A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 8, the City of Coventry and Borough of Warwick. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1969.
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POOR RELIEF. (fn. 1)
The leet and the corporation had for long been faced with the problem of poverty. In the late 15th and early 16th centuries it was the duty of aldermen to search out unruly vagabonds and expel them from the town. (fn. 2) From 1521, however, a distinction was made between these and deserving beggars who were given alms bags bearing the city's arms. (fn. 3) The dissolution of the monasteries and of the guilds and chantries increased the problem of poverty, and in 1547 the leet, through the aldermen, undertook a census of the city's population. The composition of each household, together with the householder's occupation, and, if he were a master, details of the number of his employees were noted so that employers and workmen could be put in touch with one another. Those unwilling to work were, as before, to be expelled but the aged and infirm and those unable to earn sufficient to support their families were to be given help from the common alms of the city. The inauguration of weekly perambulations by the aldermen and constables to note people's occupations, and monthly meetings of the council to consider the problem, are evidence both of the incidence of poverty and of the desire to come to grips with the situation. At the same time efforts were made to prevent the influx of poor and potential poor into the city. In 1547 no stranger was to be admitted unless he was able to work and his entry was agreed to by the mayor and aldermen. (fn. 4) In 1588 strangers unable to support themselves were instructed to find a surety, an order which was repeated four years later, (fn. 5) while in 1598 it was ordered that any stranger marrying a Coventry woman should take her to his birthplace for a year before coming to live in the city. (fn. 6)
Meanwhile, after the Dissolution, the corporation became an important provider of charity. It took over the chantry foundations of Bond's Hospital and Ford's Hospital, and with the help of Sir Thomas White bought property, formerly belonging to Coventry Priory, which it administered as White's Charity. In later years many other charities for the poor were founded and these were generally administered by the corporation. Their histories are described elsewhere, (fn. 7) as are those of the college and school of Bablake. (fn. 8)
From the mid 16th century the system of providing work for the poor developed. As early as 1552 the city obtained permission to use the fee farm for one year to set the poor at work. (fn. 9) In the later years of the century trade recession brought with it unemployment, (fn. 10) and in 1571 it was decided to establish a house of correction or Bridewell in the former collegiate buildings at Bablake. There was some delay, resulting from an outbreak of plague, (fn. 11) but by 1580 a Bridewell was established (fn. 12) where the unemployed poor were to be set to work producing cloth under the control of the master, a draper. (fn. 13) How permanent arrangements for the provision of work were is not clear, but in 1601 money was voted to set the poor at work, (fn. 14) and in 1616 the house of correction contained looms and other tools for clothworking. (fn. 15)
The Bridewell probably occupied most of the south range of the Bablake quadrangle. (fn. 16) It may also have included part of the west range, for in 1648 a building on that side of the quadrangle, which had been used to lodge paupers, was said to be in poor repair, and in 1649 demolition to make way for a garden was ordered. The former inmates were to be 'allowed something for their lodging elsewhere'. (fn. 17) At the same time the masters of the house of correction were dismissed, (fn. 18) and it appears that arrangements were being made to provide paupers with wool cards and spinning wheels in their own dwellings. (fn. 19) This would suggest that the building concerned may have formed part of the Bridewell, the activities of which may have been curtailed at that time. Whether such demolition took place at that time is uncertain. Certainly a mid-18th-century map shows the Bablake buildings forming a complete quadrangle. (fn. 20)
In 1650 one of the previously dismissed masters was being paid a weekly wage to look after the Bridewell; (fn. 21) in 1672 its repair was ordered and a 'clothier' was appointed to succeed the existing master. (fn. 22) In 1682 money was being earmarked for setting the poor at work, (fn. 23) and the clothier appointed master in 1672 was not replaced until 1713. (fn. 24) During the 18th century part of the building appears to have been allowed to decay and this was let in 1775. (fn. 25)
When Howard visited the building in 1776 he found that there were two rooms for men and two for women, all close and offensive. There was no water available to the prisoners and no sewers, and they were not provided with work. He suggested that 'the old town hall' (possibly the Dirge Hall) (fn. 26) was not in use and could be incorporated into the Bridewell. (fn. 27) When he went again to Coventry in 1779 the hall had been converted into a workshop and water had been laid on. (fn. 28) On a further visit in 1787, however, he found that the place was very dirty, that the keeper's dogs were in the rooms, and that no work was provided for the eight prisoners. (fn. 29) Nevertheless when Neild visited it twenty odd years later he reported it to be 'very clean'. It then contained accommodation for women, who wound silk, and for men. This accommodation included four new cells, a room for vagrants, and another for faulty apprentices. The number of prisoners in the early years of the century seems to have varied between two and twelve. (fn. 30) In 1831 the Bridewell was taken down and its establishment merged with that of the gaol. (fn. 31)
In addition to the city house of correction parish rates were levied for poor relief and each parish had its overseers of the poor. (fn. 32) Details of these in the outlying parishes are given elsewhere. (fn. 33) In this section notice is confined to the central parishes of St. Michael (including later St. John) and Holy Trinity each of which maintained a workhouse. There is mention of a workhouse 'in the priory' in Holy Trinity parish as early as 1613. (fn. 34) This may well have been the workhouse which existed in Palmer Lane in 1702. (fn. 35) In 1726 the parish authorities obtained a building called the Stonehouse in Well Street as a workhouse where the poor might be lodged and employed. (fn. 36) This was perhaps rebuilt in 1763, (fn. 37) and was certainly enlarged in the 18th century. (fn. 38) There was a workhouse in St. Michael's parish 'next Bridewell' in 1724 (fn. 39) and this was probably the parish workhouse which up to the beginning of the 19th century was situated in a court, later known as Workhouse Yard, in Hill Street. (fn. 40)
The Napoleonic Wars brought severe unemployment to Coventry, and the existing workhouses proved inadequate and their upkeep too expensive. The amount of poor rates levied in the central parishes, which only once rose above £5,000 in the years 1775-94, was £17,988 in 1801. In that year a local Act (fn. 41) was obtained which united the two parishes of St. Michael and Holy Trinity for poor-relief purposes. St. John's parish was in this respect considered to be part of St. Michael's. The Act established as guardians of the poor all £50 freeholders and £20 leaseholders. This group, numbering several hundreds, had the power of choosing eighteen directors of the poor to administer poor relief in the combined parishes. One later result of the local Act was that the Poor Law Commission set up by the Act of 1834 did not have the power to control in detail the administration of poor relief in the city. (fn. 42) The Act of 1801, amended slightly by another local Act in 1862, (fn. 43) remained the basis of poor relief in Coventry until 1874. Neither the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 nor the dissolution of the county of the city in 1842 had any effect on the administration of poor relief in the central area.
As soon as they were appointed the new directors arranged to sell the existing parish workhouses and bought the remains of the old Whitefriars house. By 1804 this had been converted into a workhouse or house of industry and the inmates of the old houses transferred to it. (fn. 44) The new house was described in 1813 as 'a peaceable asylum' where able-bodied adults were employed in textile manufacture, and the young 'instructed in the rudiments of salutary learning'. In addition to the workhouse proper there was then a brick building for women admitted, perhaps ambitiously, 'for the united purposes of childbed and reformation'. Cells for the solitary confinement of those in the 'last stages of vice and turbulence' were said to be little used, and the whole institution was held to be clean, well ordered, and beneficial. (fn. 45) By 1843 considerable additions had been made and the house could accommodate 450 to 500 paupers. It was further enlarged in 1863 and later in the century again extended particularly by the erection of an infirmary for the sick poor. (fn. 46) It was a mixed house for men, women, boys, and girls, (fn. 47) and the actual number in residence fluctuated considerably with the fortunes of local industry. In 1829, for example, there were 340 inmates, in 1838 154, but generally in the 1820s, 1830s, and 1840s the number varied between 200 and 300. (fn. 48)
Administration under the local Act appears to have been comparatively generous. (fn. 49) Nevertheless every attempt was made to ensure that the 'house of industry' lived up to its name. In 1809 stocking frames were bought and contractors appointed to train the pauper children, but this project was a failure and the tools and materials were sold in 1813. (fn. 50) The 1801 Act, however, permitted the directors to allow the workhouse inmates to be employed by private persons. Thus from about 1812 until at least 1842 they contracted annually with a silk throwster who installed a silk mill in the workhouse and paid the directors 1s. a week for each pauper he employed. Of this the worker received 1d. plus a further 4d. from the contractor, a practice which the assistant Poor Law Commissioners in 1843 suggested was an inducement for many to stay in the workhouse. In that year 70 inmates were thus employed, while 68 worked at hand flour mills. The commissioners also criticized the practices of giving daily beer allowances and permitting the inmates to go out on Sundays, saying that life in the house was too comfortable. (fn. 51) They admitted that the workhouse was kept with 'peculiar cleanliness and order, the provisions' being 'of the best and the inmates well clothed and lodged', but one director's conception of the workhouse as 'a comfortable asylum to the poor' rather than 'a bugbear to deter them from seeking relief', which they quoted, clearly contrasted with the views of the commission. (fn. 52)
In 1840 the directors resolved not to employ children under nine in the silk mill, and in 1843 there was a pauper schoolmaster of good standing, and in that year a schoolmistress was appointed. (fn. 53)
In addition to relief in the workhouse outdoor relief was granted on a considerable scale by individual directors, although this was a practice which the 1801 Act did not anticipate happening in normal circumstances. (fn. 54) In June 1832, for example, 675 families were on permanent outdoor relief and an average of 619 families a week was given casual outdoor relief. The weekly payment for out-relief in October of that year was £132; in October 1829 such relief had cost as much as £279. (fn. 55) The annual average expenditure on poor relief in the 1820s and 1830s was about £14,000. (fn. 56) The compassionate attitude of the directors, and in particular their generous use of outdoor relief, which extended to supplementing wages, (fn. 57) was contrary to the policy of the Poor Law Commissioners. Attempts in 1836 and in the 1840s to bring Coventry fully under the commission's control were, however, unsuccessful. (fn. 58)
Nevertheless there was strong criticism of the management of the directors (fn. 59) and this did have a noticeable effect. As a result of the efforts of two directors gross expenditure had already been cut from £23,873 in 1830 to £14,839 in 1834. The high figure in 1830 was variously attributed to the anticipation of a general election, or merely to the over-generosity of a liberal board. After the Poor Law Commissioners' report of 1834 expenditure continued to fall until 1838, but then rose until it stood at £11,336 in 1842. (fn. 60) Local feeling supported this increased expenditure at a time of distress (fn. 61) but in 1843 the assistant Poor Law Commissioners complained that the net average cost of poor relief at Coventry per head 'probably exceeds that of any manufacturing town in the north of England'. (fn. 62) This they blamed partly on bad administration and overgenerous outdoor relief. Following this there appears to have been more discrimination in granting outdoor relief and in the 1840s as a whole total expenditure fell to an annual average of less than £10,000 and in the 1850s to about £7,000 despite a considerable increase in population. This does not, however, take into account special relief funds voluntarily contributed at periods of heavy unemployment. (fn. 63) The trade disturbances of the early 1860s, however, led to a big increase in outdoor as well as indoor relief. (fn. 64)
The local Acts of 1801 and 1862 were repealed by an Act of 1873 (fn. 65) and in 1874 the Coventry Union was formed and the board of directors was replaced by a popularly elected board of guardians. (fn. 66) Thus poor relief at Coventry was assimilated into the general national framework under the new Local Government Board. (fn. 67) The board of guardians continued to control poor relief in Coventry until its functions were transferred in 1930 to the corporation which took over its duties, including control of the workhouse and the poor-law infirmary, which became Gulson Road Hospital. The council established a public assistance committee which later became the social welfare committee. (fn. 68) In 1948 the social welfare department disappeared consequent on national legislation and in 1958 a new welfare department was set up by the council to administer the council's functions under the National Assistance Act of 1948 and certain services for the aged as required by the National Health Service Act of 1946. (fn. 69)
PUBLIC HEALTH. (fn. 70)
The work of the leet, the unreformed council, and the street commissioners relative to public health has been dealt with elsewhere. (fn. 71) When the Commissioners on the State of Large Towns investigated such matters in Coventry in 1843 they found a dismal situation. There was no Act or regulation in force with respect to drainage or sewerage and the city was inadequately provided with these services. The local Act pertaining to lighting, paving, and cleaning was in practice inoperative, and in spite of the 'mild and healthy climate' of the area the atmosphere of Coventry was 'tainted and impure in the extreme'. The streets were narrow, ill-paved, and ill-cleansed, and housing conditions deplorable; the burial grounds were inadequate and near the centre of the city; several areas were liable to flood because of the mill dams which obstructed the waterways and collected filthy refuse prejudicial to health. Consequently the death rate was high and epidemics common. The commissioners felt that the corporation should take over the water supply, that an Act for better lighting, paving, and cleansing the city was imperative and that, while the common lands should be retained for pasture and recreation, the presence of the Lammas lands severely curtailed the development of better housing sites. (fn. 72)
Improvement gradually followed these condemnations. In 1845 the construction of a new waterworks began (fn. 73) and during the 1840s the council ordered sewers to be made in Cross Cheaping, St. Nicholas Street, King Street and Town Wall (Bond Street), Much Park Street, and Jordan Well. (fn. 74) Under the Coventry Cemetery and Improvement Act of 1844, it also purchased the remaining three mills on the River Sherbourne, (fn. 75) and ordered or allowed certain sections of the Sherbourne and the Radford Brook to be put into culverts. (fn. 76)
In the rapidly developing city the greatest problem was probably that of sewerage and refuse disposal, for vigorous machinery for dealing with it effectively needed to be created. The Public Health Act of 1848 gave an opportunity. The average annual deaths in the city between 1838 and 1844 had been sufficiently high to necessitate an inquiry under the Act as to the desirability of setting up a local board of health. Early in 1849, therefore, the council petitioned to bring Coventry under the Act (fn. 77) and an investigation followed in a few months. (fn. 78) An outbreak of cholera in the same year (fn. 79) heightened the effect of the consequent report. This stressed the incidence of epidemic diseases, especially in the poorer areas, and recommended the use of the Lammas and Michaelmas lands for building to alleviate the overcrowded areas. It also pressed for the provision of a proper sewerage system. Of 98 streets 76 had no sewers at all, and only fifteen were fully sewered; most existing sewers emptied into the Sherbourne. While the better-class houses had privies and covered soil-pits, most dwellings had only open pits often situated very near the houses. Into these, and into the courts and streets, offal and other filth was flung, for there were still few ashpits and the scavenging system was quite inadequate. (fn. 80)
In July 1849 the city council was established as the local board of health (fn. 81) in that capacity taking over the duties of the sanitary committee. (fn. 82) At first there was local opposition. The new regulations were found irksome when few results were visible and there was suspicion of the board's accounting. (fn. 83) The council, however, began to investigate possible drainage improvements and in 1851 the same inspector who had made the 1849 report was asked to advise on action to be taken. (fn. 84) He stressed the need for an arterial sewer into which ramifications for the districts could flow, a network of smaller sewers for the rapid removal of sewage and the abolition of cesspools, and the use of a plant to convert sewage into manure for agricultural purposes. (fn. 85) Work was begun on the main sewer and on certain sections of the secondary system in 1852. (fn. 86) Most of the work was carried out during the 1850s and in 1857 a plan was approved for sewage tanks to complete the system. The sewerage and deodorizing works were completed in the following year. (fn. 87)
Unfortunately while the system was an improvement as far as Coventry was concerned it proved to be a nuisance to its neighbours, for the sewage was discharged into the Sherbourne about a mile downstream from the city boundary. As late as 1870 the river was described as consequently 'a large, open and extremely offensive sewer'. The effluent eventually reached the Avon from which Warwick took drinking water. (fn. 88) In 1874 the council, which under the Public Health Act of 1872 had become the urban sanitary authority, and appointed a medical officer of health, (fn. 89) was faced in 1874 with an injunction issued by the Court of Chancery to discontinue discharging untreated sewage into the river. (fn. 90) As a result the corporation permitted a sewage-treatment plant to be built at Whitley by the General Sewage and Manure Company in 1874. The company undertook to purify the sewage without charge to the corporation, recouping itself from the manufacture of artificial manures. (fn. 91)
The assumption that the works could be run at a profit, however, proved baseless and after operating at a loss for two years the plant was taken over by the corporation in 1876. A system of treating sewage by precipitation was then introduced, apparently successfully, and in 1877 a contract was made with the Rivers' Purification Association to continue the scheme with the aid of a subsidy. (fn. 92) In 1880 the plant was leased to the association. (fn. 93)
By 1874 the question of sewerage in the rural sanitary districts outside the city, but within St. Michael's and Holy Trinity parishes, had become a matter of local politics. Earlsdon requested that Coventry's main sewers should receive its outflow, but the council's reaction was that if this was done then the other rural areas in the two parishes would expect the same treatment. It was felt that the only solution was an extension of the city boundary, (fn. 94) and for the moment this question was shelved. It arose again, however, in 1886 over the admission of the Red Lane area sewage into the city's sewers. In 1889 an extension of the boundary to include the area of the Coventry Union was thought to be desirable. A public meeting at Earlsdon favoured the idea, and in 1890 the first boundary extension since the dissolution of the county of the city took place. (fn. 95)
Boundary extension increased the council's responsibilities at a time when it was faced with further difficulties. Disposal arrangements were shown to be less and less satisfactory. In 1884 Warwick alleged pollution of the Sherbourne by Coventry and demanded an inquiry. As a result the council took over the plant from the Rivers' Purification Association and began to investigate new methods of disposal. (fn. 96) There was little improvement, however, and between 1890 and 1900 a series of actions were brought against the corporation for polluting the Sherbourne, the Severn, and the Avon. (fn. 97) In 1893 it was alleged that the state of the river water containing Coventry's supposedly treated effluent was such that 'anyone who has the faculties of sight and smell' must know that the scheme did not work. (fn. 98)
At last, in 1901, after some legal difficulties, a sewage farm was opened at Baginton. A pumping station was constructed at Whitley to convey sewage thence to Baginton. (fn. 99) For some time this system was adequate, but as the amount of sewage increased and its nature changed new methods became necessary. (fn. 100) Improvem nts were delayed by the First World War, andealthough by 1920 bacteria-beds were supplementing the broad irrigation arrangements at Baginton (fn. 101) it was not until 1932 that a new sewage-disposal works at Finham was put into operation, using the bacteria-bed system together with other forms of treatment, and broad irrigation at Baginton was discontinued, an airport being established on the former sewage farm. (fn. 102)
Following extension of the boundary the corporation in 1928 took over sewage-disposal works at Stoke and the Canley works at Gibbet Hill, and in 1932 acquired the Henley Mill and Keresley works and works at Stivichall. (fn. 103) The construction of a new Sowe valley outfall sewer, mooted as early as 1927, was begun in 1934 and completed in 1937. This started at the northern boundary, receiving sewage from Bedworth U.D. and joining the Finham outfall sewer on the south of the city. (fn. 104) Development after the Second World War has been in the nature of extensions and improvements to the existing works at Baginton and Finham. (fn. 105)
The unsatisfactory position with regard to burial grounds had been reported by the council to the Commissioners on the State of Large Towns in 1843. At that time Coventry, with a teeming population and a high death rate, was served by the cemeteries attached to St. Michael's, Holy Trinity, and St. Peter's churches, which in all covered less than five acres. The council felt that the great mortality was 'much aggravated by the confined and limited state of the burial grounds', and the directors of the poor reported that 'contagious diseases of all kinds are buried in the very centre; the most revolting scenes are daily exhibited . . .'. Another description referred to one cemetery as 'one entire mass of human bones and putrefaction'. It is not surprising that the burial grounds emitted offensive odours. (fn. 106)
Under an Act of 1844 the corporation established a public cemetery. (fn. 107) The site, bounded on the east by the London turnpike, on the south by the London and North Western Railway, and on the north and west by Green Lane, consisted of Barnes Field and Quarry Close, compensation for grazing rights being paid to the freemen in respect of these two pieces of land. (fn. 108) The cemetery was planned by Joseph (later Sir Joseph) Paxton, with a western section for Church burials (consecrated in 1847), an eastern section for dissenters, and two chapels. (fn. 109) Because of the greater proportion of Church burials a further piece of land was consecrated in 1853, and in 1854 a scheme was drawn up for closing all other burial places in the city. (fn. 110) Arrangements were made in 1863 for the designation of a specified area as a Hebrew burial ground. (fn. 111) In 1887 an extension of the cemetery across the railway on to Whitley Common was opened. (fn. 112) The cemetery was further extended in 1929. In 1899 St. Paul's cemetery in Holbrook Lane was transferred to the corporation, in 1928 Windmill Road cemetery was taken over from Foleshill parish council, and in 1932 Walsgrave-on-Sowe parish council transferred its cemetery to the city council. Canley cemetery and crematorium, which had been planned as far back as 1926, was opened in 1943. (fn. 113)
Working-class housing conditions in 1843, as revealed by the report of the Commissioners on the State of Large Towns, were very bad. The town possessed many very old houses, some of which were timber-framed buildings with upper stories projecting into streets which were often 'narrow, crooked, ill-lighted, ill-paved and cleansed, and . . . very ill-ventilated. Lanes, courts, and alleys abound in every direction and of the worst kind'. In these the inhabitants were so congested 'that disease takes root in the human frame as speedily as though the locality itself were pestiferous'. Such conditions were 'plentifully distributed through Coventry' but among the worst areas were Leicester Street, Brewery Street, Swan Street, Tower Street, Henry Street, and Palmer Lane. The neighbourhoods of Cow Lane, Warwick Lane, Greyfriars Lane, Barrack Yard, Much Park Street, and St. John's Street were 'all neglected and unhealthy' and parts of Spon Street notoriously so.
It is true that most tenements in Coventry were of two stories, each house occupied by a single family. But there were many back-to-back houses in the older parts of the town where there were also threestory buildings with one entrance and without through ventilation each containing three or four families. (fn. 114) A report in 1849 gives many instances of overcrowding in these areas. In Brewery Street, for example, a man, wife, five children, and four lodgers occupied one room, and this was not untypical. (fn. 115)
Even houses which in the forties were of recent construction left much to be desired. They were built as cheaply as possible with the object of getting quick returns from rents, and as many dwellings as possible were squashed on to small spaces. Often they consisted of rows of houses 18 feet deep by 12 feet wide, the ground floor comprising a kitchen of say 12 feet by 10 feet, together with a 'back-kitchen, pantry, coal-hole, and staircase'. Above this were two bedrooms (often used for business purposes), while the upper story was intended for a ribbonweavers' shop capable of taking up to four looms. (fn. 116)
The lack of a proper water supply at this time is dealt with below, and the absence of main sewerage has been dealt with above. (fn. 117) The houses of the well-to-do in the early 1840s usually had proper 'necessaries' emptying into covered cesspools but the great majority of privies, often situated very near house entrances, drained into open cesspools which were emptied only when full. There were no public latrines.
Houses were not generally supplied with dustbins and refuse was thrown into ash-pits or the streets whence it was supposed to be conveyed by the scavengers to waste land outside the town. In the poorer quarters, however, the refuse was often allowed to accumulate until the quantity was sufficient to 'produce more than the expense of removing'. Only £30 a year was spent on scavenging in Coventry. (fn. 118)
In 1849 conditions were not much better. The proportion of privies to houses varied from one per house to one to seventeen houses inhabited by 64 persons. In 163 courts and yards the average was about one privy to six houses. (fn. 119)
These conditions were not easily improved. Housing development in the 19th century was left to private enterprise. Thus while houses were erected in considerable numbers in the latter half of the century they did not meet the need of the poorest inhabitants. New streets such as Priory Street (1855-1875), those on the newly-enclosed Windmill Hill Fields (1876), and Eaton Road (1880) consisted of medium-sized or large houses. (fn. 120) In 1876 the medical officer of health considered the overcrowding in the older districts as 'the great evil of the present day in Coventry'. (fn. 121)
In 1876 the medical officer of health had reported 'we have not nearly sufficient houses (taking them bad and good) to accommodate the working classes'. (fn. 122) It is clear that this remained the position in the 1890s and action was limited by the scarcity of alternative accommodation. (fn. 123) The 1,710 dwellings erected in the seven years up to 1899 were not suitable for the poorest inhabitants. In Godiva Street, Sparkbrook Street, Gordon Street, and Leicester Causeway the houses were all 5-6-roomed letting at rents of 5s. 9d. to 7s. 6d. a week, and thus too expensive for the dwellers in the miserable courts accustomed to rents of 1s. 9d. to 4s. (fn. 124)
In 1899 the council resolved to erect some 2-3-roomed houses for rent at 2s. 6d. to 3s. 6d. a week as an experiment, (fn. 125) but this does not appear to have been carried out. Perhaps this was because in that year there was for some reason less difficulty for the poorer classes in obtaining accommodation and the Table opposite indicates that between then and 1905 the council was particularly active. In 1906, however, there was again a scarcity of small cheap houses and the alternative accommodation to bad court dwellings could often only be the workhouse. Consequently the council felt unable to act so vigorously that year. (fn. 126) The medical officer of health in 1906 and 1907 urged the council itself to undertake the building of 2-3-roomed houses since private builders were unlikely to provide them. (fn. 127)
In 1908 the council at last erected 48 5-roomed houses in Narrow Lane for letting at 5s. 6d. a week and 22 tenements in Short Street for division into 2-roomed flats at 4s. 3d. a week, and in 1911 determined to build 1364-and 5-roomed dwellings. (fn. 128)
|TABLE (fn. 129) Action on Unfit Houses|
|Year||No. Condemned||No. Improved in consequence||No. Closed||No. Re-opened after improvement||No. of back-to-back houses of which two turned into one through-ventilated house|
This action was nevertheless insufficient to meet the need, and in 1912 it was reported that 500 to 1,000 new artisans' houses were needed, (fn. 130) but it was not until 1916 that any further municipal housing was undertaken. In that year over 800 dwellings were built with government assistance at Stoke Heath, then outside the city boundary, to house warworkers. (fn. 131)
In the mid 1920s it was again impossible fully to effect closure of unfit houses because of the lack of other accommodation, (fn. 132) but from 1925 onwards there was a continuous provision of council housing in large estates. After the Second World War much of the accommodation was provided in blocks of flats. (fn. 133)
The problem of privies and rubbish disposal was a long standing one. In 1874 the medical officer of health reported that the water-closet system was being rapidly increased in Coventry, and in that year there were some 5,200 closets in the city. (fn. 134) In 1880 the waterworks committee suggested that one W.C. per house should be free of extra water charges, (fn. 135) and in the same year the medical officer of health reported on the danger of infection resulting from the large number of privies and heaps of manure still existing in the city. (fn. 136) Five years later the council ordered that 113 houses and Bablake School should replace their privies by W.C.s. (fn. 137)
From 1900 there was a steady decline in the number of privies and pail-closets. In that year, following the boundary extension, the number of privies in the city limits had increased from 537 to 1,397. By 1907 this number had fallen to 712, by 1912 to 92, and by 1925 to seven. In 1926 there were only sixteen pail-closets left in the city. (fn. 138)
The emptying of privies and ashpits had been put out to contract in 1878; (fn. 139) but the disposal of house and street refuse 'by piling it up in vast accumulations in the near vicinity of the city' was held by the medical officer of health in 1897 to be not only an insanitary but an uneconomical system. (fn. 140) In later years he repeated his criticism and urged the installation of a refuse destructor. (fn. 141) It was not until 1908 that this was provided by the council. (fn. 142) Dustbins were introduced in 1899 (fn. 143) and the number of ashpits in the city declined from 1,798 in that year to 38 in 1926 by which time metal dustbins were practically general. (fn. 144)
From the latter part of the 19th century the city health authorities were also actively engaged in registering, inspecting, and improving the state of lodging houses, and after 1898 in regulating dairies, cowsheds, and milkshops. (fn. 145)
One of the most long-standing evils, however, was the state of slaughter houses, which had grown up, not only in Great and Little Butcher Rows, but in yards and courts in various parts of the city. The leet had made frequent orders regarding the slaughter of beasts and regulations were tightened up during the years of activity after the dissolution of the county of the city. In 1850 by-laws regarding drainage, paving, ventilation, supply of water, and lime-washing were promulgated. No privy, midden, or cesspool was to be allowed to be near a slaughter house; cleansing and the removal of garbage were regulated and the officers of the local board of health were to be allowed access at any time. From the following year every slaughter house had to be registered. (fn. 146) In 1858 the council made provision for Smithfield market on the site of Priory Mill pool. (fn. 147) This together with Pool Meadow later replaced the Spon End monthly fairs and the Gosford Street cattle fairs (fn. 148) so bringing the sale of livestock into one place. The provision of a public slaughter house proved more difficult. Year after year the medical officer of health protested at the state of affairs and from the late 1850s onwards there were abortive moves to rectify the situation, the council usually hesitating at the expense involved. At the beginning of the 20th century there were 50 slaughter houses in the city 40 of which were very insanitary. (fn. 149) It was not until 1925 that practical plans were made for a public abattoir, and not until 1932 that it was opened on its present site in the Butts close to the railway station. It provided accommodation for the city's butchers and for dealing with over 61,000 beasts a year. All private slaughter houses were closed and adequate inspection was at last possible. (fn. 150)
As early as 1850 the council appointed a committee to consider smoke abatement, (fn. 151) and in the latter half of the century offensive smoke and smells from factories and works were the cause of complaint. (fn. 152) Coventry nevertheless had to wait until 1951 before the central area became a 'smokeless zone'. (fn. 153)
Although the Lammas and Michaelmas lands were built over, other wastes and commons continued as open spaces, and details of their continued use for pasturage, and of the adaption of some for parks and recreation grounds is dealt with above. (fn. 154) During the later years of the 19th century and throughout the 20th the corporation acquired a large number of parks and open spaces. (fn. 155) A considerable addition to Coventry's amenities was achieved with the purchase by the corporation in 1926 of the Stoneleigh estate, an area of over 2,200 acres lying south and south-west of the city. (fn. 156) In 1929 Stivichall hamlet, as yet unspoilt but in danger of development, also became the property of the corporation. (fn. 157)
A cold bath was advertised in the Coventry Mercury in 1742, but the first substantial bathing establishment available to the public appears to have been built about 1820 in Smithford Street. Hot, cold, steam, shower, vapour, sulphurous, and swimming baths were provided by this private enterprise. The first corporation baths were opened in Hales Street in 1852, 2,000 people allegedly patronizing them on the first day. (fn. 158) In 1964 there were three public baths - those in Priory Street (opened 1894), Primrose Hill baths (1913), and Foleshill baths (1937). A municipal laundry was opened in 1962. (fn. 159) A large new swimming pool together with slipper and shower baths was opened in 1966.
The history of Coventry's hospitals requires detailed consideration. (fn. 160) The connexion between environment and disease was very evident in earlyand mid-19th-century Coventry. Investigations in the 1830s and 1840s drew attention to the high incidence of digestive and pulmonary illnesses, anaemia, rheumatism, and insanity, especially among the weavers who lived in cramped conditions, worked long hours bent over looms, existed on a diet of tea, bread, and potatoes, and were in a state of chronic anxiety due to the insecure nature of their trade. (fn. 161) Alleviation of these ills and of such epidemic diseases as cholera, typhus, and dysentery was to a great extent a matter of improving sewerage, housing, and the other amenities dealt with above. The growth of hospital facilities (fn. 162) represents another aspect of improved public health in Coventry. Nevertheless factors other than the nature and incidence of disease seem to have been responsible for most of the developments in the early history of Coventry's hospitals. The General Dispensary, in existence from at least 1793, grew out of the charitable movement of the 18th century. The Provident Dispensary, founded in 1831, was part of the 'self-help' ethos, upheld by men like Charles Bray. Even when the first hospital, the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital, was founded, in 1838, it was intended less to deal with disease than with accident cases, which formed only a small proportion of the total causes of incapacity. (fn. 163) This was probably because epidemic diseases were nearly always treated in the home, being ascribed to smell or 'effluence' rather than infection. The hospital, which was a converted private house, had only twelve beds until 1846 when a further thirteen were added. In 1849, the year of a cholera visitation, an effort was made to procure a more adequate hospital. External factors, however, lack of funds, and the stranglehold of common land on building, held back the opening of a new hospital until 1867.
Some of the worst environmental conditions were rectified, or at least alleviated, during the years from 1849 to 1858, (fn. 164) but the corporation's habitual reluctance to spend money extended to the provision of hospitals. Paupers were looked after by the guardians of the poor who provided a fever hospital in 1871 and possibly an infirmary as early as 1845. A new infirmary with 100 beds was built in 1889. The voluntary Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital, which steadily expanded from 1867 to 1914, and the Provident Dispensary, which provided vaccination services, had to cater for the remainder of the rapidly expanding population and for the areas added by the boundary extensions of 1890 and 1899. (fn. 165) Although Coventry escaped the national cholera outbreak of 1854, there were epidemics, and it was probably the smallpox outbreak of 1871, in which 166 died, that finally induced the corporation to open a fever hospital in 1874. A new fever hospital was opened in 1885 and thereafter hospital expansion was generally related to demand, scarlet fever epidemics in 1894-5, 1900-1, and 1909-11 leading to further extensions of the main hospital and the opening of a separate smallpox hospital in 1897.
Both the voluntary hospital and the board of guardians' hospital were used for soldiers wounded during the First World War, but only the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital was permanently affected by the war. New wards opened to accommodate the soldiers remained after the war, doubling the number of beds available for in-patients. Another result of the war was the opening in 1917 of a free treatment clinic for venereal disease at the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital.
Other out-patient services were developed during this period. A serious effort, particularly after the 1911 Insurance Act, was made to deal with tuberculosis, which had an annual death rate in Coventry of over 150. A proposal in 1908 to convert Pinley Smallpox Hospital into a sanitorium was abandoned because the site was not suitable, but from that year the council leased beds in sanatoria outside Coventry. The idea of a joint tuberculosis scheme between Coventry and Warwickshire County Council was first raised in 1913. Plans were made to erect a joint sanatorium and several dispensaries. The dispensaries were opened, including that at the Quadrant in 1914, but the sanatorium was postponed because of the war and only opened in 1923 as the King Edward VII Memorial Sanatorium at Hertford Hill near Warwick.
Medical inspection of school children was started by the council in 1905 and by 1921 this was linked to school clinics with dental, eye, X-ray, and cleansing departments. Special schools for delicate and handicapped children were opened in 1908, 1916, and 1918. (fn. 166)
The most important development during the inter-war period was the vast increase in the number of potential patients owing to the boundary extensions of 1928 and 1932 and the growth of the bicycle, motor vehicle, and aircraft industries. (fn. 167) All the hospitals expanded during this period. A comprehensive expansion scheme for the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital was drawn up in 1925. A new operating theatre, pathological laboratory, and administrative offices were opened in 1927 and Keresley Hall, purchased in the same year, was opened in 1929 as a convalescent hospital. The old fever hospital was acquired at the same time. Further extensions made in 1938-9 as part of the centenary celebrations included accommodation for over 100 new in-patients and considerable expansion of outpatient departments. During this period were laid the foundations for the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital's reputation in the treatment of industrial eye diseases and injuries.
Pressure on the fever hospital was equally great, especially since typhoid and smallpox were particularly virulent in the areas added to Coventry by the boundary extension acts. In 1934 the hospital was re-opened on a new site at Whitley. The Gulson Road infirmary, taken over by the corporation in 1930, was expanded in 1937 by the absorption of the workhouse and the acquisition of Allesley Hall as a convalescent home.
The same period was characterized by a growing tendency to unify all hospital and health services, and by the increasing control of the council over these services. In 1930, under the Local Government Act of the previous year, the public health committee of the council, apart from taking over Gulson Road Hospital, assumed responsibility for a domiciliary medical service, vaccination services, domiciliary assistance for the blind and some duties under the Children Act of 1908 which had formerly been exercised by the guardians of the poor. Under the Midwives Act of 1936 the council employed municipal midwives.
There was a growing co-operation between the council's health committee and the various voluntary bodies. There was an agreement between the voluntary and municipal hospitals in 1932 concerning treatment of members of the Hospital Saturday Fund, and a joint laboratory, run by the corporation and the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital, was opened in 1938. Co-operation was also a feature of the maternity and child welfare services which were expanding considerably. In 1921 there was one child welfare centre run by the council and four by the voluntary Infant Welfare Committee. By 1939 there were sixteen such centres organized as a unified system with Gulson Road and Dunsmoor as pivots. An orthopaedic clinic and a convalescent home were administered by the voluntary Coventry and District Children's Guild, founded in 1925, but the council assumed more responsibility for school children, providing better clinic facilities and immunization against diphtheria from 1930.
Arrangements were made in 1938 to deal with casualties in the event of war. First-aid posts were established, vehicles were mobilised as ambulances, and the central hospitals were affiliated to hospitals in less vulnerable areas. Welfare centres were suspended and the general hospitals partially emptied. But when the expected raids of 1939 did not materialize normal services were resumed and it was for this reason that the hospitals suffered so much from the raids of 1940 and 1941. The Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital was virtually destroyed and Gulson and Whitley hospitals damaged. Gulson became the main casualty hospital while most other services were dispersed to Keresley, Allesley, Exhall, and two branches at Kenilworth. Prompt action by the local health authorities prevented epidemics of typhoid or diphtheria but the number of cases of tuberculosis increased.
The situation after the war was very serious: overcrowding and bad housing conditions created tuberculosis; a sharp rise in the birth-rate resulted in congestion in maternity wards and at maternity and child welfare centres; and bombed hospitals and lack of staff resulted in an acute shortage of hospital beds. Conditions in an overcrowded urban centre like Coventry were much worse than in other, less damaged, more rural neighbouring districts, and it was partly to rectify such discrepancies that the National Health Service Act was passed in 1946.
In 1948, under the Act, Coventry Hospital Management Committee (fn. 168) took over the control of 23 institutions and annexes, ten of which lay within the boundaries of the city. (fn. 169) They comprised two general hospitals (Gulson and the Coventry and Warwickshire with two annexes at Kenilworth and one at Keresley), an infectious diseases hospital (Whitley), a smallpox hospital (Pinley), a chronic hospital (Exhall (fn. 170) with annexes at Walsgrave and Gosford Green), an orthopaedic hospital (Paybody), a convalescent hospital (Allesley Hall) and maternity hospital (Allesley House), administered as annexes of Gulson Hospital, and an orthopaedic clinic (Dunsmoor). One long-established institution, the Provident Dispensary, was dissolved. (fn. 171)
Several changes have been made since 1948. The Towers, one of the Kenilworth annexes of the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital, became an annexe of Gulson Hospital in 1950; in 1951 Allesley House was closed and Allesley Hall became an annexe of Paybody Hospital; Allesley Hall was closed in 1959, Paybody Hospital in 1961, and Dunsmoor in 1962-3; the foundation stone of a new general hospital was laid at Walsgrave in 1964.
Under the National Health Service Act the corporation health department was bound to provide health centres, child welfare, midwifery, health visiting, home nursing, vaccination, ambulance, preventive care, domestic help, and mental health services. The health department took over nine voluntary maternity and child welfare centres in 1948 and by the end of the year there were eighteen centres, although, with one exception, they were held in temporary, unsuitable premises, mainly in church and chapel halls. (fn. 172) By 1964 there were six maternity and child welfare centres in buildings erected for that purpose, six more in adapted premises, and twelve sessions held weekly in rented rooms, still mainly church halls. (fn. 173) Owing to a lack of co-operation from local doctors and dentists it was a long time before a health centre was opened as was originally planned, but combined maternity and child welfare and school health clinics have been opened at Broad Street (1955) and Tile Hill (1956) and a surgery unit was opened at the latter in 1958. (fn. 174) Midwifery, health visiting, home nursing, and vaccination (fn. 175) services are provided by the corporation health department but the care of unmarried mothers is still (1964) undertaken by a voluntary body, St. Faith's Shelter, according to an agreement made by the health committee in 1948. (fn. 176) In 1948 the city ambulance service and the Hospital Saturday Fund Ambulance Service entered into a fiveyear agreement to operate an ambulance service from a single depot in Swanswell Terrace. A single integrated service under the direct control of the health committee came into operation when the agreement expired in 1953.
The Warwickshire and Coventry Joint Committee for Tuberculosis, which had been in existence since 1914, was dissolved in 1948 when control of sanatoria and dispensaries, including that in the Quadrant, passed to the Birmingham Regional Board. (fn. 177) Domiciliary welfare became the responsibility of the city health department and an occupational therapy service for domiciliary tubercular patients was begun in 1956. (fn. 178) Institutional provision for the mentally sick also became, under the National Health Service Act, the responsibility of the Regional Hospital Board (fn. 179) but visiting and social work is organized by the mental health section of the city health department. This department opened an occupational centre for mentally defective children at Burns Road in 1952 and a training centre for adults at Torrington Avenue in 1960. (fn. 180)
THE GENERAL DISPENSARY. A 'general dispensary', financed by charity alone, was in existence in 1793, (fn. 181) and the supporters of this, or of a revived institution with the same name, opposed the founding of the Provident Dispensary in 1831. The General or Charitable Dispensary was intended for those who could not afford to join the Provident Dispensary but who had 'such claims to respectability' that they should be saved from resorting to parish aid. When the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital was founded in 1838, the General Dispensary merged with it. (fn. 182)
THE PROVIDENT DISPENSARY, Bayley Lane, was opened in 1831, (fn. 183) and was one of the earliest institutions of its kind. The inspirer of the selfsupporting dispensary movement at Coventry was H. L. Smith, founder of the Eye and Ear Infirmary at Southam, and the pioneer of the dispensary movement generally. (fn. 184)
Subscribers were divided into two classes: honorary members, whose contributions were in the nature of charitable donations, and 'free members' in various categories, who paid a weekly or a yearly sum to secure medical benefits. The basic free members' subscription was 1d. a week, but attendance in childbirth could be secured for an extra payment. Friendly societies were affiliated at a rate of 3s. yearly for each member. The governing body of the dispensary at first consisted entirely of the honorary members, (fn. 185) and the 'free members' were not represented until 1868, when a smaller committee was formed. By 1893 the free members' representatives were in a majority, and honorary subscriptions had fallen to an insignificant amount. (fn. 186)
In 1842 the dispensary moved to a new building in St. Michael's churchyard. This was extended c. 1873 (fn. 187) and again in 1881. It was described in 1884 as built of brick with stone dressings, in a 'late Gothic' style. The accommodation comprised a waiting-room, dispensary, and consulting and administration rooms.
The surgeons or doctors were appointed at first by the governors, later by the representative committee, of which they became ex-officio members. There were two doctors in 1831, (fn. 188) five in 1907, (fn. 189) and again two in 1936. (fn. 190) They appointed a dispenser, prescribed daily at the dispensary, and visited seriously ill patients within 1½ mile of the dispensary. Midwives were also employed from time to time. From an early date free vaccination was provided for poor children, whether the dependents of subscribers or not. (fn. 191)
By 1849 the number of people who had received medical assistance from the dispensary since its establishment was said to be 29,561. (fn. 192) In 1880 the staff dealt with 6,153 cases of illness, which affected between a third and a half of the members, visited 1,345 patients, attended 197 confinements, and completed 52,379 prescriptions. (fn. 193) By will proved in 1888 Henry Soden left £1,000, the income from which was to be used to support beds for patients who could not be treated at home. (fn. 194) Membership increased steadily during the 19th century, from 5,000 in 1856 (fn. 195) to 10,000 in 1874 (fn. 196) and 20,000 in 1888 (fn. 197) and 1907. (fn. 198) At this latter date some 12,000 other persons were also members of a distinct contributory 'Public Medical Service', (fn. 199) so that four years before the first National Insurance Act at least 32,000 persons, more than a third of the population of Coventry, were covered by voluntary medical insurance. The dispensary alone was held to serve almost half of the town, exclusive of the suburban districts. (fn. 200)
The 'provident principle' was not established or maintained at Coventry without some controversy. The supporters of the General Dispensary opposed the founding of the Bayley Lane institution in 1831. (fn. 201) More serious opposition began to develop in the closing years of the 19th century. Local doctors and surgeons, the British Medical Association, and ultimately the British Medical Journal, launched an attack on the Provident Dispensary that culminated in the important 'Coventry case' of 1918, a suit for conspiracy, libel, and slander, in which the dispensary and its staff secured damages. (fn. 202) The organized profession objected that an institution originally intended for the poor only was now being used by the relatively wealthy, who could afford to pay for private attention, and that the existing control of the dispensary by laymen was contrary to policy. In 1893 the dispensary members responded by declaring membership open to all, without a poverty test. (fn. 203) This decision was partly responsible for the formation of a rival organization by doctors not employed by the dispensary. This, the Public Medical Service, was restricted to subscribers earning less than £2 weekly. It was conducted in the first instance by ten practitioners and a surgeon, who agreed to accept patients for private consultation for a fee of 1d. a week. There was no confinement service and 'patients suffering from diseases arising from intemperance or immorality' were not eligible. On the eve of the National Insurance Act of 1911 there were more than 13,000 persons on the books. (fn. 204) Members were forbidden to make use of the dispensary facilities. Pressure was exerted on the dispensary in other ways; the dentists refused their services, and the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital staff were unco-operative. A crisis arose in 1907 when four out of the five doctors serving the dispensary broke with the administration, and resigned to found a new dispensary at Swanswell. In September 1907 some 7,000 or 8,000 members were said to have seceded because of the dispute. (fn. 205) Despite these differences, the legal quarrel of 1918, and the successive measures of public insurance, both the old dispensary and the Public Medical Service survived until the National Health Service Act of 1946. The dispensary was dissolved in 1947, (fn. 206) and the Public Medical Service in 1948. (fn. 207) The income of the Soden endowment was subsequently applied to the provision of medical and nursing amenities for sick poor people. (fn. 208)
THE COVENTRY AND WARWICKSHIRE HOSPITAL. Increasing pressure on the General Dispensary during the 1830s drew the attention of local medical men to the need for a general hospital. Correspondence on the subject appeared in the Coventry Herald in 1836 (fn. 209) and in the following year Thomas Wilmot offered £700 and suggested a site in Little Park Street. The suggestion was unanimously approved at a public meeting held in September 1837 and the property acquired shortly afterwards (fn. 210) although the formal conveyance did not take place until 1845. (fn. 211) The hospital dates its foundation from 1838 when three doctors were appointed and a committee formed. It was an entirely voluntary organization, supported by contributions and annual subscriptions. Any subscribers of more than a guinea a year were automatically governors of the hospital and the medical committee was elected from amongst them. The General Dispensary united with the hospital in 1838 but the Provident Dispensary refused to join on the grounds that a hospital offering gratuitous relief to out-patients was opposed to the principles of a self-supporting dispensary. Rules and regulations were drawn up and the first matron was appointed in 1840. (fn. 212)
The first hospital consisted of one ward of twelve beds in a house at the end of Little Park Street, then open on the south to the park. The reason given in 1837 for founding a hospital was 'the great and increasing population of Coventry and the surrounding districts, the more general introduction of machinery, and the greater extent of mining operations', and a high proportion of the cases dealt with were the result of accidents, especially industrial accidents. (fn. 213) The number of in-patients rose from 23 in 1840 to 135 in 1850, and of out-patients from 1,363 to 2,385. By 1849 the hospital staff consisted of six medical officers, one resident surgeon, a dispenser and a matron. A new ward of thirteen beds was added in 1846 but the Little Park Street premises soon became inadequate and a building fund was started in 1849. (fn. 214) It was not, however, until 1863 that a new site was acquired. This was partly due to financial considerations: the hospital had begun to get into debt as early as 1846 and time was needed for the building fund to accumulate. In addition, negotiations in the 1850s with the freemen's trustees for a site fell through since an Act of Parliament was required before the freemen could dispose of their land. (fn. 215)
In 1863 a site of two acres in Stoney Stanton Road was acquired from Sir Thomas White's trustees and the King Henry VIII Grammar School, and the foundation stone of the new hospital was laid in 1864. The building was designed by Nevill and Son in a Victorian Gothic style and planned as a Maltese cross with two square towers at the end of each wing. It provided accommodation for 60 beds and was officially opened in 1867 and the old hospital in Little Park Street sold in 1869. (fn. 216) The history of the hospital from 1867 to 1914 is one of steady expansion. The number of in-patients rose from 170 in 1870 to 548 in 1890 and 1,433 in 1910 and of out-patients from 3,022 to 3,830 and 13,221. (fn. 217) There were at least five bequests of over £1,000: John Clowes (1876), Edward Ralphs, David Spencer, Henry Soden (1888), and John Gulson (1905). (fn. 218) A more stable income was provided by the foundation of the Hospital Saturday Fund. Hospital Sunday was inaugurated in 1868 and the Working Men's Committee, which in 1893 became the Hospital Saturday Fund, was started in 1874. The fund, which consisted of a weekly 1d. donation from each member, provided £132 in 1874, £1,123 in 1890 and £3,300 in 1910. Of £6,000 annual income in 1909, £2,900 was provided by the Hospital Saturday Fund, more than twice the amount raised by subscription. (fn. 219) The increasing importance of the Hospital Saturday Fund was recognized in 1891 when a rule was formulated to provide for the election of four members of the fund to the general committee of the hospital. (fn. 220)
An out-patients' department was provided by the fund in 1910 but frequently extraordinary expenditure necessitated by building extensions was met out of special funds. Mrs. John Gulson raised over £4,000 for a children's ward which was opened in 1874 as the Gulson Ward. A memorial fund to commemorate Edward VII paid for a new wing opened in 1913. (fn. 221)
The First World War was an important factor in the expansion of the hospital. Thirty beds were placed at the disposal of the War Office in 1914 but these soon proved inadequate and a new ward was built with £1,000 donated by Alfred Herbert. Canvas huts were erected and Sir Thomas White's Orphanage, which adjoined the hospital grounds, was rented in 1916 as an additional ward. There were thus 310 beds in 1916, compared with 140 in 1914. During the same period income doubled. Expenditure, which was £6,321 in 1910, was £30,385 in 1920, half of which was provided by the Hospital Saturday Fund. More than 2,500 wounded soldiers passed through the wards before 1919 when the 'soldier' wards were closed. The hospital did not, however, return to its pre-war position. The Alfred Herbert Ward was retained as an emergency ward and Sir Thomas White's Orphanage was bought in 1919 and converted into medical, ophthalmic, and maternity wards. The hospital was thus able to take almost twice as many in-patients (2,804) in 1920 as in 1910. The number of out-patients, rather surprisingly, dropped to 12,212 in 1920 (fn. 222) and the establishment of a free treatment centre for venereal diseases at the hospital in 1917 was the only expansion in this department after 1910. (fn. 223)
A major factor in the growth of the hospital in the period between the two world wars was the great expansion of the motor, cycle, and aircraft industries during these years. Apart from swelling Coventry's population, these industries contributed an especially large proportion of accident cases. In 1926 11,000 of the attendances at the out-patient department were the result of accidents. (fn. 224) The number of inpatients rose to 5,257 in 1930 and 6,209 in 1937, and of out-patients to 26,035 and 28,170. But the industrial expansion paid for itself in swelling the membership of the Hospital Saturday Fund, and income from subscriptions more than doubled between 1930 and 1937. (fn. 225)
A hospital expansion scheme was drawn up in 1925 and two years later a new operating theatre and a pathological laboratory were opened. (fn. 226) The rest of the scheme was abandoned owing to two unexpected purchases: Keresley Hall (fn. 227) and the City Isolation Hospital. (fn. 228) Further extensions in 1938-9 as part of the centenary celebrations included accommodation for more in-patients, and a well-equipped out-patient department. There were six clinical departments: surgical, ear, skin, nose and throat, ophthalmic, and orthoptic. (fn. 229) The latter departments have been particularly developed, especially in the treatment of industrial eye diseases and injuries. (fn. 230) Another feature of the inter-war years was the growing co-operation between the voluntary hospital, which became a company in 1931, (fn. 231) and the corporation. There was an agreement in 1932 with the Gulson Hospital, allowing members of the Hospital Saturday Fund to be treated at the Gulson Hospital on the same terms as in the voluntary hospital, (fn. 232) and the Coventry Joint Laboratory was established in 1938. (fn. 233)
The Second World War brought to an abrupt end a century of steady expansion. Bombing in 1940 and 1941 virtually destroyed the hospital. An appeal brought in £100,000, damaged wards were repaired, and temporary units were erected, but the hospital never returned to its pre-war complement of 452 beds. Alcock Convalescent Home was expanded and used as a branch of the Stoney Stanton Road hospital, as were Kenilworth Convalescent Home and The Towers, also in Kenilworth. (fn. 234) The Towers was closed in 1947 and re-opened in 1950 as an annexe for Gulson Hospital, (fn. 235) but Keresley and the High Street, Kenilworth, premises (fn. 236) are still (1964) branches of the hospital in Stoney Stanton Road. (fn. 237) A large new hospital, intended to be the main hospital for acute cases in the Coventry area, was still being constructed at Walsgrave in 1965 (fn. 238) but the Stoney Stanton Road hospital and its annexes have been retained to deal particularly with out-patients.
There has been steady rebuilding on the Stoney Stanton Road site during the 1950s and 1960s. New departments, wards, and clinics have been added and the tuberculosis clinic transferred from the Quadrant. (fn. 239) Most of this development has benefited out-patient services; the serious shortage of hospital beds in the Coventry area has remained. (fn. 240) There were 391 beds at the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital in 1964, 146 of which were at Stoney Stanton Road. (fn. 241)
The Hospital Saturday Fund was not dissolved when the voluntary hospital was taken over by the Birmingham Regional Hospital Board in 1948, but became an incorporated body in 1956. Membership, rather surprisingly, increased, and was spent on extra-hospital services, a mobile physiotherapy service, founded in 1948, and Lanherne and Sefton Hall convalescent homes at Dawlish (Devon), acquired by the fund in 1944. (fn. 242)
GULSON HOSPITAL. Plans for a workhouse hospital were submitted in 1845, (fn. 243) and in 1871 the Local Government Board approved a plan for an infectious diseases hospital at the workhouse. Sanction was given to spend £500 on the hospital which was to accommodate six patients of either sex and also on a 'small dead-house', to be provided near the new hospital. (fn. 244) By 1888 there was an infirmary with seven wards and 132 patients. But this was then unsatisfactory: ventilation was bad, the sanitary arrangements were inadequate, and there was no provision for mental and other special cases. The foundation stone of the new infirmary was laid in 1889. 'Mr. Steane', the architect, probably of the firm of G. & I. Steane which designed the isolation hospital, used Burton-on-Trent infirmary as a model and provided accommodation for about 100 beds. (fn. 245)
The workhouse infirmary, run by the board of guardians, combined the functions of a general, infectious diseases, and mental hospital. It also dealt with maternity cases, especially those of unmarried mothers, provided vaccination, and dispensed codliver oil, quinine, linseed meal, leeches, and trusses. Some infectious cases were sent to the City Isolation Hospital on payment of a weekly fee by the guardians and there were continual but unsuccessful efforts during the 1890s to persuade the corporation to agree to a permanent arrangement to take infectious cases from the workhouse. (fn. 246) In 1906, therefore, a new block was added, providing accommodation for 67 patients, including a children's and a maternity ward. (fn. 247) An operating theatre was added in 1910 (fn. 248) and balconies and verandahs extended in 1914. (fn. 249) Like the voluntary hospital, the infirmary was used for wounded soldiers in the First World War. It was first recognized as a training school for nurses in 1912 and the foundation stone of a new nurses' home was laid in 1929. (fn. 250) A children's block was opened in 1926 and an administrative block erected a year later. (fn. 251)
The management of the infirmary was transferred to the public health committee of the corporation under the Local Government Act of 1929, and the hospital was thereafter known as the Gulson Road Municipal Hospital. Priority was still given to the sick poor although the hospital was open to all the sick inhabitants of Coventry. At the time of the transfer there were 301 beds. (fn. 252) In 1932 the old nurses' home was converted into a maternity unit.
The fact that patients were no longer only the poor and the expansion of the catchment area with the city boundary extension of 1932 meant that the number of patients rose steadily. There were 3,806 in-patients in 1939, compared with 2,089 in 1930. (fn. 253) The old workhouse was absorbed into the hospital in 1937 and all the mental defectives sent to Great Barr Park Colony (Staffs.) in 1938. A combined welfare centre and school clinic was opened in 1937 to serve as a pivot for the increasing number of antenatal clinics. In the same year Allesley Hall was given to the corporation. It opened a year later as a convalescent home for cases, especially maternity cases, from Gulson Hospital. (fn. 254) The maternity unit in the central hospital was closed down and transferred to Leamington in 1940, and the whole hospital reorganized as a clearing-station to deal with war casualties. (fn. 255)
Although the hospital was damaged in 1941 it had to take the main burden from the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital and in 1943 had 4,286 inpatients and 35,913 out-patients, the latter being the highest figure in the history of the hospital. (fn. 256)
There have been few changes in Gulson Hospital since the passing of the National Health Service Act. It remained a general hospital devoted mainly to urgent and emergency cases. The maternity unit was restored after the war and in 1947 a children's ward was opened. In 1950 The Towers in Kenilworth, formerly an annexe for the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital, became a branch of Gulson Hospital. (fn. 257)
WHITLEY ISOLATION HOSPITAL. Although there were bad outbreaks of cholera in 1838 and 1849 and typhoid was endemic, (fn. 258) it was not until there was a serious scarlet fever outbreak in 1874 that a fever hospital was opened in Coventry. The City Isolation Hospital, financed by the corporation and organized under the aegis of the medical officer of health, was an iron structure capable of accommodating eight patients and a nurse. (fn. 259) A permanent hospital was erected in 1885 next to the iron hospital in Stoney Stanton Road. It was designed by E. J. Purnell and Messrs. G. & I. Steane in four detached blocks: one for scarlet fever and one for smallpox (together accommodating 20 patients), as well as an administrative block and one block left free for paying patients. (fn. 260)
There was a severe scarlet fever epidemic in 1894 when the number of cases in the hospital was 355, compared with 65 in the previous year. A disused factory was hired to provide extra accommodation and this remained in use for emergencies until 1902. (fn. 261) A high incidence of scarlet fever and typhoid fever in 1900-2 led to a further extension of the hospital, providing 62 more beds and replacing the unsatisfactory disused factory. (fn. 262)
Scarlet fever and, to a lesser extent, diphtheria, were the principal diseases dealt with after a separate smallpox hospital was erected at Pinley in 1897 (fn. 263) and as typhoid was reduced with the gradual replacement of privy middens by water-closets. A particularly severe epidemic of scarlet fever in 1911, when the overflow of cases had to be sent to Exhall, resulted in another extension. (fn. 264)
The situation remained fairly stable until negotiations began with the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital in 1927-9 for the sale of the fever hospital. Scarlet fever and diphtheria were still the main diseases although there had been serious influenza epidemics in 1918, 1925, and 1929. In 1930 the hospital, with a staff of 41, dealt with 622 cases. (fn. 265) The old hospital was sold and the present hospital, situated in Whitley at the junction of London Road and Humber Road, was opened in 1934. The architect was Stanley Atkinson of the London firm of Wimperis, Simpson & Guthrie. The hospital provided accommodation for 148 beds. (fn. 266)
The war had relatively little impact on Whitley Hospital. Slight damage during the 1941 bombing was soon repaired. There was none of the accommodation problems that afflicted the other hospitals. After the war the numbers of fever patients declined as immunization gradually eliminated diphtheria and as scarlet fever was treated as a disease only rarely requiring hospitalization. The prompt large-scale immunization of the population after the bombing prevented a possible typhoid epidemic and immunization after 1956 virtually eliminated poliomyelitis, which had assumed epidemic proportions in 1953. (fn. 267) By 1949 only about half the beds in the hospital were assigned to infectious cases. (fn. 268) In 1962 Whitley Hospital took over the function of Paybody Hospital in dealing with orthopaedic cases. (fn. 269)
ST. FATHER'S SHELTER. Although already in existence in 1895, St. Faith's Shelter dates its foundation from the inaugural meeting at Trafalgar Street in that year of the Coventry Ladies Association for the Care of Friendless Girls. St. Faith's then became linked with the new association and acquired an additional house in Coundon Road. The home or shelter moved to Holyhead Road c. 1916-17, and after being evacuated several times during the Second World War, finally moved to Dudley Lodge in Warwick Road in 1946. (fn. 270)
St. Faith's Shelter, an Anglican voluntary organization, (fn. 271) is registered as a charity to maintain a home for mothers and babies and provide moral welfare, help, and shelter for girls in need. Part of its income is derived from the Ladies Lying-in Charity. This charity, founded in 1801 and managed by a ladies' committee, made grants to poor women during childbirth. A Charity Commissioners' Scheme of 1930 appointed the committee of the Coventry Voluntary Infant Welfare Centre as trustees of the charity and another of 1952 transferred this function to the executive committee of St. Faith's Shelter. (fn. 272) When all maternity and child welfare centres became the direct responsibility of the city health department in 1948, it entered into an agreement (still in force in 1964) with St. Faith's Shelter to take local-authority cases of unmarried mothers. (fn. 273) From 1948 to 1961 roughly a quarter of the women and a third of the babies at St. Faith's Shelter were local-authority cases. (fn. 274)
PINLEY SMALLPOX HOSPITAL. A separate hospital for smallpox was built at Pinley Hill in 1897. It was run by the city council and had accommodation for sixteen beds and an isolation block. (fn. 275) It was built at a time when the anti-vaccination campaign in Coventry was at its height and the number of unvaccinated children reached alarming proportions. The Anti-Vaccination Society carried out a census in 1892-3 to show that the majority of Coventry's citizens opposed compulsory vaccination, which was in the hands of the board of guardians. (fn. 276) The society even tried, unsuccessfully, to establish a medical service of its own. (fn. 277) By 1895-6, when only 3.9 per cent. of the children born that year were vaccinated, (fn. 278) the Vaccination Acts had become a 'dead letter', (fn. 279) but people were still being prosecuted for refusing to have their children vaccinated in 1902. (fn. 280) Coventry was described in 1926 as 'still largely unvaccinated' and in the years between 1921 and 1926 the percentage of children vaccinated varied between 9.2 per cent. and 35.75 per cent., the latter occurring in 1925, a smallpox year. (fn. 281) In 1930 only 22 per cent. were vaccinated. (fn. 282) By this time, however, the cause was generally apathy, rather than the more positive prejudice and ignorance of the 1890s. The situation improved after the National Health Service Act provided a general voluntary vaccination scheme. (fn. 283)
In view of the generally unvaccinated state of the population it is surprising that the smallpox hospital was not in greater use. There were 71 cases in 1903, 72 in 1925, 77 in 1927 and 126 in 1928 (fn. 284) but for most years there were fewer than ten and from the 1920s Pinley Hospital took cases from Nuneaton, Atherstone, and Foleshill as well as Coventry. When, as was frequent, there were no smallpox cases, the hospital was closed. (fn. 285) In 1901 it was used as a convalescent scarlet fever hospital (fn. 286) and there was a proposal in 1908 to convert it into a tuberculosis sanatorium, but the site was not suitable. (fn. 287) With the gradual elimination of smallpox Pinley ceased to be used as a hospital and the buildings are now (1964) used as a store. (fn. 288)
HIGH VIEW HOSPITAL, EXHALL. Foleshill Rural District Council opened an infectious diseases hospital in Exhall in 1905. (fn. 289) There were rarely enough cases from the Foleshill area and the overflow from the City Isolation Hospital was sent to Exhall. From 1920 to 1922 it was leased as a temporary tuberculosis sanatorium (fn. 290) and for about two years before 1930 it was unoccupied. (fn. 291) In 1930 it was reopened by Coventry corporation as a hospital for male mental defectives. In 1942, after the disruption of Coventry's hospital services during the bombing, temporary buildings were erected at Exhall, the mental patients were transferred to St. Margaret's Hospital, Great Barr (Staffs.), and the whole establishment, renamed Exhall Lodge Hospital, was opened in 1943 for chronic sick patients. In 1951 the name was changed again to High View Hospital, all able-bodied patients were removed to corporation old peoples' homes and the hospital was in 1959 graded as a geriatric hospital of 262 beds. (fn. 292) Annexes, opened in 1944 at Gosford and Walsgrave, were closed in 1949 and 1951 respectively. (fn. 293)
DUNSMOOR. (fn. 294) Coventry Voluntary Infant Welfare Centre, which after 1917 was supported by the Spencer and Soden charities, (fn. 295) was housed in Dunsmoor (or Dunsmore) at No. 55 Holyhead Road from c. 1924. Welfare sessions were held twice weekly and Dunsmoor and Gulson Road were the pivots of the maternity and child welfare centres (fn. 296) before the Natural Health Service Act of 1946 when control passed to the maternity and child welfare committee of the local health department.
The Coventry and District Crippled Children's Guild was formed in 1925. It held daily orthopaedic clinics at Dunsmoor and was administered as an out-patient department of Paybody Hospital, after the latter's foundation in 1929. (fn. 297) As such it was taken over in 1948 by the Hospital Management Committee (Group 20) of the Birmingham Hospital Board and renamed the Paybody Orthopaedic Clinic. In 1962-3 Dunsmoor was demolished and the work transferred to a new clinic in the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital. (fn. 298)
ALCOCK CONVALESCENT HOSPITAL,KERESLEY. Keresley Hall was sold by the Hillman family to the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital in 1927. It was opened two years later as the Alcock Convalescent Hospital to accommodate convalescent cases from the main hospital. (fn. 299) The property was purchased with the legacy bequeathed to the hospital by John Alcock (d. 1922) for 'sending poor patients to and maintaining them at convalescent homes'. (fn. 300) Following the bombing of the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital, the convalescent hospital was adapted and expanded to take emergency cases. (fn. 301) After the war it retained its war-time function as a branch of the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital. (fn. 302) Medical cases were transferred to the main hospital when new wards were built there in 1958-9. (fn. 303)
Among charitable gifts made to the hospital for convalescent purposes were those of Dr. Reid (1888), Oliver Munster (1906), and John Alcock (1922) and from 1962 the air raid relief fund was amalgamated with the convalescent fund. The convalescent fund was not transferred to the new hospital authorities after the National Health Service Act of 1946 and trustees were appointed in 1951. By 1963 the fund had been allowed to accumulate and relatively little was being spent. (fn. 304)
PAYBODY HOSPITAL. The Elms, a large house in Allesley, given with £2,000 by Thomas Paybody to the Coventry Crippled Children's Guild, was opened in 1929 as a convalescent home for crippled children and extended in 1931. (fn. 305) After 1948, as Paybody Orthopaedic Hospital, it was one of the hospitals under the control of the Hospital Management Committee (Group 20) of the Birmingham Hospital Board. (fn. 306) By 1961 there were relatively few orthopaedic cases owing to the considerable reduction of tuberculosis and rickets. The few cases were moved in 1962 to Whitley Hospital and replaced a year later by ophthalmic patients from the Keresley branch of the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital. (fn. 307) The Coventry and District Cripples Guild, which continued after the National Health Service Act to make grants to orthopaedic patients, was making payments in 1963 to Whitley Hospital. (fn. 308)
ALLESLEY HALL CONVALESCENT HOME. Lord Iliffe gave Allesley Hall to the corporation in 1937. It was opened a year later as a convalescent home for cases from Gulson Hospital. (fn. 309) From 1951 it served as an annexe for orthopaedic cases in conjunction with Paybody Hospital. It was closed in 1959 and replaced by an orthopaedic ward at the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital. (fn. 310)
ALLESLEY HOUSE MATERNITY HOSPITAL. A large house in Allesley was leased by the city health department in 1943 as a complement to Keresley in dealing with maternity cases which could no longer be accommodated in the main city hospitals. After the war Allesley House was used as a convalescent maternity home in connexion with Gulson Hospital. It was closed in 1951 and the patients were transferred to The Towers. (fn. 311)
MARKETS AND FAIRS. (fn. 312)
The responsibility of the city authorities for the regulation of markets and fairs has been retained into modern times. The early history of these institutions in Coventry is given elsewhere in this volume. (fn. 313) In the early 19th century Friday remained the chief market day, but there were also markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays. (fn. 314) The markets for different commodities were held in various parts of the town, and from time to time were moved about by the city authorities in attempts to reconcile the interests of commerce with the avoidance of congestion and other nuisances caused by street trading. In 1822, for example, the market for cattle, sheep, and pigs, which had previously been held in the open in Gosford Street, was brought to an end and replaced by a cattle market at the top of Bishop Street and a 'beast' market for sheep and pigs in an open part of Cook Street. (fn. 315) By 1840 the horse market, which had been held on St. John's Bridges, had become a public danger and it was decided to move it. Suggested sites were the end of Fleet Street and Spon End where it was thought the beast market could join it. Later in 1840, however, it was ordered that the horse and beast markets should join the cattle market in Bishop Street, though it is not clear whether the changes took place. (fn. 316) The pig market seems still to have been in Cook Street in 1850. (fn. 317) Eventually, in 1858, all the markets for stock were transferred to a new walled market place in Hales Street, (fn. 318) called the Smithfield, a solution to the problem of annual street markets which had been suggested as early as 1839. (fn. 319)
Other markets in this period were concentrated in the area around Broadgate. The Friday corn market was for long held in the open in the vicinity of Cross Cheaping and Broadgate, where corn was displayed by sample rather than in bulk. In 1856 the council, on pressure from interested parties, admitted the inconvenience of street trading in this commodity, for which there was a large sale in the city, by permitting the transference of the market to a Corn Exchange built in Hertford Street. This hall, run by a private company, was used also for public functions of various kinds. (fn. 320) In 1909 a new Corn Exchange, the property of the corporation, was opened in a reconstructed building, formerly the post office, in Smithford Street. Like the old exchange it had facilities for public assemblies. (fn. 321) The old Corn Exchange building became first a music hall and then a cinema before being burned down in 1931. (fn. 322)
The retail market for foodstuffs and other commodities proved too large to be contained entirely in the market house and the Women's Market Place established early in the 18th century. (fn. 323) It overflowed into the Bull Ring, Ironmonger Row, Cross Cheaping, and Broadgate, despite periodic attempts by the council, in the face of the traders' opposition, to confine it. (fn. 324) It is clear that by 1840, whatever the official market days were, street trading was being carried on on every day of the week except Sunday. (fn. 325) In 1841 some reorganization was attempted. Broadgate and Cross Cheaping were assigned exclusively to vegetable dealers, butchers were confined to the market house, sellers of bacon, cheese, and like goods to stalls in the market place, earthenware dealers to Market Street, and those selling clothes to stalls near the back of the Castle Inn. (fn. 326)
Plans for a new market hall were mooted in the 1830s (fn. 327) but it was many years before the protests of the inhabitants of the market streets and others eventually resulted in adequate enclosed accommodation for the city's markets. (fn. 328) In 1865 the old market hall was taken down, (fn. 329) and with the opening of a new market hall in its place in 1867 the retail street markets were brought to an end. (fn. 330)
Thus by 1870 Coventry had an enclosed cattle market, a corn exchange, and a general market hall. By 1875-6, however, the fish section of the market hall had been let to a grocer and the fishmongers moved out of the covered market into the open air. The wholesale market, for vegetables, fruit, and flowers, also continued in the open in a space outside the market hall. No cattle were sold in the open streets except at fair times but the Smithfield's business was by 1889 being seriously affected by a private auctioneer's yard established in 1875 off the Butts by the Coventry Public Cattle Sales Company. (fn. 331) A considerable proportion of the town's cattle sales took place in this yard.
In the Smithfield to the traditional market day, Friday, was added in 1877 an extra Monday cattle market. Fridays and Saturdays, however, remained the general market days, although the market hall was open for trade on other weekdays too. Like the Smithfield the general market was affected by outside competition. Retail shops, particularly those dealing in similar goods and situated in the arcade leading to the market, took away the market traders' business, as too did the barely regulated street hawking of farm produce. (fn. 332) The commercial importance of the general markets, however, has been retained in the 20th century, and provision of adequate facilities and regulation has continued to be a public service performed by the city council. In 1922 the corporation acquired the site and buildings of the old barracks, vacated by the military between 1906 and 1908, (fn. 333) and an open-air retail and wholesale market was established there. (fn. 334) In 1934 improvements to the Barracks Market, as it was called, were set on foot and in 1936 the improved markets were opened with covered accommodation. In 1932 a new meat market was opened as part of the public abattoir. (fn. 335) Meanwhile, by 1914 the Smithfield market was running at a considerable loss, (fn. 336) and in 1915 it ceased to be used as a cattle market. From 1917 it became a general market in daily use soon returning a good profit to the corporation. By 1919 and until 1921 it was also utilized for the sale of crocks at the annual Great Fair. (fn. 337) It was closed in 1933. (fn. 338) Cattle sales continued to 1939 in the private cattle sales yard off the Butts. (fn. 339)
In the Second World War the Corn Exchange was destroyed and has not been replaced. (fn. 340) The market hall, together with Drinkwater Arcade, established in Smithford Street in 1904, (fn. 341) was also destroyed, and the wholesale section of the Barracks Market severely damaged. Consequently the West Orchard retain market for vegetables, fruit, and fish was established in 1943. The temporary reinstatement of the Barracks Market was completed in 1947. (fn. 342) Also damaged in the war, but later reopened for a short time, was the City Arcade consisting of 24 shops controlled by the markets committee and constructed in 1932 as a means of approach from Smithford Street to the Barracks Market. (fn. 343)
Since the end of the war considerable reorganization of Coventry's markets has taken place. The cattle yard off the Butts, used from 1939 as a collecting centre on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, ceased to operate in 1954 on the ending of government controls, and has since been taken in for extensions to the public abattoir. (fn. 344) In 1953 the Rex Market in Corporation Street was opened to replace the West Orchard Market, and about the same time the City Arcade was demolished (fn. 345) as part of the general reconstruction of the whole central shopping area as a pedestrian precinct. In 1955 a new wholesale fruit and vegetable market covering over seven acres was opened at Barras Heath, (fn. 346) and in 1958 a new circular building to house the retail market, including a fish market, was completed on the west side of the Precinct; this took the place of the Rex and Barracks markets. (fn. 347) The site of the latter is now occupied by a multi-story car-park.
The Great Fair continued in the early 19th century to be held in the centre of the city, especially in Cross Cheaping, Market Place, and Bishop Street but as side-shows, stalls, and refreshment booths multiplied the problem of congestion increased. From 1823 the fair was thus removed periodically to Greyfriars Green where there was more space. (fn. 348) Even there, however, traffic was impeded by the booths and householders were annoyed by the throng and the revelry, (fn. 349) so that from time to time the fair was brought back to the central area where disturbances could be more easily controlled. (fn. 350) In the early 1830s the fair took place between Silver Street and Hertford Street, (fn. 351) and in the 1850s both Greyfriars Green and Hertford Street were being used. (fn. 352) From 1859 Pool Meadow began to be used, sometimes with stalls in Hertford Street, (fn. 353) and from 1930 to 1939 Barras Heath was the site. From the early 1940s it has been held at Hearsall Common. (fn. 354)
By the 19th century the fair was largely devoted to amusement (fn. 355) and was regarded by householders and to an extent by the city council as a nuisance. (fn. 356) Certainly it was a focus of disorder. In 1844 it was reported that the number of arrests of drunk, disorderly, and destitute persons was greatest at fair times, particularly at the Great Fair. (fn. 357) Disturbances at the fair continued to be common, (fn. 358) and in 1866 the government found it necessary to require the city council to take measures 'to prevent public decency being outraged'. (fn. 359) From 1875 the duration of the fair was reduced to five days beginning the Friday after Corpus Christi and not including the Sunday; from 1880 it has been held on the five days following Whit Sunday. In the 20th century the fair remains largely a pleasure fair but the sale of crocks has increased gradually until it can be claimed to be one of the chief crock fairs in the country. (fn. 360)
In the 19th and early 20th centuries live-stock fairs were still important in Coventry. Monthly fairs for cattle, sheep, and pigs were held at Spon End from 1839 or 1840. (fn. 361) Until 1861 when they were ordered to be removed to the Smithfield and Pool Meadow. (fn. 362) Cattle were sold too on the Friday of the Great Fair, (fn. 363) and the two three-day cattle fairs in May and November were also important. Until 1874 they took place in Gosford Street, but in that year they were ordered to be removed to the Smithfield. (fn. 364) It seems likely that a horse fair took place in the late 19th century simultaneously with the cattle fairs, and was held at the top of Much Park Street. It was still being held in the streets in 1886. (fn. 365) After the closing of the Smithfield as a cattle market in 1915 the cattle fairs continued at the private cattle yard off the Butts. They were discontinued in 1939. (fn. 366)
In 1839 the city council instituted a cheese fair to be held twice annually in Broadgate in April and September, but although still in existence in 1850 it was not very successful. (fn. 367) In 1880 the May and November fairs were said to be for cheese as well as cattle. (fn. 368)
WATER, GAS, AND ELECTRICITY. (fn. 369)
Coventry for long depended for its water supply on wells and springs. Broad (or Throstle) Well, after which Well Street was named, existed in the 12th century; Dead Man's Well, on the north-west side of the city, existed in the 13th; and Baron's Well in the 14th century. (fn. 370) The last was probably the well in Much Park Street referred to in 1411, at which date there were wells also in Bishop Street, Cook Street (probably Agnes Well), Spon Street (Spon Well), (fn. 371) and Gosford Street part of which later took its name from Jordan Well, built next to his dwelling by Jordan Shepey, mayor in 1347. (fn. 372)
The first communal attempt to improve the town's supply was in 1332 when Edward III gave permission for a conduit to be built 'in a convenient street'. (fn. 373) In 1404 there was a conduit supplying the priory, (fn. 374) and by 1483 there were several others - in Cross Cheaping (probably the first), West Orchard, Smithford Street, and Bablake. (fn. 375) The amount of water provided by these conduits cannot have been plentiful, however, for throughout the 15th century the corporation was quick to prevent unlawful tapping and for the most part forbade the use of the water by brewers, maltsters, and dyers. (fn. 376) The upkeep of the public conduits was met by a rate on households and by 1497 six wards were contributing. (fn. 377) By-laws were passed to prevent contamination. (fn. 378)
From the 16th to the 19th centuries wells and conduits continued to be made both by the corporation and private individuals, and from the 17th century pumps were in use. (fn. 379) In 1669 the corporation licensed a public water cart. (fn. 380)
From the 17th century springs in the Swanswell Pool area played an important part in Coventry's water supply. An engineer was being encouraged by the corporation to establish waterworks in or near Pool Meadow in 1629 (fn. 381) and this may or may not have had something to do with the waterworks, later known as Swanswell waterworks, which was established in 1632 by two other men, again with official support. In this undertaking spring water from the Priory Orchard (or Conduit Meadow) was apparently forced by means of a wheel in Prior's Orchard Mill through pipes which ran under the city wall, through Pool Meadow, to a reservoir or cistern built at first on top of one of two 'pillars of stone', probably piers of the ruined priory church. From there those citizens able to pay for it were served with water in their houses. About 1652 the original cistern was replaced by one in Cuckoo Lane (later Trinity Lane) which was still in use in 1671. In the 19th century a 4 horse-power engine was being used and the reservoir was situated in an old windmill. The whole undertaking including the Prior's Orchard Mill was controlled by the corporation, as trustees of White's Charity on whose property the works was situated, but was leased for 200 years from 1646. (fn. 382)
About 1780 the corporation established what became known as the City, the Spon Street, or the Conduit Meadow waterworks. This also utilized spring water from St. Catherine's Well in Conduit Meadow, about half a mile north-west of Spon Bridge, and supplied certain houses mainly in the Spon Street ward. (fn. 383) A closer control was maintained by the corporation over this than over the Swanswell waterworks, the undertaking being let to tenants-atwill. (fn. 384) The well, which was estimated to have yielded about 100,000 gallons daily while in use, gradually ran dry after it had been superseded by the new waterworks in 1847 (see below). The wellhouse, a small rectangular stone structure, with a pointed doorway and a pitched stone roof, which may date from the 15th century, still stands in a garden to the north of Holyhead Road. (fn. 385)
When the Commissioners on the State of Large Towns investigated Coventry in 1843 it was found that the existing water supply was quite inadequate. Of the 7,000 houses in the city only about 280 dwellings of the well-to-do in the centre were being supplied by the Swanswell works, and about 200 others by the Conduit Meadow works. Even this limited supply was frequently cut off for weeks at a time because of the inadequacy of the mains and there was little hope of improvement. The 'monopoly of the water works by company and private individuals' was reckoned to be 'an evil felt by every class of society'. Nevertheless the poorer inhabitants were worst off. They derived their supply from some 23 pumps and various springs, and the physical labour involved in obtaining water, especially in times of sickness and bad weather, did not encourage cleanliness. No water was available for street cleaning, and pumps provided the sole means of fighting fires. Coventry had no public or open bathing places. (fn. 386)
The corporation sought to remedy this state of affairs by obtaining in the Coventry Water Act of 1844 (fn. 387) the necessary powers to construct and maintain an entirely new waterworks. The report of the Commissioners on the State of Large Towns suggested that the Swanswell springs were potentially capable of providing a supply of good water sufficient for the city's needs. T. Hawkesley, the engineer employed by the council to investigate the provision of a new supply, however, reported that this was not the case, and that both the old waterworks together could not supply half what was required. The fact that the Swanswell works was in a dilapidated state and its lease due to run out in 1846 reinforced the argument for a new system. (fn. 388)
A waterworks, planned by Hawkesley, was therefore begun in 1845 and completed in 1847. A deep well and a storage and pumping station were set up near Spon Bridge, and an elevated reservoir with a capacity of 1 million gallons was built near St. Nicholas Street. The Spon End pumping station, as it became known, was joined to the reservoir by a principal main running to Broadgate and out again. Smaller mains ran along Gosford Street and Warwick Road to the extremities of the town, and service pipes from these three mains supplied the rest of the town. (fn. 389)
The corporation sought to recoup its considerable outlay on the new works by levying high charges (fn. 390) and by promoting the principle that every house should have an independent water supply. This policy caused some criticism. It was held that the rates levied by the council under the local Act were higher than would have been the case if the waterworks had been administered under the Public Health Act of 1848 by the local board of health, established in Coventry in 1849. But for the existing Act this board would have controlled water supply. Another complaint was that public pumps and conduits from which inhabitants were entitled to a free supply, and which the corporation was legally obliged to maintain, had been destroyed or damaged. Thus poor inhabitants who refused to pay for a new supply were deprived not only of this but also of their original supply. (fn. 391) Under the 1848 Act, however, the council, as the local board of health, could compel households to receive a supply if it could be provided at a rate of 2d. a week, a rate considerably cheaper than the council's original rates. This the council forced 613 houses without a supply to do in 1849. (fn. 392) It is clear, too, that many pumps and conduits were soon repaired. (fn. 393)
In 1852 water supply was extended to the Earlsdon Lane estate with the aid of the Freehold Land Society which paid £500 of the £700 costs, the corporation laying the mains and the society connecting the houses to the mains. (fn. 394) In 1895 the Whitley waterworks and the Coundon reservoir were completed. The expansion of population in the early 20th century and the fact that water was not available from Whitley from 1908 until a chlorinating plant was installed in 1915 (fn. 395) led Coventry to seek further supplies. In 1907 powers were obtained to lay pipes from the Whitacre pumping station at Shustoke, belonging to the Birmingham corporation, to Coundon and to purchase at first two million (fn. 396) and later three million gallons a day. (fn. 397) In 1921 an extra supply of 720,000 gallons a day, but with the responsibility of supplying a wider area, was obtained on the purchase of the North Warwickshire Water Company. (fn. 398) During the 1930s Brownshill Green, Watery Lane, Mount Nod, Meriden Shafts, and Green Lane pumping stations were completed, reservoirs were established or expanded at Corley, Meriden, and Tile Hill Tower, and the Spon End and Whitley works were reconstructed and electrified. The Second World War delayed a scheme to bring water from the Severn at Upton-upon-Severn, authorized in 1939, but in 1941 the River Avon works was established as an emergency measure at Ryton and this was enlarged in 1943. In 1947 work began on the Severn scheme and in 1953 the first instalment yielding six million gallons a day was brought into commission and the River Avon works taken out. Interim developments completed in 1957 and 1959 increased the yield to about eight million gallons a day. (fn. 399)
As early as 1820 the city council considered a proposition for erecting a gas works on land of which the corporation was trustee, (fn. 400) and in 1821 the Coventry Gaslight Company was incorporated by Act of Parliament. The company was empowered to acquire land for its works, to enter into contracts with the street commissioners to supply lighting, and, subject to agreement with the commissioners, to erect gas works and lay mains and pipes. It was anticipated that gas would provide better and cheaper lighting than oil. (fn. 401) The works was erected immediately on the south side of Abbotts Lane, and by 1824 the corporation was making regular payments to the company for gas and repairs to lanterns. (fn. 402)
In 1835 the reformed council took over the duties of the street commissioners and thus became responsible for providing adequate street lighting. Further developments took place in the later 1840s when arrangements were made for the nightly lighting of street lamps, charges were revised by agreement between the gas committee of the council and the gas company, and it was agreed to light St. Mary's Hall, a corporation property, with gas. (fn. 403)
As gas lighting was extended into new areas of the city it was felt necessary for the powers of the company to be extended. By an Act of 1856, (fn. 404) therefore, a new company was incorporated to replace the old one. It was to supply Coventry, Stoke, Stivichall, Allesley, Foleshill, Coundon, and Radford. The corporation was empowered to require the company to lay additional mains, to approve mains, and to appoint a tester and inspector of meters. Street lighting was to be supplied by the company at a fixed price, and a maximum charge for ordinary consumers was laid down. In 1875 the corporation appointed its medical officer of health as gas analyst with instructions to produce an annual report. (fn. 405)
In 1875, too, the corporation began to investigate the possibility of manufacturing and supplying gas itself, and in the following year consulted the gas engineer on the subject. (fn. 406) Nothing happened for some time and the company went ahead and made alterations to the works in 1882. In 1884, however, when the company sought a Bill to construct entirely new works, a tramway, a subway, roads, and gas mains, the general works committee found it 'most objectionable' and the corporation determined to oppose it. (fn. 407) Within a month or two the corporation, despite the argument of some of its members that electricity was the coming thing, had agreed to promote a Bill for the purchase of the undertaking. (fn. 408) An Act was obtained in the same year, and the corporation took over the powers of the company. Charges for gas remained the same as before in the central areas, but areas on the outskirts of the city were to pay somewhat more. (fn. 409) The control of the gas works was vested in the gas committee of the council. (fn. 410) In 1888 the corporation was able to reduce the price of gas (fn. 411) but as Coventry grew the gas works became less economic, for coal had to be transported in carts from the railway sidings half a mile away. By an Act of 1898, therefore, the corporation obtained authority to build a gas works at Foleshill on a site with good canal and railway facilities, and production was transferred there. As a consequence the cost of manufacture diminished and prices were reduced. (fn. 412)
By that time an electricity supply was being established in the city. In this case the corporation assumed direct control from the beginning. It refused an application in 1890 by the Midland House to House Electricity Company for permission to supply Coventry with electricity, (fn. 413) and within a year the corporation itself obtained powers to establish works and itself supply electric light in the city. (fn. 414) In 1895 the Sandy Lane generating station was opened and an electricity engineer appointed. (fn. 415) At first the electricity scheme failed to pay its way, making a loss every year until 1904. Hardly any industrial load was secured and reliance was placed on income from supplying electric lighting. There were only 72 consumers in 1896 and even by 1900 only 226. (fn. 416)
In the 20th century the supply of both gas and electricity was extended. The electricity undertaking was made viable and a cheap supply provided by a policy of concentrating on the power rather than the lighting load. (fn. 417) In 1900 the corporation was allowed to supply electric fittings, (fn. 418) and the practice of hiring out electrical appliances to manufacturers increased the demand for electric power. As a result the electricity undertaking, from 1906, began to make a good profit. (fn. 419)
Powers were obtained in 1907 to supply electricity to St. Michael's and Holy Trinity Without (in Coventry R.D.), Stivichall (in Warwick R.D.), and Stoke, Foleshill, and Exhall (in Foleshill R.D.); (fn. 420) in 1913 to supply part of Stoneleigh with electricity and Keresley, part of Stoneleigh, and part of Walsgrave-on-Sowe with gas; (fn. 421) in 1920 to supply gas to Binley, Walsgrave-on-Sowe, and Wyken (in Foleshill R.D.); (fn. 422) and in 1927 electricity to Binley, Keresley, Stoke Heath, Walsgrave-on-Sowe, Willenhall, and Wyken (in Foleshill R.D.), Allesley, Berkswell, and Coundon (in Meriden R.D.), and gas to Corley and Fillongley (in Meriden R.D.), Baginton (in Warwick R.D.), Bulkington U.D., Ansty, Shilton, and Willenhall (in Foleshill R.D.), and Brandon and Bretford, Combe Fields, Rytonon-Dunsmore, and Wolston (in Rugby R.D.). (fn. 423)
By this time the sources of supply for both gas and electricity were strained. Thus the Kenilworth Gas Undertaking was purchased in 1927, (fn. 424) and in the following year a new and very much greater electricity generating station was opened at Longford, operating as part of the national grid. (fn. 425) The corporation's electricity undertaking was nationalized in 1948, and its gas undertaking in 1949. (fn. 426)
OTHER PUBLIC SERVICES. (fn. 427)
POLICE. In Coventry, as in other towns until the 19th century, unpaid constables dealt with offenders and watchmen were hired by the burgesses to keep watch and ward during the hours of darkness. Constables for each ward were appointed by the leet annually, though by the 1830s the same persons tended to be re-appointed from year to year. (fn. 428) There were then 60 to 80 constables regarded as an efficient and respectable body, though 'rather excitable on political occasions'. In emergencies the magistrates swore special constables. (fn. 429) At different times various officials set out the watch, but generally it was the responsibility of the constables. An Act of 1790 (fn. 430) brought about certain changes. Watchmen were advertised for, elected by the street commissioners, and paid out of the street rate. Watch boxes were provided and inspected each night by the high or chief constable, a permanent salaried officer. By the 1830s the nightly watch consisted of an inspector, a general superintendent, and eight watchmen. The town clerk assured the Commissioners for Municipal Corporations that the police were sufficient to protect persons and property and that, except at parliamentary elections, the inhabitants were remarkably well behaved. (fn. 431) Nevertheless the watch committee of the reformed council reported in 1836 that the establishment was altogether inadequate. Only the chief constable, who had no paid staff, could apprehend felons, the watch were not numerous enough and the watch house sometimes had to hold more than twenty prisoners. Taking as its guide Peel's Metropolitan Police Act the committee suggested that Coventry needed a paid force of one superintendent, an inspector, a sergeant, and twenty constables. (fn. 432)
This new establishment was brought into being almost immediately and the watch was dispensed with. (fn. 433) At first, however, insufficient money was spent on the force, impairing its efficiency, and the new superintendent had also to act as superintendent of streets and paving and inspector of weights and measures. (fn. 434) In 1845, however, the superintendent was permitted to give up his responsibility for the streets, and in 1848 a policemen's superannuation fund was started. (fn. 435) Nevertheless the force remained too small, and in 1854 there were only two sergeants and fourteen constables and these considered themselves underpaid for their arduous duties. (fn. 436) The force was increased in numbers in the later 1850s and from time to time the police station next to St. Mary's Hall was enlarged; it had originally been built in 1863 to replace the old watch house in the Market Place. By 1879 the Coventry force was of sufficient standard to receive the Home Secretary's certificate of efficiency. (fn. 437) The central police station continued to be situated in the offices adjoining St. Mary's Hall until 1957 when it was moved to new headquarters in Little Park Street. By 1964 the force had an establishment of 532, and two divisional stations at Holmsdale Road and Fletchamstead Highway. (fn. 438)
GAOLS. (fn. 439) The Prior of Coventry possessed a prison in 1186-7 but since it is referred to in the pipe roll under Gloucestershire, (fn. 440) it is by no means certain that it lay in Coventry. Further references to it have not been traced.
In the charter of January 1345 the Crown granted to the burgesses of Coventry the right to keep a prison within the town, and entrusted its custody to the mayor and bailiffs. Later the same year the queen mother and the Black Prince as her successor in title were granted a gaol for the custody of those suspects who might be arrested or attached within the liberty of Cheylesmore. Its purpose was to hold those whose offences could not be dealt with in the court of the liberty but had to await trial before the justices of gaol delivery sitting at Coventry. This right was granted in 1345 to the queen mother with permission to grant it in turn to the mayor and bailiffs, and royal grants of 1346 make it plain that this was done, and that the burgesses were to enjoy this gaol in perpetuity. (fn. 441) It looks as if two distinct rights of imprisonment were to be enjoyed and that to the right of penal imprisonment for misdemeanants, granted in the charter of January 1345, was now added the right of custodial imprisonment for suspect felons. Whether as a consequence two prisons were constructed or only one is not known but it seems unlikely that there were two. Of the deliveries referred to in the first charter, there is no earlier evidence, but there is a well-nigh continuous record of them from 1351-3 to 1423-9 and a more broken one from 1434 to 1451. (fn. 442) Deliveries thereafter continued, presumably with regularity, until the mid 19th century. (fn. 443)
Although by the early 17th century there were dungeons in the gatehouses for drunkards and disorderly persons, (fn. 444) there appears from the early 15th century only to have been one gaol, which in 1515 had a gaoler and an under-gaoler. (fn. 445) Regulations concerning the gaol were made periodically in the 15th and 16th centuries by the leet. These often appear to have been in the interests of the prisoners to prevent their exploitation by the gaolers. (fn. 446) In 1667 similar solicitude was being shown by the council, which by then was controlling the gaol (fn. 447) and appointing the gaoler. (fn. 448)
In 1675 the gaol was situated in St. Michael's parish within the area bounded by Pepper Lane (known in the 18th century as Gaol Lane), Derby Lane, and Trinity Lane (then Cuckoo Lane). (fn. 449) In 1697 it was ordered that the part of the prison by Cuckoo Lane should be taken down and the gaol repaired and 'made very strong' (fn. 450) and this order appears to have been carried out in the following year. (fn. 451)
By 1772 the gaol was again in a state of disrepair and said to be too confined. In 1774 it was rebuilt on an enlarged scale. (fn. 452) When Howard visited it in 1776, however, he found a dismal state of affairs. There were eight lodging rooms for better-off debtors and one free ward for poor debtors, two separate day rooms for men and women, and four dungeons, all dirty, offensive, unhealthy, and dark. There was only one courtyard for all prisoners. (fn. 453) Things did not improve quickly. Howard found them to be the same in 1779 and in 1787 and in the latter year he reported that there was no proper separation for debtors or for male and female felons. (fn. 454) At the time of Neild's visit in the early 19th century there was an almost exactly similar state of affairs, and he considered the 'horrid dungeons' to be a disgrace to the city. (fn. 455) The number of debtors in custody in the years recorded by these two investigators varied between two and sixteen, and of felons between two and fifteen.
At the assizes in 1819 the gaol was presented by the grand jury as inadequate. (fn. 456) Coventry consequently obtained an Act in 1822 for building a new gaol and house of correction. (fn. 457) Despite objections that the site chosen was 'damp, unwholesome and unfit' building started. (fn. 458) Meanwhile Peel, then Home Secretary, offered to insert a clause in the proposed general Gaol Act authorizing the Coventry magistrates to send all their prisoners to the county gaol at Warwick, and enacting that all Coventry prisoners might be tried at Warwick. This would have done away with the need for a gaol at Coventry. The Coventry magistrates, however, refused to agree to a plan which would have infringed their charter and were unwilling to give up their right to a gaol delivery. (fn. 459) The general Act was thus passed in 1823 without such a clause. It applied to Coventry, among other towns, and gave the magistrates greater powers. (fn. 460) When renewed objections to the suitability of the site on which the new gaol was being erected were received, the chance was taken to abandon the project. (fn. 461) Instead the Bridewell was taken down in 1831 (fn. 462) and a new gaol and house of correction built, in conformity with the requirements of the Act of 1823, on a site adjoining the old gaol. (fn. 463)
The new establishment had 84 cells, mostly single bedded, nine separate yards, and eight separate day rooms. (fn. 464) It was regarded by the Commissioners for Municipal Corporations as 'spacious, healthy, and well regulated'. The gaoler managed both the house of correction and the gaol with the assistance of two turnkeys, a matron, a chaplain, and a surgeon. The average number of prisoners in both the gaol and house of correction was about 40 of whom about five were debtors. (fn. 465)
The total expense involved in the provision of the new gaol, amounting to over £16,000, was largely responsible for an increase in the rates of the county of the city in 1832 from 5d. to 1s. in the pound, (fn. 466) and resulted in a considerable volume of complaint. The choice of an unsuitable site and its abandonment and the rejection of Peel's offer were bitterly criticized, and it was felt, perhaps wrongly, that an adequate gaol could have been built much more cheaply. (fn. 467) The rural districts particularly felt the burden of rates to be excessive. (fn. 468)
When the county of the city was absorbed into Warwickshire in 1842 the gaol became a gaol and house of correction for the county of Warwick. (fn. 469) At the time of its last inspection in 1858 it had a total of 39 male felons, eight females, and four debtors. (fn. 470) When a new county gaol was opened in Warwick in 1860 prisoners from the Coventry gaol were transferred there and the building was abandoned and put up for sale. (fn. 471)
FIRE SERVICES. The Commissioners on the State of Large Towns reported in 1843 that in Coventry water 'for the suppression of fires is derived from pumps only. This has hitherto been found sufficient in the rare instances of fire . . . but, in the event of extensive fires, such means would prove altogether unavailing'. (fn. 472) When water supply was improved (fn. 473) a fire brigade committee was established. Advice was obtained from other towns with brigades, and subscriptions were received from a score of insurance companies with agents in Coventry. (fn. 474) The Coventry fire brigade was established in 1861, remaining a volunteer force until 1898. From then the number of paid firemen gradually increased until by 1934 the brigade was entirely professional. (fn. 475) In 1874 a shed for the engine was planned on the site of the old Bishop's Palace, (fn. 476) but in 1879 the force was given accommodation in the new police station. (fn. 477) In 1902 the central fire station in Hales Street was opened. By 1964 there were two district stations, one at Fletchamstead Highway, Canley, opened in 1957, and the other in Foleshill Road built in 1953. The force became part of the National Fire Service in 1941 but the council resumed control in 1948. In 1964 the force had an actual strength of 163. (fn. 478)
PASSENGER TRANSPORT. An organized passengertransport system can be dated from the later 19th century. In 1879 the city council refused to support two projects for a tramways system on the grounds that the promoters lacked experience. (fn. 479) In the following year, however, the Coventry and District Tramways Corporation (later Company), with the council's support, obtained powers to construct tramways in and about Coventry. (fn. 480) The service was begun in 1884. (fn. 481) Each tram consisted of a steam locomotive with a trailer car, (fn. 482) and by 1886 there were seven engines and six cars. In that year trams from Coventry station to Bedworth and back were said to pass in Broadgate every half-hour, and traffic receipts were £6,400. (fn. 483) Nevertheless the project was not a success. Only 5¾ miles of track were ever completed, and operations were suspended in 1890. (fn. 484) In 1893 a new company - Coventry Electric Tramways - was registered. (fn. 485) By 1895 the lines had been adapted for an electrified system and in that year the first electric tramcar ran from Foleshill depot to Coventry station. (fn. 486) In 1897 another company, the Coventry Electric Tramways Company, was incorporated. It took over the assets of the old company in 1898, and routes were extended in 1899 and 1905. In 1911 there were routes from Coventry station to Bedworth, Earlsdon to Gosford Green, Allesley Road to Bell Green, and Coventry station to Stoke. When the corporation purchased the undertaking in the following year there were about 12½ miles of track and the rolling-stock consisted of 42 double-deck open-top tramcars. (fn. 487)
In 1913 Coventry became one of the first towns in the country to obtain powers to run a fleet of motor-buses as part of its municipal passenger services. (fn. 488) Seven double-deck buses began in 1914 to serve routes from the fire station to Clay Lane and to the Council House. During the First World War the buses were commandeered but services started again in 1919. (fn. 489) Powers to extend both bus and tram services were obtained in 1920, (fn. 490) but in fact none of the projected new tramway lines was built. Indeed by 1933 trams were being superseded by buses and the tramway route via Smithford Street was discontinued; during the Second World War all tram services were abandoned. In 1936 the council had purchased the independent bus services then operating in the city including the routes to Baginton, Burton Green, and to Berkswell, and after the Second World War the municipal bus services were developed considerably to meet the needs of the expanding population. (fn. 491)
POST OFFICE. Postal services were, of course, never under local-government control. There was a postmaster at Coventry by 1623 (fn. 492) and a post office is first recorded there in 1673. (fn. 493) Before 1748 the office was apparently in the market place, for among some houses there then offered for sale was one 'where the post office was kept'. In the early 19th century the office was housed successively in two small rooms, the first probably in Hertford Street and the second in Smithford Street. (fn. 494) It was presumably the latter accommodation which was described in 1850 as 'one of the most miserable substitutes for a post office that ever existed'. (fn. 495) Some citizens petitioned against these conditions in 1846 and a large house in Smithford Street, opposite the barracks, was leased in 1847. (fn. 496) Larger premises were provided by the acquisition in 1896 and 1899 (fn. 497) of a textile warehouse in Hertford Street. (fn. 498) This, adapted at a cost of over £8,000, was opened in 1902, (fn. 499) and remains Coventry's main post office. A separate sorting office was completed in Greyfriars Lane in 1923. (fn. 500)
A telegraph service was first operated in Coventry in 1853 by the Electric Telegraph Company, in Broadgate, and by the British and Irish Magnetic Telegraph Company, in Cross Cheaping. (fn. 501) Both undertakings were acquired by the Post Office in 1870 when private telegraphs were transferred to state control; the head post office is first recorded as a telegraph office in 1872. (fn. 502) A telephone service was first provided in 1889 when the National Telephone Company opened an exchange in Smithford Street; the company's property was transferred to the Post Office in 1912. (fn. 503) A new exchange was built on the site of that part of the Post Office which was demolished in 1923, and an automatic exchange was completed in 1926. (fn. 504) Another new exchange was opened in 1960 in Little Park Street. (fn. 505)