Walks Thro Coventry – Part 9

Posted on: January 25th, 2012 by pj

Walking up the street, we pass on the left a number of old timbered houses, and also, near the end of the street, the Pitt’s Head Inn, noted for the stabling of racehorses during the time that the Coventry races were held at Stoke, a short distance away. The stone-faced building further on to the left was formerly a cycle and motor works, but has recently been converted into shops, etc. At the top of the street is the fine triangular piece of common land called Gosford Green. It was on this plot of ground that the lists were appointed for the intended single combat between Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford (afterwards Henry IV), and Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, in 1397.  Richard II caused these two to meet at this place, he and a great array of his nobles being present.  The Duke of Norfolk stayed the previous night at Caludon Castle, about two miles distant, while Hereford lodged at Baginton Castle, about the same distance away in another direction.

On the day named the two Dukes and their followers met, but when everything was in readiness for the fray the King stopped the proceedings, and banished Hereford for ten years and Norfolk for life.  This remarkable scene is immortalised by Shakespeare in his play of “Richard II.”  It was on this Green also that Earl Rivers and his son were beheaded.  Coombe Abbey, of some historical and antiquarian interest, and a seat of the Earls of Craven, lies about four miles up the Binley Road on the right, while Walsgrave Road on the left leads by the remains of Caludon Castle, to Wolvey and Leicester, the latter town being distant about twenty-four miles. Many new streets have recently been laid out in this vicinity, and the district is much favoured for residential purposes. A handsome church, dedicated to St. Margaret, has been erected on the Walsgrave Road; a little further on is Stoke Congregational Church; while yet further is Stoke Parish Church. Some distance to the right of Binley Road are the enormous cycle and motor car works of Humber, Limited.

Turning from the Green, we proceed along Payne’s Lane, so called from a person who formerly owned the land.  On the right we notice a large building surmounted by a figure of Britannia, this is the carpet and coach-lace manufactory of Messrs. Perkins & Co.  A little further up on the left stand the extensive premises of the Sparkbrook Manufacturing Co.Ltd., while on the right will be noticed several streets leading to an entirely new district of well-built and convenient houses, adjoining which are the football grounds of the City Football Club, which plays under Association Rules.

We now turn to the left down East Street, in the lofty houses of which ribbon weaving was formerly carried on, the chief seat of that industry being the district of Hillfields, away on the right.   Taking the first turn to the left, we find the South Street Council Schools, a fine set of buildings in red brick with stone dressings, well adapted for their purpose, and with accommodation for 1,156 children. These were one of the two blocks of buildings first built under the Education Act of 1870.

Proceeding down  Read  Street, on the left we pass the extensive cycle works of the Premier Cycle Co.,  Limited, and those of the Auto Machinery Co., Limited, where steel balls for machine gearings are made.  In Hood Street, which we now cross, we notice to the left a large building, formerly occupied by Humber Limited, the well-known cycle manufacturers.    A great fire occurred here in July 1896, completely destroying the factory, of which the present one is the successor, and doing damage to the extent of £100,000.    It is now the works of the British Thompson Houston Co., used for the manufacture of electricity meters, etc.  Proceeding into Alma Street, we find the Coventry works of the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Co., Ltd., occupying the site of what was at one time the Coventry Skating Rink, erected at the time when roller-skating was popular.   On the right are premises formerly in the occupation of Singer & Co., Limited  (whose immense works are to-day in Canterbury  Street,   away  to  the  right), and later occupied by several firms connected more or less with the staple trade.

Skidmore’s Art Metal Works Co. were once located in Alma Street, one of whose productions was the beautiful screen erected in Hereford Cathedral, which was exhibited in the International Exhibition of 1862.  Another production was the metal work of the Albert Memorial in London (the memorial to the Consort of the late Queen Victoria).   In Raglan Street, close by, to the right, is the Roman Catholic Church of St. Mary, an edifice of brick with stone dressings, attached to the church being a convent, with a school which is conducted by the sisterhood. Leaving behind us Alma Street, we enter Lower Ford Street, with Lea & Francis’ Cycle Works on our left.  On our right is a fine brick building formerly used as a ribbon manufactory.  The works have lately been modernised, and are now the splendidly equipped works and offices of the Coventry Plating and Presswork Company, Limited.  In Perkins Street, adjoining, are the large works of Messrs. Wyleys, Ltd., wholesale manufacturing chemists. The modest building which comes next is the Rehoboth, or Calvinistic Baptist Chapel.  Near by is the Parish Church of St. Peter’s, constructed chiefly of red brick, the first stone of which was laid in 1840, its original accommodation being 1,254 sittings.  The church was provided for a working class district, and it may be told in an whisper that its style of architecture has never excited the undue admiration of churchpeople.  St. Peter’s Schools, in Yardley Street, a few yards from the Church, have in their time done useful work. The present accommodation is for 468 scholars, but the building having been condemned by the Board of Education will be closed for public elementary school purposes, when circumstances permit.