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  • Writer's picturePhil

The Floods, The Green Hill and the Floodlit Bantams

Updated: Jun 11, 2020

I've just returned from a pleasant morning walk with my dog Spike around the lake at Stoke Floods. The lake is adjacent to the Sowe Valley Path near to Binley Fire Station.

As a young boy I used to go for regular Sunday afternoon walks around the wooded fields near to Stoke Floods with my dad, my sister and my cousin. We always called the area the "Green Hill" as it was unofficially known locally. There is (for Coventry!) a steepish hill in the area - "The Drive" which links Hipswell Highway to Attoxhall Road and acts as a reminder that the area was part of the estate of Caludon Castle.

The name "Caludon" has an Anglo-Saxon derivation meaning "flat topped hill" and we can still see evidence of the hill(s) giving us the west side of the Sowe Valley at The Drive and Belgrave Road.

Parts of the Caludon Castle School playing fields between Attoxhall Road and the River Sowe were historically known as "Lake Meadow" which shows that these fields are flood plain by nature. On several occasions during my school days at Caludon the expansive playing fields took the form of a large lake. The lake that now takes the name "Stoke Floods" is however relatively modern in origin having been formed due to subsidence caused by mine workings below the area.

I would thoroughly recommend "A History of Caludon Castle - The Lords of the Manor of Caludon" to anybody interested in the history of the Wyken area of Coventry. Published by John Edward Clarke OBE and co-authored by George Demidowicz and Stephen Johnson it is a fascinating, in depth account of the life and times of the inhabitants of Caludon over the centuries.

Whenever I walk down The Drive towards Hipswell Highway I am always reminded of something missing! There are good views over the city including the spires of the Cathedral and Holy Trinity and of the array of newly built student accomodation blocks. In past years the view always seemed to be dominated by the floodlights of Coventry City's old Highfield Road home.

On 28th October 1957 Coventry City played a friendly match against Scotland's Third Lanark to celebrate the erection of the Highfield Road floodlights which were the highest in the country. Third Lanark folded in 1967 although a new incarnation the club was launched in 2017. The Coventry v Third Lanark matchday programme advertised two upcoming friendlies of "floodlight football" against Manchester City and Partick Thistle.

These first experimental floodlit games were played before the days of Jimmy Hilll's "Sky Blue Revolution". The club was still nicknamed "The Bantams" as at some point chickens had been kept at the ground! The Bantams played in the Third Division South in that season. That league was their usual "home"when playing in the third tier. However they played in the Third Division North in the 1925-6 which contributed to them being one of few clubs to have played in every division of the football league. As they finished in the bottom half of their division that 1957-8 season they became founder members of Division Four following the ending of regionalisation. I do wonder whether there will need for a post-virus restucturing of English football to possibly include regional lower divisions again as finances become ever tighter.

firmlyMidweek floodlit football became more regular in the 1960s with the League Cup and its forerunner the Southern Professional Floodlit Cup. The SPF Cup featured clubs from London, the South East and the Midlands. Coventry City actually won the trophy in the 1959-60 season as a third division team (having achieved immediate promotion from the fourth division the previous season). They beat West Ham in the final which was held at Highfield Road. Floodlit football went on to become established and is now taken for granted.

Hopefully the next couple of weeks will see another promotion for our football club - even more hopefully paving the way for their return to our city (but we will have to wait and see on both of these!).

Upcoming entries to my Godiva's Footsteps blog will include a continuation of my recent thoughts about the history of waste disposal in Coventry and another on a strong ancient Egyptian influence on the design of our post war City Centre........

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