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time tunnel: I was a proud member of the Cow Lane gang.


DAVID McGRORY talks to some of the people who grew up, went to school and worked in Cow Lane

THE recent Timetunnel feature on Cow Lane in Coventry city centre certainly stirred many memories.

Harold Hancox was a proud member of the Cow Lane gang and he sent in a wonderful picture of his old pals.

He said: "I was born at 6 Cow Lane in 1921. Our house was at the bottom of the lane near the old Hare and Squirrel pub.

"I remember in my younger days my best friend Bill West and I would take three or four pigeons to the old city arcade under the market clock.

"We sold our pigeons for sixpence and by Wednesday they would be back home and we would take them back and sell them again.

"I also remember the cows, sheep and pigs being driven along the lane. There was a passage in our house and the door had been left open and a cow came into the house and wondered through into our back garden."

Harold, who now lives in Canley, also remembered Harry Trickets' blacksmiths shop where he used to shoe Savagers Bakery and Coventry Farmers Dairy's horses.

He recalled: "Bill and I rode them bareback to their stables in Gulson Road and Argyle Street.

"In those days we made our own entertainment, no telly, no radio. I joined the Warwickshire Yeomanry in 1937 when I was 15, along with my mate Bill and others we took our horses to Palestine in 1939, I was a trumpeter. I came home to Coventry just before Christmas 1944."

ANOTHER who remembered the lane was Mary Endersley of Oldfield Road. She started work at Bushills, printers and box makers, on the corner of Little Park Street and Cow Lane after she left Barrs Hill Girls' School in 1934.

She worked in the invoice office when she was 17 and got to know the factory very well. She said: "Cow Lane seemed a very dark narrow Lane at the time. Bushills was partly to blame, for it was three stories high which cut off a lot of light."

One life-threatening incident occurred during the Blitz, Mary remembered. "One morning after the November 1940 raid I came up Cow Lane to go to work and found the factory ablaze. As I came to the factory a burning building behind me collapsed. I had no way back but instead intended to go back via Little Park Street. As I reached the front of the building I saw just the steel frames in the window panes, with no desk, no cupboard, everything had burned.

"I went to go down Little Park Street only to have another building fall burning in front of me, I was trapped! Luckily there were firemen nearby and they lifted me over the burning rubble. The next day someone from Bushills contacted me and I went to their other building opposite in Little Park Street.

"They had opened the fireproof safe and discovered all the ledgers burned. I had to rewrite them from memory and using the burnt pages, it took me ages."

Mary remembered another important item in those days of strict rationing. "My tin of chocolate bars, which I was saving for Christmas were in the safe, all the Cadbury papers burnt away but the chocolate bars were perfect. I soon however discovered that they had turned into solid carbonised blocks.

"Later I had to get another job, I was never as happy and realised just what a good place Bushills had been."

ERIC ROUSE of Ivybridge Road, Styvechale, wrote to say that he had memories of the lane in 1944 when he was a member of 84 Squadron Air Training Corps based in the old school.

He said: "The school was a rambling place where to get into one classroom you had to go halfway up the stairs, through an archway and down a couple of steps.

"There was a very large hall upstairs where we would parade in bad weather. The school was approached from the lane, though an archway and past the caretakers cottage. There was a playground inside round the walls of which were gravestones. 'Were people really buried there?' we used to wonder."

I would assume that these gravestones, which lined the playground originated from the Cow Lane Baptist Chapel, which opened in 1793. One who was buried there was John Butterworth, minister of the Church for 50 years.

DOROTHY THOMPSON of Grasmere Avenue, Green Lane, sent information concerning his great grandfather John Stokes who came to live in Cow Lane in 1868 with his wife Hannah.

John, the son of a cobbler, was born in Cook Street in 1836 and attended Baker Billings and Crows Charity School in Cow Lane, better known as the Black Gift School, because of the boys black uniforms.

When John left the school he was apprenticed, as were all Gift boys, to tradesmen, in his case to William Mayo, watchmaker. The family still have John's maths exercise book from September 1849 showing beautiful copperplate writing.

John had six children, his son Henry joined him in the watch trade and another one of his son's, Alfred set up as a barber in Much Park Street, his shop was taken down in the 60s and now stands in Spon Street.

John Stokes died in 1915 during the Great War.

JUNE JENKINS of Tile Hill North told me of her father Fred Edwards who worked at Parbury's bookbinders in Cow Lane for 37 years.

June said: "He was in fact a master bookbinder and specialised in the gold lettering. When he died he was described in the press as Coventry's last master bookbinder."

lThanks to all those who have sent in their memories of old Coventry and Warwickshire. In future weeks we shall be featuring more of your recollections.


ANOTHER TIME: Bill West (first left, front row) and Harold Hancox, (second from end, front row) in the Cow Lane Gang and (inset left) Harold remembering days gone by. Inset picture: RICHARD NELMES
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Feb 2, 2002
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