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DBC
Nottinghamshire
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1 of 38  Sat 19th Mar 2011 3:05pm  
Member: Joined Apr 2010  Total posts:169

I have just visited the National Trust "back-to-backs" in Birmingham.They are examples of "court houses", many of which were also built in Coventry. My mother grew up in one such house in White Friars Lane. According to the 1911 census there were about twelve houses in that particular court, with each house having just four rooms including the kitchen. Looking round the web, there doesn't seem to be much information about these types of dwellings in Coventry, even though there must have been many of them in the city centre. I'm not even certain if they were in large court-yards behind ordinary street-facing houses, or (as in Birmingham) they were part of a back-to-back complex. I would be interested to know if there is more information somewhere, including any photographs or plans, about these long-gone dwellings.
Court Houses
dutchman
Spon End
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2 of 38  Sat 19th Mar 2011 4:30pm  
Member: Joined Mar 2010  Total posts:3000

I knew it personally and went to school with many of the kids from the yard. The only plumbing was to a cold tap in the kitchen sink which emptied into a gulley in the courtyard. The gulleys all ran to a single drain at the end of the yard. They were lined with green soap scum which stank real bad in summer. There was also a block of just four toilets at the end of the yard to serve all twelve dwellings. The inside of these dwellings was always immaculate and the residents took great pride in personal cleanliness. There was also always a very strong community spirit with neighbours helping each other and organising activities for the youngsters. Most of the courtyards in Coventry were demolished or half-demolished after the polio outbreak of 1956 although there is no proof that the courtyards were responsible. The one in Whitefriars Street lasted until the mid 1960's. It's a shame at least one courtyard could not have been preserved just to show people today what living conditions were like back then. The City Engineers Dept took many photos of the courtyards but the only ones released to the public show them after one side had already been demolished so do not give a true impression of what they were like. A poster on the erstwhile Coventry Telegraph Forum known as "lizadaw" actually lived in the courtyard you mention and has a lot of stories she could tell us if only she would register here?
Court Houses
DBC
Nottinghamshire
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Thread starter
3 of 38  Sun 20th Mar 2011 7:06pm  
Member: Joined Apr 2010  Total posts:169

I think the court houses we are talking about are those which were built very quickly and cheaply in Victorian times to house the influx of people into towns and cities. The design was chosen to cram as many people into the smallest space as possible.
Court Houses
dutchman
Spon End
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4 of 38  Sun 20th Mar 2011 8:44pm  
Member: Joined Mar 2010  Total posts:3000

That's correct. The houses were originally built with very long back gardens whch sometimes even included an orchard. As the population and demand for housing soared the owners realised they could build a row of very basic dwellings down one or both sides of the former garden and rent each dwelling separately. The yards between the rows of dwellings were accessed by a narrow alleyway which ran between the houses on the street frontage. This is Court #38 on the north side of Spon Street:
Court Houses
DBC
Nottinghamshire
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Thread starter
5 of 38  Sun 20th Mar 2011 11:38pm  
Member: Joined Apr 2010  Total posts:169

If they were like the ones in Birmingham, then they would have had a building in the courtyard housing the washhouse and privies. There was no internal plumbing, and the washhouse was used by all the residents of the yard to do their laundry.
Court Houses
dutchman
Spon End
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6 of 38  Mon 21st Mar 2011 12:30am  
Member: Joined Mar 2010  Total posts:3000

Residents in Whitefriars Street either did their laundry in the kitchen sink or just outside in the yard. That's the reason the drainage gullies were always lined with soap scum. It was the only place I've ever seen an old-fashioned washboard still in use. I may have spotted a washtub and dolly too but that might be just my memory playing tricks?
Court Houses
NeilsYard
Coventry
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7 of 38  Sat 29th Oct 2011 1:36pm  
Member: Joined Aug 2010  Total posts:1815

Just reviving this after I noticed the thread. I too have been around the National Trust Back to Backs in Birmingham - very interesting and highly reccomended. I think I'm right in saying that is the sole surviving courthouse block in Brum. Agreed its a shame none were ever saved in our beloved town.
Court Houses
InnisRoad
Hessle
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8 of 38  Sat 29th Oct 2011 6:08pm  
Member: Joined Feb 2011  Total posts:126

I was very interested to see your picture Dutchman. My grandmother lived on the north side of Spon Street and until I was about eleven, we used to visit most Sundays for tea. I can't remember the number she lived at, but they were the old weavers' cottages with top shops. There was a narrow passage running from an archway between two shops. Along the right hand side was a wall, flanking the yard of the court next door. The cottage had a plank front door and a plank back door. Out of the back door was a yard, with a pump at the top and an outside lavatory (although by then they did have mains water in a sink inside the back door). There was no electricity and no gas. The heating and cooking was via a Victorian range (the kettle was always on) and lighting was by an oil lamp. Insulation was effected by very long, thick curtains over the doors and windows. I loved going there, especially when the lamp was lit. They had a radio, running on batteries. At one time my uncle (my father's uncle, because his father was killed in WWI) used to have accumulators charged to run the radio, but it proved too expensive.
Regards Innis Road

Court Houses
happyhippie
Devon
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9 of 38  Thu 27th Dec 2012 1:42am  
Member: Joined Nov 2012  Total posts:30

My aunt (Mrs Charlie) lived in a court in Cox St., as a child I was taken there every Saturday to meet up with my aunt, it was so close to town it was a meeting place for all the family. I remember she always had a stew pot on a hook over the range, the room was quite tiny, just room for a table in the middle and an easy chair by the range, there was a scullery with a sink just off the living room, and upstairs two small bedrooms. The toilets were in a block just outside, and there was a small patch of grass, mostly turned to weeds. In the warm weather everyone would be sitting outside their houses on kitchen chairs, either knitting or just gossiping. I don't remember just where abouts it was in Cox St. I think it was on the left as you entered from the Gaumont end. I really loved my Saturdays spent there. Does anyone else remember the courts there???
Court Houses
dutchman
Spon End
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10 of 38  Thu 27th Dec 2012 8:58am  
Member: Joined Mar 2010  Total posts:3000

The only court I remember was the one behind the Walsall Arms (which had long since ceased to be a pub). It was quite a pleasant spot which survived much of the redevelopment and I wouldn't have known about it if a friend from the other side of Cox Street hadn't shown it to me.
Court Houses
NormK
bulkington
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11 of 38  Thu 27th Dec 2012 10:24am  
Member: Joined Jan 2012  Total posts:855

I remember demolishing some of these, not sure where now but something tells me Much Park Street. One day some guy came from the Museum asking for one of the Court numbers, we told him to help himself, and he said they were not allowed to have it for free, so he gave us half a crown (2/6d) for one of them. They were oval in shape, and were above the alleyways.... Wink
Milly rules

Court Houses
Midland Red
Cherwell
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12 of 38  Thu 27th Dec 2012 10:36am  
Moderator: Joined Jan 2010  Total posts:5009

Here's one from Spon Street, photographed in 2008 - I think it's still there Thumbs up
Court Houses
stevie g
wyken, coventry
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13 of 38  Thu 27th Dec 2012 12:29pm  
Member: Joined Feb 2012  Total posts:101

A previous post I put on the site 'Atkins Square' A lot of what you guys are saying is the same as 'the square' and it was court 2 but these were topshops and not back to back but had the gully and outside loos!!!
Court Houses
NeilsYard
Coventry
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14 of 38  Fri 28th Dec 2012 10:47pm  
Member: Joined Aug 2010  Total posts:1815

As per other areas of the forum/Rob's site - The Coventry Watch Museum is housed in Court No.7, Spon Street. Are there any other courts left in Coventry at all?
Court Houses
dutchman
Spon End
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15 of 38  Fri 28th Dec 2012 11:14pm  
Member: Joined Mar 2010  Total posts:3000

The courts in Whitefriars Street were a mixture of the two. The houses which faced onto the street were three-storey weaver's houses with topshops. The houses in the yards behind them were two-storey back-to-back. Incidentally the interiors of these houses were kept immaculate. I got to explore one just after it was vacated by a young married couple and it had only just been wallpapered upstairs.
Court Houses

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