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Completing the circuit: The Wall around Pool Meadow


The original line of the wall between Mill Lane and Swanswell gates was rather different to the finished product seen laid out in John Speed's map of 1610.
The original route taken by the wall, before it was re-routed to encompass the Prior's land, is shown by the finely dotted line in the small map on the right. From Mill Lane Gate, the wall continued westward within yards of the south side of the river, which would form a natural "moat", approximately beneath the modern route of Fairfax Street. At the place where Priory Street now exists the wall would've bridged the Sherbourne before taking a diagonal line north-westwards across the meadow to join up with Priory Gate. The "bridging point" of the wall was later a traffic carrying bridge, which in 1856-57 became the place at which the newly built Priory Street crossed the river. The 1749 Bradford plan of Coventry clearly shows the early line of the wall as a dotted line, which would've probably become a footpath from Priory Gate to the bridge into the Prior's land.

However, in 1462 Prior Shotswell made complaints to the council, one of which expressed his annoyance at fish being stolen from the his pool (then known as St. Osburg's pool, now Pool Meadow). At the request of the Prior (and much heated debate), the wall was diverted at great expense to enclose the pool.

In the 1930s, while much alteration was happening around the centre of Coventry, John Bailey Shelton took the opportunity to excavate many sites, and he discovered the remains of a tower at the junction with Hales Street and what used to be the entrance to New Buildings. This tower would nowadays be approximately at the entrance to Sainsbury's at the bottom of Trinity Street. According to J. B. Shelton, this was known as "Priory Tower". Although possibly not part of the outer city wall, it might have been an inner tower or watch tower, possibly used as an armoury.

If you wish to read about this, and much more about John Bailey Shelton's numerous excavations, you may like to read his 1930s Austin's Monthly Magazine articles, the complete collection of which I have published online here with kind permission from his family.

An engraving of the Pool Meadow area around 1809

The heavily dotted line in the mini-map above shows the later rebuild to encompass the Prior's pool. This area was to become the Pool Meadow with which we are now familiar after being drained from the marsh land that it had become by the early 19th century.

The beautiful view of 1809 on the left shows the land across Pool Meadow, looking southward towards the churches of St. Michael's and Holy Trinity.

If you'd like to see how this view compares with today's scene, please click here to see a now and then pairing.

Excavation in February 2017

Pool Meadow car-park excavation February 2017

As the construction of Coventry University student accommodation was about to be begun on the site of the Pool Meadow car-park, across the road from the Fairfax Street swimming baths, archaeologists moved in to survey the area, and uncovered a long hidden section of city wall. It's not a spectacular piece, and only consists of the rubble infill - no neatly cut ashlar stones - but the revealing of this little chunk of our wall has enabled me to accurately pinpoint the position of the northern stretch that once encompassed the Prior's fishing pool. On the mini-map above, the red coloured area to the right of "Pool Meadow" marks the newly unearthed stretch of wall.

The eastern extremity of the dig also appears to reveal part of the angled tower, or semi-circular bastion, that formed the point where the wall turned to the south, as can be noted in the 1749 Samuel Bradford plan of Coventry. The diagonal piece jutting out at the bottom of the photo on the left would've been part of the tower that formed the wall's corner. Above that can be seen the rough infill of the wall as it stretched southwards towards where it again crossed the Sherbourne - it appears not to have been very straight!

Pool Meadow car-park excavation February 2017

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Completing the circuit: The Wall around Pool Meadow
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