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The Coventry outings of Brian Rowstron & family

Charabanc full of people

Our next instalment comes from Brian Rowstron who has lived in Australia since 1971. A big music fan, he was the founder and President of the 'Official Mike Batt Appreciation Society' (Australia), so thanks to Brian, my ears have been opened to another wonderful branch of music.

Tom Brown outside the New Star

The first photograph on the right was taken around 1924, and among the group of people about to take a trip on this charabanc is his mother - on the far right, aged thirteen. Transport is something we all take for granted these days, but of course, earlier in the twentieth century a day out like this was still a real novelty.

The next two photos involve not only Brian's family, but scenes which might be remembered by more senior Coventrians:

On the left in the 1920s can be seen his great uncle Tom Brown standing proudly outside his own pub, the New Star, at 140 Much Park Street. This public house began life under the name "Old Mitre" and was listed in a journal as early as 1756. In 1884 the name was changed to the "New Star" and remained as such until c1959.

To the right is Brian's great grandfather taking a stroll down High Street, sometime after 1930. In the background can be seen the corner of the Kings Head Hotel on the left and the large white uprights of Burton's shop on the right, both marking the opening to Smithford Street. Like Much Park Street, this popular shopping area was also flattened in the blitz and nothing remains today since the whole length of Smithford Street had to make way for the Precinct.

High Street 2004 Brian's great granddad in High Street

Below that photo is one taken in 2004, and as can be seen, the building on the right has survived, but beyond that little would be recognisable to the 1930s visitor. If the older photo had been taken with a wider lens, to the left would have appeared the National Provincial Bank, now known as the Nat-West, completed in 1930 and just visible in the lower photograph.

We can now move on a few years to Brian's own memories of Coventry - in this case using photographs taken during visits "back home" during the 1980s.

The Fire Station.

"To me, this was the start of 'town'. It's what I'd pass on the old No.21 or No.22 bus route into Broadgate. To me it said 'adventure', fire engines, huge fire escape ladders with big wheels, the clanging of bells on the trucks and the brave men that risked their lives to save others. How sad it was to see it (the building), be forgotten and left to deteriorate for many years. How glad I was to see that it had been restored on my last visit."

The Old Fire Station

The Coventry Theatre.

"They changed our local Palias into a... Bingo Hall??!! Sacrilege! The Coventry Theatre to me represented many eras of my life as a Coventrian. For many years at Christmas-time it was where every lucky kid would go to see the Pantomime. 'Look out behind you!!' we'd shout as the villain crept up on the hero!.... and we'd all get a box of chocolates as we left after the show. My brother once won a car a long time ago, back in 1964. It was a Hillman Imp and it was presented to him on the stage there by Dickie Henderson and Jimmy Tarbuck after a 'Variety Performance'. The car was driven onto the stage by Jimmy Clitheroe. Later it became a cinema and I remember seeing my hero Clint Eastwood there in 'Where Eagles Dare'.
Incidently, the little shop attached to the Cov' Theatre was the only place in Coventry back then where one could buy a genuine Paddington Bear! Such great memories."

Apollo Theatre 1985
Just a quick note: This super photograph of Brian's can be dated to Spring 1985. The posters are sadly advertising the very last few shows ever presented at the Coventry Theatre.... Pinocchio, Cannon and Ball, Rod Hull and Emu, a Sixties Night with The Troggs and Billy J. Kramer.... leading up to the very final performance at the theatre by Barbara Dickson on Thursday the 6th of June 1985.

The Magpie House.

Trinity Street

"Any building presented in this way (black and white), was always referred to as a 'Magpie House' for obvious reasons. This particular outstanding example at the top of Trinity Street was always 'Boots The Chemist' to me. It's a fine looking building and I'm so glad it still stands there today in all its glory."

The Merry-Go-Round.

"It was called a 'Roundabout' in my childhood and was located on the edge of the circular Coventry Market. I had many rides on it as a kid. It might have been the catalist that inspired me into becoming the driver I am today! I hope this photo brings back many happy memories for all those that see it reproduced here."

The Merry-go-round

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Coventry Remembered, by Andrew Ross
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The Coventry outings of Brian Rowstron & family
Next page:
Time Gentlemen Please! - Jo Shepherd's Family
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