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The Stoke Local History Group & Stoke Heritage Trail

I continued my “Coventry ramble” today by joining a guided walk offered by the Stoke local history group taking in the area between Stoke Library, Brays Lane,Ball Hill and Binley Road – “The Stoke Heritage Trail”.

This is an area that I have offered my own guided walks for and researched thoroughly. Despite this I learnt a huge amount this morning with the points covered barely touching the points which were the main themes of my own walk. This goes to show what a varied and rich history there is in just those few streets.

We were given an good introduction to the walk inside the starting point – Stoke library including being shown images of a visit by millionaire industrialist Carnegie. Stoke Library (along with others in the City) is recognised as a “Carnegie” library.

Andrew Carnegie was a hugely rich Scottish American industrialist who advocated that the rich should share their wealth and one of his projects was to establish public libraries as he had put his own rise to fortune partially down to the availability of a public library in his formative years.

Later on the walk we were told the history of Elm Bank – house of Siegfried Bettman – founder of Triumph Motor Company and Mayor of Coventry. Carnegie’s party had been photographed on the lawn of Elm Bank during his visit to Coventry.

Among subjects covered were the history of St Margarets Church, Stoke Park walled estate (and the site’s earlier history as a racecourse),philanthropist Joseph Levi, local schools and Empress Buildings (the art deco building housing the shops opposite Stoke Park School).

Of particular interest to me were the 16th/17th century weavers’ cottages adjacent to the present Pattisons School. Weaving was very much a cottage industry central to the City’s economy prior to the industrial revolution and more intensive production methods and weavers cottages are still found dotted around the city centre and the city’s outlying districts.

Only yesterday I had been discussing a desire to highlight the history of the weaving industry in areas such as Exhall and Foleshill and Stoke whilst visiting the Real Junk Food Project (see yesterday’s blog) and having an interesting conversation with Sam and Heidi (sisters with an interest in both weaving and local history). There will be more about the weaving industry and projects to keep those skills alive in the city in a future blog.

It was very good to have the chance to talk to like minded people with an interest in promoting local history – the two Johns who delivered the guided walk with a real interest and feel for the area, Kevin & Marie who are both involved in promoting Coventry and walks and also the two volunteers who were taking over from the two Johns to deliver the walk again this afternoon.

If any of you reading this blog came along to my Far Gosford Street guided walk four weeks ago you may remember the story of “Fatty “ Adrian – bare knuckle boxer and landlord of the Pitts Head public house (now the Gosford Arms). It turns out that “Fatty” (named through his ability to climb greased poles competitively at fairs such as those that had been held at Gosford Green and Whitley Common) still has descendants living in the City and promoting local history. Jane (one of two volunteer historians taking up the reins for the afternoon version of the walk) is the gt-gt-granddaughter of the pugilist, publican and pole climber!

I would thoroughly recommend the Stoke Local History Group based on my experiences this morning and look forward to joining with and working together with their members in the future.

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