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Front cover of brochure

Allesley Village Conservation Area

Transcript from Coventry City Council 1985 brochure GVA 1441 SJC 9/85, with updates where needed.

Introduction

Despite being only 7.2 km (4 miles) to the west of Coventry City Centre Allesley Village still retains much of its former character as a small Midlands village.  The Minister of Housing and Local Government, in his decision to place a Building Preservation Order on No. 79 Birmingham Road in 1963 stated:

"The particular appeal of the village group of Allesley lay in its pictorial quality as an ensemble and as such it was worthy of preservation, especially as it now the only traditional village group remaining in Coventry."

It is for these reasons that Allesley Village was designated a Conservation Area in December 1968.
  

Today, Allesley Village is located on the western fringe of Coventry's built-up area with the green belt parishes of Allesley and Keresley beyond.  The Conservation Area comprises the heart of the old Medieval village which focuses upon Birmingham Road and its numerous buildings on the list of Architectural and Historical Interest.  This road, which is narrow and winding in parts, originally carried through traffic from London to Holyhead, but this has been relieved since the construction of the Allesley By-pass in 1966.  Some of the original quiet village atmosphere has consequently returned to Allesley, and its environmental quality much improved.

Also included within the Conservation Area are All Saints' Church, 'The Elms' (a pub/restaurant) and buildings of recent construction to the north of the village centre, but which nevertheless form an integral part of the village.  Rectory Lane and Butchers Lane lead in a northerly direction from Birmingham Road to the open land of Coundon Wedge beyond, and they contain a considerable amount of mature planting which has been preserved where new development has taken place.  These lanes form an important landscape link with the character of the village and were consequently included within the Conservation Area.


Rectory Lane

Historical Background

Old documents refer to the settlement as 'Awsley', derived from Aelf's ley - 'ley' being the old English word for a clearing in a wood.  The wood in this instance was the Forest of Arden.  In Saxon times it is thought that a 'castle' or large hall existed near the site of Allesley Hall (outside the Conservation Area). Only the remains of the old moat and a well exist today although from the Inquisition of 1387 it appears that a substantial complex of buildings once existed.  Allesley was not mentioned in the Domesday Book but it is known that by 1140 Ranulph, Earl of Chester, was Lord of the Manor and that he requested Bishop Roger of Coventry to allow the building of a chapel 'for the poor people of Allesley'.   The advowson descended with the Manor until 1741.   An earlier rector, William Ward, in 1638 achieved local notoriety as a drunkard who played ninepins with a butcher on Sundays and fought a cobbler in the alehouse yard.  On another occasion he 'threatened Mrs Hemingham with a naked knife in hand to kill her dog'.  By 1749 the right to present benefice was held by Thomas Bree and has continued in the same family since.
 


Stone House

Birmingham Road was reconstructed as a turnpike between 1825-41 by Telford.  Before this time the road was higher and steeper; the old level can still be discerned by examining the stone steps leading to the entrance of The Rainbow Inn.  During the nineteenth century the main excitement in the village came with the passage of the mail coaches between London, Birmingham and the North.  Cattle fairs were also held regularly in the village with the stalls set up in the broad footways in the middle of the village.

Stone House (listed as Grade II*) is one of the oldest houses in Allesley Village and is reputed to be on the original site of the Pack-horse Gatehouse of the 'castle'.  There are tales of a man in armour who still haunts the house although it is said that three ghosts occasionally appear!  There is some doubt as to the age of Stone House but the present building dates from before 1557 when it was owned by John Milward.  The freehold was bought in 1608 by a new owner who added the carved date and initials 'WWO' on the tablet over the porch.  The building is of red sandstone with a gabled old tiled roof.  It has two storeys and attics, three gables and a central projection above the porch. It has stone cornice moulding, stone gable copings and red brick chimney stacks.  To the rear of the building are two red brick outhouses; one being the old bake-house and the other containing a well and pump.  Beyond these lies the large walled garden which has a southerly sloping aspect. Stone House is owned by the City Council and until 1974 was used as an old persons' home, and is now on a long lease to a private occupier as a single residence.
 


The Rainbow Inn 1900

The Rainbow Inn (73 Birmingham Road) is listed as a Grade II building.  It is an early nineteenth century whitewashed brick refronting of an earlier timber framed structure probably dating from the sixteenth century with the framework exposed on the east side.  There is some early stonework below.  It is one storey high with attics, and has a two-storey wing to the west.  The roof has old and machine tiles with a corbelled brick cornice.

There are several former pubs in the village now used as dwelling houses.  'Gable End' (now part of Allesley Hotel), near the village centre, was once called 'The Pannier'.  It had a lawn that was renowned in eighteenth-century England as one of the finest bowling greens in the country.  There were two very large coaching houses along Birmingham Road called 'The Windmill' and 'The White Lion'; the latter was famed for its home-brewed ale and cheesecakes.  This is now divided into two houses called 'Park House' and 'Lion House'.  The 'Windmill' is now located on the A45 and was in use as a farmhouse until the mid-1980s, when it reverted to use as a hotel and restaurant.  The site has seen extensive development as a hotel since and is now known as 'Windmill Village'.
 


Doorway of cottage in
Butchers Lane

 
The Gazebo on
Birmingham Road

On the north side of Birmingham Road is 'The Lodge' (listed Grade II) which was built c. 1720 for Christopher Capel.  The worn sandstone cellars, however, suggest that they are a greater age.  The house is built of red brick and has an old tiled hipped roof with brick cornice.  It is two storeys high with attics and plain single pilasters.  It has a recessed central door and rectangular fanlight under a hood on cut brackets.  The house was previously known as 'The Curate's Lodge' since it was used by curates of the parish after it became Bree property in the last century.  A large well in the yard was bricked up in 1914.

All Saints Church is built of red sandstone on rising ground to the north-east of Birmingham Road on the site of the original chapel.  The style of architecture is predominantly 'transitional' (between Norman and Early English). It consists of a chancel with vestry adjoining, nave, north and south aisles, south porch and west tower with spire.  The tower is probably Norman and the spire, which is slightly crooked near the summit, Early English. The twelfth century arcade on the south side is all that remains of the original chapel built in 1130. The northern aisle was added in the fourteenth century when the chancel may also have been built.  The chancel and south aisle were completely rebuilt in 1863 when the whole church was restored. The vestry and porch are recent.  On the east side of the churchyard are two oak trees and a horse chestnut tree which were planted in the spring of 1820. The large beech, horse chestnut and scarlet oak trees in front of the Rectory were planted in 1810. The previous rectory dated from 1863 but was demolished and replaced by the new rectory in 1963. The gazebo of the former rectory is of unknown date and is set in the wall overlooking Birmingham Road.
 


Allesley Village 1900

Before the provision of piped water the village wells were of prime importance.  Other than the privately owned wells there were at least two village wells.  One stood outside Allesley House (now Allesley Hotel) and the other below the entrance to the former Paybody Hospital, now 'The Elms'.

The latter was known as St Margaret's Holy Well and the wooden base still exists in the verge, albeit hidden amongst the undergrowth. Another well, known as Lord's Well, was mentioned in the Inquisitions of the Manor in the fourteenth century and stood in a field now cut by the A45.  A few thorn trees now mark the location and after long spells of dry weather the circular stone opening can be discerned.
 

The Situation Today


Allesley Village 1978

Since the Conservation Area was designated in 1968, various improvements in the visual quality of the village have been undertaken. Allesley Village was the first of the City's Conservation Areas to be selected for environmental improvement. Overhead telephone wires have been removed together with the repair and repainting of posts and rails, repair of kerbs and footpaths, repair and rebuilding of sandstone walls, landscaping, provision of fencing and a bus shelter, and the fixing of plaques to listed buildings.

Proposed new developments requiring planning permission will be considered by the local planning authority within the context of the Conservation Area and private owners will be encouraged and given advice where necessary to undertake works in character with the area.
 

Acknowledgements:
1. Local Studies Section, Central Library
2. Mrs. J. R. Anderson
3. Mr. L. C. Philpott

 


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