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  • Writer's picturePhil

A hill, a pub, a tree and a ball?

It is generally accepted that the part of Walsgrave Road which is known as Ball Hill acquired this unofficial name after the Old Ball pub which sits at the top of the hill. Some theories have suggested that there may have been an old version of football played in the area – such as those which see mobs turn out in villages around the country on Shrove Tuesday to indulge in a bit of ancient sport.

Gosford Green was certainly a place where leisure activities took place and in medieval times stretched eastwards at least as far as Jabet's Ash (the ancient boundary marker on Binley Road) and beyond the site of the present Old Ball Hotel on the present day Walsgrave Road.

In medieval time working men would have the latter part of a Sunday afternoon for their own leisure (following compulsory visits to church and then the butts for archery practice), Rudimentary forms of football were played often leading to major injuries and sometimes fatalities.

A game with ancient roots is still played annually in the Warwickshire town of Atherstone The Atherstone Ball Game commemorates a match played in 1199. It had been played throughout the streets of that town prior to the 1970s but has now been limited to one street after games were “getting out of hand” with the ball often ending up in the Coventry Canal.

Ancient ball games were often played between town or village boundaries so it is worth considering that Jabet's Ash could perhaps have been the medieval equivalent of a modern day goal post.

Whether or not Ball Hill got its name through such ball games (and the Old Ball named to commemorate them rather than the hill being named after the pub) it is certainly the case that ball games have been very much associated with this locality – the first three homes of Coventry City Football Club and pubs associated with the early days of the club are close by. Gosford Green was the home of the Craven Colliery Cricket Club as well as sometimes being the venue for Coventry's Great Fairs. More to come on these fairs and the sports and pastimes which took place at them......

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