Memories : Leicester, 1985

Leicester 1985

It’s July 1985, and we’re walking along Leicester’s city centre Market Street. It’s a vibrant scene with cars squeezed into every available parking space. For shoppers, this is both a delight and a nightmare – a delight if you manage to find a spot, not so much if you’re like the forlorn Ford Fiesta driver, trying to find a place to stop outside Rackhams.

As it’s the month of Live Aid, you can guarantee that many people here are thinking about what they’re doing for the starving in Africa – with most choosing to watch the event from the comfort of the homes. But that’s hardly a tough sacrifice, given the strength of the musical line-up kicked off with Radio 1 DJ’s opening words, ‘it’s 12 noon in London, seven AM in Philadelphia, and around the world it’s time for Live Aid.’

The Coldstream guards kick off with God Save The Queen, then it’s straight into Status Quo’s Rockin’ All Over the World. This is the biggest live event broadcast to this point and is primarily staged from Wembley in the UK and the John F. Kennedy stadium in Philadelphia. During the 16-hour live concert broadcast to 1.5 billion people around the globe, artists who play include Sting, Phil Collins (who performs in the UK and USA on the same day thanks to a memorable flight on Concorde), Dire Straits, Queen, Paul McCartney, Simple Minds, Madonna and Mick Jagger.

This proves to be an event that is unprecedented in its scale and, for those who watch it from the comfort of their home, or who make it to watch the event live in Wembley on what proves to be a sweltering day, it should be a day that will live with them for the rest of their lives.

So, tell us about the cars

Working from right to left (from the nearest car), we have a Volvo 240, a Chrysler Alpine (looking remarkably rust-free), a Volvo 245DL, a Datsun Cherry (N10) and an MG Metro 1300 with the aforementioned Ford Fiesta hoping to squeeze into the space he’s about to exit.

Other cars we can see – with the aid of a magnifying glass – are the Mercedes-Benz 190E illegally parked on the opposite side of the road, and some of the others include a Talbot Samba a Nissan Sunny, another MG Metro 1300 and we think blurred in the distance are a Vauxhall Cavalier Mk2 (well, the brake lights make it look like one) and a white Austin Maxi. Lovely stuff…

As for Leicester’s Market Street, it’s pedestrianised now and, after some rough years following this picture, it’s looking good, packed full of eateries and locally-owned businesses. If you enjoyed this, let us know in the comments and, if you have any pictures you’d like featuring, drop me a line via any of the links below. Below is how it looks today, according to Google Streetview.

What’s it like today?

Thanks to Nigel Garton for the period photograph.

Keith Adams
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11 Comments

  1. I owned a Cherry N10 from 1979 till 1981, then a Cherry N10 coupe from 81 till 1985. also had access to a company Volvo 240 Estate in the late 80’s. A sturdy car in China blue. Great load carrier and powerful. Wish I could turn the clock back…

  2. Rackhams was a department store that first opened it’s doors in Birmingham in 1851 as a drapery business. In 1955 it became part of the growing Harrods department store group, which was swallowed up by House of Fraser in 57. Rackhams then became one of it’s constitute regional groupings, which along with Army & Navy (south east), Arnotts (Scotland), Binns (north east), Dickins & Jones (south east), Dingles (south west), David Evans (Wales) and Frasers (Scotland) operated from the 70s through to it’s rebranding solely as House of Fraser in the early 2000s. Rackhams name was still actually used on two stores (Skipton and Altrincham) until their closure in 2018/19. The Rackhams in the picture was originally the Toby department store. Nottingham’s other department stores back in the day were Joseph Burton (grocer turned department store – sold to Fine Fare), Henry Farmer & co closed 1974, Griffin & Spalding (became part of Debenhams – renamed 73), Hopewells (originally a furnisher), Jessop & Son (now John Lewis), Pearsons (closed 88).

    Loved Live Aid. My wife only saw it for the first time a couple of years ago (her family didn’t have a TV until 1990!) and she could not believe how good the acts were live back then compared to the shocking music you get these days.

  3. Rackhams was a department store that first opened it’s doors in Birmingham in 1851 as a drapery business. In 1955 it became part of the growing Harrods department store group, which was swallowed up by House of Fraser in 57. Rackhams then became one of it’s constitute regional groupings, which along with Army & Navy (south east), Arnotts (Scotland), Binns (north east), Dickins & Jones (south east), Dingles (south west), David Evans (Wales) and Frasers (Scotland) operated from the 70s through to it’s rebranding solely as House of Fraser in the early 2000s. Rackhams name was still actually used on two stores (Skipton and Altrincham) until their closure in 2018/19. The Rackhams in the picture was originally the Toby department store. Nottingham’s other department stores back in the day were Joseph Burton (grocer turned department store – sold to Fine Fare), Henry Farmer & co closed 1974, Griffin & Spalding (became part of Debenhams – renamed 73), Hopewells (originally a furnisher), Jessop & Son (now John Lewis), Pearsons (closed 88).

    Loved Live Aid. My wife only saw it for the first time a couple of years ago (her family didn’t have a TV until 1990!) and she could not believe how good the acts were live back then compared to the shocking music you get these days.

  4. I was working for a short time at a Chrysler dealer when the Alpine was introduced, so I was one of the first people to have any experience of the model. It looked good inside and out – very modern for the time – but also looked very flimsy and lightweight; and even then, the noisy, clattery engine was apparent.

    • My parents had three due to being on good terms with the local dealer. Very nice cars inside and stood out from the more usual three box saloons, and had an interesting safety feature where you pressed a buttpn to see if the brake pads were worn or the fluid level was low. Also the Alpine being fwd was safe in heavy rain and snow and handled well, with a typical soft French ride. Yet at idle, it clattered like a London taxi and the dashboard seemed to rattle in sympathy with the engine. and the Simca four speed gearbox was rubbery. However, none of them rusted that much and were generally reliable and the engine noise seemed to die off at higher speeds.

      • Beg to differ on that one. My memory is that the Alpine sold very well to start with, but that both new and secondhand sales fell off a cliff after maybe 6 years, when older Alpines had pillars of bubbly rust 3-4 inches wide on the front wings behind the wheel arches. There was also a lot more competition in FWD hatchbacks by then; and people got tired of noisy tappets, obstructive gearchanges, and distributors which expired suddenly and with no warning.

        • We did hit lucky with our Alpines, but there were many at 5 years old where the wings were rusted through and the interiors were falling apart. They certainly weren’t as easy to sell used a Mark 4 Cortina and ours were trade ins at the dealer as I’d imagine taking an Alpine to a Ford or Vauxhall dealer would have led to a poor trade in. However, after a year with a five speed Solara that was quieter and with a more precise gearchange, we went over to a Peugeot 305 S, which was a revelation with its quiet and powerful Peugeot engine, upmarket interior and solid build quality.

    • My Uncle had a V reg Alpine from 1983 to 1989.

      It seemed OK but by the end of the time my uncle had it the interior was getting worn out & it didn’t like driving at high speed in the summer for too long.

  5. Loved Live Aid. My wife only saw it for the first time a couple of years ago (her family didn’t have a TV until 1990!) and she could not believe how good the acts were live back then compared to the shocking music you get these days.

    Rackhams was a department store that first opened it’s doors in Birmingham in 1851 as a drapery business. In 1955 it became part of the growing Harrods department store group, which was swallowed up by House of Fraser in 57. Rackhams then became one of it’s constitute regional groupings, which along with Army & Navy (south east), Arnotts (Scotland), Binns (north east), Dickins & Jones (south east), Dingles (south west), David Evans (Wales) and Frasers (Scotland) operated from the 70s through to it’s rebranding solely as House of Fraser in the early 2000s. Rackhams name was still actually used on two stores (Skipton and Altrincham) until their closure in 2018/19. The Rackhams in the picture was originally the Toby department store. Nottingham’s other department stores back in the day were Joseph Burton (grocer turned department store – sold to Fine Fare), Henry Farmer & co closed 1974, Griffin & Spalding (became part of Debenhams – renamed 73), Hopewells (originally a furnisher), Jessop & Son (now John Lewis), Pearsons (closed 88).

    • Ignore my wittering’s – for some reason I lost the plot and starting going on about Nottingham when it’s Leicester! Rackhams in Leicester was actually Morgan Squire, which was bought by Bournemouth based chain JJ Allen, and then them by House of Fraser.

  6. The idea of smaller Mercedes like the 190 was quite a big move back then, I doubt anyone back in 1985 would have predicted that our streets would be full of fwd A class hatchbacks now!

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