Campus curiosities. 03 The Attenboroughs' marks on Leicester

May 6, 2005

The celebrated Attenborough family name is carved into the fabric of Leicester University - both figuratively and literally, it turns out.

The Richard Attenborough Centre, named after the ennobled film actor and director, is dedicated to helping people with disabilities to pursue the arts; the veteran broadcaster Sir David opened the Attenborough Arboretum in the botanic garden in 1997; while John, the youngest brother who went into the motor trade, opened the vast Attenborough building of lecture and seminar rooms in 1970.

The association goes back to the Thirties, when the boys' father, Frederick, was appointed principal of Leicester University College and the family moved into College House, which is now home to the careers service in University Road.

And although this building does not officially carry the family name - unusually, it would seem - the brothers still managed to leave their mark.

Scratched into the paintwork low on the left flank of College House the name "Attenborough" can be made out a number of times, with dates ranging from 1937 to 1945.

During a recent visit, Lord Attenborough was delighted to find that his own faint scrawl had endured the elements, happily pointing out his name to surprised onlookers, before identifying the window he used to leap from. And John's initials are repeated several times nearby.

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