cheap raptors jersey A century ago Coventry city had 250 pubs
WHILE Coventry pubs continue to close at an alarming rate, a document has come to light in the Telegraph’s archives showing that a century ago there were more than 250 licensed premises in the city centre alone.
The document, dated 1912, lists 242 pubs and inns, a further eight hotels and seven “private and temperance hotels”.
Spon Street alone had 11 drinking establishments: The Board, Dyers Arms, Eagle Vaults, Old Windmill, Plough, Recruiting Sergeant, Rising Sun, Shakespeare, Watchmakers Arms, William IV and Woolpack.
Gosford Street boasted a total of eight: the Antelope, Fox and Vivian, Mermaid, New Inn, Old Chase, Peacock, Royal Oak and Sir Colin Campbell, with a further five in Far Gosford Street: the Cricketers Arms, Golden Cup, Hand and Heart, Hertford Arms and Pitts Head.
The most common name seems to be New Inn, with pubs of that name not only in Gosford Street, but in Bulls Head Lane, Foleshill Road, King William Street, Craven Street and Much Park Street.
The next most common was the Royal Oak, with four pubs bearing the name in Stoney Stanton Road, Earlsdon Street and Whitley as well as the one in Gosford Street.
Some of the most unusual names perhaps are the Boadicea (Market Place), Crow in the Oak (Lockhurst Lane), Elastic Inn (Cox Street), Mermaid (Gosford Street), Ye Olde Spotted Dog (Bull Ring), the Ring O’ Bells in Yardley Street and New Street’s O Rare Ben Johnson (the inscription on the grave of dramatist Ben Johnson in Westminster Abbey).
The Ring o’ Bells is remembered as the scene of Coventry’s most famous unsolved murder.
The battered body of landlady Amy Davis was found lying fully clothed in her bath on the morning of October 25, 1945.
The pub had been ransacked and cash and jewellery were missing.
Police interviewed 1,500 people, but the killer was never found.
Some of the pubs listed in 1912 are still in existence, some with new names, but others have long gone, like the O Rare Ben Johnson, the Dun Cow Inn in Jordan Well (demolished in 1963), The Mermaid in Gosford Street, the Leopard in Primrose Hill Street, the White Lion in Smithford Street, the last building demolished to make way for the Upper Precinct and the Hope and Anchor in Whitefriars Lane.
Also lost is the Smithfield Hotel in Hales Street where the Carry On film comedy star Peter Butterfield died of a heart attack in room 13 while appearing as Widow Twankey in Aladdin at Coventry Theatre in 1979.
His ghost was later said to have haunted the building after repeated appearances of a “mystery figure”.
Two more pubs on the 1912 list, the Rose and Woodbine in Stoney Stanton Road and the Pitts Head in Gosford Street, still stand but are in use for other purposes.
Recent years have seen pubs in the city and county close by the dozen as the trade struggles against rising taxes, cheap supermarket prices and brewery monopolies.
Last year the Telegraph launched a campaign to save our traditional watering holes from the axe, issuing a rallying call to politicians, landlords and drinkers to help call time on the closures.
Staff at Coventry City Council licensing office say there are currently only an estimated 37 public houses within the ring road area.
Our century old list of the city’s licensed premises is a vivid illustration of how the city’s rich heritage of traditional public houses has been savagely eroded.