Westwood Heath is a growing neighbourhood on the south west of Coventry, sandwiched between Tile Hill, Canley, Cannon Park and the boundaries with Warwick County Council and Solihull Council. Part of the University of Warwick lies within Westwood Heath, though the majority is outside of the area.
Historically the area was part of the Stoneleigh Estate, being sold to Coventry Council in 1926 by Lord Leigh. Development of the area has progressed since that time, though there are still some of the original houses and buildings put up in the time of Lord Leigh and these have the Leigh crest in a sandstone block at the front of the building. A school and reading room were financed by the Leigh family in the mid to late 19th century, and these buildings still exist. The original cottage school was founded in 1841; the main school – now church – was begun in 1872. Both were funded by Lord Leigh. St Johns church, founded in 1844, is the major Anglican church, and a Greek Orthodox church now occupies the old school building. Both of these can be found along Westwood Heath Road.
The old London and North Western Railway line provides the boundary with Tile Hill, and this is the current mainline between Coventry and Birmingham with a station at Tile Hill. HS2 will be close by but doesn’t actually cross Westwood Heath itself.
Significant housing development since the 1950s has seen the area grow from a small farming hamlet to a significant part of the city of Coventry. Almost all of the signs of the farming have been covered by the University of Warwick, though one notable exception is Gibbet Hill Farm farmhouse. At the time of writing (Dec 2022) this farmhouse is potentially under threat, and efforts are being made to preserve it.
Some of the ward is used for business, with Westwood Business Park set up specifically for this. The decline of businesses in the area is seeing the buildings change use to student accommodation. There is a significant site along Westwood Heath Road which was built by Cable and Wireless as a training centre. The roof of the main building is said to represent the waves across the Atlantic, as Cable and Wireless laid a significant part of the cables between the USA and the UK in recent times. The building was hailed as the finest example of modern British architecture in 1994 when it was crowned the best building in Britain by the Royal Fine Arts Commission. This training building was taken over by Network Rail and they are now due to leave and could pass the site onto a new owner. The building is currently being reviewed with a view to Local Listing.
Westwood Heath is served by an active Residents Association, which has a History Group researching the local history of the area. Some significant people have links with Westwood Heath, including Sir Henry Parkes who was Premier of New South Wales on several occasions. He was originally brought up in Gibbet Hill Farm farmhouse. Cicely Lucas lived in the school and taught there, after spending some time in Paris just before the First World War. She was also a notable member of the Women’s Movement and has recently been recognised as part of the Mapping Women’s Suffrage 1911 Map due to the work of the History Group. The Westwood Heath History Group website can be accessed by the main Residents Association website or directly.
[This page and its photos have kindly been provided by the Westwood Heath History Group]