THE CEDARS PUBLIC HOUSE AND RESTAURANT, MAIN STREET, EVINGTON AND ITS FORMER RESIDENTS
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE CEDARS PUBLIC HOUSE AND RESTAURANT, MAIN STREET, EVINGTON LE5 6DN
In its early life, the Cedars was as an upper-class private house that was built in the 1830s. It was built in a simple classical style, stuccoed with two Doric columns at the entrance. Two local architects, William Flint and William Parsons influenced its style. The side wings were added later.
On 18thJune, 1938, Frederick Hanson, the last landlord of the Horse and Groom closed this pub after lunch and opened the Cedars at 6.00pm the same day. The Horse and Groom was situated where the shopping precinct is now that includes Bennett’s hardware store. So all Frederick Hanson had to do was lock up his old pub and walk across the road to his new pub. The Horse and Groom was then demolished.
The first residents of the Cedars are not known for certain but the Moore sisters that came to live there about 1852 were sisters of the Rev. William Burton Moore who was Vicar of St. Denys, Evington from 1846-1893. His father, magistrate John Moore and his grandfather were in the hosiery trade that was firmly established in Leicestershire by that time.
To have had a house of this value and status shows that the three land owning Moore sisters, Ann, Mary and Cleopatra were people of considerable substance as at that time they also had two servants living with them at the Cedars as well as their widowed mother. Ann Leach Moore died in 1890 in Evington leaving an estate of over £10,000, sister Mary Leach Moore died, also at Evington, only a few years later in 1895, and finally Cleopatra Louisa Moore died in 1914 after having moved to Princess Road, Leicester leaving an estate of £32,389.
The Cedars was also the home of prolific novelist, E. Phillips Oppenheim (1866 – 1946) and he lived here in Evington between 1897 and 1905.
Oppenheim was the son of a Leicester leather merchant. He left school (Wyggeston Grammar School) aged 16 and then worked in his father’s business for almost twenty years. In 1892 he married Elise Clara Hopkins. They lived in Evingtonuntil just before the First World War, and had one daughter. He wrote 168 mystery novels and short stories. ‘His literary success enabled him to buy a villa in Franceand a yacht, then a house in Guernsey, though he lost access to this during the Second World War. Afterwards he regained the house, le Vanquiédor in St. Peter Port, and he died there on 3 February 1946.
Oppenheim featured on the cover of Timemagazine on September 12, 1927, he was the self-styled ‘prince of storytellers.’ He mainly wrote stories of suspense and international intrigue but also romances, comedies, and parables of everyday life. He was the earliest writer of spy fiction as understood today, and invented the ‘Rogue Male’ school of adventure thrillers that was later exploited by John Buchanand Geoffrey Household.
Mr Marx’s Secret, published in 1899, has a Leicestershire setting and ‘The Kingdom of the Blind’ published in 1916, was possibly his best novel. Probably his most successful novel was ‘The Great Impersonation’, published in 1920, it sold over one million copies. The Great Impersonation: was filmed three times, the last time as a strong piece of wartime propaganda. Perhaps Oppenheim’s most enduring creation is the character of General Besserley, the protagonist of General Besserley’s Puzzle Boxand General Besserley’s New Puzzle Box(one of his last works).
- G. Wodehouse’s collection of short stories, ‘Very Good, Jeeves’, published in 1930, was dedicated to Oppenheim.
The blue plaque in the Cedars’ entrance lobby commemorates Oppenheim and his time in Evington.
Another resident at the Cedars was called Disney Barlow who lived at the Cedars for several years up until 1925. He was a director of Lennards Brothers (later renamed Liberty Shoes) and during a visit to America in 1921 he was very impressed by the sight of the Statue of Liberty. On his return Lennards was re-named Liberty shoes and he was responsible for commissioning a replica Statue of Liberty that was placed on the firm’s factory at the junction of Walnut Street and Eastern Boulevard but after relocation it can now be seen at the junction of Upperton Road and Western Boulevard.
One of the last private residents of the Cedars was Harry Bollard, company secretary and director of Mapperley Colliery, Derbyshire.
Following the First World War life became more difficult for the owners of prestigious houses. It became more expensive to employ servants. The growing trend for women to work in industry and forsake more genteel employment and domestic service had accelerated during the war.
Despite high levels of unemployment in the North of England, South Wales and parts of Scotland, the light industries of Leicester, including the hosiery and knitwear, benefitted from the nation’s increasing spending power. Small motor cars such as Ford and Morris Eights were available to many middle earners and the new public house could be an attractive and accessible venue for many. A League of Nations Report on household earnings in 1936 identified Leicester as the ‘second most prosperous city in Europe’. There was a massive building boom on the outskirts of Leicester including Evington and many people would have been able to walk from their home to visit the Cedars.
It was in that context that the Cedars was opened as an hotel and public house in 1938.
The Cedars is owned by King Henrys Taverns and is part of a chain of six public houses. It is open from 11.30am until 11.00pm from Monday to Saturday and 12 midday until 10.30pm on Sundays as a restaurant and lounge bar. During Leicester’s early lockdown it was closed from March 2020 and only reopened again in May 2021. While the number of Covid cases are still rising, the owners have put in place many safeguards for their customers and see this pub as the heart of its local community.
Bramwell Rudd (for the Evington Echo)
King Henry Taverns website (www.king-henry-taverns.co.uk)