I was born and brought up in St Nicholas Church Street. It was a sociable street with many adult people. There were only seven children as I grew up, all girls.
As you entered the street from St John’s on your left was the imposing County Theatre, which I do not remember being a theatre as such. It was a cinema for a while and then closed down and became a store. Opposite this, the half-timbered property on the corner was a cafe and tea rooms where we bought ice-cream. Next was a very small shop that was a picture-framers, he had pictures in his window. The next part of the old timber-framed building on the right was a builder’s store and office. On the left was a small car park for the theatre, here we played a little sometimes. On the left started half-timbered cottages which included the New Bowling Green Inn.
I was born opposite here at a block of four three storied houses numbered 6 to 12. They were demolished in the 70s and the current block of flats erected. Next to that block was an entrance to a large builder’s yard with large corrugated timber store. This was a large area; on the Smith Street side were cottages at the rear of a public house which was demolished in the 60s and shops erected.
Houses of older design (some timbered Victorian) continued up the street. Opposite the Vicarage on the left was another entrance to a Corn store which supplied agricultural materials. This now has gone to be replaced by houses. The last house on the right also had a builder’s yard next to it. Long and narrow. This was run by a Mr Tarver who was a Councillor of the town and Mayor.
We were lucky in so far as we were able to go to Warwick Park in safety via the churchyard. We followed the path through neat rows of fencing and bushes and past the large greenhouses at the bottom where the Council gardeners reared flowers for the town and gardens. We had the swings, were able to watch the adults play tennis and bowls, and when the weather was good and we had a group of us we put together bat and ball and played rounder’s on the field, or football if a bat could not be supplied. The park had an attendant who kept an eye on the children and kept all in good order. We rarely visited at the weekends as families from Birmingham area came down by train for the day and enjoyed the facilities. We went a walk with mum and dad or sat by the river.
I remember when St Nicholas Church Street was closed for a complete rebuild and laying of new pipes. For months traffic went up Smith Street and down Priory Road. We were on the park the day it reopened and we emerged from the church yard to see a worried mum waving and shouting to be careful. From then on traffic got heavier. The annual holidays, known as Coventry fortnight, saw movement of cars continually night and day, cars loaded with families and baggage going to the seaside. It was difficult to sleep, so we did surveys of the most popular car on the road.
Shops in Smith Street
We didn’t need to go far for shops. Smith Street supplied all needs, boasting two bakers, three butchers, fish and chip shop, clothes, furnishings, groceries, sweets and newspapers, hardware shop, post office, saddler (supplying horse riding gear etc) and stationery shop. There was even a Peacocks which supplied a little of everything.
It would be easy to write a book about the happenings in the street, but it needs time and space.
Memories of Valerie Carciofo neé Humphris