During the latter half of the 19th century industry in Leicester grew at a great pace, principally in its already well established knitting, hosiery and boot and shoe industries. The increase in the work force created a need for more housing, together with the social and spiritual requirements of the newly developed areas.
Such was the case in the West End. The bridges over the River Soar were improved and easy access between the town centre, the factories, many of which fronted the river, and the newly created terraced housing which was spreading from West Bridge via King Richard’s Road, Hinckley Road, Narborough Road, Wilberforce Road and Western Road. It was to meet the spiritual needs of these developing areas that St. Paul’s was built in 1871, St. Augustine’s as a small mission church in 1889, the Martyrs in 1890 and, “across the water” St. Andrew’s, Jarrom Street in 1862.
Leicester had long since been a stronghold of the non-conforming churches and their needs were met by such places as Emmanuel Baptist Chapel in New Park Street. This was built in 1871 and, aided by a fire, demolished in October 1978, to make way for the new West Bridge Road Scheme. Methodists, Wesleyans, Pentecostal and others are all present in the locality including the Robert Hall Baptist Church.
The parish of the Martyrs was created from that of St. Mary de Castro. Consent was given by Her Majesty in Council on March 20th 1890 and this was ratified and registered by the Registrar for the Diocese of Peterborough as announced in The London Gazette of May 6th 1890, and the church was consecrated by the Bishop of Peterborough on the 10th July. Leicester was, of course, at that time within the See of Peterborough. It was not until 1926 that the Bishop of Peterborough, Cyril Bardsley, caused the division of his See into two, and it was he himself who became the first Bishop of the new Diocese of Leicester in 1926, with St. Martin’s being chosen as the cathedral church.
The new parish of the Martyrs was endowed by the Reverend Joseph Harris of Herm House, Eastbourne and he enjoyed the right of patronage and thereby able to nominate the minister or incumbent to The Martyrs. This right subsequently passed jointly to the Principal of Ridley Hall, Cambridge and the Bishop of Leicester, and the right of appointment now rests with them.