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  • Writer's picturePhil

An Historic Tour on the Number 4 !

One of my aims with “In Godiva’s Footsteps” is to promote sustainability – part of my reasoning in offering “on foot services”. I do not drive and although my preferred method of transport is walking I will often use public transport and believe that an affordable, reliable, secure and comfortable integrated public transport network is an essential part of a sustainable future.

I am aiming to keep a thread running through consecutive posts on this blog – in my last post I briefly discussed coal mining and civic unrest in the city. I was thinking about these themes as I sat on the number four bus yesterday morning on the way to my job for the month (conducting electoral register canvass for the council) – on this day I was to be working in Canley and the newly routed bus would get be there in one hop from my Wyken home.

My previous blog post touches on unrest during the city during WW1. As I set on the top deck of the bus turning into Swan Lane from Walsgrave Road I contemplated this. We swung round away from Gosford Green – scene of a mass rally of striking munitions workers and their supporters during the Great War. Their wages were low and squeezed whilst long hours were demanded “for the national good”. The grievance was that they were not all allowed trade union recognition and representation to raise their concerns whilst their employers’ profits were rapidly increasing and those employers were seen as profiteering on the backs of their own workers and their family members and friends literally fighting on all fronts. The attempts of the media and powers that be to portray the protests as treasonous (comparing conditions with those on the trenches) only acted to fuel and encourage the resistance as it highlighted the appalling conditions that servicemen were enduring at the time (again in contrast to the “profiteers”). Some of the organisers of those strikes and protests went on to organise soldiers and sailors representation committees following the war’s end and a return to poor housing conditions, unemployment and poverty – and further protests. These leaders realised the importance of uniting ordinary people to have a hope of achieving their ends. I have a family connection with some of those involved and will be expanding in future blogs with more details of these protests.

Gosford Green at that time also provided a home for the Craven Colliery Cricket Club (my previous blog mentions earlier protests linked to a strike at the colliery). In looking at sustainability I shall be examining the history of coal production, energy generation and futre options for these in the city. With this is mind I couldn’t help contrasting the attitudes of those organising the protests in Coventry all those years ago (aiming for as wide a participation as possible and understanding the relevance to the lives of ordinary people to those of the modern “Extinction Rebellion” protesters. We have recently seen disruption to public transport networks and the routines of ordinary people trying to get to work by individuals who have deemed themselves to be the voice of reason and hold those that they appear to be “the uneducated masses” in contempt. This seems to be a common theme in modern politics. Whilst I would generally condone people who make a principled stand it seems ridiculous that “climate” protesters are aiming their anger at ordinary people and public transport networks – a symptom of the attitudes which are turning many against the traditional politicians of all sides who those protesters claim to oppose!

Just before turning off Swan Lane the bus passed the house which my grandma lived in during the first world war when as a young teenager she worked on the war effort in the Humber factory just across from Gosford Green She would have witnessed the protests and understood all of the angles. Her future husband was away fighting at Ypres and the Somme during the conflicts, her father working on aircraft production away from home and the family having to get by on low wages and rations.

My thoughts turned away from protests as it crossed King Richard St. Turning my head to the left a view of Gosford Green again – the street being named after Richard II who amassed his forces in full armour on the Green on the occasion of a famous aborted duel (portrayed in Shakespeare’s “Richard II “ and recorded on a stone monument on the park. Turning my head to the left I see the housing which replaced Highfield Road, former home of Coventry City. I never look along that road in this direction without recalling (and illogically half expecting to see) the old large “Coventry City Football Club” signage that adorned the back of the main stand.

Before turning into Paynes Lane we pass the building which was once the Binley Oak pub. It is now a commercial outlet selling fireplaces following a period as a religious venue. As a pub it saw the meeting that set up Singers FC (later to become Coventry City) in the 1880s and had links with the local music scene (and 2 Tone bands) in the late 1970s and early 80s.

I had a lot more thoughts on the city’s history as the bus continued through Hillfields, town, Spon End and eventually Canley – perhaps turn the number 4 into our very own Coventry open top bus tour?

More to come on these themes........

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