The following notes are included for
the benefit of Family History researchers wishing to understand more about
their ancestoral background. They are taken from: ' A History of the County of
Warwick: Volume 8'
Foleshill was first mentioned in 1086. This large ancient parish of Foleshill lies to the north of the old City of Coventry. Together with Ansty, it formed an estate formerly held by Godiva.
The name Foleshill has been interpreted as 'hill of the folk or people' which would indicate that a recognizable community existed at Foleshill and that the settlement around Foleshill was particularly noteworthy although there are no indications that a typical village existed in those early times.
On the first useful map, by Beighton in 1725, the village of Foleshill is marked only vaguely, but almost certainly as the hamlet of Hall Green. Hall Green has obvious claims to be the original village. The principal line of the Bulkington, Hinckley, and Leicester road forded the River Sowe there, and there may have been a mill in the neighbourhood by the mid 14th century. But Hall Green is on the eastern edge both of the open fields and the parish, and it is some distance from the church, which is in Old Church Road, between two other hamlets, Bell Green and Little Heath. The church, unlike Hall Green, is on a hill.
However some evidence suggests that the hamlet of Little Heath may have been the original settlement. It was in the middle of the parish and the fields, and nearer to the church than Hall Green.
In the 14th and 15th centuries Foleshill village and the open fields were surrounded by waste and wood, and in the 18th century the principal open fields occupied less than a third of the total area.
Particular medieval occupations included several millers, wrights, a skinner, bailiffs and haywards, a carter, and a cowherd. There is no evidence of established local industry in Foleshill before the development of the mines.
In the 17th century there were still extensive areas of heath, mainly in the south of the parish, used for common grazing under the jurisdiction of the manor of Cheylesmore. Around the open fields were a dozen tenanted farms with enclosed fields. Within this general agricultural pattern there appeared the early industrial growth: the coal-pits on enclosed and open fields, and on heaths, and the cottages of weavers, colliers, and labourers, which were often encroachments on the heaths, strung along the roads as new hamlets.
The first reference to mining in the Coventry district dates from 1579 when Coventry Corporation licensed Christopher Wynold to dig a pit on the waste of Cheylesmore manor in the lane from the Three Mile Tree in Exhall to Hawkesbury Grove in order to prospect for coal. This lane was the modern Black Horse Road, which was later cut by the canal near Hawkesbury lock. By the end of the century, mines were being dug over a wide area between Griff and Bedworth to the north, and Sowe and Wyken to the south.
During the 17th and 18th centuries shallow mines were dug over much of the whole area of northern Foleshill from Exhall to as far south as Bell Green. A late-18th-century map marked several pits in the area, four in Exhall and two near Bayton Road in Foleshill. Some of these mines were worked under lease from the corporation as the holder of Cheylesmore manor, and were operated with mines in Bedworth and Hawkesbury. It was from his mines in Hawkesbury (Sowe) that the enterprising John Brown proposed to build canals to Longford or Hall Green in 1699.
The Parrott (or Parratt) family were working mines in the district from at least 1721, and from 1774 to 1794. The Hawkesbury Colliery, Bedworth, had eight pits, and two others were being sunk. It is not clear precisely where the various pits were.
The collieries declined in the early 19th century. In 1850 the two collieries in the area were Hawkesbury Colliery, owned by George Whieldon, immediately south of Hawkesbury Colliery Farm; and north of Victoria Farm, the Victoria Colliery, which was permanently closed in 1870 after a series of fires in the workings. By 1886 all the mines were disused and marked only by old shafts and workings scattered over the whole area.
The settlement of cottagers on the waste, a process which had gone on since the 13th century, was greatly accelerated by the development of mining. In 1637 sixteen recent inclosures of the waste were reported. Longford, on the principal route from the mining district to Coventry, was shown as a large village in 1725. According to the Compton Census of 1676 there were 284 adults, and in 1730 there were 149 houses in the parish: at Great Heath 20, Little Heath 11, Holbrooks 12, Sydnall 21, Coney Lane (later Grange Lane) 5, Rowleys Green 19, Longford 20, Hall Green 19, and Bell Green 22. ( Foxford, Alderman's Green, and Courthouse Green were probably included with the last three). There is little evidence as to the appearance of these early cottages, almost all of which have disappeared, but no doubt some of them were timber-framed. A cheaper form of dwelling, which may have been provided for colliers and others at Foleshill during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, had mud-built walls, this fact contributing to their subsequent decay. A single thatched cottage of this type, having a central chimney, two rooms, and an attic, has survived in Burbage's Lane at Rowleys Green; others nearby were in existence within living memory.
Hand-loom weaving is said to have spread into the parish soon after the establishment of the ribbon weaving industry in Coventry at the beginning of the 18th century. The first definite reference to it was made by a Coventry weaver who in 1726 said that he had been apprenticed in Foleshill and had spent most of his life there. Foleshill became a famous, or infamous, as a centre of the industry.
In 1801 the population of Foleshill was 3,026. There were just over 600 inhabited houses, four times the number found in 1730. There were 937 industrial workers, all thought to be weavers, and only 65 agricultural workers in the parish. By 1818 there were in the parish 2,544 weavers. The population continued to grow rapidly. In 1831 there were 6,969 people and a total of 1,575 houses and building was still in progress. But the ribbon weaving itself had then passed its peak. The great increase in 1831 was not of weavers, whose numbers had remained constant, but of people who were in fact suburban residents of Coventry. The ribbon trade was subject to unpredictable changes of fashion, and had to face competition from abroad and from other districts of England.
With some changes in machines and organization, ribbon-weaving remained the principal industry of Foleshill until 1860, when the Cobden treaty, followed by a strike throughout the district, began the destruction of the industry in its old form. In 1866 there were said to be 300 power-looms in Foleshill, but many of them were idle. Working conditions were no better than 30 years before, and a new abuse had appeared, the manual turning of the wheels of looms designed for steam power by small boys who worked from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and rapidly became deformed by the cramped nature of the operation. The decline in ribbon-weaving after 1860 is reflected in the fall in the population of Foleshill.
In the early 19th century the people of Foleshill were engaged in only a limited number of occupations, ribbon-weaving, agriculture, and mining, with some boat-building and other canal business, innkeeping, shopkeeping, and similar trades. After the ribbon slump the parish began to develop the wide and enterprising range of activities characteristic of modern Coventry.
20th Century Foleshill Having 2 straight main
roads from the centre of the city and a canal Foleshill began to attract
industry. The remnants of the weaving trade survived and Cash's employed many
people in making silk ribbons etc, Courtaulds put up another factory in 1925
and went on to become world famous for its artificial fibres.