Foleshill

The area that is Foleshill has never been particularly easy to define, being more a scattering of hamlets rather than an area with a clearly defined central focus. For most Coventrians it is best understood as the neighbourhood surrounding the Foleshill and Stoney Stanton roads. Both these roads provided a lifeline of industrial development for a city centre choked by the unavailability of land for development in other directions. The existence of the Coventry Canal and Coventry to Nuneaton Railway in the same locality only served to confirm Foleshill’s suitability for industry. It was an area already partly developed by the nineteenth century, let alone the 20th. Certainly industries such as Cash’s ribbon weaving factory, the Ordnance Works and various brick works were already established in the area. In addition suburban development had built up along many of the roads in lower Foleshill by 1900. Twentieth century changes have not helped the development of clearly identifiable centres of community life for Foleshill; it is characterised more as a continuous flow of human activity along the two main roads. Despite the development and subsequent decline) of important factories in the Foleshill area the most noticeable changes have come in the outer reaches of Foleshill. Where in areas such as Bell Green development of communities has been more about large housing estates than truly mixed community development as found elsewhere in Foleshill.

Courtaulds Foleshill Road Coventry 1912 photograph1. Courtauld’s Ltd c1922 (Teesee)

2. Water Storage Tank Courtauds c1912 (Appelby)

Compared to the picture used in the previous book, Courtaulds has now expanded rapidly based on the success of its revolutionary artificial fibre, Rayon. It was a world player in this market. It seems appropriate that Foleshill, for so long home to a significant ribbon weaving industry should now be the base for this new textile industry. Much of the building shown here was part of that expansion, though at the core is still the original 1904 works. This road junction with Lockhurst Lane is constantly busy today compared to the occasional burst of activity at the change of shifts then, though the view is now softened, not to say obscured by a number of large copper beeches. Sadly, as in much of Foleshill, the roadside trees like the one in the foreground here have not survived. The second picture shows that the workers welfare was catered for even in the midst of all those chemicals! Courtaulds obtained all its own water from bore holes on the site. During breaks this water storage tank in the factory, available in case of fires, was just the place for a bit of discreet bathing for the female labour force. Most are wearing identical club or company costumes.

3. Foleshill Road c1907 (E.R.)

In general whilst humble cottages and large factories may come and go substantial pubs are a little like the parish church and tend to survive, even if in name only. The Golden Eagle on the right can be seen still in its latest incarnation at the junction with Eagle Street – presumably the former giving its name to the latter. To the left is the entrance to Dubbock, Jones & Co weaving works which spread out behind the cottages up to the canal. Though much has disappeared, the small terrace beyond the pub still survives as do some of the houses beyond the weaving works entrance.

4. Prince William Henry, Lower Foleshill Road c1927 (Unknown)

A splendid survival from Foleshill’s earlier golden age, even today this building is surprisingly similar to this postcard. Yet externally it still gives you the feel for Foleshill’s peculiar mixture of rural industry and agriculture. Proprieter W.K. Hollick, landlord for much of the 1920’s, stands by the entrance with a woman nearby in front of a weighing machine. Presumably the space invader gadget of its time, the weighing machine was quite a common feature of pubs in the early part of the century. Note the old water pump to the left and the tram tracks in front. The street cobbles are gone today and a lick of paint gives the building a more respectable air, but as one of the more remarkable features of Foleshill’s agriculture past it deserves a mention.

St Pauls Road Coventry 1912 photograph5. St Pauls Road c1912 (Waterman)

This, one of the grander streets of Foleshill, remains substantially the same as it is shown in this view, yet it is in the detail that some of the significant changes can be found. As with so many semi­detached houses of this period where decorative detail overlaps between the two houses a common approach to maintenance is not adopted so that the symmetry of the gable ends is lost, and with it part of the architectural integrity of the street.

Foleshill Hall Lythalls Lane Coventry 1917 photograph6. Foleshill Hall c1917 (Unknown)

There is a certain contradiction in terms between the industrialist working class image of Foleshill and the image of grand living that this picture conveys. Yet at the time of the First World War there were a number of large houses in this area. Admittedly most were throwbacks to the times when such houses had manorial status over a largely agricultural Foleshill. This hall was originally a manor house and continued to be the centre of a small estate until its conversion into a pub during the First World War. The first landlord, Henry Sutton, took over what was to be known as “Foleshill Olde Hall” pub and hotel in February 1917. The building, quite recently demolished, was to be found along Lythall’s Lane on the north east side of the railway bridge.

Station Street East Foleshill Coventry 1912 photograph7. Station Street East,  c1912 (Waterman)

Great Heath Foleshill Road Coventry 1912 photograph8. Great Heath c1922 (Teesee)

This was one of a number of late nineteenth century streets built simply to provide space for residential development to house the workers of the many factories and workshops being opened in the district. It also continued to provide homes for those who wanted to live outside the city. Like some other early suburban streets of Foleshill the developers tried to add a touch of an ‘avenue’ feel by planting a few trees, with varying degrees of conviction; sadly the ones here have not survived. Station Street East, as the name suggests, is to the east of Foleshill Road opposite the General Wolf, in the area then commonly known as Great Heath. This was obviously a good enough term to identify the location of the second picture, opposite the entrance to Station Street East, at the corner of Station Street West. Lloyds Bank on the far left still features at this location today. Some tram tracks can be seen to veer across the street towards the location of the first picture. This was part of a failed plan to include Station Street East in the tramway system. As can be seen in the first picture there is no evidence of a tramway, indeed judging from the behaviour of the children very little traffic passed this way, unlike its present role as a rat run between Stoney Stanton Road and the Foleshill Road.