PARK COTTAGE: Its place in Coventry’s History

Park C 3 A

Park Cottage,14 East Avenue, Stoke Park, Coventry, was built in 1865, and is thought to be the first house in Stoke Park. It is in an imitation Tudor style, timber framed with bricks and mortar infilling. Internally, the house has a pine timber frame to which oak panelling and lath and plaster walls are attached.

As probably the first house to be built in what is now a conservation area, Park Cottage is understandably of great interest in the Stoke Park / Stoke Green area of Coventry and in the city as a whole. The house has been locally listed by Coventry City Council which underlines its value to the city.

However, it has a much greater significance than simply its age.

It is of a unique construction, built using elements from other properties in Coventry. We know this from Pugh, R. B. (ed). 1969. Victoria County History: A History of the County of Warwickshire – Volume VIII, which tells us: “The first house on the site (Stoke Park) was Park Cottage, erected by a builder called Malt for his own occupation. It is constructed of old timbers from demolished properties in and around Coventry, and contains carving and panelling from similar sources.”

It is believed that elements of Park Cottage in fact came from two buildings of great historical importance: The 13th century, grade I listed All Saints Church in Allesley, and the 14th century St Mary’s Guildhall, in Bayley Lane, Coventry, also grade I listed.

The All Saints Church Connection
The present church was built in the 13th century but it is thought to date back to Norman times. It underwent substantial renovations in 1862-63.

The architect in charge of the project was James Murray. The builder who did the work was one Alfred Mault. The man who built Park Cottage to be his own home, was none other than Alfred Mault.

As part of the work at All Saints, the square pews in the body of the church were removed and replaced with more open seating. The panelling from those pews was used as panelling in Park Cottage.

panel A  old pews A

Panelling from All Saint’s Church in Park Cottage

The St Mary’s Guildhall Connection
St Mary’s Guildhall was built between 1340 and 1342, and altered and extended in 1392-1430. In the 19th century, more work was needed.

According to Benjamin Poole’s book Coventry: Its History and Antiquities (John Russell Smith, London, 1870): “The want of commodious accommodation (at St Mary’s Hall) had long been felt; and it was during…1861 and 1862 that the undertaking was, after much deliberation, finally resolved upon and brought to maturity. The plan…was from a design prepared by Mr James Murray, and the contract was undertaken and executed by Mr Alfred Mault.”

Did Mr Mault re-use features removed from St Mary’s Hall in the building of his own home, Park Cottage?

Almost certainly yes. It is believed that the large leaded window over the stairs in Park Cottage came from St Mary’s Hall.

small window A

Park Cottage has a host of highly unusual features – doors and windows, for example – which are thought to have been re-used by Alfred Mault, possibly also from St Mary’s Hall.

door A

In addition, the sandstone blocks used in the construction could well have once been part of the town wall.

The second owners of the house were the Vickers-Jones family. They moved in in 1880 and stayed until 1975.

In 2003, a grandson of the first owners, Michael Vickers-Jones, jotted down some of his memories of the house. In the paragraph that is relevant here, he writes: “The window in my little room directly over the front door (pictured above), has a definite connection with Queen Anne, though what that connection is I don’t know. I also know that the large split oak door…leading into the cellar also has some historical significance, again I don’t know what that significance is.”
It would be fascinating to have access to the property to allow local history experts to carry out some investigations.

Charles Barker
Stoke Park Residents’ Group,
April 2018.

Additional Information from David McGrory

Alfred Mault was very influential in Coventry. He was the City Surveyor, Corporation Bailiff and Coventry’s Health Officer. He got the job without actually having any experience. He sat on Council Committees in the 1850s, he was secretary of the Builders union, was a Private in the Coventry Volunteer Rifle Corp and its auditor with David Waters. He also played for Coventry & North Warwickshire Cricket Club.

He knew many senior Council Members and Mayors and always gave the lowest tenders for jobs; you tend to think he had inside knowledge! He was a friend of and worked with architect James Murray and built the School of Art, and the Market Hall. The Corporation buildings below/ next to the guildhall and round into St. Mary’s Street.

When the School of Art was opened many objects were put on show including, ‘a post mortem plaster cast of the late James Murray, architect of the building, taken by Mr Mault.’ (Coventry Herald 13 Nov 1863).

Mault himself was the actual designer of the beautiful Elizabethan style baths that once stood in Hales Street.

His builder’s yard was next to the canal wharf and although he was selling it off to leave in 1865 he was still in Stoke in 1871 as he sat as a member of the Grand Jury at the Assizes.

His father was the Rev. Charles Mault who had been a missionary in Nagercoil, East Indies. He died at Park Cottage. As you know Alfred died in Hobart in 1903 reported as, ‘Hobart Surveyor & Officer of Health to the Tasmanian Government and late of Coventry.’

Quite a guy Alfred and a regular in the Guildhall where no doubt he acquired the original window out of the Drapers/Mayoresses parlour, a section of which he placed over a side door at Park Cottage.

Additional Information from Paul Maddocks
ALFRED MAULT, (1829-1902), engineer and civil servant, was born in South India. Exceptionally well educated, he became a competent linguist and acquired some knowledge of public health, arts and mathematics. As a civil engineer he helped to build part of the Glasgow and south-west railway near Kilmarnock, the Neilston and Barrhead branch and the Caledonian railway near Rutherglen.

For some time he lived at Coventry, designing and building water-works, and wrote a textbook for Macmillans on Natural Geometry (London, 1877). He then moved to France and as chief engineer designed and built railways. He built them to the British track gauge of 4′ 8 and a half” (1435mm) and that has become the norm throughout the world. To this day, French trains run on the left.

With high testimonials Mault applied to the Tasmanian government for engineering work in November 1882 and in 1883 was appointed to survey the Derwent Valley railway. In 1886 Mault was appointed to the Central Board of Health as engineering inspector at a salary of £350.

Mault had been elected a member of the Royal Society of Tasmania and was elected to the society’s council in 1901. He died of cancer at his home in Hobart, on 16 November 1902 and his funeral service was well attended.

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