Sunday, 1 September 2013

In defence of Loughborough

Welcome, one and all, to week 5 of my blog about the wonderful Leicestershire market town of Loughborough! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the blog thus far, and hope you’ll continue to stay with me for as long as I can maintain this blog!

Today sees a return to the original topic that started me off on this blog, with a further defence of why I think Loughborough shouldn’t be included in a list of 50 or 100 of the worst towns in Britain. I can find a million and one things to wax lyrical about concerning Loughborough, but I will concentrate on just one or two areas, otherwise I would probably bore you to death! 

So, here goes: 

1. Local industry

Over the years, there have been some fantastic firms based in Loughborough. Some of these still exist, either in the town, or elsewhere in Britain, but some are long-since gone, but not, of course, forgotten! Here are the ones that spring to my mind, but I'm sure there'll be plenty of others that you can think of:

  • Ladybird Books - book publishers - now part of the Penguin Publishing Group. Based in Angel Yard, Market Place, then Beeches Road.
  • Taylors Bellfoundry - bell foundry - moved to Loughborough in 1839. Now on Freehold Street and still making world-class bells!
  • Astra-Zeneca (formerly Fisons) - pharmaceuticals, agricultural etc. - absorbed Sanatogen, Zenobia etc.. Fisons was famous for Gro-Bags! Based on Derby Road and Bishop Meadow Road. How odd that whilst looking for information on a different company for this list I stumbled upon this site with some pictures of an old Fisons Fertilizer plant!
  • Brush - involved in turbogenerators etc.. I think this absorbed the Falcon Engine and Car works. Had various owners over the years, but I believe it is now owned by Melrose. Based on Nottingham Road.
  • Herbert Morris - cranes - appears to have been taken over by Kone Cranes. Based in 
  • Messengers - conservatories and boilers - 
  • 3M - healthcare and pharmaceuticals  - absorbed Riker's
  • Clarkes Dyeworks - this was based in Devonshire and I believe mostly demolished in 1962. There are some pictures on the web.
  • Heathcote’s Mill - lace-making in the early 1800s
  • Cottons - in the knitwear industry, patented a powered knitting machine
  • Towles - hoisiers, took over Cartwright and Warners. 
  • Pochin - in the bathroom/kitchen trade - established in Leicester but with offices in Loughborough
  • Anstey Wallpaper Company - based in the old Ladbybird offices. They produce wallpapers for Sanderson
  • Cuttlefish - a local computing company providing a platform for Empedia
  • Jacksons Coachworks - the clue's in the name!!
  • Willowbrooks - coachbuilders. Although this link is to an article about Duple, it does mention some of the history of Willowbrook
  • Moseleys - coachbuilders, but I can't find anything on the web about them. 

2. Loughborough University

Loughborough University in the community
Well, as much as we local residents might moan about the noise from students who live within the community, we should perhaps recognise that the university is a major employer in the area and contributes a considerable amount to the success of the local economy. I believe the university employs in excess of 3000 staff, and is today the town's biggest employer, compared to Brush many years ago, and Astra-Zeneca more recently. As well as employing many people from the locality, the students spend a lot of dosh in town, and contribute in many ways to good causes, for example, by organising things like litter picks, and supporting local charities. There's a lengthy report available on the web that outlines the Borough Council/University relationship.

However, I suppose it's only fair to mention that relying on students to prop up our local economy is a tricky balancing act, as while they're here, they're spending, but when they're not here they're not spending, and it can be difficult for businesses to balance out the good times with the more lean times. I would imagine this would be particularly difficult for restaurants, take-aways etc. particularly those near the vicinity of the university.  

Very brief history
As Loughborough University started life as a Technical Institute it is no wonder that the reputation of the engineering courses is so strong. Of course, Sport and Sports Science is probably what the university is now best known for, and the university boasts some of the country's best training facilities.

Those pesky league tables
The university's position in the much-talked about league tables is excellent, and places Loughborough in the top strata. So, for example, The Complete University Guide places it at number 14, and there's a good summary of its performance over the last couple of years on the Top Universities website.

I'm sure we can all name some famous alumni - how's about Seb Coe, Paula Radcliffe, Steve Backley, Tanni Grey-Thompson - for starters? But it's not all about sport!! So, what about Bridget Riley, the artist, Johnnie Johnson, a WW2 RAF pilot and Peter Bonfield, the former Chairman and Managing Director of ICL.  

3. Transport links
  • As I mentioned before, Loughborough is situated in the middle of the Leicester/Nottingham/Derby triangle. There are good links to all three cities - either by train, bus, coach or car.
  • The rail links to London and the North are excellent - frequent and fast!
  • Loughborough is only a few miles from East Midlands airport. From here you can fly to, well, lots of foreign places!!!
  • Loughborough is on National Cycle Route 6, although we don't actually get a mention on the Sustrans website.
  • Canal – if you want to take a more leisurely form of transport, the canal links the Rivers Soar and Trent. Guideline journey times: Loughborough to Oxford – 2 weeks, Loughborough to Leicester – 1-2 days. Just before you get to the Market Harborough Arm, you reach Foxton staircase locks - stunning!
As with my original post, I’ve written about what has come into my mind, and this is neither an exhaustive list of things, nor an endorsement of anything. I suppose the other thing I should say is that I'm not going back checking links still work, so while they do at the point I publish the blogpost, they might not later. Sorry, I just haven't got time!

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