Transcript of extracts from Coventry City Council "Spon Street Townscape Scheme" 1993 brochure, and "Coventry City Centre Trail" 1993 (reprinted 2000) brochure. Updates have been included where needed. The full A4 12 page "Spon Street Townscape Scheme"brochure has much more detail on both history and current status, and the A5 18 page brochure covers in total around 60 of the most important buildings and sites.
The Spon Street Conservation Area was declared on 8 August 1969. In addition to the buildings described in the booklet, it includes St. John's Church (grade A), Bond's Hospital (grade II*), old Bablake School (grade I), and the Coventry School Former Pupils' Association Headquarters (locally listed). A proposed extension will enlarge its area to include 'topshops' at 13-29 Lower Holyhead Road, 34-44 Hill Street, 1 and 2 Ryley Street (all grade II) and 31 Hill Street (locally listed). Most of these buildings are described in the 'Coventry City Centre Trail', produced by Coventry City Development Directorate.
The rest of this web-page outlines history, and briefly lists the buildings. Pictures of all the Spon Street buildings are reproduced in separate web-pages (which open in new windows so you can read text below as you view the pictures) showing South or North side panoramas - only a selection is used with the text below. A glossary page is also reproduced, explaining some of the more technical or obsolete terms. The first occurrence of such words in the text is marked by an asterisk (*).
By the 14th century, the street pattern in Coventry had been
established in a layout which altered little for nearly 600 years.
One of its most striking features was the west to east axial road running
for nearly 1½ miles from Spon to Gosford Green. Spon End and Spon
Street formed the western section of this route. The first
documentary evidence of the street is in the late 12th century when it was
known as 'Vicus Sponnet', 'Sponn', or 'Spanne'. By this time or the early
13th century there were bars* in Spon Street to the west of the later Spon
Gate, probably at the end of the modern Barras Lane, with ten or more
tenements* lying between the bars and the gate site. Spon or Bablake
Gate was built soon after 1391 with stone from Cheylesmore Park, and
survived until 1771. It was one of twelve gates on the town's
defensive wall. In 1410-11 Spon Street stretched from Smithford
Bridge out as far as the old leper hospital, near the junction of the
present Allesley Old Road and Hearsall Lane. By then the portion
outside the city wall was developing as the suburb of Spon, one of four or
more such medieval suburbs outside the gates.
Most of the buildings in Spon Street are statutorily listed, and some are on the 'Local List'. Buildings qualify for the statutory (government) list by being defined as having special architectural or historic interest. This selection is made by the central government Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), to which anyone can apply to have a budding listed. Although Coventry City Council does not compile the statutory list, it has extensive powers under listed building legislation and, in particular, when dealing with applications to demolish (all or part), extend or alter such buildings. Such works require 'Listed Building Consent'. There are 31 statutorily listed buildings in the Spon Street Townscape Scheme (including St. John's Church).
The 'Local List' is compiled by Coventry City Council, recognizing that there are buildings in the city which may not meet the criteria for the statutory list, but nevertheless have local architectural and historic interest. There are 8 locally listed buildings in the Spon Street Townscape Scheme.
The Pictures of all the Spon Street buildings reproduced in separate
web-pages showing South or North side panoramas illustrate all the pre-1910
buildings in Spon Street (the south and north sides respectively) in strip
format. The illustrations are numbered to correspond with the brief
descriptions of the buildings below, and the full descriptions in the body
of the booklet. The booklet also shows many more black and white
photos of the buildings in their unrestored state.
South Side of Spon Street
1 & 2 (formerly 54-57) locally
9 (formerly 7, Much Park Street) listed, grade
10 listed, grade II
11 & 12 Listed, grade II
Mid to late 15th century? Restored 1977 and 1985.
16 (Formerly 142 & 143 Spon Street)
Listed, grade II
(16a and) 17 Listed, grade
18 Shakespeare P.H. With the rear wing of
no.18, and 22, 23, 24 of Court no.7, locally listed.
(20 and) 21 (Formerly 122-3 Much Park Street)
22 (and 23) Old Windmill P.H. ('Ma
Brown's') Listed, grade II
26, 27, 28 Former Rotherham's Offices
Listed, grade II
North Side of Spon Street
Early-mid 15th c. Restored 1984-85.
163 and 164 (Formerly 8,9 and 10 Much Park
Street) Listed, grade II.
166 Listed, grade II.
167 Listed, grade II.
168 Listed, grade II.
169 Listed, grade II
171 and 172 Listed, grade II.
180 and 181 Rising Sun P.H.
182 Fairfax House Unlisted.
188-190 listed, grade II
Beyond Spon Street
St John's Church
St John's Church was built on land granted by Queen Isabella in 1344 to the Guild of St John the Baptist to build a chapel. This was enlarged to its present size through the 14th and 15th centuries. The church also served Bablake College, a community of priests, whose buildings lay immediately to the north. The College was dissolved in 1548 and the church fell into disuse. In 1648 during the Civil War Scottish prisoners were housed in and about the church. It is said that the unfriendly attitude of Coventrians gave rise to the saying 'sent to Coventry', that is, to be ignored or treated coldly. Eventually in 1734 the church, although ruinous, was given a parish based on the Spon Street area. There were major restorations by George Gilbert Scott in 1858-61 and 1875-77.
For picture, see far right end of North side
The school was founded in 1560 for the education of poor boys, using the east range of the dissolved Bablake College (see St John's Church), which was remodeled but not entirely rebuilt. The central part of the building still contains a hall open to the roof, more typical of 14th and 15th century accommodation. The street side is all jettied, although the section above the sandstone projection, which corresponds to the hall, carries only an internal gallery and not a complete floor. The west side, facing the quadrangle, has a two storey external gallery with an entrance porch and 19th century wing. In 1890 the school moved to its present site on Coundon Road.
Hill Street Gate
The site of Hill Street Gate has been marked at the junction of Hill Street and Bond Street. It was 'made new' after 1423 and demolished in the late 18th century (see plaque).
Bond's Hospital, Hill Street
These almshouses were founded under the will of Thomas Bond (d.1506) to accommodate 10 men. They faced the quadrangle of Bablake College with the town wall at their rear. Most striking is the profusion of 'close-studded' timbering, designed to display wealth and status. The building was enlarged in 1816, and extensively restored in 1832-4 and 1846-7 by Rickman and Hutchinson. The Hill Street frontage was extended over the town wall, which was demolished. Today the almshouses still provide a modern equivalent - a sheltered home for the elderly.
31 Hill Street has a watchmaker's workshop, with the typical long window, in its rear wing, clearly visible from the adjacent Bond Street car park. It dates from c.1890-1905.
[Note: the "rear view" photo was taken in February 2002, then edited to
replace the warehouse in the background by "white sky". Since then a
new building has been constructed in front as 29 Hill Street, so this
photo could not be taken today. The rear can still be seen by
looking down the driveway/passage between 29 and 31, but at a very
This row may represent early 'top shops', where workshops were situated on the first floor, hence the large windows. Bedrooms were probably in the attic, which had to be lit by dormer windows and the roof was steeply pitched to provide headroom. Contemporary maps show that they were built between 1807 and 1837. The arrangement may have proved awkward and the 3-storey 'top shop' with living accommodation on the ground and first floors and the workshop above became the norm (see 'Top Shops', Lower Holyhead Road below).
1-2 Ryley Street is now called the "Eden Restaurant and Bar
This row of 'top shops' has been reduced by half from the original eighteen. They are characteristic of 19th-century industrial buildings in Coventry, but few examples remain. After a long period of economic decline Coventry's revival began in the mid 18th century with the introduction of watchmaking and silk ribbon weaving. These industries were small in scale with workshops built as an upper storey of a dwelling. The typically large windows allowed for maximum daylight. The 'top shops' here date from 1819 and the row was completed by 1837.
The missing half of the row was demolished to make way for the
construction of the Inner Ring Road, in late 1964 or early 1965. They are
all listed, grade II, Nos. 25-29 being added to the list in 1972 and the
rest of the row in 1982.
The Town Wall Tavern at 25/26 Bond Street has been much altered, but
appears on the 1851 Board of Health map. It is well named, as Bond
Street follows the line of the old town wall and was once actually called
"Town Wall". The wall used to run through what is now the 1830s
extension to Bond's Hospital.
'Heritage Open Days' leaflets are available on the Bablake / Bond's
quadrangle and on St. John's Church.
Colour illustrations are the work of Phil Kenning of Kenning Illustration and Creative Design.
Colour photos by Peter Page
Black and white photographs courtesy of the
The guide on which this is based was researched
and written by
See also Coventry Watch Museum Project