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  • Writer's picturePhil

The streets of Coundon - What's in a name ?

In my previous post "Curiosities" I looked at how some parts of Coventry got their names. I continue that theme, this time looking at some of the street names in the Coundon area of the city.

As a local historian offering guided walks, talks and research services it is perhaps natural that most of the groups and individuals I come into contact with tend to be of the older generations. Recently I have given talks to a primary school class and to a brownies group and have been pleasantly surprised at the enthusiasm shown by these youngsters for their local history.

In my talk for the brownies I looked at the lives of children in Coventry over hundreds of years whilst concentrating on Princess Elizabeth (daughter of King James I). Whilst living at Coombe Abbey the young princess was the intended victim of a kidnapping attempt which was a central part of the gunpowder plotters' plan. The girls seemed very interested and keen to participate and I am sure that they will help to keep lesser known aspects of our local history alive by recounting that story to friends and family as and when they visit Coombe,

Another of the themes that I discussed with the group was how some of the roads quite local to them in Coundon got their names and that how clues to an areas history could be found in road names.

We looked at how Barkers Butts Lane got its name from an place where archery was practiced for hundreds of years, how Holyhead Road got its name from the destination on a coaching route and we considered where mail coaches may have stopped on that route. We also thought about how the horse drawn vehicles may have had to stop to pay a fee at Tollbar End.

At the end of the session it was nice to be thanked with their "triangular" thank you gesture, a box of biscuits and the honour of a Local History badge - an appreciated accolade! I don't remember gaining many badges whilst in the cubs (knots really were a mystery to me and seemed to be works of magic!) so nice to get one a bit later in life!

To justify the award of my badge I would like to delve a bit deeper into the naming of some of the roads around the Coundon area. One that had always aroused my curiosity is Ro Oak Road. Another visit to Rob Orland's Historic Coventry forum (an excellent resource referenced in many of my posts) gives the explanation "Named after an ancient field name - "rowe of okes feild" [sic] mentioned in the Leet book in 1541." The Leet book recorded events of interest to what was the local authority of the time.

I had previously guessed (wrongly!) that "Ro" could have been the name of a person who lived by an oak tree nearby. Some interpretations of the name "Coventry" suggest a settlement which grew up around "Cofa's tree") which could have been a landmark on land owned by a person named "Cofa". This though is just one of many suggestions as to the history of the name of our city.

Some road names are a little bit easier to figure out. As well as being the training site for ancient archers Barkers Butts Lane has seen another sport in more recent years as the former home of Coventry Rugby Club before their short move to the City's other Butts.

Although the club's ground was always referred to as Coundon Road (a continuation into town from Barkers Butts Lane) roads on the site of the ground are named after former players with Duckham Close reminding me of the heyday of the club in the 1970s.

Rugby Union was still officially an amateur sport at that time and "Cov" (this name always used for the rugby club - "City" for the football). David Duckham was prominent for his speedy runs down the wing in a team full of internationals when I used to occasionally (being keener on football) visit the ground with my dad.

A little bit further up Barkers Butts Lane we reach Three Spires Avenue - location of an ever changing view of the City Centre of the "City of the Three Spires".

Whilst starting to research the names of Coundon's streets I came upon an interesting piece written for the Coventry Society by Paul Maddox referring to one of the area's residents before a previous period of climate change:

"Lower Coundon, previously the site of Alvis Motors and now the Alvis Retail Park, was the scene of some interest in 1926 when the 80,000-year-old skull of a hippopotamus was unearthed, bearing evidence that it had died there and not been swept there by glacial movement."

Perhaps Lake View Park could alternatively be known as "Wallowers Way" in recognition of the hippo!

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