Radford

The changes in Radford brought about by the twentieth century expansion of Coventry are perhaps more remarkable than those found in any other area of the city. Before the First World War it was just another sleepy hamlet around the church of St. Nicholas; admittedly industry and housing were encroaching on its borders with Foleshill in the east and the city centre in the south, but life elsewhere was essentially rural. It was protected from substantial development by the lack of adequate sewerage facilities, yet once this was overcome there was no stopping the builders and by the time the Second World War broke out there was virtually no land left to build on. What makes Radford’s case particularly sad is the fact that today there is next to nothing left of the old settlement except the images preserved in old photographs.

Radford Fields Coventry 1912 history photographs1. Radford Fields c1910 (Waterman)

It is rare to get a postcard that simply records the countryside of Edwardian Coventry before the suburbs were built. It was not so spectacular in its own right that the focus of a road or a building was considered necessary to gain the interest of a purchaser. This view of Radford Fields slipped through the net as the snow covered ground was the main interest but it does make it more difficult to tie down its exact location.The stream is Radford Brook in the area north of where the Radford Hotel is found today.

Engleton Road Radford Coventry 1922 photograph2. Engleton Road c1922 (Ralph’s Real Photos)

The first fruits of the construction by the City Council of improved sanitary services can be seen in this view of new housing, also showing a little bit of what was left of Radford Common. The war memorial is in the foreground with Engleton Road, leading to Moseley Avenue on the right. German prisoners of war from the 1914-18 conflict, who were based in nearby Villa Road, supposedly helped in its construction. The memorial has now been moved to the opposite side of the road.

Radford Road The Grapes Road Radford Coventry 1922 photograph

3. Radford Road c1936 (Unknown)

This postcard showing the “Grapes Inn” will confuse today’s residents of the area, as it is on the opposite side of the Radford Road to it’s present position. The view is looking up the rise in the road towards the City centre, with Swillington Road being just around the bend to the left. The driver of the cart parked outside in what would now be a very dangerous spot, was possibly enjoying a pint of Bass bitter with the publican A.J. Jarrard. The railings seen on the right are still in existence, in places, above what is now Bridgeman Road.

4. Lydgate Road 1923 (Unknown)

This interesting group of motorcyclists, members of the Coventry Triangle Motor Club, are seen turning left from Lydgate Road on to the Radford Road. They are taking part in the Coventry Hospital Carnival event, which took place on Saturday 9th June to mark the 50th anniversary of the Hospital Saturday Movement. The event which started from the Radford Aerodrome, Middlemarch Road, raised £2,888 towards the upkeep of the hospital, which was heavily in debt and due to its success became an annual event.

 Daimler car factory  Radford Coventry 1910 photograph5. Daimler Works c1909 (Harvey Barton)

This disused cotton mill near the Coventry canal basin became the home of Britain’s first motor car factory in 1896. The mill, burnt out in 1891 had been reconditioned and was empty, just at the time when the syndicate who had bought the rights to produce the Daimler car in this country were looking for a suitable site. Luckily for Coventry it was chosen in place of Birmingham and Cheltenham, the other main locations considered. The 13 acre site was quickly developed, the original cotton mill building being converted into a three-tier machine shop. In 1908 when further expansion was not possible, the site at Radford was acquired, which luckily became the main works. In 1937 the Coventry works were vacated, being used as an Air Ministry store when in 1940 most of the works including the cotton mill were destroyed by the Luftwaffe.

Sandy Lane Car demonstration  Radford Coventry 1907 photograph6.  Sandy Lane c1907 (Waterman)

The British built Daimlers as early as 1897 had gained many successes in motor trials, being awarded sixteen major prizes in the first 1000 Mile Trial in 1900. In 1907 three cars were entered in one of the world’s oldest and greatest road races, the Italian Targa Floria. The bottom view shows the cars which gained 13th, 20th and 26th places, in Sandy Lane about to enter the Coventry Works. The house on the corner of St Nicholas Street is The Gables with Merrick Lodge behind.

Widderington Road   Radford Coventry 1907 photograph7. Widdrington Road c1906 (ER)

This view looking from the Sandy Lane, Ellis Road junction shows Widdrington Road curving to the left at the far end at the connection with Dorset Road. On the right, opposite Dorset Road, would have been Duryea Motor Company, this site in later years being Coventry Climax works. It would appear to be an early morning scene with milk being delivered and children on their way to school. Francis Hegan has not yet opened Ellis Road Post Office but next door to his wife’s drapers shop the manager of The London Central Meat Company has had the shop scrubbed out ready for the days business. At this time a railway line ran on the spot the cameraman is standing from the Nuneaton line, before Daimler Halt, into the Daimler Works.

Leaving the Daimler car factory  Radford Coventry 1927 photograph8. “Leaving Off” at the Radford Daimler. c1926 (Teesee)

These workers are seen leaving the main entrance of the Radford Daimler works in Daimler Road. This works produced only motor vehicles until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. Later in the war a 105 H.P. engine and transmission were developed for a tractor, to work pulling large loads in difficult conditions in France. This developed into the Tank which in late 1917 at the Battle of the Somme turned the tide of the War. The French Gnome aero engine was also produced, in large numbers and as later aeroplanes were also produced, in 1915 a ‘flight ground’ was built at the back of the factory. When this area was later built on it became known as the Radford Aerodrome Estate.

9. Radford Road c1932 (Teesee)

The local children must have known that the cameraman was due, for so many of them to gather on the Radford Road, outside the Radford Social Club. The view is looking towards the city with Dugdale Road on the right, and further down Wyley Road with the shops between. The children would have gone to the Radford Council School further down on the right, the other side of Lawrence Saunders Road.

Radford Garage and Petrol Station  Radford Coventry 1930 photograph10. The Radford Garage c1929 (Unknown)

This advertising postcard would have been used by T.H. Hunter to gain new customers to his Radford Road Garage. The Garage was next to the Radford Congregational Chapel, near to the intersection with Villa Road. At the time the Radford Hotel was being built but it would still be some years before the Savoy Cinema was erected. Cars were still beyond the reach of the working man, petrol being as much as 1/4^2 a gallon (7p) and lubricating oil 9d pint (4p). Today this is the Savoy Service Station.