Starting from Broadgate, we pass along High Street, and turn into Little Park Street, leading to that part of the Cheylesmore estate formerly comprising the Little Park. Directly on our right is a building now occupied as the Club House of the Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows, where visiting brethren are gladly welcomed. The business of the different lodges is here transacted, and the recreation of the members provided for. A few steps further and we reach the handsome new block of buildings comprising a hall and other offices for the Masonic fraternity. There are four Lodges of Free and Accepted Masons in Coventry — Trinity, Stoneleigh, St. Michael’s, and St. John’s: the first-named being a centenary lodge (dating from 1785). On the same side of the street, also, is a fine old red brick house containing the County Court and District Registry Offices.
Passing Cow Lane on the right, we find ancient houses on each side. Up Court 2 will be seen some old buildings forming a square, with carved doors, beams, etc. Close by, on the same side, stands one of the best of the restored old houses in Coventry, now forming part of Messrs. Middlemore’s bicycle saddlery works. It was in former times . occupied by Mrs. Katherine Bayley. A school was established in accordance with a will made by Katherine Bayley, and was opened in 1733 in a building adjoining the Draper’s Hall, at that time eight boys and eight girls being admitted.
From the year 1742 a sermon, followed by a collection, was annually preached at St. Michael’s Church on behalf of this school. In 1868 the number of boys was 52, and was eventually increased to 54. The last uniform of the scholars consisted of dark cord trousers, drab waistcoat and coat with blue facings, and cloth cap. The charity was managed by ten trustees, and Thomas Sharp, the Coventry antiquary, held office for many years. The school is now amalgamated with the Bablake Foundation in Coundon Road.
Along the street old buildings are still met with, and at this point once stood a fine old mansion built by Simon Norton, in 1610, a chimney-piece belonging to which is now in the dining-room at the old Bablake School. Some build-ings on the left, bearing a raised cross, will be noticed, and these are joined at the back with other ancient buildings. The front part of the house next to that bearing the Cross was once used as a Roman Catholic Chapel. We now reach St. John’s Street, for some time called Dead Lane, generally supposed to be so called owing to the plague of 1478, when 3,000 people died in the city. Dead Lane, however, was known as Dede Lane two centuries before the plague. (Le Dedelone, date 1300, Miss Mary Dormer Harris). The tradition is a popular and picturesque error. At the corner of St. John’s Street, Little Park Street and Park Side, a building used to be devoted to the purposes now served on a much larger scale by the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital, Stoney Stanton Road. It afterwards became the Warwickshire Reformatory School for girls. The City Council, however, purchased the property for public improvements, the school having been removed by the county authorities, and the site has been re-occupied by dwelling houses. Nearly opposite are the imposing buildings of the Swift Motor Co, Ltd, the Maudslay Motor Co, Ltd, and the Siddeley-Deasy Motor Car Co, Ltd, motor works.
The amenities of this neighbourhood are much depreciated by industrial necessities. Owing to the local authority’s lack of powers to compel reasonable building lines and the setting back at necessary points traffic here is very dangerous.
Beyond the end of Little Park Street is Coventry Park, of which in the time of Edward III one Thomas de Quinton was appointed keeper of the pasturage on payment of £5 annually “and reserving sufficient grass for the deer.” About 1388, a piece of land was separated from the main part, the one being called the Little Park and the other the Great Park. Beautiful avenues of trees formerly adorned the park, which was opened to the people as a place of recreation till the time of its enclosure by the Marquis of Hertford. Very little of the original sylvan character of the park is now to be discerned. In addition to the works mentioned a large number of modern dwellings have been erected, and along Quinton Road a barracks for the Howitzer Brigade, R.F.A.
Near this spot, in a place called the Park Hollow, in 1510, Joan Ward and seven others were burned for heresy, as in 1521 was Robert Selkby, and in 1553 Laurence Saunders suffered in like manner. In September, 1910, in honour of these Coventry martyrs, a memorial was unveiled in the presence of a large number of citizens; it will be found occupying a commanding position in Quinton Road, and to be well worthy of inspection.
The Memorial is in the shape of an old-style Celtic cross, in silver grey Cornish granite, which with the steps of the pedestal reaches to a height of twenty feet. On the side towards Coventry is a laurel wreath, and below the arms of the city, both designs being worked in gun metal. On the opposite (the south) side is the inscription :—
This memorial was erected by public subscription in the year 1910.
On the west side is the following :—
Near this spot eleven persons, whose names are subjoined, suffered death for conscience sake, in the reigns of King Henry VIII and Queen Mary, namely: In 1510, Joan Ward. On April 4th, 1519, Mistress Landsdail (or Smith) ; Thomas Landsdail, hosier; Master Hawkins, skinner; Master Wrigsham, glover; Master Hockett, shoemaker; Master Bond, shoemaker. In January, 1521, Robert Selkeb (or Silksby). Also, on February 8th, 1555, Laurence Saunders. On September 20th, 1555, Robert Glover and Cornelius Bongey.
On the east side :—
It is recorded that the Martyrs were burned in the Little Park, “the same place where the Lollards suffered.” The Martyrs’ Field (now built upon) was situated 200 yards from this spot in an easterly direction.
The last words spoken by Laurence Saunders were:—
“Welcome, the Cross of Christ! Welcome, everlasting life.”
The new buildings over there at the corner of Mile Lane are further evidences of Coventry’s industrial expansion; while a little higher up the same lane are other works, and also the Cheylesmore Council Schools, with accommodation for 1,254 children.
Retracing our steps a little and turning to the right we find ourselves in Park Side. Here on the left are some remains of the old city walls. The thoroughfare on the same side is a short street actually named “Short,” and containing some municipal dwellings built on the small Hat system. Continuing along Park Side we presently reach Paradise Street, which descends to a point opposite the Workhouse, or “London Road Institution.”