Jabet’s Ash and Pit

Jabet's Ash
The Current Version of Jabet’s Ash

In January 1929 a public spirited land owner in Binley Road presented to the city a small piece of land with a sapling ash tree growing on it. The land and tree was presented by a Mr Henry Whiteman. The young ash tree was a seedling of an ancient tree that stood nearby called “Jabet’s Ash”. In addition the generous Mr Whiteman paid for the land to be enclosed and the Council paid for a plaque to be erected describing its history. Mr Whiteman’s donation was “to preserve the traditions of the spot, and to commemorate Alderman William Hewitt, Mayor of Coventry who resided in this neighbourhood, and who died during his Mayoralty on the 3rd June 1924”.

The historic Jabet’s Ash stood for centuries and marked the boundary between the city and county. Located at a corner of the hedge on Gosford Green, the old tree died and decayed and was in a dangerous condition before its removal by the City Council’s General Works Committee. In fact as early as 1868 “a Justice of the Peace, living at Stoke, noticing the signs of approaching decay, laid fresh soil about its roots, and did what was possible to preserve its life” – which helped it survive a further half century.

However it is believed that even the old tree was not the original Jabet’s Ash – the first dating back several hundred years before Stoke Church was built in the thirteenth century.

The history of Jabet’s Ash was recorded by Dr Blyth in his History of Stoke. From many sources he gathered together the story of it. “Notwithstanding its venerable appearance,” he wrote, “it probably occupies the site of a former tree, inheriting its name and serving its purpose.”

What’s in a name?

The reason the tree was called “Jabet’s Ash” is not known but there has been a lot of speculation over the years.

One theory is that the tree was named in Norman times after a Prior of Coventry called Joybert and the name Jabet is a corruption of that name.

Another theory is that “a certain John Jabet who held land in Jabet as well as the immediate vicinity of Coventry, and was great benefactor to Abbey, which lies about three miles to the east on the same road, in all probability it takes its name from some circumstances connected with him.” There are records of a John Jabet who lived in Bishop Street ward in 1449.

It has also been suggested that it derives its name from having been used as a gibbet, or having occupied the site of one.

In support of this opinion is a passage in an ancient Charter quoted by Dugdale, as having been given by Hugh Kevilok, Earl of Chester about AD 1184 under King Henry II. The Charter describes the boundary lines between the Earl’s and the Prior’s portions of the city, and is the forerunner of the divisions of St. Michael’s and Holy Trinity parishes. The passage in the Charter is worded as follows, “And thence by the Brook of Endemere to the Highway leading from the midst of Harnall near to Stoke, as far as the Gibbett, and thence descending by Bisseleie to the Brook called Gosford; and so along that Brook and the Ditch; and thence to the Walls of the Boundary.” Where did this gibbet stand if not at Jabet’s Ash?

The tree itself also figures in many historic documents from the time of Richard II. It seems to have been regarded as one of the limits of ancient civic processions, when the Mayor and his brethren went out to meet Royal personages who were coming into the city by that way.

There is a deed in the Muniment Room at St. Mary’s Hall which clearly proves that the tree was a boundary mark more than five hundred years ago. The deed states that “letters had been addressed by Richard to the steward of the King’s Manor of Cheilesmore and the Escheator of Warwick appointing them to inquire whether….  it would prejudicial to the King’s interest or others should he grant the town Coventry all goods, bridges, and profits within the following bounds: “From Jabotsasshe a mill called Nassyngton Mill, to the corner of the stone wall of the park of Chilesmore and thence by same wall and palings of the same park to Baronneswell, and thence to the house, of John Tate of at Dudemanneswell, and thence to the church and cemetery of St. Nicholas of Coventre, and thence to Bottecrosse, and thence to Harnale Quarele, and thence to Gosford Green and Jabet’s Ash aforementioned.”

The tree marked a boundary for many years until the expansion of the city in the 1920s and 30s rendered it obsolete.

Plaque on Jabet's Ash
The Plaque on Jabet’s Ash

Although most Coventrians will have heard of Jabet’s Ash, how many have heard of Jabet’s Pit? This refers to a hollow which was on the opposite side of the road to the Ash tree.

It was reported in the Coventry Standard on 8th January 1915 that “Parts the Green which are not required for regulated games are to be levelled, and the present hollow ground they propose to improve and make into a kind of children playground. Not many people know ‘that the hollow ground was once a pool, known as Jabet’s pit. It was more worthy of the name of slough than a pool though at some seasons of the year a good deal of water lay in it. There was no protection for the road, and one dark night a man walked into the Pit and was drowned. Then the authorities decided to drain it. Some objection was raised, as a matter course, on the ground that the cattle on the green needed the water; but the argument prevailed that Robinson’s Pit on the lower green and the other pit on Stoke Green, would be sufficient for all necessary purposes, and so the pool was drained and the site partly levelled.”

Dr. Blyth in his history of Stoke states that Jabet’s Pit “was mentioned as far back as the time of Queen Elizabeth. This pit was in being in the early part of the [19th] century, and tradition says that it was drained because a drunken man walked into it and was drowned. The depression of the land is still noticeable.”

Our thanks to David McGrory for the information that this article is based on.

The Pavilion in the Park

After years of trying to gain permission to build a multi-purpose building in Allesley Park Walled Garden the project has finally come to fruition.

The Walled Garden group is chaired by former Covsoc Chairman, Keith Draper, and includes a number of other CovSoc members.

In July four lorry loads of parts of the kit built building were delivered to the Allesley Hall car park and group members, with the help of the Rangers and Leisure staff moved it all the Walled Garden. A week later staff from the Worcestershire manufacturing company KEOPS, came along and put it all together in two days.

The group is delighted with the result. Since then the group has been adding a fire retardant coating and “painting” the building. Other work still to be done includes putting in a durable floor covering, designing and installing a water harvesting facility and constructing a terrace.

This is a major step forward for the Walled Garden and will encourage more community activity and involvement. One of the walls will be devoted to picture displays and information about the plants grown there; the history of Allesley, its hall and park, and the natural history of the garden and wider area.

Funds were allocated by the Parks Department to continue with the construction of the all-important paths and it is hoped that the western path connecting the pavilion with the newly built entrance to Allesley Park Community Centre will have some priority in the plan.

Keith Draper, chair of the Group, said “Once up and running we envisage it as a modest visitor centre that will be open when gardeners are working. The operation was something of a challenge and we are indebted to all the delivery men who helped us going beyond their normal course of duty.

“We are also grateful for all the help from the Council’s Ranger team, James, Trevor and Roland. And also Staff from the Golf Office, Izzy and Pete.”

The pavilion sits on concrete ‘pods’, a design that is less intrusive next to the historic walls of the garden.

The logs are substantial and were precision machined to interlock together. The windows fitted with safety glass are double glazed. Their continental opening arrangements allow the whole window to open inwards or alternatively hinge from the bottom to provide ample ventilation when the pavilion is in use.

Insulation is sandwiched between both the double floor and the metal roof. This will keep the cabin warm in winter and cool during hot summer days.
The French doors opening outwards for safety reasons can be hooked back to enable the linking of the building with a large patio.

The Coventry Society sends its congratulations to Keith and the Walled Garden team for their tenacity in pursuing this project and the quality of the finished building.

Consultation Begins on Binley Cycleway

Binley Cycleway at Stoke Green

Further to our recent publication of plans for cycleways in the city, the City Council has published its plans for the first phase of its proposed cycle route from the city centre to University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire.

The plan is for a 3.75 mile long segregated cycleway from the city centre to University Hospital with a detour to the Binley Business Park on Harry Weston Road. It will be positioned between the path and the road and will be physically separated from both using kerbs.

The first phase starts on the south side of Binley Road from Gulson Road running eastwards, At Humber Road there is a joint cycle / pedestrian crossing which senses the approach of cyclists and gives them priority.

At Biggin Hall Crescent, the route crosses to the north of Binley Road via a traffic signal controlled junction. At Church Lane there is another controlled junction. At Momus Boulevard the cycleway replaces the footway and pedestrians use the pavement along Momus Boulevard. The cycleway then moves onto the main carriageway and replaces a traffic lane (reducing the road from three to two lanes) as it runs down to Hipswell Highway where there is another controlled junction.

From Hipswell Highway the route continues on the north side of Binley Road, turning left along Brinklow Road as far as the junction with Clifford Bridge Road. Phase 2 of the route runs along Clifford Bridge Road and will be the subject of consultation at a later date.

At the Brinklow Road / Clifford Bridge Road junction there is a cycle / pedestrian access to Binley Business Park, the details of this are yet to be developed.

The cycleway has been developed and designed to accommodate the needs of people that do not usually cycle. In a recent survey across the West Midlands, the biggest reason people gave for not cycling is that they are concerned about safety, followed by a lack of confidence. These proposals aim to reduce those concerns and encourage more people to cycle.

People on cycles will have priority over traffic entering and leaving side roads. In some cases side roads will become closed to vehicular traffic. At signalised junctions the cycleway will have its own set of traffic lights to ensure safety across the junctions.

Consultation is now taking place on these plans and a “Street News” has been delivered to 6000 residents living near the route. The deadline for comments is 31st October 2020.

Binley Cycleway at Raleigh Road

Lighting the Way

Proposed lighting scheme in Greyfriars Green.

The City Council has unveiled plans for an eye-catching trail of light which will guide people between Coventry’s railway station and the city centre. It is set to be installed before this Christmas.

The illuminated route will run through Greyfriars Green and up Warwick Row to create a warm and inviting setting at night.

A number of themed variations to the lighting scheme are planned to coincide with events such as Christmas, Pride and the City of Culture celebrations.

The project is part of a £44 million package of public realm improvements being implemented in the city centre in the run up to City of Culture. Other lighting schemes will show off some of the city’s cultural and heritage assets, including the canopy at Hertford Street and the Whittle Arches.

Other Public Realm projects include environmental schemes in the Upper Precinct, Smithford Way and Market Way, publich realm works in Bull Yard and outside the new Wave, the refurbishment of Hertford Street and the upgrading of walking routes across the city centre. A major refurbishment of Pool Meadow is also planned.

Alan’s Latest Creation

Local community entrepreneur Alan Denyer has expanded his restoration company, AWD Restorations, by setting up a community support operation to help local grassroots cultural projects in the city.

Named AWD-CP (CP is short for ‘creative projects’), the company will be giving spare time and expertise (restoration, makeover/set-dressing, branding, venue management, curation, promotions & marketing) to help local community groups transform buildings and spaces into places where the public can enjoy culture.

Alan is well known in the city for his support for local cultural projects. He was the driving force behind the CET Popup back in 2017, co-ordinating a 12 month ‘culture takeover’ of the disused Coventry Telegraph office that attracted 25,000 people and provided opportunity for over 500 local arts and heritage practitioners – young and old.

More recently he has helped Holyhead Studios in Lower Holyhead Road to transform large derelict basements into a venue space. He has also provided support for the West Indian Community Centre in Spon Street and assisted with the re-launch of the Priory Visitor Centre.

Alan’s 2020 project has been the restoration and re-imagination of Earlsdon Carnegie Community Library. AWD donated 8 weeks labour and materials to the library, which has been taken over by community volunteers. The outcome has included an extensive makeover with new Internet café style workstations, ICT equipment, a new reception area and the creation of an Edwardian styled ‘reading room’ and events space including a William Morris wallpaper frieze, chesterfield sofas, dado detailing and several signature period antiques.

Alan Denyer is a force for good in our city and the Coventry Society wishes him well with this latest enterprise.