Walks Thro Coventry – Part 11

Posted on: February 8th, 2012 by pj

Returning down Bishop Street an exceptionally picturesque view of a portion of the city lies before us. Through a gateway on the right we shall find some curious old buildings. On the left we pass the end of Silver Street, connecting with Cook Street, where once stood a stone cross of some historical renown. It was known as Swine’s Cross, and was removed in 1763 to widen the street. The fine old-fashioned building standing next is used as a Mission Rooms connected with Holy Trinity Church, but was previously known as St. John’s Hospital, and formerly an old parsonage house stood at the back.  The Coventry Grammar School for many generations had its home here, and among its more famous scholars was the celebrated historian, Sir William Dugdale, who was a schoolboy here from his tenth to his fifteenth year (1615-1620).  Facing this building is Well Street, and to the left runs Hales Street, in which, on the left hand side, stands the Royal Opera House, which is about to be rebuilt on ambitious lines; further on is an extensive agricultural implement warehouse, and a little beyond on the opposite side is the City Smithfield, where there was once a collection of water from the Sherbourne, now arched over.

Retracing our steps a little and turning to the left we enter the thoroughfare known as the Burges—not Burgess, if you please, as the name is derived from the bridges through which the Sherbourne flows in this neighbourhood.  On the left hand is the covered way into Palmer (or Pilgrim) Lane, a thoroughfare apparently as ancient as its name, wherein are situated the works of Messrs. Caldicott and Feltham, the printers and publishers of this Guide.  The opening by the right there, at the side of the premises of Messrs. Comley and  Son, house  furnishers, although officially designated ‘Court 3,’ is generally known as the Lancasterian Yard, from the fact that an undenominational day school, the fore-runner of the “British” School, was opened there in 1811, on the system founded by Mr. Joseph Lancaster. We now enter Cross Cheaping, and a few steps bring us to a quaint old building, with wooden rails in front, occupied as leather warehouses.

Passing Ironmonger Row on the left,  we notice on the right a shop of fine construction, occupied by Messrs. Mat-terson, Huxley and Watson, Limited, ironmongers, etc., whose extensive foundry and warehouses lie at the back. Between the doorways of the two next shops will be found a curious carved oak statue of St. George killing the dragon.

Moving past West Orchard on the right, with the Little Butcher Row opposite, many venerable timbered houses on each side deserve notice. This has been an animated and busy part of the town from the time that the market was held around the Cross, from which the street derived its name. The original Coventry Cross was set up in 1423, and taken down in 1510. Another cross was completed in 1544. It was six-sided, each side being seven feet wide at the base, and it was 57 feet high, with 18 niches. The canopy was beautifully adorned with statues, one of which, representing Henry VI., now stands in the kitchen of St. Mary’s Hall. The pillars, pinnacles, and arches were enriched with a variety of figures and flags, on which were displayed the arms of England, or the rose of Lancaster; and there were likewise representations of the trades of the city. On the summit was a figure of Justice, and the work was finely finished throughout. In 1669 the Cross was thoroughly repaired, and so highly decorated that it became the admiration of the time. From this date, however, it appears to have been neglected and allowed to decay, and in 1771 the remains were wholly removed.

On our left is an opening into the Great Butcher Row, with Trinity Church close by, though unfortunately hidden by the buildings in front. Opposite is the Market Place, at one of the corners being the premises of the Coventry Coffee Tavern Company, Limited, now called the Central Cafe, standing on the site of the old Mayor’s Parlour, or Justice Room, which was erected in the year 1584. One of the shops under the tavern buildings is occupied as the office of the London and North-Western Railway Co.     The open space a little further on is the Wholesale Market, while the proximity of the Market Hall is indicated by the clock tower, the Fish Market being separated from the main hall by an arcade.

Returning, we come into Broadgate, on the left-hand side of which, near the top, is the office of the Coventry Standardly the oldest local newspaper, established in 1741. The thoroughfare takes its name from a gate which stood on the left at the end of Grey Friars’ Lane, leading to the old Manor House at Cheylesmore. This gate was the advanced part of Cheylesmore Castle, as described in the Earl of Chester’s Charter in the time of Henry II. The old Broadgate was an ancient street, and as narrow as Grey Friars’ Lane, of which, in reality, it was a continuation towards the Cross. The present broad street was made in 1820, by pulling down a number of old houses. Previous to the erection of the Market Hall, the general market for the city was held here. Here also the hustings were erected when public nominations at election times were in this particular neighbourhood, as many present inhabitants can testify.  And here will finish our first perambulation, which it is to be hoped proved richly interesting.