Alderman Sir Jonathan North (1855-1939)
Alderman Sir Jonathan North (1855-1939) (Photo: Leicester Town Hall)

Sir Jonathan North lived at ‘Brackendale’ (now 213) London Road between 1900 and 1914.

Born in Rothley in 1855, Jonathan North spent his working life in the boot and shoe trade, becoming a partner with his father-in-law in the local firm of Leavesley & North and by 1912 the chairman and managing director of Freeman, Hardy Willis, then the largest footwear retailer in the country.

He was exceptionally active in public service. His first public role was as a member of the Belgrave School Board but he was also a member of the Leicester Board of Guardians and was twice elected its chairman.

Sir Jonathan North became a councillor in 1897, a magistrate ten years later and in 1909 he was made an alderman. It is for his lifelong interest in education and his civic leadership during the Great War that he is probably best remembered. He was appointed to the town’s new education committee in 1903, became chairman two years later and held the post with outstanding success for thirty-two years; gaining for Leicester a national reputation for progressive thinking and decisive action at a time when important developments were taking place in education.

With his wife Lady Eliza, he led Leicester’s civic contribution during the Great War and its very practical response to the aftermath. He was personally involved in the building of homes for retired servicemen, financing the YMCA and in helping to establish the University College in memory of those who had given their lives. It was also largely through his influence that Leicester has one of the finest war memorials in the country, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.