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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The ancient parish of Stoke lay immediately to the east of Coventry. It comprised 935 acres in 1891. (fn. 1) For most of the 19th century it was in Foleshill Union and Rural District, but in 1899 the western part of the parish (490 acres) was transferred to Coventry County Borough (fn. 2) and in 1928 the remaining 449 acres of the parish became part of Coventry. (fn. 3)
The parish consisted of a block of land lying between Gosford Green and Stoke Green on the west and the River Sowe on the east, and an irregularly-shaped projection north of Walsgrave Road to higher ground at Barras Heath and Stoke Heath. The middle of the parish forms a low watershed between the River Sherbourne and the Sowe. From the end of Far Gosford Street at Gosford Green Walsgrave Road runs north-east across this area towards Leicester and Binley Road east towards Rugby. In the north-west the Coventry Canal follows the line of the former parish boundary. The greater part of the west of the former parish is occupied by 19th-century, and of the east by modern, domestic building (1964).
MANORS AND ESTATES.
Stoke was not mentioned in Domesday Book, and first appears as one of the chapelries granted to Coventry Priory by Ranulf de Gernon in the early 12th century. (fn. 4) It was also mentioned in a grant of land by the same Ranulf to Liulph of Brinklow. (fn. 5) In their grant of lands to the priory in 1250 Roger and Cecily de Montalt reserved the services in Stoke of Robert de Stoke, Walter Deyville, Thomas de Neville, and Walter de Coventry. (fn. 6) In 1279 the principal freeholders in Stoke and Bigging were the priory, Robert de Stoke, Thomas de Ardern, Nicholas de Segrave, and Thomas de Wiltshire. (fn. 7)
The estate of the Stoke family survived, held in direct descent, until the 16th century. It can be dated from 1221, when the first Robert, son of Hugh de Stoke, granted a lease of land to Walter de Coventry. (fn. 8) In another charter, possibly a little later than the first, Richard de Burton granted to Robert de Stoke a croft and house which one William Barbe d'Averil held. (fn. 9) According to the priory's rental of 1410-11 it was Philip Barbe d'Averil who had originally received the principal tenement from the Earl of Chester, and had been the predecessor of the Stokes. (fn. 10) When Sehar, son of Hugh le Harper of Stoke (supposed, probably wrongly, to have been the ancestor of the Stokes), (fn. 11) granted Harperswood in Stoke to Combe Abbey, his neighbour Thomas de Stoke had a house there. (fn. 12) Robert and Thomas de Stoke were witnesses to a charter of about 1250, (fn. 13) and not long afterwards Alice, widow of Thomas de Stoke and daughter of Robert, granted part of the land she held in dower to Thomas de Wiltshire. (fn. 14)
Although it is clear that the Stokes held a considerable estate in the early 13th century, they were not the principal landowners. In 1250 Robert held only a half carucate of the de Montalts and a croft of the priory. (fn. 15) Walter Deyville was then lord of the greater part of the village which consisted of the ten free tenants with five virgates and the eight bondtenants with four virgates in Bigging described in 1279. (fn. 16) Walter's holdings were granted to Robert and Roger Deyville shortly after 1250. (fn. 17) Roger sold them to Thomas de Ardern of Hanwell, (fn. 18) and Thomas granted them in 1262 to his cousin Thomas de Ardern of Rugby, (fn. 19) who was the mesne tenant of the free holdings in 1279 (the bond holdings having since 1250 been sold to the priory). (fn. 20) Ardern sold most of the free holdings to Guy de Tilebrook, the Vicar of St. Michael's, Coventry, (fn. 21) who sold them, in his turn, about 1290, to Robert de Stoke. (fn. 22) In 1292 Rose, widow of Thomas de Ardern of Hanwell, released to Robert her rights in the land, (fn. 23) and later granted to him two holdings which she had retained in Stoke, as the endowment of an obit and a chantry. (fn. 24) Walter Deyville also released his mesne tenancy to Robert de Stoke, making him the direct tenant of Cheylesmore. (fn. 25)
Robert de Stoke, or probably two successive Roberts de Stoke, made many other purchases of land in the late 13th century. Some were of small plots, (fn. 26) but others probably represented parts of those freeholds which were not in the Deyville estate in 1250 or in the Stoke family and priory estates in 1279. (fn. 27) Subsequently the enterprising Robert de Stoke (II) bought a holding in Foleshill sometime after 1302, which was called a manor in 1336. (fn. 28) The Stokes apparently continued to live at Stoke where they had a manor-house near the church by the mid 14th century. (fn. 29) The two estates descended in the family to the 16th century, successive lords of the manor being Robert (III) (d. 1335), John (I), Robert (IV) (d. 1357), Robert (V) (d. 1361), Thomas (I) (c. 1364), John (II) (c. 1378), Thomas (II) and (III) (there may also have been a Thomas (IV)) in the 15th century, and William, his son Nicholas, and another William in the 16th century. (fn. 30) A Robert de Stoke was for a time castellan of Kenilworth Castle in Edward II's reign, (fn. 31) Richard de Stoke was mayor and Member of Parliament for Coventry in the 14th century, (fn. 32) and Robert and Thomas de Stoke were members of Holy Trinity Guild. (fn. 33)
In the early 16th century the Stokes seem to have left Stoke, but the steps by which they parted with the manor are difficult to follow. A deed of 1530-1, by which William Stoke granted the manor to the Horne family, was probably only a lease. (fn. 34) In 1542-3 William Stoke, then of Foleshill, granted his capital messuage in Stoke to his son Nicholas, (fn. 35) and about 1562-3 gave his estate to his daughter Margery and her husband Thomas Smith. (fn. 36) By 1570 the Smiths had sold their interests to Coventry corporation. (fn. 37) The Stokes of Wolvey, however, had retained rights of lordship, and these were sold by William Stoke, described as of Coventry, to the tenant, John Horne, in 1573 (fn. 38) or 1577. (fn. 39) Finally, in 1593, John and Reginald Horne granted their interests in the manor to Coventry corporation for charitable purposes, and especially for the maintenance of Bond's Hospital. (fn. 40) Among the chief rents then granted to the corporation were those on property held by Hall, Hulcotte, Christopher Warren, and formerly by Wright. The Hornes kept a cottage near Stoke church, and a house and three yardlands. (fn. 41)
The lands which had been granted to Coventry Priory in 1250, when the Montalts had retained the four principal free tenancies, (fn. 42) were very small and were probably represented by the four minor free tenancies held of the priory in 1279. Between 1250 and 1279 the priory acquired the eight bond holdings of the Deyville estate, (fn. 43) and Walter Deyville released his rights in them, making the priory the direct tenant of Cheylesmore in 1279. (fn. 44) The combined estate, with some minor additions, was almost unchanged in the early 15th century, (fn. 45) and at the Dissolution. (fn. 46) It was granted to Coventry corporation in 1542, (fn. 47) and was included in the endowment of Sir Thomas White's Charity in 1551. (fn. 48) White's Charity held about 98 acres in Stoke in 1833. (fn. 49) Both the principal medieval estates of Stoke thus came into the hands of Coventry corporation, as trustee of charity lands, in the 16th century, but only that of White's Charity retained its identity to the 19th century.
The holdings of Walter de Coventry in 1250 and Thomas de Wiltshire in 1279 (they may have been the same), and the holding of Thomas de Neville in 1250, (fn. 50) disappeared by the end of the century. Land which had been part of the Segrave holding of 1279 was granted to John de Stoke in 1343, (fn. 51) but the owners of the Caludon estate immediately to the north retained interests in the parish: Lord Berkeley, for example, was a party to the inclosure of 1617-19. (fn. 52) By the mid 14th century (fn. 53) land in Stoke was also attached to the manor of Shortley, immediately to the west, and descended with that manor until at least the end of the 15th century. (fn. 54) Land in Stoke and elsewhere was given to St. John's Hospital, Coventry, in 1329 by Nicholas Crump of Coventry; (fn. 55) this passed in 1545, with the rest of the hospital's property, to John Hales. (fn. 56)
References in mid-14th-century deeds to the manor-house of the Stoke family mention the 'knights' chamber', a chamber over the entrance gate, and the garden which lay between the house and the graveyard of Stoke chapel. (fn. 57) The Stokes' house was called Stoke Hall in 1542-3. (fn. 58) It was apparently this house, said to be near the church and opposite Stoke Row, that members of the Honer family continued to live in, after they had parted with the manor, up to at least the late 17th century. The house itself, or the site of it, was included in the land which, by his will dated 1715, Dr. Christopher Horne, then of Birmingham but earlier resident in Stoke, gave as glebe to the vicar. (fn. 59) The site of the house may have been the Hall Close or Hall Piece (also called Hill Close) which was listed in surveys of the glebe from 1764 onwards, but, according to a tradition current in the parish about that date, the house on this ground, which had long previously been demolished, had been that of the Holles family, including (in the late 15th century) Thomas, the father of Sir William Holles, Lord Mayor of London and donor of Coventry Cross. (fn. 60)
A large medieval house, called Biggin Hall, stood on a moated site 300 yards south of the hamlet on the Binley road until the mid 19th century. It may have been the house of the Deyville family in the 13th century, but nothing is known of its occupants until the mid 17th century when William Partridge, a doctor, was living there. By 1766 it was owned by the drapers' company of Coventry and let to a farmer. It probably ceased to be a farmhouse in the early 19th century and by 1818 it was used for local committee meetings and, for a time, by the Sunday school. It was demolished sometime after 1840 and by about 1885 only part of the moat and a cow-shed marked the site of it. (fn. 61)
Excavations carried out about 1817, apparently in the neighbourhood of the hamlet at Bigging, revealed traces of building 'of great antiquity', including a chapel identified by a piscina and an aumbry, (fn. 62) but there is no further evidence to connect this with any of the families prominent in Stoke in the Middle Ages.
The ancient parish of Stoke was made up of two medieval hamlets, Stoke itself, and Bigging. The nature of the two hamlets and the relationship between them is, however, obscure. The earliest hamlet of Stoke was probably what was later called Church End, at the junction of Walsgrave Road and Church Lane, immediately south of the parish church. (fn. 63) A chapel has been supposed to have existed serving either the hamlet or the manor-house at Bigging; remains have in fact been found on several different sites, and the evidence is difficult to interpret. (fn. 64)
The relationship of the two hamlets to the open fields of the parish is equally difficult to determine. In 1279 Thomas de Ardern had thirteen free tenants and cottars on five virgates in Stoke, and the priory had eight bond tenants on four virgates (called carucates) in Bigging. The fact that similar rents were paid on the two estates and among both bond and free tenants (fn. 65) suggests that there was a single open-field system for the two hamlets.
Of the bigger free tenants, Thomas de Wiltshire and Robert de Stoke both held half-carucates, and Nicholas de Segrave a virgate; only two crofts and a few odd pieces of land would then appear to have been outside the open fields. (fn. 66) However, the source probably does not mention pieces of assart and waste being developed by the freeholders, or else includes them in the half-carucates and virgates. An assart was mentioned in the mid 13th century, (fn. 67) and several crofts soon after. (fn. 68) Harperswood included arable as well as wood, and the Stokes had wastes and land at Morethife. (fn. 69)
The location of the fields in 13th-century charters was most often said to be not Bigging but Stoke. Open fields of some kind stretched from Gosford Green and Potters Green on the west, along Binley Road to Binley Bridge on the east, and south towards Pinley. (fn. 70) The field name most commonly used was Hokenibfield; others were the Riding, Middlehul, and Stiffordhale. But the most striking names are Parkfield, or Wrydesdon (Wrydesden) by the Park; this was Cheylesmore Park, and these fields lay outside the ancient parish on the other side of the River Sherbourne and between Shortley and the park. (fn. 71)
The priory's rental of 1410-11 gives a fuller account of this curious arrangement. The priory's tenants - at will and for life - in Bigging held land both in the fields of Bigging and the fields of Stoke. It was the fields of Stoke, including Stiffordhale and Wrydesden, which were outside the parish. The tenants had rights of transit over Shortley for their ploughs and carts. The virgates were precisely divided between the two groups of fields, a virgate having 66 roods in Bigging and 28 in Stoke, a half-virgate 33 (or 23) and 14 roods. The four virgates totalled 90 acres. (fn. 72)
This comparatively small acreage clearly did not occupy the whole of the open fields. This land presumably lay intermingled with the lands of the Stoke family estate and the other freeholders, there being only one set of open fields known both as Stoke Fields and Bigging Field. The name Bigging was used less and less after 1410-11, but was not entirely forgotten. It is possible that even at that date the references to Bigging in the rental were made more emphatic than general usage justified, in order to give the priory's estate a character distinct from that of the Stoke family.
The road past Stoke church, mentioned about 1240, which went on through Wyken, Sowe, and Ansty towards Leicester and is now called Walsgrave Road or Ansty Road, was not an important route until the late 18th century. (fn. 73) It was probably the road also mentioned as the church road and the way to Caludon in the 14th century, and as the lane to Sowe in 1410-11. (fn. 74) The road to Binley and on towards Rugby and Northampton, was, on the other hand, well established in the 13th century; it was called the highway from Coventry to Binley about 1250. (fn. 75) Binley Bridge was mentioned shortly after and was probably the stone bridge referred to in 1379; (fn. 76) Borden or Bowden Bridge, which appears in the 17th century, (fn. 77) was probably another name for this bridge. Other medieval roads were Clay Lane, running north towards Stoke Heath, (fn. 78) and that running south to Pinley, the modern Aldermoor Lane, mentioned in the late 13th century; (fn. 79) this was probably the same as the Folly Lane, said to have been an ancient highway to Whitley and so to London. (fn. 80) The significance of Warwick Way, a name which also appears in Warwick Grove and other features, (fn. 81) is not clear; no road in the parish leads towards Warwick.
In the late 17th century Coventry corporation improved the roads to the east. In 1671 Richard Ferryman was appointed to maintain the road from outside Gosford Gate towards Stoke as a causeway for carts as far as its junction with Coalpit Causeway, and from there to Stoke as a bridle way. (fn. 82) The Coalpit Causeway, maintained by the corporation for the transport of coal from Wyken and Sowe Waste, seems to have followed the western boundary of Stoke along Swan Lane. (fn. 83)
Beighton's map of the early 18th century marked only the Binley road in Stoke; (fn. 84) this was turnpiked in 1754-5. (fn. 85) The Ansty road was marked in 1778, and was turnpiked in 1812-13; (fn. 86) there was a toll gate on the Wyken boundary near Stoke church. Brays Lane (probably also called Cross Lane), Church Lane, and Bulls Head Lane were also marked in the late 18th century. (fn. 87) Lilburne Lane and Filley Lane, otherwise unidentified, were mentioned in the 17th century, (fn. 88) Grove Lane, on the Caludon boundary, in 1701. (fn. 89)
Stoke is distinguished from most of its neighbours by having no large area of waste or wood on which extensive inclosure and assarting might take place. The largest commons, Stoke Heath and Barras Heath, seldom appear in references to the parish before the 18th century, probably because they formed part of farms outside. (fn. 90) The earliest references to a common, about 1280, are to Potters Green, (fn. 91) which may have been in the Stoke Row district. Stoke Green, an extension of Gosford Green in Coventry, cannot be unmistakably recognized until 1622, (fn. 92) but the butts on the Stoke boundary, where a wiredrawer killed himself with his own arrow in 1396-7, (fn. 93) may have been on this site. It was perhaps the same as the Biggin Green mentioned in 1539, (fn. 94) but Stoke Green may not have had a distinct identity until the first inclosure in 1617-19 (see below). Stoke Common, a term used in the 17th century, was probably another name for Stoke Heath. (fn. 95) The Aldermoor, to the south, was not clearly in either Stoke or Pinley, and the commoning rights there were disputed in the 16th and 17th centuries. (fn. 96) Dean's Green, mentioned in 1637, (fn. 97) has not been identified. After the second inclosure, of 1655, the freeholders surrendered the commoning rights in the remaining wastes to the cottagers of the parish. (fn. 98) The commons in Stoke were finally inclosed in the late 19th century. Some small plots near Gosford Green became private property, while the remainder, Stoke Aldermoor, Stoke Heath and Barras Heath, and Stoke Green, with wide strips along the adjacent roads, were vested in Coventry corporation. (fn. 99)
In the mid 19th century there was a race-course immediately north of Stoke Green and Binley Road. The races, which had been formerly held in Cheylesmore Park, were resumed in Stoke as Stoke Races in 1834, but were transferred to Conduit Fields near Radford in 1849. (fn. 100) The site of the race-course, known as Stoke Park, was later developed as a residential estate. (fn. 101)
The tenemental and field system of the parish appears to have been unchanged between 1410-11 and the Dissolution. At the latter date the priory's holding consisted of the four virgates in the fields of Stoke and Bigging, all held at will, and another 1½ virgate in Bigging held at farm; the typical rent had risen from 6s. 8d. to 26s. 8d. for a virgate. (fn. 102) The virgate system was still in existence in 1612 when the glebe consisted of a quartron, or quarter-virgate; (fn. 103) what seems to have been the same holding was described in 1605 as consisting of two lands in Church Field, eight leys in Moor Field and St. Mary Balk, and two butts in Park Field. (fn. 104)
A measure of inclosure by agreement took place in 1617-19, in a process described as laying 'in several flats'. (fn. 105) It is not possible to estimate what proportion of the open fields were inclosed at this time. Of the seven men who took part, only one was among the fourteen inhabitants of Stoke who appeared at the Cheylesmore court in 1616 and 1617. (fn. 106) Another of the seven appeared at Cheylesmore as a Pinley resident, (fn. 107) which suggests that it may have been the fields next to Cheylesmore Park which were being inclosed in 1617.
The final, and probably the more important, inclosure took place by a fictitious suit and Chancery decree in 1655. The fields inclosed were Church Field (120 acres), Moor Field (129 acres), and Park Field (138 acres), with small pieces in Lake Furlong, Hencroft, and Parson's Hook, amounting in all to 400 acres; (fn. 108) this may be compared with 935 acres, the area of the parish in 1891. (fn. 109) Besides five smallholders there were nine principal occupiers, holding between 27 and 55 acres each. (fn. 110) Presumably these were the disordered forms of one- and two-virgate holdings, and they would thus represent about seventeen or eighteen virgates (according to the size of the virgate indicated in 1410-11), (fn. 111) excluding the fields next to Cheylesmore Park, which were not dealt with in 1655. Of the three fields, Church Field seems to have been in the west of the parish between Binley Road and the church, Moor Field in the south of the parish, and Park Field in the east, near Caludon Park north of Binley Road; the Park Fields of the 15th and the 17th centuries were therefore different. Though fields near the church were mentioned in the 15th century, the term Church Field first appears in 1539; (fn. 112) the Moor Field first appears as one of the three fields in 1605. (fn. 113)
There is some evidence of the nature of medieval farming in Stoke. In one close in 1365 there were oats and peas, in 1366 wheat, rye, peas, and hay, in 1367 wheat, rye, and barley, and in 1368 rye and oats. (fn. 114) In another close there was grass in the spring of 1368 and wheat there in the autumn. (fn. 115)
The field names at the time of the inclosure of 1655 suggest a three-course rotation, but, if the pieces of land listed in the inclosure survey are in fact the older plots, the rotation must have been very irregular. Of the nine tenants, one held land in all three large fields, four in two fields, and four in only one field. (fn. 116) It is not clear, however, whether the inclosure survey represents the old arrangement or a new allotment; the most likely explanation is that it was both, the agreement merely permitting the inclosure of holdings already largely consolidated in the fields.
Most of the farmers on the nine inclosed farms created in 1655 were afterwards listed, with the addition of the tenant of Biggin Hall, among the 'families of note' in Stoke at that time, several of them being called gentlemen and said to keep a coach. (fn. 117) There were eleven Stoke voters in 1761, (fn. 118) and eleven 'principal inhabitants and landholders' in 1772. (fn. 119) The farms themselves appear to have been largely unchanged in 1766, but more of the houses were then occupied by tenant farmers. (fn. 120) By the end of the century they were no longer arable farms; in 1801 most of the parish was used for grazing. (fn. 121) There were twelve occupiers employing agricultural labourers in 1831; (fn. 122) thirteen farmers were mentioned in 1850, (fn. 123) and nine (with five nurserymen) in 1875. (fn. 124)
Evidence of house building and of a contract between ordinary villagers was given in a case at the Cheylesmore court at the same period. John Ellis had granted a messuage and a half-virgate to William Bittlesby for life about 1365, on condition that William should build a house of four 'forks' and two 'stanchions'; this suggests a cruck-framed house of three bays. A written agreement should have been made but it had not been produced or properly sealed. (fn. 125)
Apart from farming, the making of tiles seems to have been the most important occupation in Stoke from at least the 14th to the 16th centuries. Two kiln sites have been found, in 1911 and 1940, near Harefield Road, between Binley Road and Walsgrave Road, (fn. 126) and tiles have been found at several other sites. (fn. 127) A vivid description of a tiler's premises at Stoke was given in a case of 1516. In William Riley's house a building called the tile-house opened off the hall. William Besworth, a labourer working in the tile-house, threw a handful of clay at a servant, Alice, who was standing in the hall; the clay missed Alice but hit John Riley and mortally injured him. (fn. 128)
Several cases involving tilers appear in the 14th-century Cheylesmore court records. John Mariot, tiler of Stoke, was first mentioned in 1364 in a suit with a miller. (fn. 129) He appeared again in 1366, accused of failing to deliver 500 tiles to Henry Merinton by an agreed date. (fn. 130) Henry Merinton was apparently building a substantial house, for in 1367 he was accused of owing the value of 1,500 tiles to William Brewood. (fn. 131) In 1368 John de Coughton, who elsewhere appears as a Stoke man, was accused by Adam Keresley, the wealthy Coventry merchant, of failing to have 8,000 tiles ready for collection when Adam's cart arrived to collect them. (fn. 132) A single tiler was mentioned in the poll-tax returns, but the surname Tiler was common in 14th-century Stoke, and the name Slater also occurs. (fn. 133) The occurrence of tiles, of the pattern found on Stoke kiln sites, in St. Michael's Church in Coventry, and elsewhere, confirms the documentary evidence that in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries Stoke was the centre of this trade in the Coventry district. (fn. 134)
The tile industry is said to have died out in the 16th century and to have been replaced by the making of white clay pipes; there was a pipe factory in Stoke until the late 19th century. There was also in 1850 a pot manufacturer. (fn. 135) Clay and sand for brickmaking were excavated on Stoke Heath by 1827 (fn. 136) and there was a limekiln by 1862. Commoners also had the right to take soil or gravel from the common. (fn. 137) Several brickworks and limekilns shown near the canal on Stoke Heath in 1887 seem to have become building sites during the 20th century. (fn. 138)
Two weavers of Stoke gave evidence in a case of 1689, (fn. 139) the first signs of textile manufacture in the parish. In 1766, among the parents of the fourteen children baptized in the parish church there were eight weavers, including one silk weaver, one tammy weaver, and three worsted weavers. (fn. 140) The poor, most of whom were probably weavers, were causing concern by 1772, and in the years 1783-5 a total of 86 poor received regular relief. (fn. 141) In 1801 out of a population of 505 there were 157 employed in trade and manufacturing. (fn. 142) There were 126 weavers and other operatives with 83 looms in 1818, and 138 looms in 1838. (fn. 143) At the Independent Sunday school in 1838, two-thirds of the parents were weavers, the rest labourers and gardeners. (fn. 144) A hint of the disorderly behaviour evident elsewhere in the neighbourhood at this time is given by the 'nightly depredations' for which additional constables were required in 1826. (fn. 145) There were also a number of respectable working men's clubs in Stoke about this time. (fn. 146)
In 1861 about half the population of Stoke was said to be dependent on weaving, (fn. 147) and of a group of 348 workers, probably all weavers, in that year 237 were unemployed. (fn. 148) The Cobden treaty of 1860 caused great distress in Stoke as elsewhere in the district. The population declined, and weaving disappeared during the 1860s. (fn. 149) An incidental effect was the failure in 1863 of the night-school run by the parish for children over twelve, because the weavers could no longer pay the fees. (fn. 150) The ribbon manufacturers who were living in Stoke then and later in the century were suburban residents with their businesses in Coventry. (fn. 151)
In the early 19th century there was a small cotton-weaving factory, at Hill Top, north of the Sowe road. It failed, quite independently of the ribbon-weaving industry, before the 1860s. (fn. 152)
There is no direct evidence of watch-making in Stoke itself, but the parish is said to have been affected by the decline in that industry. In 1887 a committee for the unemployed was set up, which provided some work on parish tasks. The decline of the ribbon and watch industries had coincided with the closing of several pits, in Sowe and elsewhere, and 90 per cent. of the inhabitants of Stoke were then described as extremely poor cottagers. (fn. 153)
Of the medieval population of Stoke there is little significant evidence. There were about 33 tenants in Stoke in 1279, (fn. 154) and 44 people a century later. (fn. 155) There are some signs of the effects of the 14th century plagues. Among nine deaths reported at the Cheylesmore court of 1361, a plague year, were Ralph and Robert Stoke, (fn. 156) and in 1365 the holdings of both Robert Stoke and Richard Freberne were still in the lord's hands because their heirs were children. (fn. 157) On the priory's holding, which was only the smaller part of the parish and therefore may not be typical, the number of tenants fell and the holdings were engrossed into fewer hands. On the original four virgates, the eight tenants of 1279 were reduced to five at an unknown date, then to four in 1410-11, (fn. 158) and to three at the Dissolution. (fn. 159)
In the 16th and 17th centuries the population may have been lower than it had been in 1279. There were sixteen taxpayers in Stoke in 1524. (fn. 160) About twenty men were mentioned in the years 1616 to 1619, (fn. 161) and 24 owners or tenants were involved in the inclosure of 1665. (fn. 162) There was a total of 69 adults recorded in the Compton Census of 1676. (fn. 163) In the 18th century the population probably rose steadily. There were about 60 houses in 1730, (fn. 164) and in 1783-5 over 200 poor received constant or occasional relief. (fn. 165) In 1801 there was a population of 505. There was a sharp rise between 1821 and 1831 to 848, and the population again nearly doubled by 1861. Between 1861 and 1871, with the decay of various local industries, the population fell from 1,555 to 1,241, but it recovered sharply so that by 1881, when it stood at 1,447, Stoke had replaced Sowe as the second most populous of the suburban parishes. (fn. 166)
The rise in population after 1881 was not due to industrial activity but to the development of Stoke as a suburb of Coventry following improved transport facilities. (fn. 167) The only major industry in the late 19th century was building and the supply of building materials. (fn. 168) Nevertheless the construction of the new line of railway along the western boundary of Stoke and an increasing rate of house building in the west and centre of the parish were followed during and immediately after the First World War by the spread of the engineering industry from Coventry. The Midland works near Burlington Road, the Stoke works on the Sowe road, and the first stage of the telephone (now G.E.C.) works at Copsewood Grange, were built by 1923. (fn. 169) Another factory, outside Stoke, which affected employment in the parish was the Ordnance factory. The Stoke Heath estate of 689 houses, in Stoke Heath and Wyken, was begun by the corporation in 1915 primarily for munitions workers. (fn. 170) In 1921 nearly a third of the working population of Stoke worked in Coventry. (fn. 171) The big Humber works at Shortley is on the parish boundary. Of the factories and workshops in Stoke after the Second World War, in addition to the G.E.C. works, three were concerned with printing and books, three with cars, cycles, and metalwork, and one with textiles. (fn. 172) In 1955 the new wholesale fruit and vegetable market was opened on a site adjoining Barras Heath. (fn. 173)
Stoke, unlike Stivichall, does not seem to have been used as a suburban residence for citizens and merchants of Coventry before the 17th century. By 1640, however, Dugdale could say that part at least of the parish was 'now adorned with many fair summer houses'. (fn. 174) These houses were probably around Stoke Green. A newly-built house on Stoke Green was mentioned in 1622. (fn. 175) The Bowling Alley House at Stoke Green was mentioned in 1641, and the bowling alley itself, on the Stoke side of Gosford Green, in 1671. (fn. 176) Several of the gentlemen listed in 1655 were suburban residents. William Partridge then of Biggin Hall, and later Christopher Horne, were both doctors, and Thomas Wagstaffe, of Stoke Green Farm, had been a captain 'in Oliver Cromwell's time'. (fn. 177) In 1689 a Coventry clothier was occupying the Kingfields on the western boundary of Stoke. (fn. 178) A house which was still standing in 1964 at the north-west corner of Stoke Green may well have been one of these early suburban residences. It is of 17th-century origin with 18th-century and later alterations; it was recently divided into two dwellings, known as Langleys and The Laurels. A map of 1793 shows houses on the south of Stoke Heath and on and round Stoke Green. (fn. 179) The latter include a row of 17th-century cottages (Nos. 68-74 Binley Road) which are still in existence.
In 1831 nineteen inhabitants of Stoke were described as professionally employed. (fn. 180) By 1834 Stoke Green was surrounded by houses; there were also distinct groups of buildings in the Stoke Row district at the north of Clay Lane, (fn. 181) where some houses had 'top shops' for weavers in their upper floors. (fn. 182) Later in the century an area between North Street and South (now Stratford) Street at Upper Stoke was laid out and divided into plots, but only sporadically built up with terraced housing. (fn. 183) The houses, some with top-shops, still survived in 1964, the gaps being filled with late-19th- and 20th-century buildings. Another, and probably older, group of weavers' houses stands in Bulls Head Lane to the east of Stoke Green.
In the mid 17th century the prosperous inhabitants of the parish lived in houses such as Biggin Hall, Hope's Harbour, and that adjoining the church occupied by the Horne family, (fn. 184) which were all near the medieval hamlets or at Stoke Green. Just over a century later the eastern half of the parish was still agricultural, with three or four farm-houses on the small inclosed holdings, but in the late 18th and early 19th centuries the character of this part of the parish was sharply changed by a new kind of residential building. Substantial residences - Copsewood House (later Grange), Stoke House, and The Spring - with park-like gardens were erected, leaving the tenants and their farm-houses on much smaller holdings. (fn. 185) Similar houses, though with smaller grounds, were built on and near Stoke Green before the middle of the 19th century; they included The Hollies (later Stoke Lodge) and Witton Lodge. Both were still standing in 1964, Stoke Lodge having been for many years a private day school. Another house of the same type was Stoke Cottage in Clay Lane, which in 1964 was in use as an ex-servicemen's club. There were also smaller middle-class houses, mostly detached, overlooking Stoke Green, some of red brick and some faced with the then fashionable stucco. On the north side of the green the estate known as Stoke Park was developed on the site of the old race-course from about 1865 onwards. It was inclosed by a stone wall, laid out with curving roads, and gradually built up with substantial residences in their own gardens. The first house on the site was Park Cottage, erected by a builder called Malt for his own occupation. It is constructed of old timbers from demolished properties in and around Coventry, and contains carving and panelling from similar sources. (fn. 186) A new Hope's Harbour was built north of Stoke Park in 1879 and Copsewood Grange was altered and enlarged at about the same period. (fn. 187)
Characteristic residents of Stoke in the late 19th century were John Gulson, mayor of Coventry, J. B. Twist, clerk to the Coventry magistrates, Sir Richard Moon, Chairman of the London and N.W. Railway, and Otto Striedinger, the factory inspector. (fn. 188)
Until the First World War there was a marked difference between the north of the parish, which was largely working-class in character, and the south with its middle-class development round Stoke Green and larger residential houses further east. The south was still sufficiently rural for it to be said in 1897 that 'some of the lanes are very pretty where ferns and wild flowers abound'. (fn. 189) The construction of the telephone works near Copsewood Grange put an end to this rural seclusion. It was followed after the First World War by the development of a sewage works on the River Sowe, then of allotments, golf courses, and sports grounds on both sides of Binley Road, and finally of suburban housing estates. Many of the bigger houses were demolished. Stoke House became a children's home, and Copsewood Grange part of the G.E.C. premises. During the Second World War a large industrial hostel was built to the north-east of Binley Bridge and later one of the corporation's housing estates was built at Stoke Aldermoor. (fn. 190) The surviving farms disappeared as Stoke became a residential and industrial suburb of Coventry.
The manor of Stoke and the other freeholds in the parish were in the manor of Cheylesmore, and by the mid 14th century free tenants attended the twice-yearly Cheylesmore court and the bond tenants the three-weekly courts of the manor. (fn. 191) The wording of Robert de Stoke's obligation in 1279, however, which mentions attendance 'at the court of Coventry in county and hundred' suggests the survival of an arrangement earlier than the existence of Cheylesmore manor. (fn. 192) Two tithingmen, who normally also acted as the beer tasters, made presentments at the Cheylesmore court during the 14th century. (fn. 193) They were variously described as from Stoke Bigging, or from Stoke and Bigging, or from Stoke alone. Both freeholders and tenants continued to attend the Cheylesmore court until at least 1664. The court was then held only twice yearly, but it dealt with minor agrarian matters. (fn. 194) A court called a leet court was still being held there in 1700. (fn. 195) Many of the functions of the court seem gradually to have been taken over by parish meetings such as that which considered the tithe dispute in 1689. (fn. 196) There was one churchwarden in 1701, but probably two for most of the 18th century. (fn. 197) Parish clerks were mentioned from at least 1707, overseers from 1726, constables from 1767, and headboroughs, probably the constables under a new name, from 1840. (fn. 198) More constables were appointed in 1826 because of an increase in crime, (fn. 199) and at least for a time in the early 1830s there was one each for Stoke Green in the south, Stoke Row in the centre, and Stoke Knob in the north of the parish. (fn. 200) These officers were all elected or nominated at parish meetings. (fn. 201)
From the middle of the 18th century the parish administration of Stoke was carried on actively. A list of apprentices was made in the parish register in 1765. In 1772 the eleven principal inhabitants resolved to provide a poor-house. In 1782 the supervisor of the poor-house was receiving 2s. weekly for washing and feeding the six regular occupants. This poor-house was wholly or partly demolished between 1828 and 1832, and the National School on Stoke Green built from the materials. The paupers were transferred to separate tenements in 1830, and given allotments in 1831. The parish meeting was at times called a select vestry, but it functioned as a parish council and dealt with a wide variety of affairs, including health, relief, commons, and schools. (fn. 202)
After the creation of Foleshill Union in 1836 most of the Stoke paupers went to the Foleshill workhouse, but five parish tenements were at least for a time kept for old and infirm people. A parish surgeon was also appointed during the 1830s for the treatment of the sick poor. The parish meeting was still active in the 1880s, particularly in connexion with the inclosures of the commons; in addition to the churchwardens, there were then a headborough and a pinner. (fn. 203) The parish meeting was replaced by a parish council after 1894, but many of the more important local matters became the responsibility of the Foleshill Rural District Council. Part of the parish was transferred to Coventry in 1899 and the remainder, despite strong local opposition, was finally absorbed by the city in 1928. (fn. 204)
CHARITIES FOR THE POOR.
LORD BERKELEY'S CHARITY. In 1833 the rent of £3 3s. received from the Cottage Bit (c. ¾ a.) in Blind Man's Lane, near Binley Road, was distributed by the churchwardens to the poor of Stoke in sums of 1s. to 2s. 6d. In 1831 the distribution had been made in the form of blankets. According to a tradition then current among the older members of the parish the Cottage Bit had been bought by the churchwardens, and the Brougham Commissioners suggested a connexion between it and a gift of £16 10s. to the poor of Stoke by Lord Berkeley mentioned in the returns of 1786 when it was vested in the churchwardens and yielded £1 5s. interest. (fn. 205) In the 1860s the Cottage Bit was leased. (fn. 206) By the end of the century the charity income was regularly spent on blankets, which, after the annexation to Coventry of the greater part of Stoke in 1899, continued to be distributed throughout the whole ancient parish. (fn. 207)
The charity was regulated by a Scheme of 1916 whereby the income, then amounting to £3 a year, might thenceforward be applied to the purchase of clothes, linen, bedding, fuel, and other necessities, for the poor of Stoke ancient parish. In 1922 the Cottage Bit was sold for £700 to the Triumph Cycle Company Ltd. and the proceeds invested in £704 stock, yielding between £35 and £40 in 1963. (fn. 208)