It is perhaps difficult for the visitor to the Cedars to imagine this popular pub as an upper class private house in the 1830s.
Entering the Cedars through the main door it is possible that even the people that regularly patronise the Cedars Public House in Main Street, Evington may fail to notice the Blue plaque in the entrance that commemorates local author E. Phillips Oppenheim or ponder how this imposing building in the centre of Evington came into existence.
The Cedars was built in the style of William Flint and William Parsons who were active locally as architects in the 1830s. It is of the simple classical style, stuccoed with two Doric columns at the entrance. The two side wings were added when the Cedars was converted into an hotel in 1937/1938. The wing on the left now houses the lounge and that to the right houses the bar restaurant. Beyond the restaurant on a warm evening it is possible to enjoy a quiet drink beside the carp pool surrounded by stately Cedar trees, hence the building’s name, however there are now less of these since the development of the surrounding properties.
The first residents of the Cedars are not known for certain but the Moore sisters that came to live there about 1852 were sisters of the Rev. William Burton Moore who was Vicar old St. Denys Evington from 1846-1893. His father, magistrate John Moore and his Grandfather were in the hosiery trade that was firmly established in Leicestershire by that time.
To have had a house of this value and status shows that the three land owning Moore sisters, Ann, Mary and Cleopatra were people of considerable substance as at that time they also had two servants living with them at the Cedars as well as their widowed mother.
Ann Leach Moore died in 1890 in Evington leaving an estate of over £10,000, sister Mary Leach Moore died, also at Evington, only a few years later in 1895, and finally Cleopatra Louisa Moore died in 1914 after having moved to Princess Road, Leicester leaving an estate of £32,389.
The Cedars was also the home of novelist E. Phillips Oppenheim – a Leicester man born in 1866. He was the son of Edward John Oppenheim, a leather merchant. Oppenheim, a Wyggeston school pupil, left school at the age of sixteen and joined his father’s business in which he continued for about twenty years.
He wrote and published 168 mystery novels and short stories. ‘Mr Marx’s Secret, published in 1899, has a Leicestershire setting and ‘The Kingdom of the Blind’ published in 1916, was possibly his best novel. Probably his most successful novel was ‘The Great Impersonation’, published in 1920 it sold over one million copies. The blue plaque in the Cedars’ entrance lobby commemorates Oppenheim’s links to the village of Evington. His literary success enabled him to buy a villa and yacht in France and a house in Guernsey although he was unable to gain access to it during World War Two. He died in 1946.
Disney Barlow was resident at the Cedars for several years up to 1925. He was a director of Lennards Brothers (later renamed Liberty Shoes) and during a visit to America in 1921 he was very impressed by the sight of the Statue of Liberty. On his return Lennards was re-named Liberty shoes and he was responsible for commissioning a replica Statue of Liberty that was placed on the firms factory at the junction of Walnut Street and Eastern Boulevard but, relocated, can now be seen at the junction of Upperton Road and Western Boulevard.
One of the last private residents of the Cedars was Harry Bollard, company secretary and director of Mapperley Colliery, Derbyshire.
Following the First World War life became more difficult for the owners of prestigious houses. It became more expensive to employ servants. The growing trend for women to work in industry and forsake more genteel employment and domestic service had accelerated during the war.
Despite high levels of unemployment in the North of England, South Wales and parts of Scotland, the light industries of Leicester, including the Hosiery and Knitwear, benefitted from the nations increasing spending power. Small motor cars such as Ford and Morris Eights were available to many middle earners and the new public house could be an attractive and accessible venue for many. A League of Nations Report on household earnings in 1936 identified Leicester as the ‘second most prosperous city in Europe’. There was a massive building boom on the outskirts of Leicester including Evington and many people would have been able to walk from their home to visit the Cedars.
It was in that context that the Cedars was opened as an hotel and public house in 1938.
Bramwell G Rudd