I’ve just registered the surname Rainbow with The Guild of One-Name Studies. Not exactly sure what I’m letting myself in for but first off I’m researching ways to display current and future data, probably on a separate website.
I’ve just registered the surname Rainbow with The Guild of One-Name Studies. Not exactly sure what I’m letting myself in for but first off I’m researching ways to display current and future data, probably on a separate website.
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.”
To use an Irishism, we will begin our fourth portion of the perambulation of the city with a railway ride. Taking train for Foleshill, on the Nuneaton branch line — opened in 1848 — we travel for about a couple of miles along the west and north-west side of the city, obtaining a variety of interesting views of ancient and modern Coventry that are to be had in no other way. At Foleshill we notice that the enterprise of the residents has led to a not inconsiderable extension of station accommodation. Starting for a walk through some of the outlying districts within the area of the municipality, we leave the station on the side whereat we alight. Let us turn to the north-west along Holbrooks Lane for a short distance. First of all we are bound to notice the immense engineering establishment of Messrs. White and Poppe, Ltd. Then there is Foleshill Park, a recreation ground of a little over 23 acres, purchased in 1914. On the opposite side is St. Paul’s Cemetery, which was transferred from the St. Paul’s (Foleshill) Burial Board on the extension of the city in 1899. Additional land since purchased has brought the total area to a little over eighteen acres.
Returning, and crossing the railway into Lockhurst Lane, we shortly notice a comfortable and commodious club house for the local Liberal party. Still on the left hand is the substantial and modern woollen manufactory of Messrs. Poole, Lorrimer & Tabberer. On the right is the Wesleyan Chapel, with newly-erected Sunday School buildings at the rear; and then again on the left more engineering- works of Messrs. White & Poppe, Limited, the Livingstone Mills of Messrs. W. H. Grant & Co, silk manufacturers, and the mill of Messrs. Pridmore & Co, manufacturers of elastic webbing, etc.
Emerging on to the Foleshill Road — part of the main road from Coventry to Leicester, via Nuneaton — we perceive adjacent to Broad Street, nearly opposite, St. Paul’s Church and Schools, of the architectural character of which probably no one feels very vain. Proceeding along the main road, outward bound, we notice several more important industrial concerns, and a handsome hotel, “The General Wolfe,’’ which has taken the place of an old-fashioned roadside inn. Then we reach Edgewick Council Schools, with accommodation for 600, and further along the road Foleshill Road Independent Church and Schools, the former being a building of the severely plain, old-fashioned type. Down the lane at the side we find another block of Council Schools, Little Heath Schools, with accommodation for 273, and a little distance away, on the banks of the canal, the iron foundry of Messrs. Alfred Herbert, Ltd., and also a manufactory of artificial stone.
Retracing our course somewhat, and crossing by Edgewick Schools to Stoney Stanton Road — another main road from Coventry into Leicestershire — we find ourselves at Paradise. The general aspect of the district is not in harmony with notions suggested by the euphonious name of Paradise, but the neighbourhood is one to which the natives are said to be very much attached. There is no episcopal church just hereabouts, but there are a couple of chapels belonging to the Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist bodies respectively. There are also a couple of co-operative stores, and, on the Coventry side of the canal bridge, the generating station of the Coventry Electric Tramways.
On the outward side of the same bridge are the works originally erected by the Cycle Manufacturers’ Tube Co., which were purchased by Messrs. Mulliner & Wigley, Ltd, and were later acquired by Messrs. Charles Cammell & Co Ltd, of Sheffield. The concern has now developed into the Coventry Ordnance Works, Limited.
The industrial and residential growth of this portion of Coventry has been most remarkable, and there is, fortunately, every prospect of its continuance. The nearly-new Council Schools, with accommodation for 1,202 children, testify to the growth of the population hereabouts. Passing along Red Lane we reach the breezy common land known as Stoke Heath, and by crossing it and turning to the right, where the aspect is truly rural, we may reach the Barras Green district, or Upper Stoke, and passing by a block of Council Schools, with accommodation for 1,216, emerge on another main road leading to Leicestershire, in fact, direct to the capital of that county, via Wolvey. In this direction Coventry has extended very rapidly in recent years, a great number of new streets having been laid out. On the hill to our right we may notice Stoke Congregational Church, and the newly-built Church of St. Margaret, but turning to the left along the road we reach the ancient and interesting parish church of Stoke, with its vernal graveyard.
Retracing our steps a little, and turning to the left, we may cross through Stoke Park, a pleasant estate of small villa residences, and reach yet another road to Leicestershire, via Binley, Coombe, Brinklow, to Lutterworth, with beautiful woodland scenery all the way. The spacious greensward opposite is known as Stoke Green; flanked by villa residences, and having a ground marked off for the use of a cricket club of more than local celebrity. We may here board a tram car and return via Gosford Green to Broadgate, being afforded frequent glimpses of the industrial and other aspects of this side of the city, and signs of its expansion in various directions.
The late Mr. Samuel Carter at once gave £1,000 towards the new building, and Mr. Gulson then handsomely undertook the completion of the work, which cost more than £4,000. The internal fittings cost about £2,000, contributed by citizens. The erection was carried out by Mr. J. Marriott, Coventry, from designs by Mr. E. Burgess, of London, and the building was opened in 1873. The reading-room is commodious and well lighted and arranged. Tuesday, July 8th, 1890, saw the completion of another generous gift to the town, by Mr. John Gulson — a new Reference Library. The room is 66 feet long and 53 feet broad and is built of red brick, with Ancester stone dressings. Inside, above the corridor or alcoves on the ground floor, runs a gallery, which as below, is occupied by books. The walls are partly covered with encaustic tiles, and the floor is of pitch pine blocks. The Library is a well conducted Institution, and borrowers are allowed free access to the books.
Mr. Gulson spent upwards of £11,000 on the buildings, which form a noble memorial of both his generosity and foresight. Mr. Carter’s contribution was devoted to internal fittings. The Committee of the Coventry Industrial and Fine Art Exhibition with which the Market Hall was opened in 1867 had a final balance of £775, which they donated to the purchase of books (vide brass plate inscription in the entrance lobby of the Reference Department). On the death of Mr. Gulson in 1904, the Library was further enriched by his collection of books and etchings, together with a sum of £500. A fine portrait of the deceased gentleman adorns the wall at the west end of the Reference Library, and special book cases and furniture constitute his memorial; his memory is held in the greatest reverence by all citizens.
At the east end of the Reference Library is a large painting by Luca Giordano, entitled “Bacchus and Ariadne,” presented to the city by the late Right Hon. Edward Ellice, who for a long period represented Coventry in Parliament. It formerly hung above the Minstrel Gallery in St. Mary’s Hall. Several other pictures are exhibited, and there is also a fine collection of water-colours.
It should be mentioned, however, that all the work of the Library Committee is not now carried on at the central institution. In 1910, the Council accepted an offer from Mr. Andrew Carnegie to provide new Libraries at Foleshill, Stoke, and Earlsdon, at a cost of £10,000. Sites were obtained and buildings erected, each comprising a news and reading room with reference books, a lending department, and a juvenile department. All three were officially opened on the same day, 20th October, 1913, by the Mayor (Col. Wyley).
On June 4th, 1914, Mr. Carnegie was the City’s guest. He expressed himself as delighted with the libraries, and he remarked that America had nothing to teach Coventry in planning, constructing, and equipping such buildings. As part of the day’s function Mr. Carnegie was presented with the honorary freedom of the city.
According to the last published report, on March 31st, 1915, the stock of books in the libraries numbered 77,721 volumes, and the total number of issues during the year ending at the same date was 350,591. The number of books issued in the Reference Library was 43,409, and this in addition to constant use of works on the “open shelves,” of which, of course, no record can be made.
We now walk along the road between the Library and Holy Trinity Church, a spot where once stood an old building called Jesus Hall, taken down in 1744. At the end of the road we have the main entrance to Holy Trinity Church. Opposite this is Derby Lane, which still exhibits some of the characteristics of Coventry’s ancient thoroughfares.
Trinity Church, it is thought, was built some time before St. Michael’s, the date at which it is first mentioned being 1269. It is of Gothic architecture, and the steeple is 232 feet in height, rising from the centre of the church, and supported on four massive pillars. The original spire was blown down in 1664, causing much damage to the body of the church. The east window, erected in memory of Mr. B. S. Cox, a parishioner, is a beautiful work of art. The church is in the shape of a cross, and consists of chancel, nave, and north and south aisles.
The aspect of the interior is as pleasing as the effect of the exterior is bold and striking. In 1855-6 the church underwent a thorough repair and restoration, the galleries being taken down, the ceiling illuminated with blue and gold, and some fine windows introduced. At the same time the tower was opened and the bells removed from the lantern, the whole structure being, it was thought, endangered by their ringing. During the progress of the work a curious fresco painting was discovered in the space above the springing of the west arch that supports the tower. This picture, which is now invisible, was a representation of the “Last Judgment,” and as far as could then be made out the centre figure was that of our Saviour in a crimson robe, seated on a rainbow, with the earth for a footstool. Below were the Virgin Mary, St. John, and the Twelve Apostles. Two angels were sounding the summons to judgment, and the tombs were giving up their dead.
On the right was a flight of steps leading to a portico, over which angels were looking down on the dread scene. Others were giving welcome to a figure wearing a tiara, evidently intended to represent a Pope, who, having passed by St. Peter, was the first to enter heaven. On the left of the Judge were unhappy spirits being dragged to the place of torment. Another fresco was found near the north vestry door, but that too, has faded away.
There are but few monuments in this church, and perhaps the only one to call for note is the tablet on the south wall of the choir to the memory of Dr. Philemon Holland, who was a physician and a schoolmaster, and prided himself on having written a folio volume with one pen—an old one when he began, and not worn out when he had finished. The pulpit is of stone, and is handsomely carved. The font is very old, and is painted and gilded. The finely-sculptured reredos in Caen stone was erected to the memory of Mr. John Bill, the father of the late Mr. John Bill, the work representing the visit of the Magi, the Crucifixion, and the Ascension. The vestry contains a portrait of the late Dr. Hook, Dean of Chichester, who was for some time vicar of this parish. The organ has been re-built and enlarged at a very heavy cost, and is now a magnificent instrument.
Leaving the church, we find ourselves in a small square formerly called the Spicerstoke, or Grocers’ quarter, and then come to the Butcher Row, with a cluster of old houses on our left, and Broadgate appearing through the opening in front. We turn to the right, still in the Butcher Row, which, as its name denotes, was formerly the quarter in which the meat trade specially flourished. The butchers had houses on each side of the row, the upper parts being used as the dwelling places, and the lower as slaughterhouses and shops. A short distance down on the left is the Little Butcher Row, with a quaint bit of architecture at the far end, where the overhanging storeys nearly touch the next building. The wider part of the street below the row is known as the Bull Ring. The Spotted Dog public-house now stands on the site of the west entrance to the old cathedral.
Retracing our steps for a short distance, we turn to the left and enter Priory Row, passing more old houses, some of them being in a very good state of preservation. Next to these we find the Girls’ Blue Coat School, built upon a portion of the site of the ancient Benedictine Monastery and Cathedral. The school presents a handsome appearance, and harmonises well with its surroundings. The charity was founded in 1714 by voluntary subscriptions, for the purpose of educating and training poor girls. The income of the school is about £300 a year, derived from bequests and other sources, including a collection after an annual sermon at Holy Trinity Church. A recent scheme has somewhat modified its ancient character.
In 1856, during the re-building of the school, the interesting remains we now admire were laid bare. The neighbourhood is of interest to the antiquary, for here once stood the convent from which the city is said to have taken its name, and which, according to Dugdale, was founded by “the Holy Virgin St. Osburg, and destroyed in 1016 by Canutus, King of Denmark, and that infamous traitor, Edricus, who, invading Mercia with an army, burned and wasted many towns in Warwickshire.’’
On the ruins of the convent, in the time of Edward the Confessor, Earl Leofric and his Countess, Godiva, founded a Monastery for the Benedictines, who derived their name from St. Benedict. The Monastery, with its Cathedral and Bishop’s Palace, comprised a splendid collection of buildings, extending from the lower.part of the Butcher Row down to Priory Street.
The remains before us are those of the west front of the Priory Church, which was one of the Cathedrals of the united Diocese of Coventry and Lichfield until the Reformation.
In the 12th century the Prior of the Cathedral held the position of a mitred Abbot, with a seat in Parliament as a spiritual Peer. Robert de Limsey was appointed to the custody of the Monastery in the reign of William Rufus, and removed his seat from Chester to Coventry, thus becoming the first resident Bishop of Coventry. He seems, however, to have had little regard either for the building or the monks, for it is recorded that “besides his scraping much silver from a beam, he suffered the buildings to decay for want of repair; plundered the church of many ornaments ; and as for the monks he kept them to poor and miserable commons; neither regarding their regular living or anything that might advance learning among them; to the end that being thus brought low and in ignorance their thoughts should not soar so high as to consider the redress of these, his great injuries.”
The Bishop’s Palace stood at the north-east corner of St. Michael’s Churchyard. The Cathedral is supposed to have been in construction similar to that now standing at Lichfield (Lichfield Cathedral is older than that at Coventry : Coventry Cathedral is supposed to have been a copy of it), and to have occupied a site on a gentle declivity from the north side of Trinity and St. Michael’s Churches down towards the Sherbourne.
Within the walls of this Monastery many historical events took place. In 1404 Henry VI. held a Parliament in the great chamber at the priory, at which no lawyer was allowed to be present: hence it was called Parliamentum Indoctorum, and sometimes the Laymen’s Parliament.
In 1411 the Prince of Wales (afterwards Henry V) was arrested here by John Horneby, then mayor of the city. In 1453 the place was visited by King Henry and Queen Margaret, who slept within its walls. Parliament again met here in 1459, and this time was called Parliamentum Diabolicum, on account of the number of attainders passed against Richard Duke of York and his followers; but these proceeding’s were set aside the next year at Westminster.
In 1510 Henry VIII. and his Queen came to witness the pageants of the city, and afterwards stayed at the priory. Two days were spent within its walls by the Princess Mary, who came to see the Mercers’ pageant in 1525. The Monastery, of course, shared the fate that the Reformation brought upon all similar institutions, and all now left of the magnificent structure are these ruins and other fragments that we shall meet with.
Proceeding along Priory Row, we have on our left a burial ground belonging to Holy Trinity Church, whose bells, eight in number, hang in the curious wooden erection now seen. On our right are Trinity and St. Michael’s Churches, of both of which we have fine views. Passing by Hill Top we see some handsome houses, and under one of them we find the offices and stores of a spirit merchant. There is here a fine range of vaults, extending under the ground some distance, and forming a remarkable portion of the Monastery remains.
Going down to Priory Street on the left, we see another burial ground which is connected with St. Michael’s Church, in which is a memorial to Thomas Sharp, author of several works on the History and Antiquities of Coventry, who died 1841, aged 70 years. His memory is also perpetuated by a stained-glass window in the Mercers’ Chapel, St. Michael’s Church. A short distance down the street, on either side, are the extensive works of the Triumph Cycle Co, and a little further, on the right-hand side, are the Public Baths. These were opened in 1894, and cost (exclusive of land, which was already the property of the Corporation), £20,361 3s. 1d. Alterations and additions were made in 1905 and 1907. There are a gentleman’s first class swimming bath, 90ft by 35ft, gentlemen’s second-class swimming bath, 90ft by 35ft, a ladies’ swimming bath, 60ft by 35ft, and 53 “slipper’’ or private baths. The want of further accommodation is now being keenly felt in the summer months. During the winter months the gentlemen’s first class swimming bath is used as a public assembly hall. There is a branch establishment at Primrose Hill, opened in May, 1913, containing 35 private or “slipper” baths.
Turning to the right, we cross into New Street, supposed to have derived its name from some tenements put up to accommodate the workmen employed in building St. Michael’s Church. Old houses are to be seen even in “New” Street, and also in Cox Street, which runs at the bottom. In Grove Street, found by crossing Cox Street, is a building, formerly, a chapel belonging to the Primitive Methodists, but now used as a printing office. Returning to the top of New Street, to our left stands the Coventry Provident Dispensary, a building worthy of the name and objects of the institution. The older part of the building was the original Dispensary, which was established in 1831; but such has been its progress that considerable additions have been made. The members, of whom there are some thousands, subscribe one penny per week, which entitles them to medical advice and medicine when required. The Institution is registered under the Acts relating to Friendly Societies, and is of great service to the community.
Taking now a look at the restored east end of St. Michael’s Church, the noble edifice on which our eyes have often rested as we passed around it, we move along the beautiful avenue of lime trees which extends the whole length of the churchyard, and presently reach one of the chief entrances to the edifice, the survey of the interior of which will not disappoint the highest anticipations of the beholder. For its size as a parish church, St. Michael’s claims first place in the United Kingdom. The earliest mention of the church is in the time of King Stephen, about the middle of the 12th century, when it was given by Ranulph, Earl of Chester, to the Monks of Coventry. The tower and steeple were afterwards added.
The tower was built at the cost of two brothers, who for twenty-two years expended annually £100 on the work, commencing in 1373 and finishing in 1394. Their names were William and Adam Botener, citizens and many times mayors of Coventry. To their two. sisters, Ann and Mary, the erection of the spire is due, as is also the middle aisle of the church. An old brass plate once in the church declared that
“William and Adam built the Tower, Ann and Mary built the Spire; William and Adam built the Church, Ann and Mary built the Quire.”
The tower rises immediately from the ground at the west end to a height of 130 feet 8 inches. It is enriched with well proportioned windows, carved figures, and tracery work of fine character. Upon this tower stands an octagon, 32 feet 6 inches high, supported by flying buttresses, and from within the battlements of this octagon springs the graceful spire, rising to the total height of 295 feet. This perfectly-proportioned and graceful structure never fails to win the admiration of those who behold it, and it is naturally an object in which the inhabitants of the city take great pride.
The church itself is 293 feet 9 inches in length, and 127 feet in breadth, and consists of nave, chancel, two aisles equal in length to the nave, and two smaller aisles. The church is intersected by massive pillars, supporting the arches of the roof, and the scene, from whatever point of view, is most impressive. In 1849 the galleries were removed and the pews made low and open, and in 1851 the church was first lighted with gas, now superseded by electricity. The windows are a beautiful feature, many of them being filled with stained and painted glass, some of it very old. There is a fine window to the memory of Albert Prince Consort, and the names of others are honoured in like manner.
The church was at one time divided into a number of chapels, with separate altars. The monuments are not very numerous, but several will be found worthy of notice.
One is a brass with the portrait of a woman kneeling, temp. James I, with the following lines engraved :—
“Her zealous care to serve her God,
Her constant love to husband deare,
Her harmless harte to everie one,
Doth live although her corps lye here.
God graunte us all, while glass doth run,
To live in Christ as she hath doone.”
“Ann Sewell, ye wife of William Sewell, of this cytty, vintner, departed this life ye 20th of December, 1609, of the
age of 46 years. An humble follower of her Saviour Christ, and a worthy stirrer up of others to all holy virtues.’’
The most noteworthy brass in the church, however, is fixed on the wall near the south porch. It is called Scrope’s Brass. Of the time of Queen Anne, it bears the following inscription :—
“Here lies the body of Captain Gervase Scrope, of the family of Scropes, of Bolton, in the County of York, who departed this life 20th of August, Anno Dui 1705, aged 66.
“An epitaph written by himself in the agony and dolorous pains of the gout and died soon after.”
“Here lyes an old toss’d Tennis Ball;
Was racketted from spring to fall,
With so much heat and so much hast,
Time’s arm for shame grew tyr’d at last.
Four kings in camps he truly served,
And from his loyalty ne’er swerv’d,
Father ruin’d and son slighted,
And from the Crown ne’er requited.
Loss of estate, relations, blood,
Was too well known but did no good ;
With long campaigns and pains oth’ gout
He cou’d no longer hold it out,
Always a restless life he led,
Never at quiet till quite dead,
He marry’d, in his later days,
One who exceeds the common praise;
But wanting breath still to make known
Her true affection and his own,
Death kindly came, all wants supplied
By giving rest—which life deny’d.”
Connected with the church is a splendid peal of ten bells, cast in 1774, and a clock with a chiming apparatus. There was a peal of bells here as early as the year 1429.
Tuesday, April 22nd, 1890, brought to a successful issue one of the most important works of parish church restoration ever undertaken in this country, for tower and spire, and much of the church, including the east end, which had never before been finished, were restored at a total cost of nearly £38,000. The whole structure is now one of great beauty and magnificence. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Benson, preached the re-opening sermon. The organ is a very fine one, by Willis, of London.
Leaving the church, we complete the walk up the avenue, and standing near the Free Library can obtain a view of ecclesiastical architecture that is well nigh unique. Then, turning to the left, we walk between the two churchyards and enter Hill Top, a curiously steep and narrow cobbled thoroughfare passing over the site of the Priory.
We now come into New Buildings — a name arising from some houses built here to make room for people whose homes outside the city had been destroyed in anticipation of a siege, in the time of Charles II. Passing on and turning to the left, we find old houses on the right, and on the other side a large brick factory and house, at first built for the manufacture of ribbons, but, by the generosity of the late Mr. John Gulson, for many years used as the drill rooms and armoury of the Coventry Rifle Volunteers, now merged in the local Territorial Battalion.
The premises have also for many years been used by the Coventry Ragged Schools, which, notwithstanding modern progress, appear still to be a necessary, as they are a useful, institution. Entering the yard by the gateway, we see the Stevens Memorial Hall, a most useful recent addition to the Ragged School premises. Further remains of the Cathedral are also seen, with the Girls’ Blue Coat School built upon them.
We now go past the Bull Ring, on the left, into Ironmonger Row, and at once come to a corner building on the right-hand, which, until a comparatively recent date was a public-house called the “ Pilgrims’ Rest.” The windows, the cornice of the roof, and the porch of this house are worthy of attention, the materials of which they are constructed having been portions of an ancient building for pilgrims that once stood here, in connection with the Priory, the gatehouse of which was near at hand. On a stone inserted in the building are the words:
“Upon this site stood the western part of a large and very ancient edifice called the Pilgrims’ Rest. It was supposed to have been the hostel or inn for the maintenance and entertainment of the Palmers and other visitors to the Priory of Benedictine Monks which stood near, to the eastward. It became ruinous, and was taken down MDCCCXX.”
Next comes Palmer Lane, being the way the Palmers came from St. John’s Hospital to the Priory. We can see that this lane is a very old part of the city, but the houses have lost their distinctive features. If we go up court 3, however, we shall find a building bearing evidences of age and importance. There is a fine old staircase, with the remains of an opening for a lift and a pulley. The beams of the rooms are of oak and very massive, while the sides are wainscotted with oak also. The place is now let as tenements.
Further down the lane we see old timbered houses with projecting storeys, and then make our way through the passage into the Burges, and turning to the right go on to Well Street, which contains many old houses, on the right being some with gables of black and white. In Chapel Street, on the right-hand side, is Well Street Congregational Church, built in 1827, providing seats for 800 persons. It is a brick building, with stucco front, the entrances being under a portico. Several alterations and improvements have from time to time been carried out, the most important being in the year 1888, when it was found necessary to provide larger accommodation, both in chapel and schools. At a cost of £1,500 the chapel was considerably enlarged and the schools entirely rebuilt on a greater scale. Further considerable additions were made in 1898, a new Lecture Hall and Class Rooms being erected on land presented by Mr. J. T. Moy, a deacon of the church, and in 1905 a new building was erected at the side of the main edifice to provide for Young Women’s Classes.
Coming down to Well Street again we see in front the cycle factory of Messrs. Clark, Cluley & Co., while next are some old timbered houses. Down a yard between two of these are a number of houses showing the old style of construction very plainly. One of these was in 1883 struck on two different occasions by lightning, and the end taken away. The Workhouse for Trinity Parish stood at one time nearly opposite this spot.
Passing on, more old houses appear, one with a gable facing the street having the vine carved on the ends; another shows, well the framework, and the cornice to the roof is carved with a Vandyke open pattern; still another shows a remarkable old style of building. Leaving Bond Street to the left, we go along Upper Well Street, and come to a junction of several streets called Hill Cross, with Lamb Street on the right.
On the opposite side is Cherry Street, with a chapel of the Plymouth Brethren. Leaving this and turning to the left we move into King Street, named after a person who owned land here. On the left we find the carpet and coach trimming manufactory of Messrs. Dalton & Barton, and then comes the British School, erected to carry on the institution started in the Lancasterian Yard, and previously noticed. This school was disbanded some time ago, and a girls’ school took its place, thirty-six of the girls being for two years clothed and educated from a charity founded in 1731 by two ladies named Bridget Southern and Frances Craner. Since 1911, however, it has been used as a school clinic, under the Education Department.
We now make our way down Upper Well Street and enter Bond Street. Turning to the left into Hill Street, and passing through Fleet Street we enter West Orchard, where once was an orchard belonging to the old Priory. On our right are the extensive premises of the Coventry Perseverance Co-operative Society, including a useful Assembly Hall. Herein is conducted by the Society a large and successful Evening Continuation School. A little further along, on the left, standing back from the street, is West Orchard Congregational Chapel, succeeding a former edifice, erected in 1777, and afterwards on several occasions enlarged. It was formerly hidden by buildings in front. In 1820 the old chapel was taken down, and the present fine building erected, and at the same time some houses in front were cleared away. In 1856 the frontage was renewed, and the interior rearranged and modernised, with seats for 1,000 persons. New rooms built at the right front of the chapel, have an effect that is scarcely pleasing to the eye, the chapel being hidden from view on that side.
In this ancient thoroughfare a number of old houses with wooden frames and of various heights and descriptions are to be seen on the right, followed by the Market Hall. We now emerge into Cross Cheaping, a short distance from where we started on this, not the least memorable of our walks through the ancient city.
Turning to the right we approach the pretty entrance to the Coventry Cemetery, and if there is a feeling of pleasure at the outside appearance of this “hallowed ground’’ that feeling is enhanced when we make a closer acquaintance with what is reputed to be one of the most beautiful burial places in the kingdom. The cemetery comprises eighteen acres of land, the natural features of which were favourable for the purpose, and were fully taken advantage of by the late Sir Joseph Paxton, under whose direction the work was designed and carried out. The ‘’ample gravel walks,” says one who writes upon the subject, “winding in all directions, and revealing at every turn some new beauty to the eye, attest the artistic skill of the plan; and the long broad promenade next the turnpike road commands a most charming view.” There are two chapels, and many monuments, the one near the entrance (to Sir Joseph Paxton, who for some time represented Coventry in Parliament), claiming special attention. A portion of land at the south-east corner is assigned to the Hebrew community. The Cemetery was opened in 1847, and the cost of it was more than £12,000. The London and Northwestern Railway runs along the south side, and beyond is Whitley Common, a large portion of which was, in 1887, added to the Cemetery, being connected therewith by a bridge over the railway. The total area is over 30 acres.
Leaving the Cemetery, and turning to the right a short distance down the London Road, on the left we find an avenue of trees, at the other end of which is the Charter House, the site of an old Carthusian Monastery. The order was founded by one Bruno, of the Monastery of Chartreuse, of which word “Charterhouse” is a corruption. The life led by the monks was of most exclusive and hermit-like character. A large part of the boundary wall is still standing at the back of the present buildings, and in the garden are traces of some of the ruins. About a mile further along the main road stands Whitley Abbey, and the ruins of the fire-destroyed Baginton Hall are some three miles distant.
White Friars’ Monastery
Making our way back towards the city, the “three tall spires” come in sight, and at one point we find that Holy Trinity spire is obscured by that of St. Michael’s, the first effect of this eclipse being rather bewildering.
Leaving Paradise Street to the left, with Gulson Road to the right, we reach the Workhouse, the buildings in connection with which are on the site of, and indeed some of them actually formed part of, the ancient Monastery of the White Friars, who appeared in Coventry about 1343, and who claimed the prophet Elias as their founder. Their house was built by Sir John Poultney, Lord Mayor of London, and was enlarged by a gift of land from William Bottener in 1413. The annual income of the monastery in the time of Henry VII dwindled down to £7 13s. 8d, and the monks were turned out without pension or allowance of any kind. The place afterwards passed to several owners, among whom was John Hales, who in 1565 entertained Queen Elizabeth there. Mr. Hales here originated the Grammar School. After his death, the house passed to other hands more than once, and in 1801 it was sold to the Directors of the Poor of the city, who at once adapted it to the requirements of a workhouse. There are still many interesting remains of the Monastery to be seen here, notably the cloister, now the dining-room of the inmates; but in the alterations which have necessarily been made there is a large mixture of the modern with the ancient. There were formerly two workhouses — one for Trinity Parish in Well Street, and one for St. Michael’s Parish in Hill Street. The present establishment has room for about 500 inmates. A large infirmary was in 1890 added to the main buildings, but there have since been important extensions.
Continuing our perambulation we notice a modernised public-house, “Ye Olde Salutation Inn,” the first within the boundary on this side of Coventry, and having a pictorial sign with the legend “You are welcome to the city.” A few steps further on there is a stone against the front wall of a house, the inscription on which is hardly legible : — “90 miles from London.”
Leaving White Friar Street on the right, we enter Much Park Street, which has been supposed to derive its name from being the way to the Great Park already mentioned, but it was well-known in former days as “Misford Street,” and the etymology is doubtful. Immediately to the left hand are St Michael’s Schools, stone built, and having for the purposes of elementary education accommodation for 546 children. Old-fashioned houses abound hereabouts, and a little way down the street, on the right, is an old gateway, which was connected with the White Friars’ Monastery, and now leads into White Friars’ Lane, in which is St. Mary’s Mission Church, attached to St. Michael’s. Nearly opposite this will be noticed with pleasure a fine old building of timber and plaster, part of which is devoted to the purposes of a brewery. Some good old houses are passed on the right, then we cross Earl Street, and, bearing a little to the left, enter Bayley Lane.
St. Michael’s Church now appears, which in passing along we shall have on our right, while we notice some of the buildings in the neighbourhood. Immediately to our left is the Hall of the Drapers’ Company, built in 1832, in the Grecian style. The chief feature of the interior is the ball room, measuring sixty feet by thirty feet. The lane was formerly monopolised by drapers’ shops. St. Mary Street follows, on the right-hand side of which stand the new Police Offices, previously noticed.
ST. MARY’S HALL
A few steps further bring us to that fine mediaeval relic, St. Mary’s Hall, one of the chief glories of the city. Erected in the time of Henry VI for the guilds of St. John, the Trinity, and St. Katherine, the building affords striking evidence of the wealth and importance of those bodies, though there were many other guilds connected with the trades of the city. On passing through the doorway, the curious carving on the roof of the porch will be noticed; it is said to represent the Deity crowning the Virgin Mary, and the Annunciation. On the right of the courtyard are some massive vaults, with groined roof and arches, containing some interesting relics.
Crossing the yard, we enter a lobby with doorways leading to all parts of the building. Turning up the noble staircase, passing by a fine tapestry, we enter the Great Hall, a noble room, 76 feet long, 30 feet broad, and 34 feet high. This was the banqueting hall of the guilds, whose entertainments were on a princely scale, and which monarchs and nobles did not refuse to honour by their presence. The timber-work of the roof contains figures of angels with musical instruments. The grand window at the end of the hall is divided into nine compartments, filled with stained-glass figures of several of our kings, with their coats of arms, each placed under a canopy. Originally, the work of putting in this window was executed by one John Thornton, a native of this city, who also put in the east window of York Minster.
Under the window, and extending along the whole breadth of the hall, with a depth of ten feet, is the celebrated piece of old tapestry. This exquisite work is divided into six compartments, formed into two rows of three each, one above the other. The figure representing Justice in the centre of the upper square occupies the place where there was originally a representation of the Deity, which for some reason was cut away. A few years ago the tapestry was restored, and afterwards exhibited for a time at South Kensington.
At the other end of the hall is the Minstrel Gallery, approached by a narrow staircase, and behind is a large room called the Armoury. In front of the gallery hang some specimens of the ancient civic armour, which are brought into requisition for the “city guard” that generally marches at the head of the Godiva procession.
On the west side of the hall is the oriel, containing a figure of Godiva, and sometimes the chair of state, of carved oak, bearing the City Arms (Elephant and Castle). This chair has often been the seat of royalty. There are some good paintings on the walls, and the windows are of modern stained glass, with the names of some of the mayors of the city. The Mayoress’s Parlour is found up the steps opposite the oriel, and in it are many interesting pictures and antiquities. Returning through the Great Hall, under the gallery we have a look into the old Council Chamber on the right.
Another room on the left formerly contained the splendid collection of muniments of the city, but these are now preserved, in a building (specially erected for the purpose) adjoining St. Mary’s Hall. Of these documents a writer has said—”Few, if any, of the corporate towns of the kingdom are possessed of such a vast collection of muniments, so historically precious, so genealogically valuable, so locally interesting. Adopted, as the city was, by one of the most influential of Saxon thanes, cherished amongst the most powerful Norman barons, basking in the sunshine of royal favour during the reigns of succeeding sovereigns; in its monastic institutions, the abode of learning; in the houses of its merchant princes, the home of riches — it is not to be wondered at that during the lapse of more than eight centuries so many literary treasures should have been accumulated.”
A cursory examination will show that this eulogy is not undeserved, and that the Corporation have acted wisely in providing a separate building for the storage and preservation of this priceless collection. In 1895, Mr. John Cordy Jeaffreson, B.A., one of the Inspectors of Ancient Writings for Her Majesty’s Commissioners of Historical Manuscripts, prepared a “Calendar” of these ‘’Books, Charters, Letters Patent, Deeds, Rolls, Writs, and other Writings,” and stated that “the number of MSS. in the Muniment Room that still are, or were some fifty or sixty years since (i.e., prior to part of them being bound up in volumes) separate writings, may on a cautious and moderate computation, be said to exceed 1,000.”
Under the Minstrel Gallery are some steps which lead into the kitchen, where there is evidence of the scale on which preparations were wont to be made for civic feasts. “What is that curious effigy on the buttress, there ?” it may be asked. Ah! that nearly life-sized figure is a painful reminder of less civilized days. Read the inscription on the brass plate :—
THIS KNAVES’ POST
was formerly affixed to the wall of a house in MUCH PARK STREET.
It was usual to sentence offenders to be whipped at the cart tail from the Mayor’s Parlour (in the Market Place) to the Knaves’ Post and back.
The post was erected in this place
AS A RELIC OF THE PAST,
By order of the Corporation, May, 1900.
Leaving the Hall we turn to the left, and on the west wall of it we find a similar reminder of more barbarous times in the City Stocks, which were used as lately as the boyhood’s days of some living citizens. The inscription reads :—
formerly stood in the Market Place (where they were used for the punishment of offenders) until the year 1865.
They were erected in this place
AS A RELIC OF THE PAST,
By order of the Corporation, May, 1900.
A favourite subject for artists comes next in the shape of a fine old-timbered house, which is maintained in perfect condition; and immediately following is St. Michael’s Baptist Chapel, built in 1858, for about 600 people. In 1898 the authorities of the chapel provided a new organ, by Nicholson & Lord, of Walsall, which is one of the most satisfactory in the city. A Sunday School is held in a room under the chapel.
Hay Lane runs to our left, and Bayley Lane continues in front, with many old houses and the County Police Office. Turning here to the right, we have on our left the recently enlarged County Hall, formerly the Assize Court. Here are now held Quarter Sessions and weekly Petty Sessions for part of the county, also monthly sittings of the County Court. This building, with the gaol which once stood at its side, was erected in 1785, and belonged to the Corporation, but in 1842 it was transferred to the county, at the price of some £17,000. The assizes being removed to Warwick, the gaol was rendered useless, and Mr. Alderman Gulson purchased the site, presenting it to the city for the purpose of erecting thereon a building for the Free Public Library, that for some time had been carried on in the premises in Hertford Street of the old Coventry Library, the 17,000 volumes of which were transferred to the city on advantageous terms.
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.”
Christ Church and the Grey Friars
Returning to Queen’s Road, and passing on, with the handsome residences of Stoneleigh Terrace on our right and Grey Friars’ Green on our left, we reach Warwick Road, and, turning to the left,, make our way to Christ Church, standing on the site of the old Grey Friars’ Monastery, to which the spire originally belonged. For 300 years after the removal of the monastery this spire stood alone. The Grey Friars sprang from St. Francis, an Italian; they lived wholly on charity, and, with wallets on their shoulders, generally went about in couples collecting alms. Their monastery here was one of the last to-fall into the hands of Henry VIII, who compelled the friars to sign and seal their own surrender. The site and remains were given to the city in 1542. The buildings must have been of very considerable extent, for the present church stands easily within the space formerly occupied by the nave of its predecessor. The land afterwards passed into private hands,, the Corporation retaining the spire. In 1823 a movement was set on foot to build a church, the spire and 150 guineas being granted by the city. The church was opened in 1832. The entrance consists of a finely-arched doorway, with smaller ones on either side. The interior is very plain; the nave measures 101 feet, and there is room for about 1,500 persons, 900 of the sittings being free. Christ Church was formerly a chapel-of-ease to St. Michael’s, but in March 1900, it was granted a separate and independent parish, taken out of St. Michael’s,
Going along Union Street, we find on our left the recently erected parochial buildings connected with Christ Church. Taking the first turn to the right, we are speedily on the site of the grounds and ancient Manor House of Cheylesmore. Here, says Dugdale, the Earls of Chester, to whose lineage Leofric belonged, “had an eminent seat, bearing the name of a castle in those olden times.” Some remains of the place will still be found after passing under the ancient gateway. The buildings on the eastern side are in many parts raised upon stone walls of great strength. The works of the Swift Cycle Co, Limited, are near this spot, and opposite to them are the offices and works of Messrs. Hobart Bird & Co., Limited, another firm of cycle and motor cycle manufacturers.
Retracing our steps to Union Street, we go along Cow Lane, to the right, and find up a covered passage Cow Lane Chapel, built in 1793 to hold about 700 people. The old chapel has been entirely altered, and a lecture room and useful class-rooms constructed, where a great religious and social work is carried on by the authorities of Queen’s Road Baptist Church, including men and women’s Adult Schools, Sunday Schools, girls’ classes, men’s club, etc.
“Black Gift” — On the other side was Baker, Billing, and Crow’s Charity School, which was merged into the Bablake School in 1887. This school was founded by Mr. Samuel Baker, of London, in 1690, and the charity further augmented by various benefactors.
A little further along, on the same side, are the extensive works of Messrs. Thomas Bushill & Sons, printers and manufacturing stationers.
Returning, we move to the right into Grey Friars’ Lane, where we find a most interesting relic of old Coventry. Grey Friars’ Hospital, or Ford’s Hospital, was founded by William Pisford, a merchant of Coventry, under his wall dated 1509. It was originally intended for aged couples “of good name and fame.” The charity now provides for thirty-seven aged women, eleven of whom are in residence at the hospital in separate rooms. The structure is a model of old timber work, and is considered one of the most beautiful specimens of its kind; John Carter, the antiquary, quaintly saying, “it deserves to be kept in a glass case.
Warwick Lane is to our left, in which are the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel and Sunday Schools. The chapel was opened in 1836, and will hold about 900 persons. .Some years ago it was re-seated and renovated, and a school and class rooms built by its side. It has recently been again renovated and still further improved. The fact is well authenticated that John Wesley preached in Coventry on several occasions. The lane in which we now stand owes its name to the fact that before the opening of Hertford Street it was the way of the city to Warwick, through which the coaches had to pass. Coming back past the hospital, we notice the old houses adjoining, and, passing the Standard printing office on our right, presently emerge into High Street, and here end our second “walk.”
Old Gas Works
Turning to the right into Gas Street, we find there the main entrance to the Old Gas Works. The first works for supplying Coventry with gas were erected by a number of private gentlemen in 1821, but in 1856 an Act of Parliament was obtained under which a public company was formed, with 800 shares of £25 each. Great improvements and additions were from time to time made at the works, which were kept in a very efficient condition, and the financial result to the shareholders was satisfactory. In 1884, however, owing to advances being made by the Corporation, an arrangement was made by which it was agreed that the whole undertaking should be transferred to the local authorities. The amount of the purchase money was £168,000. As before remarked, new works have been constructed at Foleshill, and the old buildings are now used mainly for storage purposes.
Going to the end of the street, we cross Hill Street, bearing a little to the left, and pass through Bangor Street to the Holyhead Road, running out of which is Dover Street, containing St. John’s Schools, with accommodation for primary education for 538.
Turning down the road, passing on the left a meeting house and school belonging to the Society of Friends, and a Chapel of the Plymouth Brethren, we enter Spon Street, facing Queen Victoria Road, having to our immediate left hand the main entrance to St. John’s Church. Moving to the right, we traverse Spon Street, a name supposed to be derived from the ‘’span” between two fords of the Sherbourne, one being originally at the bottom of Smithford Street, where, as we shall presently see, a bridge is built.
Houses of more or less antiquity are in plenty along this street, while on the left is the great watch and engineering factory of Messrs. Rotherham & Sons, a firm known in all parts of the world. A few steps onward bring us to the offices and show rooms of Messrs. Rudge-Whitworth, Ltd, whose factory occupies a large part of Crow Lane and Trafalgar Street close by. To cope with their enormously increasing business, this firm have erected an immense steel girder building at the rear of their offices, and extending from Spon Street to the river Sherbourne. Proceeding still along Spon Street, we pass on the left a covered way into Meadow Street. More old houses appear, and on our right is Barras Lane, with the Jews’ Synagogue a short distance up. Also on our right, standing back from the line of houses, is St. Saviour’s Mission Church, connected with St. John’s Church. Sherbourne Street, to the left, is reached, and opposite is a brick building, at one time the meeting place of the Mormons, but subsequently used as a Mission Room. In close proximity are the Spon Street Council Schools. These are an admirable cluster of buildings, and include departments for boys, girls, and infants, to the number of 1,205.
A narrow lane at the far end of these schools leads to the Spon End works of the City Water Department, whence for many years the greater part of Coventry’s water supply came. According to an ancient document, the inhabitants, in 1334, obtained from Edward III a license to erect in Well Street a conduit twenty feet long and ten feet broad. As the population increased, wells were from time to time sunk in various parts of the town, and, previous to the establishment of the Spon End works, there were in existence more than thirty public pumps, most of which have since been removed. The works we are now viewing were constructed from plans prepared by Mr. Hawkesley, C.E., and consist of filtering beds and a pumping station, the original outlay being about £20,000. Owing to the continued increase of population, additions have been made at various times to the capacity of the works, and, as previously stated, the Corporation felt the necessity of establishing an additional pumping- station at Whitley. The combined supply is good, both in quality and quantity, but as a safeguard, the Corporation, a few years ago, contracted for a further supply from the Birmingham reservoirs at Shustoke, a wise precaution, as this auxiliary supply is now generously drawn upon.
Returning to the street, we find a very old stone building, sometimes called the Leper House or Hospital, now divided into tenements. The formation of the place can be best seen by looking at the side facing the gardens. Dugdale says this “Chappel or Hospital of Sponne” was founded by Hugh Keveliok, Earl of Chester, in the time of Richard III, the Earl having a certain knight of his household who was a leper, and endowing it for the maintenance of such persons as were afflicted in like manner in the City of Coventry. A priest (with brethren and sisters) was located here, together with the lepers, “praying to God for their benefactors.” The hospital afterwards belonged to the Crown, but in the reign of Edward IV it passed to the canons of Studley, Warwickshire, on condition of their praying for the King and others. Some antiquaries think this was not the place for lepers, but that a building in Chapel Fields was devoted to their use.
Crossing the bridge over the Sherbourne, we can take a look at the ornamental grounds of the Water Works, and then pass into Spon End, viewing its old houses. The viaduct in front is connected with the Coventry and Nuneaton Railway. There are twenty-two arches, which were originally built of stone, but in 1857 many of them fell with a tremendous crash, happily without causing loss of life, and they were rebuilt of blue brick. Close to the viaduct, on the left, standing back a little from the line of the street, is St. Thomas’s Mission Church.
On a house at the corner of Melbourne Road, to the left, there is a quaint proclamation against vagrancy. Beyond is Chapel Fields, a large outlying district on the Old Allesley Road, formerly inhabited largely by watchmakers, with schools in Lord Street connected with Queen’s Road Baptist Church. Hearsall Common, a considerable piece of open land, used as a recreation ground, adjoins the district on the south and south-west side.
Reversing our walk a little, and bearing to the right, we enter the Butts, which in former times was set apart for the practice of archery; there were also two others, Summerland Butts and Barker’s Butts. The pleasant-looking building there on the north side is Sherbourne House West, the Y.W.C.A. Hostel and Institute, opened June 3rd, 1915. Passing Hope Street on the left, we come to Albany Road, a fine thoroughfare on the right leading to Earlsdon, a populous and growing suburb situated pleasantly on high ground, where watchmaking was once extensively carried on ; the cycle and motor trades are now also represented. To the right is the entrance to the grounds of the Coventry Cricket Ground Co, where “most do congregate’’ the lovers of athletic sports. The grounds are fourteen acres in extent. Opposite is St. Thomas’s Church, Vicarage, and Schools, standing on a piece of land purchased of the freemen. The church is of native stone, and of simple design.
Continuing along the Butts, we find Thomas Street on our left, and a little further on to the right, in Upper York Street, are the grounds of the Coventry Public Cattle Sales Company. Here also are the great mechanical engineering and machine tool works of Messrs. Alfred Herbert, Limited. York Street turns off to our left. A well-known hostelry, at the sign of the “Hen and Chickens,” brings us to the eastern end of the Butts, Hertford Place turning off to the left. We are now entering Queen’s Road, which extends from this point to the Warwick Road end of Stoneleigh Terrace. Queens Road Baptist Church stands to the right, and, with its pinnacled tower, presents a somewhat imposing appearance. It belongs to the Baptist congregation which for a long period worshipped in Cow Lane Chapel, and the origin of which dates back over 200 years. This edifice, in which there are sittings for about 1,000 persons, was formally opened on the 1st May, 1884. The style of architecture is perpendicular Gothic. The interior is well arranged, and the whole effect is one of neatness and comfort. Classrooms were afterwards added, the total cost approaching £ 12,000. In 1912 considerable additions were built at the rear, comprising a handsome hall for general meetings, concerts and the like, together with a smaller lecture hall and other apartments.
In the centre of Queen’s Grove, just past the chapel, we may see an oak tree planted in commemoration of the Sunday School Centenary in 1880. Here also is a memorial in honour of the late Mr. James Starley, to whose genius the origin, development, and perfection of the modern bicycle and tricycle are greatly due. The St. John’s Cycle Works, formerly carried on by his sons, were in Queen Victoria Road, on our left, but are now, with suitable additions, used as the headquarters and drill hall of the local Territorial Battalion. Grosvenor Road, on our right, is the most direct road to Spencer Park, presented to the city by the late Mr. David Spencer, of Coventry, and, as before stated, publicly opened in 1883. The park comprises eleven acres, and cost about £7,000. The park is divided by a thoroughfare which forms part of Spencer Avenue, and the portion south thereof has recently been laid out at considerable expense in tennis courts and bowling greens, and a handsome pavilion erected.
Adjoining the churchyard of St. John’s stands a venerable building, in an excellent state of preservation, founded as a school in 1560 by Thomas Wheatley, mayor. It is called Bablake School, a name derived from a water conduit once near this place. The building is not now used as a school, but as parochial rooms in connection with St. John’s Church, the Charity Commissioners having by a new scheme united several of the charity boys’ schools, and permitted the erection of a fine building in Coundon Road. The number of scholars in the old school was seventy, who remained two years, half the boys during the second year living indoors. Their uniform was a long tunic of blue cloth with yellow linings, black trousers, a heavy knitted worsted cap, with a yellow tuft. The interior of this ancient building is of no small interest to the archaeologist. In 1832 an additional schoolroom, with master’s residence, was erected on the west side of the spacious playground, but this was demolished in 1897 to make room for the offices of the General Charities Trustees. These trustees are now the managers of the new school.
Bond’s Hospital Adjoining is Bond’s Hospital, a rare example of half-timbered work, with old-fashioned gables and windows. The hospital was founded by Thomas Bond, a draper in Coventry, in 1506, “for the reception of ten poor men, and a woman to dish their meat and drink.” By his will he directed that they should have “every year a gown of black with a hood, and that they be every day at the beginning of matins, mass, and evensong,” and also that the said ten men should “daily, after they had supped, go into the church, and there, kneeling, every man to say fifteen paternosters and fifteen aves and three creeds in the worship of the passion of Christ, and then to drink and go to bed.” The hospital is very conveniently arranged, and the rooms are airy and pleasant. Each inmate has a portion of ground for cultivation. The charity provides for forty-five old men, each of whom receives 6s. per week, and eleven of them reside in the building, in separate rooms, the accommodation being for eighteen. The present building was erected 1832-3 on the site of the old hospital.
Quitting this interesting institution, and leaving Bond Street — which is built on the old Town Wall — on the right, we ascend Hill Street. The high brick walls on the left enclose two burial grounds—one belonging to the Society of Friends, and the other connected with West Orchard Chapel. Interments here being very rare, it may be mentioned that the late Miss Mary Ann Cash was buried in the Quaker Ground so recently as the 15th of April, 1916. Miss Cash was a member of an old Coventry family, known for her good works, and had reached the exceptional age of 97. In a humble building adjoining the West Orchard Chapel Ground, bearing the inscription on the front,
SUNDAY SCHOOLS, 1779
the first Sunday Schools opened in Coventry were held. Opposite are the works of the Leigh Mills Co., where many workpeople are employed in the manufacture of woollen goods of high quality.
St. Osburg’s Church
Bangor Street is now passed on the left, and Gas Street on the right, and further on to the left is found a fine building comprising the schools, with teachers’ residences, belonging to the adjacent Roman Catholic Church, dedicated to St. Osburg. The church stands on the site of a chapel first built here in 1807. The present Gothic structure, the peculiar material used in the construction of which will be noticed, was consecrated on September 9th, 1845, the funds having been raised by the Rev. Dr. Ullathorne, who then held the priesthood, and was afterwards consecrated Bishop in the Church that was due to his pious zeal. The spire was subsequently added. The dimensions of the interior are 151 feet by 50 feet, and the decorations, especially those of the Lady Chapel, are very rich. Services are performed by members of the Order of St. Benedict, who reside in the brick-built Priory next to the church.
Reaching the top of Hill Street, we have in front of us Coundon Road, leading to the railway station of that name, on the Nuneaton and Leicester branch. Near to the station are the schools (opened in 1890) of the Bablake foundation scheme, in which Bablake, Fairfax’s, Katherine Bayley’s, and Baker, Billing and Crow’s Charity Schools are now amalgamated. The front elevation of the building is 244 feet in length, and is in the Elizabethan style of architecture, possessing a central tower and oriel window over the front entrance. The building is in red brick with stone dressings, and the schoolrooms and workshops are fitted up in the most approved style. Barras Lane runs to our left, while to our right is Abbott’s Lane. Going down the latter, we pass the site of Naul’s Mill, or Hill Mill, a very ancient mill, which gives name to Naul’s Mill Park, close by, and the rear of the old Gas Works on the right, and Mill Street and Stephen Street are to the left.
For our second walk, we will start from the King’s Head Hotel, at the corner of Smithford Street. As we look down this important business thoroughfare we cannot but notice what a picturesque effect the old houses, with their projecting gables, and the fine embattled tower of St. John’s Church in the distance, give to the view: it is one of the best street views in “ye ancient citie.”
The first house on our right is the City Hotel, which formerly had a verandah, from which many an exciting scene, especially during election times, was witnessed. It has, however, been re-modelled and re-decorated as an hotel and restaurant. Immediately adjoining is a succession of old houses, the fronts of which show a good proportion of timber work, though some have been filled up with brick and other materials in such a way as to destroy their former quaint appearance. Passing on, we come to a narrow passage on the left, called Vicar Lane, where a building known for many years as the Vicar Lane Congregational Chapel is occupied by the British Photo Engraving Co. The first meeting house of the Society of Friends was in this lane, a much more ancient building than Vicar Lane Chapel.
Returning down the lane we cross over into Market Street, which leads to the Market Hall, with its lofty clock tower. The building is erected partly on the site of the old butter market and watch-house, near which formerly stood the city stocks. The materials used are brick and stone, and the cost of erection was about £20,000. The building consists of one large hall, 140 feet by 93 feet, with four entrances; a smaller hall, partly let as shops, and an arcade. The tower is 135 feet high, and contains a fine clock, with illuminated dials, the cost of which was £300. The hall was opened in 1867 with an Art and Industrial Exhibition. In Market Street, by the way, was born the celebrated actress, Miss Ellen Terry, and two houses have put forth claims for the distinction of being the birthplace.
Retracing our steps into Smithford Street, the next place to be noticed is the old Theatre Yard on the left. The Theatre was erected by Sir Skears Rew, a member of the Coventry Corporation (who then resided in the building in front) and opened for public performances on Easter Monday 1819, but was superseded on the opening of the Royal Opera House in Hales Street.
On the right is Drinkwater Arcade, named after a popular mayor, and adjoining is the new Corn Exchange, erected on the site of the old Post Office. Just below, on the left, we come to the Barracks, with stone buildings facing the street, entered by a gateway. The Barracks were erected on the site of the once famous Bull Inn, within whose walls many a stirring event took place. Here the hapless Mary Queen of Scots was confined as a prisoner. The rooms fronting the street are the officers’ quarters, next to these being offices and the quarters of the married soldiers. Under the second archway is the stabling, over which are the rooms occupied by the rank and file. Then there is a spacious drill-yard, which was formerly a bowling green connected with the Bull Inn. Facing the visitor as he enters the drill-yard is the hospital, while to the right and left stand the riding school, guard-room, canteen, workshops, etc. The outer gate of this yard opens into the Bull Yard, a short thoroughfare which emerges at the bottom of Hertford Street.
Returning to the main entrance, and passing a short distance down Smithford Street, we notice on the right a large red brick building. This is the Great Meeting House, now belonging to the Unitarians. It was erected in 1701, partly on the site of an ancient structure called St. Nicholas’ Hall, or Leather Hall, and is fitted up in old-fashioned style, with oak pews and galleries. In connection with this place of worship is Smith’s Charity, yielding about £100 per year, which is at the disposal of trustees.
A little further down the street, on the right, we come to the central stores of the Coventry Perseverance Co-operative Society. A bridge, known as Ram Bridge, not visible however, is now crossed, and passing by the end of West Orchard, on the right, Fleet Street is entered, marking the site of the ancient fleet, or overflow of the Sherbourne, which passes under the bridge. Fleet Street got its name for the same reason as Fleet Street, London.
St. John’s Church
We now leave the main street, and, turning to the right, enter Hill Street, passing the east end of St. John Baptist Church. This edifice, which was restored in 1875, is a noble specimen of mediaeval church architecture. Its-origin is traceable to the religious guilds of the city, and Queen Isabel, by a grant dated May 7th, 1344, gave a piece of land at Bablake whereon to erect a chapel, which was dedicated in 1350. This chapel was very small, only occupying the space now taken up by the chancel. In 1357 a former valet of Queen Isabel took an interest in the fortunes of this chapel, and by his gifts facilitated the work of extension; he also endowed the place to such an extent that four additional priests could be maintained. Two years afterwards other lands were given by Edward the Black Prince, and buildings appropriate to a collegiate institution were added. On the suppression of religious houses the church and its property were granted to the Mayor and Corporation of Coventry, but services were not regularly kept up. During the time of the Commonwealth the church was used as a temporary prison, and many Scotch soldiers were confined in it. It was repaired in 1734, and service has since then continued to be held. The interior is one of the most beautiful, as well as most peculiar, in the Midland Counties. On the last day of 1900 the church was much damaged by a great flood, the water rising to a height of nearly six feet. Since then further renovations have been carried out, and a new organ provided.