It is, of course, impossible to exhaust our subject in the limits of a handbook. Apart from descriptions of its recent industrial and social condition, the history of Coventry, on an adequate scale and proper method, would fill volumes. In these obiter dicta much, very much, has perforce been omitted. Before taking leave of our visitor, however, we may perhaps briefly mention a few additional facts of interest.
The arms of the City are an Elephant and Castle, surmounted by a Cat. The legend is Camera Principis, or “The Chamber of the Prince.” This is an indication of the Royal favour which Coventry has at various times enjoyed.
In 1436 Henry VI. visited Coventry, and kept Christmas at Kenilworth. In 1450 he attended St. Michael’s Church, heard mass sung, and presented to the church a golden altar-cloth. In 1465 Edward IV and his Queen visited Coventry.
Prince Edward visited the city in 1474, and was presented with a cup and £100. In 1477 the Prince repeated his visit, and was made a brother of different guilds.
Henry VII came to Coventry in 1458, after his victory over Richard III, at Bosworth Field; he lodged at the house of Robert Olney, the Mayor, who presented the King with a cup and £100, and in return was knighted. This King afterwards brought his Queen to see the plays performed by the Grey Friars.
In 1497 Prince Arthur visited the city; he likewise was presented with a cup and £100.
Henry VII and his Queen paid a further visit in 1499, and were made brother and sister of Trinity Guild.
In 1565 Queen Elizabeth visited Coventry, being” splendidly entertained, and when she visited Kenilworth in 1575, she was entertained with the old play of “Hock’s Tuesday,” performed by inhabitants of the city.
In 1603, Princess Elizabeth, eldest daughter of James I, attended service at St. Michael’s Church, and a cup was presented to her at the city’s expense. In 1607, James Grant, a native of Coventry, and a notorious conspirator, was executed in London for stealing horses from several gentlemen in the neighbourhood for the purpose of carrying off Princess Elizabeth when on a visit to Coombe Abbey.
In 1611, Prince Henry, with a train of nobility, came to Coventry, was entertained at St. Mary’s Hall, and presented with a purse lined with £50.
In 1687, James II came, was received by the Mayor, and presented with a gold cup weighing 3lbs, and costing no less a sum than £167 7s. 6d.
In 1690, the city was likewise visited by King William, while on his way to Ireland.
The Prince of Wales passed through Coventry in 1807, and Louis XVIII. of France in 1808.
In 1819, Prince Leopold was presented with the freedom of the city.
Queen Adelaide passed through the city on her way to Warwick Castle in 1839.
In 1858, the late Queen Victoria, with Albert, Prince Consort, alighted at Coventry station and drove to Stoneleigh Abbey, being the guest of Lord Leigh, when she visited Warwickshire for the purpose of opening Aston Hall.
In 1874, the Prince and Princess of Wales (afterwards King Edward and Queen Alexandra) visited the city, and were accorded a fitting- reception.
The charter for the annual Great Fair was granted by Henry III in 1218.
In 1406, John Botener caused the streets to be paved.
A ducking stool and pond were made in 1422, with which “to punish scolds and chiders.”
In 1446, John Heires and William Lingham were hanged for robbing St. Mary’s Hall.
In 1469, a person named Elipane was beheaded, and his head was set on a pole at Bablake Gate; and in 1471, the leaders of an insurrection in London were beheaded at Coventry.
The year 1480 saw a tumult among the inhabitants, and the sword and mace were that year stolen from the Mayor’s house.
In 1512, a hundred men were raised in Coventry for foreign service.
In 1522, two men were arrested here for treason, and confessed it was their intention to have put the Mayor and Aldermen to death and to have robbed St. Mary’s Hall. They were hanged, drawn, and quartered, and their heads and limbs were exposed on the city gates.
In 1626 two of the City Chamberlains paid a fine of £20 for making a smaller feast at “Lammas” than their predecessors.
Old Parr passed through the city in 1635, at the age of 152 years.
The city was fortified in 1650 against Charles II, and a regiment of infantry raised for its defence.
Weaving was introduced in 1696, and watchmaking about 1710.
In 1711 party spirit ran high in the city, and a plot was made to seize the sword and mace on 1st November, when
John Eburne should go to be sworn as Mayor, at St. Mary’s Hall. The sword and mace were, however, deposited in a house in Fleet Street, where, in the open-air, the swearing-in was suddenly gone through.
A case of a woman being burnt to death by supposed spontaneous combustion took place in 1772.
In 1773, Mr. Siddons, the tragedian, was married to Miss Kemble, at St. Michael’s Church.
The year 1780 is noted for the “bludgeon fight” at an election between the rival parties, in front of the booth in Cross Cheaping.
In 1800 riots took place owing to the high prices of food.
In 1805 a company of Volunteers was raised here, as was a second company in 1807.
In 1831 Mary Ann Higgins was hanged for poisoning her uncle; and in 1848 Mary Ball suffered the extreme penalty for poisoning her husband at Nuneaton, this being the last execution in Coventry.
In 1842 the New Boundary Act, and in 1844 the Waterworks, Cemetery, and the Coventry Improvement Acts were passed.
The first houses in Chapelfields were erected in 1846.
The Waterworks at Spon End were first put in motion on September 30th, 1847.
The city was placed under the Public Health Act in 1849.
In 1858 the Great Fair was removed from Grey Friars Green to the Pool Meadow.
In 1860-61 great distress prevailed in the city and neighbourhood, and a relief fund of £40,000 was raised from all parts of the country, the Queen contributing £150, and the Prince of Wales £125.
The cycle industry, introduced a few years earlier, first assumed importance in 1876, though at that time its after proportions were undreamed of.
In 1885, owing to the severe winter and depression of trade, much distress existed in the city. The Corporation, with a view of alleviating the condition of the great numbers of unemployed, organised soup kitchens, and found temporary employment for many in street cleaning and the levelling of Gosford Green.
In 1887 the Jubilee of the Queen was loyally celebrated, while the Diamond Jubilee of 1897 saw Coventry in the very forefront of the national rejoicings.
In January, 1900, the spectacle was witnessed of Coventry citizens turning out in crowds to wish Godspeed and safe return to a detachment of volunteers leaving their homes for the war in South Africa. A couple of months previously, the 77th Battery of Field Artillery, stationed at the Barracks, had likewise left amid similar manifestations of goodwill.
Few that enter the palatial premises and have access to that hive of day and night industry, viz., the Post Ofiice in Hertford Street, can realise that within living memory (December 2nd, 1834), the following order was made at the General Post Office, London: “Ordered, that all letters passing from Coventry to Atherstone, and Atherstone to Coventry, go by Northampton, and that a charge of ninepence postage be made.!’
Parliamentary representation of the city dates from 1295.
The Plague visited the city in 1478, when upwards of 3,000 persons died.
In 1466 Earl Rivers and his son were beheaded outside the city walls.
During the time of the dissolution of religious houses, Coventry suffered much at the hands of the Bishop of Chester, who also caused seven persons to be burned.
The city was visited by Queen Elizabeth, and the beautiful Mary Queen of Scots was at one time confined within its walls as a prisoner.
The city was also visited by Princess Anne of Denmark in 1688, and by King William III in 1690.
The late King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra (then Prince and Princess of Wales) rode through the city after visiting the Earl of Aylesford at Packington Hail in 1874.
In the autumn of 1898 the Duchess of Albany visited Coventry for the purpose of opening a bazaar in connection with St. Thomas’ Church. Albany Road, a direct route from the Butts to Earlsdon, was completed about this time, and was so named in commemoration of the visit.
In December, 1899, the Chinese Minister, attended by a numerous suite, spent several days in Coventry while on an “industrial tour” through the country.
On Thursday, July 22nd, 1915, King George V visited Coventry to inspect the production of munitions, and visited some of the industrial establishments. At the Ordnance Works he was informed that 7,462 persons (6,121 men, and 1,341 women), were employed at the Daimler Works 4,750; at Messrs. Alfred Herberts, Ltd., 1,850; and at the Rover Co.’s Works, 1,500. His Majesty, who was loyally received by respectful, yet earnestly demonstrative crowds, expressed regret that his visit was so short, but said he felt most interested in what he had seen, and was convinced that Coventry was going to play her part nobly.
On 26th April, 1911, there died, at the age of 76, Mr. Wm. Bennett, for many years proprietor of the Coventry Theatre Royal, and of its successor the Royal Opera House, in Hales Street, the only place of regular performance of the “legitimate’ drama, and a personage well known in the theatrical world.
Richard Baxter (1615-1691), the Puritan divine—who is said to have preached more sermons, engaged in more controversies, and written more books than any other Nonconformist of his age, even preaching within the sound of
cannon when the roll of battle was passing – over Edgehill— was for two years a minister of Coventry.
On the night of Sunday, December 31st, 1900, and the morning of Monday, January 1st, 1901, the River Sherbourne overflowed its banks after an unwonted rainy season, resulting in the most disastrous flood on record. There was witnessed the extraordinary spectacle of boats in the streets. The water rose to a considerable height in hundreds of houses, the inhabitants were driven into the upper storeys, and were there supplied with victuals and drink by kindly disposed persons moving about in carts. St. John’s Church was flooded to a height of about six feet.
Amongst men of note connected with the city may be mentioned
Vincent of Coventry, who lived in the early part of the 13th century, and was much distinguished for his learning, being a professor at Cambridge, and the author of several theological works;
William Macklesfieid, an accomplished scholar and governor of the Order of Dominicans, was a native of Coventry;
John Bird, of the Order of the Carmelites here, was appointed Bishop of Bangor and Chester by Henry VIII ;
Humphrey Wanley, scholar and antiquarian;
John Tippet, the original publisher of the Ladies’ Diary in 1704;
Mr. Joseph Gutteridge, who died in 1899, an artisan naturalist of considerable repute.
All these men were natives of or connected with Coventry, a city that has played no small part in the history of this country, and which has passed through remarkable vicissitudes to its present state of prosperity. It presents an epitome of the history of this country, and to the visitor the strange contrast afforded by its antiquities and the new pulsating life around them, cannot fail to prove most fascinating”.
“And Farewell goes out sighing.”