Former Home for Penitent Females with Boundary Walls


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
58 Stoneygate Road, Leicester, Leicestershire, LE2 2BN


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Statutory Address:
58 Stoneygate Road, Leicester, Leicestershire, LE2 2BN

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

City of Leicester (Unitary Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Former home for fallen women with attached laundry, later school, built about 1881 to the design of William Beaumont Smith.

Reasons for Designation

58 Stoneygate Road, Leicester, formerly the Home for Penitent Females, is listed at Grade II for the following reasons:

Architectural interest:

* As a late-C19 example of a purpose-built home for ‘fallen’ women with attached laundry which survives well; * For its competent domestic revival design by Leicestershire architect William Beaumont Smith, with high quality detailing befitting of its location within a Victorian residential suburb, and for the prominent role it plays in the streetscape.

Historic interest:

* Built as an institution epitomising both the puritanical and progressive aspects of C19 social values, it is a physical manifestation of Victorian philanthropy and historical ideas about the behaviour of women.


During the C19 the rescue and reform of girls and women who had ‘fallen’, or those considered in danger of doing so, became a major concern of charitable and religious groups. ‘Fallen’ women included those who had become involved in prostitution or unmarried women whose reputation had been tarnished, particularly if they had become pregnant. A number of preventative or penitentiary establishments were set up across the country to rescue and accommodate these women. The character of these establishments varied but many were aimed at moral reform with some requiring a stay of a year or more and inmates often occupied with laundry work and domestic tasks.

In Leicester, The Home for Penitent Females was established in 1847, initially in premises in the Newarke, but as the number of inmates grew, the Home subsequently moved to various addresses in the city. In November 1881 the Home for Penitent Females was opened in new, purpose-built premises at 58 Stoneygate Road, in a developing middle class suburb on the outskirts of the city which it was hoped would be of benefit to the inmates. The Home was managed by a board of local philanthropists and religious leaders with advice from a Ladies Committee. It was financed through charitable subscriptions, including a donation of £1000 from Mrs Perry Herrick, as well as income generated from an onsite laundry.

The building was built by T Bland and Sons and designed by William Beaumont Smith, a local architect and County Surveyor, who is thought to have begun his career working for Parsons and Dain. Smith is suggested to have later taken over the partnership with Messing John Dain, forming Dain and Smith.

The Home is said to have accommodated 40 residents and provided 34 separate dormitories along with a chapel, reading room, dining hall, kitchen, scullery and Matron’s rooms. The working part of the establishment contained a washhouse, laundry, and drying, ironing and packing rooms, originally connected to the main building with a covered way. At the time of its opening the building was described as being ‘unpretentious, but neat and substantial’.

Inmates were cared for by a matron and chaplain, and were visited by local ladies of standing. While the residents were mainly employed in laundry and needlework, it is indicated that by the 1890s forms of enjoyment and relaxation were also provided in the form of excursions, holidays and evenings of entertainment. The work room is said to have been decorated by the Leicester Kyrle Society, with William Morris and Co furnishings, and pictures including a mural or engraving of William Holman Hunt’s the Light of the World, though these features are not thought to survive.

By the 1930s the Home is understood to have been an Approved School, an establishment set up to cater for neglected and delinquent girls, and became known as the Leicester Home School for Girls. The school is suggested to have closed in the 1950s but reopened as the Stoneygate Hostel for Female Mental Defectives. By this time, the single storey extensions had been added to the east side of the building and the former wash house was being used as a chapel.

The property became a Montessori School in the 1990s and it is understood that some interior remodelling had taken place by this time. The school closed in 2016.


Former home for fallen women with attached laundry, later school, built about 1881 to the design of William Beaumont Smith.

MATERIALS: the building is constructed of red brick laid in English bond, with Ancaster stone dressings and a slate roof.

PLAN: the building occupies a corner plot at the junctions of Stoneygate Road and Aber Road. It has a U shaped plan enclosed by an ancillary range along the eastern edge of the rear courtyard.

EXTERIOR: the building is primarily of three storeys with its principal elevation facing Stoneygate Road. Here, the central section which contains the main entrance is slightly recessed behind flanking gabled bays with decorative stone kneelers at each end. The main entrance is housed in a projecting and deeply moulded surround with a panelled door set in a pointed arch with flanking buttresses and stone detailing to the coped gable above. Right of the entrance door are tall windows which light the interior stair, the lower of which is set beneath a brick relieving arch with herringbone detail. There are circular windows set within the gable apexes with tracery detail.

Windows are generally two or three light sashes arranged in groups of two or three with stone lintels and sills. There are string courses at first and second floor level which feature brick dentils and scalloped terracotta detailing, and a brick and stone architrave with stone corbels beneath the eaves. These features continue along the perpendicular range facing Aber Road. The stone detailing to the front elevations is predominantly replicated in brick to the rear elevations, which feature a single storey bay window and metal fire escapes. There are ridge stacks and gable end stacks with oversailing brick courses to both ranges. Adjoining the south-east end of the main elevation is a single-storey, flat-roofed extension with paired sash windows.

The single-storey, L-shaped former laundry range to the north-east features windows with glazing bars beneath arched brick lintels and a dentil eaves course. Its road facing gable end has a circular niche beneath its apex. The south-east projection of this range features paired windows set within stone surrounds, covered with diamond patterned grates to the courtyard elevation with a cluster of small outbuildings adjoining to the north. The roof has louvered ridge vents capped with pyramidal roofs.

INTERIOR: Not inspected. The original 1880 floor plans suggest that the rooms on the ground floor included a chapel, work room, kitchen and dining hall. Partitions appear to have been inserted into some of the ground floor rooms. There are moulded cornices, architraves, and panelling around the windows in some of the rooms, and a segmental arched niche to what appears to have been the fireplace to the dining hall. The single storey wing to the rear contained the former laundry. There do not appear to be any surviving features of this use. There are modern fire doors throughout.

The main staircase appears to be in its original position giving access to the first and second floors. It is not clear if the original staircase remains. The 1880 plans show that the upper floors had a cellular plan with multiple dormitories accessed from perpendicular corridors. The corridor plan appears to largely survive. Some of the former dormitory partitions appear to have been removed to create larger rooms. Some rooms retain decorative ventilation grilles.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: an adjoining red brick wall laid in English bond with pier buttresses and blue angled coping stones encircles the yard to the north of the building.


Aucott, S, ‘Rescue and Redemption: Saving Leicester’s Fallen Women 1846 to 1900’, The Leicestershire Historian, Issue 47 (2011), pp.14-21, accessed 18 November 2020 from
Floor plans for The Home for Penitent Females, 1880
'Opening of the New Home for Fallen Women in Leicester’,The Leicester Chronicle and Leicestershire Mercury, (26 November 1881), p3


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The listed building is shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building but not coloured blue on the map, are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act. However, any works to these structures which have the potential to affect the character of the listed building as a building of special architectural or historic interest may still require Listed Building Consent (LBC) and this is a matter for the Local Planning Authority (LPA) to determine.

End of official listing

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