I will be exploring Warwickshire over the next few weeks. Right in the heart of England, It is one of her leading industrial counties. Indeed parts have been nicknamed “the Black Country” because of all the soot from the factories.
|Broadgate in Coventry|
(Kings Head Hotel on the left is where I am staying.)
Soon people noticed Coventry had more to offer than just a monastery and a castle. The River Sherbourne running through the town was perfect for water mills. There was plenty of forest for lumber and fuel, along with nearby stone quarries and lush fields. It was near the old Roman roads Watling Street and the Fosse Way, making it perfect for trade. Coventry became a wool and textile center, famous throughout Europe for it’s dyers and their non-fading or “true” blue. The town grew to be the fourth largest city in Medieval England. Much of Medieval and Tudor Coventry still remain in the oldest parts of town.
The fortunes of Coventry have waxed and waned since the Tudor period. Coventry’s current (1881) population is 42,111. The nearby and once much smaller Birmingham is over ten times that size of Coventry with 456,221. Still Coventry is hardly a sleepy hamlet. When textile trade was ruined by cheap imports, Coventry turned to “high tech” making watches, clocks, sewing machines and bicycles. Indeed James Starley, who started the first bicycle factory here, is considered the father of the bicycle industry. He and his family has developed many innovations that revolutionized bicycles more than once.
Bicycles factories will lead to England’s first automobile plant in 1897 which will lead to airplane manufactruing in 1916. Unfortunately this will lead to Coventry being a prime target of the German Luftwaffe in World War II. 1,236 people were killed, 75% of the factories were destroyed and much of the wooden medieval buildings in the city centre burned. The damage was so great the word Koventrieren, “to Coventrate,” was added to both the German and English languages. The word means "to annihilate or reduce to rubble." Coventry will not only rebuild, but in an act of reconciliation, make Dresden, the German city that suffered a similar fate, it’s “Twin City” soon after the war.
|Coventry's old Tudor and Medieval buildings|