Canley has a very long history and many Neolithic stone axes have been found in the area. A group of 17 iron age houses was discovered in 2001 on what is now Warwick University’s sports field. These are thought to date from between 100 BC to 100 AD.
After the Conquest, the land at Canley was held by the Crown and in 1154 it was acquired by the Cistercian monks of Stoneleigh Abbey. The land remained under their control until the Dissolution and was then passed to the Dukes of Suffolk. Some years later the land was acquired by Sir Thomas Leigh. By 1830 the Leighs of Stoneleigh had amassed over 20,000 acres of land which formed the Stoneleigh estate. Canley remained as part of the estate until it was sold to the Corporation in 1926. It became part of Coventry County Borough in 1930.
The original village of Canley consisted of a small number of cottages which lay below Ivy Farm. Most of the district was countryside noted for its sunken lanes and scattered oak trees. Park Wood and Ten Shilling Wood in Charter Avenue are ancient woodlands, part of the Forest of Arden. During the Leigh’s period of ownership the woods were coppiced and game shooting permits were issued at a cost of ten shillings for Ten Shilling Wood and fifty shillings for Park Wood, which was also known as “Fifty Shilling Wood”.
Gibbet Hill was the site of a gibbet used for executions at least since 1566. It was taken down in the later part of the 19th Century. Cannon Park shopping centre has a replica Civil War canon at its entrance and there is a tradition that Cromwell stored his cannon here. There are strong associations with the Civil War around the neighbourhood.
Today most of Canley is a residential area. A large former council estate is currently the subject of the Canley Regeneration Plan. Many high value new houses have been built in the south of the district. There was also significant industry in Canley and the area was home to the huge Standard Triumph car factory until its closure in the 1980s’. Many iconic cars were made there over the years such as the TR range of sports cars. That site is now the location of a major road junction (known locally as Malfunction Junction) and a big superstore and business park. Warwick University is one of the largest land users in the area and spawned the University Science Park and Business Park. Canley Cemetery is the biggest in the city and is the location of Coventry’s Crematorium .
One of Canley’s most famous and renowned sons was Sir Henry Parkes who emmigrated to Australia in 1839 aged 24. He went on to become Prime Minister of New South Wales on five occasions(between 1872 and 1891) and a strong advocate for the formation an Australian federal union. He is now regarded as ‘Father of the Federation’. He is remembered in local road names and his home in Moat House Lane is much visited by Australian tourists, but is little known in his home city. The building has been recreated as a museum at the Sir Henry Parkes Centre in Parkes, New South Wales.