by James Pigot (1818)
Coventry is a city of great antiquity and supposed to have been a town of the Ancient Britons. It is 91 miles N. W. from London, 19 from Birmingham and 10 from Warwick and contains, according to the last census, 19.124 inhabitants. The weekly market is held on Friday. There are four annual fairs, one of which lasts eight days and is noted for a procession on Friday in Trinity-week, in which is exhibited a female on horseback, in all the appearance of nudity. This part of the pageant, with the appendage of Peeping Tom (a wooden figure preserved in the niche of a house in the High-street) is supposed to have been first introduced in the reign of Charles II, but the annual procession of the mayor, &c. has a more ancient origin. Coventry was distinguished as a manufacturing town at an early period of our commercial prosperity. Woollen-cloth was formerly its staple produce, but this was lost by the war with France in 1694. It was also famed for its superior blue thread in the 16th. century and since that time the manufacture of tammies, camblets, shalloons, calicos, &c. have risen, flourished and decayed. The principal articles now produced are ribbons and watches. The weaving of ribbons, which was first introduced a little more than a century ago, was for a time confined to a few hands, but has since spread to a great extent and Coventry has been the mart for the most valuable articles of this description manufactured in England. The watch trade has also brought considerable reputation to this city within the last twenty years. Great facility is afforded to the trade of the town by means of the canals. It has a communication with the Staffordshire Grand Trunk, by a canal to Fradley and by another branch, which joins the Oxford canal at Braunston, it has a communication with the Thames. Coventry, with Litchfield, is a Bishop's see. It is a county of itself, governed by a mayor, ten aldermen (who are justices of the peace), two bailiffs and twenty common-council. It has three parish churches, a number of dissenters chapels, two free schools and several hospitals. The streets are narrow and badly paved, and littl
uniformity has been preserved in the buildings and being mostly old and built of wood and plaster, with the stories projecting one over another, make a mean appearance, but replete with the venerable traces of the 15th century, which cannot fail to interest the admirers of ancient domestic architecture. In 1812 an act of parliament was obtained, authorising toll-gates to be erected at the different approaches to the town, to defray the expenses of improving the public roads, &c. and some advantageous alterations have in consequence been made.