Some history on Coventry in the county of Warwickshire


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Coventry : John Speed's Map [1610]

Greetings From Coventry

1868 Post-Office Directory

Coventry is a large and ancient city and county, an assize and union town, a parliamentary borough, returning two members to Parliament, and a polling-place for the Northern division of the county, in the rural deanery and archdeaconry of Coventry, and diocese of Worcester, 94 miles from London by rail and 91 by road, and is a station on the London and North Western Railway, whence two loop lines proceed, one to the Trent Valley Railway at Nuneaton, and the other to the Great Western Railway at Leamington. Coventry is on the direct road from London to Holyhead, has the advantage of a canal to Fazeley, and the river Sherborne runs through the city, passing thence to Baginton, where it flows into the river Sowe, a feeder to the river Avon at Stoneleigh. It consists of part of Holy Trinity parish, with 1,600 acres, and 18,770 inhabitants, and of St. John the Baptist and St. Michael, with 3,320 acres and 22,166 inhabitants, forming a total population of 40,936. The old wards were Bayley-Lane, Bishop-Street, Broadgate, Cross-Cheaping, Earl-Street, Gosford-Street, Jordan-Well, Much Park-Street, Smithford-Street, and Spon-Street. The corporation consists of a mayor, who is the returning officer, a sheriff, chamberlain, coroner, town clerk, eleven aldermen, who preside over the five wards into which the city is divided, thirty common councilmen, and other officers.

Coventry : Saint John's Church [c.1910]

St. John's Church was founded by the Merchants' Guild, or Fraternity of St. John the Baptist, about 1350. The register dates from about 1730, the date of re-pewing and re-opening of the church. The living is a rectory, yearly value £180, with residence, in the gift of the church trustees, and held by the Rev. Thomas Sheepshanks, of Trinity College, Cambridge.

Coventry : Saint Michael's Church [c.1910]

St. Michael's Church is in the Perpendicular style, and has a beautiful tower, enriched with tracery, figures of saints and bishops in rich niches, and the whole crowned with a spire supported by flying buttresses; it was begun in 1372, and finished in 20 years: the nave was built in the reign of Henry VI.: the length of the church is 303 feet; the greatest breadth, 127 feet; height of spire, 303 feet; stained-glass windows have been put in the north and south sides of the chancel to the memory of Queen Adelaide, at a cost of about £700, subscribed by the inhabitants or Coventry and the neighbouring nobility and gentry; and another stained-glass window put in the east end, above the altar, at a cost exceeding £500, by the late Edward Ellice, Esq., M.P., in remembrance of his connection with the city as representative in many sessions of Parliament. There are many other windows of stained-glass of great beauty of colour and design. The register dates from the year 1698. The living is a vicarage, yearly value £300, in the gift of the Crown, and held by the Rev. Robert Hall Baynes, M.A., of St. Edmund Hall, Oxford.

Coventry : Holy Trinity Church [c.1910]

Holy Trinity Church is another remarkably fine structure, with a spire rising to the height of 237 feet : rebuilt in 1667 : it contains a stained-glass east window, by Evans, of Shrewsbury, put up in 1834, and a stone pulpit. The register dates from the year 1561. The living is a vicarage, yearly value £650, with residence, in the gilt of the Lord Chancellor, and held by the Rev. Alfred William Wilson, M.A. of Queen's College, Cambridge.

Coventry : Christ Church [c.1905]

Christ Church was built by Rickman, and added to the fine steeple of Grey Friars' church. The living is a perpetual curacy, yearly value £170, in the gift of the vicar of St. Michael's, and held by the Rev. Henry Truman Harris, B.A., of Queen's College, Cambridge.

St. Peter's Church is in the ecclesiastical district of Harnall. The register dates from the year 1841. The living is a perpetual curacy, yearly value £300, with residence, in the gift of the vicar of Holy Trinity, and held by the Rev. George Tabberer, M.A., of St. John's College, Cambridge.

St. Thomas is situated in Summerland Butts : it consists of nave, chancel, side aisle, and bell turret containing one bell. The register dates from the year 1849. The living is a perpetual curacy, yearly value £300, in the gift of the Crown and the Bishop alternately, and held by the Rev. Stephen Cragg, M.A., of Magdalen College, Oxford.

The Free Grammar School was originally the Hospital of St. John the Baptist, founded in the reign of Henry II. by Edmund, Archdeacon of Coventry, and at the Dissolution bought by John Hales, clerk of the hanaper, and made into a Free school : the school is held in the chapel, and there is a master's house and library : the revenues are about £1,000 per annum, and Archbishop Secker and Sir William Dugdale were among the pupils ; the Rev. John Grover, M.A., is the head master.

The Blue Coat School is endowed with £350 per annum.

St. Michael's Schools, in Much Park Street, opened February 5th, 1855, cost nearly £4,000; about 1,200 children attend. The schools are under Government inspection, with a staff of pupil-teachers in each school. There are National and other schools, a Mechanics' Institution, and Subscription Library ; and a School of Art has been erected in Ford Street, at an outlay of about £3,000 : it is of Gothic character, built principally of red brick, with coloured ones introduced, and dressings of stone: the fronts are embellished with emblematic sculpture : the accommodation consists of a large elementary class-room, others for the female students, the painting, modelling and drafting classes ; most of the rooms are lighted from the roof as well as by windows : there is also a fine exhibition room, top lighted, and a library, master's studio, and rooms for keeper, cloak and cap rooms, etc. : the building was erected by Mr. Alfred Mault, of Coventry, from designs by Mr. James Murray.

Here are chapels for Unitarians, Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists, Quakers, and Wesleyans.

Coventry : Bablake Hospital [c.1908]

Near St. John's church is Bablake Hospital, founded by Thomas Bond, mayor of this city, in 1506: there are 50 almsmen of this hospital, who receive 6s. each per week, 18 of whom reside in the hospital : there are two nurses, and the inmates are provided with washing, medical attendance, and coals. Bablake School and Hospital are endowed. The school was founded at a very remote period. The hospital was attached in the 5th of Elizabeth : patrons, the trustees of the general charities, Coventry : it is free to 70 boys of respectable poor resideuts in the city; they receive a commercial education for two years, and wear a costume very similar to that of the boys of Christ's Hospital, London; are admitted annually ; the first year they board and lodge with their parents; the last year they board and lodge in the hospital, under the superintendence of a matron; at the expiration of the two years they are put out to suitable trades, for seven years, clothed, and a small premium paid as apprentice fee : the master is privileged, to take day pupils and a small number of boarders.

St. Mary's Hall is the Guild Hall, and was built in the reign of Henry VI., when it belonged to St. Mary's or Trinity Guild : it is a fine Gothic hall, 76 feet 6 inches long, 30 feet wide, and 34 feet high, the whole repaired in 1820: at the upper end is an oriel window with painted glass, and the ancient stained-glass of the side windows has been removed and replaced with other coloured glass by Pemberton, of Birmingham: the roof is of timber, and the carvings much admired : the walls are ornamented with Latin inscriptions, and below the north window is a piece of tapestry, 30 feet long and 10 feet high, representing Henry VI., Queen Margaret, Cardinal Beaufort, Duke Humfrey, and the chief personages of the court; this is also curious, and contains upwards of eighty heads : there are some suits of armour in front of the minstrel's gallery, and at the south end of the hall is the ancient council chamber, with a painted glass window.

The County Hall, in which the assizes are held, was built of stone in 1785.

The Drapers' Hall is a Doric building, rebuilt early in the present century.

There was anciently a cross, built in 1423.

There are a cemetery, board of health, and volunteer fire brigade, comprising a captain, six lieutenants, and about forty-five men. Coventry is the headquarters of the lst Administrative Battalion Warwickshire Volunteer Rifles.

Assizes and the county court for the recovery of debts under £50 are held here. The Coventry county court district comprises the following places :- Allesley, Ansty, Berkswell, Baginton, Bindley, Corley, Coundon, Coventry, Earlsdon, Exhall, Fillongley, Foleshill, Keresley, Meriden, Great Packingon, Little Packington, Radford, Ryton-upon-Dunsmore, Shilton, Sowe, Stoke, Styvechale, Stoneleigh, Willenhall, Withybrook, Wyken.

The City Police Station is in St. Mary's Street, and force comprises a superintendent, a detective inspector, 3 other inspectors, 2 sergeants and 29 men.

The House of Detention, or county lock-up, was formerly the House of Correction, and is capable of containing from 30 to 40 prisoners. The Cavalry Barracks hold 180 men and their horses. There are gas and water works; also a theatre.

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Photographs of Coventry

Coventry : Taxi Rank and Shops on Broadgate [c.1919]

A fine view of old Broadgate with people busy shopping, a taxi rank and a tram trundling over the site of The Cross. The pub to the right of the image, advertising Mitchell's and Butler's beer is the Royal Vaults. The building, part of Cross Cheaping, is marked as the Peeping Tom on a map dated 1888. The shops on the left are between Smithford Street and the entrance to Market Place. The first building on the left, albeit cropped off the edge, was Sketchley Dye Works, the dry cleaning firm. Next door at No.4 was John Colley and Sons, though the wall signs are a legacy of the premises previously occupied by John Astley and Sons Ltd., oil, colour and glass merchants. That firm was founded in 1730. John Astley died in 1906. In his early life he was in business as a chemist and druggist, occupying premises at the corner of West Orchard, which at a later period were pulled down to widen the thoroughfare. At that time his brother, who was one of the originators of the Volunteer Fire Brigade in 1861, carried on this establishment in Broadgate. When he died John Astley, still relatively young, took over the shop and was assisted by his son, Arthur. In addition to his public work and dedication to the church, John Astley was an antiquary, and for years was an active member of the Warwickshire Field Club. He studied both archaeology and geology, along with accruing a good knowledge of botany. In addition to building a large collection of coins, in his leisure he compiled a book upon the monumental inscriptions in St. Michael's Church, a work augmented by his own illustrations. A life well lived by all accounts.

These days the vast majority of shops in the city centre are operated by large chains. But, as can be seen here, the retailers were firmly embedded in the community and played an important role in society. Next door, at No.5 Broadgate, was another old business. High on the frontage it states that Slingsby's was founded in 1780. W. & C. Slingsby were family grocers, American, French, and Italian warehousemen, tea, coffee and spice merchants. In the late 19th century the business was run by Charles Henry Slingsby, who was in partnership with his uncle, William Slingsby. The latter died in 1890. Charles Henry Slingsby grew up in the grocery shop of his father, located in the High Street, next to the Swan Hotel. He was working here with his aunt and uncle in the late 1860s. His nephew, Thomas William Slingsby, was associated with the motor industry in Coventry. After being with the Singer company for a number of years he afterwards became service manager with the Riley company. Later he joined the M.G. company at Abingdon as sales manager. When he was in Coventry, Thomas Slingsby was well-known in sporting circles and played rugby for Trinity Guild.

Coventry : Taxi Rank and Shops on Broadgate [c.1919]

This photograph shows the aftermath of the riots that rocked Coventry in July 1919. The events were widely known as the "Peace Day Riots," a term that is an oxymoron classic. However, it was Coventry's celebrations to mark the signing of the Peace Treaty at Versailles, that ignited the undercurrent of discontent among those who had returned from the war to unemployment and indifference. The main cause of anger seems to have been the omission of former soldiers and key workers in the Lady Godiva procession. Trouble kicked off here in Broadgate late in the evening of Saturday July 19th when shops were attacked and looted. The rioting lasted for three days and the police struggled to maintain order. Some newspapers cited a "Bolshevik spirit" that had spread to UK factories from the continent. It is true that similar rioting took place in 1919 in other European cities, particularly in Dresden where ten people were killed. However, in this case it seems to have been a lack of support for returning heroes that sparked trouble.

According to newspaper reports, the first shop to be attacked was Dunn's. Over 100 police officers, armed with truncheons waded into the mob who succeeded in trashing the shop, smashing the plate glass windows. Some of the crowd then turned their anger on the Black Cat Café in Hertford Street as many were under the wrong impression as to the nationality of the proprietor, for he was Danish. Notwithstanding, the mob smashed the windows of the establishment. Some of the police were demobilised soldiers so there was perhaps a conflict of interests. But, despite this, some of the law enforcement was brutal and many people were badly injured. The hospital struggled to cope with the numbers being brought in for treatment. The Red Cross went into the streets to treat the injured. The disturbances on the Sunday were more serious, again centred around the Broadgate area. Stones, bottles and all manner of missiles were flying through the air and smashing the frontages of retail premises. Some took advantage of the chaos so there was looting of shops. Monday night brought more violence, bringing the number of shops damaged to more than fifty. The mayor, police and newspapers appealed for calm and the following day passed peacefully. The carpenters enjoyed brisk trade as they boarded up the shops to prevent further looting.

In the above photograph people have come to gawp at the aftermath of the riots. The shop on the corner was occupied by the tobacconists Salmon & Gluckstein, where stock levels of cigarettes plummeted as the crowd ransacked retail premises. Salmon & Gluckstein sold the very best tobaccos, hand-made cigars, and cigarettes from around the world. A dentist used to practice from above the shop, whilst next door at No.22 false teeth were made.

Coventry : Post-Riot Shops on Broadgate [c.1919]

This post-riots photograph is a little further along from Salmon & Gluckstein's corner premises. Kendall & Sons Ltd. were umbrella manufacturers. The business would, in later years, trade from 48 Whitefriars Street. The narrow building next door bears the sign of Standard Office. This was the offices of the Coventry Standard, Kenilworth Advertiser and Coleshill Chronicle, all printed by Thomas Burbidge and Son. The family acquired the Coventry Standard in January 1875. The journal was first launched in 1741 as The Mercury, the owner being Mr. Jopson. The title was changed in 1836.

Thomas Burbidge was the son of Richard Bliss Burbidge, a farmer in the Hawkesbury district. His family was one of the oldest in Warwickshire. An ancester, William Birbage, as the name was then spelt, was Mayor of Coventry in 1625. Thomas Burbidge was educated at a school in Primrose Hill House kept by Thomas Wyles and he afterwards attended school at Leamington and at the King Henry VIII school at Coventry. In his younger days he was apprenticed in the ribbon manufacturing business of Dalton Barton, and was in partnership with Alderman Andrews in the trade until 1874, when he retired. His entry into the business was at a fortunate time, for it was during the Franco-German War, which rendered all Continental looms idle and brought a good deal of trade back to Coventry. It was in the year following the dissolution of the partnership that Thomas Burbidge acquired his newspaper interest. Deeply Conservative, he was a devout Churchman and was on the committee responsible for the restoration of St. Michael's Church.

Next door at No.19 Broadgate was Mrs. Morton, ladies' and juveniles' outfitter. This business was founded in the 1830s and moved into these premises on June 15th, 1906. In the Edwardian period Mrs. Morton was Amy Elizabeth Morton, wife of the coal merchant Alfred Morton. The business was continued by son, Roland. He gave up the business in 1926. He became Coventry's leading lawn tennis player, and Warwickshire champion. In 1932, as member of Earlsdon Tennis Club and Priory Tennis Club at Birmingham, he made bids to qualify for Wimbledon. An all-round sportsman, he was also captain of Kenilworth Rugby Club where he was a forward. For a period he was secretary of the club. In January 1931 there was considerable local interest when he married Elsie "Muffet" Calcott Carpenter at Christ Church.

Coventry : Boarded-Up Shops [c.1919]

Another view of boarded-up shops following the riots in July 1919. On the right is the entrance to the Broadgate Café which traded above the drapery business of M. J. Davies & Son. Lucky patrons could enjoy views across Broadgate from the upper floor windows. Open all day, except for Sundays, the café had a separate ladies' room and smoke room. On the other side of the entrance, at Nos.16 & 17, was another outfitter's shop, this one operated by Hayward & Son. During the Second World War, the business moved to 51 Hertford Street. Next door was Flinn & Co., watch manufacturers, jewellers, and silversmiths, above which was Central Chambers where a number of firms had offices, including the coal merchants, Brentnall & Cleland. No.13 had a large sign for Whitfield's, ladies' tailors. No.12 was an outlet of R. Gilbert & Sons Limited, a jeweller's that also traded 21 Burges.

Coventry : Temperance Sailor's Wedding [1906]

Here are two lovely photographs of the Band of Hope Demonstration of 1906. This was the fourth annual demonstration of the Coventry Temperance and Band of Hope Association. The group shown here are from the Stoke Congregational Church with their representation of "The Temperance Sailor's Wedding." The procession was held in July 1906 when those taking part assembled in the Pool Meadow at 2 p.m., and marched via Hales Street, Jesson Street, Leicester Street, Bishop Street, Burges, Cross Cheeping, Broadgate, High Street, Earl Street, Jordan Well, Cox Street, Ford Street, Raglan Street, East Street, Britannia Street, to the City Ground. The order of the procession was : Salvation Army Band, Cow Lane Band of Hope, Stoney Stanton Road Wesleyan Band of Hope, Warwick Road Band of Hope [representation of "The Triumph of Temperance"], Radford Drum and Fife Band, Potter's Green Band of Hope, Sir Thomas White Temple I.O.G.T. [representation of "A Temperance Garden"], Salvation Army Band of Love, Earlsdon Wesleyan Band of Hope, Stoke Congregational Band of Hope, Walsgrave Temperance Band, Lord Street Band of Hope, Well Street Band of Hope, West Orchard Band of Hope [representation "The United Kingdom"], Ragged School Boys' Brigade Band, Sons of the Phoenix, Ford Street Primitive Methodist Band of Hope, and the Fort Temple. With all the organisations gathered on the Pool Meadow, the large number of spectators could enjoy the wide variety of flags, banners, and floral designs forming an effective display.

Coventry : Band Of Hope Demonstation [1906]

In this second photograph of the Band of Hope Demonstration of 1906 one can see the large contingent of young girls who seem to be acting as bridesmaids for the "The Temperance Sailor's Wedding." The bride and groom can be seen between the front of the girls and the rear end of the boys seen in the last photograph. Many spectators lined the streets to watch the march to the City Ground where various amusements were provided, including races, a maypole display [by members of the Warwick Road Congregational B.O.H.], selections by the bands, etc. Tea was also provided.

Behind the bridesmaids a sign can be seen that states it is the site of the proposed new Congregational Church. Built next to the old place of worship at Stoke Knob, construction work started soon after this procession of July 1906. Costing around £450, the church was opened in February 1907. Measuring 65 feet long and 34 feet wide, it was a temporary building of corrugated iron, on a brick foundation, lined with felt and covered inside with varnished matchboarding. A corner site had been secured for a permanent church, but went on the back burner until sufficient funds could be raised. There were two vestries in the temporary building, one for the choir and the other for the minister, the vestry of the old building being utilised as a room for the provision of teas, etc. The plans for the building were prepared by Mr. W. Ivens, and the building was erected under the direction of William Harbrow, of London, the general builders' work being executed by Messrs. C. Garlick. The heating apparatus was installed by Alfred Hall and the lighting was the work of G. R. Marson. The opening service was conducted on February 21st, 1907, with the Rev. A. J. Palmer, of Stratford, London, delivering a sermon, and a public tea followed, to which about 200 people sat down.

Coventry : Queen's Road Chapel [c.1915]

Queen's Road Chapel has survived but faces six lanes of traffic in the 21st century. The congregation moved to this building when it opened in the spring of 1884. It cost in the region of £11,000. The first Baptist Church in Coventry was formed in the early 17th century. The original chapel was in a court in Jordan Well. Accommodating 350 people, it was used between 1650-1793. The second place of worship was the Cow Lane Chapel in which 650 people could be accommodated between 1793-1884. This chapel was designed by local architects, George and Isaac Steane, in a sort of contemporary take on the Perpendicular style. The galleried building, of red brick with Bath stone dressings, could seat 1,000 worshippers. It was by John Worwood, a member of the church. The preacher for the opening service on May 11th, 1884, was the Rev. J. Angus, President of Regent's Park College.

Coventry : The Burges [c.1937]

In this inter-war photograph, a policeman is directing traffic at the junction of Corporation Street, Hales Street and Burges, the camera being pointed down the latter. On the right is the Wine Lodge, a Truman's public-house opened in 1929, replacing an older structure swept away for road development. The inn sign changed to the Tally Ho! in 1968 and, in more recent times has traded as the Tudor Rose and the Philip Larkin. The clock on the other side of Burges has survived into the 21st century. The timepiece was a landmark element of Burges for the aforementioned R. Gilbert & Sons Limited, the jeweller's who also had premises at No.12 Broadgate.


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Contemporary Photographs

Coventry : Nave of the Cathedral Church of Saint Michael [2016]

Coventry : Choir of the Cathedral Church of Saint Michael [2016]

Coventry : Chapel of Unity in the Cathedral Church of Saint Michael [2016]

Coventry : Font of the Cathedral Church of Saint Michael [2016]

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Related Newspaper Articles

"A singular discovery was made this morning at the home of Mr. T. Gaskin, London Road. Upon one of the members of the family going into the pantry a snake was seen coiled round the cheese dish and two glass tumblers. The reptile was subsequently removed, and gave some evidence of being the possessor of a very evil temper. It is about a yard long, and the under-part of its body is prettily marked yellow and black. The reptile upon being interfered with, shows a business-like pair of fangs, and issues a long loud hiss of anger."
"Coventry and District"
Coventry Evening Telegraph : April 20th 1905 Page 3

"Mary Helen Moody [67], of 29, King William Street, Coventry, was fined 40s. by Coventry Magistrates today, after she had pleaded guilty to being drunk in Hay Lane, Coventry, on September 15th. Sgt. Osman told the magistrates that Moody had been found drunk in Hay Lane after being ejected from the Golden Cross public-house. She was previously in court on Friday last week for a similar offence, he said."
"Coventry Woman Drunk In Street"
Coventry Evening Telegraph : September 18th 1961 Page 39

"An 18 years-old painter who was said to be drunk and disorderly in Coventry Cathedral ruins was found to have a pair of stolen shoes in his shirt, Coventry Magistrates were told by Detective Champs today. Thomas John Murray, of 111, Lapworth Road. Coventry, admitted being drunk and stealing the shoes, and asked for the offence of stealing a second pair to be considered. He as fined £1 on the first charge and £5 on the second. The detective, who detailed Murray's five previous convictions, read a statement in which Murray said: "I was happy because I got engaged I was going to buy some shoes. I picked up a pair and walked out with them."
"Coventry Drunk In The Ruins"
Coventry Evening Telegraph : June 25th 1962 Page 33

Colour Postcards of Coventry

Coventry : Cathedral East Side [Colour Postcard c.1960s]

Coventry : New Broadgate [Colour Postcard c.1960s]

Coventry : The Precinct [Colour Postcard c.1960s]

Coventry : Lady Godiva and Peeping Tom Clock [Colour Postcard c.1960s]

Coventry : Ford's Hospital [Colour Postcard c.1910s]

Coventry : Butcher's Lane by A. R. Quinton [Colour Postcard c.1960s]

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