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daughter and heiress of Sir Clement Fisher, Ba-

x Tanner, 583.



ronet, with Heneage, second Earl of Aylesford,
the place was transferred to that noble family.
The situation has of late years been highly im-
proved by the change of the road. The grounds
are prettily sloped by nature, are well wooded,
and the bottom filled with two pleasing pieces of
water. The house has also undergone many al-
terations ; it is a plain convenient building, except
on one side, where opens a loggio, most admirably
adapted (in our climate) for the encouragement of
rheums and rheumatisms.

Within is a good portrait of its founder, John
Fisher ; a half-length, with a square white beard,
close black cap, upright ruff, and black jacket.

A beautiful picture of Henrietta Maria,
consort to Charles I. She is represented sitting,
in blue, with roses in her hand, and her thorny
crown by her.

Here is also a portrait of Charles Duke of
Somerset, in his robes, father to the Countess
Dowager of Aylesford.

The country here begins to lose the comforts
of a gravelly soil, and changes to the wet-retain-
ing clay. . At the pleasant village of Mireden it is Miredeh.
uncommonly deep, but by the assistance of turn-
pikes the road is rendered excellent. The pretty
houses on each side of the way, and the magnifi-
cent inn, famed for time immemorial for its excel-


lent malt-liquor, with the various embellishments
(made by the old inn-keeper, Reynolds) of gate-
way, little ponds, statues, and other whims, enliven
the spot greatly.
Chdrch. The church is seated a little higher up, on an
eminence. Within is a handsome alabaster tomb
of John Wyard, in armour and mail, with sword
and dagger by his side ; his arms a cinquefoil on
his breast. This gentleman had been 'squire (as
the inscription relates) to Thomas de Beauchamp
Earl of Warwick, and founder of a chauntry in this
church, near which he had his residence. He
was also knight of the shire for this county, in the
second year of Richard II.

Here is another tomb, with a figure in stone,
supposed to have been that of one of the Walshes,
the antient lords of this manor. This figure, as
well as the former, is recumbent, with the hands
in the action of supplication : but this gentle-
man has a short skirt over the lower part of his

The antient name of this place was Alspath,
or Ailespede, even till the beginning of the reign of
Henry VI ; about which time, becoming a great
thoroughfare, it got the name of Myreden ; den
signifying a bottom, and myre, dirt: and I can
well vouch for the propriety of the appellation,
before the institution of turnpikes.



In March 1739-40, I changed my Welsh school _. LD

G J Fashion of

for one nearer to the capital, and travelled in the Travel-
Chester stage ; then no despicable vehicle for
country gentlemen. The first day, with much
labor, we got from Chester to Whitchurch, twenty
miles ; the second day, to the Welsh Harp ; the
third, to Coventry ; the fourth, to Northampton ;
the fifth, to Dunstable ; and, as a wondrous effort,
on the last, to London before the commencement
of night. The strain and labor of six good horses,
sometimes eight, drew us through the sloughs of
Mireden, and many other places. We were con-
stantly out two hours before day, and as late at
night ; and in the depth of winter proportionably

Families who travelled in their own carriages,
contracted with Benson and Co. and were dragged
up in the same number of days, by three sets of
able horses.

The single gentlemen, then a hardy race,
equipped in jack-boots and trowsers, up to their
middle, rode post through thick and thin, and,
guarded against the mire, defied the frequent
stumble and fall ; arose and pursued their jour-
ney with alacrity : while in these days their ener-
vated posterity sleep away their rapid journies in
easy chaises, fitted for the conveyance of the soft
inhabitants of Sybaris.


Allesey. I continued my way to Coventry through
Allesey, a village with a church and spire-steeple.
The place was originally a member of that city,
Bishop Clinton having permitted a chapel to be
built here for the use of the poor, reserving the
right of burial to the mother church y . In a place
called The Parks, stood a castle, doubly moated,
probably the residence of the Hastings, who pos-
sessed this place in the time of Edward I. The

present handsome seat is owned by Neale,


After a ride of two miles from hence, I en-

Coventry. tered Coventry, a great and antient city. The
time of its foundation is unknown. By the addi-
tion of tre, a town, it should seem as if it had been
inhabited by the Britons, before the Saxons added
the word coven to it, as is conjectured, from a
nunnery very antiently established here. The site
of the old town is supposed to have been on the
north side of the present, not only because great
foundations are discovered about the spot called
St. Nicholas Church-yard, but, I may add, from
the tumulus near it, on the Atherston road, called
Barrs Hill, on which might have been a castelet.

Saxon Ndn- The certainty of there having been a convent
here in early times, depends on the authority of

y Dugdale, i. 129.


John Rous 7 '; who says, that when the traitor

Edric ravaged this country, in 1016, he burnt the

nunnery in this city, of which a holy virgin, St.

Osburg, had been abbess.

On its ruins, Leofric, fifth Earl of Mercia, and

his countess Godeva, founded a monastery. At that

period Coventry must have been a considerable

place, and its inhabitants numerous, otherwise

the fair Godeva could never have made so great Story f


a merit of riding naked through the town, to re-
deem it from the intolerable taxes and grievances
it at that time labored under. The cause must
have been equal to the deed. Her husband long
resisted her importunity in its behalf, on account
of the profits that accrued to him : at length he
thought to silence her by the strange proposal;
she accepted it, and, being happy in fine flowing
locks, rode, decently covered to her very feet with
her lovely tresses. The history was preserved in
a picture, about the time of Richard II. in which
were pourtrayed the earl and countess. He holds
a charter of freedom in his hand, and thus ad-
dresses his lady :

I Luriche (Leofric) for love of thee,
Doe make Coventre toll-free.

Legend says, that previous to her ride, all the in-
* Leland (iv. 124.) says it was founded by king Canute.


habitants were ordered, on pain of death, to shut
themselves up during the time ; but, the curiosity
of a certain taylor overcoming his fear, he took a
single peep, which is commemorated even at pre-
sent, by a figure projecting from a window in
Smithford street. To this day, the love of Godeva
to the city is annually remembered, by a proces-
sion : and a valiant fair still rides, (not literally
like the good countess, but) in silk, closely fitted
to her limbs, and of color emulating their com-
plexion a .
Norman After the Conquest, the lordship of this city
fell, by the marriage of Lucia (daughter to Algar,
successor and son of Edwin, and grandson of
Leofric) with her third husband Handle Meschine,
to the Earls of Chester \ Handle bestowed on it
the same privileges that Linsda enjoyed, and be-
stowed great part of the city on the monks. When
Hemy III. took the earldom of Chester into his
hands, the remainder of Coventry fell to William
de Albany Earl of Arundel, in right of his wife
Mabil, daughter of Hugh Ceveilioc. On the death
of Hugh Earl of Arundel, in 1 243, it fell to Roger
de Montalto, who had married Cecilia, his young-

a This custom is not continued with its former regularity,
and the representative of the fair Godeva is now more ceco-
nomically clad in white linen. Ed.

b Leicester, 127. Camden, i. 611.




est sister. After that, it was granted by his grand-
son Robert, in default of issue, to Isabel, queen
mother of Edward III. with remainder to John of
Eltham, afterwards Earl of Cornwall; and then to
Edzvard king of England. It thus became an-
nexed to the earldom of Cornwall, and became
more immediately the object of royal favor. Ed-
ward III. in the eighteenth of his reign, by letters Incor
dated the 20th of January, made it a corporation,
consisting of a mayor and two bailiffs, whom the
inhabitants were to select from among themselves.
The first mayor was John Ward, who was chosen
in the year 1348.

Henry VI. in 1451, bestowed on this city a
very particular mark of his affection, by erecting
it, with a considerable district around, into a
county c , by the name of the city and county of cou
Coventry ; and ordered that the bailiffs from that
time should be sheriffs : so that at present, it is
governed by a mayor, recorder, two sheriffs, ten
aldermen, thirty-one superior and twenty-five infe-
rior common-council-men. Henry came expressly
to Coventry, heard mass in St. Michael's church,
presented the church with a gown of cloth of gold,
and then created the first sheriffs.

The representatives are returned by the sheriffs Right of


e Accurately laid down in Mr. Beighton's map of Wanvick~

shire. ' u

Made a



of the city, after being chosen by the freemen, who
are all enrolled, and are freemen from having
served seven years as apprentices within the city
or suburbs. To be qualified to vote, a man must
have been enrolled a full year before the time of
an election. He must produce his indentures be-
fore the mayor at a time appointed, and take an
oath that he hath not absented himself from the
service of his master during the term of his ap-

The city sent members in the four first parle-
ments of Edzvard I. That privilege was inter-
rupted (except in the eighth of Edzvard II. and
twentieth and twenty-fifth of Edzvard III.) till the
thirty-first of Henri/ VI. when it was resumed.

Among all its privileges, unfortunately for the
magistrates, it has that of life and death d .

The county of Coventry extends about four
miles round the city, but the service of an ap-
prenticeship in this extent beyond the city and
suburbs does not entitle a man to his freedom, or
to the privilege of a vote; neither can a man,
though possessed of land to the amount of 1 000/.
per annum, that lies within the county of Coven-
try, be entitled to vote at an election for the

The magistrates never avail themselves of this privilege,
as the judges in the Midland circuit regularly preside at the
assizet, and are paid by the sheriffs. Ed.


county of IVarwick, so that the land-owners of
the county of the city of Coventry may truly, be
said not to be represented in parlement.

A trial of this particular was made in the ge-
neral election of 1774, and claims to vote for the
county of IVarwick upon freehold in two parishes
were given in, which, being in the county of Co-
ventry, were not admitted. It was therefore re-
quired to give the votes upon freehold in the
county of Warwick. The freeholders had not
been called upon to vote for seventy years, but
they had it upon record, that lands within the
county of Coventry were not entitled to vote at an
election for the county of Warxcick.

Two parlements have been held in this city, in Parlements
the great chamber of the priory. The first, in
1404, by Henry IV. which was stiled Parlia-
mentum indoctorum ; not that it consisted of a
greater number of blockheads than parlements or-
dinarily do, but from its inveteracy against the
clergy, whose revenues it was determined not to
spare: whence it was also called the Laymen's

The other was held in the chapter-house of the
priory, in 1459, by Henry VI. and was called
Parliamentum diabolicum, by reason of the multi-
tude of attainders passed against Richard Duke
of York, and his adherents.




Trade, The trade of this city consisted originally in
the manufacture of cloth, and caps, or bonnets e ,
which arose to a great degree of consequence, as
early as 1436, and continued till the seventeenth
century, when it was changed for the worsted bu-
siness ; and, for a long time, the making and sale
of shags, camblets, lastings, tammies, 8$c. 8$c.
proved very extensive and profitable ; but this
gradually migrated into Leicestershire and North-
amptonshire ; and at present, only a few articles,
such as camblets and lastings, constitute the wool-
len trade f .

* Anderson's Diet. i. 262.

f The Editor has been favored by Robert Simson, Esq. with
the following observations on the present state of the manu-
factures in the city of Coventry :

" The manufactory of woollen cloth continued till 1 696,
" about which period it was nearly lost by the long war be-
" tween England and France, which destroyed the Turkey
" trade ; about which time the making of mixt or striped
" tammies was introduced. The worsted manufactory was af-

* terwards increased by the making of lastings, camblets, calli-

* mancoes, and shalloons; but this trade, except shags, has
w wholly emigrated into Northamptonshire and Yorkshire.

" Ribands still remain the staple trade.

" The trade in gauzes speedily declined, and has been for
" many years discontinued.

" The manufactory of shags is still important, and has lately
" been increased by the making of silk shag for the covering
" of men's hats. In the whole about two hundred looms are




I must remark, that in the beginning, or mid-
dle, of the sixteenth century, Coventry had a vast
manufacture of blue thread ; which was lost before
the year 1581 s . So famous was it for its dye, that
true as Coventry blue became proverbial.

About eighty years ago, the silk manufacture Ribands.
of ribands was introduced here, and, for the first
thirty years, remained in the hands of a few peo-
ple, who acquired vast fortunes ; since which, it
has extended to a great degree, and is supposed
to employ at lest ten thousand people ; it has like-
wise spread into the neighboring towns, such as
Nuneaton, and other places. Such real good re-
sults from our little vanities !

There are about a dozen traders in Coventry,
who have houses in London ; to which they send

' employed, which gives a further employment to about a
thousand persons.

" The manufactory of watches was introduced about the
year 1770 ; within the last twenty years it has increased
rapidly, and is yet in a progressive. state; it employs about
seven hundred persons.

" About the year 1793 a manufactory of calicoes was esta-
blished, which upon an average makes about five hundred
pieces per week.

" A fancy -net trimming manufacture employs a considerable
number of hands, and is in a progressive and flourishing
condition." Ed.

2 Anderson's Diet. i. 422.

o 2


up weekly great quantities of ribands ; and, before
our unhappy breach with America, a very exten-
sive trade was carried on with the colonies : but
the home-consumption has been always reckoned
most material. A few ribands are exported to
Spain, Portugal, and Russia; but the French un-
dersell us at those markets.

Within these few years, four or five houses
have begun to introduce the making of gauzes ;
and for that purpose chiefly, employ hands from
Scotland. This branch is at present in its infancy.
A manufacture of broad silks was likewise set up,
which, I am sorry to find, does not go on with the
expected success.

The military transactions of this city are very
few. It was an open town for many centuries,
and, of course, incapable of sustaining a siege.
Walls. The walls were not begun till the year 1355, and
then by virtue of a licence granted by Edward III.
twenty-seven years before ; nor were they finished
in less than forty. They were built with money
raised by taxes, and by customs on the wine,
malt, oxen, hogs, calves, and sheep, consumed in
Coventry. These walls were of great strength
and grandeur, furnished with thirty-two towers
and twelve gates ; they continued till the 22d of
July 1 66 1 , when great part of the wall, and most
of the towers, and many of the gates, were pulled


down, with certain circumstances of disgrace, as
a punishment for the disloyalty of the inhabitants,
for refusing admission to their monarch Charles I.
on the 13th of August 1642. His majesty, after
setting up his standard at Nottingham, had sent
to this city, to acquaint them that he meant to re-
side there for some time, and desired quarters for
his forces in and about the place. The mayor and
aldermen, with many expressions of affection, of-
fered to receive the king, but refused admittance
to any of the soldiery. Incensed at this, his ma-
jesty attacked the city, and with his ordnance ClTY AT -


forced open one of the gates ; but was repulsed Charles I.
by the valour of the citizens, and obliged to retire
with loss \ In the following month Coventry was
regularly garrisoned by the parlement 1 , and re-
mained in its possession during the whole war.

I should have mentioned before, that in the
fifteenth century another monarch had been de-
nied the possession of this city. The great Earl
of Warwick armed it against Edward IV. in 1470,
when he attempted entering on the side of Gosford
Green. The king amply repaid the insult on the
citizens, who perhaps acted by constraint. He
deprived them of their privileges, and made them
pay five hundred marks for their recovery, by hav-
ing the sword restored to them.

h Vicar's Parliament. Chron. 14-1. ! Whitelock, 63.



Castle. Before the building of the walls, there had
been, from very early times, a castle on the south
side of the town, near Chylesmore, with a park
belonging to it. This had been the residence of
the kings and earls of Mercia : it afterwards fell
to the earls of Chester, and at length was vested
in the royal line. No vestige of it is now to be
seen : in its place is a very antient wooden build-
ing, the remains of the manor-house of Chyles-
more, probably built after the demolition of the
castle. It was of Saxon origin, and was bestowed
by the Conqueror on Robert de Marmion, the
same to whom he had granted Tamxvorth and its

King Stephen forcibly took this fortress from
Handle de Gernons Earl of Chester. The earl, in
1146, attempted to reduce it, not by siege, but
by erecting a fort near it, in order to distress
the garrison, by cutting off supplies. The king
twice attempted its relief; the first time with-
out success, but in the second action he de-
feated the earl, forced him to fly, covered with
w r ounds, and then demolished the castle \ There
was a great enmity between Robert, son of the
first Robert Marmion, and Randle de Gernons,
and he determined to dispossess the earl of his
castle in the year 1 142 ; it being at that time the

k Leicester's Cheshire ex gestis Stephani, 124.



place of his residence. Marmion seized on the
priory and fortified it, after expelling the monks.
He then sunk pit-falls in the adjacent fields,
and covered them lightly with earth, in order to
entrap any who attempted to approach him. But
seeing the earl's forces drawing near, he went
out to reconnoitre, and was caught in his own
snares; for falling into one he broke his thigh,
and was seized by a common soldier, who in-
stantly cut off his head \

1 shall take notice of the ecclesiastical his-
tory, churches, remains of religious houses, and
the public buildings, in the course of my walk
through the city, in which I was accompanied by
the Reverend Doctor Edwards ; whose hospitality
and politeness I have more than once had occasion
to experience.

Coventry is seated on ground gently sloping on City

. , .' , , ~ Tr . DESCRIBED.

most sides : its length, from JtiiUstreet-gate to
Gosford-gate, is about three quarters of a mile,
exclusive of the suburbs. The streets in general
are narrow, and composed of very antient build-
ings, the stories of which, in some, impend one
over the other in such a manner, as nearly to meet
at top, and exclude the sight of the sky. By the
appearance of the whole, it is very evident that it

1 Dugdale's Warwickshire, ii. p. 1 1 32.


never underwent the calamity of fire ; which, de-
precated as it pught to be, is usually the cause of
future improvement.
Numbers. The number of inhabitants, taken at different
periods, in the last two hundred years, is very dif-
ferent. Before 1549, they were found to have
been 15,000; but on that violent convulsion, the
Dissolution, trade grew so low, and occasioned
such a dispersion of people from this city, as to
reduce them to 3,000. To remedy this evil, Ed-
ward VI. granted the city a charter for an addi-
tional fair. To this cause perhaps was owing
the increase, by the year 1586, to 6,502. In
1644, when the inhabitants were numbered, from
the apprehension of a siege, they were found to
amount to 9,500 m . By Bradford's Survey n of'
Coventry, made in 1748 and 1749, there appears
to have been 2,065 houses, and 12,1 17 people.
The accounts of the present population vary from
20,000 to 30,000 ; but, from my enquiries, the
middle sum between both may come nearest the
truth .

m Dugdale, I 146, 150, 152.

n Published by Jefferys, in 1750.

On a survey made in 1694, the population of Coventry
amounted to 6,710 souls. The present numbers are about
25,000 ; the returns made to government under the recent act,
stating them at 16034, are glaringly incorrect. When an al-


The city is watered by the Radford and the
Sherburn brooks, which, from N. and S. meet
within the walls, and, after a short current, bound
the north-eastern parts without the walls.

We began our progress from the Chester road, , Sponne

. r & . Hospital,

on the western side of the city, at the reliques of for Lepers.
Sponne hospital, consisting of the chapel and gate-
way. It was founded for the lepers which hap-
pened to be in Coventry, by Hugh Ceveilioc Earl
of Chester, out of affection to William de Auney, a
knight of his houshold, afflicted with the leprosy.
Here was also a priest, to pray both for the living
and the dead ; also certain brethren and sisters,
to pray, with the lepers, for the good estate of all
their benefactors. This hospital is said once to
have belonged to the abbey of Basingwerk, in
Flintshire ; but at length was appropriated to the
monks of Coventry, from whom it passed to the
crown, in the time of Edward IV ; who gave it
to the canons of Studley, in order to obtain their
prayers for him, and all his connections.

That loathsome disorder, which gave rise tOLEPRosY,rrs
this, and numbers of other similar foundations, ^SJi^^f


was introduced into England in the reign of
Henry I. and was supposed to have been brought

lowance of bread, meat, and beer, was distributed to as many
of the inhabitants as chose to accept it, on the occasion of the
Jubilee 1809, there were fourteen thousand applicants. Ed.


out of Egypt, or perhaps the east, by means of
the crusades. To add to the horror, it was con-
tagious ; which enhanced the charity of a provision
for such miserables, who were not only naturally
shunned, but even chaced, by royal edict, from the
society of their fellow-creatures p . All the lesser
Lazar houses in England were subject to the rich
house at Burton, in Leicestershire ; which again
was subject to that in Jerusalem q . They were
usually dedicated to St. Lazarus, from whom they
derived their name.
Sponne j^ little farther is the entrance into the city;
within my memory under a venerable and magni-
ficent gate, called Sponne Gate; demolished in
1771, in order to give admittance to the enormous
waggons, loaden beyond the height of arches erect-
ed when war was our chief trade.

Church of Immediately within the walls, on the left,
St. John.

stands the church of St. John, a very handsome

building, with a neat but not lofty tower, placed
in the centre : the inside is in form of a cross, in-
tersected by a short transept : the windows high,
and forming a long range, with very narrow divi-
sions. This church was originally a chapel to the
merchants gild, the most antient in Coventry, li-

v Edward III. drove from London all the lepers, except
fourteen, who clamed admittance into St. Giles's hospital.

Online LibraryThomas PennantThe journey from Chester to London → online text (page 11 of 34)