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.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
PINLEY, SHORTLEY, AND WHITLEY
Pinley, Shortley, and Whitley were all in the parish of St. Michael, Coventry. (fn. 1) The district known as Shortley lay along the River Sherbourne immediately south of New Gate, Gosford Street and Far Gosford Street, and Gosford Green. It was bounded on the east by Stoke parish and Bigging manor, and on the west roughly by London Road. On the south it was divided from Pinley by a line running approximately from Shortley Road to Pinley Gardens. The district is crossed from north to south by the railway from Stoke which joins that from Coventry to Rugby near Humber Road, and there are sidings between Binley Road and Humber Avenue. The greater part of the district is occupied by factories and modern houses, but some fields remain south of the Charterhouse.
Pinley lay between the Sherbourne and the Sowe, south of Shortley and Stoke, and north of the old London road, now called Abbey Road, at Whitley. The modern line of London Road crosses Pinley north of the old road. The ground rises from the rivers to two low hills, on one of which stood Pinley Hill Farm. The railway from Coventry to Rugby runs across the district from west to east, and crosses the Sowe by the Sowe Viaduct. North of the railway and south of the road are modern houses, but there are still some fields between.
Whitley occupied the elbow of land between the Sherbourne and the Sowe, south of Pinley. The two rivers are crossed near their confluence by the Coventry by-pass which is here called Stonebridge Highway. Whitley Abbey and its grounds lay south of the old London road. The site of the house is occupied by Whitley Abbey School, and between the school and the confluence of the rivers are the Armstrong-Whitworth buildings and Whitley Airfield. West of the Sherbourne and running northwards along London Road is Whitley Common. On both sides of Abbey Road at its east end the land is occupied by streets of modern houses.
In the late 14th century Shortley lay within the city liberties, the boundary of which ran from Bigging in Stoke along the ditch dividing Shortley from Pinley and by 'Shortley stile' to the Sherbourne. (fn. 2) Most of the area inside this boundary was included in the municipal borough of Coventry which was created after the dissolution of the county of the city in 1842. Pinley and Whitley remained outside the borough in the rural area (fn. 3) which in 1894 was formed into the civil parish of St. Michael Without in Coventry Rural District and was taken into the city in the boundary extension of 1928. (fn. 4)
MANORS AND ESTATES.
In the 12th century the vill of BISSELEY, with the mill and property in Coventry, was granted to Liulph of Brinklow by Ranulf (II), Earl of Chester. The grant was confirmed by Ranulf's successor, Hugh. (fn. 5) The overlordship passed from the earls of Chester to Robert de Montalt, (fn. 6) from whom it was acquired with other land by Coventry Priory. (fn. 7)
The property descended to Simon and Nicholas, sons of Liulph, and to Nicholas son of Nicholas, from whom it was inherited by Henry d'Aubigny, (fn. 8) the husband of Nicholas's daughter Christina. Henry granted his house and lands in Coventry (which may have included Pinley as well as Bisseley) and three mills, all formerly held in dower by his mother-in-law Joan, to Geoffrey de Langley in 1244. (fn. 9) Geoffrey was lord of the manor until his death in 1274, but Edmund de Langley appears to have held it of him in 1244-5. (fn. 10) Two other lessees, William de Rolleston and Hugh de Viennia, are known in the 13th century. (fn. 11)
At Geoffrey's death the estate, inherited by Walter de Langley (d. 1280), was described as land worth 26s. 8d. in Coventry, held of Henry d'Aubigny for 2d. yearly. (fn. 12) The estate, thereafter called SHORTLEY, did not appear among Walter's possessions in 1279 and 1280, (fn. 13) and seems to have been settled on Geoffrey de Langley (II), probably Walter's younger brother. (fn. 14) Geoffrey's son Edmund and grandson John both leased the manor during the earlier 14th century to another John de Langley, probably the merchant of Coventry who represented Coventry in the parliament of 1315; (fn. 15) his widow Alice also held property in Shortley. (fn. 16) The manor was settled on Edmund's daughter Joan, wife of Edmund de Chesterton, who held it in 1368-9, but by 1372 it was in the hands of Sir Baldwin Frevill (d. 1375), who already held Pinley. (fn. 17) Joyce, the widow of Frevill's son Baldwin (d. 1387), (fn. 18) married Sir Adam Peshale, (fn. 19) and in 1402-3 the Peshales were involved in a suit with John Barndesly who had married Elizabeth, great-granddaughter of Edmund de Chesterton and Joan de Langley. (fn. 20) Barndesly recovered the manor, but his own title was disputed by John de Langley of Atherstone, grandson of Edmund de Langley, and Barndesly surrendered the manor to John in 1418. (fn. 21) Barndesly was living in a house in Spicer Stoke in Coventry in 1410-11. (fn. 22) There was apparently a manor-house at Shortley in the 15th century, which was described in 1489 as 'totally desolate and waste'. (fn. 23)
A later John de Langley died, without male heirs, in 1518, (fn. 24) and in 1520 the manor was granted to Edward Ringley, second husband of John's widow, Jane. (fn. 25) Ringley immediately lost the manor as the result of a lawsuit with the three nieces of John Langley - Isabel Skidmore, Christine Wigston, and Alice Huntley - who obtained possession of the manor in 1521. (fn. 26) After a series of grants and suits, probably fictitious, the manor was settled in 1549-50 on William, son of Christine and Roger Wigston. (fn. 27) William Wigston sold it in 1554 to his sister Katherine and her husband Edward Aglionby, (fn. 28) later Recorder of Coventry and an M.P. for Warwick. (fn. 29)
By 1592 Shortley was in the hands of James Fitzherbert. Fitzherbert had previously mortgaged the manor to Edward Brabazon (later Lord Brabazon of Ardee), and Brabazon got possession of it by 1598 (fn. 30) after a violent dispute with Fitzherbert. (fn. 31) Lord Brabazon's son, William Brabazon, Earl of Meath, did suit to the Cheylesmore court for the manor in 1628-9. (fn. 32) By 1634 it was held by Isaac Walden of Keresley, a former mayor and M.P. of Coventry, whose muniments Dugdale used for the history of the estate in the 16th century. (fn. 33) Before 1700 the manor had come into the hands of the Hopkins family of Foleshill, (fn. 34) and it descended thenceforward with their Foleshill estate. (fn. 35) W. R. Hopkins Northey was the principal landowner in the district in 1846, (fn. 36) and about 1860 Lord Boston, his son-in-law and successor, owned a compact estate of 114 acres in Shortley, bounded by the railway on the south, the Sherbourne on the west, Gosford Street and Binley Road on the north, and 'Coal Pit Lane' on the east. (fn. 37)
In 1381 William, Lord Zouche of Harringworth, bought fourteen acres of land in Shortley Field from Sir Baldwin Frevill, and in 1382 the land was granted in mortmain to the first prior of the Carthusian house which was to be built there. (fn. 38) After the Dissolution the Charterhouse and the surrounding land were granted in 1542 to Richard Andrewes and Leonard Chamberlain, the speculators in monastic property. In 1567 the house was owned by Henry Waver (or Over), a Coventry mercer, and in 1569 was sold by his son Richard Waver to Robert, Earl of Leicester. Thereafter it passed through many hands and was latterly used as a suburban residence by manufacturers and others, including a silk-dyer and two vicars of St. Michael, Coventry, in the 19th century. (fn. 39) In 1848 it was bought by John and Francis Wyley, of a firm of chemists in Coventry, and after 1889 was occupied by William Wyley, later Col. Sir William Wyley, a mayor and prominent citizen of Coventry. (fn. 40) At his death in 1940 the house and garden were left to the corporation which afterwards acquired the rest of the property. (fn. 41) For some years after the Second World War the house was used as a home for aged men and later as a youth hostel. In 1965 it was unoccupied. The new Blue Coat School was built in 1964 on the south-eastern part of the site. (fn. 42)
Land in PINLEY was held by Walter de Langley in the early 13th century and the manor there may have been created by his son Geoffrey. (fn. 43) Geoffrey enclosed the wood, moor, and other land in Pinley, which had been ditched and fenced by him and his father, by an agreement of 1236-7. (fn. 44) In 1238 he obtained timber to build himself a house (fn. 45) and received grants of free warren at Pinley in 1239 and 1246. (fn. 46) He had had a chapel there since at least 1222. (fn. 47) In 1251 Geoffrey was licensed to divert the highway from Pinley to Coventry and to impark his woods there. (fn. 48)
At Geoffrey's death in 1274 and his son Walter's in 1280 the manor was said to be held of the Earl of Hereford as a tenth of a knight's fee. (fn. 49) There is no other reference to the Hereford overlordship and no other land in Warwickshire seems to have been held of the earldom at that time. (fn. 50) When John de Langley, Walter's son, settled the manor on his son Geoffrey in 1325, it was said to be held of the king. (fn. 51) The manor was also for a time in the hands of another son, Thomas. (fn. 52) In 1330 Thomas granted a life tenancy of the manor to William Careswell, second husband of Mary, Geoffrey's widow. (fn. 53) Geoffrey had probably died soon after 1325, for Careswell was already the principal taxpayer in 1327. (fn. 54) At Careswell's death in 1359 the heir was Joan, daughter of Geoffrey's son, another Geoffrey, and wife of John de Charlton; the manor was then reported to be held of William Mandevill. (fn. 55)
In 1366 Sir John Trillow, apparently Joan de Langley's second husband, granted the manor of Pinley to Sir Baldwin Frevill (d. 1375). (fn. 56) Frevill obtained a release of rights in the estate from Sir Peter Careswell, William's son, in 1372. (fn. 57) In the following year Frevill was involved in a suit about the manor with John de Peyto, a great-grandson of the Walter de Langley who died in 1280. (fn. 58) After the death of the fourth Baldwin Frevill (fn. 59) the estates were divided in 1419-20 (fn. 60) among his three co-heirs, Pinley being allotted to Robert Aston, a minor, the son of Frevill's sister Joyce and her second husband Sir Roger Aston. This arrangement does not appear to have come immediately into force, for Hugh Willoughby and his wife Margaret, Joyce's eldest sister, had a third of the manor in 1435. It was made permanent, however, in 1452. (fn. 61) The estate remained in the hands of the Aston family until the 17th century. Edward Hill leased the manor from Sir Walter Aston (and the tithes from Coventry corporation) in the early 17th century. (fn. 62) The Astons apparently sold some land to their tenants in Pinley about 1625. (fn. 63) The manor, called the manor of Pinley and Aldermoor, was sold by Walter, 2nd Lord Aston of Forfar, to the corporation in 1655. (fn. 64) Not long afterwards the corporation was involved in a dispute about the Aldermoor, which remained a common in the jurisdiction of the manor of Cheylesmore. (fn. 65)
Among the holders of land in Pinley in the late 17th and early 18th centuries were Richard Hopkins, Humphrey Lowe, and a second Edward Hill. (fn. 66) The principal holding in the 19th century was that of Pinley House, (fn. 67) with the farm called Pinley Fields or Round House Farm attached to it. This was owned by Mark Conway in 1846 and by Harold Smith in 1900. Until the early 20th century there were three other farms, Pinley or Aldermoor Farm, owned in 1846 by Queen Anne's Bounty, and Pinley Green Farm and Pinley Hill Farm owned in 1846 by Viscount Hood. (fn. 68) Coventry corporation bought land there in 1869. (fn. 69)
WHITLEY was first mentioned in a grant of Ranulf (II), Earl of Chester, in the mid 12th century. (fn. 70) In their grant to Coventry Priory of 1250 Roger and Cecily de Montalt reserved the services of Walter Deyville and Miles Gerbod in Whitley. (fn. 71) The Deyville holding may have been that later acquired by Coventry Priory. When Walter, called lord of Whitley and Bigging (in Stoke) granted his land to Robert de Stoke, his attorney was William, son of David of Whitley, and William son of David held one of the houses on the priory's estate there in 1279. (fn. 72) The priory certainly acquired its estate in Bigging from Walter Deyville. (fn. 73)
In 1279 five free tenants held of the king land which had formerly been held of de Montalt, and an estate, consisting of six free tenants, two houses, the mill, 1¼ virgate, and other land, was held of de Montalt by the priory. The principal free tenant of the king, Adam son of Miles, who held a virgate in serjeanty, was probably the son of Miles Gerbod. The principal tenant of the priory, Ralph de Whitley, had three under-tenants. (fn. 74)
There was an intermediate tenancy in the 13th century which was not expressly mentioned in 1279. The king's tenants, other than Adam son of Miles, and the rent of 22s. from their four virgates, were granted by Henry III at an unknown date to Simon son of Maurice. Simon was succeeded in 1272 by his sister Cecily and she in 1279 by her son Roger le Tailor. (fn. 75) The William son of Richard who appears in the survey of 1279 probably represents this intermediate tenancy; he held a half-virgate himself and collected the rents of his three fellows, paying ½d. for a render called 'warth'. Although the four holdings consisted of only two virgates, five acres, and a cottage, the rents amounted to the 22s. mentioned earlier. (fn. 76) In 1302-3 Roger le Tailor granted his holding to Adam des Okes, (fn. 77) and at Adam's death in 1324 it was described as a messuage and two virgates held in chief for ½d. 'warth' yearly. (fn. 78) Adam was succeeded by his nephew William and he by his son Philip in 1345. (fn. 79) The family held land of the priory in the 14th century, (fn. 80) and were last mentioned in 1399-1400, when Philip des Okes granted a house in Whitley to William Simpson. Richard Simpson granted a piece of land to John Bristow in 1444-5. (fn. 81)
The holding of Adam son of Miles may have been merged with the later manor of Whitley. In 1313-14 and in 1334 Henry Miles granted pieces of land to William Page, and in 1333, 1342, and 1343 Page granted land to Elias Freberne. (fn. 82) William Page finally sold his messuage, sixteen acres, and other land to Richard Freberne in 1347. (fn. 83)
A manor was first mentioned at the death of Thomas Freberne, possibly Richard's son, but there was prolonged disagreement about its tenure at that time. Thomas died in 1371, and in an inquisition, probably of that date, was said to have granted the manor, together with the reversion of three parts of it held in dower or for life, to Thomas de Whitley and his heirs. (fn. 84) According to a second inquisition, of 1380, the manor and reversion were to be inherited by Freberne's daughter Alice. (fn. 85) Yet another inquisition, of 1382, stated that Thomas Freberne had granted the manor in 1369 to Thomas de Whitley, who, in 1379, had settled it on William Palmer and others. Palmer was in fact in occupation in 1382. (fn. 86) After Palmer's death in 1392 his daughter Margaret was said to be the heir, but evidence was given that Palmer had granted the manor shortly before his death to Robert Shipley and others. (fn. 87) In 1395 Margaret Palmer, then a minor, was said to have inherited Whitley from her brother John, William's son, (fn. 88) but John Shipley was apparently in possession of the manor in 1410-11. (fn. 89) It is also uncertain at this period to whom the overlordship of Whitley belonged. In 1371 Thomas Freberne held the estate from the manor of Cheylesmore, except for a croft, a toft, and 5½ acres which he held from the priory. (fn. 90) In 1410-11 John Shipley held another estate of the priory, consisting of a house, virgate, and mill, and the rents of four under-tenants, the descent of which was traced from the holding of Ralph de Whitley in 1279. The descent of Shipley's own house was, however, similar to that of the manor as described in the inquisitions, from Geoffrey de Whitley, through Thomas Freberne and Thomas de Whitley, to William Palmer and others. (fn. 91) This estate had not been mentioned in 1371. To sum up this stage of the descent, it seems that Elias and Richard Freberne built up a small estate from the lands of the king's tenants of 1279, including the holding in serjeanty, and held it in fee of Cheylesmore. Thomas Freberne added to it land held in fee of the priory, and other land (that of Ralph and Geoffrey de Whitley) held of the priory by customary service. The nature of these various tenures was half-forgotten in the late 14th century and after 1410-11 they were merged as the manor of Whitley, the interests of the priory being extinguished. (fn. 92)
Shortly after 1428 the manor came into the hands of John Bristow, (fn. 93) and Bristow bought other land in Whitley in 1437. (fn. 94) He probably died in 1454-5. (fn. 95) In 1455 the manor was held by his son William, to whom John had granted it, reserving the New Mill and other property to another son, Edward. (fn. 96) John and William Bristow were involved in prolonged and violent disputes with the citizens of Coventry about the commons on the east of the River Sherbourne; these were ended by an agreement of 1482. (fn. 97) The Bristows, like the Frebernes, Shipleys, and others concerned with the manor at this period, were themselves prominent citizens of Coventry.
The descent of the manor cannot be traced for some years after 1482. Laurence Walsgrave of Whitley complained of commons' encroachments there in 1510, (fn. 98) and Elizabeth Walsgrave was the principal landowner in 1524. (fn. 99)
At his death in 1555 William Starkey held the manor from Coventry corporation, as of the manor of Cheylesmore. (fn. 100) The manor descended to Anne Longvile and, by 1574, to her son Bartholomew Tate, M.P. for Coventry in 1572. (fn. 101) The manor was held by Bartholomew until his death in 1601, (fn. 102) and by his son, Sir William Tate, to his death in 1618. (fn. 103) In 1627-8 Zouch Tate sold the manor, then said to include three water-mills, to John Bowater. (fn. 104) When John Bowater died in 1640, the manor was described as held of the king in socage for rent as of the manor of Cheylesmore. (fn. 105) The descent of the manor in the later 17th and earlier 18th centuries has not been traced, but it subsequently passed to the Hood family, apparently by the marriage in 1774 of Jane, daughter of Francis Wheler of Whitley Abbey, to Henry Hood (d. 1836), who became Lord Hood of Catherington on his mother's death in 1806, and who succeeded his father, Admiral Hood, as 2nd Viscount Hood in 1816. (fn. 106) In 1867 the Whitley estate was sold by Francis, 4th Viscount Hood, to E. H. Petre. (fn. 107) After Petre's death in 1902 the house was occupied by his widow, Lady Gwendaline Petre (d. 1910), and their son, O. H. P. Petre (after 1907 Turville-Petre), who sold the house in 1920. (fn. 108) Whitley Farm, south of the house, was sold to the Armstrong-Whitworth Company. (fn. 109) During the First World War the house was used to accommodate Belgian refugees but afterwards stood empty and became increasingly derelict. The chapel attached to the house (see below) was in use as a chapel of ease to Holy Trinity Church, Coventry, as late as c. 1950, by which time most of the surrounding land had been acquired by the corporation. (fn. 110) The ruins were finally demolished in 1953 and in 1955 Whitley Abbey Comprehensive School was opened on the site. (fn. 111)
Whitley Hall, later known as Whitley Abbey, may have occupied the site of the medieval 'capital messuage', but at its demolition the oldest parts of the building probably dated from the early 17th century. Charles I is said to have been staying at the house when he unsuccessfully summoned the city in 1642. (fn. 112) Plans and views of Whitley Hall before its 19th-century enlargement (fn. 113) show it to have been a stone house built on the E-plan, the main block being one room deep and having two projecting wings and a central two-storied porch facing north. On this side there were gables with curvilinear parapets, but the south elevation, which had a hipped roof and a continuous plain parapet, may have been 'regularised' in the 18th century. The house had a central hall with service rooms to the west and living rooms to the east; the easternmost, and longer, front wing contained a library with projecting bay-windows on two sides. In 1808 plans for improvements were submitted to Lord Hood by John (later Sir John) Soane. These provided for an enlarged hall, flanked by a drawing-room and dining-room, the kitchen quarters being moved into a new west wing, and a new east wing being built beyond the drawing-room. At the same time the central block was to be widened by the addition of corridors along the entrance front and the porch was to be rebuilt further forward. The design of the exterior showed no striking change from the existing work; internally the most notable rooms were the enlarged hall, its beamed ceiling supported on square classical columns, the 'vaulted' drawing-room, the 'eating room', and the library. (fn. 114) At this period the house was renamed 'Whitley Abbey', probably because of its picturesque appearance rather than for any supposed monastic associations. (fn. 115)
The house was altered and partly rebuilt by E. H. Petre after the west end had been badly damaged by fire in 1874. (fn. 116) It may have been at this time that oriel windows and curvilinear gables were introduced on the south front. (fn. 117) Petre had already built a Roman Catholic chapel (fn. 118) adjoining Soane's east wing; he also constructed ornamental water gardens and improved the grounds. The house, approached by a drive from Abbey Road, stood on a low hill with a lake to the south and Whitley Grove to the south-east. The park-like grounds were bounded on the west by the River Sherbourne and on the east by the River Sowe. Whitley Grove had been planted on the site of a medieval quarry from which came the greyish-white sandstone for St. Michael's Church and other Coventry buildings. The grounds also contained more recent quarries and an icehouse. (fn. 119) The site of the house is now covered by the new school buildings, but some of the surrounding features have been retained.
It has already been shown that Shortley was probably identical with the 12thcentury locality called Bisseley. Dugdale said that Bisseley was 'anciently depopulated', that Pinley was by his day 'known to very few, depopulation having extirpated all its inhabitants', and that at Whitley there was then 'no more than a manorhouse with an old chapel and a mill to be seen: but anciently it was a village of divers inhabitants'. (fn. 120) These are further examples (fn. 121) of Dugdale's undiscriminating zeal for evidence of depopulation. Shortley was in fact close enough to Coventry for both the lord of the manor and his tenants to live in the city and the manor-house of the Langleys at Shortley (fn. 122) seems to have been abandoned in the 15th century. (fn. 123) The site may have been marked by the group of uninhabited farm buildings still standing near the pound on Folly Lane in the late 19th century. (fn. 124)
There were nine cottages in Pinley in 1219, but there is no evidence of a medieval village centre. Geoffrey de Langley's house in Pinley (fn. 125) seems to have been near the River Sherbourne, and it is possible that Pinley House was built on or near the site. This house was probably in existence by 1703 and was standing in an extensive park in 1822. (fn. 126) A close called the Castle Close was said in the 19th century to mark the site of the medieval house. (fn. 127) After the First World War Pinley House became a club-house of the Hillman Company, and the site was later occupied by the Humber-Hillman Company's parking ground. (fn. 128)
Only three cottages were mentioned in Whitley in 1219 and six houses on the priory's estate in 1410- 1411. (fn. 129) A hamlet seems to have grown up there in the 14th century, probably as a result of traffic on the London road. Cases of illicit brewing, and of violence, appeared in the court rolls with unusual frequency for so small a place, and carts and horses lost at Whitley were referred to in 1361 and 1371. (fn. 130) Apart from the village brewers and the millers, the only other occupation to be mentioned was that of a shepherd of Whitley, who was involved in 1364 in a dispute with a butcher about sheep which he had been keeping there on the latter's behalf. (fn. 131)
At Shortley, a herd of oxen was mentioned in 1397, (fn. 132) and horses, oxen, sheep, and pigs in 1402-3. There was a fishery there, (fn. 133) and the woods provided valuable timber in the 14th century. (fn. 134) There were later stone quarries on the commons outside the New Gate, clay workings in Shortley near Brickiln Lane, and sand and gravel pits in Pinley. (fn. 135)
The road from Coventry to Whitley was mentioned in the 12th and 13th centuries, (fn. 136) and it was probably the road to Daventry and London marked on Gough's map about 1360. (fn. 137) It was called the king's highway towards London in the 15th century. (fn. 138) A reference of 1382 to a footpath towards London, however, suggests that it may not have had a permanent course (fn. 139) until the construction of Whitley, Willenhall, and Ryton bridges. (fn. 140) There is no medieval reference to a bridge at Whitley, and the river could also be crossed near Bisseley Mill and the Charterhouse, and near Alderford Mill where there was a bridge in the early 13th century. (fn. 141) Whitley Bridge can probably be identified with the stone bridge of three arches, situated half a mile up the river from Willenhall Bridge, mentioned by Leland. (fn. 142) Between Whitley and Willenhall Bridge the old road was called the Hollow Way in the 18th century. (fn. 143)
There were two crosses on the main road, Whitley Cross north of Whitley Mill, mentioned in 1378, (fn. 144) and Shortley Cross outside the New Gate, mentioned in 1389. (fn. 145) By the 17th century causeways, maintained by Coventry corporation, had been made from the New Gate towards Willenhall. (fn. 146) The old London Road (now Abbey Road) was turnpiked in 1723-4. (fn. 147) It crossed the River Sherbourne immediately west of Whitley Mill by a single-arched 18th-century stone bridge (now Whitley Abbey Bridge), which was still in use in 1965 although in poor repair. By an Act of 1826-7 a new stretch of road was made north of the old one, diverging from it on Whitley Common and rejoining it north-west of Willenhall Bridge. (fn. 148) The new bridge, about a quarter of a mile north of the old one, was built in 1831 and rebuilt in 1933. (fn. 149) The new road became known as London Road and the new bridge as Whitley Bridge. In the mid 19th century the Royal Oak Inn and a number of houses were built on the common near the junction of the old and new roads; this hamlet is now called Whitley Village. The inn at Whitley mentioned in 1792 was probably the Seven Stars Inn (later Seven Stars Farm) northwest of Willenhall Bridge. (fn. 150) The old farm-house was rebuilt in 1905. (fn. 151)
The layout of the fields in the three hamlets had no regular pattern. Shortley and the land east of the Sherbourne from the city to Stivichall and Whitley were included in the liberties of Coventry in 1378. (fn. 152) In the south, near Diloteshull and Park Field in Stivichall, the boundaries of Stivichall, the park, and the commons were ill-defined. (fn. 153) Parts of Shortley were several after the mutual surrender of grazing rights by Geoffrey de Langley and the priory in 1364, (fn. 154) but the status of the commons, closes, and woods east of the Sherbourne was only defined after the violent disputes between the city and the lords of Whitley in the late 15th century, (fn. 155) and it remained a subject of dispute between the corporation and the commonalty of Coventry until the 17th century. (fn. 156)
The arable land of Shortley, called Shortley or Bisseley Field, lay on both sides of the Sherbourne. There were no village proprietors to share it with the lord, and the field may not have been cultivated in common, for the lord, Sir Baldwin Frevill, was able to give fourteen acres in it for the site of the Charterhouse in the late 14th century. (fn. 157) The citizens of Coventry, however, had access to Shortley Field, Shortley Cross was in the field, and the London road passed through part of it. (fn. 158) In 1489 the land of the manor was described as 100 acres of pasture 'in the pasture called Shortley Field'. (fn. 159)
The existence of fields of Bigging manor, in Stoke, in the west along the park fence, was a peculiar topographical feature of the district. The tenants had a right of way across Pinley to the common called the Aldermoor, which lay between Pinley and Stoke, and thence to Bigging. (fn. 160) References to virgates and selions in Pinley in the 13th century, (fn. 161) to selions in Whitley Field, (fn. 162) to virgates in Whitley in 1279 and 1410-11, (fn. 163) and to lands and butts there in 1482, (fn. 164) suggest the existence of common arable fields throughout this period, but there is little evidence to show how and when they were inclosed. The demesne fields and woods of Pinley and some other land were inclosed by an agreement of 1236-7 between Geoffrey de Langley and his principal tenants, Richard and William de Pinley. (fn. 165) By the agreement commoning was still to be allowed after the harvest, and there was provision that stubble should not deliberately be left standing in the fields to make grazing difficult. (fn. 166) By the 19th century there was a single farm, Whitley Abbey or Old Park Farm, in Whitley, and at Pinley four separate farms, Pinley or Aldermoor Farm, Pinley Hill Farm and Pinley Green Farm, and the farm at Pinley House, later called Round House Farm. (fn. 167)
The common land east of the River Sherbourne has been called Whitley Common since at least the 19th century. It was in fact common of Coventry, and has never been attached to the hamlet of Whitley. Parts of it were inclosed in the 15th century by the Bristow family, (fn. 168) and other parts during the 16th century by the corporation, (fn. 169) but most of it was preserved as Lammas and Michaelmas lands or open common until the 19th century. Soldiers were mustered on the common in 1745. (fn. 170) There was a gallows there until 1831. (fn. 171) The fields roughly north of Shortley Road, which had been freehold but subject to Lammas commoning rights, were inclosed in 1860. (fn. 172) Some of these were later occupied by extensions to Coventry cemetery. To the south the Michaelmas lands east of the London road were inclosed in 1875, and part allotted to the corporation. (fn. 173) On part of the remaining common, Coventry Golf Club, founded in 1887, had a course until about 1912 (fn. 174) and waste deposits from the sewage works were dumped on the common in the 1890s. (fn. 175) The commoning rights on the land west of the London road were extinguished, and the land vested in the corporation, in 1927, and for a time it became derelict. During the Second World War it was used for dumping rubble and exploding delayed-action bombs. After the war the corporation improved the common, and with a gift from Butlin's Ltd. an area of 33½ acres was laid out as playing fields. (fn. 176) Aldermoor, or Stoke Aldermoor, was inclosed in 1875, and part allotted to the corporation. (fn. 177)
The mills on the River Sherbourne, which are described elsewhere, (fn. 178) were the most important feature of the district until the 19th century. The whole district was described as 'Whitley and the mills' in 1490. (fn. 179) The mills survived until the late 19th century; the old building at Whitley Mill was demolished in 1955, and the buildings of Bisseley or Charterhouse Mill were demolished c. 1956. (fn. 180)
As with Harnall, Asthill, and Horwell, the medieval names of Pinley and Shortley were less frequently used as Coventry grew and as owners and occupiers were more often Coventry men. Inability to relate the medieval evidence to the localities as they existed in the 17th century, and not a change in their size and character, led Dugdale to assume that they had been depopulated. Whitley retained its identity partly because the lord remained in residence, and partly because topographers could not fail to notice the mill, the bridge and the manor-house beside the old London road, and, like Stivichall, it became a favourite subject of 19th-century antiquaries and artists. (fn. 181)
Apart from Whitley Village, the only attempt at 19th-century residential development was the building of Whitley Villas about 1840. These were four substantial houses standing in a cul-de-sac opposite the gates of Whitley Abbey and having gardens reaching to the River Sherbourne. (fn. 182) Three were still in existence in 1965, one having been converted into a club and another into Whitley Abbey public house. In general suburban development in the three districts began, as in Radford, not with the building of railway lines and the laying-out of streets, but from the municipal needs of Coventry in the late 19th century. The corporation's sewage works was built between the railway and Swift's Corner (Alderford) Mill in 1852-3, (fn. 183) and the works and filtration beds were later extended downstream beyond the mill almost to London Road. The Whitley waterworks was built between Folly Lane and the River Sowe in 1895, and an isolation hospital at Pinley Hill Farm in 1897. (fn. 184) Pumping stations were built between the Sherbourne and the Sowe when the Baginton sewage farm was constructed in 1901.
Suburban factories and houses came suddenly to Shortley with the rapid development of the motorcar industry around Coventry. In 1908 the Medical Officer of Health, using 'Pinley' to include Shortley, reported that 'instead of being as formerly agricultural, with a sparse population', it 'has become a manufacturing locality for motors and cycles'. (fn. 185)
By the First World War the Humber and Hillman works covered a large area in Shortley east of Folly Lane, the name of which was changed to Humber Road. The branch railway to Stoke was built at the same time, and the greater part of Shortley north of the works, and between the branch railway and London Road, was covered with suburban housing and factories. After the Second World War, in addition to the Humber, Hillman, and SunbeamTalbot works, there were in the district Smith's Stamping works, the British Oxygen Co. factory, Curtis and Beamish Ltd. printing works, and several factories making engineering components and accessories. (fn. 186)
Nurseries and market-gardens were a noticeable feature of the Coventry suburbs in the 19th century, and one of the largest of these, that of Charles Kimberley, was at Pinley. (fn. 187) Before and after the First World War a wide area of Pinley south of the railway was laid out as allotments, and north of the railway there was scattered housing development in the 1920s in Pinley Gardens.
Whitley Abbey Farm was bought during the First World War by the government, and the fields laid out as an airfield. Immediately after the war the airfield and buildings were acquired by the Armstrong-Whitworth Company. (fn. 188) The Infectious Diseases Hospital, now called Whitley Isolation Hospital, was built at the junction of London Road and Humber Road in 1934. After the Second World War two more large areas were developed for housing, around Pinley (or Aldermoor) Farm, and on both sides of Abbey Road in Whitley. In 1965 the whole area was a patchwork of municipal and private building, of roads, railways, factories, and some surviving open land. Almost no trace of the topography of the former rural districts remained. (fn. 189)