As you drive northwards out of Coventry, travelling along Hall Green Rd.; after about 500 yards, just beyond the junction with Almond Tree Ave. there is a footbridge over the river Sowe. The river runs immediately alongside the road at that point. The bridge crosses the river, and takes you into the greenspace alongside the river and that’s it – no footpath, no clear reason why the bridge is there.
I was bought up in Bell green and as a kid in the very early 60’s I remember sitting alongside the river adjacent to the same bridge, watching Sticklebacks and Water Voles – definitely Water Voles (stubby tails) . There was plenty of life in the river even then, although it was almost certainly more heavily polluted then than it is today.
But back to the bridge. I’ve walked past it and over it innumerable times. And have always been intrigued by it – what was the point of it? Back in the 60’s it was more original, maybe the arching was more apparent and it had lower, rickety rails on either side. Sometime later, probably the 1970’s, the river was given a proper tidy up. The roadside bank was strengthened with a concrete wall to prevent the river undermining Hall Green Rd and the bridge was saddled with a neat concrete slab and modern railings. However, despite the tidying, the original sandstone arch of the bridge remains and is still clearly visible in the attached photograph.
It isn’t until you start to investigate that the bridge makes any sense at all. The bridge makes sense in terms what it used to provide access to. The Manor House estate to the east of Hall Green Road is unsurprisingly named after “The Manor House”. However, there is no physical evidence of the house and farm that used to be there. The bridge however was the principal access point to the farm. The arch of the bridge is of Sandstone rather than brick which would indicate that it is of some considerable age. The location of the manor house was some 200 metres east of the bridge, somewhere near the junction of what is now Sycamore Rd. and Walnut St.
I’m looking to find out more about the history of this intriguing building. British History Online, when looking at the outlying parts of Coventry, specifically Foleshill says –
“A ‘house and homestead’ held by Joseph Slingsby from Richard Hopkins in 1776 (fn. 84) stood between Hall Green Road and Tackley Brook. (fn. 85) It was known as Foleshill Hall in the early 19th century, when it was still leased by the Slingsby family, and was first referred to as Manor House about 1850. (fn. 86) By the 1880s, when extensive repairs were being carried out to the house and farm buildings, it was called Manor Farm or Manor House Farm. (fn. 87) Its proximity to Hall Green, which was possibly one of the earliest settlements in the parish (see below) and which by its name indicates the presence of some substantial house, suggests that this Foleshill Hall or Manor House may have been, or have replaced, a medieval building, but nothing is known of the house’s history before the late 18th century. It disappeared in the construction of the Manor House building estate about 1955.”
If the buildings weren’t demolished until 1955, there is a good chance that there are still people locally with memories of the farm. I’d love to hear from anyone who knows anything about it. There may even be photographs. The 1912, 6” Ordnance Survey Map of the area shows “Manor House” as a quadrangle of buildings, with a small pond to the north – east of the buildings and an orchard to the south.
There are lots of unanswered questions. Was this the Hall that gave Hall Green its name. Does a medieval building predate the eighteen century building referred to. The location would have been perfect for a medieval manor house, standing on a slight rise in the ground surrounded by rivers/streams on three sides. Does anyone know more of the history of the house or of the bridge itself? No doubt there is more that I can unearth by looking through old records and maps, which I intend to do, but I’m keen to hear from anyone who knows more. Let me know if you have information or know of older local people who might have memories of Manor House Farm.
So whatever we can learn about Foleshill Hall or Manor House Farm, the bridge provides us with a reminder of what would once have been one of the principal buildings in the area.
In the meantime I’ll be getting in touch with the City Council’s Conservation Officer to talk about whether it is worth including the bridge on the City Council’s local list of historic buildings / structures given that it provides the only physical link with what was once Foleshill Hall or Manor House Farm.
Peter Hunter, Coventry Society Committee Member