Author Archive
Walks Thro Coventry – Part 3
Posted on: January 19th, 2012 by pj

Returning to the railway bridge, recently considerably enlarged, we have an indication of the primitive accommodation originally thought to be sufficient for a station.  Hereon, we may take our stand, like Tennyson, when, on the less spacious structure, he wrote:

“I waited for the train at Coventry;

I hung with grooms and porters on the bridge,

To watch the three tall spires; and there I shap’d

The city’s ancient legend”…

and for a few moments review the chief characteristics of this well known county borough.

Many quaint scenes of the past rise before our vision.  We think of the time of the when the old Mystery Plays were acted in the narrow streets of the city; when the White and Grey Friars peopled the monasteries; and of occasions when the Parliament of the realm made Coventry its meeting place.  Our imagination calls up many striking events in the historic past of the city, and we revel in the richness of the field thus opening up before us.

There is, of course, a great contrast between the busy commercial centre of today and the Coventry of Queen Margaret; but on the whole it may be said that the modern city is worthy of its traditions.

In 1642, Nehemiah Wharton, an officer in the Parliamentary forces, under the Earl of Essex, described Coventry as a “city environed with a wall, co-equal, if not exceeding that of London for breadth and height, and with gates and battlements, magnificent churches and stately streets, and abundant fountains of water; altogether a place very sweetly situate, and where there is no hint of venison.”  Some of these features have disappeared, others remain in part, but many are still in existence, and go far to justify the eulogium, whilst the modern developments, both material and picturesque, are both numerous and important.

The largest town in Warwickshire, with the exception of Birmingham, Coventry is almost surrounded by a wealth of amenities.  The north-east side of the city, however, reaches nearly to the Warwickshire coalfield, and here, of course, the scenery is not so pleasing, though lovers of of the picturesque need not search in vain, and there is some compensating advantage in the contiguity of so extensive a supply of fuel.

It will be seen that, for a manufacturing centre, Coventry is clean and salubrious, and this happy condition is partly due to large percentage of the power used in various industries supplied by gas or electricity, and thus diminishing the smoke nuisance.

That the city is a decidedly healthy place is proved by the low death rate, which averages about 12 per 1,000, the mean age at death, about 39, having risen by 4 in twenty years.

Though to a great extent modernised, the town still contains a large number of curious old buildings, churches, halls, alms-houses, etc, with rare historical associations and legends.

On November 1st 1890, a portion of the suburban districts were absorbed into the municipal area, and a further extension took place on November 1st 1899, when parts of Foleshill and Stoke came within city boundaries.  These extensions were rendered necessary by the rapid growth of the town during years of industrial and commercial prosperity, the surrounding districts have become essentially urban in character, and being, in all but name, actually parts of the city.  At the present time further extension of the city boundaries are badly required.  Large neighbouring areas, notably those adjacent o the Stoke, Foleshill and Hearsall Wards, are densely populated mainly by city workers.  For many reasons it is desirable that these should be included in the city’s population, and serious movements in this direction were maturing, but like many other activities were interrupted by the European War.  In 1888, Coventry resumed its old status and title of a county, which had been in abeyance since 1842.

Manufactures – In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the staple trade was the manufacture of woollen goods, but early in the eighteenth century the weaving of ribbons was introduced, and soon became an important industry, there being in 1818 in Coventry and the surrounding district no less than 3,003 power looms, and 5,438 single hand looms.  Over half a century ago, however, the ribbon trade began to decline, and during a period of great distress many citizens emigrated.  But from those evil days the modern prosperity of the city may be distinctly traced – new trades then introduced being the germs of its industrial development.

Walks Thro Coventry – part 2
Posted on: January 17th, 2012 by pj



“Welcome every smiles” – Shakespeare

Coventry enjoys the distinction of being the central city of England; it is equi-distant from sea to sea, except due north.  There are three reputed “centres of England,” each being about eight miles away in different direction.  But Coventry has more solid claims to world-wide fame than its geographical situation, as closer acquaintance reveals.

We will presume the visitor to our ancient and interesting city has arrived by railway, and having given him a cordial greeting we will engage his attention with a few general remarks, prior to our perambulations.

In one respect Coventry is not to be envied.  Although several railways run through the neighbourhood – the Great Western within ten miles, and the Great Central within twelve – this now important city is bound to one: the London and North-Western, plus any advantage that results from its practical amalgamation with the Midland Railway.  Its station is on the London to Birmingham line, being 94 miles from the Metropolis and 18 1/2 miles from Birmingham.  There are branch lines running to Leamington in one direction and Nuneaton in the other.

On the whole, however, the London and North-Western may be said to afford the utmost facilities which are within the power of any one company.  The station is only a short distance from the heart of the city, a little to the east of Warwick Road, and has lately been enlarged and made more convenient.

Leaving the Railway Station and proceeding towards the city, we enter Eaton Road, a modern thoroughfare named after a former M.P. for Coventry, afterwards Lord Cheylesmore, over whose land the road was constructed.  There will first be noticed the floral and horticultural establishments of Mr. John Stevens, part of whose nurseries lie to the left.  At this point, also, is the terminus of


The lines run from the Railway station through the centre of the city to Foleshill and Bedworth on the north east, and have branches to the districts of Hillfields, Stoke, and the Stoney Stanton Road as far as Bell Green, and other branches to Chapel Fields and Earlsdon via Spon Street.  Since 1st January 1912, the whole system has been the property of the Coventry Corporation.

By reason of narrowness of the streets a single track only is used, consequently the service is not wholly satisfactory and sufficient, although the Manager and Tramway Committee deserve credit for making the best use of the plant at their command.

The station for generating electrical energy is on Stoney Stanton Road, whence the whole system receives its supply of electricity.  The cars are lighted both inside and outside by electricity.

At the end of Eaton Road we will turn left (passing the conservatories of Messrs. Perkins and Sons on the right), and, proceeding up the Warwick Road a short distance beyond the railway bridge, reach the “Top Green,” a pleasant enclosed promenade, where lawn tennis and other light games may be played.  The handsome buildings on the right are those of King Henry VIII School, which was erected in 1885, at a cost of about £21,000, and are constructed of Woodville red brick, with Ancaster stone dressings.  The main entrance is in the centre of the building, which at the south end has the head master’s house.  The school was founded by John Hales, in the reign to Henry VIII, hence its name, and, until the erection of the present buildings, was conducted in the Old Grammer School, Hales Street, an ancient structure, formerly known as the Hospital of St. John the Baptist, naturally deficient in all the requirements of modern education.  In the battlements of the tower surmounting the entrance to the building a shield is bearing the arms of Henry VIII, and under this is another panel carved with the motto of the school.

If we walk up this road for a short distance we come to Stivichall Grove, where there is “a parting of the way” that is to the right leading by extensive common lands and a grand avenue to Kenilworth (five miles), and via Guy’s Cliff to Warwick (ten miles); the road to the left leading through beautiful scenery, by the Parks of Stoneleigh, where is the seat of Lord Leigh, to the Royal Spa of Leamington (eight and a half miles).  The drive in either direction is considered to be unsurpassed in England for sylvan beauty.

Edwin’s book
Posted on: January 16th, 2012 by pj

In 1916, during WWI, my great, great grandfather revised, enlarged and rewrote a book about Coventry, England that took the form of four walks around the town. You can find extracts of this book below or if you’d like the complete book you can download the free Kindle version in the sidebar —->.

Oh yes, it doesn’t have a map, that was missing from my copy of the book.   Many of the streets mentioned can be seen on a 1900 map featured on Rob Orland’s Historic Coventry website.

Walks Thro Coventry
Posted on: January 16th, 2012 by pj

Walks Thro Coventry – Edwin Rainbow


by Paula Jeffery

I never met Edwin Rainbow but I knew a man who did.

Edwin was the beloved grandfather of my own lovely grandfather, Leonard Rainbow.  Len was 12 years old in 1918 when Edwin died suddenly at the age of 66.   He had been close to Edwin – the extended family had lived in the same house –  and the shock of his early death affected Len deeply.  He spoke with affection about his grandfather and how Edwin would take him into Coventry and what an impressive sight he was with his top hat and pocket watch on a gold chain.

Len died in 2000, aged 94 and I wish I’d asked him more about Edwin.  Although I’ve found out about many aspects of my great, great grandfather’s life, probably much more than Len knew about him, I know few personal details.

He was born in 1851 in High Street, Coventry the son of silk weavers.  By the time he was ten the city was hit by hard times as the silk weaving industry began a rapid and dramatic decline.  Such was the devastation that a national fund was organised to send relief and many people left the area or emigrated.

Edwin’s parents, James and Sarah stayed however and Edwin attended Bablake School, leaving at 15 to train as a printer’s apprentice.   He went on to work for several Coventry newspapers and became a journalist.  He later became Registrar for Births and Deaths in the city and was involved, as Secretary, in numerous local institutions including the Coventry School of Art and the Coventry Technical Institute.

Towards the end of his life he developed a passion for Bohemia and wrote articles for national newspapers describing his trips.  The freedom of Prague was conferred upon him in recognition of his services in disseminating information concerning that country .  However, he didn’t neglect his own country and home town.  He wrote the official guides for the celebration of Queen Victoria’s Golden and Diamond Jubilees and this book, Walks Thro’ Coventry was published in 1916.

It would appear that this version was based on an 1888 book published by Caldicott and rewritten by Edwin.  Much of the material relates to the changes that had taken place in Coventry in the preceding twenty five years.

As Edwin gives us a tour of the city centre, road by road mentioning the benefactors and businesses along the way we are reminded of gracious tree lined avenues and sparse traffic in a time before Coventry was decimated by the Blitz, when all its historic grandeur remained largely intact.

Walks Thro’ Coventry gives a unique insight into a city at the turn of the centruy with Edwin exploring the past but also expounding on the progress the city had made and its hopes for the future.

I have been researching the Rainbow family tree for more than 25 years and have always been on the lookout for any of Edwin’s written works.  I’m releasing this guide as free ebook in his memory and, knowing of his passion for technological advancements, further education and free libraries, in the knowledge that he would almost certainly approve.

Click here to download the free Kindle book – Walks Thro Coventry.

The error of our ways
Posted on: October 5th, 2011 by pj

I’ve only just started using Family Tree Maker.  I think I may have used it for a while years ago but quickly moved on to other software.  Recently I bought the app for my iMac and overall the program is not bad.  However, there is one feature that I love and which horrifies me in just about equal measure and that’s the ability to take information from other people’s public trees.  This is very seductive and when I click the little shaking leaf on some of my ancestors I have found they also live in many other trees.  Further investigations have revealed parents, siblings and whole new lines.  Wonderful!  One further click and I can merge that information with my own tree.  However, this is only a positive addition when the source information is included and can be verified.  Otherwise this is all just guesswork.  If you can’t verify the information you may as well leaf through a phone book, pick out a person at random and add them to your genealogy database.

I was concerned about inaccurate information being passed on via the Internet around 8 years ago when I discovered that someone had erroneously merged two Rainbow families in Tasmania.   This was included in a family tree that was posted on a geocities website and then spread around the web very quickly.  I was not able to contact the author of the original tree directly but I posted the mistake to several genealogy forums and, over time, the mistake appeared less and less in other’s researchers trees.

I’m concerned that with the advent of software like FTM our mistakes will be promulgated more frequently and will be harder to rectify, such as this one that I discovered recently.

I casually began investigating my father’s maternal line and with the help of FTM was able to tap into other’s research to go back a little further.  There were many trees, over a dozen, who had information about this particular ancestor, lets call her Emma.  I was surprised and not a little excited to see that she had been born in a small village in France after generations of the family, both before and after Emma, all living in the same Worcestershire town in the UK.  Eight family trees included the French information but with no source cited.  I messaged all eight authors asking if they could give me any clue of where this exciting information had come from.  I had a reply from one saying she couldn’t help because she had just ‘copied it from another tree.”  My guess is that there was an original mistake and its just spread.

I love that technology has opened up so many doors to family historians and allowed us to move forward with our research in giant strides instead of what was often mind-numbing tediousness of pre-internet days.

On balance I think we’ve gained much more from sharing information than we’ve lost  but I still have this nagging worry that the ease of new technology may be encouraging a new generation to believe that genealogy is all about copying information from the internet and in the near future many family trees will be a mess of guesswork and replicated errors.   What do you think?

October 1841
Posted on: October 1st, 2011 by pj

170 years ago this month Jabez Rainbow lost it.

He had taken a room at The Boot public house in St. Albans, Herts, England for a night with his girlfriend, Jane Pearce.   Jabez was a soldier and stationed in the town working as part of a recruitment team.  He was billeted at another pub a couple of streets away but occasionally took a room at The Boot to be with Jane.  On the morning of 3rd October 1841 while Jane was sleeping he took his shaving razor and calmly sliced her throat.  Needless to say this woke Jane who, at first, appeared not to feel pain but rather a choking sensation and as she put her hands to her throat felt them “go right in” to her neck.  A violent  struggle ensued with Jabez straddling Jane who silently (her vocal chords had been severed) kicked and hit out at Jabez gaining more wounds to her hands, arms and legs.  It was over as quickly as it started with Jabez suddenly releasing her, running to the door of their room and calling down to the landlord, “Murder” and “Come take me.”

There are several surprising elements to this story.  One is that Jane survived her injuries, thanks to the prompt attention of a surgeon who lived nearby and another is that she appeared to express no anger towards Jabez at his trial.   The case itself caused a sensation in the town with crowds gathering,  all eager to see the victim as she arrived in a carriage, escorted by the police and her doctor.

Jabez escaped the capital indictment and was ordered to be transported to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) for 15 years for the offence of wounding.  Although the case was widely reported in the press there are many questions that arise from reading the articles for example, why did his friends and Jane all say they had never seen him drunk and yet on his convict record he states that he had been drinking for several days?

I don’t have any photos of Jabez but the image below is an impression of what he may have looked like based on photos of other family members and a comprehensive written physical description on his convict record, eg nose – broad, mouth – large, etc.


Jabez is my 3rd great grand-uncle. His background, trial and life in Tasmania form part of my book ‘Chasing Rainbows’.


Wordless Wednesday
Posted on: September 28th, 2011 by pj

Hilda Margaret Wilkins (1906-1992) , my grandmother.  Taken in 1931, the year before she married my grandfather, Leonard Rainbow.


Not a Rainbow
Posted on: September 19th, 2011 by pj

My Dad was a posthumous baby.  His own Dad died in 1929 from influenza, at the young age of 33, just five months before Derek was born. What seemed extraordinary to me growing up is that Dad knew nothing about him at all, only his name – Walter. He’d apparently never asked questions about him or even seemed interested to know about this missing part of his life.

By all accounts it was a tough childhood. Two elder brothers and later a half brother, the four boys were brought up during chaotic times by their mum, Amy in the slums of wartime Coventry. Dad didn’t tell us much about those times except that he and his mates jumped up and down with sheer delight when they discovered that German bombers had scored a direct hit on his school during the Blitz. Being an 11 year old during the war wasn’t all bad, I guess. I know he was evacuated several times to the country and stayed with families that were, according to my Dad, too posh and/or too strict and he ran away and back to Coventry every time. As far as I can tell the rest of the war was spent with the four Sanders boys running half-wild, playing on bomb sites around the city while Amy held down a job at the local munitions factory.

The image below is part of collection of digital scrapbooking pages that I put together several years ago and this particular page includes three school photos of my Dad. I’m intrigued that, even living on the poverty line Amy managed to afford to buy school photos. I definitely recognise my Dad in the first photo, not so much in the second….but the last photo is very much Derek, trying to be serious and not to break into a laugh. Its a look that strikes as chord with me as I remember him trying to tell me off for some childish misdemeanour and not quite managing the straight face. My Dad died in 2005.

Cotesbach Heritage Open Days 2011
Posted on: September 18th, 2011 by pj

It’s twelve months since I first became involved with Cotesbach Educational Trust based at Cotesbach Hall in the leafy lanes of  Leicestershire, UK.  I blogged about it at the time and since then I have been ensnared volunteered to help digitise some of the archives, specifically boxes of 200 year old sermons.  Most Wednesday afternoons estate manager, Sophy Newton and I can be found poring over these dusty documents – Sophy reading out details of dates, places and first lines as I type them into the database.

Sophy Newton, estate manager and acting director of Cotesbach Educational Trust with visitors outside Cotesbach Hall

The author of some of the sermons and Sophy’s direct ancestor was the Rev. Robert Marriott, estate owner and Rector of  St. Mary’s in Cotesbach.  My ancestors, William Rainbow and his son John, lived in the village during the same period.  William Rainbow was Overseer of the Poor and both William and John were Constables of the parish.  Their signatures appear in the estate account books, claiming expenses for their work and on lease agreements for farmland.   What is extraordinary for me is the realisation that it is very likely that this business would have taken place in the same room where Sophy and I work on the sermons, recreating a family connection over 200 years later.

The coachhouse at Cotesbach Hall, soon to be restored and extended to house archives.

Cotesbach Educational Trust was formed to restore three dilapidated buildings in the Estate grounds.  An 18th century schoolroom is to be used as an educational resource and in addition a milking parlour and coachhouse will become a cafe, meeting area and housing for the archival material that has been discovered at the Hall, dating from the 16th century.

An old fashioned sermon

Last weekend the Estate was open to the public as part of the national Heritage Open Days project and I did a couple of stints of greeting people in the schoolroom which was fun.  There was a re-enactment of a 200 year old sermon in St. Mary’s church, across the road from the Hall and guided tours around the house and gardens. I met several people who knew the Lutterworth Rainbows and had memories of their bakery which was fascinating and I even sold a couple of books !  Photos taken by my husband Graham.

Sophy and visitors talk about some of the archives on display


The Tech Savvy Genealogists Meme
Posted on: September 16th, 2011 by pj

As I’m coming to the end of my latest university course AND finished my book I’m hoping to devote a little more time and energy to genealogy starting with blogging and a meme is great place to jump back in.  Thanks to Geniaus for the meme and  Nuffield Genealogy for the link.

“I invite anyone with an interest in genealogy to participate. If you don’t have a blog and wish to participate you can write them up on Google+ or post them as a note on Facebook.  Or you can just create your own document to keep track of your own goals.”

Which of these apply to you?

The list should be annotated in the following manner:

Things you have already done or found: bold face type
Things you would like to do or find: italicize (colour optional)
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type
Feel free to add extra comments in brackets after each item

Which of these apply to you?

  1. Own an Android or Windows tablet or an iPad (love, love, my iPad)
  2. Use a tablet or iPad for genealogy related purposes (several trees and three genealogy apps)
  3. Have used Skype to for genealogy purposes (great for Transatlantic calls)
  4. Have used a camera to capture images in a library/archives/ancestor’s home  
  5. Use a genealogy software program on your computer to manage your family tree (currently Reunion, MacFamily Tree and testing FTM atm)
  6. Have a Twitter account (@pjscribble)
  7. Tweet daily
  8. Have a genealogy blog    (’re on it!)
  9. Have more then one genealogy blog
  10. Have lectured/presented to a genealogy group on a technology topic
  11. Currently an active member of Genealogy Wise
  12. Have a Facebook Account  
  13. Have connected with genealogists via Facebook 
  14. Maintain a genealogy related Facebook Page Chasing Rainbows
  15. Maintain a blog or website for a genealogy society
  16. Have submitted text corrections online to Ancestry, Trove or a similar site
  17. Have registered a domain name (I think I have about a dozen!)
  18. Post regularly to Google+     (fast becoming my social media of choice)
  19. Have a blog listed on Geneabloggers
  20. Have transcribed/indexed records for FamilySearch or a similar project
  21. Own a Flip-Pal or hand-held scanner  – (love my little hand held scanner)
  22. Can code a webpage in .html   – (probably a bit rusty but I could do it)
  23. Own a smartphone 
  24. Have a personal subscription to one or more paid genealogy databases
  25. Use a digital voice recorder to record genealogy lectures (I have one, but never been to a genealogy lecture!)
  26. Have contributed to a genealogy blog carnival
  27. Use Chrome as a Browser
  28. Have participated in a genealogy webinar
  29. Have taken a DNA test for genealogy purposes 
  30. Have a personal genealogy website
  31. Have found mention of an ancestor in an online newspaper archive (I can get lost in newspaper archives for days!)
  32. Have tweeted during a genealogy lecture
  33. Have scanned your hardcopy genealogy files
  34. Use an RSS Reader to follow genealogy news and blogs
  35. Have uploaded a gedcom file to a site like Geni, MyHeritage or Ancestry
  36. Own a netbook
  37. Use a computer/tablet/smartphone to take genealogy lecture notes
  38. Have a profile on LinkedIn that mentions your genealogy habit
  39. Have developed a genealogy software program, app or widget
  40. Have listened to a genealogy podcast online.
  41. Have downloaded genealogy podcasts for later listening
  42. Backup your files to a portable hard drive
  43. Have a copy of your genealogy files stored offsite
  44. Know about Rootstech
  45. Have listened to a Blogtalk radio session about genealogy
  46. Use Dropbox, SugarSync or other service to save documents in the cloud (Dropbox, Google Docs)
  47. Schedule regular email backups
  48. Have contriibuted to the Familysearch Wiki
  49. Have scanned and tagged your genealogy photographs
  50. Have published a genealogy book in an online/digital format (in print too!)