20 FAMOUS PEOPLE ASSOCIATED WITH LEICESTER
Leicester has a fabulously rich and varied history, making this heritage and giving it a place in the past, present and future are some very special people.
From performers, writers, sportsmen and even a scientist, here are some of the famous men and women who have associations with my hometown.
1. ALICE HAWKINS
Starting off with a spot of girl power, Alice Hawkins, ladies and gents went to prison five times for acts committed as part of the Women’s Social and Political Union militant campaign. Alice was a leading suffragette among the boot and shoes machinists of Leicester where she started working at the age of 13. The city of Leicester commemorates the brave and selfless efforts of Alice with a statue of her by Sean Hedges-Quinn, standing tall in Market Square where she often spoke at rallies in the corn exchange to support the Suffragette movement.
2. LADY JANE GREY
Lady Jane Grey was the great grand-daughter of Henry VII and spent her childhood living at the family home, Bradgate House located on the outskirts of Leicester. Henry VIII named her heiress to the throne after his death however only if his three children, died without issue. Jane was crowned queen on 10 July 1553 for nine nine days until she was banished to the tower of London by Mary Tudor (“Bloody Mary”) and later was executed as Mary intended to be queen.
3. MARTIN JOHNSON
One of Leicester’s greatest Rugby union heroes who represented Leicester Tigers and captained England in the 2003 Rugby World Cup, in a career spanning 16 years. He moved to the city as a child and is regarded as one of the greatest locks to have ever played and one of England’s greatest ever players. Personally, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Martin Johnson a number of times as he regularly carries out engagements at the hospitals.
4. GARY LINEKER
Gary Lineker is a household name as a sports broadcaster but started life in Leicester where he played for Leicester City Football Club and then moved onto playing for England. As a child I would go to Leicester Markey with my parents and shop at Gary’s parents’ fruit and veg stall called Linekars! Gary Linekar is known to be England’s third highest scorer, scoring 48 goals over an eight-year career.
5. GOK WAN
Leicester born Gok Wan started life working at his parent’s Chinese restaurant but later went on to study at the Central School of Speech and Drama. He has written for popular fashion magazines and his TV shows have been a household name encouraging others to boost their confidence edging from his own experience.
6. JOE ORTON
Joe Orton was born in Leicester to later become a playwright and diarist. Albeit pretty controversial in his time, Joe produced some cracking comedies including ‘What the Butler Saw’ and even had The Beatles calling on him to write a script for a new film in 1967. It’s no surprise that Joe Orton has been recognised as having a special skill for writing for theatre with a paved plaque outside the Cultural Quarter in Leicester.
7. ENGELBERT HUMPERDINCK
Born in the Madras and of Anglo-Indian descent, Englebert’s (actual name, Arnold Dorsey) family moved to Leicester and he became a pop singer at his peak in the 60’s and 70’s. Unfortunately the only song I know is ‘Please Release Me’, which apparently topped the UK music charts back in 1967!
8. JOSEPH MERRICK (THE ELEPHANT MAN)
John Merrick suffered severe deformities in the first few years of his life and following being neglected by his family was moved to London. Here he was exhibited at a freak show as the “Elephant Man’ and subsequently went on to live at a London Hospital, which led him to become quite the figure in London society. He died at the age of 27 of asphyxia and subsequently had a film and screenplay produced about his life.
9. GEOFFREY CHAUCER
The author of the famous Canterbury Tales frequented at Leicester Castle and the Earl’s Court, who incidentally was his patron. Rumour has it that the tales written in the medieval times, may even have been inspired by some of the goings on at the castle during Chaucer’s stay.
10. SIR ALEC JEFFREYS
In 1984, at the university of Leicester, the now knighted Sir Alec Jeffreys introduced the world to the technique of Genetic Fingerprinting. He changed the course of police investigations in the world as forensic science is used for all kinds of disputes. Having met with Sir Jeffreys and attended many of his lectures, he is a true inspiration in the field of Science. Sir Jeffreys currently is professor at Genetics at Leicester University.
11. SUE TOWNSEND
Most of you may know the Leicester born writer Sue Townsend by the fictional character she created, Adrian Mole and his diaries in the 1980s. It was well known that Sue faced financial hardship well into her thirties and often used this experience in her work. The writer had great success with many of her writings, but the Diaries of Adrian Mole went onto become a well-known television series.
12. SIR DAVID & RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH
The Attenborough brothers spent their childhood in Leicester at the university campus where their father was appointed principal. This is where Sir David found his love for nature, infact he supplied the Zoology department with newts, he’d go pond-dipping for the amphibians, which he sold to them. I recently witnessed Sir David speak so fondly of Leicester at the Armistace Day remembrance service in November 2018.
13. RICHARD III
The famous medieval king who fought in the great Battle of Bosworth and whose remains were found in the Grey Friars car park in Leicester really has put the city in the limelight. His remains lie in his final resting place in an impressive tomb in Leicester Cathedral. The medieval king’s life and archaeological discoveries have been charted in conjunction with the University of Leicester at the King Richard III Visitor Centre, a couple of minutes’ walk from where he was discovered.
14. CARDINAL WOLSEY
Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Henry VIII’s right-hand man and Archbishop of York, died in Leicester in the winter of 1530 and was buried in Leicester Abbey in the modern-day Abbey Park. His fate has remained a mystery for centuries and despite numerous digs having taken place at Abbey Park, his remains have never been located.
15. JEFFREY HOFFMAN
Jeff Hoffman is a NASA astronaut and currently visiting professor of Astronomy at University of Leicester at the only Physics and Astronomy department in the UK that offers taught modules by someone who has been to space. Jeff first came to Leicester after completing his PhD in Astrophysics at Harvard and has flown into space five times on four different Shuttle orbiters, becoming the first astronaut to log more than 1,000 hours in space.
If you’re a Kasabian fan, you probably know the indie-rock group formed in 1997 and are from Leicester. Having released six studio albums and the Q Awards and NME awards in 2014 and 2016 for ‘Best Live Act’ these guys are quite the talk if the city!
Their live performances have received much acclaim including headlining at Glastonbury in 2014.
17. DANIEL LAMBERT
The Leicester Gaol (prison) keeper was best known for his unusually large size. This was made even more unusual due to his relatively healthy lifestyle and a cause had never been found to his extreme obesity. However the medical profession’s theory is that Daniel gained all his weight after he became a gaol keeper and the relatively sedentary lifestyle made him pile on the weight!
18. PARMINDER NAGRA
Shooting to stardom in the UK after her role as Jess in ‘Bend it like Beckham, Leicester born Parminder Nagra got a big break stateside as Dr Neela Rasgotra in ER. Parminder’s working class background is true testament that hard work achieves success. She was a member of a Leicester based theatrical company, which is still going strong, before she moved to London to study theatre.
19. MARK SELBY
If you love Snooker then you’ll know professional snooker Mark Selby, or ‘the jester from Leicester’ as he’s known to his fans. He has been World Snooker Champion three times and was number one in the world rankings for over four years continuously. He has won 17 ranking titles, which puts him in joint seventh place by ranking tournament wins in history to Judd Trump.
20. KATE O MARA
Leicester born Kate O Mara was known for being a fantastic English stage and film actress as well as a writer. As well as appearing on many stage productions such as The Merchant of Venice, Anthony & Cleopatra she was also famed for her TV roles in Howard’s Way, Absolutely fabulous and a number of horror films to name a few.
I’m pretty sure there are a lot more famous people from Leicester but I do hope you enjoyed the list. Let me know in the comments if you knew all these celebs came from Leicester?
You can read more about Historic Leicester in the post below…