A virtual tour to compare past and present

At the University of Leicester Centre for Urban History, Colin Hyde has been documenting Leicester’s past and present for many years. Among the photographs Colin has contributed to the Manufacturing Pasts collection are a set depicting Leicester’s Frog Island in 2002 and 2003. Frog Island has almost no residents, but has been home to many industries, most likely because it is flanked by the River Soar and the Grand Union Canal, providing convenient shipping and transportation.

Frisby Jarvis Building in 2002. Photo courtesy of Colin Hyde

Frog Island has an icon: the Frisby Jarvis building, a worsted spinning mill. It is a very impressive building, part of a large plant which also included Farben Works, off Slater Street; it was Grade II listed in April 2003. What makes it the icon of Frog Island is the fact it almost burnt to the ground in 2005 — almost, but not quite. The centre of the building was destroyed, leaving the sides fairly intact. An enterprising car wash now functions quite happily in the burnt-out centre of the building.

Car wash situated in former Frisby Jarvis building on Frog Island. Photo courtesy of weegeebored on Flickr.

The fact that we had Colin’s photos from 2002, well before the fire, allowed me the chance to create virtual tours of Frog Island, one for 2002 and one for 2012. All I had to do was visit the places Colin had photographed back in 2002 and snap them myself. So that’s just what I did, on a sunny Saturday in late August.

But how to create a virtual tour? I decided to try using Prezi. We have received rights to ordnance survey maps of Leicester. So I uploaded into Prezi a 1995 ordnance survey map of Frog Island, then uploaded the photos and placed them as accurately as I could onto the map. I did this for both sets of photographs. I had to use the 1995 ordnance survey map for both sets of photos, because we did not receive rights to any more recent map. The final product can be viewed here on Prezi. Take the tour yourself and tell us what you think!

(Tip of the day for using Prezi: if you click More, then Fullscreen, under the presentation to the right, the images display larger and more nicely.)

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist, University of Leicester

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Capturing history before it goes

Several weeks ago, I began to list and gather photos of the old factories and businesses in Leicester’s Frog Island and other areas nearby. One of the oldest and most beautiful of the old factories is Friar’s Mill, last used by Donisthorpe thread manufacturers. Imagine my horror when, exactly during that time, the news came that Friar’s Mill had been burnt, on 22 July, 2012. Read the BBC News story about the fire.

2010 photo of one of the Friars Mill buildings, Leicester – courtesy of Matt Neale on Flickr


Only last April (2012), another building we are focusing on as part of Manufacturing Pasts suffered a fire: the Corah knitting factory. And similarly, in examining 2002 photographs of the businesses of Frog Island, I was struck by how many have since been destroyed by fire, and how fortunate it is that we have the 2002 photographs.
These events have brought home to me just how it important it is to document and photograph our industrial heritage sites, because at any time they may be lost. It is also vital to digitise whatever we document, as only the digitised versions can be seen and enjoyed around the world and with expected longevity.

Friars Mill historical explanation – originally from the collection of the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland


The above article, now part of the Manufacturing Pasts online collection answers a question I had: why are these buildings referred to as both Donisthorpe and Friars Mill? Answer: Donisthorpe thread manufacturers was the last company to use the building, but the building existed long before Donisthorpe occupied it and rejoices in the name Friars Mill, after the friars whose monestary stood on the site in previous centuries.
Terese Bird, Learning Technologist, University of Leicester