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Sunday, 22 August 2010

Reminiscences of Burton Green by Anthony Richards

Former Burton Green resident Anthony Richards sent a letter with his reminisences of Burton Green, from 50 years ago:

I spent the first 18 years of my life in Burton Green, under the shadow of the water tower – just five houses away from it.

The Railway Line

I used to lie awake at night listening to the sound of a steam locomotive struggling to haul a Berkswell-bound freight train, though the gradient was not very steep. There seemed to be only four trains per day on the line: a Birmingham-bound commuter passenger train each weekday morning and evening, and a freight train in each direction at night. It was very different at the end of 1940. Blitz damage to Coventry station meant that a rapid succession of trains was diverted through Burton Green. We used to get a rich harvest of wild strawberries from the railway bank. (We never saw any wild orchids).

The Peeping Tom 

The landlord of the old building was Bert Cowley. The whole village mourned his passing. He introduced the no smoking rule long before it became law. If you wanted to smoke you went into the smoke room where you could cut the atmosphere with a knife. Elsewhere, customers’ lungs were smoke-free. The pub was a Mitchell and Butler house - loyal to the Midlands brew. It laid on parties for children to celebrate VE Day and the present Queen's coronation. You had a clear view of who was in the old pub, before it was demolished and rebuilt in the 70s, if you were on the top deck of a bus standing at the stop opposite! This may have produced damning evidence in a few cases!

Mrs Whitehead’s Shop 

This was directly opposite the Peeping Tom. It is still a shop, though dealing in different commodities. Mrs Whitehead dealt in household provisions. She was an extremely pleasant lady, and it was always a pleasure to visit her shop.

Burton Green School 

Here I began my education. There were two classes, upper and lower. Miss Gibbs was in overall charge and took the upper, I was in the class of Miss Banks, the lower. Miss Gibbs was at the school for many years. Years later my sister, Susan, having qualified as a teacher, taught at the school, Miss Gibbs still being the head. Years later still the younger of my two sisters, Sally, became the temporary head there during an inter-regnum. (By this time Miss Gibbs had, of course, retired!). My most vivid memories of the school are the school bell which hung from a tree (it could not have been rung for years), the primitive toilet pans with no seats, the fact that slates were used in the school as well as on it, and the salvage collections. These I remember particularly because of a forehead wound (I bore the scar for many years) suffered when a school friend (with no malice, I’m sure!) threw a kettle which he had picked up from a pile of scrap metal objects donated by families to help the war effort. The intention was that the metal should be used against the enemy, not against your friends! It is good to read of the school’s academic successes in recent years. I feel that any record of my attendance at the school is likely to be found in the punishment book! A man who purchased a farm building (Ellis’s Farm, I think) in Hobb Lane at the rear of the school objected strongly to plans to use neighbouring land for storage of cars. (I know not what was the outcome of the public inquiry). He said that, until the car company arrived on the scene, he used to hear a nightingale outside his window.

The Buses 

The Coventry Transport No. 18 (later 12) used to run from Pool Meadow and terminate at the top end of Red Lane. The same bus ran back and forth all day, leaving its Burton Green terminus at a quarter past each hour. I never understood how it kept to schedule in the days when its route took in Shultern Lane and Ivy Farm Lane! The Midland Red operated route 537 from Hodgett’s Lane via Red Lane to Kenilworth. One popular feature on the Coventry buses in the late 40s and early 50s was our family wire haired fox terrier, Raff. He would board the bus solely for the ride into town and back, going upstairs and knowing exactly where to get off when it returned. The regular conductresses on the 18 route were Mrs Randall and Betty. Both treated him as a joke, as, apparently, did the inspectors. He sometimes fare-dodged on the 537 to Kenilworth and walked back. He seemed to know the departure times. One less welcome passenger was a lady from the Burton Green caravan site who needed some lessons in personal hygiene. The Coventry buses were Coventry-built and registered, the Midland Reds built and registered in Smethwick. Nearly all the other vehicles which you saw were British, most of them Coventry-built. The car factories, unlike today, provided the livelihoods of most of our neighbours.

The Caravan Site, Seaton’s field

This was the most unpopular feature of the village. It grew up in the immediate post-war years, accommodating homeless and displaced persons from various parts of Europe as well as from Britain. It started before there was statutory regulation of caravan sites, and included a motley collection of not only caravans but buses and all sorts of ramshackle structures, and was certainly no model of hygiene and orderliness. My parents and maternal grandparents owned the adjoining field (now accommodating houses) and we became friendly with some of the site dwellers, though certainly not with others. Latvian Joe and his family (from the Baltic states) were very likeable, as were the McBain family from some part of Scotland. Some others were not infrequent customers of the magistrates’ courts. Villagers sent a deputation to ask my parents whether they had any plans to allow their field to be used as a caravan site. My parents assured them that they had no such intention. They, and the rest of the village, had had more than enough trouble from the existing site without wanting to open another one.

Baughan’s Field 

A field of a much more acceptable kind than Seaton’s. The site for regular cricket games, though the wicket needed (according to one of our regular visitors, Sid Tomlinson - a pharmacist from Allesley Old road, Coventry) a flattening with a steam roller. One near-disaster occurred when a cricket ball which was heading for the nearby greenhouse of Mr Perrott struck a sash bar between two panes of glass and bounced back harmlessly! Another occurred when I was riding my sister’s horse, Bill, across the field. Bill did not like me, and he chose to head, with the bit between his teeth, for a tree with a low branch, leaving me the choice of being impaled on the branch or falling off Bill. I chose the latter. On another occasion, when I was walking him up Cromwell Lane, he came to a stop alongside the only lamp post in that road and squashed my left leg against it. On yet another occasion the saddle turned turtle while we were walking along Hathaway Road, Tile Hill. With my feet still in the stirrups I was left clinging upside down to the girth while an amused Bill walked on. My father occasionally used Bill to haul a dray around the fruit and veg round which he at that time was operating. Bill knew when it was home time and he was no respecter of red traffic lights. Fortunately there were no accidents.

The Water Tower 

This arrived in Burton Green six years before I did. No one was ever allowed in it. I wish I had known about the “open day” shortly before its sale, so that I could have seen inside it, as this is something I had marvelled at for years. The nearest we ever got was the roadway serving it. Our family was entitled to use this roadway to provide access to its adjoining plot of land. Of particular interest were the hundreds of swallows which nested in its eaves every summer. The tower was a useful landmark for directing visitors coming by bus. You would simply tell them: “Get off at the water tower.”

The Village Hall 

This provided a venue for parties, wedding receptions and drama. The last time I set foot in the old building was in 1954 for a three-night performance of the play See How They Run, in which I was cast rather inappropriately as a vicar! It is good to see that the hall has been rebuilt. Nextdoor to the hall was a large field used by Mr Arthur Pinks for his goats, and other purposes. Mr Pinks was our neighbour in Cromwell Lane, and he could always tell you interesting stories about Nanny and her milking experiences. In one of the cottages opposite the hall lived the Hayes family, including their daughter Josie, who sat with me at Burton Green school. A lovely family. I’d love to meet some of them again.

Black Waste Wood

We spent many childhood hours here. The only other visitor seemed to be “Mr Lambert” (I cannot be sure that that was his correct name, but it’s the name we children always called him, and he answered to it). He would drive in with his pony and dray, but we never did get to know just what he did there. The wood used to be a delight. We used to drink out of the stream there. Heaven forbid that we should do so now! On one Sunday there was a disastrous fire, which destroyed much of the wood and wildlife. It all grew back, and years later (as poaching expeditions showed!) plenty of wildlife had returned.

The Villagers

I would love to meet any of our former neighbours from Cromwell Lane who are still alive. The houses until the 60s were known only by names - there was no numbering, hence the need for a regular postman. Ours was "Gates Garth." Istill have that nameplate on our house in Barking, Essex, though I don't know why my parents chose it. They moved away to Breconshote, Wals, when my father retired in 1973. They each died in 1996. Next to the water tower, was Mr Griffin, a retired railwayman. Nextdoor Miss Harris, a schools inspector. Then came Mr and Mrs Nicholls and their daughter, Rosemary (“Malvern View”). Next, Mr and Mrs Gilbertson and their son, Brian, then Mr Arthuir Pinks and wife Maidy (“St Alma”) with daughter Margaret and son Christopher. Margaret in the 60s married Brian Flowers, who lived opposite. Arthur always had in his front garden a display of various items which he had bought at auctions. He would bid for items which were apparent “bargains” without sufficient thought about what use he might make of them, and transport them home in his Bedford lorry HRW 152. Our neighbours on the other side were Percy and Jenny Bates (“Ferndale”), then came Eric and Freda Woodcock and daughter Heather (“Kewstoke”), . Tom and Mrs Grogan and their daughters, Mrs Drane and daughters Audrey and Cynthia, and Mrs Harris. My father in the post-war years operated an ex-RAF crew transport van, FRW 92 (later to become a DeeDi ice cream van!).

Opposite us lived Joe and Mrs Flowers, daughter Janet and son Brian, (“Pevensey”) with an Austin Big Six KV 2890. Then came Jim and Mrs Edkins with two daughters (he had an MG whose number I cannot remember), then Mr Perrott and Miss Wills, Cecil and Mrs Wills, and school master Mr Caffell with son, Beverley. Then came a family (“Salem”) with an interesting Morgan three-wheeler. Further down were Gwen Walker and son, Brian, the Parkin Family (“Valerie”) with sons Len, Reg, John, Colin and Bill and daughter Ann; John and Kath Webb and son John (is this John now a member of the Residents’ Association? – their front lawn used to be a popular venue for tennis) and Alan and Peggy Webb (“Sunnyside”) with daughters Judy and Jill and Vauxhall Velox ODU 440.

Further down on the same side (“Ardenhoe”) lived Mr and Mrs Phil Smith, sons Alan and Ronald and daughter Yvette. Alan and Ronald were fellow students of mine at Warwick School. On the other side of the railway, in a former railway cottage, lived Fred and Amy Stockley - an elderly couple who were held in affection by everyone. My childhoof friend, Dennis Pinks, lived with his parents, Harry and Lil and brothers Bernard and John in the aptly-named "Farm View", a cottage facing directly Thompson's Farm, which in those days was a working farm with several head of cattle. (It seems that now it produces horticultural plants). Mrs Thompson used to pay us sixpence an hour for picking peas on their field opposite (now used for houses), and the cattle farming was run by son Dick and his wife, June. Close by, in a brick-built cottage now beautifully restored lived Mark and Maria King - a couple who were elderly even in those days.

Beyond the Peeping Tom was the bungalow home of another of my school colleagues. Colin Fox and his parents. I frequently saw Mrs Fox ridinf her bicycle with her two pet dogs sitting snugly in the wicker basket.

My parents’ first home after marrying in 1933 was a bungalow (“Hill Top”) close to Westwood Heath corner.

Down an earthen driveway was a smart cottage occupied by a well dressed, well spoken couple whom we as children dubbed the “Mayor and Mayoress of Burton Green.”

Further downhill on the right was the nurse’s home (I believe it is still used for nursing). The resident nurse and midwife, Nurse Reeves, seems to have delivered half the population of Burton Green during her years of service! I remember the death of her husband, Horace, but would like to hear more about her.

These are just a few recollections. If there is any further information which anyone would like and my memory can supply it, I'll only be too pleased.

With very best wishes,
Anthony Richards
E-mail: barkwitt@yahoo.com

See Also

Post-War Development of Burton Green (YouTube video)
Memories of Hob Lane (YouTube video)Burton Green Vilage History
Memories of Burton Green in the 1950’s by Stuart Barratt
Reminiscences by Rick Jowett
Reminiscences by Joan Pulham and Angela Loughran

More Memories

Please note that the comments added to this post include more memories, added by Rick Jowett and Terry Whiteside.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Reminiscences of Burton Green by Rick Jowett

Photo of Cromwell Lane, 1940, provided by Rick Jowett
My name is Rick Jowett and I lived at Dawlish, Cromwell Lane, till 1955.

The first photo I have sent you shows Burton Green, near the City boundary, in 1940.

Oh yes, that me in the push chair.  Sorry for the quality, the negative is a bit old.

We lived in the bungalow behind the power pole, which was called Dawlish.

This photo was taken in the front garden of Dawlish in 1939. The baby in the pram is me.

This photo was taken in Kandahar in Afghanistan, in 1917. The photo includes Charles Samuel Jowett, Rick Jowett's father.

I never knew where Candahar was till I heard it mentioned in connection with Afghanistan! The spelling now seems to have changed from C to K. I read that the Brits beat the Afghans 3 times, the last time being around the time this photo was taken.

This photo was taken in the back garden of Dawlish, in 1939. It shows Charles Samuel Jowett, and son Rick. In this picture Charles Jowett was 69 years old. He was resident from 1936 to his death 1956.

Note the flat water tank in the background. Miss Jackson lived in that house. Under the flat rain water tank was a pantry accessible from the kitchen. The bottom of the water tank was the pantry ceiling, thus in summer evaporative cooling kept the pantry cool.

There were no windows in our pantry and I remember water condensing on the ceiling so it did cool pretty well. We did not have a fridge but eggs, cheese, meat, fish seemed to keep well enough. I think the Cheese got moldy on one occasion. Big disaster we were on rations,it was eaten anyway, toasted under a fire grate in the living room.

There was a lady named Woodward who rode a motor bike and delivered fish during war time. Any connection with the Woodward in the history group?

In the back garden of Dawlish, in 1949, showing Rick Jowett's collection of toys of the time - his tent, swimming pool, and wheels.

I remember many of the same things as Anthony Richards...

Sargent Wright just inside the coventry boundary. Fred Morse the coalman who lived in the farm cottage. Mr & Mrs Bayliss. Fred Smith. The Adams family Bill Phylis,Olive, The Druces, The Petets, The Gutteridges? The Old Machine gun emplacement. The Cottons Mary Brown. Miss pickin. Miss Jackson next door to us. and The Browns on the other side. Louise and Audrey Sprig. Johnny Dams from Tile Hill railway station.

Mrs Lancaster and her son Gareth. Mrs Lancaster taught at Westwood Heath C of E school which I attended. Peter Wadsworth, and his younger sister who lived opposite the Lancasters.

Also in my mind are Kitty Ward and Gareth Lancaster as well as Peter and Janice Wadsworth.  Christian Gaddie, a fellow asthmatic, and her brother who were both very nice people.

Please ask Anita [Smith] what her surname was in 1950+ and maybe I can place her. Maybe her Dad’s name was Fred? and her mothers name was Rose? Or Morse? or Sprig. That anyone should remember me is amazing.

Lee Beesley's field. on the corner of Cromwell and Westwood Heath road. The gas lamp on the corner.

This is a gypsy caravan behind the Bayliss' home.

The photo was taken in 1972. This caravan was certainly there from 1955.

This is Westwood Church of England School, which I attended. This photo was taken in 1972.

Peter Maddison the head master. He had a daughter Stella. 

I was lucky to gain a 11+ scholarship to Leamington college so I caught no.18 then no.537, then no.517. Quite a trip for 11 years old. I went to an out of town school, and I was also very sick with Asthma, so I did not interact much with people.

Visiting my Dad in Hospital, Tues night, Thursday night and Sunday also took a lot of my time. I remember Mrs. Whitehead and her husband. It was he he came to our door at 7 am on the 7th of March to tell us that my father had died. Things like that do tend to be remembered.

And this is a general view along Cromwell Lane, 1972.

The double-storey houses in the photo were, the Browns and daughter Mary; the Armites and their two lads. I think they shot at me with an air rifle while I crawled across the field behind the pond behind my house. Luckily it had been ploughed the same way for centuries and there were raised  rows and depressions. Towards the Peeping Tom were the Cottons and their son Bob.

Circa 1945-50 there was a fish and chip van that parked outside Dawlish on a Sunday night to sell to the Pubs customers as they walked back to Canley and Tile Hill.

Film for cameras was not available in wartime so I do not think there are many old photos of Burton green. In the 1950s I was a keen photographer but I took photos of people mainly. Film was available but as the son of a pensioner, I had no money to buy it. I did use some out dated microfilm film with about an hour of forced development.

Developing my own pictures was mainly a matter of economy.  I used Dufay color which was pretty good it was really black and white film with red green and blue pixels printed on it, so no big deal to develop. Good blacks. Then I got ambitious and used an Italian film Ferrania  color processing that was something else. about two hours with temperature control being critical, trying to keep everything at 65 degrees F was not easy in the UK. I finally solved it by using a bath full of water adding boiling water till it got to 65 degrees and then putting all the bottles of solution in it so they equalized.

Process was: first development 20 Minutes, wash 10 mins , expose to light at 1 foot from a 100 watt bulb for 90 seconds, second development (color) 10 minutes wash 10 mins bleach 15 minutes, wash 10 minutes, fix 10 minutes wash 10 minutes harden 10 minutes wash 10 minutes then dry. I had a developing tank with transparent spirals so the film could stay on its spirals for the whole process. My Mother made me a changing bag, black cloth with one bag inside the the other and zips in different places. sleeves to put your hands through to open the camera cut the film, load it on to the tank spirals, place it in the tank and close the lid. from then on in artificial light.  I had a box brownie 127 camera, which I modified to take the cheaper 35 mm film. I think it took 1/2 seconds of exposure at F16 to get a color picture, from the Dufay color.

Nowadays I curse when I get a message from windows live photo gallery “XYZ codec has stopped working please close the program.”

Nowadays I can take a black picture and lighten the shadows with windows live and there it is.  Before we had things like Uranium intensifiers to darken an under exposed film and reducers for the dark one that would take hours of exposure in an enlarger. One gadget I built was a grease spot photometer. This works on the principle of equal light on both sides of a grease spot on paper and the spot disappears. This had a torch bulb and a potentiometer or rheostat to reduce the light out put from the bulb in a box under the paper and the light from the enlarger was allowed to fall on it. Being able to measure the light intensity saved a lot of time doing test strips developing etc. And of course the cost of the photographic paper.

Now my cell phone takes HD movies, 12 megapixel stills etc. Nokia N8. I chose it for the camera. carl Zeiss lens Tessar.  My fine pix XP30 has 14 MP. and a 5x zoom lens but because of the zoom it is not as sharp as the Zeiss lens.

I also remember watching Jet1 the rover turbine car go past occasionally.

Vampire jets and Meteors used to fly over.

This is the Peeping Tom, in 1972.

[The photo can be enlarged by clicking on it.]

Another hobby of mine was electronics ham etc. And now I do it to earn money!  About 1955, not being able to afford TV I built a on valve receiver to pick the TV sound. However it was a bit off frequency, because I heard a vampire pilot talking to his base “Honiley” or something like that. Later on that same one valver I heard Canada. Bill Adams across the way gave me a 2 volt accumulator to heat the valve filament. So I had to build a battery charger to re-charge it. Now you know why I am a industrial electronics technician here. Still working at 72 years old.

I am thinking of re-joining the Johannesburg Hiking club of which I was a member for 7 years. I hope you are not part of the anti gun lobby? I think South African laws are pretty good, when I renewed my license they interviewed my wife, my neighbors, and some others. Most criminal guns in South Africa are now stolen from policemen often over their dead bodies. I would  like to return to a shooting club I did rather well with the central city shooting club in 1964, and now my son in America, has a collection. AR15, as used in Norway! AK 47. Glok 17 for self defense, some Brazilian copy of a Berretta 9 mm, Smith and Wesson .22 target pistol, and a SKS 7.62 as per the Rhodesian Army.  He got that new in its packaging and cleaned it all up nicely but after he had fired the first clip, it poured smoke, because there was still grease inside the gas cylinder that reloads it. He also bought a load of Russian ammunition, that is made with steel casings instead of brass, this results in lots of Jams, miss-fire etc. I really enjoyed my Holiday with him. Much more fun than shooting under the supervision of the South African Police in 1964.

In 1964 I was young and just waiting for some one to try and rob the bank where I worked. The bank gave me .375 magnum Smith and Wesson snub nosed Bankers special to defend myself with, which is why I went for training in the first place. I did arrest one bank robber without shooting him and later a car thief. 1994 Susan and I came home from the Casino about midnight and as I was parking the car she went up to the Front door where a burglar grabbed her. He picked the wrong girl!, she was always wrestling with her younger but bigger brother. While they fought I drew my pistol and when Susan was behind a wall I shot the guy holding her. Susan broke free and was shot while running past me. That is of course burnt deep into my soul. 

Thank you so much for the info, I think that next year I must visit my son in the US. Maybe the year after I will stop by you guys.

I stayed at the Travelodge next door to where the Leofric hotel used to be this time. We did visit Kenilworth castle but it has changed so much especially the entrance fee! LOL.

Kenilworth: I missed the clock tower, when I remember it there was nothing around it. This time I had driven past before I woke up.

I now live near Sandton, South Africa.

Regards Rick Jowett Nee’ Freddie Jowett.

E-mail: Rickjowett@live.com

See Also

Post-War Development of Burton Green (YouTube video)
Memories of Hob Lane (YouTube video)Memories of Burton Green in the 1950’s by Stuart Barratt
Reminiscences of Burton Green by Anthony Richards
Reminiscences of Burton Green by Joan Pulham and Angela Loughran

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Reminiscences of Burton Green by Joan Pulham and Angela Loughran

These are two further E-mails from former residents that I received, some years ago:

From Joan Pulham
Formerly of Burton Green now living in Cyprus
My late husband and I met during WW2 when we were both in the Royal Navy and stationed in Scotland. His home was in Berkswell and mine in South Wales. We married in '44 and our daughter was born in '46. So we were not in Coventry during the Blitz but my mother-in-law told me of how people came out of the city to sleep in her house at night at this time. Also people came out to Burton Green to live in caravans on spare land. Some of them built pig-sties and kept a pig to eke out their meat ration. Eventually, after the war, they were granted permission to build homes but only to a certain price level.

So, I will jump to 1956/57 when we were living in Tile Hill and dearly wanted to get out into 'the country'. We saw an advert for Highfield House in Cromwell Lane and went to see it. Highfield House was next door but one to the shop - kept then by the Dockers -and opposite the gardens of the Peeping Tom. It had 2 bedrooms, bathroom, large living room and kitchen and it stood in half-an-acre of land (with a little pig-sty at the bottom of the garden which was cleaned and made into a playhouse). It cost 2,500 pounds - an enormous sum of money for us when you consider that my salary as a primary school teacher (Templars', Tile Hill) was 900 pounds p.a.and my husband earned about the same. We had to find a 25% deposit and the mortgage interest rate then was twelve and a half percent. However, we managed it and spent 11-12 very happy years there.

It was a good time for us to move as our daughter was able to start the next stage of her education at Leamington College for Girls. She was able to catch a bus at the end of Hodgetts' Lane with other children going mainly to Kenilworth to school. It was known as the School Bus but would take other passengers as well. It brought them back in the afternoon.

Within a short time my husband had tackled the garden and we were getting fresh vegetables and soft fruit. There were already fruit trees at the bottom - apples, pears, plums and lovely greengages and damsons. Soon I was bottling fruit, making jam and pickles and salting down kidney beans (no freezers those days). Then came the big upheaval - we were to get the promised Main Drainage. Previous to that, Cromwell Lane residents had septic tanks or cess pits in their gardens. We had inherited a cess pit which had to be emptied about once a month. We had to order a 'Honey Wagon' from the County Council and when it was due you alerted your neighbours so that they could shut up their windows! Need I say more !! There were 2 men aboard - the driver and George, who lived down Red Lane somewhere. When they had fixed up the pipes they would get out their sandwiches to eat with a cup of tea that I made them - can you imagine the scene? It was quite a problem - laying the pipes for the main drainage - a deep ditch right across the middle of our precious garden - but well worth it, of course, in the long run. Our next project was to extend the house by having a garage with a bedroom above built on the side of the house. Then my husband decided to build us a swimming pool. How strong he was - digging out the hole and wheeling barrows full of concrete down from the mixer. He built us a little summer house down there underneath which was the filter and the heating unit. It is surprising how, if the pool is there, the number of times the English weather is good enough to swim in it. We had some lovely summer parties down there.

The years rolled happily by. Our daughter went off to college in Edinburgh.. I moved to a school in Kenilworth. I got my very own car - a pale blue Ford Anglia - and how I loved it! Before we knew it our daughter was planning to get married. The date was fixed for early August.The garden was a blaze of flowers. We had a marquee on the lawn and caterers came in, the sun shone (at least until late evening!) and we all had a wonderful day.

Crime was unheard of in Burton Green then - the only thing I remember was when we came home late one evening to find a man syphoning off petrol from my husband's car which was parked near the front gate. By the time we realised what was happening his companion had started the engine and they were away in their car.

I have to end on a sad note. Early in 1968 my husband became ill and in the December he died of cancer of the lung. I could no longer cope with the garden and, regrettably, had to sell my lovely home. I sold it for 8,500 pounds in the summer of 1969 and moved to the north of Warwickshire coming back eventually to Cannon Park. I have now lived with my partner for 12 years in Cyprus.


From Angela Loughran
Formerly of Burton Green now living in Lanzarote

My parents Sharon & Peter Loughran brought 196 Cromwell Lane over 28 years ago, a few months after they moved in Mum had my brother Lee in February 1976!. I followed in May 77. We all lived there until 2001, my parents still own the house which is occupied by my 27 year old brother Lee Loughran who along with his partner Esther is expecting his first baby in February - just a few months after he and Esther moved in - history is repeating itself!

My Dad is well known among many of Burton Green's residents as he had painted and decorated many of their houses, along with the village hall on many occasions over the years! Mum used to run the play group 25 years ago before becoming a part-time netball coach at the school for a few years!

We also owned 186 Cromwell Lane until Friday when we sold it. We own the field that runs from the back of the Peeping Tom to behind 184 Cromwell Lane.

Nowadays, my parents Sharon & Peter Loughran along with me Angela and my husband David, live in Playa Blanca Lanzarote. Lanzarote was always a favourite holiday destination of the family and my parents made the move almost 3 years ago.

We run a successful property management business and holiday lettings company in Playa Blanca and you can read all about our business at www.LanzaroteLates.com.

We would like to offer any of Burton Greens residents a 10% discount on the rental of our luxury villas in 2003 and 2004 and invite them to visit our website and email us with any enquiries!

It would be nice to see some familiar faces in these sunnier climes!

Kindest regards
Angela Poxon (Nee' Loughran)
E-mail: angela@lanzarotelates.com

See Also

Burton Green Vilage History
Memories of Burton Green in the 1950’s by Stuart Barratt
Reminiscences by Anthony Richards
Reminiscences by Rick Jowett

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Old Photographs, History and Memories of Burton Green School

The main building of Burton Green Church of England School was originally built in the mid-19th Century, on land owned by the Earl of Clarendon. The building served as both a chapel and a school. The School Sites Act of 1841 had encouraged philanthropic landowners to donate land for building shools. Some 17,000 Church of England schools were built throughout the country as a consequence.
This short video clip (2-minutes), from the BBC, explains, in national terms, how the School Sites Act grew out of Victorian philanthropy, and why so many of these newly built schools were administered by the Anglican church.

This photo of Burton Green School is believed to have been taken in the 1950s, or possibly earlier.

At the time this photo was taken there were two buildings. The main building on the left was the original building. The building on the right, built in a different style with large windows, was added later, in 1913, as a classroom for the infants.

The School Bell

The main chapel building originally included a belfry containing a bell which would have called villagers to church. The belfry was demolished in 1932, and the bell was then hung from a large oak tree just outside the school.

This photo shows the restoration of the school bell by Mr Bentley, headmaster from the late 1960s. On the oak tree, the bell was rung by means of a long pole, as shown in the photo, rather than the normal method of tolling a bell by pulling on a rope.

It is believed that the bell on the oak tree was last rung on VJ day.

The Old Oak Tree

This is the wonderful old oak tree in the school playground, that was also used to support the bell.

This photo dates from the late 1960s.

It is possible to determine the age of oak trees simply by measuring the girth at chest height.

An oak tree expands its girth by approximately 30cm per 100 years. It is possible to estimate the age of a tree simply by measuring its girth, and employing some simple rules. The full details are here:
Estimating the Age of Trees by Girth Measurement (Forestry Commision)

Miss Gibbs

Miss Gibbs, headmistress during the 1950s and early 1960s, was the  personification of the school during that period.
Miss Gibbs is shown here, being presented with a clock, on the occasion of her retirement in 1966.

This image shows the pupils and teachers of Burton Green school in 1949. Miss Gibbs is at the extreme left. You can enlarge the image by clicking on it.

History of the School

Before the school was built, children were taught in one of the villagers' cottages. This is explained in the letter just below.

Just below is the transcript of a letter written in 1902 by Jane Ellis, who had been a teacher at the school.  The original letter is held in the Warwick Records Office:
"Dear Miss Floyd,

I am very pleased to answer your questions so far as I am able.
I commenced teaching at Burton Green in July 1850 and remained there until August 1874, the school entirely supported by your Aunt all the time, the children as you say paying one penny per week, a few of the little better off paying a little more.

I was not the first governess, a daughter of Mrs Chattaway's living in the school house with her parents was the first teacher in the new building, you have no doubt heard of Mrs Chattaway as she was a great favourite of Miss Floyd's, she taught children in her cottage on the Green for years and there both your Aunt used to teach on Sunday mornings, and I have no doubt paid her for teaching some of the poorest during the week.

I cannot remember how long the room had been built before I went. You are quite right about it being built by subscription, your grandfather being the chief subscriber. A few years before I left Miss Floyd told me she had just taken means to ensure the school always being carried on and had been sending papers concerning it, but of course I don't know to whom but of course all that would be cancelled when she altered her mind in deference to your Father's wish, she told me at the time she could see it was not necessary as education would be provided and your Father thought it would save her trouble and responsibility.

I hope yourself, sister and brother are well also Miss Adkins.

With kind regards and best wishes for the New Year
I am
Yours sincerely
Jane Ellis"

The Floyd Family - Benefactors of Burton Green School

The letter above was written by Jane Ellis to 'Miss Floyd'. It includes references to Miss Floyd's aunt, Miss Floyd's grandfather (who was the principal subscriber to the school), and a Miss Adkins.

The Floyds were an important local family and farmed land at Burton Green. They lived at Beechwood House. The census records for 1841, 1871, and 1881 show who all these people were.

The census record for 1871 states that William Floyd (senior) farmed 270 acres and had 6 labourers working for him, plus a gardener. Miss Adkins was staying in the same house, and is said to be the governess of his children. One of the daughters was the Miss Floyd that Jane Ellis' letter was addressed to (30 years later when they had grown up).

The 1841 census record shows William Floyd, an older William Floyd (then aged 70, farmer). William Floyd junior also had a sister, Ann. This was probably the Aunt referred to.

In the 1881 census, William Floyd had passed away, and his wife was head of household. We can see Ann Floyd was then living next door. She is described as 'Independent', and has two servants and a groom.

Memories of Burton Green School from the 1950s

This is an extract from Anthony Richards reminiscences:
"Here I began my education. There were two classes, upper and lower. Miss Gibbs was in overall charge and took the upper, I was in the class of Miss Banks, the lower. Miss Gibbs was at the school for many years. Years later my sister, Susan, having qualified as a teacher, taught at the school, Miss Gibbs still being the head. Years later still the younger of my two sisters, Sally, became the temporary head there during an inter-regnum. (By this time Miss Gibbs had, of course, retired!). My most vivid memories of the school are the school bell which hung from a tree (it could not have been rung for years), the primitive toilet pans with no seats, the fact that slates were used in the school as well as on it, and the salvage collections. These I remember particularly because of a forehead wound (I bore the scar for many years) suffered when a school friend (with no malice, I’m sure!) threw a kettle which he had picked up from a pile of scrap metal objects donated by families to help the war effort. The intention was that the metal should be used against the enemy, not against your friends! It is good to read of the school’s academic successes in recent years. I feel that any record of my attendance at the school is likely to be found in the punishment book!"

Memories of Burton Green School in the 1950s, by John Webb
"I too went to Burton Green School, though didn't know Anthony Richards who had left before I started school.

I enjoyed my years at Burton Green School. Miss Gibbs was head mistress. I think that many pupils didn't like Miss Gibbs. I was one of the few children who liked the teachers. At playtimes I would often prefer to help the teachers with little jobs instead of going outside to play. Besides Miss Gibbs, there were two assistant teachers in my time, one of whom was a young Miss Hands.

Inside the school, on the walls, there were some large posters, many illustrating scenes from the Bible. I didn't understand what they were about. But they were impressive and I can still recall a few of them. There was a pile of them in a cupboard along with some  large mysterious books.

As a treat we occasionally had a nature walk down Hob Lane. We used to keep nature diaries which we would write every day. I liked writing my nature diary, though it was often hard to find something new to write about. Miss Gibbs used to cycle to school, from her home in Fen End. She would often tell us something about the birds or hedgerows that she had seen on her journey.

Some of the children in Burton Green used to go to Westwood School instead.  Westwood School seemed to have a different ethos. The children who went to Westwood had to do homework. 

This photo, taken in the late 1950s, shows children, including myself, who were taking part in the school play, 'Toad of Toad Hall'.

I can remember taking part in this play. I really couldn't understand what the play was all about. I knew that we had to remember strange sentences and recite them. 
"There was also a Nativity play at Christmas, and a Christmas party, which was a big event. The teachers bought lots of little presents for all the children to take home.
If I ever catch 'Songs of Praise' on TV (not a program I normally watch), and hear 'All things bright and beautiful', it reminds me of Burton Green School: we used to sing that often in the morning assembly. It must have been one of Miss Gibbs' favourites.

I would describe the atmosphere at the school at that time as relaxed. Children could grow up and enjoy themselves without any outside pressures. The main themes which stay in my mind from that time were the themes of religion and nature.
At the end of our time at Burton Green School we took the 11+ exam. As a result of that was given a free place at Warwick School. At that time about 25% of the intake to Warwick School was funded by Warwickshire County Council. Secondary education was the place where pupils could come into contact with a wide range of academic disciplines and begin to discover what subjects they could excel at."

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

The Superpit

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Deep beneath this part of Warwickshire lies a thick seam of high quality coal. The Warwickshire Thick Coal Seam consists of extremely high quality coal in a seam approximately 8 metres thick. The seam lies at a depth of 1100 metres.

The area is bounded in the West by a fault line, near Berkswell, which depresses the coal seam to a much greater depth. To the South, the seam deepens slightly, to over 1200 meters South of Kenilworth, and then splits into 8 separate thinner seams.

In 1985, British Coal announced its intention to build Europe's biggest Super-Pit, here.

A map showing the Super-Pit area, with Cromwell Lane-Hob Lane running across its centre, was published on the front page of the Coventry Evening Telegraph.
The plan was to mine 115 square kilometers around Burton Green. This would have included the entire area beneath the town of Kenilworth.

The project was to cost £400 millions, and would have created 2,500 jobs, according to the NCB

There was very strong local opposition to the plan.

The photo at the left shows Kenilworth residents marching to a rally held on the green outside Kenilworth Castle.
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The article at the right, from the Coventry Telegraph, is a report of a speech given to local businessmen by the Energy Minister, Mr Peter Walker.
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The Superpit also had the support of the Church of England.

This article reports the views of Rev Trevor Cooper, who lived in Tile Hill.

The Church supported the project on the basis that a new coal mine would bring jobs to Coventry.

Coventry Cathedral was also used for an exhibition of mining technology.

Click to enlarge

About a year after the initial announcement, British Coal published the map, shown right, detailing the proposed railway sidings, the location of spoil heaps, etc.

The railway would have run through Burton Green along a path similar to one proposed by HS2 30 years later.

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At a meeting between local Members of Parliament and the Chairman of British Coal, a British Coal spokesman, Peter Binns stated "There is no way we're not going ahead with this scheme".

You can enlarge the image at left, by clicking on it, and you may need to enlarge it further in your browser. The quote about "no way we're not going ahead with this scheme", is in the final column.

In recent years, because of a similar threat from HS2, it has been claimed, by some people who were not living here at the time, that the villagers 'defeated' the Coal Board and the government. This is not really true.

Collapse of the Project

As I understood matters at the time, the cost of imported foreign coal was cheaper than the cost of deep-mined British coal.

The government had a choice about whether it should continue to subsidise British coal. That would have provided energy security for the country and also appeased the militant National Union of Mineworkers. The government of the day, under Margaret Thatcher, decided that they would not continue to subsidise the industry. This meant that the Super-Pit would not have been economic. This was the reason why the project was abandoned.

Not only did this particular scheme collapse, but a large number of mining jobs were lost throughout the entire country. The UK coal mining industry was decimated. Between 1980 and 2000 the UK coal industry lost 226,000 jobs.

This was several decades before climate change and green issues became apparent.

The full story of the decline of the UK Coal Industry is described here:

Some significant extracts from that article are:

"In early 1984, the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher announced plans to close 20 coal pits which led to the year-long miners' strike which ended in March 1985... In 1994, then-Prime Minister John Major privatised British Coal after announcing 55  further closures... The last deep mine in South Wales closed when the coal was exhausted in January 2008... The demand for coal is likely to fall with increasing focus on renewable energy or low-carbon sources...  All coal power plants in the UK will be switched off by 2025."

Monday, 10 May 2010

Bockendon Grange

The earliest record of the name Bockendon Grange is 1262.

In the 1150s, Henry II gave land at Westwood Heath to the Cistercian Monks of Stoneleigh Abbey, for the purposes of farming and they established a farm at Bockendon Grange.

There are additional records of a hamlet, here at Bockendon, dating from 1325.

There is little to see on the surface today, apart from some hilly mounds, which formed a moat. And the ground is very boggy in places, where a stream runs out of Burton Green wood.

The buildings in the background of this photo are the present Bockendon Grange Farm, which has been rebuilt since medieval times.

There is also some evidence of fish pools, created by the monks, still remaining. There is no public footpath through the area of the fish ponds, so I haven't got a closer photo.

Ronald Dunning has sent us the following information:
"My 6X-great-grandfather, Catesby Oadham (1687-1722), left this property to his daughter Mary Oadham in his will.  She left it to her son Richard Purvis and it continued for another couple of generations in the family.  Some of them styled themselves as "of Bockenden Grange", but it's unlikely that any of them lived there.
"Catesby was the son of a mercer and mayor of Coventry of the same name.  He himself travelled to London and petitioned to be an assay master at the Royal Mint, but Sir Isaac Newton wouldn't have him; he travelled to Madras where he became the assay master, and Mayor; it's possible that he'd never have even seen Bockenden Grange.  His daughter Mary was born in Madras, but married in England."

Cromwell Cottage

This is Cromwell Cottage, probably the oldest building in the district.

Cromwell Cottage is at the far end of Cromwell Lane, by the railway station, and now lies within the Coventry boundary.

Cromwell Cottage is just one of the two buildings in Burton Green that are mentioned in Pevsner's Buildings of Warwickshire. Pevsner merely says that Cromwell Cottage is built of stone, with brick infilling. He gives no estimate of the date of the building.

The National Heritage List (Cromwell Cottage) gives these details:
"Dated 1653 on porch but may be earlier. Local tradition derives name of cottage from a visit by Oliver Cromwell. Timber frame and brick, stone section on left. 2 storeys and attic, gable on right. 2 triple light C19 casement windows. Old tiled roof with diagonally set shafts to C17 brick chimney stacks."
If there is a real connection between Cromwell Lane, and Oliver Cromwell, then this building is the most likely reason.

The building is currently in the process of renovation.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

History of Westwood Heath

According to The Place Names of Warwickshire, the first reference to Westwood occurs in 1250 in the Stoneleigh Rolls. The ecclesiastical parish of Westwood was constitited in 1846, two years after the construction of Westwood Heath Church.

According to the census records (1841-1911), the road currently known as Westwood Heath Road was originally known as Canley Hill (1851), then Cox's Hill (1871, 1881). The name Westwood makes its first appearance in the census in 1891, though part of the road was still referred to as Cox's Hill. In the 1911 census, part of Cromwell Lane, between Tile Hill Station and Arnold Farm was also referred to as Westwood Heath.

The whole area of Westwood Heath and including Fletchamstead, Canley, and Tile Hill was originally part of the Stoneleigh Estate. Westwood, Fletchamstead, Canley, and Tile Hill became part of Coventry in 1927, under the Coventry Corporation (Boundary Extension) Act 1927. The land was purchased from the Leigh family by Coventry Corporation. The sale of the Stoneleigh Estate was caused by reasons similar to the sale of many large country estates in the period following WWI.

There is a comprehensive and authoritative account of the history of Stoneleigh here:

Westwood and the Knights Templar

The history of Stoneleigh (in the link just above) includes this principal reference to Westwood:
"In 1279 the Master of the Temple [Knights Templars] held Fletchamstead as a hamlet of Stoneleigh... In 1293 an arrangement was made by which the Templars gave up their rights of pasturage in the manor of Stoneleigh in return for a grant of 200 acres of waste land in Westwood. When the Order of the Temple was suppressed the Abbot of Stoneleigh seized the chapel lands, but later made them over to the Knights Hospitallers. The estate was then made a member of their Preceptory of Temple Balsall ... At the Dissolution the estates of Temple Balsall were given to Queen Katherine (Parr), including the manor of Fletchamsted, which was granted in February 1545 to John Beaumont, who at once assigned it to William Humberstone. Four years later Humberstone made a settlement of the house, chapel, and lands on himself and Dorothy Spryng, his intended wife. They sold the manor and chapel in 1564 to Sir Thomas and Dame Alice Leigh, whose son Sir Thomas built a fair house there and made a park. The property then descended with the main manor of Stoneleigh."
The old Fletchamstead Hall was in the present Torrington Avenue, near the far end of Wolfe Road. There are also several modern place names with Templar references in the vicinity - Templar Avenue (off Torrington Avenue) and Templars School.

The 200 acres at Westwood Heath granted to the Knights Templars was a considerable proportion of Westwood. By comparison, the recently planned housing development at Westwood Heath is approximately 40 acres. Westwood Heath Farm occupied 540 acres (extending over Canley).

This is a transcript of the original reference...

There is also a record of Jaques de Molay, the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, assenting to a right of way from Berkswell to Stoneleigh, in the "waste of Westwoode". This was presumably the road that was to become Westwood Heath Road.

Westwood Parish

The ecclesiastical Parish of Westwood was constituted in 1846. This map shows the approximate boundary of the ecclesiastical Parish.

The Parish covered much of Burton Green, Tile Hill, Canley and Fletchamstead, with Westwood Church at its centre.

The area of the Parish was approximately 5,200 acres.

The map below shows how the ecclesiastical parish of Westwood in 1846 compares with the present day wards of Woodlands, Westwood, and Wainbody. Those 3 present day wards together correspond approximately to the Northern part of the old Westwood. There are a few anomalies around the edges. For example, the North-East boundary of Westwood, and Wainbody wards is now the A45; but that road didn't exist in 1846. Westwood is the green area on the map. Woodlands, Westwood, and Wainbody are superimposed in blue.

Mr C F Neal's Account of Westwood

The following article was written by Mr C F Neale, who was headmaster at Westwood School between 1881 and 1911. It was published in the Coventry Herald, on 27th May 1927, when Westwood was about to be purchased from Stoneleigh by Coventry Corporation.
"Coming events cast their shadows before," and if things turn out according to schedule, the greater part of Westwood will be merged in the City of Coventry on 1st April, 1928. Such being the case, it may be an appropriate time for a few reflections. 
Westwood is an ancient name, mentioned in the Ledger Book of the Monks of Stoneleigh, 1392. This is an extract: "And thence from the said vennel (lane) near the tenement which is called the Hollies, the bound is the King's highway itself leading to the Hale, till we come to a certain ditch between the Hale and Bokyndene. And thence the ditch itself going about the Closes of Boknydene towards Berkswell. And from thence the bound of the manor is a certain way dividing Westwode and Berkswell. And from that way is another way hard by the long ditch which divides Berkswell and Westwode." 
Before the Reformation, there were two outlying communities of Cistercian monks living here, dwelling at Boknydene and Flechamstede. An ancient map on a large scale. of Coventry and district may be seen hanging in the British Museum with the two names in large print. The ruthless Henry VIII destroyed the monasteries and nothing but their names survive. Westwood, so well wooded to-day. formed a part of that forest of Arden between the Roman roads of the Fosse Way and Icknield Street.  
The Moat in the Canley district is a survival of that period, but its origin is lost. The old house there was the birthplace of one Henry Parkes, who, emigrating with his parents to Australia during the " bad old days," rose to be Sir Ilenry Parkes, G.C.M.G., many times Premier of New South Wales, and popularly known as the G.O.M. of Australia. 
Much less than a century ago there was no church, school, or railway in Westwood. Many dwellers, having built their own habitations, worked on the farms, and supplemented their earnings by pasturing donkeys, pigs, and geese "on the heath."
To come to 1887 or so, Westwood had then 600 people, all, with few exceptions, engaged in agricultural pursuits, and small enough for the people to know each other by sight and reputation. The well-known farmers were then: Messrs. Thomas Hands, William Campbell, Edward Swinnerton, Arthur Silk, Thomas Hollier, Anthony McMillan, Thomas Lea, Thomas Mackay, James Harris, George Hammerton, George Lea, William Sammons, and James Jenkinson, all of whom, in varying ways, were sympathetic in the well-being of village life. With the exception of Mr. Hammerton, who has left the district, all have passed away. It will be seen, however, in many instances the names happily survive to the present day.  
Tile Hill, to the north of the railway, consisted of about a dozen families, loyal supporters of their parish, identifying themselves with all that was going on. En passant, it may be said that the word "Westwood" was not too well-known outside its boundaries. To the watchmakers of Spon Street it was Kirby Corner; to those who went up and down the line it was Tile Hill; to civil dignitaries it was Stoneleigh; to the postal mandarins it was Westwood Heath; to the children in Chapelfields and Earlsdon it was " the place where the waterfall field is" and "where the bluebell woods are." And, to add to a new-comer's confusion, the dwellers in Broad Lane, Whoberley, Burnt Post, Hollies, Canley. and Cryfield generally used the names of their own particular corner in conversation, so the plaintive question of the new-comer would be, looking in vain for a centre, " Where is Westwood?" 
A feature of that period was the fixed tenure of village life. The same names appeared for a generation in the persons of the farmers, the villagers in "free" collages, churchwardens, schoolmaster, postman, policeman, stationmaster, sexton, and innkeeper. Following the lead of its noble landlord, the village was Liberal to the core, and its colour, " blue " of the deepest dye; but the number of those entitled to vote barely exceeded 100. and they had to travel eight miles, counting both ways, to exercise the franchise.  
And so on to this present year of grace. Westwood is in the melting pot, changing visibly almost each month. It may be compared to an octopus, somewhat lifeless in the centre, with lively tentacles reaching out on all sides. The population exceeds 2,500, and the voters number 1,044. The centre of the village remains as in former years, while all types of houses are built on the borders. One frontage may be a modern motor works, another a row of small dwellings, others a succession of villas in various designs, or a Liliputian garden city. Then comes the inevitable shopping centre, and the appearance of the suburbs of a large town, its sight, supplanting those of the farm roller and the sportsman's gun. 
About nine-tenths of the people will be adopted by Coventry. We shall form a part of "no mean city." One to which many of us are bound by ties of birth, occupation, sport and youthful memories. 

David McGrory's History of Westwood Heath

The following history of Westwood Heath is taken from the book The Illustrated History of Coventry's Suburbs by David McGrory.

"Simply meaning 'the west wood on the heath', the district of Westwood Heath is still semi-rural. In the 12th century Henry II gave land here to the monks of Stoneleigh Abbey. It is said that when the Cistercians first came to the area in the 1150s they established a grange farm, which seemed to exist mainly to exploit the surrounding woodland. Opposite the site of what is generally thought to be the original Bockidene Grange in the present woodland called the Pools they dug their fish ponds, traces of which can still be seen. Remnants of the large woodland that once covered the area include Whitefield Coppice, Broadwells Wood, the Pools and the Black Waste Wood, once the Black West Wood.

The grange moat was over 30ft wide and kept the fish ponds full of water. There were once two buildings of uncertain age inside the moat, but the large size of the site and the lack of archaeological evidence of habitation has led some to suggest that it was a moated orchard or rabbit warren. There was once a hamlet here, for in 1325 the abbot of Stoneleigh forced 25 of his tenants to abandon their homes. Nearby Hurst and Cryfield were also affected. Hurst, once described as a pretty village, consisted of only one house in the late 15th century.

It is thought that the monks stopped using the site by the end of the 14th century and leased it. Experts believe that Bockendon Grange Farm, surrounded by a smaller moat, may have been the original grange farm. Although the present building dates back to the 18th century there are possible traces of mediaeval work. Behind Bockendon Grange Farm is another small moat that appears to have been created over ridge-and-furrow near the original settlement site. Further down the lane is the site of what is thought to be the lost village of Hurst.

Over the centuries the woodland that made up the area was cut down, creating open heath. This was enclosed in the late 18th and early 19th century to form farmland that still exists. The village of Westwood Heath began at Kirby Corner around a small group of cottages in the 19th century. Beyond them, in what is now Corner Road, stood a small smithy, then a track led to a saw mill. Beyond the saw mill stood the church of St John the Baptist, opened in 1844. A church booklet explains that for half a century  the seating arrangements in the church remained the same:
The front seats were occupied by farmers and their families. Then came the middle seats for the craftsmen of the village; thirdly the agricultural labourers in the rear. This segregation was accepted ... Occasionally stray visitors came early to the morning service and unwittingly entered a front seat. To their consternation they were hauled out by the sexton and were conducted to a lower seat. 
The foundation stone was laid by Chandos, Baron Leigh, and the first incumbent was the Revd Edmund Roy who lived in the High Street, Kenilworth. The Revd Roy rode to Westwood on a white pony and had a room in a house near the church. He appears to have been a great believer in the efficacy of wine and always kept a large stock in his room, ostensibly for the use of invalids. Revd Roy was a kindly man who believed whole-heartedly in education and set up a library in the village for adults and children that was still in use before World War One. He resigned the living because of ill health in 1871 and was followed by Revd Russell, who in 1877 was succeeded by the bizarrely named Revd John Octavius Coussmaker, known by the villagers as Mr Coachmaker.

The Revd Coussmaker was noted for his good nature and easy-going manner, and his lack of punctuality. On two occasions the congregation stood for an hour waiting for him to arrive. On the first occasion his excuse was that he had been removing a dead man from a ditch at the vicarage. On the second occasion he claimed to have been attacked by the vicarage bees and temporarily blinded.

Mary Dormer Harris's uncle was churchwarden at the church in the late 19th century. She wrote:
... had he not been in his accustomed place at the service, people would have expected the heavens to fall. Oh, oh! how the harmonium droned in those distant days! The congregation consisted of staid persons, who had mostly lived in the parish all of their lives, who did not marry or give in marriage, or run after enjoyment, but just stopped by their own firesides, in homely fashion, and were, I suppose content
Esther Dash spoke to the Coventry Evening Telegraph (in 1998) of life in the village before World War One. She recalled:
Father was a farm worker and forester and mother did housework for the headmaster and made butter at the farm. Our lovely three bedroomed cottage had a large lawn 0 to the front and a vegetable patch with apple, pear, damson and plum trees ... Each year the owner, Lord Leigh, would arrive on horseback to make his inspection, and award prizes for the best kept cottage and garden. 
The old post office was a few doors away (and bears the crest of the Leighs). For 46 years it was run by Emma Smith, who finally retired at the age of 79. As a girl Esther remembered that the only other shop at Westwood was next to the smithy. Here she would buy sweets from Bumper Jones; while the smithy was always a favourite with children, who loved to watch the sparks fly. Esther recalled, 'George Duggins senior spent one half of the week at the little smithy in Westwood, and the rest of the week at the other in Duggins Smithy, a few miles away in Tile Hill.' She also remembered that the school (now the Greek Orthodox Church) was built in 1870. It had three teachers and the head's house was next to it. There was a flower garden for the girls and a vegetable plot for the boys. The big event of the year was Empire Day when Lord Leigh visited. The school was decorated and Lord Leigh was entertained by maypole dancing in the schoolyard, for which he rewarded the children by giving them the afternoon off.

See also

Stuart Barratt's account of life at Westwood Heath School in the 1950s which is on this page:

Friday, 7 May 2010

The West Midlands Village Book

A fairly comprehensive article about Burton Green was published in 'The West Midlands Village Book'. This book was published in 1989, and includes articles about most of the villages within the administrative area of the West Midlands. The book covers the metropolitan area of Birmingham and Coventry. It excludes Warwickshire.

The book was published by the West Midlands Federation of Women's Institutes. The author of the article was a local resident, but their name is not given in the book.

This is the text of the article....

Burton Green is a quiet village situated in an elevated position in the green belt on the edge of the industrial city of Coventry. In about 1500 the boundary between Warwickshire and Berkswell ran down the middle of Cromwell Lane, one of the village’s main roads. This line of demarcation still exists so that the services (refuse collection, water, electricity, etc) of this tiny village are administered by different authorities, now Solihull District Council, Warwick District Council and Coventry City Council.

The population has grown gradually since the Second World War. Some of the older residents temporarily sheltered in the village during the bombing of Coventry and later put down roots here. Since then the pattern has been to build larger, more expensive houses for professional people attracted to the village because it is within easy access of towns and cities of the region but is still in a pleasant rural setting.

A railway used to run non-stop through the village, from Balsall Common to Leamington. The disused railway track which bisects the village affords elevated panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, and provides an area of interest and beauty where flora and fauna (including rare wild orchids) are preserved.

The whole area around the village has an extremely high water table and even in drought conditions, water can be found less than one metre from the surface of the ground. In fact, the field at the confluence of the three lanes is the last and final outcrop of the Pennine Chain, the main watershed of England that runs on a north-south escarpment and determines the weather on both the western and eastern sides of England. This field is visibly humped or curved, one side draining down to the Wash and the other to the Bristol Channel.

Burton Green Church of England primary school is unusual on two counts. Although the bulk of the site stands in the parish of St Nicholas’ church, Kenilworth, the peculiar boundary arrangements which affect the village are also evident here, as children on opposite sides of the playground stand in Berkswell parish and Kenilworth parish respectively.

Secondly, the school was built in 1875, both as an educational institution and as a chapel of ease. In days when horseback was the fastest mode of transport, the building made it easier for the villagers to attend a church. Therefore services have been held at the school for over a hundred years, and are still held monthly.

The water tower in Cromwell Lane dominates the landscape and can be seen from miles around. It is known as the Tile Hill Water Tower and was built in 1932 by a German firm, strangely enough escaping damage during the bombing of Coventry. Access to the tank and roof is by a spiral staircase which passes in a tube through the centre of the tank. The tower is used to serve the local area with water, but its main use is to hold water at a high level (above the roofs of the houses) so that there is a good ‘head’ of water flowing in the pipes serving Coventry.

Red Lane Reservoir was built in 1966 and is situated on the west side of Red Lane near Burton Green. Inside a fenced enclosure stands a reinforced concrete, rectangular, semi-sunk reservoir which has grassed-over banks and roof. This underground reservoir is capable of supplying Kenilworth and Warwick.

In the fields which now belong to the electricity sub-station can be found five or six circles, about nine feet in diameter and 20 yards apart, which have darker coloured soil than the surrounding area. This is where local people covered the wood they had gathered with clay etc and then burned it slowly in order to produce charcoal. The circles can be easily identified because the grasses and plants growing on these charcoal rings are visibly
taller than the rest.

On a map of the area c1500, at present in the Warwick archives, the road from outside the school to the top of Red Lane is not called Hob Lane but ‘Dirty Gap’. One local historian claims that the name derives from a time when trees were being felled and taken to a tannery at the bottom of Red Lane, where their bark was used to produce dyes. The logs were dragged by six horses, resulting in the road becoming churned up and muddy and thus called ‘Dirty Gap’.

The area next to the Massey Ferguson factory is where Oliver Cromwell gathered his troops as he prepared an assault on Kenilworth Castle during the Civil War. Here his army raised its banners and the road has been called Banner Lane ever since. Cromwell led his men from their assembly point and up the lane which now bears his name. When his soldiers turned left into the cart track which led to Kenilworth Castle they encountered a skirmish party of Royalist troops. It is said that a fierce battle ensued with many wounded and killed and the place ran red with blood, providing the cart track with the name it has since been known by — Red Lane.

However, a more practical, but less romantic, explanation for the name is offered by studying the physical geography of the area, which appears to be rich in red clay. In fact the redness of the soil is not clay at all but rotted Midland red sandstone, which is the material that has been used for centuries to build many public buildings, including Coventry Council House and the old Coventry Cathedral.

The pound by the railway bridge in Cromwell Lane is where animals used to be kept and at its centre was the old village well, which was 120 ft deep. It was only covered with boards until 1975, when a six-inch thick slab or ‘raft’ of concrete was placed over the Well to prevent accidents.

When King George V and Queen Mary visited Coventry they would stay aboard the royal train overnight in the railway cutting with policemen guarding all the bridges. It was a common sight to see the Royal couple walking along the banks in the morning, collecting primroses and other wild flowers.

The confluence of Cromwell Lane, Hob Lane and Red Lane was a point on the old cattle droving road from the Welsh hills to London. The cattle had usually been on the hoof for some days before they reached the ?elds near the end of Windmill Lane. Here they were rested in order to feed and gain in weight and strength for the remainder of the journey. After three or four days in which to recover the cattle often became very lively and frisky and their drovers had great dif?culty in catching them. That particular resting place thus became known as ‘Catchems Corner’.

In the 1930s it was a long straggling village. There were single houses, semi-detached bungalows and groups of houses, with many gaps between which, since the Second World War, have been filled in. There were no footpaths and no street lighting, two shops, a public house and a school.

The Peeping Tom pub started as a cottage and was originally a free house until the breweries took it over. In the early days of the ‘Tom’, a Mr Docker who had a fishmonger’s stall in Coventry Fish Market would bring his unsold fish to the pub and sell it off — there were no refrigerators in those days!

The property known as The Hollies was built in 1858 to replace three cottages in the adjoining fields. As they were part of the Stoneleigh estate, they were built to the design of the then Lady Leigh. During the Second World War, ‘Seatons’ field was the site for many caravans for folk who had been bombed out of Coventry, either as permanent living quarters, or just as a safe dormitory away from the city.

The village hall in Hodgetts Lane was built in 1923, on land given by a Miss Palmer of a local farming family. It was used for all the village activities until 1982, when a new hall was built at the rear - the site of the old hall is now the car park.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, a resident in one of the cottages in Hob Lane, being a railway buff, laid down a narrow gauge railway complete with station, and occasionally held open days for charity. When he left the area, the line was lifted and the locomotive, The Doll, was given to a steam railway preservation society.

After the Second World War, car production in Coventry rocketed and space was needed to store cars and tractors, the latter coming from Massey Ferguson, Broad Lane, and cars from Standard Motor Works in Canley. A large proportion were stored behind the school, being taken by Canley Car Delivery Services. In the early 1950s, a local farmer, Mr R. Mackay, sold several acres of land to the local Electricity Board - this became the sports ground with access in Cromwell Lane.

In conclusion, Burton Green has reverted to its state of semi-isolation, due to the closure of shops and deterioration of public transport, but still retains its inherent individuality.