The writing was on the wall for the rural way of life in Stoke as early as 1856 when streets were laid out in the Stratford Road area. Ten years later, the site for the Stoke Park estate was being established on what had been the city’s racecourse. Even here, though, the building of actual houses at these locations was slow until the turn of the century. But in the early twentieth century factories and housing were forcing back the countryside in a much more comprehensive way. Gosford Green, once a gateway to the country, was now firmly within the town. Further development in the 1920s and 1930s saw the old parish completely swallowed up and the town nudging at Walsgrave, Binley and Willenhall. But Coventry’s continued prosperity was based on the expansion of industry such as the Humber, Hillman and Peel-Connor works. The latter especially led urban development well away from the city centre as early as the First World War. The more functional development of mains sewerage in the 1930s was just as important in allowing large scale suburban development.
These workers leaving the recently constructed telephone works of Peel-Connor in Stoke were part of the Coventry “Silicon Valley” of their day. Together with British Thomson Houston, already established in Coventry since 1912, they made a significant contribution to the burgeoning electrical industry in this country. Sadly, these well dressed and often highly skilled workers who were to establish Coventry as a centre of electrical excellence, would be disappointed to see how run-down the industry was to become by the 1980’s.
As can be seen from the aerial photograph, the size of the factory from its very earliest phase was an impressive investment. The view points in a south easterly direction, with Brindle Avenue to the left, Telephone Road to the right and the junction of Crescent Avenue and Uxbridge Avenue at the bottom of the picture. The junction of these two roads can be seen to the left of the top picture looking towards the top of Telephone Road.
These two views show approximately the same location but looking in opposite directions. The first view is looking towards town near to where the Peel-Connor (GPT) Works had been built on the left, though Uxbridge Avenue has yet to be built. In the second, later picture, the tram is heading back towards town from the Uxbridge Avenue Terminus. The tram lines were not extended to this Terminus until 1930, so before this the trams turned around by the Bulls Head Inn, near Bray’s Lane. On the left of the second picture can be seen the construction of houses in the Bromleigh Drive area. This development was to take over what is still shown as countryside on the right hand side of the earlier view, with Momus Boulevard flanking the road.
Despite the fact that these houses had been erected before the First World War, one side of Binley Road still resembles a country lane. This photograph was taken just beyond the Bull’s Head tram terminus, towards Binley. Stoke Rectory is in the distance on the left, by Church Lane. Though the north side of the road has been developed, the south side is fenced off where the Coventry & North Warwickshire sport ground remains today, though the frontage by the road has now been developed for housing and a petrol station. This side of the road was paved soon after the time of this picture as Biggin Hall Crescent and Crescent Avenue were built to fill the gap to the Peel-Connor Works beyond.
At last a Coventry avenue that actually has trees! Although they have not yet been planted at the time this photograph was taken, it is clear by the scene today that they were soon afterwards. The building work on Siddeley Avenue is not quite finished as can be seen by the gables being completed on the houses to the left with the builders’ lorry in the street. The houses on the left are, however, shown occupied with curtains in the windows and the chain link fencing that was not to survive the salvaging forays of the Second World War. The residents today suffer from the lack of foresight that created such a narrow road, yet this picture shows that traffic was not an issue then.
This photograph was taken soon after the opening of the new Humber works in Humber Road, Stoke on June 30th 1908. It shows the workers leaving the factory with the houses of Stoke Green clearly visible at the top left. This was the latest of a number of ill fated car factories that Humber had occupied since they started making cars in Coventry in 1898. Their previous factories seemed to be rather more susceptible to fire than other manufacturers of the time. However the 1908 factory, built on a green-field site was sufficiently big for them to close down their Nottingham operations. More importantly it has survived until the present day as part of the Peugeot-Talbot company, though sadly some of the original brick office buildings that acted as the presentable facade to the manufacturing area have recently been demolished. These buildings can be seen in the second picture
These rare views of Walsgrave Road show the area of Ball Hill also known at the time as Stoke Knob, still almost rural with the trees of the countryside visible beyond. The first view shows a newly constructed terrace of buildings. Similar ones were soon to line the Walsgrave Road as far as Stoke church. The Old Ball Hotel is one of the few survivors today from this earlier period of village scenery, but even that was rebuilt soon after this photograph was taken. The cottages raised above the road on the right are so typical of other lost roadscapes in Radford and Walsgrave, only to be seen still in Allesley. The local Band of Hope are parading only a few doors beyond the Old Ball, an uncomfortable reminder of the evils of drink to the customers of that pub! They are in fact outside their local Congregational church, to the left, the sign behind them states that a new church was to be built on that spot. The church eventually built turned out to be no more than a simple corrugated iron building still in use at present as a bed shop. The more substantial church shown had been standing in one form or another since 1836, but its days were numbered with the construction of Marlborough Road on the site of the half demolished cottage just beyond.
At this time the city’s recent march into the countryside had left behind some evidence of the land’s former function, but the field boundary in the foreground will not survive the end of the Great War. The old bus was one of a number in local service that was commandeered to take troops to the French front. Apart from small development where the fence is, the rest of the view is similar today. The wall on the left just beyond the Villiers Street junction hides the grounds of a cottage, the home of Joshua Perkins, owner of Britannia Mill in Paynes Lane. It now surrounds a social club car park.
A few years later than the pictures on the previous page the growth of Coventry has spread further along the Walsgrave Road as far as Brays Lane and Clay Lane. In the distance can be seen the point where the new houses end and the road narrows back to the country lane as it was from Gosford Green, less than a generation earlier. At the entrance to St Michaels Road on the immediate right is Vincent Wyles butchers shop now the PDSA.