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NUNEATON MEMORIES; Keeping Bridge Street in the family: THE HISTORY OF CHILVERS COTON GOES BACK OVER TWO HUNDRED YEARS FOR ONE NUNEATON FAMILY.

SOME time in the early 1930s, Warwick Stubbs wrote: "When the Warwickshire novelist George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) sprung into fame with her early studies of Warwickshire country and parochial life in the early nineteenth century, as embraced in her Scenes of Clerical Life, she drew largely upon the scenes, happenings and reminiscences of her youth.

"Notably upon her life at Chilvers Coton, at the parish church of which she was baptised, and at which church she worshipped for many years, the life of the villagers of Chilvers Coton - farmhands, coal miners, or ribbon weavers.

"The dwarf stone or brick houses wherein they dwelt and the quaint taverns where the colliers drank copious draughts of potent home brewed ale, were very familiar, and an open book to the young eyes of the novelist."

Today, significant changes are taking place in this literary parish. Many of the inhabitants are real old Warwickshire types, both in regard to a peculiar idiom of speech, and old fashioned sayings and customs.

Chilvers Coton was in those days a curious strung-out sort of village which spread along Coton Road into the centre of its neighbouring parish of Nuneaton. It stretched out into the coal mining district towards Stockingford at Heath End, along the Coventry Road, and towards Attleborough where it joined the hamlet at the Cuttle Mill on the Wem Brook.

Dotted around were numerous ale houses which saw to the needs of miners and farm hands, weavers and ironworkers, paupers, servants and brick yard labourers. Generations of old Cotonians were familiar with their names: the Virgins Inn, the King William IV, the Fleur de Lys, the Hare and Hounds, the Horseshoes, the Newdigate, the Boot Inn, the Wharf Inn, the Sheepsfoot Inn, the Asses Head, the Rose and the Jolly Colliers.

Most are long gone and hardly remembered. Others have been rebuilt out of all recognition to their former quaint wattle and daub half-timbered selves.

Perhaps the heart of Chilvers Coton was the Bull Ring and its main street which we know today as Bridge Street. Two hundred years ago Bridge Street appears to have been known as Market Street.

Two Bridge Street families, the Boffins and Kinders, survived and still have links with the district today.

The Boffins are well known because one branch opened a much-loved and remembered food shop and cafe in the passage connecting the Market Place with Newdigate Street. The first generation was headed by William Boffin (1889-1955 who was buried at Chilvers Coton. Born in Mollington, Oxfordshire he married Hannah Butler (1791-1873) at Farthinghoe, Northamptonshire in 1822. Almost immediately after their marriage they moved to Chilvers Coton and Hannah was still living in Bridge Street with her extended family in 1871.

The Kinders were remarkable because they lived in Bridge Street for over two hundred years. The Kinder family are believed to have originally come from Derbyshire in the 16th century and there were Kynder/Kinders around the town of Glossop in the 1400s. It is supposed they got their name from a piece of windswept moorland that we now know as Kinder Scout with its impressive 100ft waterfall. Perhaps they took their name from a lonely farmstead on that wild moorland.

It is true that they farmed first locally at Corley in the 1500s and by 1600 were living in Chilvers Coton. By 1684 they were well established villagers in what is now Bridge Street.

In the census of that year Thomas Kinder senior (aged 69) and Thomas Kinder junior (aged 45) are described as husbandman. They had the use of land which was rented from the Newdigate Estate. In Chilvers Coton terms they were leading townspeople. However, it is surprising to find that Thomas Kinder, (1854-) the parish clerk and tax collector, was still resident in the very same street (maybe even the same house) in 1901.

Of course, all that has changed. Bridge Street is not what it was. Many of the old properties were designated slums and pulled down. Nearly every old house, with a few notable exceptions, has gone.

With it the spirit of the Boffins and the Kinders, blown to the four winds. It is good to know that there are many Kinder descendents in America, as there are many old Nuneaton families throughout the world who are actively seeking their roots here in Chilvers Coton.
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Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Lee, Peter
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jun 5, 1999
Words:724
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