Walking Backwards No 2. Down Daventry Road to the Charterhouse.

Today we continue Peter Walter’s series of lockdown walks “being a compendium of idle facts, hidden places and meaningless historiana gathered on walks within easy striding distance of the writer’s abode – and beyond”.

Daventry Road itself is one of the few in Cheylesmore that does not bear a name drawn from Coventry’s distant past. From long-forgotten Benedictine Priors to incinerated Lollard martyrs, the Middle Ages are everywhere in the tidy suburban streets, thanks to a crazed medievalist in the city’s street-naming office in the 1930s, when the estates were being laid out.

Near its end, where it dips to meet the London Road, Frankpledge Road leads off left past the church called Christ Church, built in the 1950s to replace the Victorian garrison church that flanked the thirteenth century spire of Greyfriars – until it was flattened in the April 1941 air raids.

The exterior of Christ Church is little more than post-war utilitarian, but a clue to what lies inside can be seen in its unusually shaped high windows. The church has an interior (from memory) that blazes with purples and blues and possesses a style that is almost high Scandinavian in its effect.

The inside of Grade 2* Listed Christ Church

Beyond lies Quarryfield Lane (all that frantic stone-working again) and the side entrance to the London Road Cemetery. Back in the 1850s, when the cemetery was still a novelty and largely unoccupied, a fine purple beech tree was growing in a nursery on the site of a planned development of expensive new houses in town, to be known as The Quadrant.

The ancient Purple Beech

The tree was already nearly a hundred years old and nearly 30 feet tall, but it was dug out of the ground and carried on carts through the streets (breaking windows with its trailing branches) to the cemetery, where a hole had been prepared for it. It stands there still, a giant just beginning to show its April 2020 foliage and now stretching itself above the grave of a man named Richard Knibbs, close to the railway line.

From here, find the best way you can down to ground level and take a quiet stroll (seriously) across the London Road to Charterhouse.

The Charterhouse during restoration – the scafolding has now been removed.

King Richard II declared it open. King Henry VIII had it shut down. And now the home of the Carthusians, one of only three to survive in England, has vanished beneath a festoon of scaffolding as it prepares for the next chapter in its 600-year history. But halfway down the drive you can still lean on the bridge and stare deep into the murk of the river that once fed the monks’ fish pools.

Long ago I knew a stream in Dorset called the Piddle that had a stronger flow than the mighty Sherbourne at this point. But that’s another story.

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