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Riotous Times Past

If you have been following my blog you will know that I’ve been doing some work for the council knocking on doors to check that the electoral register is up to date. I’ve been working in the Canley area today and there will be entries covering the history of that area to come. I had been intending to look at Coventry’s electoral history in my blog as it is topical to my recent work. Following yesterday’s post I have started following up some of my comments about Wyken with a bit of extra research and came across an interesting entry relating to elections in the city and the Craven Colliery in Wyken (mentioned in my previous blog).


Most people have probably sensed a recent disillusionment with politics generally as we repeatedly see a paralysis of the structures of government. Political discontent is not new though and there is a long history of it in Coventry.


The British History Online site’s (https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/warks/vol8/pp119-124#p30) entry for Wyken and Caludon (originally published in 1969) tells us:


“Coal digging spread south from Hawkesbury in the early 17th century. Unfortunately many of the early references to 'Wyken' mines are inaccurate, and refer to the Attoxhale farm in Sowe, only small parts of which were in Wyken parish. The Greens and the Cravens were interested in mines, however, and possibly in the late 18th century a shaft was sunk on Serjeant's Farm just east of the farm buildings and north of the River Sowe. By 1850 this was known as the Craven Colliery. A tramway, and later a branch railway, were extended south from Sowe to the colliery, and a fresh shaft was sunk in the early 20th century and new buildings erected. The rapid increase in the population of Wyken between 1901 and 1911 from 124 to 321 was attributed to the greater numbers of miners. There was also an electricity station on the site. The mine became disused before the Second World War and its site is now occupied by a factory and a warehouse. In 1859 miners on strike from Wyken (possibly from the Wyken Farm Colliery in Sowe) took part in election disturbances in Coventry”


The raised embankment which the tramway mentioned above was laid on still survives as a footpath running from Henley Road (just opposite the site of the old colliery) across towards the North end of Woodway Lane.There is a photo of this embankment on the Coventry Walks website (essential reading for any Coventry rambler!) at https://www.coventry-walks.org.uk/potters-green-corridor.html


The “election disturbances” mentioned above are not the only instances of unrest in the city featuring striking miners. In “The Story of Coventry” Peter Walters tells us of riots over half a century earlier :


“On 8th September 1800 serious riots broke out over food prices, inflamed by the appearance in the city of an armed mob of desperate miners from the Bedworth area intent on “liberating” basic food stocks to feed their starving families.”



These are just some of the many cases of civic unrest in Coventry including rioting weavers attacking the first factory to use a steam powered loom in the city, protests and strikes against perceived profiteering during WW1 and “peace riots” at the end of that conflict (as soldiers from the front returned to unemployment, inadequate housing and poverty).

Again my research has brought up more questions than answers and my immediate trawling for information on the 1859 election disturbances (and local miners strike) have not yielded much in the way of results. I feel a visit to the archives coming on in the coming weeks to clarify matters – watch this space...........

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