• Phil

Saints, Shade and Solar Panels....

My weekend has been very much at a rambling pace! An exceptionally warm few days (especially for a bank holiday weekend) has meant my ramblings taking on a bit of a stop...start nature and giving time to take stock a bit.

Part of the logic of my “Coventry Ramble” project is the fact that as we are going about our everyday lives we are constantly being thrown off at tangents. Like life itself our thoughts seldom go in straight lines (well mine don’t anyway!) and we get cast unto unplanned routes interacting with those around us!

The nature of a rambling life is that you can stop and revisit interesting stuff. In many of my posts I have indicated that I shall be coming back to various subjects and have “promised” that I shall be returning to discuss several threads in more detail at some (vague!) point in the future.

I was gently reminded of my promise to return to some subjects by a friend yesterday whilst sitting in the shade at the canal basin. She has been following my blogs and making very positive contributions regularly sending articles, links , memories, suggestions and contacts to expand on my “ramblings”. “What has happened to the stuff about social clubs?” was one of her questions followed up with lots of suggestions especially themed around “getting the story from the horse’s mouth”.

On my return home I found that she had sent a link to an article about a local retirement home’s idea of creating a regular “pub” themed event recognising the important social aspect of interaction around games and entertainments. She had suggested that this as an example of a great place to get stories of Coventry social life over the years – a brilliant suggestion!

I shall be (I promise!) giving a reasonably detailed account of the history of social clubs in the city. As I was also reminded sitting in the canal basin there were many social and sporting clubs which arose through the City’s churches as well as factories. I shall also be looking at developing links through some of the religious communities in Coventry whilst developing a new project which goes hand in hand with my “Coventry Ramble” (but again – more of this for a later day!).

One of the themes I have been trying to develop is to encourage sustainable practices and support local groups that do so. A few days ago I received an invitation through my door to join my local “Nextdoor Poets Corner” group which described their activities:

“On our website and mobile app, we share recommendations for traders, discuss safety and local issues, plan neighbourhood events, post things for sale and much more”.

I joined and the “group” is very active and effective. I saw that already 14% of homes in the area covered are signed up and posts for the day included found pets, lost pets, items for sale and for free and frank discussions on local traders - a great resource.

The area of Wyken / Stoke that I live in is called “Poets Corner” as many of the roads are named after poets (e.g. Wordsworth Road, Emerson Road, Lord Lytton Avenue, Tennyson Road). I shall be discussing links with the poets and Coventry in my “Coventry Ramble” publication and posts on here.

My own road is not named after a poet but after “Hermitage Farm” – possible site of an actual “hermitage” (i.e. a hermit’s dwelling), Will get back to this!

Hermitage Road was once covered in woodland and was part of the Caludon estate. My (physical) ramble yesterday started off with an early morning walk to Caludon Park with my dog Spike (needed to get out early before the heat got too much for him).

Spike is getting on in years now and seemed to have over-exerted himself running to play with some other dogs so I opted for a bit of a sit down on one of the benches within the moated area of the castle ruins. Whilst sitting there I was contemplating the history of the site and running over some changes that I would be introducing to my next guided walk there (it will be on the evening of Wednesday 11th September – see the “Walks” tab for details).

A local myth is that St George, Patron Saint of England and legendary dragon slayer was born at the castle! Although the castle does have an illustrious past this is a slight elaboration on the truth! It is generally held that he was a Roman soldier of Mediterranean origin who died around 303BC – about 800 years before any thought of building a castle at Caludon!

Shakespeare was born on (and died on) St George’s day and there are strong connections between the bard and Caludon residents of his day, the Berkeley family. It is also the case that he made references to St George during his plays e.g. with Henry V declaring “Cry God for Harry, England and St George” before going into battle.’

Caludon was a centre of culture and many Tudor entertainments would have taken place there including “mumming”. When thinking of mummers’ performances the story of St George slaying the dragon is the first that comes to mind. I remember a group of mummers performing for us at my primary school back in the early seventies – portraying the heroics of “St George of Caludon”.

On Saturday I joined a guided walk hosted by Paul Curtis on the theme of the Tudors in Coventry – a subject that I am very interested in. The walk was very interesting and regularly punctuated by passers by shouting greetings to Paul (to then be introduced to members of his walking party with Paul promoting the skills, talents and background of all involved –photographer and DJs amongst a few - living culture!).

Mention of another patron saint came up during Paul’s tour when he mentioned roads within the city centre named after saints – the latest addition being St Patrick’s Ringway (the ring road).

Paul referred St Patrick as Irish. I (rather rudely in retrospect!) pointed out that he was actually Welsh. I only mentioned this as Paul had mentioned my Welsh “heritage” earlier in the walk.

My mother was Welsh and descended from an “Esquire to the Body” of Richard III who was present at the Battle Bosworth (Samuel Spriggs). By a twist of history some of Samuel’s descendants (including my own grandfather) originated from the Pembrokeshire village of Dale – the landing point of Henry Tudor on his way to Bosworth! There will hopefully be more of this in my intended publication “A Dale Ramble...”!

When I got home on Saturday I thought I had better check my facts and found the Historic-UK article entitled “St Patrick – the most celebrated Welshman in America?” A twist here suggests that St Patrick could have been born at St Davids and possibly taken into slavery by marauding Irish!

Whatever the truth the stories passed down over the years still continue to be part of our living culture and I doubt that many St Patrick’s Day drinking sessions would be dampened by the thought of him having Welsh roots or Caludon based dragon slaying stories spoilt by the knowledge that St George was long dead before Caludon was built (surely his spirit resounds around the place!).

Getting back to yesterday’s slow Sunday ramble around Coventry! After getting Spike home from Caludon for a rest I set out into town thinking about pulling my blog threads together!

Coming out of my house I thought about the greyhound “flap” trap that used to exist up the road in the pre-war years. I have actually found a post on the excellent “Historic Coventry” site from 2012 where the poster remembers that the track outline was still visible in the 1950s when there was a builders merchant on the site and also gives vague memories of a “greyhound flapper track” in Wyken.

My journey took me down Ball Hill past the Coventry Music Museum. Although situated in “2 Tone Village” the exhibits go well beyond a celebration of that record label. It is a must for an local music enthusiast and includes exhibits going back centuries. There is a section dedicated to John Dowland – a celebrated lutenist of the Tudor period with strong links to Caludon.

I carried on past Gosford Green – scene of the aborted duel between Thomas Mowbray (Duke of Norfolk) who had ridden out from Caludon and Henry Bolinbroke (Duke of Hereford and future Henry IV). The scene is portrayed in Shakespeare’s Richard II. Henry IV (like Henry VI later) went on to hold parliaments in Coventry – so we were in a sense the country’s capital city!

After a slow stroll down Gosford St I opted to find a shady place to rest and re-hydrate by Whitefrars monastery. After the dissolution of the monastries under Henry VII this fell into the hands of John Hales who also acquired St Marys Cathedral and the associated priory where two of the previous Henry’s had held parliament.

During a redevelopment of Caludon Castle during the 1680s Lord Henry and Lady Katherine Berkeley stayed at Whitefriars (at this time known as Hales House!). John Hales had set up the original King Henry VIII school inside the chapel on the site and it is no coincidence that Henry Berkely was godson to Henry VIII!

After dropping off some leaflets to promote my Caludon walk at the Herbert Museum & Art Gallery I met my son Dan on his lunch break form HMV (a modern centre of culture) and had a very tasty hummus and falafel wrap before heading off to the canal basin. Dan’s girlfriend Lucy is involved in community theatre locally and has directed a performance at the canal basin in the little theatre / performance room in the old coal vaults. I had thought that this would be a great place for some sort of event performance around life around the canals during the basin’s heyday – one to investigate!

Another one of my big interests is the development of the Coventry Canal and related industries around it. A main theme is the link with local collieries and energy production at the gas works and electricity generating plants. Much of the coal stored in the vaults mentioned above would be taken by horse and cart up to the local gasworks to fuel the growing industries and housing schemes rapidly expanding in the 19th century. As I am also very interested in promoting sustainability I couldn’t help but to ask one of the boat owners if I could take a photo after watching him adjust his solar panel to capture the day’s energy. Very fitting that he was moored next to the statue of James Brindley who was commissioned by the Coventry Canal Company (financed by local colliery owners) to create the final link in establishing a national waterways networ which would more efficiently delivery the source of energy needed to fuel the industrial revolution!

This takes me back to the top of the post and discussions I had whilst sitting in the shade at the canal basin! Hope fully a few threads updated – but many more loose ends appear. That is the nature of a ramble.....

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