The History of Coleshill

On 25th March the Society played host to Dr. Jack Stewart and Elizabeth Walters from Coleshill Civic Society who provided us with a fascinating insight into not only the history of Coleshill itself but also many of its older buildings.

Coleshill has always been an important crossroads settlement since Roman times. Situated near the confluence of three rivers - the river Tame, the river Cole and the river Blythe - it was not only an important crossing point but also a coaching and market town. Its importance may have declined since the coming of the railways; but many will know Coleshill as a settlement close by both the M6 and M6 Toll motorways and the main roads between Lichfield, Warwick, Birmingham and Coventry.

Coleshill's history is interesting because much of the land both around and within the town remains owned by the Derby family, who received it from Henry V following their support for him at the battle of Blisworth in 1485. This has helped to ensure that Coleshill's physical cohesion, essentially as a Georgian coaching town, has generally remained intact despite the ravages of the planners during the 1960s.

The Civic Society were fortunate to obtain a 20,000 Local Heritage Initiative grant to research the history of Georgian Coleshill, from which has emerged both an interesting leaflet documenting a walk around Coleshill and also a more detailed booklet setting out the town's history.

Elizabeth Walters provided us with a fascinating illustrated exploration of a number of the more important buildings in Coleshill. The Civic Society's detective work had confirmed that many of the Georgian-fronted buildings dated back to the medieval period; serving both the social needs of the town and its role as a coaching staging point. The principal conclusion was of the Civic Society's research had been that, whilst Coleshill was to all intents and purposes a Georgian town, it was in effect a medieval town with a 'Georgian facelift'. Family history and social history were intertwined with an exploration of the physical attributes of the buildings which Elizabeth Walters described. We explored the old coaching inns such as the Green Man and the Swan Hotel and learned that detective work involved in piecing together the history of such buildings often required research in the diaries of the eminent travellers of medieval and Georgian times.

But the Civic Society has not simply contented itself with researching the history of Coleshill. Elizabeth described how the Society has fought a number of battles to save buildings threatened with demolition in the town and it is to the Society's credit that their success is now manifest in the continued existence of many attractive Georgian buildings.

Roger Hockney
March 2004