Coventry articles by...
Edwin Brown, Victorian Animal Artist - by Stephen Catton
'Miss Bashford', a teacher's tale - by Simon Shaw
'Not Forgotten', the 1939 IRA bomb attack - by Simon Shaw
1930s Austin's Monthly Magazine articles - John Bailey Shelton MBE
Stoke Park School - Microcosm magazine, Summer 1949
Coventry Volunteer Fire Brigade - Illustrated London News, Jan 4th 1862
Public Baths - The Building News, Jan 24th 1896
Coventry's Great Flood - London Daily Graphic, 2nd January 1901
Coventry, The Home of the Cycle Trade - 1886 magazine article
Sixty Years of Cycling - 1897 magazine article
The New Bablake Schools - 1889 article
New Drinking Fountain at Coventry - 17 Sep 1859
Proposal for St. Michael's Campanile c1890
Plan for the City Centre - The Architect and Building News, 21st March 1941
The complete collection of articles by John Bailey Shelton M.B.E.
as originally published in Austin's Monthly Magazine
from November 1832 to June 1939 -- Compiled and transcribed by R. W. Orland, 2005
I'm sincerely grateful to the Shelton family for their kind permission and encouragement to publish these works.
I. GOSFORD GATE EXCAVATIONS
Gosford Gate was without doubt the second gate to be built, the first being New Gate, protecting the London road. The White Friars, who established their Monastery 13 years before the first gate was built, kept the wall in repair from New Gate to Gosford Gate. The wall was 16-ft. high and 6-ft. wide to the bottom of Gulson Road, and on reaching the round tower at the end of Herbert's Row, was built 9-ft. wide. On excavating recently at Gosford Gate site, the foundations of St. George's Chapel were discovered. The chapel was built about 1400, and was the home of the Shearmen and Tailors. One piece of oak beam about 6-ft. long by 12-ins. wide was found at a depth of 14-ft. 6-ins., made with a peg hole, and morticed, to support an upright corner frame to prevent it sinking in the mud. Eight piles of oak, measuring 4-ft. 6-ins. to 6-ft., were found at the same depth, supporting the buttress of the Gate, also two beams, although sawn off, which once formed the support to the drawbridge. A number of stepping stones were found in the river bed, denoting the Gos (or Gorse) Ford. Under the other corner of the gate an oak tree measuring 2 feet across was dug in and is still there. The piles and beams had been used in some former building, possibly of a Saxon or Norman house, and although worm-eaten in some parts, are mostly in a sound condition, and can be seen in Mr. J. B. Shelton's yard, in Little Park Street. The river bed was thrown further back for 100 yards in 1860-62, and during excavations the old river bed and banks were found. In two places on the bank were ashes over which were pieces of Norman pottery and bones of animals which had been in the cooking. At a depth of 6 feet a very fine piece of the City wall was discovered with ashlar stones and plinth intact This wall has been covered over; to be revealed again at some future date. The Mill of the White Friars stood a little further on, and the piles which formed the sides of the dam have been dug out. A very fine photograph of the wall and oak piles in position has been taken. Quite a lot of 14th century pottery was discovered, also a steel punch for blacksmiths' use. This Gate was attacked by Edward 4th, who was kept out of the City, and again in 1644 fears were entertained, when men and women were fetched in haste, even on a Sunday, to dig trenches for protection for the Gate, and another stream was made at a distance from the Gate, where Dover Bridge later stood. Gosford Gate was taken down in 1765.
II. EXCAVATIONS IN WEST ORCHARD (Co-op. SITE) EAST AND WEST OF RIVERExcavations reveal what may have been hidden for several hundred years or more, and although no great quantity of material was found, it was none the less interesting. The level of the riverbed, which was once a ford (Smyth-ford) was about 13-ft. 6-ins. deep, and on the east side had been made up in two or even three different periods. At about 5-ft. deep gate posts were discovered, and the hooks on which the gate hung were still in the decayed posts. It is quite probable that a roadway ran on the east side of the river into West Orchard before the present road on the west side was made. At a depth of 5-ft. a number of pinnacle stones were discovered, possibly from the destruction of the Hall which stood close by in West Orchard, originally called St. Nicholas Hall, and Corpus Christi, but later called Leather Hall. In this Hall a great deal of the important business of the City was transacted; the Hall was used for numerous purposes - a prison for captured soldiers - a licensed preaching-place in the 17th century where the ministers who were ejected from St. Michael's and Holy Trinity Churches held their services. The Hall became ruinous and unsuitable for services, and in 1700 the Presbyterians who had used this place for their worship decided to leave it, and a new building (now standing), was erected in Smithford Street on the site of an old inn named "The Cross Keys." In 1738 the ruins of the Hall were sold to Mr. W. Freeman for £55 5s. 0d.
Beneath the top five feet of 18/19 century tipping was found several feet of 14/15 century tipping, and below this some of 12/13 century, containing small pieces of black unglazed Norman pottery, also a bronze bodkin of the same period, which measures 71/4-ins in length. Deer's antlers in sound condition were found near the river - the deer may have been slain when drinking, in the days before the walls prevented them from entering the city.
On the west side the old stone boundary wall of the river was discovered. Beneath the buildings now pulled down a bed of tanning several feet thick was found - no doubt a tannery shed existed close by, this being a suitable place for washing skins, etc. The key of the tannery was discovered where it had been trodden into the mud, and is of 14th century period. The Barkers, of which Barkers Butts was at Radford, held their guild at the Leather Hall, and supplied eight men for the defence of the city. To keep green the memory of the "Barkers" we have Barkers Butts Lane and School.
III. EXCAVATIONS IN WEST ORCHARD (BRIDGE, &c )
Having dealt with part of West Orchard in Article II. will readers keep the Leather Hall in mind while reading this. The bridge just destroyed was not the first bridge standing there, for the Leet records that in 1448 Will Pier was keeper of the bridge and 'reparation' of same, and was ordered to keep the bridge clean. During excavation in 1932 the oak posts of the old bridge were discovered. The bridge just destroyed was probably built about 1700, and part of the 'feather' which supported centre of arches was of stone from the city wall or gates, as was also the river wall on the Co-op side. Some of these stones bore marks of bullets. The under part of the feather was of much earlier construction being made with rough stones round the sides, the inner part being filled in with gravel from the river bed. It contained quite a number of interesting articles, viz., a pig of iron, a lady's spur of six spikes, two iron knives, a blacksmith's punch, a pewter spoon with name on handle but defaced - all of 15th to 16th century. The second oldest and important ditches ran to the river, and carried the sewage from the alms-houses or sege houses, and Peacock Inn that stood where our Market Hall stands at present, and also from the Leather Hall. This ditch was still intact, but dry. An open gutter ran by the houses from the Peacock Inn to the ditch and in 1447 all householders who were in the line of the gutter had to keep it clean by digging out the rubbish twice a year. On the west side of the river a roadway several feet below the present road into Corporation Street was found, and possibly led to the mill that stood about the middle of Corporation Street where the piles and foundations were found. This mill was driven by the little stream called the river Albert, which has just been turned into the Sherbourne at the corner, and the stone culvert carrying the water away to the Priory Mill dam was found underneath the new hotel at corner of Corporation Street. The Millhouse stood at the top corner of Well Street, and has been taken down of late. A mill-stone was found near this house. On the Co-op side of the bridge and actually under the causeway at a depth of 9 feet from present level a ford was discovered. The road above the water was made of pebbles from the brook, and after discovering this a search was made for horse shoes, as it was found that the bed of the river at that spot was a very fine sample of clay and most suitable for pulling shoes off the feet of horses crossing the ford. The search was rewarded by finding twenty or more shoes all in very good condition though made of much thinner iron than those used to-day. Large horses could not have been used in those days, possibly 500 to 1000 years ago, as no shoe found measured more than 5-ins. long by 41/2-ins. wide, while to-day the larger horses shoes would be at least 2-ins. bigger each way. Several of the shoes had been shaped for lame horses. Very few nails were discovered, as hand-made nails with square heads were not counter-sunk, and as soon as the heads were worn thin the shoe parted from the hoof.
Broadgate, the centre of Coventry, with its large shops and banks, with its common meeting-place for the people, was a very different place a thousand years ago. Surprise may be expressed when I say it was little more than a quarry, to be afterwards used as a rubbish tip. In no place around Broadgate is the virgin soil to be found at a less depth than 7-ft. to 10-ft. below the present level. In giving the story of its excavations it will be necessary to deal with it in sections.
LLOYDS BANK SITE
To excavate a large piece of ground like this site gives a much better opportunity than the digging of small holes to reveal what it once was. Near to High Street and at a depth of 8 ft. 6 ins. was found a stone wall, as if the corner of a small shed or garden wall and plastered together with clay. Near to this were two oak tubs, possibly for holding water, the oak in good preservation, and inside one was a lead weight and another weight was found between the clay and stone of the wall, also the vertebrae of a young person. A path of round cobble stones, probably a garden path, was found near to the wall. After digging to a depth of about 8-ft. a number of oak posts was revealed measuring 8 yds. by 6 yds. On digging deeper the bottoms of the posts were found to be 14 to 15 ft. down. This part had been used as a sand-pit, though not of a good quality. The posts proved to be a cowshed of the Norman period, and the branches of silver birch which had been used for the sides of the shed on which mud and keck had been plastered shone as silvery as the bark of to-day. At the back of the shed a ditch measuring a yard wide and about as deep had been dug to keep the shed dry.
At the front of the shed a gravel path led out at its centre. In the ditch which had been filled up with black mud were dagger sheaths embossed with sea-horse and doves or pigeons, shields, etc., also boots of Norman design, and a book box or missal-cover made of thick hide with a skin over it embossed with birds, dragons, diamond shapes, while in the centre were two bronze or gold studs. At the side of the shed, and even under Grey Friars Lane to-day, is about 6 ft. of cow dung carried from the shed and stacked in heaps. Thrown into this were the pieces unglazed black pottery which once had been a complete milking vessel. A circular piece of oak about 1/2in. thick and about 6 ins across was found, which had been used as a float for the milk when being carried on the head out of the rugged quarry The drover's cowstick was found in the dung; a common rose briar with a flat knob at end, nicely trimmed, this stick is in very sound condition, and even sounder than when cut, the dung having preserved it.
BROADGATE EXCAVATIONS. (II.)
Continuing the story of excavations on the Lloyds Bank site, a peculiar formation of stone was found at the east corner, near Messrs. Waters & Co. The builder, clerk of works, along with the writer, thought because of its shape it was a crypt, and being where the corner pillar was to stand, they set about breaking it open. The stone appeared to be put in like crazy pavement, and it was with difficulty that the men broke through, only to find it was a natural formation of a layer of stone about a foot thick, and between each piece of stone, which was edgeways, the clay had percolated like lime or cement. Beneath this was a solid layer of marl.
At the south end the quarry ended, and only 7-ft. or 8-ft. of rubbish on top of the sand. Here had stood a large mediaeval house, its stone foundations still intact, and quite a number of small medieval pieces of pottery were found. Close to these foundations two wells were discovered - one made of the white sandstone so much used in the period of St. Mary's Hall, the Churches, and White Friars' Monastery, which stone was quarried at Whitley. The width of the wall was one yard. Nearer to the house another well was discovered, about 14-ft. deep, but filled in. This well was much wider, and at the bottom in the mud a tall jug of the 15th century was found, nearly complete. It was of the green glaze and pinched base, and had stripes of black running from end to end, flower pattern between, and between two of the stripes clay placed on in the form of human hands. One piece of interesting pottery was in the form of a wine bottle, the top being of green glaze, the neck and spout being connected with handle; it is supposed to be 16th century, but nothing is known of any similar pot.
An antler was discovered which had the appearance of a pole-axe, only one sharp point being left, with a heavy wide piece of antler behind to give it weight. A perfect specimen of a 17th century wine flagon was found. Another interesting thing revealed was a double bricked pit, boarded over, its date being considerably old, as the nails were found to be hand made. Within this pit was a large quantity of good puddle. It was with great difficulty it was got out, as it adhered to the shovels, causing delay in the men's work. The brickwork also was with great difficulty broken up.
Thus ends the story of Lloyds Bank site.
BROADGATE EXCAVATIONS. (III.)
If Broadgate should be excavated, it would be found to be honeycombed with cellars. Until early in the 19th century it was little wider than Grey Friars Lane, and just before Hertford Street was made, a row of old houses extended to the site of the Cross, which stood in the centre. Extending from Smithford Street into Broadgate by Messrs. Burton's are cellars which have been filled in of late.
Beneath Messrs. Boots' new building a clay pit once existed, worked to a depth of about 16 feet, and of excellent clay. This had been filled in with all kinds of rubbish, containing both medieval and Norman pottery. In one spot at a depth of about 9 feet, a cellar floor was discovered, under which the skeleton of a young person was found, covered with a rough hewn plank which had perhaps been part of a wood shed. At some distance from this a small garden was discovered, the fencing and stakes being still intact. In this garden where a rockery had been made a piece of the Cross (which stood opposite until 1756-71) was found. This stone retained the leaf gold with which at was gilded in 1667, and also the red paint.
Beneath Messrs. Flinn's premises it was revealed that the cellar floor at the rear was on the virgin soil, and beneath the dry floor three fuzz or puff balls were found, measuring 14-ins. across, in perfect condition. These must have been there for a very long period, as they would only grow in moisture.
At Messrs. Tetts, in Pepper Lane, the making of alterations for additions to Messrs. Lyons' premises revealed interesting foundations. The old stone foundations of the former building were 3 feet inside the later building, making the lane narrower when the brick building was erected early in the last century. At the back quite a large piece of stone wall was discovered, and a photograph taken. To show what buildings stood there (and parts of those buildings are to be seen today in Derby Lane) may I quote Dugdale. "In 29 yr. Henry 2nd (1182) Earl Kevilock (this was the Earl who built the Leper Hospital at Spon End) making an exchange of grounds with the monks, states - "And to the end that posterity should not be ignorant which were the metes and bounds betwixt both their Sees, that is to say of the Prior's part and Earl's part, he by the same charter fully describes them, including lands of the said Monastery, within the following limits, viz, beginning at St. Michael's churchyard (which was then where the road passes the south side of the present Cathedral) and from thence going directly to the broad gate of the castle, leaving the houses of Will de Repyndon and Will the Son of Ric Trorthing (tenants to the Monastery) on the north part and the Earl's see on the south."
During excavations in Pepper Lane for the foundations of the pillars at Messrs. Tetts buildings it was necessary to reach a depth of 15-ft. 8-ins. before the rock was found, thus showing that the ground there had been quarried about 8-ft. deep before the filling up was commenced. Within six feet from where the piece of wall stood a number of pieces of mediaeval and Norman pottery were found. This quarry was worked to a depth of 24-ft. at the Library, and to depth unknown at St. Michael's Church, now the Cathedral.
The "Black Bull" Inn, which stood in Smithford Street, was the most important inn in Coventry. It was demolished about 1793, and the Barracks built on the site, and part on the original stone foundations of the Black Bull. The Barracks having recently been pulled down for extensions to Messrs. Woolworth's stores and new Market Arcade, a number of interesting relics of the old Black Bull Inn have been brought to light again. The cooking range of the Barracks had been fixed in the old open fireplace, with its massive stones and recesses at each end where the turner of the spit could sit as he roasted the joints before the open wood fire. One of these recesses is to be seen at St. Mary's Hall. Another interesting find was a stone doorway which had been hidden by the bricks and plaster of the Barracks - this doorway was about 3-ft. wide, and 7-ft. high, and stood facing south-west across the city wall that ran through the grounds, and divided the Poddy Croft from the Bull grounds. Next to this doorway were double doors, and the beams of the overhead room still intact. The doorway was buried to the height of the arch, but the door and the hooks on which it hung were missing. It is very probable this door is in use in some old building in Coventry even to-day. The stone has been removed, also the step, and at present is placed in Mr. J. B. Shelton's yard awaiting some more public position for such an historic piece of masonry. The fastenings were by two bolts and a draw-bar of wood, which would be placed in position from the back of the double doors. The back way from the Inn to the Warwick Road would be a little to the north of the present road to the Barracks Square, about on the site of the Geisha Cafe, and running through into Warwick Lane to the entrance of the Grey Friars Gate, which stood at Lazenby's corner. As before mentioned, the "Black Bull" was an important Inn, for many years being kept by important families in Coventry, sheltering kings and queens. In 1485 Henry VII. with his army came to the City after the signal, victory over Richard III. at Bosworth Field. At that time it was kept by the Mayor (Robert Olney), who presented the king with a cup and £100, receiving a knighthood in return.
BLACK BULL INN (continued)
In 1569 Mary Queen of Scots was brought from Tutbury, and kept prisoner from Saint Andrew's Day until Candlemas (about two months) when she was returned to Tutbury. She was brought to Coventry by the Earls of Shrewsbury and Huntingdon. The citizens kept watch and ward at every gate that none might pass without examination.
On November 4th three of the Gunpowder Plotters arrived, one named Winter, and two brothers named Lyttleton. It is strange they should arrive on the very day that Princess Elizabeth arrived from Coombe, and she was hidden in the 'Crown House', now Palace Yard House, in the care of the Hopkins family.
From this Inn the three conspirators went to Dunsmore Heath, for the mock hunt to capture the Princess.
Again in 1643, after the attempt of Charles the First to enter Coventry, the Earl of Northampton, finding the Parliamentary army much in excess of the army he was trying to raise, had to flee through the doorway before mentioned, and get out of the city through Grey Friar's Gate.
During excavations several wells were discovered, also a large cesspit which contained early pipes and pottery. It is most probable the stone which was used in the building of the Inn was quarried from the site, as several places were excavated to a depth of 16-ft., and at one place the bottom of the quarry was not found. Finds were few, but nevertheless interesting. A few pieces of pinched base 14th century pottery were found; half of a pewter cup, adorned with cherubs; a child's small pewter teapot ; one piece of Norman pottery ; and a very nice Tigerware jug which came out broken, but with all the pieces inside at the bottom. These have been put together, and the pot to-day appears whole. Out of the same pit about twenty pipes of 16th century period were also found.
COX STREET EXCAVATIONS
The excavations of river beds are always of great interest, especially on the site of old mill dams, etc. This site proved to be of exceptional interest, and no one living can really understand the make up of the ground. 'Cox Street' is quite a new name, the ancient name being Mill Lane, as the Earl's Mill stood at the end of Godiva Street, and was worked by the river formed into a dam a little further back. The city wall at one time surrounded the mill, as excavations revealed, but the Prior of the Benedictine Monastery complained that it injured his grounds to the extent of a few pounds per year, and asked for the wall to be removed, and built further back. At this time the wall was on the south side of the river, from near the Fire Station to the Mill, no doubt extending to the present wall at the south side of Godiva Street. At this time a tax of about £10 per year was due to be paid by the Prior, but he did all in his power to evade it; however at a later period payment was enforced. The river at the crossing of Cox Street was originally 5 ft. to 6 ft. lower than when the former bridge was built. It is hard to say when the making up actually took place, but quite a quantity of 13th-14th century pottery, etc., came out of the rubbish. At the end of Godiva Street stood the City Gate called Mill Gate or Bastill Gate; Mill Gate because it was the entrance to the Earl's Mill, spoken of long before the City walls were built, even as far back as 1087, when according to Doomsday a tax of 3s. was paid. - Bastill Gate, because a Hospital for old people (of which Hospital very little is known) stood about where Cope Street is now. The depth of the rubble between the Gate and the river was about 16 ft., and a large stone wall was found which might have been the boundary wall to the Mill built on wooden piles. When coming down to the old stones of the earlier City wall of 1400-4, a road made of round cobble stones was found but apparently ended at the south side of the river as no traces of same were found at the north side. The foundations were at a depth of 14 ft., and as usual, built on the solid ground.
COX STREET EXCAVATIONS (Continued)
Close by was a pond of water called "Hobb's Hole," and a Mayor of Hobb's Hole was chosen yearly, and dipped in the pool. The small brook running through the Swanswell empties itself at the new bridge. The fields (now Godiva Street) had large beds of marshy ground, and willows growing in large quantities, which were cut for the making of baskets, fencing, etc, while the bark was carried away and used by the wheelwrights for heating the cart and wagon tyres when hooping.
Mill Lane was a very narrow lane, and old citizens still living remember when it was difficult to take a load of hay down without fouling the house fronts. A Mr. Brown, of Ford Street, aged about 96 years, and still able to walk around, remembers the Mill Gate, or Bastill Gate, when he was a lad of about 10 years old. At that time it was occupied, and when taken down in 1847 Mr. Brown kept as a memento a part of the old lock from the door. Close by the Gate and on the right hand side of Godiva Street from Cox Street end, beneath the brick houses are yet to be seen the stone foundations of the old Malt-house. This building joined up to the Gate, and the houses were built there about 80 years ago. Mr. Molesworth's house and shop with stone fronts, and standing at the bottom corner of Cope Street, was built about 1843-7 by a Mr. Connop, who was a builder, and who lived at the opposite corner house, now a butcher's shop. The stone front which was thought to be from Mill Gate, was stone from the Earl's Mill, and not Mill Gate.
It is still within the memory of some when only a small bridge of wood crossed the river.
Now to come to the many finds of various things - a rubbish tip of hundreds of years ago is the paradise of an antiquary, and so this spot proved to be, as will be seen. Scores of bones for the making of buttons were found. Usually rib bones were used, as they needed very little paring to make the required thickness. The method of cutting must have been by an instrument with three cutters, the centre cutter or borer being longer than the two outer, as in no instance was the bone cut clean through, but only half way, when the bone was turned, and the centre cutter inserted in the hole it had pierced, so the boring was as level as though it was done from one side. Bones found in a Norman fort in another part of England were cut out in the same manner. If a bone was wide, and two buttons could be cut from it, this was done, and each button was cut close to prevent waste. As the bone narrowed one larger button would be cut. Strange it seems, but up to the present no buttons have been found.
COX STREET EXCAVATIONS (Continued)
The last sentence in my last article on Cox Street Excavations ran, "Strange it seems but up to the present no buttons have been found." Less than 24 hours after the article had been printed one button was found; this has only one hole in the centre, and at each side a small indented circle was made round the hole, and the rough edge caused through breaking the button out of the circle was partly rubbed off. Most of the bones used are in as sound condition as when used six or seven centuries ago.
Since writing the first article about this site, in which I mentioned the Earl's Mill, the oak beams, morticed out and pegged, on which little doubt exists that the first mill-wheel was placed - this timber is to be seen amongst other things preserved.
Is it probable that a Roman road ran through this site? With Mancetter on the north, and Baginton on the south, where so many Roman relics have been found of late, it is quite possible. Whatever may be the answer, it would appear that the Romans crossed here before any bridges were made. In my first article I mention that about six feet of rubble was under the river. Beneath this, in the gravel bed of the river was found a coin of Emperor Galinus, A.D. 253-288, a bronze ring, jet ring, toilet set for nails and ears, surgeon's needles, pottery, iron handles, bronze for beating-out, shears, etc. Who knows what may lie beneath the earth at no great distance from here. It is thought by some that Roman kilns lie beneath Jeffry Woods Cross. The British Museum report about these finds says, "The smaller things may be the contents of a Roman lady's satchel."
Thirteenth century counters were found in great numbers, and one would think by the large quantities found that they were manufactured here. Brass needles, ladies' hat pins, small pins, pins with large heads, and shining like gold, a brass cross, ladies' dress holders, bone pins, bone needles, boots by the score, boot laces, pottery, rings, brass harness buckles, and iron buckles; a font which the monks or friars carried when performing the rite of private christenings, with a six-pointed star decoration. All these things, and others far too numerous to mention, have been found, and at present await a home where all people interested may view them at their leisure.
COX STREET EXCAVATIONS (Continued)
The excavations beneath the brick culvert running under the Triumph Works did not yield a great number of articles, but those found were of great interest. One was a piece of leather about 11-ins. by 7-ins., on which was an embossed figure of a man's head, with a flowing beard, a lion's body, and wings ; around the edges were scroll marks, almost in the form of a figure 9, and wording in Latin, in Old English letters, viz.: -
This piece of leather I sent to the British Museum for information, and in about three weeks received the following letter from the Assistant Keeper: -
July 27/33. British Museum.
In the opinion of the Printed Book Department here, your leather fragment is not a book cover. It is perhaps part of a bag or satchel of the fifteenth century. I have not been able to interpret the inscription satisfactorily, and I should be grateful if I might keep it for a little longer, and should also be interested to find, if possible, a parallel for the figure in the panel.
During the next month (August) a further letter was received as follows: -
I have not succeeded in finding a parallel, or arriving at a satisfactory interpretation of the inscription. If you could have it photographed, and let me have a print, I should be glad to keep it for reference, in case any light could be thrown on it; and could also show it to other people who would be interested.
Very near to this leather fragment a human skull was discovered, at a depth of about two feet below the river bed (possibly not the original bed). Other human bones were found with it, also part of a leather dagger sheath. Doctors say the skull is of a man about 30 years of age. As a battle was fought on this ground by Marmion, a great warrior from Tamworth, it may have been one of the victims. The story of the affray is that in 1141 Marmion turned the monks out of the church, and fortified it, also the buildings attached, making trenches in the fields around, and covering them over to act as a trap to the enemy (the Earl's army). Being attacked by the Earl's men, and having forgotten where the trenches were, Marmion fell into one with his horse, and a soldier cut off his head. This was said to have been a judgement of God for the profaning of His sacred place.
COX STREET EXCAVATIONS (Continued)
At the end of the culvert near the back of the Baths a very interesting roadway was discovered. It was at the depth of about two feet beneath the present river bed, and about ten feet from the surface. It was made of the bones of animals, and about 18-ins. in depth, and 10-ft. in width. A few days later a portion of the city wall was discovered close by, the width being six feet. This wall is the one built about 1480, and for which I had been searching for months, being uncertain of its position. It appears to start direct from the Georgian built houses (which have been a home for countless sparrows in recently stripped ivy) named Spring Grove. The roadway of bones was to make a crossing over the marsh of the river, as the water would filter through, and the builders of the wall would be able to walk over the marsh, on the top of the bones.
It would appear, from the many obstructions that were found in the river, that little notice must have been taken of these in the mediaeval period. Just outside the culvert, and beneath the concrete of 30 years ago, were a number of large piles driven in, but nothing to denote for what purpose they were for laying about two feet beneath this concrete bed was a large willow tree, weighing over half a ton. Near this spot was a large number of both small and large brass pins, several jugs of 14th century, one without glaze and almost complete of 13th century. Several pieces of leather were found, some containing lead studs in scroll pattern, possibly from the riding saddle of a palfrey. Another large piece of leather contained thick whit-leather stitches. This piece has been examined by a saddler, who thinks it has been a leather shield. Again, this may have been connected with Marmion's quarrel on this spot.
Some very interesting buckles were found, one heart-shape, and another with open work in the sides, although it had been cast - it is a mystery how it was done. The pulling down of the river walls show that a great portion was built with stones from the ruins of St. Mary's Church, in 1538. In one or two places under the culvert stone foundations were found; it may be some part of the dam for the working of the Earl's ' Mill. For the present this finishes the story of Cox Street district.
PARK SIDE, LITTLE PARK STREET GATE, AND DISTRICT
Little Park Street is supposed to have taken its name in 1388, but it can be traced as far back as 1384, when the Large Park would be divided. The street itself, near the gate, possessed a very fine bed of clay, and has actually been quarried at least to a depth of 12ft. This was possibly filled in just before the building of the Gate, as small pieces of medieval pottery were found in the filling. Only one or two pieces of pottery of the 15th Century were found on the Parkside, one piece being of a different shape to any other then found (but one other has been found since in the river bed.)
Near the Gate at the present building of the new King's Head or Park Gate Inn, quite a lot of pottery of medieval period was found, one piece having on it two dogs, with a paw on bone, and another piece having on it ears of wheat in raised strips of clay, also several bones and tools, while the foundations of the wall were discovered. Here at a short distance from the wall the sand had been quarried. This quarry was inside the wall and where the stone was given by the Black Prince, for the building of Grey Friars' Church in 1358.
The Park of over 400 acres was at one time held by the Benedictine monks, and was looked on as a place of refuge by those fleeing from justice. It was also used as a preaching-place from very early times. John Grace preached there for a week to large congregations in the 15th century. In 1549, John, Duke of Northumberland, granted a lease of the Park for 99 years to the Corporation on condition that they allowed 80 poor men to turn a cow to pasture at 1d. per year, and 20 men a gelding at 2d. per year. In 1622 a fine avenue of 250 trees was planted from the quarries to Quinton Pool by the Mayor, Thomas Potter. These were cut down in 1787. At the outside of the city wall on Parkside, soldiers who had deserted and were captured, were shot. From 1510 to 1555 eleven martyrs were burnt at the stake. In 1753 the Rev. George Whitfield preached in the Park. In 1779 John Wesley should have preached there, but rain prevented.
Quinton, a suburb of Coventry, had only one house, which was burnt down some 70 or 80 years ago, and the present one built. Its name is derived from Thomas de Quinton, who in 1384 was keeper of the King's deer. No part of Coventry is more interesting than the district of Cheylesmore.
PARK SIDE, LITTLE PARK STREET GATE, AND DISTRICT
On the south side of Parkside were the quarries from which Richard the Second gave the stone for the building of part of the city walls, and, up to the present time, are called by the old residents "Park Hollows." Parkside, as will be seen to-day, is made up on a slope from "St. John Street," or "Dead Lane," as it used to be called, rising to its highest point where the city wall stood. It is most probable that the Corporation of 1423 or thereabouts made this up to the string course of the wall, thus it would be a pillar of strength to the wall at the inside of the City, and leaving about 5-ft. of the wall as a battlement to protect the soldiers who watched over the defence of the city. In 1423, a sum of 5/- was paid for an earthwork, possibly part of this embankment. It will be noticed the same earthwork extends along Much Park Street and in 1430, the Carmelites, or White Friars, asked permission of the Corporation to make an earthwork from New Gate square tower (corner of White Friars' Street) to the round tower or half round tower at the top of Gulson Road (then called White Friars' Mill Lane) which tower was built the same year at a cost of £77-13-4. This earthwork is to be seen to-day.
Coming again to the Parkside, it has been recorded that a burial ground was there, but recent excavations reveal that no disturbance of the ground had taken place from the level of the present roadway. In one garden beneath the made-up ground, a large heap of round boulder stones were found, which, no doubt, had been used for ammunition as it is on record that the women carried stones and helped in the protection of the walls. It was in 1641 that Charles the First attacked the city, coming from Whitley Abbey, and the citizens deciding not to receive him with his 400 men, he attacked the walls from the Park and off Styvechal Hill. In readiness for this, 300 soldiers were despatched from Birmingham, to give us assistance, and the enemy being repulsed, made their way to Stoneleigh Abbey.
As no gardens were allowed to be made within 20 feet of the wall, one can visualise the soldiers marching to and fro on the earthwork inside the wall, with a fourteen feet drop on the outside of the wall, besides the ditch which would be where the present roadway now is, and about 9 ft. deep by 12 ft. wide.
In the year 1643, after finding the quarries had become a menace to the city by the protection they gave to the enemy as trenches, it was decided to fill them in, and the men being engaged in strengthening the walls and protecting the city, the Quaker women decided to do this work. Groups of women went into the quarries with a leader named Adderley, who carried a club on her shoulder, and each with a mattock and spade, worked until evening, when Mary Herbert fired off a pistol as a signal and marched through Little Park Street Gate home. A wall which divided the Little Park of twenty-three acres from the Large Park was also pulled down as it also afforded shelter for the enemy. This year there was also an extra Tower built along the Parkside, and its foundations were discovered a few years ago, being about six yards square and was made for cannon to be placed in at each corner.
EXCAVATIONS IN THE BURGES
The name "Burges" is derived from Bridges, there being two bridges at only a short distance from each other, one to carry the water of the Sherbourne, the other the water from Naul's Mill, and called the River Albert. In the digging for Corporation Street, the culvert or bridge was discovered under the tramlines, and is now filled in with concrete. Before the water reached the culvert it flowed beneath the houses which although not on the Prior's part, did at one time belong to the Prior. It would be of great interest to know when the Burges was quarried, which recent excavations reveal. A few years ago, in digging for foundations and cellars, quite a quantity of timbers of sheds or houses were discovered at a great depth, and proved what has been found in other quarries, that they were used as shelters. There is a poem on two lovers trying to reach each other in boats from each side of the Burges, and although only imagination, it would almost seem to be true by the fact that at a depth of 16 1/2-ft. close by the river, a boat paddle of oak has been found, and in splendid condition - thus proving that boats were at one time used there. River sand appears to have been quarried there, and one wonders where it could all be used at the period it would be quarried.
Quite a number of pieces of Saxon or Norman pottery were discovered, and many were the goats' horns found at a depth of 15-ft. to 16-ft. The boat paddle is thought to date from Early British. One of the most wonderful finds made there, at a depth of 121/2-ft., was a large number of holly leaves which, except for being flattened out, were in good condition, and after being washed still show every spike. Cattle dung is prominent in the filling in, with large pieces of trees, and tops of goats' sheds, made of hazel sticks. This valley must have been extensive, taking in the site of Corporation Street to Bablake Church, Priory Pool, St. John's Hospital, St. Osburg's Pool (now the Pool Meadow), etc.
THE STORY OF THE BENEDICTINE MONASTERY, AND DISCOVERIES ON ITS ANCIENT SITE
The story of the Benedictine Monastery is one of great interest to all Coventry people and to thousands who have never entered the city. It would appear that long before this Monastery was founded, a Nunnery stood on the site, named "St. Osburg, a holy Virgin," but very little is known about this. It was destroyed by Edric the Traitor when he fired several places in Warwickshire.
Pool Meadow, which years ago was a low lying meadow, and took the overflow from the River Sherbourne, is mentioned in 1480 as "St. Osburg's Pool," and would at the period of the Nunnery be a pool for fishing. Only 27 years elapsed after the destruction of the Nunnery when Earl Leofric and Countess Godiva founded a Monastery for 24 Benedictine monks, and a Charter of Edward the Confessor, discovered in 1887 by Mr. Walter de Grey Birch, F.S.A, has thrown additional light on the early history of Coventry. Mr. Samuel Timmins, F.S.A., says it has helped to confirm rather than to correct the details already given.
It is said this Charter was overlooked by Dugdale, although he knew of Leofric's Charter (1043), the Papal Bull, of Pope Alexander (1043), and William the Conqueror's Charter (1086). Edward the Confessor's Charter is a single sheet of parchment 91/2-ins. by 71/2-ins., contains twenty-three lines written in the sharp upright letters of that period, and in ink (now) of a dark yellow tint. Leofric is said to have founded the Abbey Church on the north of the "Vil" of Coventry. The spelling of "Coventry" is varied in these Charters; in Edward the Confessor's Charter it is "Covaentre"; in Leofric's and the Pope's, "Countr"; in the Conqueror's it is spelt "Coventrea."
Next month a copy of the Charter above mentioned will be printed in my article on the Benedictine Monastery. - J.B.S.
MAIN TEXT OF THE CHARTER OF KING EDWARD THE CONFESSOR TO THE ABBEY OF ST. MARY, COVENTRY. (In the British Museum.)
" Eadward, King, greets Edsie, the Archbishop, and all my bishops, abbots and earls, thagnes and sheriffs, and all my faithful men kindly. Every man it behoves very rightly to love and to highly honour our Lord God, and earnestly and unanimously to follow God's laws, and diligently to incline to alms deeds, whereby he may release himself from the bonds of sin. . . . For which necessary things I make known unto you all that I grant with full permission that the same gift which Leofric the Earl and Godgyuae have given to Christ and His dear Mother and to Leofwin, the abbot, and to the brethren within the minster at Coventry, for their souls to help, in land and in water, in gold and in silver, in ornaments and in all other things, as full and as forth as it stood themselves in hand, and as they therewith that same minster worthily have enriched, so I it firmly grant. And, furthermore, I grant to them also, for my soul, that they have besides full freedom, sac (jurisdiction in religious suits) toll (exemption from toll), and theam (vouching to warranty), hamsocne (power to enforce fines for personal entry, etc.) forestoall, (power to punish for stealing), blodwite (power to fine for assault and bloodshed), weardwite (power to maintain watch), and numbrice (power to punish breach of the peace). Now will I henceforward that it ever be a dwelling of monks, and let them stand in God's peace, and St. Mary's, and mine, and according to St. Benedict's rule, under the Abbot's authority. And I will not in any way consent that any man take away or eject their gifts and their alms, or that any man have there any charge upon any things or at any season except the Abbot and the brethren to the need of this minster. And whosoever shall increase this alms with any good, the Lord shall increase for him Heaven's bliss; and whosoever shall take them away or deprive the minster of any thing at any time, let him stand in God's anger and His dear Mother's and mine. God keep you all "
THE FOUNDATION CHARTER OF THE MONASTERY OF THE BLESSED MARY AT COVENTRY. . (English Translation from the Latin)
"I, Leofric Earl: by the advice and license of King Edward, and who hath sent his letter of Alexander the Pope to me below written, together with the seal and testimony of the other devout men as well laymen as church-men: have caused the church of Coventry to be dedicated in honour of God and St. Mary, His Mother, of St. Peter the Apostle, of St. Osburga, the Virgin, and of All Saints.
"Therefore I have given these twenty-four townships (villas) together with one moiety of the township in which the church itself is situate, to the church for the service of God, and for the food and raiment of the abbot and monks serving God in the same place, to wit: - Honingham, Newenham, Chadshunt, (Bishops) Itchington, Ufton, S(o)utham (one township of that name), Grandborough, Birdingbury, Marston near the Avon, (Priors) Hardwick, Wasperton, Chesterton, So(u)tham (a second township of that name), Ryton (on Dunsmoor), half of Sowe; Marston in Gloucestershire: Salwarp in the province of Worcester, Eaton near the water called Dee in Chester province: Kilsby and Winwick, in the province of Northampton; Burbagh, Barwell, Scraptoft, and Packington in Leicester province.
"Moreover I have given these townships with the moiety of the aforenamed township to this monastery with sac and soc and toll and team, with the liberty and all customs in every place, as I have held them at any time in the reign of King Edward with honour.
"Therefore these witnesses to this matter have appeared, first Edward the King; Edsie, archbishop of Canterbury; Aldred, bishop of Worcester; Wulsy, bishop of Lichfield; Mannie, abbot of Evesham; Godwin, abbot of Winchcomb; Alfric, abbot of Pershore; Godwin, earl (of Wessex); Harold, earl (of East Anglia); Siward, earl (of Northumbria); Ordgar, earl (of Devonshire); Alfward (thane) of Kinderton (in Cheshire); Wawen (thane) of Wooton (in Warwickshire), and many chief persons in England whose names to mention here would be wearisome.
"Therefore with all these King Edward and I have given license to this monastery in such wise as that the abbot of that same place may be subject to the king of England only. Yea and we have decreed the curse of God, and of all saints, in perpetuity, upon all those whosoever shall deprive this monastery of its liberty and our donation, or shall deliver them over to another different right and authority, contrary to the law of God. To which decree all we with one voice have said Amen, Amen."
THE FOUNDATION CHARTER OF THE MONASTERY OF THE BLESSED MARY AT COVENTRY. 
THE POPES BULL CONFIRMING KING EDWARD'S CHARTER
(English Translation from the Latin:)
"Alexander, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to our well-beloved son Edward, king of England, greeting and apostolic benediction. We have joyfully received your eloquent letters testifying of your safety. Wherefore we render thanks to Almighty God, who hath stirred up the sincerity of your heart, for all things profitable to Holy Mother Church. Therefore, according to your writing to the monastery of Saint Mary of Coventry, lately builded by Earl Leofric of honoured memory, where a congregation was established to the service of God, we grant, concede, and confirm their right of our present authority, decreeing that the place itself, supported by the king's ordinances and by apostolic privileges, shall be throughout all time without vexation ["sine vexatione"] of either the bishop of the diocese, or of any other judicial officer of whatsoever rank or authority, and always as thy regal beneficence ["benevolentia tua regalis"] requests and desires. Therefore let the brethren of the same place have the power of choosing fit persons as abbots or deans in succession; from amongst them-selves, or from any assembly they may choose ; and we forbid that they be hindered by apostolic authority. Besides whatsoever they have conferred upon that place, or hath been conferred upon, or should be conferred, we confirm by divine and our authority - And your privileges ; appertaining to the glory of which you there desire to institute, with glad accord we assist and confirm, and in confirm-ing, have decreed that they shall stand for ever, and those who break them, we condemn to eternal malediction.
"Enacted in the year of our Lord's Incarnation, one thousand and forty-three.
[" x I Edward the King have affirmed this liberty of my royal stability,
x I Elfgiva [Emma] mother of the king have confirmed assent in the like.
x I Editha the queen in marriage have con-sented to the royal donation of the same.
x I Eadsie archbishop of the church of Canterbury ["Dorobernesis"] have acquiesced.
x l Alfric archbishop of the church of York ["Eboracensis"] have corroborated.
x I Alfword bishop of London ["Londoniensis"] have subscribed.
x I Aldred bishop of Worcester ["Wigorn"] have imprinted.
x I Duduc bishop of Wells ["Wellensis"] have marked.
x I Wulsy bishop of Lichfield ["Lichesfeld"] have consolidated.
x I Athelstan bishop of Hereford ["Herefordensis"] have made firm.
x I Living bishop of Crediton ["Crediensi"] have affixed.
x I Ednoth bishop of Dorchester ["Dorcens") have yielded assent.
x I Brithwin bishop of Sherborne ["Scirberniensis"] have confirmed.
x I Berthwold bishop of Wilton ["Wiltuniensis] have concluded.
x I Mannie abbot [of Evesham in Worces-tershire].
x I Siward abbot [of Abingdon in Berkshire].
x I Alfwin abbot [of Ramsey in Hunting-donshire].
x I Godwin abbot [of Winchcomb in Glou-cestershire].
x I Alfricabbot [of Pershore in Worcestershire].
x I Godwin earl ["dux"] [of Wessex].
x I Harold earl ["dux"] [of East Anglia].
x I Leofric ear! ["dux"] [of Mercia].
x I Siward earl ["dux"] [of Northumbria].
x I Sweyn [sub] earl ["dux"] [over Hereford, Gloucester, Bucks, and Oxford].
x I Tostie [sub] earl ["dux"] [over Somer-set, etc.].
x I Radulf in order of place ["more"].
x I AElgar.
x I Rodbord officer ["minister"].
x I Hulfketel officer ["minister"].
x I Godwine officer ['"minister"].
x I Frewine officer ["minister"].
x I Leofric officer ["minister"].
x I Moricere officer ["minister"].
x I Alfgar officer ["minister''].
x I Godric officer ["minister"].
x I Leofric officer ["minister" ].
x I Siward officer ["minister"].
x I Athelsi officer ["minister"] "]
Where did the Castle stand, in which the Earls of Coventry lived? Some think it stood in the Cheylesmore district, and not far from the Manor House, which was built in 1234 by Roger de Mantault, Broadgate being the site of the gate leading to the Castle; others think it stood near the site of St. Mary's Hall, and that Bayley Lane was the bailey protecting it.
The population of Coventry at the end of Godiva's life (1085-6) is said by Whitley to have been as follows: -
There were also houses belonging to the Coventry Abbey situated in Leicester (30), and in Warwick (36)
After the death of Countess Godiva, King Rufus gave no charter to the Abbey. It is said his policy was retrograde rather than progressive, and the southern part, or Earl's "vill," (now Cheylesmore) was held by him in "fee farm," as the Conqueror had held it before him. After three Abbots being appointed (the last being Leofwin), Robert de Lymesy (a Norman) suppressed this office in 1095, and appointed one of the monks, named Burwyng, as a Prior. This Robert was Bishop of Chester, in which diocese was Coventry.
About 1100, Lymesy, attracted by the wealth of the Monastery, brought about the removal of the See, and thus became the first Bishop of Coventry. At this time the title of Abbey or Minster was superseded by Cathedral, and the town changed into City, while Norman Priors took their place in the council of the nations, as the Saxon Abbots before them.
Next month my article will describe the excavations new being made on the site of the Priory, which dates back to the time of Lady Godiva.
Excavations for a new river course over which the new Trinity Street is to pass have been going on for a year or more, and are still being proceeded with. In the made up ground of from ten to sixteen feet depth of rubble, cattle dung, sand, clay and stone, one would expect to find a host of things revealing the doings of the Benedictines in their early habitation of Coventry, or as spelt at that time "Covaentree," and this is proving to be so. Palmer Lane is the road over which the Palmers, Guests, or Pilgrims came to the Guest House, and we can picture a number of pilgrims arriving from ships which landed them on our shores. Each one arriving carried a piece of palm-wood to denote they had been to the Holy Land. They also carried tokens or signs of lead, pewter, or brass, a number of which were found in 1852 when dredging the river Sherbourne. Others are coming to light, some of pewter and brass, with inscribed on, also a small token of brass, shaped like a shell. This no doubt is "The Compostella Cockle-shell." The Palmer in "Piers Ploughman" says: -
"Ye may see be my signes that sitten in myn hat
That I have walked ful wyde in wete and in dry,
And soughte God seynts for my soules helth."
The old Guest House stood at the corner of Palmer Lane until 1820, and before this was demolished a fine drawing was made by Alderman Phillips. It is impossible to say when this House was built, but no doubt early in the 13th century or perhaps earlier. The building was of stone foundations, which can be traced to-day, they having been used for later buildings. Houses were built on this site as early as 1643, when a siege was expected to be made by Charles I., and some of the Guest House was utilised.
One large side of an inner wall was discovered, about 20 yards wide, and three stories high, and when the 17th century plaster was removed, large panels of clay, measuring 4-ft. by 3-ft. were discovered. Being an inside wall, the clay was bound with straw, while usually on an outside wall coarse hay (or rushes) was used, as it would be more fibrous, and stand the weather better than straw. An old doorway to a bedroom had been cut through one of the original windows of the Guest House, and fortunately one section had been left complete. Large oak timbers, roughly cut from the trees, morticed, and fastened together with wooden pegs, came to light as the present bedrooms were stripped of the wallpapers, showing the massive room where once the pilgrims met and dined, and discussed their pilgrimage.
An old stone chimney was discovered in a house a little way down the lane and can be seen in its original state to-day. This chimney was possibly in the kitchen of the Guest House as shown in a drawing. A little lower down the lane stood the stables for the guests' horses, and it would appear that a roadway led into the Guest House yard next to the outside of the chimney.
I hope to discover a bridge which crossed the river at Palmer Lane end, and would join up to Priory Gate, St. Agnes Lane, Cook Street, Silver Street, and College Square. It is most probable this Lane was Catesby Lane, as a washing-pool (perhaps for sheep) was at the end, and would be near the river, where a certain woman pulled down the gate, and the Leet compelled her to put it up again. The Catesby family of Gunpowder Plot fame were established in Coventry as early as 1324, and Catesby Lane is missing from the list of names in the Speed's map of 1610.
My last paragraph in the August issue of this Magazine dealt with a bridge I hoped to find during the next few weeks, where Catesby Lane may have joined up to Palmer Lane. On Friday, August 17th, a road-way made of flat sand-stones and round pebbles was discovered at a depth of 6-ft. 6-ins. below the present roadway The sand-stones were from repairs of the Monastery, one stone had a beautiful piece of carving representing the Lamb and Flag. From about this site, and above the road, a number of pieces of pottery were found of 14th century period, also two pieces of encaustic tiles. Saturday, Aug. 18, revealed a wooden bridge at about the same depth as the roadway. Wood piles, only 18-ins. long, were put in the marshy ground, and runners placed on them to cross the river. Beneath the bridge a deep vein of sludge and cattle dung was found, and pieces of Norman pottery, also pieces of leather in a condition almost as new. A small piece of stick trimmed at each end, and about long enough to grip in the hand, as though for a runner, was found; this is the second one found, the other being at the Guest House, and having a number of brass studs in. Were these carried as pilgrims' signs? As the digging is still proceeding, other things may come to light, which I will record at a later date.
I mentioned last month that the bridge just discovered was recorded in the "Leet Book," but another bridge was discovered about two months ago, of which no record has been traced. This bridge is possibly of earlier date than the "Catesby Bridge," and commenced about 81/2-yards to the east, on the ground of the Benedictines. It was found at a depth of nine feet, and thirty-five feet six inches in width. The end of the bridge was placed on piles and posts, 21/2-feet in height. The clay bed at this spot had been worked, and most probably the bridge would be of Norman or Saxon period. At each side the clay had been worked deeper, and a number of pieces of pottery were found. In one place a large round shallow hole had been dug in the clay, and about a barrow load of charcoal was found, and pottery and bones, including goats' horns, no doubt where cooking had been done.
This bridge was evidently a crossing for cattle, as at both ends oak posts were found, which were morticed out for railings to guide the cattle as they crossed. A horse or pony shoe was found, also a number of dagger or knife sheaths, one of which was twelve-inches long. A shear, either for a plough or scuffle, was found, as also a lock in good condition, but without the key, and an esp for a door; while a brass needle (the best yet found) came to light. This needle is interesting, for the monks had a league of friendship with the monks of Derley, or I believe Derley Abbey, and sent them needles and sope (soap); in return they received riding saddlery and furniture.
Other things found were, a pewter strainer with holes no larger than a pin's point, a pewter jug, five rosary beads, mediaeval pottery, boots from the sixteenth century to the Saxon time, also a boot-sole containing four out of five lead studs, which may have been for football, but thought by the British Museum to be probably a penitential boot. These things are all of very great interest.
EXHIBITION OF ANTIQUITIES AT THE DRILL HALL, COVENTRY
Excellent reports have been published by several newspapers concerning this fine Exhibition, including one by the "Nuneaton Tribune," which is as follows: -
"Great interest has been taken in the exhibition of historical 'finds' by Mr. J. B. Shelton, the well-known Coventry antiquarian, in the Coventry Drill Hall, on behalf of the Coventry and Warwicks Hospital £100,000 Appeal Fund.
WELL STREET EXCAVATIONS
As the Gas and Electrical Showrooms are shortly to be opened, I must ask my readers to excuse me for malting a break in the story of the Benedictines, though in fact even in this story they take a part.
Well Street is one of the oldest streets (probably the oldest) in Coventry, deriving its name from the fact that a well existed there, called "Broad Well," and probably of the Saxon period. It was in 1333 the inhabitants were licensed by Edward III. to erect a conduit 20-ft. long by 10-ft. broad in any street which they might deem most convenient for that purpose, and under this licence a conduit was erected at "The Broad Well" in Well Street. It is thought that this well supplied part of the Benedictine Monastery, for we find in the year 1406 that Henry V., at the petition of the Prior of the Cathedral Church of the Virgin Mary in Coventry, granted by assent of the Bishops and Lords "that out of the conduit of water running to the said priory no man do make any head or rock, or break the same conduit without the assent of the said prior." In digging operations part of this conduit was discovered, and was in perfect condition, being about 3-ft. 6-ins high, and had at one time a stone top. The well was in the centre, and was about 16-ft. in depth from the present level of the road, but only 6-ft. in depth from the bottom of the conduit. The flow of water of about 5000 gallons per hour filled the conduit, and an overflow channel carried the water to the Priory Mill pool.
In 1554 this well was repaired with stone from the destruction of the Monastery. At a later date it had been bricked, but the old rings of wood from the ancient well had been used again, and are now preserved for a future museum In the middle of the 19th century this well ran dry, or nearly so, by the sinking of deeper wells, one of which was 23-ft. deep, and the water could be seen to flow in at a rapid pace, and dispersed just as quickly. No less than seven wells were discovered on the site. Men who were called 'bytters' (water carriers) lived in Well Street, and supplied the public with water, and one of the yokes for carrying water was found. After 1855 the supply was restored again, and a pump erected. Water carts were used to supply the public, the water being sold in bucketsful.
At the east end of the conduit a sand quarry was revealed, worked to a depth of about 14-ft. This would join up with an extensive quarry or quarries which cover the greater part of the Burges valley, and was a part of the Bablake, and would be of Saxon or Norman period. At a depth of 11-ft. 6-ins. in this quarry a large oak tree was found, and as it was about 18-ft. in circumference it must have been of great age. Around this tree a shed had been built for a shelter for cattle, probably goats, as horns were found in great numbers. Broken vessels of Saxon or Norman pottery were found, also a stool top made from a rough oak plank. A pony's shoe, a lock for a pony's fetlock, and a chain made up of S hooks was found and near the conduit great quantities of charcoal for smelting, and horse shoes cut in half and placed together for smelting. In one hole at the east end roots of the oak tree were found at a depth of 20-ft. At a depth of 11-ft. on the south side, large oak timbers and stonework were found, being foundations of some very early building. At the west end clay had been quarried, while actually under Well Street, and running east to west, were large oak timbers about 4-ft. below the surface. As S. John's Hospital stands at the corner of Hales Street, and was built in the Norman period, it is quite possible that sand was used for this purpose. An enamelled brooch in the shape of a cross was found, and is of about 11th century.
PRIORY POOL AND MILLS
Excavations revealed the depth of the Priory Pool. It is not known when the pool was made, but by what was revealed I should say about 13th century, or at least enlarged then. Its water was stored for the Prior's Mill, which stood where the three brick houses still stand in front of the office of Messrs. Newark's, timber merchants. At the rear still stands the old Mill House, converted into two cottages. Its original small windows are filled up with brick, also one gable end has been restored while the other is in its original state but hidden by other houses. The Mill was destroyed by the man who built the three brick houses in 1848. The Mill wheel stood at the north end of the Mill and the water race was discovered when making the new river bed. The wheel must have been an undershot one as the race was 14 feet 6 inches in depth. Around the race which carried the water, large sand stones had been placed for the purpose of keeping the mud and grit from entering. It is interesting to know that an assize was kept of the storage of water, for no mill further down the river could grind until the first mill released its water. If a miller kept too much water he was fined 6/8; half of which went towards the building of the city wall, and the other half to his Craft. At the time of floods the flood gates were to be opened under penalty of a fine of 20 shillings.
In 1430, one penny per strike was charged for the grinding of wheat or rye. No toll was to be taken, under penalty of a fine of 20 pence to the Mayor and 20 pence to the Bailiffs, Also, Millers were sworn twice a year to be true. They also had to join in the procession on Corpus Christi day, and for Watch on Midsummer even. In 1474, they were only allowed to have measures at the Mill that were sealed according to the King's standard.
At this time the leet ordered that they should have 1 quart of wheat for the grinding of one bushel, and another quart if he should fetch the corn to be ground; whilst only one pint for each purpose was allowed if grinding malt. They were not to water any man's corn to make it weigh heavier, nor to give inferior corn in place of good. In order, also, to help keep the miller honest, he was only allowed to keep 3 hens and 1 cock, under penalty of a fine of 40 pence. If, after being fined three times he still offended, he was put in the pillory. In 1541 a charge of 7d. per quarter only was allowed for grinding the baker's breadcorn, and he was forbidden to keep either pigs or ducks under penalty of a fine of 6/8. In 1544 it was ordered that the millers should be a fellowship and Craft of their own, but in 1551 it was ordered that they should hold no assembly, as in time past. In 1549 it was enacted that all bakers should have their corn ground by resident millers and not foreign millers, and that the charge be 8d. per quarter under penalty of a fine of 3/8.
Near the Fire Station wall the race that carried the water from the mill wheel and emptied into the stream was discovered. Also a mill wheel made of oak, 41/2 ins. in width and about 17 ins. in diam., having 8 peg holes, pegs still in part of holes, while in the centre of the wheel was a square hole for fitting onto the shaft; the pegs would fit into 8 corresponding holes in the large wheel. Lower down the river, about 30 yards beyond the Fire Station, the flood gates stood.
About 20 yards of the river bed was paved with stone. In the centre were large square shaped stones, and in them a groove cut about 4 ins. deep and 6 ins. wide for the gate to fit into for a stay against the floods. The gate was at least 17 feet long, and at each end a well was sunk and oak posts placed in for the wheels and chains necessary to raise or lower the gate as required. Two other mills stood between this gate and the Earl's mill in Cox Street. Altogether, from Spon End to Whitley mills were placed as often as possible.
Next month I will give a further account of discoveries in and near the pool.
PRIORY POOL AND DISTRICT
My readers will remember the boundary wall reaching to the factory buildings that stood towards Palmer Lane. This wall actually stood on the foundations of the original boundary wall, although it was not known by the builders, as a distance of 12-ft. or so in depth lay between the two walls. Within a few yards, and at a depth of about 11 feet, a cattle shed was found, the posts still in position, but the top fallen in. Goats horns were found there, also quantities of cattle dung and bracken, which had been used as bedding. Two knives, as used by butchers, and a part of a large green glaze jug of about 14th century period was found in the shed. A large tree-stump was found at a distance of a few yards, which had been used for a shelter for the shed, similar to the tree mentioned in the Well Street excavations. Within a few yards of these, and at a depth of about 8 feet, a very interesting discovery was made when one of the two fishponds belonging to the Monastery was discovered. This pond was made of stone and mortar, and was 15-feet to 20-feet in width, and two feet in depth. Most of the stonework was in position at a depth of 8 feet from the present level. It was the usual practice to have fishponds built near to the larder and kitchens. In this case it was so, as the stables and killing sheds built (1643) opposite the mill house, were built into the Monastery buildings. The fish would be caught in the Swanswell Pool, the Priory Pool, and Saint Osburg's Pool (now Pool Meadow), and carried alive to the ponds for storage.
An eel spur was found near this spot, also quite a number of larder hooks. At a short distance towards the west a wall of great thickness was discovered. It was made of large stones, many from the earlier churches, and was bedded with blacksmith's ashes. The width was four feet, and the foundations about 12-ft. 6-ins. from the present level. Near by this was a large quantity of dross, as if a blacksmith's forge had been near - this was very probable, as this wall divided the stables and killing sheds from other parts of the ground. A large quantity of hand-made nails lay about, as also a few new horse nails, almost in shape like a crutch, and similar to others found in horse-shoes of the mediaeval period. To what extent the wall ran will be revealed in making the new Trinity Street, and I hope to record it.
Next month I hope to give an article on the discovery of a tower and city wall found in the river bed near the Fire Station.
CITY TOWER DISCOVERED
At the Hales Street entrance from New Buildings the foundations of a City Tower was discovered at a depth of about 12 feet. This tower was actually in the river bed at a short distance from the flood gates. As I expected, the city wall was also discovered at this point, but the tower had not been known. On searching the Leet book, however, I found it mentioned in 1457 as Priory Tower.
The city wall in its original form was less than 3 miles in circumference, but in 1462 to 1480 it was enlarged, each important dwelling being surrounded, viz; The White Friars, The Grey Friars, St. John's Church, and Benedictine Monastery. It is the Benedictine Monastery of which I want to speak. The wall was built round its northern borders about 1403, during the mayorship of John Smythier. From Cook Street Gate it came to the corner of the new part of the Fire Station (please note the Priory Tower or Swanswell Tower of to-day was not built until the other tower was pulled down) then running in front of the Station to the river where the Priory Tower then stood. From there the wall ran to the east, and quite a large portion is still under Messrs. Newark's, the timber merchants while another part is still in the ground running to the south up New Buildings. This part may have been a lean-to wall staying the tower, or otherwise made for holding back some of the water of Priory Pool.
In 1480, Prior Deram made a number of complaints to the City; in fact, he seems to have made them wholesale. In 1479, during the mayorship of William Shore, he said that he had "lodged a bill of complaints, and altho' numerous, many more could be found." His complaints were, that the Trinity and Corpus Christi Guilds had kept back rents, etc., which were due to the Prior and Convent. That the Tripartite - an agreement betwixt the Prior, Queen Isabelle, and the Mayor, regarding Whitmore Park, had been broken. The answer was that it had not been so, and that the people had always enjoyed the right to get broom, ferns, firs, turfs, gravel, sand, etc, at any time they required them. Other complaints were regarding the number of cattle turned onto the common of Hasilwood, the breaking down of the Prior's gates, hedges, and woods, also, the throwing of dung and filth into the river, thus utterly stopping the Prior's mill and the flood gates, whilst the smell was such that the brethren of the Monastery were hurt thereby. Also between Gosford Gate and Harnall, the people stopped up the bridges, took horses that ate up the grass, broke down the hedges, trampled the corn, and hunted and hawked in his warrens.
More of the complaints and about the Tower in next month's issue.
The complaints of the Prior were many, and besides the complaints mentioned in the article last month, he said that they broke open the gates at Spittlemore letting out his cattle, and made it a general sporting place, and when rebuked, they gave the Prior and his servants short language, saying that they would keep it as a sporting place. Fishing in the Swanswell was another complaint, as they took the fish by stealth, and thus caused great loss to the Church. They also washed in the pool, the Prior suggesting that it hurt the fish, but the citizens replied that it would help to fatten the fish.
Cook Street Gate came under the list of complaints, the Prior saying that the people placed a quantity of builders' rubble on the dung heaps, which the farmers carted away to their land, but refused to do so because of the rubble; also the gateway was blocked up, so that the Prior could not get through to his orchards (which would be near what is now Jesson Street).
The plumb house, where the lead was hammered out for roofs and windows, was claimed by the Prior, while the Church of St. Michael claimed it also, and possibly rightly so, because it stood in front of the Drapers' Hall, near Bayley Lane.
Regarding the story of the City Wall, the Prior stated that they had paid £10 per annum murage to the City Wall, and that the Corporation should have built 6 perches per year, whereas they had only built 2 perches, and that most of this money had gone to the repair of the wall on other land. The leet replied that they considered the people of the Monastery should be thankful, as the pulling down of the old wall, and including St. Osburg's pool (now the Pool Meadow) cost them 5 marks more than the first wall, and as the wall protected their Monastery grounds, and also that no other complaints had been made prior to that of Prior Shotswell in 1461-2.
The newly discovered Tower base would appear to be about the same size as the present Priory or Swanswell Tower. The river bed where it was discovered would at one time be a part of a pool of very large extent, and the ground to a great depth was of very marshy quality. To build a large stone building or gate would be impossible without a strong foundation, and to make such a foundation it required timber of great thickness.
PRIORY TOWER (Continued)
The timber was from large elm trees, with all branches trimmed off, and the trunks made into square beams, about 2-ft. 3-in. in width. The task of getting them in position must have been a clever feat in those days, for the marsh near the river was very deep and difficult. It must have required a lot of horse power as well as man power; quite a dozen horse shoes were found which had been pulled off in their struggling, some of these nearly new.
As digging proceeded, the timbers were uncovered, and found to form a massive foundation, smaller branches being morticed in the larger; the men found it very difficult to remove them, for as all the ground was not required they had to be cut off with axe and stubbing tools. Some of these timbers are under the causeway and roadway now. Two pieces cut off would weigh at least one ton each, and pulleys were fixed to lift them out - these timbers are now preserved.
At the time of building this tower at least three feet depth of water would have to be dealt with; no wonder that a number of shoe soles came from here, as well as the horse shoes. As the Priory Mill dam extended to the Tower, no horse road would be made through it, but boats were used on the pool, and in these the Prior and Convent would reach the tower. Three boat-hooks have been discovered during excavations The workmen evidently lost a lot of tools in those days, and as so much mud and water was there, if a tool was dropped it was difficult to find it - and numerous were the tools discovered.
Three tiers of stones with a plinth were found in position on the timbers, and at the side of the plinth the mason, or labourer, had placed his pick, and the rising water had covered it. The iron is of a fibrous nature, tough and sharp at one end, with a flat hammer like a collier's pick of to-day, at the other end. The shaft is of ash, and although one half is split from top to bottom into small pieces, the other half is quite good and tough, and could even be used on light work to-day. Quite a number of bill-hooks were found, some in good condition, but no wood handles on. These are of very similar shape as of to-day. Scores of iron pins with heads and a hole for a small pin at the other end were found. These would be for shutter pins, and were made the same as shutter pins of to-day. Large and small nails were in abundance.
PRIORY TOWER (Continued)
One piece of wood which was found was so straight that it was probably a level. Many hammers were brought to light, one with claws like a blacksmith's hammer, and with the shaft complete, made of ash, which could be even now of serviceable use. Blacksmiths' punches, horses' bits, harness buckles, spurs, stirrups, a large brass bowl pinched at the rim with pliers, a "bleeding" bowl of pewter and small razor complete, a number of knives with maker's marks, pewter spoons, and other articles too numerous to mention. Under the floor of the tower, which was of stone, and about nine inches thick, was a spoke-shave, and the small hammer which would be used in tapping the knife in or out as required - it is very crude, having an oak frame, with an iron knife. I should be glad to know if any other similar has been discovered of this age or period.
The foundations of this gate have been revealed during this past month. New Gate was the first gate to be built, and the tenth Mayor of Coventry, Richard Stoke, laid the first stone. It was the gate leading to London, therefore a very important one. For thirteen years the White Friars had stood unprotected, and now this wall and gate were to enclose it. The Friars helped in the building of the wall, and also it was their duty to keep it in repair from New Gate to Gosford Gate. This gate was taken down in 1762. It was here where Charles I. tried to enter the City, failing in the attempt. A roadway running from the inner gate of the White Friars to New Gate and White Friars Lane (possibly on the site of the present White Friars Street) was called "Batchelor's Walk."
A round tower stood at the corner of Gulson Road, and formed part of the White Friars Church, where a spire stood on a tower containing bells; but another round tower stood at the corner of the wall where it turned northwards at the bottom of Gulson Road, where Herbert's Row stood on the foundations of the wall. The foundations of this tower have recently been discovered. The round tower was 15-ft, to 20-ft. in width. It is said there were thirty-two towers, and also twelve or thirteen gates.
Since the finding of the bridge at the bottom of Palmer Lane, another footpath has been revealed at a distance of about 10 yards to the west of the bridge. A number of piles had been driven in a very marshy place at a depth of about 12 feet, and on the top of the piles large stones of great hardness had been placed, and would probably lead to a narrow foot-bridge crossing the river, thus making four crossings within about 30 yards. A Norman pot was found near here, though imperfect.
Burgess derives its name from "Bridges," of which there were two in the Burgess valley which carried the river Sherbourne and the river Albert, or Naul's Mill stream, through to the Priory Pool, which worked the Prior's Mill. This relates to a much earlier time than the present Burgess, and points to a ford, and not bridges, being the original road leading to Well Street, Silver Street, and Bishop Street. This ford was at a depth of 12-ft. 6-in. from the present level, and about 1-ft. under the present river bed; it was also about 10 yards to right of the Burgess going towards the north, and lay under the present houses and shops built there in 1792-4. Large beams from old Saxon houses had been placed in the river bed, and sunk so as not to stop the flow of the water, and on these large rough hewn planks 15-ft. in length had been placed, so that horses walked through the water on a solid foundation for feet and wheels.
It will be interesting to trace the road each way from this site, and find where it joins up to Well Street and Broadgate. Over this course the main traffic of the Monastery would come, as their drinking water had to be carted from the Broad well in Well Street long before the conduit of 1333 was built round it, and possibly even to the Nunnery, which stood on the same site long before. It will be no exaggeration to say that this ford was existent in the time of Earl Leofric and Countess Godiva, and no doubt they crossed it many times. Post and planks found are preserved for a future museum.
NOTE - As further discoveries are made articles will be printed in due course giving particulars of them.
THE WHITE FRIARS
Excavations during this month (June) at the site of the White Friars Church have revealed the foundations. The Church stood at the top of the present Gulson Road, and joined up to the City wall, where a tower stood, now the lodge entrance. The foundations extend from the entrance to the lodge in a southerly direction, and the other side of the Church foundations were discovered a few years ago at a depth of 8-ft. near the wall of Mr. Elliott's garage, formerly the Dog and Gun Inn, The road originally called White Friars Mill Lane would run a little further south, and possibly close to a windmill which stood on the hill, belonging to Simon Cooke, while the ditch would join up to the Church. In digging near the Church wall the ditch was also discovered, and a number of 14th century encaustic tiles were found.
In 1506 Sir Thomas Poultney of Misterton, in Leicestershire, willed that his body be buried in the chancel of this Church, and that at his funeral 24 poor men were to carry torches bearing his arms upon them, while each man was to wear a smock with a libberd's (leopard) head on, behind and before. In 1873 some of the inmates of the institution were digging on this spot for stone when two skeletons were discovered (a man and a woman) lying side by side; probably these were the remains of Sir Thomas and his wife. A daughter of this Sir Thomas Poultney is buried at Monks Kirby Church.
There has just come into my possession what is thought to be the font of the White Friars, and after its varied uses for 600 years still in good preservation. At one time it was used as a horse trough under the pump of the Monastery, afterwards being used in a blacksmith's forge as a cooling tank. Later it has been used as a flower bowl in a park garden, and on the moving of the present institution to Pinley, in a short time I trust it will find a place again at the Monastery.
P.S. - In last month's article "Burgess" should read "Burges."
THE MEETING HOUSE, SMITHFORD STREET
This building was originally called "The Great Meeting." In 1672, when Dr. Green, of St. Michael's Church, and Dr. Bryan, of Holy Trinity Church, were expelled from their churches, the congregation met for worship wherever possible until 1687, when King James granted liberty of worship to the Roman Catholics and Protestant Dissenters; after this they commenced to worship in the large Hall in West Orchard, called St. Nicholas Hall, Corpus Christi Hall, or more commonly called the Leather Hall. This hall was of great importance in the mediaeval period, and the Leet was sometimes held there. Seats were erected, and for a period of thirteen years they worshipped there, calling themselves Presbyterians.
In 1690, William Tong, a friend and biographer of the celebrated Matthew Henry, came to Coventry, and after ten years of preaching at the Leather Hall, commenced in 1700 to build the "Great Meeting" in Smithford Street, at the south east of the Leather Hall. The cost was £800 for the ground and the houses in Smithford Street which were demolished, and the building, which held 1000 persons. Matthew Henry preached here, on passing through Coventry,
The giving of this short story was necessary in view of what I shall have to say about the excavations on this site in next month's issue of the Magazine. It has often been said that the Meeting House was built on a part of the Leather Hall, but as this hall was not under the destroyer's hammer until seven years after the Great Meeting was built, it proves the surmise to be wrong.
EXCAVATIONS ON SITE OF THE MEETING HOUSE
My last article dealt with the building of the Great Meeting House; now I want to describe what excavations reveal. For many years it has been said that beneath the Meeting House there was a crypt in good condition, that people had entered it and that it contained stones for holding leather, also that the places where knives were sharpened were to be seen. This crypt was said to be a part of the Leather Hall, and even the "house-breakers" were warned of its presence. I myself thought a crypt was there, but did not think it was once part of the Leather Hall. I quote W. Reader, who in his history of Coventry says - "The Presbyterian Dissenters, ever since such liberty had been granted by the late King James, had holden their meetings at St. Nicholas Hall, in West Orchard, where they had erected seats and galleries; but as this was an inconvenient situation, they built in 1701 a very decent and commodious Meeting House in Smithford Street, near to the said Hall, which with the purchase of the old houses cost about £800. Here it still remains."
A right of way ran between the Meeting House and this Hall, the deeds of which I have in my possession. In 1738 the ruins were sold in "fee farm" by the Corporation to William Freeman for £55 5s. and the deed signed by Samuel Eburne, Mayor, when the brick buildings now standing on large stone foundations were built. More will be said about the Hall in our issue next month.
Under the Meeting House were several places where the clay had been dug to a depth of 10 to 12 feet - no doubt the clay was for puddle for walls. Into these holes was thrown the cattle dung from the sheds, and in one place a mare and foal had been buried together, while evidently a quantity of faggots had been used in trying to burn them. One shoe from a fore-foot was found, and in the next pit a shoe of the 15th century was found in good condition. Its pointed toe was turned up, and to keep it stiffened when kneeling, a quantity of moss had been forced into it; near by a piece of mediaeval lead, about l1/2-in. bore, was found; this pipe was cast in the flat in lengths of 6 or 7 feet, and folded over, with the joint hammered and welded very skilfully into a piece on the top; the ends were placed together, and a large joint made flat on the top, wiped round underneath, and standing out from the pipe about one inch. This lead would most likely be brought from Derbyshire on pack horses, and would contain silver. Its use I think would be to carry the water from the conduit which stood in Smithford Street to the Leather Hall. This conduit stood near the White Horse Inn, and was under the care of the occupants of the Black Bull Inn, just opposite. Its water supply may have been from St. Katherine's well on the conduit head at the top of the Holyhead Road, which supplied the conduit near St. John's Church, afterwards Conduit Yard, and another conduit where Spon End schools now stand.
In 1487 one Thomas Harrington (an organ maker's son at Oxford, who had called himself the son of the Duke of Clarence) was brought a prisoner to this city on the Wednesday after St. Peter's Day; he was afterwards beheaded on the conduit opposite "The Bull," and buried at the Grey Friars, Warwick Lane. Why they should behead a man on the site which held their drinking water we cannot understand, but such was life in those days.
In the right of way at the west side of the Meeting House a large wine barrel was buried, its bottom being taken out, and the top put into the ground about ten feet, with two bung holes left open for drainage. It is a common occurrence to find these tubs, which were used as rubbish tips. The oak sides and bottom were in good condition after five or six hundred years in the earth. On examining the widest piece at the bottom a mark in the form of a star was found, as though it may have been "star brand."
In last month's issue, for Dr. Green read "Dr. Grew," and for 1672 read "1662."
EXCAVATIONS ON SITE OF THE MEETING HOUSESince writing my last article no other digging on this site has been done, but on the site of St. Nicholas, Corpus Christi, or Leather Hall, quite a lot of stone has been taken in good condition, and I hope it may find its way to some outdoor museum in Coventry. No other digging is to be done on the site of this Hall. In 1423, when money was being raised for warfare for Henry the Fifth, a Hall of 48 discreet persons was held in the St. Nicholas Hall, and the Mayor, Henry Peyto, received from them the sum of £33 2s. raised in the different wards. The sum should have been £40, but 20s. was forgiven in each ward, This Hall was extensively used in the 17th century for housing soldier prisoners brought into Coventry.
EXCAVATIONS ON THE SITE OF ST. JOHN'S HOSPITAL
Some two years ago excavations took place at the north side of St. John's Hospital, near where the Swine's Cross stood, once the site of the pig market. In the destruction of the old houses quite a lot of stone figures were discovered, which had probably been brought from the Monastery, but these I am sorry to say found their way to the refuse tip. Excavations of 12 or 13 feet in depth did not reveal much, but not the less it was interesting. A number of boot soles and black unglazed pottery of Norman or Saxon period were found, as also a dog or goat's leather collar with brass decorations on, and a number of plain glazed tiles of the 13th century. One outstanding article found was a stone lamp about 81/2-ins. high and 51/2-ins. across, with a bowl 4-ins. deep, and with ivy decorations round the base and on the bowl. This has been submitted to Mr. P. Chatwin, of Leamington, who states it to be a Norman lamp, of which only one other is known to exist of similar construction (from Kenilworth Castle) and has been exhibited at Birmingham with the one in my possession. It is made of white limestone, possibly from near Rugby, and is in perfect condition. In the bowl are marks of burning, as though the wick had burnt low into the oil. Did this lamp light the Chapel, or did it light the poor wayfarers in St. John's Hospital ?
Next month I shall write about the Barracks Square.
EXCAVATIONS ON SITE OF ST. JOHN'S HOSPITALOne important discovery was not mentioned in my article last month. At a depth of 10 feet a large quantity of oak beams and planks were found, morticed together, and at that time (about two years ago) I thought it may have been part of foundations for a building or a bridge, but since finding the wooden ford in the river near the Burges, mentioned a few months ago, I believe this to be a part of the same roadway. Did this roadway lead to the quarries of Broadgate, or a quarry discovered beneath the old cellars of Messrs. Caldicott & Feltham at the top of Palmer Lane ? or is it a part of the roadway discovered in 1818 in Broad-gate, at a depth or 8 feet, which at that time was stated to be a Roman road ? In fact a coin of Nero was found there, and also a small figure supposed to be Roman.
BLACK BULL INN
This site was once a large valley, and part of the Poddy Croft. Across it once ran the City Wall in a direct line from Grey Friars Gate at the bottom of Warwick Lane to Spon Gate near the Bablake or St. John's Church. The wall was discovered in the gateway leading into the Square, and in digging for the New Market a quantity of stone was discovered just outside the hoardings, which I believe to be a small tower of the wall shown on Speed's map of 1610, which tower gave a right of road to the Bull Inn. As it is two and a half years since I wrote the story of the Bull Inn, may I repeat myself for the benefit of any new readers? This Inn stood in Smithford Street, and a record in picture is to be seen. Its site was where Woolworths now stands. The old barracks was built on the site in 1793. In 1485 Henry the Seventh visited the Inn with part of his army on his return from Bosworth Field, where he was conqueror over Richard the Third. At that time Robert Olney held the Inn, being Mayor part of 1484-5, and after presenting King Henry with £100 he was knighted. This Robert Olney was also Mayor in 1474. In 1569 Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned at the Bull Inn for two months. In 1642 the Earl of Northampton had to escape through the back doorway of the Inn when he found the Cromwellians held Coventry. The Gunpowder Plotters paid a visit also on November 4th, and hoped to have captured the Princess Elizabeth, who as a girl of 10 years was being educated at Coombe Abbey, by Lord Harrington. The story runs thus:
Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of James I., was well known to the plotters as being educated under Lord Harrington at Coombe Abbey. On Nov. 4th, 1605, there arrived at the Bull Inn one named Wyntour, and two brothers Lyttleton, along with about two more. Their plan was to meet as though for the purpose of hunting at Dunsmore Heath, where in the quiet of the country they might secretly make their way across Stretton towards Coombe, and knowing Coombe was not fortified, there was little to stop their plan, which was to take the Princess to Ashby St. Ledgers, where Catesby's mother lived, and there she was to be married to a Catholic, and then placed on the throne as Queen.
BLACK BULL INN
Expecting to hear of the death of her father, and little knowing the plot had been discovered, and the Princess being safely hidden only five hundred yards from the Bull Inn, they proceeded on their journey, only to learn "too late" the plot was discovered, and although the rider from London covered the ground in less than eight hours on relays of horses to warn them, it was too late, and none evaded capture for long. Meanwhile, the Mayor of Coventry, Matthew Collings, with a number of armed men, (with armour now in St. Mary's Hall), stood in readiness to receive the Princess at the Crown House, now called Palace Yard, where the Hopkins family resided for close on 200 years. The gates of the city were guarded, and the Princess arrived by Gosford Gate, in the charge of Lord Holcroft, who was paying a visit to Coombe, and was hidden in an inner room,
Little did the plotters know that the Princess was safely housed within 500 yards of their plotting place, the ''Black Bull Inn." Much excitement was created at Coventry when it was known to the people. It would be interesting to know which room the Princess slept in; possibly King James' room, as it would be the farthest from the street. In the museum at Hill Street there is to be seen a wooden crown, which is said to have been in her room at the "Crown House". A few years ago a stone head was dug up in a garden close by and has the appearance of a king's head, with a crown. This no doubt has at some time been plastered to a wall at the "Crown House". It is now in the possession of Messrs. T. Bushill & Sons, Ltd.
The Princess had on leaving Coventry a present made by the Corporation of Coventry of two bullocks worth £18. Why such a present it is hard to under-stand, unless they were for a bullock conveyance which may have been used to bring her from Coombe.
One of her school companions at Coombe was Lord John Harrington, the son of her guardian, who was three or four years older than the Princess. Their teacher was one named Tovey, who was previously a master at the Grammar School, Hales Street. This teacher, in years after, travelled in Spain with Lord John, and while there the Jesuits administered a slow poison, which proved fatal to Tovey shortly on his return, and Lord John being younger fought it for a few years, but at last died as a result.
James I., father of the Princess, gave permission to Lord Harrington to mint farthings, in return for his care of the Princess. Lord Harrington also held large shares in a factory for making tapestry, of which several fine specimens are in Coombe Abbey, now in the possession of Mr. J. G. Gray.
BLACK BULL INN
The excavations for the new market revealed how the ground had been filled in from time to time. At the corner nearest the old hospital buildings the depth of the natural soil was found at 9ft. 6ins. Also at the same spot the back roadway, shown on Bradford's map of 1735, was found at a depth of 5ft. 6ins. This was made of large stones which would be most suitable, as the ground was very marshy. The rick yard stood at the corner, outside the present building, nearest to the Arcade.
A number of the holes dug were found to have been quarried for clay, and in some cases had even reached the stone at a depth of 15ft. 6ins. Springs of water welled up in most of the holes, of which there were 50 or more. The digging had been done about the fourteenth or fifteenth century. The filling-in of that period corresponds with so many other places mentioned, viz., dung heaps and pieces of cattle sheds. As usual in such filling boots were very plentiful, some with tops and soles together and even the laces, but the flax stitching rotted away. Some tops were decorated, and pieces of leather cut from the hides and thrown away were in good preservation, in fact as good as the leather of to-day, or even better than some sold to-day. Two bone needles were found and the skeleton of a horse. Only a small quantity of pottery came to light and a fourteenth or fifteenth century spur with the heel strap in good condition. Riveted on to the strap were a number of buckles for decorations. One piece of a fourteenth century encaustic tile was found, also a boar's jaw in good condition.
In 1641 the "Bull Inn" was held by Norton Hanson, and a rent charge of 3/4 per year was given to Ford's Hospital. As this is the last Article on the "Black Bull Inn," I will describe the back way for their farm vehicles and cattle. The "Bull Fields," now partly used as a goods station and part as building land, including Regent Street, Grosvenor Road and Westminster Road, were held by them and derives its name in that way. The road commenced at the west end of the present Arcade, running on the outside of the rick yard, almost on the spot at present used for a road, turning to the south at the corner and running on the front of New Market, then between the "Geisha Cafe" and "Peeping Tom Inn," where it crossed through the site of the factory of Curtis & Beamish to the Grey Friars' Gate, at the bottom of Warwick Lane.
The field out of which Hertford Street was cut in 1814 was called the "Big Crab Tree Field," and was being used as gardens when Hertford Street was made, On the right of the gate were thirteen houses with wooden framework, belonging to Christopher Devonport. These were pulled down in 1643 and rebuilt in Warwick Lane, which, up to that time, was a lane only. This was a boundary of the Grey Friars' burial ground; with just one small place belonging to the Grey Friars, where the bell may have been rung for the dirges. This has been rebuilt and called the "Cheylesmore Inn," once "Bell Inn."
Where the monument of Sir Thomas White stands was a pond, at which their cattle would drink; on the right hand side, now "Sibree Hall" site, were several small fields, two of these, I believe, were called the "Little Crab Tree Fields." A drawing of 1731 shows hay being carted through the Grey Friars Gate to the ''Bull Inn."
About the eighteenth century the Barracks Square was made into a bowling green, and in 1793 the Barrack was built on its site.
Next month I hope to say more about the excavations in the river and St. Osburg's Pool.
BUTCHER ROW AND ITS SURROUNDINGS
I ended my last story by saying I would give an article on the excavations in the river at Pool Meadow and "St. Osburg's Pool," which was where Pool Meadow now stands, but, owing to heavy rains the excavations have been delayed, and I thought my readers would like to know some of the history of the Butcher Row site.
Commencing at the top end stands a beautiful Georgian house, now Messrs, Hilton's, built 1726. Next on the left is the Inn, built about the same time. Then comes Clarke's wine shop, built at a later period, over old cellars of a former building; these cellars run under the tram lines in the Cross. Next come several later buildings and then a Georgian house, used for many years as a barber's shop. A few larger and more modern buildings stand next, with an old half-timbered house built about 1649, this was Garlick's, the tinsmiths - once a top hat shop. At this date a number of houses were built on the site adjoining these. The next house was used by Mr. Jacobs and was once the dwelling house of Mr. Lazarus Podesta. This house was of great age, but had a new front built. In 1817 a butcher named Thomas Lawson lived there and part of this old place collapsed; the butcher being in bed was killed by the fall. Next came a more modern place used by Mr. Jacobs, but built on the site of an older building. This was used as a store for Messrs. John Astley and Sons, one of the oldest firms in Coventry, being established in 1730.
The corner house in Little Butcher Row was a 17th century house and was occupied for a number of years by Mr. and Mrs. McCutcheon, the parents of the well-known family of Jordan Well Fruiterers. The other buildings running towards West Orchard are modern, but standing on old foundations. I believe that Little Butcher Row was once called Sleepers Lane. Under the corner house at the end of Little Butcher Row are the old foundations of a former house, where Henry Bremo or Simon Dammas lived in 1480. Will Sleepers Lane reveal a burial ground near by? Time will tell.
Coming back from Little Butcher Row stands a very high 4-storey house built about the middle of the 17th century. It looks as though it would topple over; it was, for a time, the home of the once well-known hawker, Mr. Fred Neal, better known as Georgie Neal, who was a vendor of thyme and sage, or peas which, bought very cheaply from the Railway Co. after being hot with the delay in trucks, he sold in the darkness in the side streets. His old black pony, coloured brown by the mud of Whitley Common, was a well-known animal. Neal's voice would awaken the dead, as he called his wares. Next to this house was a low building, possibly built 1642, and lately used as a leather stores. Its end came to the Bull Ring, while a high overhanging house stands next in the Ring, right opposite to the Priory door. This house was no doubt the first to be built on that site after the dissolution of the Monastery. It was built by Thomas Grascome in 1558 and 6/8 per year came from this house to Ford's Hospital.
BUTCHER ROW AND ITS SURROUNDINGS. (Continued.)
The name of Thomas Grascome is painted on the board at the Grey Friars' or Ford's Hospital as a benefactor. In 1825 William Hindman lived in this house. The house is very interesting to me, because history records that it was built adjoining the "Meal Hall," an ancient building where, I believe, the meal would be served out to the poor. It stood right opposite the Priory Cathedral door, where in 1448 the Poulterers were allowed to sell their victuals in the "Little Butchery." On the 17th of January, 1936, this "Meal House" has been revealed with its old oak beams and its wattle and daub. It forms the back premises to the front house, and in a later period has had a bakehouse close by. I find other Monasteries had a "Meal Hall" or "Meal House." Could it speak, what a story it could tell! The next row of houses running to the corner of Ironmonger Row were built on a site belonging to the "Meal Hall" by Goodall, Chief Constable of Coventry in 1819.
A drawing has just been discovered showing an old medieval house on this site, with corner of oak timbers carved similar to the old house next St. Mary's Hall and also corner of New Street.
On the opposite side, at the corner of Palmer Lane, stood the "Guest House," which was destroyed in 1820. It extended from the corner of Palmer Lane to the "Golden Lion" Inn. This was a rest house for the Pilgrims, and one can imagine both the Monks and Pilgrims looking from the windows (which happily Coventry still possesses) at the gruesome bull baiting which was so common a pastime in those days, and which is kept in memory by the name of the "Bull Ring." Adjoining the Guest House was an old inn built about 1642, called the "Golden Lion." Under this house are the cellars that once joined the Guest House and had a doorway leading under the roadway to where the Gibney boot repairing shop was, linking up their cellars with the West door of the Priory Church. The inn was in 1848, as also in 1873, called the "Golden Lion Museum." Its landlord was a taxidermist and had a wonderfully valuable collection of birds, animals, insects, etc., to which the public had free access. He also had a select harmonic company on Monday and Saturday evenings. D. Smith was the proprietor at this time, I am sorry to say the old cellars have been filled in without a photographic record being taken.
Coming now to the site of the Gibney on the east side of the Bull Ring, I find the old cellars reached to the Priory Church door. This door with its fine archway leading to the Cathedral was destroyed in the middle of the 18th century by a woman who built the inn called the "Spotted Dog." Evidently no building stood there up to that time. After the arch had been destroyed the Corporation of that day demanded she should re-build it, but that was never carried out.
BUTCHER ROW AND ITS SURROUNDINGS. (Continued.)
I find on searching the cellars that the stone pillars are left and still contain one gate hook complete and another partly corroded away. It was near this door that the Leet gave permission for the Poulterers to sell victuals in 1448. The Meal Hall mentioned stood right in front. The next houses and shops lately occupied as a paper and toy shop and fish bar are more modern; whether any older building stood here I am not able to say at present. The next house at the corner of Butcher Row and Priory Row is possibly the oldest house in the row. It is said that it was built by the Rev. Bryan, in 1649, but that cannot be so, as Speed's map of 1610 shows it. It may be that when the Rev. Bryan built the one on opposite corner of Priory Row, where he lived, that he also restored the old house, and while no wattle will be found in his house, yet the older one, which no doubt belonged to the Monastery, is filled in every niche and corner with wattle.
The next two houses are of modern building, but both had a ring for pulling down the cattle. In the taller house with the white door pillars, in Trinity Lane, Alderman Bates was born.
The next block of half timbered houses, with their interesting barge boards, are of the 14th to 15th century period. The back room in Trinity Lane was where Isaac Cohen and his wife lived for a number of years. Isaac was a trunk maker, and it was here the first Jewish Synagogue known in Cov-entry was held. Isaac died in 1802, aged 107 years, while his wife died in 1800, aged 102 years. This whole block is made up of wood and clay, and although myriads of beetles have bored the wood, yet some of the beams are in excellent preservation. On examination of the clay I find most of the binding is coarse hay and, in some cases, pea straw, which was in very common use for strewing the church floors in cold weather. The old hand-made key of one of these houses was found at the back of the 17th century panelling.
Coming to the top houses, including Mr. Kimberley's fish shop. These have had a new front put in, about the 17th century, but the inner part is hundreds of years older and more decayed than any of the others. This may be because the roofing has been in bad condition for many years and has let in the sunshine and the rain. The place has at sometime been prized by its owner, for a large quantity of beautifully carved panelling in good condition was found there. This was of 16th to 17th century, and may find a new place in St. Mary's Hall.
The following are the names of the twelve butchers living in Butcher Row in 1850: - Thomas Brown, George Foster, Joseph Hill, Walter Rollick, David Lord, Daniel Moore, Samuel Morris, Thomas Smith, George Tutton, Henry Wale, John White, Thos. White.
About 70 years ago, when some children after school hours were pulling a beast down to the ring, the rope broke, and the terrified beast made off through the opening at the top of Butcher Row, through Broadgate and Hertford Street, to Warwick Road and Kenilworth Road, never stopping until exhausted, and was shot at Kenilworth.
BUTCHER ROW AND ITS SURROUNDINGS (Continued.)
Excavations in the Cross are going on apace and are revealing an old quarry where stone was hewn. The formation of the stone is of a very irregular shape and some five or six hundred years ago the top stone had no doubt been quarried for the City walls, which were commenced near the Fire Station in 1404, as stated in a former article, but at Bishop Street some of the wall was not finished in 1432, for the Leet states that John Clarke gave permission to build the wall on his ground (near the present Co-operative stables) and 30 people witnessed his grant; but afterwards Mr. Clarke changed his mind and said the wall should not go that way. However, a Hall of 73 Townspeople was called together by William Byfield, Mayor, and amongst them was one of the Botoner family and John Olney, who kept the "Black Bull," in Smithford Street. This Hall of important persons demanded the land for the said wall.
The stone now being quarried is of a very hard nature, similar to stone which was left in our old Cemetery and was too hard for the mediaeval tools to work. In some places the rock has been left rising in hillock form and reveals a number of places where the softer stone has been got out in large pieces. In some places a large mis-shaped stone lies at the bottom where it was hewn, and one stone was found almost the shape of a coffin lid. In some places it has been quarried about 15 to 17 feet and afterwards filled in with the fine marl and soil. One reason why I think it was used for the City Wall is that no small pieces of stone are found in the rubble, as they were required for the centre of the walls and would all be gathered up for that purpose. These were cemented together by pouring lime in the crevices in liquid form, and to-day this lime is found much harder than the stone they used.
Several pieces of pottery of the fourteenth century have been found, also two stone hones for sharpening knives, but I expect to find very little else, if the fillings in of the quarry consist of the heavy material which is now being found. I had hoped to find an old roadway or some part of it, but in only one place is a small road found and although it compares in depth and width with this road beneath Harveys' the leather merchants, in Ironmonger Row, it is of so small an area that I cannot be certain it is the road. There is little doubt that the present road has been quarried, and no houses are to be found there of more than fifteenth century period. Examples of that period are England's boot shop, with its new front, and Franks, the opticians, with the figure carved out of the solid oak. No bridges existed, but the road made of wood running through the river, mentioned in a previous article.
The methods of quarrying in the mediaeval period was to drill holes in stone and place lime in, sealing the hole with a plug, and in due time the lime burst the stone; or they drove in wood wedges, pouring water over them to cause swelling and thus burst the stone. On the Park Side is to be seen the same action in brick work, where wood posts have been built close up to the bricks in Mr. Oldfield's factory.
More about the quarry next month.
EXCAVATIONS IN THE CROSS
Since writing my last article work has been going on, both day and night, employing about 50 men. Every five minutes there are tons of material brought to the surface and the work is watched by crowds of onlookers from the edges of the quarry. Electric drills and man-swung hammers and picks are unceasingly trying to reach the depths required, viz., 27 feet at the north end and 35 feet in the south. The correct depth has been reached at the north end and marl has been found beneath the stone.
As usual, in all excavations of any size, wells have been found, three in number up to the present and all about the same period, viz., 16th to 17th century. One well is only 20 feet deep, 17 feet of this being brickwork and 3 feet in the rock. Another is 17 feet but possibly another 17 feet in the rock and marl. This well contained water and was not filled in. A sounding of the depth was not taken from the bottom of the brickwork and it is yet to be found how deep it is sunk. The other well is not yet being dealt with, save at the top which has been filled in with old wood piles and pieces of pottery of the pinched base 14th century ware. At the south-west side, near Broadgate, opposite Messrs. Deans and Simsons, the rock has only been quarried to the bottom of the cellars, then, running a few yards to the east, it has been quarried with a straight side to a depth yet unknown At this place, at a depth of 17 to 18 feet, I have dug out wood piles of a cattle shed, while near this spot either the farmers, or the quarry men of the 14th century, did their cooking. Charcoal in great quantities, small pieces of pottery and bones of sheep, deer or goats, were found in large numbers. A little distance from this, beneath the foundations of Messrs. Allwood's another shed has been found and also a cattle dung heap, 7 or 8 feet in depth, while small pieces of pottery and boots of the 15th century are found in the heap.
Beneath Messrs. West's old shop, nearer Broadgate, is a cellar beneath a cellar, hewn out of the solid rock with a stone top. What this cellar was used for is not yet known. A wall of stone, with clay for mortar, is built up to the roof about 6 feet from the end, and only a small opening is yet made in the wall. Thralls have been built in this cellar about the 16th century. When the buildings are taken down to release the weight that now rests on the arches, Mr. J. Ford, the City Engineer, will have the cellar opened out to see if anything can throw light on its use. Its depth is about 20 feet below Broadgate. Its uses may have been (1) a Saltpetre house, as Saltpetre was found in Coventry; (2) a storehouse for meat, as all cattle not required for breeding or milking were killed off and salted in the autumn; (3) a hiding place during the attacks on the City, or a munition dump; (4) a tomb, as it is very near to the Church.
Only one human skull has been dis-covered up to the present, but 80 or 90 years ago a great number were found in the sewering of Butcher Row.
More of the quarry next month.
EXCAVATIONS IN THE CROSS
Night and day the noisy drills penetrate the hard stone, and massive timbers are being reared at the sides to hold them in safety. In one place where loose soil formed the side, a large piece of stone smashed the timbers to matchwood. There were only about three minutes warning, just long enough to get the men away and remove the engine crane on the top which very narrowly escaped falling down into the quarry.
Near the cattle shed, which I mentioned in my June article, large oak timbers have been unearthed, at a depth of 12ft. 6ins., which no doubt were the main stays of a house, and even under this was found the skeleton of a horse. The house was built on black soil, while about 3ft. lower the quarry fillings commence. To-night, the 23rd June, they have not reached the bottom of the quarry, even at a depth of 30 feet.
I said in my last article that goats' horns had been found; since then a goat's skin has been found in the black filling This skin was wrapped in folds, therefore, except for the last folds, it was quite clean. A child's boot, complete, save for the stitches, was unearthed and two plats of grass, which are in good condition. These plats were stitched together for beds and mats. Other pottery came to light also.
The extreme south end is not to be so deep, therefore I cannot say whether the black filling from which my articles usually come will be dug out.
Now the new road is being commenced other things are being revealed. I spent some time on the 17th June in the Guest House Crypt and found about 20 tiles with the Beauchamp Coat of Arms. Mr. P. Chatwin, the noted Church architect, thinks that probably the Beauchamp family built this Crypt. The floors are being removed from over the cellars of the old houses on the east side of Butcher Row and old stone foundations come to light. One wall is 2ft. 6ins. in width and extends down Priory Row to corner of Butcher Row, and is built on the solid rock. From the made up soil in this cellar human bones are being unearthed, and also on the extreme south-east of the quarry, just above Little Butcher Row, or Sleeper's Lane, a part of a human skull was sheared off with the spade in trimming down the sides. Sewers are to be made down the footpaths of the street, so digging will reveal what is quarried or otherwise.
Near Trinity Church is Trinity Lane, where at less than a depth of two feet quite a lot of human remains have been turned up. In a cellar built of the stone from the old Cathedral, destroyed in 1538, is a number of encaustic tiles used for packing the walls. One stone whorl, with one end straight instead of being oval as is usual, was found, also three wood wedges used for splitting the stone by wetting with water, and causing to swell after being driven into the natural cavities in the rock.
Near one of the cattle sheds two large pieces of oak lay flat on the ground as though used for prizing the stone, in the same way as iron bars are used to-day.
Another month will see the quarry nearly finished, and if anything else is found I will record this in the August issue of the Magazine.
EXCAVATIONS IN THE CROSS
Only a small portion of the quarry yet remains to be finished, and one interesting place will be excavated later in the month, and should it reveal any article I will report in next month's Magazine. Trinity Street has been commenced, and a new Broadgate is in the making. All old cellars are being filled in, while some of the stone walls are being demolished. In one wall of a cellar a mason's mark in the form of a cross was found; this in now in my yard, and differs from any other cross used as a mason's mark yet found. The deep cellar mentioned in the June issue of the Magazine has been broken into, but excavations did not reveal anything of importance, so its use still remains a mystery.
A number of brick and stone cellars run as far back as the tramlines under Broadgate, and they are being packed with solid material. Tiers of concrete are being made in each cellar by building a temporary brick open square from the solid, and pouring in the concrete. When finished, these will support strong girders, such as old tramlines, etc.
The sewers are being made, and at the bottom end of Trinity Street, at one time the Priors Pool, quite a lot of articles have been unearthed, such as pottery and leather; along with the base of a 14th century pinched base pot a very interesting piece of iron was discovered - this was a ring that carried the prop of a cart when not in use, showing the same method used to-day was used at least 600 years ago. From the north end to within a few yards of Ironmonger Row is made-up ground, so no old material is coming to light. Just at the south side of the boundary of the Pool (Smithfield Market) the piles of a cattle shed were found; this was part of a shed mentioned two years ago when I reported finding a skinner's knife, a butcher's knife, and a portion of a large vessel of the 14th century.
In Butcher Row and the Bull Ring the sewer on the east side is being made, and quite a lot of stone foundations are to be seen, one wall being 2-ft. 6-ins. in thickness, and the cellar floor made from the solid rock. In the centre of this cellar one part had been dug out, and human remains revealed.
When the floor-beams were taken of the cellar of the old half-timbered house on the right hand corner turning from Butcher Row into Priory Row, where the Rev. Bryan lived (who built the house in 1649), a very fine archway was discovered, showing how far the old Cathedral extended towards Holy Trinity Church, What this archway was for it is difficult to say; it may have been part of a tomb; quite a large part of the cellar was made of massive stonework.
The old 14th to 16th century crypt belonging to the Guest House has created great interest of late, when thousands of people trespassed over the dangerous ground to see the top being removed. Sewers are to be made through it.
Last month I reported Beauchamp tiles being found there, and now Mr. Chatwin informs me that one tile bears the Catesby coat of arms. Long before the Gunpowder Plot days the Catesby family were great people in this district and strange though it seems, we believe Catesby Lane joined the north end of Palmer Lane only 100 yards from this crypt. The groinwork with the massive stones on which it rested are to be rebuilt in an outdoor museum.
EXCAVATIONS IN THE CROSS
On the day I sent the copy for my last article to be printed a quantity of human remains were unearthed at the top end of Butcher Row. These have been interred near the spot where they were found.
A number of boots were discovered in a dung heap in the quarry. The large boots (one having the upper still held by the leather stitches) were 11-ins. long by 41/2-ins. wide, and a, child's boot 6-ins. long by 21/2-ins. wide. One can imagine some serf or villein using these by the very rough leather lace stitching which held them together.
Near the deep cellar before mentioned another cellar had been filled in about 200 years ago, but nothing of importance was found when it was cleared. The new street is taking shape, and the sewers nearly finished, so little more in "finds" is expected. However, a very interesting stone wall has been discovered close to the north side of the new river culvert. The bottom of the wall (which was seven feet wide) was not reached: It was made of stone and puddle clay; in the ground at one end a well had been sunk, which formerly supplied the cattle in Smith-field Market, and people also drank it. The water could not have been quite pure, as it was close to the old river, and near a paint factory, and even to-day on digging the trenches the odour of turps and paint is very strong, while the oil floats on the water in the trenches. This place was where turps or terebine was first manufactured in Coventry.
On this spot once stood Beck's ribbon factory, the first to use steam. Here in 1831 a number of persons, agitating over the wage question, forced an entrance to the factory, setting fire to it, and hurled the looms out of the windows into the Prior's Pool. Several men were sent to Van Diemen's Land, while Thomas Burbury and Benjamin Sparkes were condemned to death, but by the efforts of Mr. Ellice, M.P. for Coventry, a reprieve was granted.
Referring again to the wall, another section made of stone and lime ran towards Hales Street, and it is possible this wall linked up with the wide wall, but had been divided by the sinking of the well. A little higher up on the south side of the culvert another well was found. Small articles such as thimbles, tiles, boots, etc., are being found, but very little else now can be revealed. Should anything important come to light I will report in my next article, and if not, I shall give the story of further excavations in the river bed in Pool Meadow. Owing to the great demand on my time I am considering giving up my historical research at the end of the year, but shall give other articles until all the excavations have been recorded.
EXCAVATIONS IN TRINITY STREET
Nothing more is likely to come to light in the quarry, but in the new Trinity Street itself a number of things have been revealed. Quite a lot of pieces of stone used in the cellars of the houses in Butcher Row prove to have been used for the purpose of foundations, etc, after the destruction of the Monastery in 1538. Quite interesting are the designs, one piece being a corbel stone with a sculptor's design of a lion's head. A pair of 13th or 14th century scissors, made as at that time like shears, was found. The spring is as good as ever it was, and being embedded in black rubble, such as ashes, etc., they are not rusted in the same way, as if found in the soil. I believe that if they were sharpened they would yet cut material.
I reported in my last article that boots were being found. Since then scores of 13th to 14th century boots have been unearthed, sometimes as many as five to ten pairs within a small space. I am not certain whether I reported finding a boot called a penitential boot, with five leaden studs, possibly to represent the five wounds of Christ. Amongst the later finds is another boot containing two large iron studs. Whoever wore this did his best to avoid the studs by carrying the weight on his toes, and the indentation is yet to be seen at the toe part of the shoe. Quite a lot of pieces of pottery of the same period as the shoes are being thrown out, also wood skewers as good as if only made yesterday. As bones were not used then for manure as they are to-day, thousands came to light, in better condition than when they were buried, and as black as coal. Goats' heads and horns, deers' antlers, horses' heads with every tooth intact, and a bone pin in perfect condition.
This work is now held up for some time, and to finish my article for this month's issue of the Magazine I will give the story of the discovery of a road on the opposite side of Hales Street, the site for the new Hippodrome. Mr. Harris, who is at present excavating for the levelling of the site, and testing depths for foundations, very kindly gave me permission to watch the site. The men are digging through the gardens and orchards (the Chauntry Orchard). As Hales Street was only made in 1848, and named after John Hales (who owned nearly all the sites in Coventry belonging to the Monastery), and Sprigg's Row was built in 1815, it seems difficult to know which way people got to their houses. Speed's map shows on its list No. 22 as Glower's Lane. As this reference number is not shown on the actual map, a query arises, and I have often hoped the day would come when I could trace a road over the gardens. A month ago I asked the men to keep a look out for a pebble road leading towards Priory Gate, now called "Swanswell Gate," and about a week ago this was discovered leading in that direction. The houses standing next the Hippodrome having now their fronts to Hales Street, originally had their fronts at the other side, and even to the time of demolition had part of an insurance plate affixed, which always had to be on the front of property.
The archway in the Gate House was filled in about eighty years ago, to make it into a dwelling for a shop. The road came through the arch, across the present Hippodrome, and over this orchard to Catesby Lane and St. Agnes Lane - thus they reached their homes.
EXCAVATIONS IN TRINITY STREET
At one time a conduit stood at the lower end of Lady Herbert's Garden, and was called the Conduit Meadow, being 1 rood 38 poles in extent, and at one time belonged to Thomas Moon. The conduit was built by Bewley and Sargasson after part of the city wall had been razed, and in the wall can be seen the shuttle hole where the culvert was divided. I hope to find this culvert at a later period, unless the building line is set back too far. The culvert would empty its water into the Prior's Pool. Where the present Hippodrome stands, rising up to the string course of the city wall, an earthwork was made about 1424. You will notice steps are required to go through the new road made in the wall to the Chauntry side of the wall.
Since writing last month's article further developments have taken place on the site of Messrs. Owen & Owen's store. You will remember my notes about the refuse heap near the cattle sheds at the Broadgate end. The foundations required there were only 15 feet, but in digging it was found the refuse heap is 30 feet or more, and though intending bridging it over with girders they have found it necessary to dig all the refuse out. They find it still deepens to the south west side where no doubt hundreds of tons lie buried under the new street. On the top of the refuse heap boots and pottery of the 14th cent. were found and at a lower level 13th century, where what I believe to be the first Norman boots with a small pointed toe were found. Beneath that, large boots and black unglazed pottery regarding which there is a query about its age - it may be Norman, but I believe it to be earlier, viz. Saxon. In every case there are wide boots found with the black unglazed pottery at the lowest depths.
Many of the boots contained stitches of hemp and one had stitches of wool. These are the first boots I have found with the stitches intact - one top of a boot was still in position. One pair of boots had been worn at the side of the toes and patches stitched on which again were worn through in the same place, as though the wearer had some special work or knelt at prayer, which wore the toes out. When he discarded these boots the soles were in splendid condition save for the two holes, and the uppers were so good that he had cut them round the soles, and no doubt used them for a smaller pair. Other articles found were a bone comb possibly for wool, or it might have been a comb for a pony's mane. At the bottom of the quarry the remains of a small pony were found and part of a shoe it had worn. Its bones and teeth were quite as sound as when buried a thousand years ago. Another interesting article was a double hook which I believe to be silver. The rods were twisted for decoration and the hooks wonderfully made. At the top was a rounded piece with a hole as though for a nail to fasten to abeam, and may have been used in the Church. Another article was an oak flay for flaying skins. This is sharpened at the edge and has a handle cut out at one end, again this is as sound as when buried. Part of a bone pin, the point gone but the head cut square was another interesting article found. Two months ago I stated that it was necessary for me to give up my historical research, but things not then thought of have occurred, whereby I hope to continue in the work. Next month's article will deal with the finds in Trinity Street near the Crypt and also the reason for my continuing in the work.
EXCAVATIONS IN TRINITY STREET
Excavations have been going on in Trinity Street slowly, and sewers have been laid at a depth of 14 feet at the Ironmonger Row end. The crypt has been cut through, and the hard mortar, possibly Roman cement, and much harder than the stone, gave them a heavy task to remove. Little more save another tile of 15th cent. inside the crypt and one piece of 13th cent. tile and a few pieces of 14th cent. pottery were found close by. The top side of the crypt was found to be virgin soil and stone Within about 10 yards at the bottom side of the crypt a rubbish heap was found to a depth of 9 feet and some very fine specimens of boot soles of 13-14th cent. were found, in fact some of the best ever discovered. Other things were dross from a smelting furnace, and with it pieces of charcoal, and coal (Coal was mined close by as early as the 13th cent.) Also part of a wooden spoon, or at least a wooden implement to take place of a spoon; a link from a chain, not oval as our links, but flat and strong. Another 20 yards further down some foundations of heavy masonry were found at a depth of about 6 feet. These foundations converged together at that spot, and being at the back of the Guest House stables, may have been a boundary wall. New Buildings was the site on which the domestic buildings stood, and I will give a list of these now. They were as follows - The Larder, Kitchen, Porter's lodge, Stables and yard, Outer court, Malthouse, Kilnhouse, Slaughterhouse, Wood house, Well yard, Guests' house, two pools within the Priory Wall, Poolyard, St. Osburg's pool; Priory mill and Orchards. Other buildings also stood there as you will remember the finding of a stone fish pond and a cattle shed at a depth of 11 feet, 6 inches. On November 16th, while digging near the corner of the Bull Ring on the East side an archway of stone was found with other flat stones on the top. This arch only extended about 2ft. inward and 4ft. 6ins. in width. It had been filled in about 14-15th cent. and only part of this has been excavated up to the present. Its contents were clay, lime, charcoal and coal, with a number of jugs of very poor material. Two of these were intact and possibly more were so, but were broken on being got out; about seven were found, and although it was an unlikely place to burn pottery, it rather suggests this, or otherwise they had been brought and dumped there from a pottery kiln. More may be revealed later.
I had intended giving my reasons for continuing my historical research in my last article, but space would not permit, so I have given it first place in this January issue. You can imagine how difficult it is to give up something which has been a pleasure for ten years, also there is never an end to the work; if one place is finished another is commencing and perhaps other places are in the course of excavation. My intention, you will remember, was to give up the work at the end of 1936. However things that weighed heavily then, viz., sickness at home, have greatly improved; also I began to feel that the time and expense in other ways was more than I could manage, but as I considered these things I could see a way open to meet some of my expense by making a museum in a building in my yard, and making a small charge for admission. This I believe will be welcomed by many. Had a City Museum been about to be erected I should not have entertained the idea, but I feel sure it will be another ten years before it is an accomplished fact. I have many visitors from all parts of the world to see my antiquities and it will be a boon to have about two thousand articles on view instead of having to show them under cramped conditions. The museum will be called "The Benedictine Museum," as a greater part of the articles are pertaining to Earl Leofric's and Countess Godiva's Monastery. The Coventry Sketch Club have very kindly offered to do all the tabulating and signs. Not only will the history of Coventry be given in pottery, boots, etc., but over one hundred pictures of old Coventry will be on view, and also many early documents. I shall also have room for lectures and where I have previously given about thirty or forty talks each year to Guilds, etc., at their own rooms, I shall ask them to come to me where the exhibits will be seen. Photographs of a large number of the articles will be for sale, as postcards. It will be two or three months before it is ready for opening, and I am trying to arrange for the Blind Society to perform this. I have lectured to them several times, when I have given them things to handle, and find they see what people with sight do not see. On this subject let this suffice for a time.
You will remember in my last article I finished with saying I had discovered what might prove to be a pottery kiln. Tomorrow morning Dec. 29th, I am meeting an official from the Council House to arrange about having this site excavated, and trust I shall not be disappointed; I will report in my next article the result.
I want now to give some particulars about West Orchard excavations. Some months ago excavations were commenced for a new schoolroom at the North end of the Chapel. You will remember my article some three years ago on the new bridge excavations when a ford was discovered crossing the river where about twenty to thirty horse shoes were discovered, and a tannery at a depth of about sixteen feet, where the Co-operative Stores stand, near Smithford Street. The recent excavations have revealed the foundations of a farmhouse and cattle sheds. This valley at one time was a part of Bablake, and at a depth of 14-ft. to 16-ft. distinct signs of the bottom of the lake were found. The Chapel built in 1820 took the place of a former Chapel built in 1777, when the members through dissatisfaction with their minister withdrew from the church in Vicar Lane, and worshipped for a year in a room in Little Park Street.
At the north end of the Chapel the excavators found it was built on a large brick archway over a manure heap of six or seven hundred years ago; it is about ten feet deep and nearly as wide as the Chapel. Even a well dating from the 16-17th cent. was sunk through it close by the river. Large oak piles were found still in position belonging to the sheds, numerous boots were found and the leather in good condition. Only a few small pieces of medieval pottery were found and three pieces of black unglazed pottery which may be Saxon to 12th century. One can only realise by such excavations as have taken place during the last five years from Cox Street and Pool Meadow, Priors' Pool, Corporation Showroom site, New cinema in Corporation Street, and the other parts I have mentioned to Smithford Street bridge, or Ram bridge, the extensive lake Bablake was.
Excavations have been proceeding with the last part of the river bed, and only digging can reveal what has been hidden for a thousand years or more. Many readers will recall my article on the discovery of the foundations of a square tower at New Buildings end, and also the finding of the floodgates of the Prior's Mill, which were revealed when the stream was lowered by a temporary channel about a yard deep; since then many other things have come to light at a much greater depth.
One interesting find was a wooden conduit, and the foundations of a mill were found at a depth of about five feet below the temporary channel in Pool Meadow. Somewhere beneath the hill between the Meadow and Priory Row is a spring of clear and swift-flowing water which supplied the power for driving the mill wheel.
Near to the wood conduit were large oak beam foundations, morticed out, with oak pegs, while another large piece was keyed to support another beam about three feet wide; near by many piles were yet standing, on which the City Wall had been built in 1404 over the mill foundations - one pile was eight feet in length. At this spot the excavators were handicapped by water to a great extent.
The conduit channel was covered over with a large plank about three inches thick, and fastened with pegs to the bottom part. This channel was cut out of a solid piece of oak about 18-ins wide, leaving the sides about 3-ins. in width for peg holes. When the top plank was removed the swift flowing water from the spring in the hill was revealed.
My readers may wonder what Mill this could be. My surmise is that it was a Mill belonging to St. Osburg's Nunnery, founded about the middle of the 9th century, and destroyed by Edric the Traitor in 1016. It is very probable this Mill would be used by the monks of the Benedictines, founded 27 years later, as Dugdale states they had three Mills, which I shall write about later. You may wonder in what condition the wood was found; the oak is nearly as sound to-day as it was a thousand years ago, and it can be seen on my premises. It is black with age. Scores of piles were found all down the course of the river, and in some cases large stones resting on them - showing that the City Wall, built in 1404, (and demolished at the request of Prior Deram in 1461, when he asked that St. Osburg's Pool should be included in the Wall), ran along this portion of the river course by the side of St. Osburg's Pool. I will write more about this next month.
I should like my readers to follow the course of the river bed through Pool Meadow. I mentioned the finding of the Mill foundations and conduit in my last article. Just below this Mill, and lying lengthwise of the river course, a large elm tree was discovered and dug out. It lay under the soil at a depth of about six feet, and was about 300-400 years old, and no doubt fell long before the river ran in that course. About twenty yards further on, where a bend in the river occurred, a great number of piles were driven in very close together, as though to carry some-thing of great weight. It may have been a small tower to allow the monks to go through to St. Osburg's Pool, as quite a lot of large stones were round about. Some of the stones were from the Monastery, as shown by the carving, and had been used in the building of the city walls. The ground was of soft clay and soil, and needed piles all the way; in fact, scarcely a yard of the river course was without them.
Very little pottery of 14th to 15th century was found, but a great deal of the 16th century. There were a number of glass wine-flagons of 16th to 17th century, and also a large lead weight with part of an iron ring in the top - this may have been a weight for scales, or for attaching to a chain for hobbling a horse, but it is a very heavy piece.
Coming to Priory Street, a new bridge has been necessary both for depth and width; the old bridge, built about 80 years ago, often caused a block during flood times. Quite a number of people still living remember when old houses, once part of the Monastery buildings, and possibly a part of the Bishop's Palace, stood where the Triumph works are now, on the west side. A painting of these houses can be seen at the Council House. Steps led down to these, and also to Booth & Earle's timber yard. Part of the Bishop's Palace is yet to be seen at the back of the offices opposite Cope Street, and Speed's map of 1610 shows it to have been a very large building. The old graveyard of St. Michael's Church on the New Street side was originally the Bishop's Gardens.
Referring again to the bridge; on the lower side, at a depth of about fourteen feet, the piles of St. Osburg's Pool were found - this is very interesting following on the finding of the mill and conduit. The oak piles are even now in good condition, and four were found. A thousand years makes little difference when the piles are in moist matrix. At the east side of the river, and continuing under the wall near the swimming baths a good length of the city wall foundations can be seen, and scores of oak piles. I am writing more about this next month.
When digging out the river bed on the east side of Priory Street bridge a large amount of pottery of the 16th century was found, also many glass flagons, with here and there a piece of fourteenth century ware, and boot soles. From the bridge, and at the side near to the Baths the bottom course of stone left from the pulling down of the City Wall was still to be seen, and many were the piles on which it was built. After turning the bend in the river, a piece of the wall about 14-ft. high was discovered, and in the wall a round tower built on piles of silver birch. Lying with its head touching the piles lay the skeleton of a horse, as though it had fallen dead and been left there One of its fore shoes lay near, as also a dagger or bayonet with a piece broken off the point, and a wood handle carved with a projection on either side to protect the hand. Very near to this tower a bronze cooking vessel was found, and was no doubt used in the cooking for the men who built the tower. Who built the tower? Many men of note and City Guilds built the walls of about three miles in circumference, and near this tower a large stone, 40-ins. by 13-ins. was found containing three shields, about 12-ins. by 10-ins., on which were the Smiths' arms (see Smiths' Chapel, Cathedral), and another shield which may be the Wire-drawers' or Rope-makers' - I would rather think this to be the Wire-drawers', because they were connected in the Guilds' work, and the same instructions were given to them by the Leet; the centre shield bore the arms of the Grocers and Mercers (see Cathedral and S. Mary's Hall for the Mercers' Chapels). This stone weighs three to four cwt. On the Smiths' shield are the initials M S, and on the Wire-drawers' F. These may be the initials of the Masters of the Guilds. It is a very important and interesting find, and it narrowly escaped being smashed to pieces by a sledge hammer which a labourer was about to use on it. Many things no doubt have shared the fate this so narrowly escaped, thus showing how watchful one has to be to avoid destruction of some of the most interesting finds.
A few yards beyond the tower a large wood conduit was found, very similar to the one mentioned in a previous article. This conduit was connected with St. Osburg's Pool, and carried the water from the Pool to what I believe to be a mill which stood where the Triumph works stand. This mill stood about 200 yards to the west of the Earl's Mill, and may have been a mill belonging to the Nunnery of S. Osburg but used at a later period by the Benedictine Monastery.
Several lots of deers' antlers which had been nailed to some wall were found, and as it was common in Monasteries to use antlers for hanging clothes upon, it requires little imagination to think they were used for that purpose. A part of a very interesting jug lay near, which was of the green glare, and about 14th century period. It had the heads of three priests on, one looking front, and holding a bird (possibly a falcon); and a head on each side, with hands holding a buckle. Several pieces of pottery with buckles have been found, but what they denote I am at a loss to understand, and could my readers help in this I should be glad.
In a few weeks time about 2000 of the articles about which I have been writing since 1932 will be on view, along with about 200 pictures of old Coventry, when for a small charge of 6d. to help cover expenses they may be seen by the public until such time as a Civic Museum is built, when I hope they will be transferred to it. An announcement will be published in the daily papers when it will be opened. The Museum is built on my premises in Little Park Street, and will be known as "The Benedictine Museum."
Some months ago I recorded finding what I thought to be a pottery kiln in the Bull Ring, Butcher Row. Early in April this was excavated, and one more jug was found, and a number of thick slates, large quantities of clay, charcoal, small pieces of coal, and a white sub-stance similar to lime, or fuller's earth. This kiln is thought to be of the early thirteenth century.
I also recorded the finding of the west archway pillars in the cellars of the "Spotted Dog," and thought that a roadway level with the cellar floor would run to the market place opposite and to the Meal Hall. During this week this road has been discovered at a depth of three feet, and small pieces of 14th century vessels were found. In one of the cellars two tiles of 14th to 15th century were found in the floors. Very little more excavations in street making are to be done, but at a later date I hope to make some discoveries on the site of the west end of the Cathedral, and possibly I may find tiles and glass from the Church. There will also be excavations at the west side of Trinity Street, which will reveal history (unless pile-driving is introduced).
ANOTHER POTTERY KILNSince writing the above, another kiln has been discovered. This kiln was found under the new Trinity Street close by the edge of the causeway, and opposite the fourth upright pillar of Messrs. Owen & Owen's building from Broadgate end. I noticed when a gully trench was being dug out, that similar material was being revealed to that found in the other kiln, and I made investigations which revealed the kiln, which was of a much larger extent than the other, and had an entrance, 21/2-feet wide, and 6-feet in length, which then widened out similar to a lime kiln. Most of the arch had been removed when cellars had been made. I spent several hours with a Corporation helper, and some tons of refuse were removed, but only a few fragments of 13th to 14th century pottery was found, along with charcoal, coal, and several large pieces of what resembled lime, which I am having examined by pottery workers. As it got deeper and wider, and iron bars did not reach its end, and no pottery was being found, we gave up excavating, and being filled in again its contents will be hidden, to be run over by the general traffic of our busy city.
During the sewer excavations in the old lane called St. Agnes Lane quite a lot of 14th century pottery and foot-wear has come to light; also the edge of the original lake was found where the large brick walls are being built. At a depth of 8-feet beneath St. Agnes Lane just on the edge of the lake, the base of a round tower built on wood piles was found. I think this tower was probably an inner watch tower for the City Walls, giving a view to Cook Street and Priory Gates. It may also have been a storehouse for weapons of defence, and although no implements of war were found, one plain dagger-sheath lay close by. As this tower was on the Prior's ground, it may have been manned by his men.
Next month, the site on which The Rex is built.
HIPPODROME SITEBefore giving the history of "The Rex" site, I should like to report the discovery of a round tower in Hales Street, at the corner of White Street, where sewering has been in progress. This tower was built on wood piles, and stood within twenty yards of the square tower discovered about three years ago. Its size would compare with the one mentioned last month, in St. Agnes Lane. It was probably a watch tower. As the sewer excavating does not go deeper than the top of the wood piles, I did not get the opportunity of finding any tools or weapons. Very little came from the site except a few pieces of pottery, and part of a tile of the 14th century.
"THE REX" SITE
Many are the disappointments I have to meet with in my researches, and the pile driving of the present day is one - although it is in no wise as prevalent to-day as it was in the days when this site was originally filled in, except that to-day reinforced concrete is used, but in mediaeval times wood piles of all shapes and sizes were used.
This site was once the extensive lake called Bablake, and from its depth, varying from 10 feet to 14 feet, I had hoped I might find a boat of the early British period, hewed-out from the trunk of a tree, as three years ago, within about twenty yards of this site, I discovered a boat paddle of this period at a depth of sixteen feet, and only about forty yards from where we discovered a wood ford, or bridge, which is thought to be Roman.
About a hundred large holes were to have been dug had not pile-driving been used instead. However, a large hole had to be excavated for heating apparatus, and this gave me a chance of finding out something of the early methods The lake evidently had not been filled in to its present 14-ft. at one time, but to about 6-ft. in the 14th century, which formed the river course, as part of it is seen to-day.
Where this excavation was made, large piles had been driven in, and had formed a cattle shed, which while yet standing, had been covered over to a depth of another six or seven feet. In several test holes which had been sunk a number of 14th century boots were unearthed, and also a quantity of the black unglazed pottery of the Saxon period. In some places near Corpora-tion Street the butchers had made a bone tip, and thousands of bones were found, with great quantities of horns.
During the past two months excavations have again been taking place in the Bablake area, near the St. John's Church. This is at the corner of Corporation Street, and so near the Church that one's thoughts turn to Queen Isabella, the wife of Edward II., and mother of Edward III., who when in Coventry had her house in Cheylesmore, now "The Manor House," but at one time called the Cheylesmore Castle, built to take the place of the Earl's Castle, which was partly in ruins when King Stephen and Earl Ranulph had a quarrel on its site. The Queen Isabella gave the ground, as her "letter patent" shows; this was written in French on May 7th, 1344, at "Castle Rising," and states - "To the good people of the Guild of St. John Baptist in the Town of Coventry, a piece of land called Babbelack in the same town, in order that they may build a Chapel in honour of God and of St. John Baptist and have there two chaplains daily chanting masses and other divine services for the good estate of the said Queen's dear son, the King, and of the said Queen Isabella, and of her daughter Queen Phillipa, and for the Prince of Wales, during their lives, and for their souls when they shall have died, and for the soul of the Queen's dear Lord, the late King of England..... and for the lives and souls of the Brethren of the said Guild," etc.
The dedication of the Church took place on May 5th, 1350. During some excavations in 1875 much of the old foundations were revealed, and also two altars of the 15th century, which were thought to be the altars of Holy Trinity and St. Katherine. For 200 years from the suppression in 1548 the Church was in the hands of the Corporation, and a rent of one penny per annum was paid for it.
Coming now to my story of excavations at the corner of Corporation Street. When digging the foundations, about twenty large holes were made, and the foundation stones of a mill were revealed, which were built on oak piles, extending about twenty yards. At a depth of about eight feet a lot of floor joists were found, and in the centre I believe were two large timbers for carrying the mill wheel, which would be an undershot one. Very little else came to light except a few boots and leather soles, with small pieces of 14th century pottery. One boot sole was apparently new, although the stitch holes were made round it; it appears to have never been used, and its condition is so good that it could be used to-day.
What the name of this mill was will never be known, nor when it was last used, or what it was used for. It may have been a flour mill, or for some other purpose such as a fuller's mill, like the Baginton mill. How Bablake got its name may never be known, but although many suggestions have been made, my own is that it is derived from the "Babbling Brook" of Radford, sometimes called the Naul's Mill brook, which flows under the Leigh Mills, and known to many as the River Albert.
Next month I will write about the excavations in Warwick Lane, on the site of the Grey Friars burial ground.
COW LANE SITE
Cow Lane is mentioned in history books of Coventry less than any other lane or street I know. It could not have been looked upon as an important lane. Its name denotes the use it was put to, viz., for the driving of cattle to the Cheylesmore Park. From about 1550 until 1788 this park was used for pasturing cattle, and many were the poor men or cow keepers who had one or more cows kept up his yard at the back of his house. In 1850 there were 39 cow keepers in Coventry, one only in Cow Lane, named W. Taylor, and strange as it may be, I have a token with the name "Taylor, Cow Lane," on it, and it appears to be a man carrying a vessel, possibly containing milk.
There were also 17 farmers in 1850, living in Coventry, making a total of 56 people who kept cows in the town. In 1874 there were 30 cow keepers, and Cow Lane is again mentioned once, this time a cow keeper named Thomas Reynolds, possibly of the family of Reynolds living in Little Park Street forty years ago. Only about 11 farmers were at this time living in Coventry, making a total of 41 cow keepers."
Coming again to 1550, we have a very interesting tablet in St. Mary's Hall recording a charity to the poor cow and horse keepers, by the Earl of Warwick, later Duke of Northumberland who was beheaded on Tower Hill on 22nd August, 1553, for proclaiming Lady Jane Grey as Queen of England. It is to the effect that the Cheylesmore Park was leased to the Corporation of Coventry for 99 years on condition that the 80 poor cow keepers of Coventry should be able to turn a cow into the park for the sum of 1d. per week, and 20 poor horse keepers one horse each for 2d. per week. In consequence of the Duke losing his head, his son Robert, Earl of Leicester, obtained a grant from Queen Elizabeth in 1568 to hold the park in fee farm for ever, and the same number of cattle be pastured. The "for ever" in this case is like many other cases, it soon ends, for after about 60 years it passed to Henry, Prince of Wales, the son of James the First, as belonging to the Duchy of Cornwall. In 1620 however Prince Charles, later Charles the First, granted a lease to the City for 21 years, with the privilege of pasturing the usual number of cattle, to complete the 99 years. In 1659 the park came to the Commonwealth, but on the restoration of Charles the Second to the throne, he passed the park away from the City to Sir Robert Townsend, probably as a punishment for refusing his father entrance to the city in 1642. In 1690 Sir Robert permitted the inhabitants to pasture for three months of the year at 4d. per week for a horse, and 2d. per week for a cow. This went on until 1730, when it again came to the Corporation, and Freemen of the City were allowed to pasture. From 1740 until 1788 the pasturing was let half-yearly at a charge from May Day until Michaelmas of 6/- for a cow, and 8/- for a horse, and from Michaelmas until May Day 4/- for a cow and 6/-for a horse.
Note: This article was repeated in the next edition of April 1938.
REX SITE, CORPORATION STREETSince writing my last article on this site, another part of the site is being excavated, and is situated at the West End. Opposite this site when making Corporation Street six years ago a large quantity of piles and stone foundations were revealed at a depth of 8 ft., which was no doubt one of the 32 mills on the river course; near by in July, 1937, several large holes were being dug, and running through two of these were large timbers built in step form which were most probably part of the flood gates. In another hole and at a depth of 14 ft. to 16 ft. a mall or mallet was found which no doubt was used to drive in the piles of 700 years ago. The mallet was in good condition and could be used today. It had been cowled out of an elm tree and made almost the shape of a man's head with a piece growing out of the top to form a handle. The bark is on as though it were still growing and is so firm that it could be used today for the same purpose.
BOVIS SITE, TRINITY STREET
Very extensive buildings have been built by Bovis Ltd., backing from Palmer Lane to the West Side of Trinity Street, and the foundations have been dug very deep. The foundations of the Guest House stables were discovered, also a wine cask used as a refuse bin with its oak timbers as good as the day it was made. In it was a broken vessel thought to be of the Norman period; after being pieced together it measured 14 ins. high, and 10 ins. wide.
In the making of one large hole for foundations and the digging out of a cellar 14 ft. in depth a large heap of refuse from the stables was found, and as usual in such material a large quantity of boots and harness; at least 50 boots came to light, of the 14th century. Some had leather laces, others straps and buckles, one was decorated similar to many summer boots of today. A number of soles and uppers were found in the same position they had been thrown away 600 years ago, and had long toes from 3 to 4 ins.; placed between the upper and sole of the toe was moss wedged tightly to keep the toe stiff. Probably many of the shoes were made in Coventry, for in Hales Street a large quantity of moss had been thrown away, and was as good as the day it grew. Near to the bottom of the cellars close by the stables, a large tree at least 20 ft. in circumference had been cut off. At the lower end of Palmer Lane a large building must have stood and the foundations were principally made of stone coffin lids. On this same site some years ago a coffin lid was found, in which brasses had once been, and might have been the stone of a Bishop or Priest, but no inscription was found.
The first factory for ribbons called Beck's Factory, stood on the site also, and the wood piles on which the chimney was built were found driven closely together to a depth of 12 ft. The building was of the best, and many days were spent in driving through the brick and stone. This factory was built in 1830, by a Mr. Beck, a mechanic. Improvement in looms etc., caused unrest amongst the workpeople and in November 1831, a strike came about, and fire was started in the building which consumed the lot. The strikers hurled the looms and ribbons out of the windows into the Priors Pool. A number of men were punished by being sent to Van Dieman's Land and three men were to have been hung on Whitley Common, but Mr. Ellice, M.P., was asked to plead on their behalf and through this they were reprieved, and sent also to Van Dieman's Land. One of these men made good and paid a visit to Coventry some years after.
Many people have watched with interest the demolition of the corner property of Broadgate and the Spicerstoke. Some of the buildings would date back to the 15th century in the Spicerstoke, while the building lately used by Messrs. Martin's Bank was built 1683, and Messrs. Wards, Stationers, and Messrs. Hiltons, Boot & Shoe dealers, was built in 1726. These were well built Georgian buildings and one almost grieved to see them demolished; foundations of older buildings were found there, but at the present no test holes have been made in the vast cellars to reveal whether or not there has been a quarry. Spicerstoke is an old name, but very little used in the present time; how its name was derived is not really known, but it is thought to be from a family of Richard de Spicer, who was chosen to the Westminster Parliament in 1314 as one of the Coventry Burgesses; or from the fact that it was in the vicinity of the Pepperers and Grocers (Pepper Lane), or Spicers. I remember reading of another place which had a "Spicerstoke," where the Spicers burnt their refuse, and thus ours may have been the same. "In 1529, one Thomas Reves, a Cowper of Berkswell, sold cowpers wares in the Spicerstoke, and was a very dishonest person, selling unlawful and deceiveable stuff, where all his goods were stored. This man did not belong to the craft of Coventry cowpers, and did not pay his fine of 2/- per year, and strong action was taken against him." (See Leet Book, page 699).
It is of interest to know that the alterations here to Trinity Church by the making of steps to the west door is not the first steps to have been made. At one time until 1743, a tavern called the "Sun Tavern" stood on the east side of Derby Lane, and joined up to the Church by an entry; the entry belonged to the Church but the tavern did not. In 1743 the tavern was bought for pulling down, so as to enlarge the overcrowded burial ground. A little further to the east, now opposite the library doors, stood Jesus Hall and the priests' house or sometimes called "Jesus House." A footpath led through the Sun Tavern entry, and through Jesus Hall, where the blocked up doorway can yet be seen. In front of the tavern entry were three steps. Old prints are still in existence showing these. This was the path or mayor's walk to St. Mary's Hall, and was used by the mayor and magistrates, when they held their court (from which they sentenced prisoners to be whipped to the knaves post) at the Mayor's Parlour, now the entrance to Market Street.
Many human remains were revealed in the making of the new roadway on the west front to join up with Priory Row. These remains have all been carefully and reverently collected, and re-interred in the churchyard. Trinity Lane was made in 1852 from a portion of the burial ground; originally Trinity Lane was at the west end of the Church, now Cuckoo Lane, or Hay Lane. When excavations take place more will be told.
[In the paragraph above, I believe it should say "originally Trinity Lane was at the east end of the Church, now Cuckoo Lane..." - R.O.]
Once again the Bablake is being excavated on the Corporation Street and Bablake Street site, for a new building for the Coventry Co-operative Society. The lake must at an early period have been very extensive in this district, reaching from the old Work-house in Hill Street, through Fleet Street, twenty yards up Smithford Street, and thirty yards or more up West Orchard, taking in the ground on which the Congregational Chapel now stands. I have already written of a number of these places, but think it would be wise to revive a little of what I have already said.
At West Orchard bridge a ford, over which horses and bullocks crossed the river, was found. At the rear of the Co-op buildings, east of the bridge, a road was discovered leading into Smith-ford Street, as no road previously existed to Smithford Street as now.
At the corner of West Orchard and Smithford Street, where the Co-op now stands, a tannery was found at a depth of 161/2-ft. Where the new school is built at the rear of the Congregational Chapel was a farmhouse and buildings. Under the new buildings of Fleet Street and Corporation Street was a mill foundation of the 13th century. The Bablake Church, erected in 1380, was built on part of this lake.
Coming now to the present excavations, the mill foundations running under the buildings just built in Fleet Street and Corporation Street, have extended about 15 yards, and joined up to a massive stone wall, 5-ft. wide, running across Corporation Street. In some places large timbers were found, use not known, and hundreds of tons of compressed manure tipped in to fill up the lake, or to form dams for the mills. In a number of places piles were surrounded by silt and road sweepings. Very little pottery has come to light, but from the manure scores of boots, some complete, have been found, and date 13th to 14th century. One small medal of lead was found, dated 1669, on which was a figure of the Good Samaritan attending to the wants of the man who was robbed and wounded, and on it were the words, "Go and do thou likewise." As only a part of the excavations are being done at present, the machine has ceased for a while opposite the ford before mentioned, and the last few shovels brought out a large quantity of small piles, which may be found to be foundations for a road to the mills from West Orchard.
Next month I shall give the story of the west front of the Cathedral of St. Mary, now being excavated.
EXCAVATIONS IN TRINITY STREET
Extensive excavations have been taking place at the back of the hoardings in the "Old Bull Ring," now Trinity Street, which once was the west front of the 13th century Cathedral of St. Mary. This site is one which I have long hoped to see revealed, and now it is an accomplished fact. Its interest is more than I can describe on paper. For a time no more work will take place, but at a later date other work will be put in hand on the same site. It is necessary to explain this site, for so much misunderstanding exists amongst the public, and from grandparents and parents there passes on to the children of today a lot of traditional stories told in good faith about this Cathedral, but which are only legends. Thousands of people believe that an underground passage exists which leads to many various places, viz, Whitley, Coombe, Caludon, and by far the majority of people, to Kenilworth. The proof they give for this is that either a man never returned, or otherwise his dog. What rubbish some people will believe, and yet how often the real truth of the matter, which can only be proved by excavations, is doubted. It is true that an archway called the Gate House existed in the Bull Ring, which led to the precincts of the Monastery, Cathedral, and Priory. This was the only portion of the building at the west front existing until 1704. By some it was known as the stone arch leading to the Priory Court, and in the City Council records of June 1st, 1704, an Order appears:
"That notice be given to Mrs. Cave-King to give satisfaction for the said stone arch, which her workmen have undermined and thrown down, and that the same be rebuilt." But this order was never carried into effect, for after some litigation the ground was sold to Mrs. Cave-King for £5, and a public house, called "The Dog," and later "The Spotted Dog," built on the site. This archway was destroyed in the making of the beer cellars, but two portions were left standing, and were discovered during the past few weeks. The full depth has not been excavated, but in digging at the rear it would appear the arch was completely demolished, and the opening filled in with small pieces of stone.
When pulling down the old inn two years ago a book of charges for taxes on windows for 1741 was found, and some names familiar today are shown as living in "Cross Cheaping Ward."
John Blythe, 6/-; Francis Blick, 2/- (It was Edward Blick who built the first baths in a garden at the bottom of Palmer Lane in 1715 - these have been found at a depth of nine feet); John Hewitt, 6/- (who was mayor in 1750, 1758, and 1760); Jeremy Goodhall, 2/- (this family was well known, for in 1703 Matthew Goodhall was mayor, and a Jeremy Goodhall was chief of police about 1825, and was notorious in that he provided drink as well as canes for his police during voting at elections - the drink for bribing, and the canes to be used by his police against his opposing side); Alderman T. Fox, 12/- (Thomas Fox was mayor in 1736); John Taylor, 6/- (he was mayor in 1740-41); William Grascome, 6/- (his house was opposite "The Dog Inn," and was built by Thomas Grascome in 1558, being attached to the Meal Hall, where the poor were fed by the monks, another of the Grascomes lived in the houses - then one house, called the Lych Gate - in Priory Row, on which the flowers now hang); John Gullson (spelt with two 'l's'), 26/- (this would be the grandfather of the John Gulson of the Gulson Library).
Owing to an error in last month's issue the date of erection of St. Johns Church was given as 1380 - this should have been 1350.
EXCAVATIONS ON THE SITE OF ST. MARY'S CATHEDRAL, BULL RING (now Trinity Street)
When under-pinning the Blue Coat School and other premises at the rear of Trinity Street, quite a lot of very interesting stonework was discovered. In one place the stone was so massive that I believe the back portion of the pillars which are to be clearly seen in Priory Row was discovered. About ten or twelve walls were found, most of them running East to West, but three walls ran North to South. The front of this Cathedral is said to have resembled Lichfield Cathedral. The width was from the south end of the Rev. Bryan's house, which stood on the south side of Priory Row, to Iron-monger Row, and the outer wall here was built within six feet of the 13th century pottery kilns mentioned in a previous story, and during excavations, several pieces of pottery were found, also a quantity of the material used in the making of vessels. At one time I thought the kiln was closed down on the building of the church, but discovering what I have, I believe the kiln was used for baking the vessels for use by the builders of the church, and closed on its completion. In one place near to which we found a number of burials, was an older wall, which may have been a wall of the Abbey, or Minster of Godiva's time, and was in its original position. Another wall having been rebuilt contained a beautiful arch key stone of an earlier church, though partly broken. Before the walls of this church of the 13th century were built, a quarry for the stone required was made on the site, and after the rubble had been thrown back, some-times to a depth of 15 to 16 feet, the wall was built on the rubble. At the depth of about 8 feet near the school, and on the floor level of the building being erected, a stone coffin lid was found, having on its top a carving of a sword with decorations in the form of four horse shoes, and a ring in their centre. No coffin was found beneath, although probing with a bar took place. Some experts think it is of Celtic design, others of the 13th century. The ivory handle of a knife or dagger was found with one of the skeletons, a great number of which were found. These remains have been collected, and stored in boxes; some of the skulls and jaws were in as good condition as when interred, and 14 to 16 teeth still in their places. Some specimens have been sent to Gulson Road Hospital for doctors to examine. Several skulls are thought to be of young men slain in warfare, they having received blows on the head with a sharp instrument. Two chests of remains have been interred last week (Oct. 12th, 1938) at a depth of 8 feet at the south west corner of the new building, and the other remains will be interred at a later date, with others I expect to find.
The building being erected on the west front of the church is to be called The Tower House, and although iron girders are to give it strength, the front will be in keeping with its neighbouring houses once called the "Lych Gate," and will be ornamented with a figure of Lady, or Countess Godiva on a horse, and also the Coventry "Coat of Arms."
The "Blue Coat" school was at one time called the "Tower House," and was made into a house by the Rev. Bryan, in 1649. In my "Benedictine Museum" I have a picture of this house showing the tracery of the 13th century and two windows, while at its base is a piggery and cowsheds, in which the butchers of old Butcher Row and the Bull Ring kept their animals.
Next month I will write about the Church and its measurements.
EXCAVATIONS ON THE SITE OF ST. MARY'S CATHEDRAL, BULL RING (now Trinity Street)
I have written in a previous article that the Cathedral of St. Mary (13th century) was in style and outward form believed to be like Lichfield Cathedral. The length would be approximately 390 feet, the width 145 feet, the height of the spires on the western front about 183 feet, and the central tower near Hill Top 258 feet. The foundations of the tower were discovered in the cellars beneath John Gulson's town house, now the Constitutional Club. The Cathedral ends beneath the east end of the house where Dr. Nathaniel Troughton lived in 1849, and will be best known as standing at the rear of the palisades next to the surgery of Dr. Duncan Davidson in Priory Row. Could all Hill Top be excavated what a vast amount of history would be revealed ! In the near future the site from Dr. Davidson's to Priory Row will be excavated, and much of the Bishop's Palace of 1086 will be found. Reader says in his book of 1810 - "The Bishop's Palace stood at the north-east corner of St. Michael's Churchyard; it was sold in 1647 to Nathaniel Lacey, Samuel Palmer, and Obadiah Chambers for £105, with a reserved rent of one mark." Part of this Palace was used as three tenements, and was pulled down when Priory Street was made in the middle of the 19th century. It is within memory of many people living to-day that a part of the site of the Palace was excavated, but at that time, no one appears to have been interested enough to preserve anything found there. Part of the Triumph Works stand upon the site, where Booth & Earle's timber yard stood previously. Running through that site was a stone wall which I believe extended to New Buildings, and joined up to the cloisters which were found under the present old Ragged School.
Since writing my last article a very generous and welcome gift has been accepted by the Coventry Corporation from Sir Alfred Herbert for building a Museum and Art Gallery for the City, costing approximately £100,000. This will fill a long-standing want, as would appear from the following letter written by W. G. Fretton in 1873: -
Next month I will write about the site at the east end of the Post Office in Grey Friars Lane.
EXCAVATIONS ON POST OFFICE SITE
Lying at the rear of the Post Office sorting station is a piece of ground which might be called "No man's land." Bounded on the West with Grey Friars Lane, on the North with High Street, on the East with Little Park Street, and on the South with Cow Lane, it has lain idle for a long period and now is being included in large extensions taking place for the ever growing Post Office. At the present time about one eighth of an acre is being built upon, the buildings nearest being Masonic Hall, and Messrs. Waters Garage.
Some of this ground was once the site of the stables and coach houses of the old Stage Coach Station so well known as the "Craven Arms", but in the coaching time as the "White Bear Inn" for long kept by Mr. Dan Claridge; and another part, was once the garden, shedding and stable room of Mr. Warwick, a greengrocer, whose shop stood in Grey Friars Lane at the present entrance to the sorting office. At some time a very large stone building had stood on a part of this site running from the direction of Messrs. Waters Garage, but as no basements are being made, no dimensions can be arrived at. Near this wall was one of nine dung heaps found on this site. Most of the ground had in the 13-14th century been quarried for clay and sand and after-wards, as was usual, filled up with the dung from the cattle sheds, and out of this a number of boots of the period were found. One boot had a long narrow toe filled with hair betwixt the sole and upper. The leather, which was of calf skin, was as good as the day it was shaped. Another boot, perhaps a girl's, had the upper cut from one piece of leather, and folded over, being stitched at the side, and having a small piece of leather for a stiffening in the heel. The sole had had a heel grafted on, and again this boot was in excellent condition. Leather laces were also found near by. In another place a piece of a leather shield was discovered, and was decorated with embossed work, of St. Catherine's wheel. A number of pieces of pottery, jug handles, a part of a sauce vessel, which had three compartments in, and encaustic tiles of the same period. On the south side before coming to Cow Lane site is a garden, a part of which is to be built upon, once belonging to the "Kirby House." This garden once extended to the old Baptist Chapel, of George Eliot fame, built in 1793. On the demolition of Cow Lane a great deal of stone walling was found and I have often wondered if the Castle of Earl Ranulph and possibly of Earl Leofric and Countess Godiva stood here, where a part of the massive wall is yet to be seen beneath the chimney stack of "Kirby House." This wall ran for a great distance at the rear of the buildings, and a few stones yet bore the marks where some warrior had sharpened his axe or arrows. The diggings for the foundations of the Post Office concluded for the time being at the north side of this garden and the last thing to be found was a large stone wall with foundations 10ft. deep and what appeared to be a large entrance betwixt that wall and another large building of stone. If this was the castle it was destroyed in Stephen's time about 1141, and although nothing earlier than 13th to 14th century has been found as yet, time will tell what may be between these massive walls.
At a depth of about 6ft., four perfect wine flagons of the 17th century were found, one bearing a crest in a ring I.R.
I am expecting to find in about the centre of this garden the "Red Ditch" the first sewer of about the 13th cent. which ran to the Grey Friars, and was found in Union Street in 1825, where the Christ Church Parochial Rooms now stand.
On the ground now built upon, a large stone sewer was found and is thought to be a tributary to the "Red Ditch."
I would like to continue the story of this site, but it may be 12 months or more before other buildings are commenced.
CATHEDRAL OF ST. MARY. (Continued)
Since writing my last article on this Church in the December issue of this Magazine, another extension has been made to the large building being erected, and to do this a brick building belonging to the Blue Coat School had to be demolished which stood on part of the stone walls of the Church, and also on a large heap of rubble from the destruction of the Church; this rubble was 10-ft. to 12-ft. in depth, and contained many carved stones of the 13th century. It is 401 years on the 16th Jan, 1939, since the dissolution in 1538, and it is interesting to know that Dugdale, who wrote about 130 years after, giving the names of the monks and the pensions they received, Henry VIII. and Thomas Cromwell must have had a very busy time demolishing and selling stone and lead, etc., from so many places at this time, and although the Bishop pleaded with Henry to preserve this beautiful Church it was all to no avail.
In the above mentioned rubble the top part of a cross was discovered, and parts of windows, base of a pillar, and numerous other carved stones, which I trust will soon he built into walls of buildings which the Council are about to erect, and thus will be preserved as a permanent record. Two brick cisterns about 8-ft. deep were built in the rubble. No doubt they were for rain water storage, and may have had pumps in at one time. This would be used for the washing of clothes, as the building was the wash-house for the school. One cistern was built square, the other round, and in this a sack or wine bottle was found, dating about the 18th century. While digging under the yard for connecting a drain about 12-feet deep, a number of graves were discovered, and in one was a cast brass elephant, which is in perfect condition save for the tusk being broken. One wonders if this was a charm? It would be difficult to state its age, as this burial ground was used until the dissolution.
Except for a small vessel found some years ago when building the Nurses' Home, very little more has come to light, but in digging the A.R.P. trenches near the Lodge in Gulson Road, two perfect vessels and many broken ones were discovered at a depth of about 7-ft. 6-ins., and date about 14th cent. As this was within a few yards of the city wall it may be they were used for carrying refreshments to the builders. Why any should be intact is a mystery - possibly they were covered over accidentally. Part of a wine jar was found similar to the many such jars found on the Benedictine site.
SITE OF THE MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY
My readers may be interested in the site of the Museum and Art Gallery, which munificent gift by Sir Alfred Herbert will be welcomed by the citizens of our no mean City.
On this site stood some very ancient dwellings, up to the time of demolition. Two old overhanging timbered cottages with trefoil doorway standing in Bayley Lane, must be of the 14th cent., some of its timbers being in good preservation. In the long ago, as a print of Bayley Lane shows, many houses of this kind stood in this street, and in our library are numerous drawings of "Barge Boards" from these dwellings. In the two cottages mentioned, two barge boards were found which had been taken down possibly 400 years ago, and fast-ened to the walls inside the houses, where they had been plastered over with clay, which had helped to keep them in sound condition. They are about 10ft. long, and have carvings of the four petal rose, trefoils, etc, and also on one end of each board a wyvern, an imaginary animal sometimes represented in coats of arms, with the forepart of a dragon, the tail of a scorpion, the feet of a bird, and wings expanded.
While it is usual for me to use a large quantity of boiled linseed oil on such carvings, it is not necessary on these, being so well preserved. The old trefoil doorway was very rotten, and was broken in the course of demolition.
Near to these houses stood the Catherine Bayley's School, adjoining the Draper's Hall. This school was founded at this place in 1723, but later moved to Little Park Street, where Catherine Bayley lived, and died in 1730, aged 52 years; the building is now occupied by Messrs. Middlemore.
In a cellar opposite Much Park Street is a pebble roadway leading towards Much Park Street, which was probably a lower road in that direction, This road runs at such an angle that I think it must cross beneath Bayley Lane, and may be found on the site of the Museum.
On the Earl Street side a part of Messrs. Wheeler's building was found to be old, possibly 17th century, but the shop adjoining appeared to be at least 15th century, and its clay plaster was still adhering to the hand-cut laths. On St. Mary's Street side, the building in which the mobile police have their office had once been a house, and the thin bricks show its age to be about early 17th century.
The Drapers' Hall, built 1829, stands on the site of two previous Wool Halls, and no doubt the "Searching house" stood there from a very early period. In London and Oxford we find the Guilds as early as Henry I., 1000 to 1035. It is thought that the Drapers' Guild of Coventry may have been founded even earlier to the Guild in London. Mention is made of the Drapers of Coventry, in 1247, who with others were in trouble because they had buried a man who had been drowned, before an inquest had been held upon him.
Many cloth merchants from Ireland, Devon, and Cornwall came to Coventry, and also undressed cloth from Gloucestershire. These merchants were restricted by the Drapers of Coventry, and had to hold their sales in a house called "The Drapery," near the Drapers' Hall, which had been given for that purpose by William Walshman, a great benefactor to St. John's Guild.
In 1320 mention is made of a place in the market where cloth is sold. From 1425 to 1455 an illicit market was held in the south porch of St. Michael's Church. Not only did traders come here, but trade with foreign parts was increased, for we find in 1398 a quantity of frieze worth £200 lay in the Baltic port of Stralsund. No doubt the mills, of which there were thirty-two between Spon End and Whitley, played a great part in the trade of cloth manufacture. Not only did the Guild help in the building of churches, etc., but they also found 59 men to man the city walls, and 93 suits of armour, in readiness for any trouble arising over the Wars of the Roses. In 1619 the Drapery had a clock over the door, on the dial of which was inscribed - "Ecce ut hora sic fugit vita."
SITE OF THE MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY. [Continued]
The members of the Drapers Guild were expected to attend Church services and they employed a Priest at a stipend of £5 per annum. If a member of the Guild died, the members must follow the corpse to the Church, and any absentee had a fine of sixpence imposed upon him. Members of note were often interred in the Lady Chapel in St. Michael's, like Thomas Bond, founder of Bonds Hospital, 1506, and Julian Nethermill, whose tomb is yet to be seen. For every apprentice and journeyman employed by them they paid a sum of fourpence each toward the light which burned before the rood or crucifix on the rood loft. Twopence per year was also paid for the purchase of strawing the seats with rushes in summer, and peastraw in winter, as also for keeping clean the chapel. Pageants were held by the Guild, one of the most popular being the pageant of Doomsday, and as early as 1392 they rented a room in Little Park Street for the storing of their properties. Rules prevented the stretching of cloth beyond a reasonable size. Many fields in the city were called Tenters Fields, where stretching was done. All cloth bought must be bought in the Drapery, and not in any man's house. In 1607 a Charter of Incorporation and Monopoly was obtained from the King, which had it been carried out would have ruined the mercers, who dealt in many kinds of materials. The mercers however successfully fought it and won the day.
Some well known people were members of the Drapers, such as Sampson Hopkins, of Palace Yard, Henry Davenport, Phillip Adams, Sir John Harrington, who schooled Princess Elizabeth at Coombe Abbey, and others. At this Drapery the sealing and search-ing of cloth took place, and only perfect cloth had the hallmark placed upon it, viz., an elephant in lead. No elephant in lead has yet been discovered, but I hope one may be found in excavations on this site. A hall which joined the Drapers Hall, where many of their meetings were held, stood at the entrance to St. Mary's Street, near St. Michael's Church, and at its demolition in 1728, the "Half Moon Inn" was built on its site, and the cloth fair was transferred to St. Mary's Hall. The grounds of the "Half Moon Inn" were used as a site for circus performers. It was pulled down in 1861. Referring again to Bayley Lane, it was spelt in some places as Balylane, and Baylilane. In front of the Drapers Hall on the north side was crowded together a number of old brick and timber houses, and only a narrow path running between the houses and the church wall.
Leading from the south corner of the Church was a footpath, the stile being joined to the Church. An old print or engraving has been discovered dating before 1743 which shows this stile and the path leading across to the present factory in Priory Row, a gate being opposite the factory,
The Avenue as we know it to-day was not made until 1852, nor was Priory Street made until this period. Following the course of Bayley Lane to the West, many buildings of 15th century stood where the Police Court buildings join up to St. Mary's Hall. One of these houses stood out on to the footpath, and was an old Inn. The roadway here was once a burial ground even going back to the Norman period, and is mentioned by Earl Hugh Kenilock, 1173.
SITE OF THE MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY. [Continued]
St. Mary's Hall, built at different periods, stands as a monument of beauty. Caesar's Tower, which may really have no real connection with St. Mary's Hall, was built in the 12th century. The first part of St. Mary's Hall was erected in 1340, while the joining together of the Guilds of St. Mary, Trinity, and St. John enlarged the hall in 1394 -1414. Where a gate-way stands leading down the West side of the hall stood a building connected to St. Mary's Hall, called the Buttery, where the food of the Guilds was scored. The barge boards from this building were preserved, and used on the house next to it and still standing, a house of beauty, and possibly built at the time of the Church. At one time this house was called the Church House, and quite possibly was the dwelling of the vicars of those times.
Near St. Mary's Hall stands an ancient well, and at one time was looked upon as belonging to the "White Horse Inn", in Hay Lane, and now used by the Corporation as offices. The lightning conductor of St. Michael's Church is or was earthed into its waters.
From this house to the corner of Hay Lane where now the St. Michael's Baptist Chapel stands, stood old houses very similar. Thanks to Dr. Troughton, we have a picture record of these buildings preserved. St. Michael's Church stands on the North side as a monument to the family of Botoner's, - the spire a landmark for miles distant from Coventry. Weighing 6226 tons, and soaring to a height of 295 ft. 91/2 inches, the tower and steeple was built in 1373-1394. Two earlier churches stood on the same site, and called the "Church on the Hill." Its earlier burial ground is near the front of the Drapers Hall, and is on the roadway passing between St. Mary's Hall and the Church, and is mentioned by Earl Hugh Kenilock in 1187.
On the North side, opposite St. Michael's Baptist, stood several houses which joined up to the St. Michael's Tower, and in 1812 lived the woman owner in the house next to the Tower, while adjoining it was a barber's shop, and standing at the corner facing the County Court, stood an Inn in which a political party called the High Party, who strongly opposed the swearing in of the new Mayor (Joseph Eburne,) plotted to capture the mace and sword as he passed to St. Mary's Hall, but this was frustrated, as the mayor knelt on a cushion in Fleet Street, at the former Mayor's (Abram Owen) house, and being warned of the plot, entered St. Mary's Hall another way. On the north-west side, where now the County Hall stands, built 1784, once stood a Guild Hall but which Guild I cannot say, and between this and the Library building, stood two old timbered houses near which a conduit was built in 1632, when a large undertaking for the supply of water to the citizens from the Swanswell by Bartholemew Bewley, a plumber, and Thomas Sargeson, a mason. A print of the old house, called Swanswell House, is yet to be seen, but I do not know of any print of the stone tower 35ft. high, which held a large tank and gravitated the water in lead pipes across Pool Meadow, up Priory Row, to this conduit or reservoir. The water was forced to the top of the tower by a water wheel, which worked where the little waterfall now runs near the Swanswell Inn, and some years ago I had the pleasure of chatting to an old lady, who, as a girl, used to take her father's meals to the water wheel of which he had charge.
On the site of the Golden Cross Inn, once stood an older building, which earlier still was the Coventry Mint from the time of King Edward IV. The present Inn, looking so ancient, is modern, but its ancient looking timbers were used in 1794 to build a framework for St. Michael's bells, and was used for nearly a 100 years. The frame cost the sum of £3752. On this same side several other half timbered buildings stood, and some are yet standing. I believe another roadway exists at a depth of about 8-ft. beneath this part of Bayley Lane.
Excavations which had ceased for six months, have commenced again on the old Bablake site.
Varied are the places where 700 years ago, the rubbish was deposited to form the basins or dams for the mill races. The blackened piles of long ago are as tough as when placed there. Some of the material is as though collected from roadways, while some is black and fibrous in the form of manure from the many cattle sheds existing at that time.
On the Coventry Co-operative Society site, scarcely anything has been discovered in the last excavations, save pottery of the 13-14th cent, and at a depth of 16 feet, (being two feet through the gravel,) two pieces of fossilised oak branches came to light. A large oak tree was found cut off at the trunk but standing where it grew at 10 feet in depth. In one place the gravel was very near the surface, as though thrown up by a flood. More digging will be done at a later time.
On the opposite side of Bablake Street large holes for foundations have been made which have given me an opportunity to discover what was buried beneath. Fourteen holes in all were made, about 6-ft, wide and from 6-ft. to 15-ft. in length. In one hole the large timbers of a mill were found at a depth of 16-ft. and from here I obtained a new design of shoe sole which may have been made for a person with a deformed foot. Many 14th cent, boot soles and uppers were found, and also part of a wood pattern from which boot soles, (such as were found under Messrs. Newsome's Garage some years ago), were cut. A silver coin of the 13th cent., a brass counter with small ships on one side, and Fleur-de-lis on the reverse side this dates from the same period as the boots, Edward III.) small pieces of pottery, a piece of leather, cut in form of a cross, and a knife which could be used today, but minus the handle. A piece of stone with a hole made through one end, is I believe for tethering a goat. All these things were found at a depth of 12-16 ft. In the last hole to be made, (on Thursday, May 11th) two trees of large size were found at a depth of 10-ft., placed lying in the same direction, and about 6-ft. apart, which no doubt was for a crude water race, to the mill timbers I mentioned above, where possibly the mill wheel hung. These timbers are as tough as when placed there 700 years ago, and proved a great hindrance to the excavators.
'Not Forgotten', the 1939 IRA bomb attack - by Simon Shaw
1930s Austin's Monthly Magazine articles - John Bailey Shelton MBE
Stoke Park School - Microcosm magazine, Summer 1949