Beneath the Streets of Leicester History Awaits to be Discovered


By now everyone will have heard about the King under the car park, but very few will have heard of the archive beneath the former factory. Somewhere hidden beneath the streets of Leicester, away from prying eyes, lies an archive of special interest. Not many people know of its existence, in fact some of the workers in the building above this archive don’t even know it is there, but the people responsible for running this gem of learning are not deliberately trying to keep it to themselves, in fact they would like more people to know about it and use its facilities. 

The Leicestershire and Rutland Family History Society’s Research Centre lies beneath Pilot House, at 41 King Street in Leicester. The centre is manned by volunteers who are always willing and able to assist and advise their members and visitors with research into their family history. New members, beginners and visitors are always welcome, although it is suggested visitors give a small donation. 

The Society began as the Leicester Family History Circle in 1974 with just 12 people who had an interest in family history. It quickly grew and was later renamed the Leicestershire Family History Society. In 1992 Rutland was incorporated into the Society and the name changed to the Leicestershire & Rutland Family History Society. The society is run by a group of Trustees who are elected annually by members at the A.G.M. 

With the present membership of over 2,000 the LRFHS has the capacity to offer a wide range of services and activities to assist family historians and researchers. In recent years the interest in genealogy has grown considerably and it has become one of the most researched subjects on the internet. 

The Research Centre, which occupies approximately 2,000 sq ft, has 12 computers with free access to a number of websites including Ancestry, Find My Past and The British Newspaper Archive, plus two computers for project use. Amongst the range of data stored here will be found the GRO Birth, Marriage and Death Indexes from 1837 to 2002, The National Probate (Wills) Index containing details of 7 Million wills and The Mormon International Genealogical Index (IGI). There are also a number of fiche readers for accessing the many records they hold on microfiche. 

The LRFHS produce a large number of CDs containing indexes of baptisms, marriages and burials from the parish registers of 

Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, also indexes for the Leicester cemeteries and the Leicester School Age Registers. These CDs are installed on all the computers at the research centre for the use of members and visitors. 

A new addition to the centre is the Military Corner, where amongst other material they have the WW1 Trench Maps and the Army War Diaries (containing 4,500 War Diaries) on DVDs, as well as their own CDs of Absent Voters for 1917/18. 

The opening hours of the research centre are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday 10.00am to 4.00pm and Saturday 8.30am to 12.30pm (except Bank Holiday weekends). 

The LRFHS also have six local groups which are all run by Sub- Committees who organise monthly meetings with talks on a wide range of subjects. They are located in Leicester (Wigston Magna), Loughborough, Hinckley, Market Harborough and Rutland (Oakham), there is also a Computer Group who meet bi-monthly. All LRFHS members receive a quarterly Journal with lots of information and articles written by members. 

Last year (2014) saw the society celebrate their 40th Anniversary with a special open day at the Leicester Racecourse where they had two floors of exhibitors, including local history societies and groups, family history societies from around the country, commercial stands and the Records Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland. There were also two speakers in the morning and a ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ type of presentation to a local celebrity. 

Besides organising regular coach trips to the National Archives at Kew and other places of interest to members they also organise a coach trip each year to various parts of the Western Front (WWI) or Normandy Beaches (WWII). 

The Leicestershire and Rutland Family History Society often have open days and WW1 themed open days at their Research Centre at Pilot House in King Street Leicester to assist anyone to find WW1 Heroes or just general family history enquiries. These open days are usually publicised in the local press, on BBC Radio Leicester and the society’s website. The centre’s daytime telephone number is; 0116 2857211


Brian Johnson Vice Chairman LRFHS