Copsewood Grange was erected in 1872 by James Hart, a ribbon manufacturer. The date 1870 is on the Lodge at the entrance to the Grange with what seems to be Hart’s initials carved in the stone. The estate buildings are said to have cost £5000. Hart’s large factory, the Victoria Mills, was in Lancastrian Yard in the Burges. The site is now part of the West Orchards shopping complex. With the decline of the ribbon trade, both the Grange and the factory became known as Hart’s Folly.
The Grange was sold in 1879 to Richard Moon M.D. of the London and North Western Railway, which at the time was the largest joint stock company in the world. He was living there when he was created a Baronet in 1887. There is a bust of Sir Richard in the York Railway Museum. The estate now covered more than 200 acres and included the site of the old Biggin Hall. It is said that Sir Richard Moon bought this house because it overlooked the London to Birmingham railway line, so he could keep an eye on the trains to see if they were running on time. After Sir Richard Moon, a Mrs Mellowdew and her two daughters lived at the Grange – (Mellowdew Road is named after her).
The Grange was sold again in the 1920s when the Peel Conner Telephone Company, which later became the GEC (General Electrical Company), moved from Salford to Coventry to design and manufacture telephone exchange equipment. A huge tract of land was purchased on which was built the factory and housing for employees. GEC used Copsewood Grange as a hostel and social centre for its first employees. These residents planned and initiated the golf course construction and this was recognised as one of the best staff clubs in the country. It was also the clubhouse for the Marconi Golf Club.
In 1968 deep excavations were dug across the golf course for a new sewerage system. This was the setting for the famous scene in the film “The Italian Job” starring Michael Caine, with mini cars racing through a giant pipe. In the 1980s Allard Way was built through the middle of the golf course and as the fortunes of the GEC fluctuated during the 1990s, the company and therefore the club’s name changed from GEC through GPT to Marconi.
When Plessey/ Marconi closed the factory, it was demolished and the site was sold for redevelopment. At that time the City Council had a policy that where land that had once been used for industrial purposes, one third should stay for industrial use. Unfortunately the one third that was left for industrial use was the area where Copsewood Grange and Copsewood Lodge were situated. The other two thirds of the site were scheduled to be developed for housing. Despite marketing, it was soon clear that no one would take on the Grange and surrounding area for industrial development. The Grange and The Lodge both fell into disrepair, were attacked by vandals and suffered arson attacks.
In response to this problem the Coventry Society launched a campaign to save the historic buildings. Apart from the heritage aspect of the mansion itself, the Society also argued that its fine sylvan surroundings and landscaped parkland of high quality, was unsuitable for warehouse/industrial units. Endless efforts to secure commercial interest were repeatedly unsuccessful and the Society maintained its position insisting it should be re‐allocated for residential purposes. ‘Save Britain’s Heritage’ joined the campaign and added the property to its “buildings at risk” register. An emergency protection notice was served by the Council for both Copsewood Grange and Copsewood Lodge. While the Society appreciated the need to reserve land for industry and jobs it was quite clear that the prospect of years of dereliction and continuing vandalism would not only have a negative effect on the Stoke area but also be a significant loss to the whole of the City.
In 2012 the City Council agreed to alter the original development plan and approval was given for the construction of 329 homes and a retail unit. Alterations to Copsewood Lodge would enable its rehabilitation as a three‐bedroom dwelling. The plans required the Grange itself to be adapted to create 17 apartments with an internal access road and most importantly a comprehensive management scheme for the trees within the site.
After some years of inactivity, the development site was sold to new owners, Morris Homes, in 2015. After many difficulties, caused by the deterioration of the building, Morris Homes has now restored the Grange to its original elegance with up-market flats.
The Society believes that these buildings form an important heritage asset to the city and we know they are highly valued by local people
A topping out ceremony was held in October 2018, attended by CovSoc committee members.