character is protected.

New Walk in Leicester was originally named ‘Queen’s Way’ after Queen Charlotte (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Daily prayer in Ordinary Time 2024:
20, 28 May 2024

The Monastery of the Holy Trinity is one of the six surviving cliff-top monasteries in Meteora (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

After a bank holiday weekend in England, this is an ordinary working day. Today, the calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship remembers Lanfranc (1089), Prior of Le Bec, Archbishop of Canterbury and Scholar.

The week began with Trinity Sunday (26 May 2024), and during this week after Trinity Sunday, I am illustrating my prayers and reflections with images of six churches, chapels, cathedral or monasteries I know in Greece that are dedicated to the Holy Trinity.

Before today begins, I am taking some quiet time this morning to give thanks, for reflection, prayer and reading in these ways:

1, today’s Gospel reading;

2, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary;

3, the Collects and Post-Communion prayer of the day.

Six of the original 24 monasteries in Meteora remain the homes of monastic communities (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 10: 28-31 (NRSVUE):

28 Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the good news 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age – houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions – and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

The name Meteora means ‘suspended in the air’ in Greek (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Holy Trinity Monastery, Meteora:

This week I am reflecting on churches, cathedrals and chapels named after the Holy Trinity. These Trinity-themed reflections continue this morning (28 May 2024) with images of Meteora in central Greece, where the Monastery of the Holy Trinity (Μονή Αγίας Τριάδος, or Agia Triada), is one of the six surviving cliff-top monasteries.

The monastery is in the Peneas Valley north-east of the town of Kalambaka, at the top of a rocky precipice over 400 metres high. It is one of the 24 monasteries originally built in Meteora and one of the oldest of the surviving monasteries that form the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites at Meteora.

The name Meteora means ‘suspended in the air’ in Greek. Six of the 24 monasteries atop ‘heavenly columns’ are still active and open to visitors.

The monasteries of Saint Stephen and Holy Trinity are separated from the main group, which are further to the north. Before the 20th century, the entrance Holy Trinity had a very difficult approach that involved crossing a valley and climbing through the rock outcrop. Provisions were placed in baskets drawn up by rope-ladders, but are now provided by using a winch.

Today, one can walk from Kalambaka for 3 km along a foot track to reach the monastery, or use a winch-operated lift. It is reached through tunnels and 130 steps of stone, and at the summit the grounds include a 2 acres (0.81 ha) garden.

Dometius is said to have been the first monk at the site of Holy Trinity and to have arrived in 1438. Holy Trinity is said to have been built in 1475-1476, although some sources say the dates for building the monastery and its adjoining chapel, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, are of a much earlier date.

By end of the 15th century, there were 24 such monasteries in Meteora, but only six are still inhabited today – Holy Trinity, Saint Stephen, Rousanou, Saint Nicholas Anapafsas, Varlaam, and the Great Meteoron – and they make up the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Meteora.

The main church in Holy Trinity is cruciform in shape, with a dome supported on two columns. This church was built in the 15th century and decorated with frescoes in 1741 by two monks. A pseudo-trefoil window is part of the apse. There are white columns and arches, as well as rose-coloured tiles. The small chapel of Saint John the Baptist, carved into the rock, has 17th century frescoes.

At one time, 50 monks lived at Holy Trinity, but by the early 20th century there were only five. When the writer Patrick Leigh Fermor visited the monasteries as a guest of the Abbot of Varlaam, Holy Trinity was one of the poorest monasteries in Meteora. Holy Trinity was once richly decorated and had precious manuscripts, but its treasures were looted by the Nazis when they occupied the monastery during World War II.

Holy Trinity Monastery features in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only (1981). In the climax to the film, Bond climbs the rock cliff and finds upon Aristotle Kristatos and Erich Kriegler who are using the monastery in the film as a hideout.

The monastery also features in the film Tintin and the Golden Fleece (1961) and the film Boy on a Dolphin (1957) was partly shot in Meteora, where Clifton Webb’s character goes up to Holy Trinity monastery to do some library research.

The early winches, ropes and pulleys still survive in many monasteries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayers (Tuesday 28 May 2024):

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Renewal and Reconciliation.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday with a Programme Update by Rachael Anderson, Senior Communications and Engagement Manager, USPG.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (28 May 2024) invites us to pray:

Heavenly Father, we pray for the countries of the Caribbean and their peoples. May they stand strong under the weight of their colonial history and find freedom to grow their identity and prosper.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you have given us your servants grace,
by the confession of a true faith,
to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity
and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity:
keep us steadfast in this faith,
that we may evermore be defended from all adversities;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion Prayer:

Almighty and eternal God,
you have revealed yourself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
and live and reign in the perfect unity of love:
hold us firm in this faith,
that we may know you in all your ways
and evermore rejoice in your eternal glory,
who are three Persons yet one God,
now and for ever.

Additional Collect:

Holy God,
faithful and unchanging:
enlarge our minds with the knowledge of your truth,
and draw us more deeply into the mystery of your love,
that we may truly worship you,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition copyright © 2021, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Archbishop Lanfranc of Canterbury in the window above the High Altar in the Church of Saint Dunstan-in-the-West, Fleet Street, London … he is remembered in ‘Common Worship’ on 28 May (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)