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History of Holbrook

The multicultural suburb of Coventry called Holbrooks sits on the secret of its origin. The "Brooks" are buried along most of their length now. They criss cross the district along valleys from east to west so that in the grounds of both Park Gate and John Shelton schools children play unwittingly over one or more of the four "Holbrooks".

A century ago at least four brooks would have been visible in Holbrooks. Today Coventry City Council maintains the culverts which hold them under the built up area of the suburb. The brooks descend from the relative heights of Corley which overlook the City. The Hall Brook said to be linked to Keresley Hall is behind the naming of "Watery Lane" where today it enters its culvert adjacent to the old bus depot site before running under the length of the same lane. The Victoria County History describes two main brooks running through the ancient Whitmore Park, the Hall Brook, heading east to the River Sowe and the Springfield Brook, heading west for the River Sherbourne.

Council plans show how, crossing Penny Park Lane from Watery Lane, the culverted Hall Brook cuts between Holy Family School and Church to cross Beake Avenue north of no. 528. Maps as late as 1925 show a sheep dip sluice near here where farmers would dip their sheep. Late memories of the open brook in Holbrooks recall children playing in it as well as unconfirmed reports of it going foamy when it was bath time at Keresley Colliery. Another theory on the foam comes from the Coventry Herald of Sept. 26th 1923, "At Keresley....the washing tub of Coventry there are about 14 hand laundries." At Keresley..... The Hall Brook continues along the southern perimeter at Parkgate School grounds where it is joined by the Keresley Brook. It then proceeds along the northern perimeter of Finbarr's Sports ground, across the south east corner of the supermarket car park and under Holbrook Lane.

At the turn of the 20th century the former green fields of "Holbrooks" had given way to suburban housing as compacted as any in Coventry. Industrial development over the last century has led to urban growth along the major lines of communication - the canal, railways and roads - north of Coventry. The establishment of new factories has led in turn to the building of houses for employees in such a fashion as to swamp the old village of Holbrooks with dwellings whose age generally decreases in proportion to distance from the City Centre.

The "Wheelwright's" served the horse and cart as Dunlop was later to serve the motorcar. Wheelwright Lane certainly takes its name from the necessity of former days. Lythalls Lane and Parkgate Road also existed at the turn of the 19th Century as did Nunts Lane. According to Margaret Smedley's "The meaning of the Street Names of Coventry" the former "Foleshill Hall Lane" was renamed "Lythalls" in honour of Edward Lythall "who occupied the Foleshill Hall Estate as a single farm of 165 acres in 1839".

A century ago the industries familiar to Holbrooks' villagers would be coal mining and silk weaving as well as watch making in Coventry and stone quarrying near Nuneaton. The development of Holbrooks as a community over the last century can be traced back to the expansion of industry starting with Dunlop. 1996 saw a celebration of the centenary of car production in Coventry. It was in 1888 that John Boyd Dunlop, a Scottish veterinary surgeon practising in Ireland, invented the first practicable pneumatic tyre. Establishing itself as a supplier to the rapidly expanding motor car industry the Dunlop Rubber Company opened a Rim and Wheel manufacturing Company in Coventry in Alma Street, Hillfields. The 1921 Coventry Directory gives first mention of Dunlop on the White & Poppe site. Eventually a quarter of the present ecclesiastical parish of Holbrooks was to be occupied by the Dunlop factory.

"Black pad" an ancient road from the Keresley area into Lockhurst Lane parallel to the present Burnaby Road, was closed so that a shell filing works could operate on what is now Dunlop Sports Ground. The girls who worked there were known affectionately as the Canary Girls since their work filing the shells with Tetrol led to an unfortunate yellowing of the skin.

[With thanks to Coventry City Council]

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Holbrooks Comments:

Harold wilkinson from Roland Avenue writes: I was born in the munition cottages in 1926 and have many memories of my childhood. One I remember was the two German field guns at the entrance of Foleshill park. I have tried to get a picture of these without any luck. Any ideas please?

Dad was in the Home Guard during the war, as he was in a reserved occupation. He used to tell me that they regular did night patrols and exercises in the park, next door to Dunlop. One exercise at night was to guard a bottle of beer and the rest of the squad had to try and crawl up, undetected, to steal the beer. The Dunlop Rim and Wheel took over the site from SS Cars, later to become Jaguar Cars, after the later moved to Browns Lane. SS Cars changed their name prior to the Second World War due to the SS being linked to Germany. In the centre of the Dunlop Site were the offices previously occupied by William Lyons, many years later I joined Dunlop, and occupied Sir Williams office.

Peter Redhead - 1 February 2016