Initial Research Into Coventry’s Equestrian History
Before I can choose a site to suit my project idea (equestrian fashion), I need to find some general research on Coventry’s equestrian history to enable me to choose the right location.
“The medieval village was built along the road (now Leamington Road) which runs south from Coventry to Finham Bridge and thence to Warwick on the west, and to Stoneleigh and Leamington on the east.”
“The inquiry of 1725 illustrated some of the general difficulties of open-field farming. As has been noticed, the permanent common or heath in Stivichall was comparatively small. By about 1680 this and the stubble field were proving insufficient, and the tenants said that they could not keep enough cattle for the manuring and ‘managing’ of their holdings, though it is not clear why the situation had not been apparent before. Most of the tenants also had grass leys in the arable fields (where horses might be tethered), and there were some old closes. At the same time Park Field was said to be so worn out with ploughing and overrun with weeds that it was not worth cultivating. Accordingly about 1690 it was agreed that Park Field should be put down to grass as a common pasture, while the grass leys in the two other fields were ploughed up; a period of fallow was apparently no longer included in their crop rotation. The stint of cattle was also reduced.”
[online] available from <http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/warks/vol8/pp90-96>
W B Stephens (London, 1969) ‘The City of Coventry: The outlying parts of Coventry, Stivichall’, in A History of the County of Warwick: the City of Coventry and Borough of Warwick. 90-96. [online] available from <http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/warks/vol8/pp90-96>
Frederick Whitehead. Warwickshire, the Land of Shakespeare. 1922.
Frederick Whitehead is an interesting landscape artist I found whilst researching medieval Coventry. He was born in Leamington Spa in 1853.
You can just about see in the painting the kind of equestrian, hunting fashion worn in 1922, it looks very similar to today’s attire. The important riders, possibly hunt masters are wearing scarlet coats, with white undergarments and black riding boots with a brown leather top. It’s clear this painting is of a hunt meet due to the hounds, horses and riders scarlet coats featured.
After finding it difficult to find much research around any equine happenings around Coventry in medieval times before it became a big city, I had to think more carefully how I could go about finding such evidence. I know that (stereotypically) most royalty have some kind of involvement with horses, usually riding is a passionate hobby of theirs. So I’ve started to research into this, discovering that there has been British royalty living in and around Coventry…
Coventry has a connection with the Gunpowder Plot.
“King James I sent his eight year old daughter, Princess Elizabeth, to live at Coombe Abbey and be looked after by Lord Harrington. The huge expenses involved in keeping her and the followers happy very nearly made him bankrupt.
In the early hours of November the 5th, Lord Harrington at Coombe Abbey received word of the uprising and the ‘Hunting Party’ on route from Dunchurch to capture her and place her on the throne as a Catholic Queen.”
“Fearing for Elizabeth’s safety, Sir John Harrington sent her into the custody of Sir Thomas Holcroft, within the walled city of Coventry, where she lodged with Mr. Hopkins of Palace Yard, off Earl Street.
The Mayor, Mr. Collyns, and nine other citizens mounted guard on the house, drawing bows, pikes, blackbills, corslets, partisans, halberds and gloves from the city armoury.”
Orland, R. (2015) Coombe Abbey and the Coventry connection [online] available from <http://www.historiccoventry.co.uk/1605/main/coombe-cov.php>
The Earl Leofric and his wife, Lady Godiva, are the most famous couple to be associated with Coventry town thanks to their early development
“Even before marrying Leofric, Godgifu was a woman of high status, and owned much land. Her alliance to Leofric, however, made them an extremely wealthy couple who endowed many religious houses with riches, particularly the monastery in Coventry”
“Leofric was one of the three most powerful men in the country, reporting directly to the king. It was King Cnut who appointed him Earl the year after coming to the throne in 1016, and for forty years Leofric’s influence and power grew until he died in 1057. Godgifu died ten years later – by then the most powerful lady landowner in England.”
“Lady Godiva is remembered principally nowadays of course, for her naked ride through the town on horseback, allegedly in an attempt to persuade her husband to lower the taxes that were crippling the poor citizens of Coventry. It is a wonderful story that has spanned many centuries but for various reasons it is unlikely that such an event ever happened at all.”
Orland, R. (2016) Historic Coventry [online] available from <http://www.historiccoventry.co.uk/history/history.php>