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Shops and Buildings Prior to 14th Nov 1940

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COSkyBlue
Colorado, USA
1 of 18  Tue 12th Mar 2024 1:35am  

Hello Coventry experts and enthusiasts! Greetings from Colorado, USA. I'm Coventry born and bred, now living by the snow capped Rocky Mountains as opposed to Eastern Green! I've long been fascinated with what happened to our city during WW2 after being told a plethora of stories by my grandmother as a child. I'm trying to identify what shops and buildings were destroyed in the attack on 14/15th November 1940. Not every single one, but I'm really curious as to the shops that stood and were subsequently destroyed. Rob on here and Gray Forster on his Facebook site often publish photos from that time. Does anyone have any Spennell's trade directories from 1938 or 1939 who would mind copying and uploading some city centre listings for me? The likes of High Street, Smithford St, Hertford St, Earl St, Jordan Well, Trinity St, Hales St, Corporation St, Fairfax St, Much Park St, Little Park St, etc? I have Broadgate thanks to Rob at the Archives. I was there last October, twice. I didn't realize that the trade directories were what I needed. I spent hours pouring over maps and various documents. The contact I had been communicating with left the archives just before I got home! Any help would be most sincerely appreciated. Thanks to Cliff B for the suggestion of posting on here! Kind Regards, Mark
Mark Rushworth

Wartime and the Blitz - Shops and Buildings Prior to 14th Nov 1940
Helen F
Warrington
2 of 18  Tue 12th Mar 2024 9:55am  

Hi Mark, welcome to the forum Wave You've set yourself an interesting but very difficult task. Unfortunately there isn't a full set of directories out there and while some have been copied, they're often in a different format or date to what you're asking for. No directory that I've seen lists businesses by street (there might be but I haven't seen one). The trade directories are by business name or business type (eg butchers) and obviously dart about the city and include more than the city centre. There are directories by street name which includes businesses and residents together which would be most use to you, but again the whole city is included and the closest I've access to is the 1937 P J Ltd directory, which still included Butcher Row which we know was gone before the war. The city was being rapidly redeveloped in the 1930s, so 1937 was very much out of date by 1940. The Herbert might have a Spenell's for the dates you're looking for, which did list by street name and separately by business. There is a Kelly's directory for 1940 but it's alphabetical and has almost 50 pages of businesses. Even when you've sorted out the businesses on the streets that you are interested in, you'd have to locate each one on the map and work out if it was one of the buildings destroyed. Sometimes businesses could reoccupy their original building (eg the severely damaged White Lion, Smithford Street), others moved a few doors away, others moved into temporary shops, etc. There might even have been cases where the business survived but the owner didn't and closed for that reason. There are bits and bobs in the newspapers talking about new locations of businesses but I don't think that there would be a list as such. The other problem is that businesses shared locations both vertically and stepping back from the street front. Potentially a business might have survived at the same address that another vanished. Some of the bigger businesses occupied large areas and some part of the business carried on, where other bits were destroyed. The final problem is one of a lack of a right to share. Like you, some people have copies taken from libraries and archives. While we will post snippets here, it would be unfair to the source to post it all and we even sign bits of paper to say we won't share any of it. Someone might contact you privately but unless one of us gets our own copy off Ebay, it's unlikely to be freely available here. Might I suggest that you break your project up into streets? Start with Broadgate. We've discussed buildings like the Prudential which hadn't long been completed when it was destroyed. See how you get on. Sorry I can't be more helpful.
Wartime and the Blitz - Shops and Buildings Prior to 14th Nov 1940
Annewiggy
Tamworth
3 of 18  Tue 12th Mar 2024 10:37am  

Another place you could look Mark is the newspaper archive site. You can tell many of the shops that were destroyed advertising as trading from another address. You can see most of the shops were determined to carry on. It is unfortunately a subscription site but you can search for free and get a few lines. I have found a lot of information on the site in the past www.britishnewspaperarchives.co.uk.
Wartime and the Blitz - Shops and Buildings Prior to 14th Nov 1940
Helen F
Warrington
4 of 18  Tue 12th Mar 2024 10:48am  

Great idea Anne. It could also be an alternative way to break the problem down. Mark, cross off the businesses and their locations that you can find and then tackle the gaps. The pre war papers would also mention where shops were and interesting bits about what they did.
Wartime and the Blitz - Shops and Buildings Prior to 14th Nov 1940
Helen F
Warrington
5 of 18  Tue 12th Mar 2024 10:57am  

Another source of information are the pages here. Businesses are discussed, often relating to the war and there are others who seek to find out about businesses just prior to the war. eg Bombing aftermath. The pubs are particularly helpful because they're easier to locate on maps (here and here)
Wartime and the Blitz - Shops and Buildings Prior to 14th Nov 1940
NeilsYard
Coventry
6 of 18  Tue 12th Mar 2024 12:53pm  

Welcome Mark - not really detailed but an interesting Bomb Damage Map. If you tick the 'Overlay' box you can zoom in.
Wartime and the Blitz - Shops and Buildings Prior to 14th Nov 1940
lindatee2002
Virginia USA
7 of 18  Tue 12th Mar 2024 1:03pm  

See what you've unleashed, Mark. These people are fantastic and they have given you weeks if not months work of investigation.
Wartime and the Blitz - Shops and Buildings Prior to 14th Nov 1940
rocksolid
Bristol
8 of 18  Tue 12th Mar 2024 6:39pm  

On 12th Mar 2024 1:35am, COSkyBlue said: Hello Coventry experts and enthusiasts! Greetings from Colorado, USA. I'm Coventry born and bred, now living by the snow capped Rocky Mountains as opposed to Eastern Green! I've long been fascinated with what happened to our city during WW2 after being told a plethora of stories by my grandmother as a child. I'm trying to identify what shops and buildings were destroyed in the attack on 14/15th November 1940. Not every single one, but I'm really curious as to the shops that stood and were subsequently destroyed. Rob on here and Gray Forster on his Facebook site often publish photos from that time. Does anyone have any Spennell's trade directories from 1938 or 1939 who would mind copying and uploading some city centre listings for me? The likes of High Street, Smithford St, Hertford St, Earl St, Jordan Well, Trinity St, Hales St, Corporation St, Fairfax St, Much Park St, Little Park St, etc? I have Broadgate thanks to Rob at the Archives. I was there last October, twice. I didn't realize that the trade directories were what I needed. I spent hours pouring over maps and various documents. The contact I had been communicating with left the archives just before I got home! Any help would be most sincerely appreciated. Thanks to Cliff B for the suggestion of posting on here! Kind Regards, Mark
Hello Mark and welcome to the Forum, As others have already said, this is a big task. I have also long been interested in the massive changes in the city centre before during and after the Blitz. I recently acquired a PJ Directory for 1939 but realised that the information was at least already a year out of date as Trinity Street was described as 'a projected street' with no buildings listed when in fact one side was already built and at least partly occupied. A better guide to the shops existing at the outbreak of war is the Kelly's Warwickshire Directory of 1940 which lists businesses but has no street directory so the 2 books need to be consulted together. It is possible to compile a reasonably accurate street directory that way. As Helen has said it is very difficult to know exactly which shops were destroyed in the big Blitz or later but some comparisons can be done. I have a pretty good idea which were destroyed in November from photographs of the damaged streets. Then when the rubble was cleared away it's possible to see where temporary shops were built and who occupied them. It has surprised me how many shops lost upper storeys but were patched up and carried on in the same spot operating from just the ground floor. Others of course found new premises elsewhere. Of the big stores Owen Owen had departments in several buildings in Trinity Street, Woolworth's built a temporary store where the old one had been next to the City Arcade and Marks and Spencer set up in a disused garage in Whitefriars Street. If you think I might be able to help your quest please get in touch. Best wishes, Geoff
Wartime and the Blitz - Shops and Buildings Prior to 14th Nov 1940
COSkyBlue
Colorado, USA
Thread starter
9 of 18  Thu 14th Mar 2024 1:26am  

Hello everyone. Thank you all for your generous feedback and thoughts. I've embarked on a little project in my spare time in the last year or so, jotting down the recollections of my grandmother, for my children. It was a real passion project. What it did was take me back to our fair city and make me wonder what was there when my grandparents arrived in 1938. When I lived in Coventry I was fascinated with its history, particularly the war, especially the Blitz and remain so to this day. My thoughts then pivoted to what we lost after that heinous attack. I thought of Earl Street and Jordan Well. I'd never seen any photos of how it looked pre-blitz, until Cliff Berwick pointed me to a couple of fabulous ones on Coventry Digital. I honestly stared at them for ages! I'm not too obsessed with every building that was lost in 1940, and whether it was replaced, rebuilt or moved. I know about the large stores such as Owens, BHS, Woolies, the Co-Op, Burton's etc. What's been a wonderful voyage of discovery is seeing names of shops such as Salmon & Gluckstein on the corner of Broadgate, the Maypole Dairy, Harrisons Opticians on High Street that sadly looks like it got flattened. Pubs that I'd never heard of like the Theatre Vaults. That's what has been fascinating to me, the places that were unique to our city, before it became like every other town and city with chain stores and discount shops. Peeping Tom in the Kings Head Hotel and the story of him surviving that night is fantastic! Helen, this shows exactly what I was after. You are correct, individual people are mixed with businesses. I cannot upload a photo of what the archive chaps sent me as I don't have permission. But this is what the 1939-40 directory lists for Broadgate: 1-3 Burtons 4 Astleys 5 Mansfield & Sons 6 H. Samuel 7 Maypole Dairy 7 (over) Stoll, School of Dancing 8 Alexandre Tailor and so on Cliff, I will drop you a line. Many thanks for the offer. Thank you all, I sincerely appreciate the considerate help. Kind Regards, Mark
Mark Rushworth

Wartime and the Blitz - Shops and Buildings Prior to 14th Nov 1940
Helen F
Warrington
10 of 18  Thu 14th Mar 2024 9:15am  

A few things that might be helpful to you Britain From Above, a site showing many aerial views of Coventry from before and after the war. If you get a free login, you can zoom into the pictures. Also Goad fire insurance maps. These are from well before the war but are helpful because they show the street numbering. Coventry Digital has various later maps, as well as many photographs before the war and of the bombing damage. Another site with post war photos is Historic England.
Wartime and the Blitz - Shops and Buildings Prior to 14th Nov 1940
COSkyBlue
Colorado, USA
Thread starter
11 of 18  Thu 14th Mar 2024 11:54pm  

Dear Helen, you gave me something so special. Through the Britain From Above photos, I actually found something totally unrelated to my enquiry. Having seen photos of the Standard Motor Works, I was able to see, for the very first time, a photograph of the Tile Hill Auxiliary Fire Station. My Grandfather spent many evenings during WW2 based in there, and many times, including those infamous nights, in our city centre. Thank you so very much X
Mark Rushworth

Wartime and the Blitz - Shops and Buildings Prior to 14th Nov 1940
Helen F
Warrington
12 of 18  Fri 15th Mar 2024 9:46am  

Happy to help Mark Big grin There is another way to view aerial photos here and there are more images. Though I like to be able to sort the images into date order, which you can't do with the map.
Wartime and the Blitz - Shops and Buildings Prior to 14th Nov 1940
rocksolid
Bristol
13 of 18  Fri 15th Mar 2024 9:09pm  

Mark, When your parents arrived in Coventry in 1938 they would have found a city in transition, the car industry was attracting a lot of people to the city from distressed areas of unemployment, there were new housing estates being built and the city centre was changing too. Corporation Street was strangely underdeveloped considering it had been laid out in 1931 and Trinity Street was brand new. I believe a chunk of Earl Street between St Mary's Street and Bayley Lane was demolished late 1930s to make way for the proposed Herbert Art Gallery but that was interrupted by the war and I think air raid shelters were built on the open site. The rest of the street apart from the Council House was flattened in November 1940. Your point about chain stores and discount shops intrigues me. Having made a study of changing shopping habits between the wars it will probably surprise many people to know how many city centre shops were even then part of national or regional chains. Many clothing shops had branches in many towns eg shoes - Dolcis, Manfield's, Saxone, Hilton's, Public Benefit (very quaint name), True-Form, Barratt's, Freeman Hardy & Willis, Timpson's, Stylo - menswear Dunn & Co, Montague Burton (The Tailor of Taste), Alexandre, Jackson the Tailor, Weaver to Wearer, The 50 Shilling (and 35 Shilling) Tailors (became John Collier post-war), Austin Reed, Hector Powe, womenswear Willson's, James Barrington, Swears and Wells (furriers) etc etc. The lists for food retailers and other trades are similar and far too numerous to list here. Mixed in with these were the local traders, just a couple whose names fascinate me - Joe Tarsh, a jeweller who traded in Smithford Street then took one of the shops in the new City Arcade. Also Mme Margarita Piquerez who ran a very chic looking salon in Hertford street from late 1920s till 1950's. I have tried (and failed) to find out where she came from, I think her surname is French. Looking at the shops in photos from 1930s is a revelation compared with how shops look today. As someone who grew up in the 1960s I much prefer the 'look' of streets back then.
Wartime and the Blitz - Shops and Buildings Prior to 14th Nov 1940
COSkyBlue
Colorado, USA
Thread starter
14 of 18  Sat 16th Mar 2024 12:33am  

Great point, Geoff. I have indeed smiled at many chain stores from the pre-war years, most of which you've mentioned. Maypole Dairy and even the fabulously named Salmon & Gluckstein Cigar Shop were also chains. But not the soulless types we have now of course! I had a quick look on Ancestry and Marguerita Piquerez married Harry Mullen in Coventry in July 1941. French, definitely. There's a few Piquerez in the Alsace region of France. Ancestry has her ladies hairdressers listed at 54 Hertford Street. There you go, I've found a Kelly's listing!
Mark Rushworth

Wartime and the Blitz - Shops and Buildings Prior to 14th Nov 1940
COSkyBlue
Colorado, USA
Thread starter
15 of 18  Sat 16th Mar 2024 12:47am  

The plot thickens. I just found this online: https://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventry-news/coventry-hair-salon-mysteri....
Mark Rushworth

Wartime and the Blitz - Shops and Buildings Prior to 14th Nov 1940

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