• Phil

The Black Prince, Horse Racing and the Sky Blues - What's in a name?

Some of my recent posts have dealt with connections between Caludon Castle and William Shakespeare. Early scenes from the history "Richard II" portray Thomas Mowbray riding out from Caludon to Gosford Green to fight Henry Bolinbroke in a duel which was aborted by the King. There are proposals for a new walk between Gosford Green and the Charterhouse along the disused railway embankment. The footpath will be known as Richard II Way due to that king's links with both of the sites.

It would be impossible to ignore the recent events around race issues and and the subsequent debates around historical statues and street names. This has triggered me to giving some thought into how some of our local institutions and streets got their names. I was also interested to read a facebook post about how King Richard II's father Prince Edward became known as "The Black Prince". There are roads in Cheylesmore named after the Prince, his mother and his grandmother. I'll get back to all this further down......

Thoughts of the disused railway embankment lead me off on a bit of a tangent (we shall return to Richard II shortly!) and to thoughts of the Sky Blues having been announced as this season's League One Chammpions. League One is English football's third tier and the last time that Coventry City won the title at this level was the 1963-4 season (which coincided with my birth in the November of that campaign!).

Even now if ever I pass King Richard St when walking along Walsgrave Road next to Gosford Green there is something within me that tells me that the old Highfield Road football ground should still be there! The ground is named after the road which gave access to the pitch when it was first used by the club (the North Side length of the pich ran alongside Thackhall St). I still always imagine the large "Coventry City Football Club" signage which was visible from the bottom of the street named after Richard II every time I pass.

The football club was formed nearby at the Binley Oak pub on the corner of Paynes Lane and Brittania Street in 1883. It was formed by workers from the Singers cycle manufacturing company and originally known as Singers FC.

The 1963-4 title winning team was managed my Jimmy Hill who is now remembered by the naming of the carriageway which formerly was the setting for part of Coventry's industrial loop railway line. Part of the line lies alongside Gosford Green and formerly continued over a bridge across the Binley Road to section which will become the "Richard II Way" footpath.

The railway linked together many of the city's factories, colleries, power plants, canal and external national railway links.

Other local names celebrating our (now not so!) local football club are Sky Blue Way running behind FarGosford St to provide a one way system into town. Following the FA Cup win in 1987 "The Golden Cup" pub - a popular match day watering spot was renamed "The Cup" and the reasonably attractive sign quickly replaced with what seemed a rather tacky representation of the FA Cup - but what did we care, we'd just won the thing after 104 years of trying! The pub went on to be known as "The Beer Engine" and its closure has been a loss to the local music scene.

Jimmy Hill was central to the abolition of the minimum wage for professional footballers when he worked for the Professional Football Association. Typical "pen pictures" in match day proggrammes prior to the 1960s would be short biographie of opposing players starting with such phrases as "Pumber by trade...", "Jack of all trades"and to some extent footballers were considered approachable ordinary but respected members of the community and workmates.

It seems that there is now a degree of backtracking on the idea of a maximum wage with authorities introducing salary caps linked to the income of clubs. It is likely that we shall see a slimming down of the number of fully professional footballers and the loss of many clubs as the impact of lockdown and empty ground hits home.

Prior to Jimmy Hill's arrival Coventry City were known as "The Bantams" and played in a darker blue and white kit. The new kit, nickname and song (which has now stuck for fifty odd years!) were all part of the "Sky Blue Revolution" which led to two promotions and a prolonged presence in the very top tier of English football. The award winning match day proggramme was named "The Sky Blue" and thousands of fans would be ferried to away matches via the "Sky Blue Express" - free pop and crisps thrown in for the kids.

Just at the point of promotion to play amongst England's elite Jimmy Hill cleared off for the launch of BBC's "Match of the Day" programme for which he is best recognised. He returned to the Sky Blues as "Chief Executive" in the mid 1970s and went on to push for a few more "revolutionary" changes

We'll now move on to Jimmy's relationship with one of the company's that used the railway line which is now replaced by the road carrying his name (bear with me here - this is why I'm intending to call my upcoming proposed publication "A Coventry Ramble...."!)

In 1908 the Humber Company moved from the building that many Coventrians will think of as the Lloyds Bank building to their new site on Folly Lane. That area was soon dominated by the factory and Folly Lane was renamed "Humber Road". My grandma worked at that factory from the age of fourteen contributing to the Frist World War effort as the City&