Tuesday, 11 December 2012

A short history of Coventry, Warwickshire, England

Although Coventry is most famous for ‘Lady Godiva’ and the November 1940 blitz that ruined St Michael’s Cathedral, I am going to tell you if it’s at all possible of something other than that.

Coventry was first incorporated by King Edward III, and the first mayor was chosen in 1348; it was erected into a county, with a considerable district, in the year 1451, by Henry VI, and both these charters were further confirmed by James I. The corporate body consists of a mayor; ten aldermen, who are justices of the peace for life; two bailiffs, who are sheriffs for the city and county; twenty common councilmen, a recorder, chamberlain, corner, wardens, and other inferior officers. The corporation, who have a gaol for felons, hold quarter sessions as in counties at large; the mayor and sheriffs hold a court of record for debts under forty shillings; and the sheriffs hold their county court every month. The city sends two members to parliament, who are chosen by the freemen, constituted such by birth and servitude; the sheriffs are the returning officers; the representatives elected in 1826 were Thomas Bilcliffe Fyler, Esq. and Richard E Heathcote, Esq.

The manufactures of Coventry consist principally of ribbons, which was first introduced a little more than a century ago, and was for a time confined only to a few hands, but has since spread to such a vast extent, that no town in England can compete with it in the quantity produced here of this ornamental and useful article of dress, which is carried to all parts of the world. Besides ribbons, camlets, gauzes and some broad silk fabrics are wove, and the silk throwing branch is of considerable importance. Within the last thirty years the making of watches has brought great reputation to this city; and its general trade, including that of a local nature, is prosperous, and its inhabitants wealthy and respectable.

The parish churches are three in number, all admired as being fine specimens of Gothic, or old-English architecture; that dedicated to the Holy Trinity is a vicarage, in the incumbency of the Rev. John Davies; St John the Baptist’s is a rectory, in the incumbency of the Rev. Wm. Brookes; St Michael’s is a vicarage, of which the Rev. Robert Simpson is the minister: this last-named church, the steeple of which is three hundred feet in height, is so finely proportioned that Sir Christopher Wren spoke of it as a master-piece in architecture.

By the parliamentary returns for 1821 the city of Coventry contained 21,242 inhabitants, and the ‘county of the city of Coventry,’ comprising the parishes of Anstey, Exhall, Foleshill, Sow, Stivichall, Stoke and Wyken; besides the hamlets of Keresley and Radford, in that part of the parish of St. Michael situated without the city, all which collectively contained 8,138: total number of inhabitants in the city and county of the city of Coventry 29, 380.

Information was found in ‘Pigot and Co.’s National Commercial Directory for 1828-9’.