Last week I attended an interesting and entertaining Coventry Society meeting at St John's Church Hall. The hall is attached to the church which was used as a jail for Royalist prisoners during the English civil war - the citizens shunning of the prisoners is believed to have given rise to the phrase "sent to Coventry".
The main speaker at the meeting was Peter Coss with a talk on the "making of a Coventry historian". Peter began his talk by relating how he was curious about names of streets and places around his native Holbrooks. Why is Lockhurst Lane so named? Was there ever a park from which the Whitmore Park area was named?
I also find the subject of place names fascinating with some of my previous posts dealing with the subject of a hermit once living near to my home in the present Hermitage Road (itself built on land belonging to Hermitage Farm which in turn took its name from a hermitage - a hermits dwelling - on the site).
Prior to the meeting I had spent an hour or so in the central library perusing the shelves and settling down to start reading Charles Dickens' "The Old curiosity Shop". I make reference to the work in my city centre guided walk "A literary City", as Whitefriars Gatehouse is believed to be the inspiration behind a scene in the book.
I shall be offering my walks (click for details and booking) again in the New Year including the one with the Dickens' references. In line with offering "On Foot Services" I am currently working delivering leaflets for local businesses and also taking on temporary employment with the city council visiting houses to ensure that eligible voters are on the register. Having completed an afternoon's work I made my way to the library (which I think is now designated as a "warm bank") to look for novels directly related to my guided walk offering.
Getting back to the curiosities around naming of places and that Coventry Society meeting.
The questions session at the end of the meeting gave the opportunity to raise a question which had been lingering for a few months. Whilst speaking at a meeting in Bulkington earlier this year an attendee (another Peter) asked if I knew the origins of the name "Courthouse Green" - an area in the Upper Stoke district of Coventry. Was there an actual Court House? Where did it stand?
I have been raising this question at meetings which I have attended and also where I have been a speaker - all with no leads. Peter seemed the ideal person to ask as he showed his expertise explaining his interest in medieval and Coventry history and referred to some of Coventry's ancient manors. Some of these manors would have had the right to hold court sessions to resolve local disputes). Neither Peter nor anyone in the audience could give an answer although there were mentions of a workhouse in the area.
The question must have been playing on my mind as very early the next morning I woke with a resolve to conduct more internet trawls to solve the Court House mystery. The search was successful as I found several references on Rob Orland's excellent Historic Coventry Forum where I learnt from several posts that a property named "Court House Farm" aka "The Old Courthouse" stood roughly at what is now the junction of Nuffield Road and Bell Green Road (which was once had the name of Courthouse Green after the expansive heathland below it). The "green" was largely built over in the 1930s following the construction of the Morris Engines site and housing on and around the new Sewall Highway and Nuffield Rd (named after the propriety of the Morris company).
The Court House was actually a Coach House with an extensive stable block and plenty of facilities for travellers as well as being a farm.
Whilst giving his response to my question Peter Coss had pointed out the the word "court" could have several meanings. My conclusion (for the time being!) is that the property probably got its name from partly being arranged around a courtyard. However the question has set my mind to the idea of researching where local Lords of the Manor would have held sessions to resolve disputes - watch this space for mentions in future posts!