Walks Thro Coventry – Part 10

Posted on: January 26th, 2012 by pj

At the corner of Cox Street is the Sydenham Palace Hotel, with the celebrated Stevengraph Works standing in close contiguity; and at an opposite corner has for some years stood the Alexandra Coffee Tavern, now undergoing transformation into a picture palace.  Proceeding along Ford Street a fine view of the spires of St. Michael’s and Trinity Churches is shortly obtained, while we pass on the left a roller-skating rink and the tobacco manufactory of Messrs. Banks & James, and on the right Wheatley Street Council Schools, opened in 1894, reckoned among the finest of their kind in the Midlands, and having accommodation for 1,112 children.  At the back of these schools stand the large flour mills of Messrs. Robbins & Powers.   A few steps further and we reach the Ford Street Primitive Methodist Church, opened in 1895, while opposite is a small edifice belonging to the Catholic Apostolic Church.  The next place of interest is the Municipal School of Art on our left, an interesting building of brick and stone, erected in 1863, though the School itself was established in obscure rooms in the Burges in 1844. Over the front windows and door are semi-circular panels, in which are carved groups representing painting, sculpture,, architecture, mechanics, and pottery.

Next to these premises are the Holy Trinity Schools, built of local stone, and with their turret and spire much resembling a church in appearance, but now devoted to other purposes. There was formerly accommodation for about 1,000 children. Passing on, we reach Hales Street, when, turning to the left, we get a good view of the Market Hall tower and clock, while close at hand is the handsome and well-equipped Fire Station, opened in the autumn of 1902.  The building stands on a portion of the Pool Meadow, a piece of land once covered with water, known as St. Osburg’s Pool, and where the Coventry Great Fair is now annually, held for five -days at Whitsuntide.  At the rear thereof is the public mortuary, opened in 1913. Nearly opposite is one of the only two remaining gates of Coventry, called Swanswell Gate, to which a portion of the city wall is attached.  Adjoining the old gate is the Coventry Hippodrome, a handsome variety theatre.

Retracing our steps a few yards, we turn to the left up Jesson Street to the Stoney Stanton Road. On the right is St. Mark’s Church, similar in design to All Saint’s, and both of which were consecrated January 12th, 1869. The Schools connected with this church are some distance up the road, and have accommodation for 343.  Adjoining the church are Swanswell Pool and Recreation Grounds, given to the city by Sir Thomas White’s Trustees.    The grounds were laid out and  planted  by  the   Corporation, and, as  before   stated, thrown open for the free use of the people.

By walking as far as the church, we may enjoy a pleasing view of the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital. The original building, of the Victorian Gothic style of architecture, in the shape of a Maltese cross, contracted for at £5,162, was opened in 1866.  To cope with the ever-increasing needs of the institution several important extensions have been made from time to time, the last additions being the Nurses’ Home and the King Edward Memorial Wing.  The Hospital is now complete and modern in every respect.  The Hospital is a monument of voluntary effort, and the artizan classes contribute generously towards its support. The adjacent buildings are the several detached blocks of the City Hospital, a municipal undertaking where infectious diseases are treated under the superintendence of the Medical Officer of Health. The Corporation also has an Isolation Hospital for small-pox patients, which is situated at Pinley, in the rural district.

Returning to the space at the top of Jesson Street, on our right is a school for orphan daughters of freemen of Coventry. Leaving Leicester Street on the right (in which is the Girls’ Industrial School and Home), we enter Cook Street, and pass under another ancient city gateway (lately purchased and presented to the city by Aid. W. F. Wyley) to the left of which the town wall may be traced to Swanswell Gate—the best remains of the wall now to be found.  Cook Street contains many ancient houses.  Chauntry Place, built on the orchard belonging to the old Priory, is passed on the left, and also St. Agnes’ Lane, containing old buildings, and at one time a well, named after St. Agnes, to the waters of which were ascribed healing qualities. The “petrified kidneys’’ here illustrate the manner in which the whole of the city was paved years ago. Near the wide part of the street once stood Cook Street College, the only remains of which are seen in some stone walls found in Rood Lane, on the right, where also will be seen above a doorway some curious stones with a defaced coat of arms.

Passing under a gateway, we enter Bishop Street – there are many ecclesiastically named thoroughfares in Coventry – and, turning to the right, we find at the top the terminus, offices, and wharves of the Coventry Canal Co.  The Coventry Canal, constructed under Parliamentary powers obtained in 1768, is in length rather more than 32 miles, terminating at Fradley Heath, Staffordshire, a few miles north of Lichfield.  By its junction with other canals it is an important medium of communication with London, Liverpool, Manchester, and other commercial towns and districts.  The Coventry and Bedworth section was opened in August, 1769.

On our left hand is King Street, and on our right is the Foleshill Road, leading to Bedworth, Nuneaton, and Leicester. Adjacent to this road, lying a little to the left, on the opposite bank of the canal is a conspicuous building, originally erected by the Coventry Cotton Spinning & Weaving Company, to introduce a new industry to the city. In 1890 a serious fire took place, and owing to the trading of the company having almost continually resulted in a loss, business was not resumed. After a time it was re-built, enormous additions were afterwards made, and the whole of these immense premises are now occupied by the Daimler Motor Co. (1904) Ltd.  About half-a-mile beyond this, and on the right-hand side of the road, is Bird Grove, the house in which the celebrated novelist, “George Eliot,” resided with her father, her birthplace being about six miles further on. The house and grounds are now in the hands of the speculative builder, and will soon be entirely obliterated.  Streets of artizans’ dwellings now stand on this historic site. The municipal  Electric Light Works  and  Refuse  Destructor stand near the canal on the left of the road. A little further distant are the factories of Messrs. J. & J. Cash, Ltd., textile manufacturers, and then the handsome works of Messrs. Courtaulds, manufacturers of artificial silk and silk goods.  A tram-car ride for a couple of miles along this road is full of interest.

The line of Bishop Street is continued by St. Nicholas Street, taking its name from a church long ago standing on this, the most ancient site of the town. At the other end of St. Nicholas Street is situated “Rose Hill,” where “George Eliot” spent much time with Mr. and Mrs. Charles Bray, both well-known for their literary and philosophic work.  The ground here is very elevated and is called Barr’s Hill, “Barr” being, it is said, an old Gaelic or Welsh word for summit.  Corley Rock, an escarpment of interest to the geologist, but very much “weathered,” is about four miles away, and less distant in this direction also, at the summit of an eminence, are situated the Corporation reservoirs, which were brought into use in 1895. The water stored there is pumped from borings at Whitley, about three miles distant across the city, and a supply of pure water is thence distributed by gravitation.  Coventry now derives an auxiliary supply of water from the Shustoke Reservoirs, by agreement with the Birmingham Corporation.  Owing to the tremendous growth of the population serious measures will now have to be taken to further augment the water supply.