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Coventry's development

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Sorcha
Uk
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1 of 12  Sat 23rd Sep 2017 9:55pm  
Member: Joined Sep 2017  Total posts:13

I wonder if anybody could fill in some gaps in my knowledge? I have a huge interest in architecture and how it corresponds usually to the development of towns/cities. For example in my home city of Manchester the historical architecture is predominantly Victorian reflective of the city's growth during that time. Obviously Coventry's architecture in places like Spon street echoes the towns affluence during the Middle Ages but then looking at old photos I seem to see much Victorian stuff. Did Coventry go through something of a lapse in the interim or am I mislead? What was the industry during that time? Any info would be lovely
Coventry's development
flapdoodle
Coventry
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2 of 12  Sat 23rd Sep 2017 10:23pm  
Member: Joined Nov 2010  Total posts:829

Coventry’s economy stagnated in the post medieval years and it spent most of the Victorian era as a market town with watchmaking and weaving as cottage industries (in Victorian buildings, many built in small ‘villages’ disconnected from the older city) until mass manufacturing took hold and the city grew rapidly. This is why Coventry lacks the grand Victorian civic buildings seen in places like Manchester and Leeds and also why it had a lot of timber buildings at the turn of the century (many of which were bricked up, hiding their original features). Earlsdon and areas in Stoke had streets laid out in this period but growth was slow and not much was built at the time. You can still see a few Victorian houses amongst the later Edwardian terraces. Edited by member, 23rd Sep 2017 10:31 pm
Coventry's development
Sorcha
Uk
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Thread starter
3 of 12  Sat 23rd Sep 2017 10:31pm  
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Thank you flapdoodle, so what was the next major industry after textiles
Coventry's development
flapdoodle
Coventry
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4 of 12  Sat 23rd Sep 2017 10:39pm  
Member: Joined Nov 2010  Total posts:829

Bikes, vehicles, chemicals (Courtaulds), electronics (GEC), machine tools, and aircraft. Some of those factories had nice Edwardian frontages. You can still see parts of Courtaulds on Foleshill Road, but most have gone now. Jaguar at Whitley is a former aircraft factory, and bits of GEC are university buildings. A Lucas GEC building off Sky Blue Way is a storage facility. I think a factory on Gosford Street that once produced aircraft parts is a Uni building. There's a fragment of the original Daimler works left by the canal basin.
Coventry's development
Sorcha
Uk
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5 of 12  Sat 23rd Sep 2017 10:47pm  
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Ok I see, so what went on between? Did people move out and then move back when things picked up? When I came to visit this year I got chatting to a lovely girl in the tourist centre at the cathedral. She told me it was unusual to have three generations in the same family in Coventry. Would you say that's an accurate assessment
Coventry's development
Helen F
Warrington
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6 of 12  Sat 23rd Sep 2017 11:39pm  
Member: Joined Mar 2013  Total posts:764

The textile industry never went away, it shrank. Or at least it didn't expand in line with the rest of the country. They made ribbons and cloth but wool gave way to cotton in popularity and Lancashire and Manchester were more suited to making it. The city went into a time warp in about 1520 due to famine, the Black Death, poor trade and growing poverty and because of those things was probably the most complete medieval city in England in 1850. There was very little Tudor or Stuart and most of the Georgian was façade rather than rebuild. The bulk of later buildings were between Fleet Street and Jordan Well but even those areas were peppered with medieval buildings and backs. When the town started growing again, they built behind the medieval frontages and in about 1850 it was getting very unpleasant with gardens giving way to slum courts. The bigger businesses that did develop were built on garden/farming plots and some of those were making ribbons. The city couldn't expand properly because the freemen of the city had rights to keep animals on the land surrounding it especially over winter. Even though the people with those right were living in horrible conditions there had to be an Act of Parliament to make them give up those rights (not sure about the date but it was probably before 1850). At that point there was an explosion in building suburbs and people moved into the new homes. This left large blocks available for redevelopment within the city and factories were built over many plots at once. Much Park Street and Little Park Street were where some of the first big factories were built, probably because there were bigger plots to start with. One of the first was constructed on the empty plot that had been one of Coventry's finest houses, Bridgeman's. I could be wrong but I think it was a cycle factory. The bike technology helped spawn many car companies and as a result Coventry had a lot of the technology and equipment for armaments. That made the city a prime target and many of those houses that survived the rapidly modernising city, were burnt by the fires that were started by the bombs. A fair number of buildings survived still in the 50s but most were demolished to make way for the University, the council buildings and flats. Sad
Coventry's development
Dreamtime
Perth Western Australia
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7 of 12  Sun 24th Sep 2017 4:18am  
Member: Joined Jan 2010  Total posts:2866

Thanks Helen, quite a lot into a nutshell there. Thumbs up
Coventry's development
Sorcha
Uk
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8 of 12  Sun 24th Sep 2017 8:47am  
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Brilliant Helen thanks. That makes perfect sense and I'm now truly fascinated time for a lot more reading for me 😊
Coventry's development
Helen F
Warrington
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9 of 12  Sun 24th Sep 2017 12:05pm  
Member: Joined Mar 2013  Total posts:764

Thanks, but it's only a very rough sketch of what happened. Smile And I mean rough. There are some very good books out there about the city. Start with some of the newer ones because while interesting, the older ones often didn't have access to modern techniques and understanding. Several things I should clarify. The true age of the city before the war was very hard to determine because like us people were forever adding bits and knocking sections down. Only dendro dating is showing how old some places are. A lot of Tudor building was actually repair and development work to very sturdy medieval frames. Some sections of the city were older than their location because for the Civil War (Cromwell etc) houses just outside the city walls were removed and often rebuilt in their entirety within the city. eg Warwick lane moved from outside the gates to inside, onto the land that had been the Greyfriar's priory before the dissolution. Parts of New Buildings and other areas round the ruins of St Mary's were also built for those displaced for the Civil War. It was probably a measure of Coventry's decline that those lands were still available. In a similar fashion it was some time after the War before the vacated land was rebuilt with spacious Georgian homes. Medieval buildings were often parallel to the street and 2 or three 'bays' wide. The main part, the hall, would have been open to the ceiling. Once chimneys became common, the hall could have an upper floor, doubling the upstairs immediately. Originally a lot of the city was just 2 storey, facing onto the street and at the time the roadways weren't cramped and overhung the way London looked at the time. Later development often dropped the line of the upper floor to the ground, cutting the pavements in half or altogether, giving us a flawed impression of narrow roadways in the medieval era. Roadways were also lower than today or in the b/w photos. Market areas were common but were sometimes filled in by the Tudors and then opened up again, often in a different direction, under the Georgians. Broadgate seems to have followed that pattern, shifting to the west as fashions changed. When houses became scarce but trade outside the city allowed for less home grown stuff, the owners could start extending out the back. Back gardens were long and thin 'burgage' plots so development out the back was often long and thin. Once a house had back rooms, the front could be divided into two or more properties. The original front and back doors became a shared passage to the back. As space became even more in demand, the individual rooms were turned into properties. Turning what had been originally quite roomy homes into 'houses of multiple occupancy' to use the modern terminology. One room up, one room down terraces snaked back from the original house along the gardens that weren't as important any more. Later, a third storey was added to create the top shops, where big windows and the height allowed people to work on looms in their own home. While the town planners are responsible for brutally destroying large stretches of the city before Hitler got the chance, the repair techniques used once the Georgian look came in and onwards made demolition almost an imperative. Once encased in mortar, brick and concrete render, the wood started to rot at a highly accelerated rate. The properties would have been death traps of mould, sewage and disease. Final point. Coventry seems to have had a very good fire prevention strategy. It did away with wooden chimneys and thatch very early (I'll add the date if I find it). Well before the Great Fire of London, Coventry had tile as standard throughout the city. Later it installed fire walls, breaking up long stretches of timber buildings with fire break, brick partitions. Of those stretches of buildings that survived the bombing, there were usually brick buildings bookending the group.
Coventry's development
Kaga simpson
Peacehaven, East Sussex
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10 of 12  Sun 24th Sep 2017 3:37pm  
Member: Joined Sep 2014  Total posts:1811

Helen. Wow, absolutely stunning reading, thank you.
Coventry's development
Helen F
Warrington
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11 of 12  Wed 27th Sep 2017 8:25am  
Member: Joined Mar 2013  Total posts:764

Thank you Kaga but I just repackage information that is already out there, whereas you write about stuff that only you can pass on. That really is very valuable.
Coventry's development
NeilsYard
Coventry
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12 of 12  Sat 21st Oct 2017 11:58am  
Member: Joined Aug 2010  Total posts:1552

Can I have your autograph Rob? Big grin
Coventry's development

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