New plans have been unveiled for a project that could revamp the site of Leicester’s biggest Roman ruins into a world-class visitors centre.
The Jewry Wall Museum is home to one of the UK’s tallest civilian Roman structures, and houses the remains of a Roman bathhouse. Opened in 1966, it attracts around 27,000 visitors a year.
Last year, City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby announced plans to invest in the site and the neighbouring Vaughan College, turning them into a major tourist attraction with an expected annual footfall of 80,000 visitors.
Sir Peter said: “When they get here, I think, perhaps some leave a little baffled as to what they’ve seen around them. What I want to do is to create a newly refurbished museum that will provide Leicester people and visitors to Leicester with an opportunity to understand this important part of our cities history.”
The plans propose a newly refurbished entrance foyer, interactive displays documenting the Roman invasion and occupation of Leicester, outdoor projections on the Jewry Wall itself and a recreation of the city’s Vine Street Villas, which occupied part of the Roman city near the site of the modern day Highcross car park.
Sir Peter added: “People will understand not just the building but also the people that made up Roman Leicester. They’ll understand the plebeian in the street, the merchant in the market and they’ll understand the slave who stoked the boilers of the bath house, because all of those are an important part of the real people who made up Roman Leicester.”
With visitor numbers to Leicester on the rise, the plans aim to turn the museum into a centre of national significance, giving people further reason to come to the city for an extended stay.
Mike Dalzell, Director of Tourism, Investment and Culture at Leicester City Council, said: “We’re getting a lot more interest from tourists, we’re getting a lot more interest from investors in the city and what we’re keen to do is build a critical mass of attractions that will create an opportunity for people to come here for a couple of days and a couple of nights maybe, rather than a day visit.”
Plans for the museum are part of a bigger investment into the Jewry Wall site, which has involved putting more than £1.5 million aside to create a new public walkway from St Nicholas Circle, as well as improvements to the site itself. The council are looking into further funding to allow the proposals to be put into full effect.
By Jennifer Morris