St. Thomas, Coventry… Doubting Thomas?

After some hours of research into the different and confusing records held in the name of St. Thomas Church in the old Saxon village of Keresley, now part of Coventry our transcriber wrote the following: Two ancient churches stand almost side by side in the centre of the City of Coventry: Holy Trinity and St. Michael and All Angels (now Coventry Cathedral).

In Medieval times these churches stood within the City Walls but, as the population increased, the land outside of the Walls began to be occupied, the land being still nominally attached to one of these two churches. A need was recognised for more places of religious worship, and accordingly, further churches were built, either attached to Holy Trinity or to Saint Michael. There were exceptions to the land affiliation and one, in particular, would cause us, as transcribers, a considerable amount of confusion… to say the least!

Essentially, the Northern part of this land outside the Walls was allotted to Holy Trinity and the Southern part, to St. Michael. [VCH, 1969, p.41].

In the Northern part, an area was held by St. Michael, as a 'detached' part of St. Michael, within the Holy Trinity allotment. This area of the City is known as Keresley, and adjacent to it is the district of Coundon. Upon this piece of land [VCH, 1969, p.358], the church of St. Thomas was built in 1847, and a Chapelry in 1848;

"The decision, taken in early 1842, to build a church resulted eventually in the consecration of St. Thomas's Church in 1847 and the creation of the chapelry of Keresley with Coundon in the following year".

Within the Southern part, in the district of Earlsdon,  a separate church, also dedicated to St. Thomas, was built in at "The Butts", close to Albany Road, and consecrated in 1849. 

The reference numbers allotted to the Parish Registers, deposited at the County Record Office, Warwick, correctly reflect the two churches, but during filming by the commercial sites, the distinction appears fo have been lost. The whole situation has been further complicated by the references to the Chapelry of Keresley with Coundon, and the building of St. Barbara's church, in Earlsdon.

The Chapelry of 'Keresley with Coundon' had registers which are deposited [ref.DR0641] and are separate from those of St. Thomas, Keresley [ref.DR0599].  To date, it has not been possible to identify the land upon which this Chapelry was situated, other than to say it was within the allotment to Holy Trinity.  The present church of St. Thomas, which stands on East side of the Tamworth Road [B4098] is now the remaining [Church of England] place of worship for those living in the Keresley area of the City.

St. Barbara's church [ref. DR0802], built on a corner of land between Palmerston Street and Rochester Road, Earlsdon, was dedicated in 1913.  The Curate of St. Thomas (Butts), Rev. E. W. Bryan,  became the first Vicar of St. Barbara's, and one assumes he was merely forgetful when completing the Registers since he continued to head its pages "St. Thomas, Coventry", rather than "St. Barbara".  This has certainly added to the general confusion!

As a Coventrian, having spent most of my formative years living on the Western side of the City, attending to the addresses provided within the respective Registers has allowed us to allocate the Indexes to their respective churches.  Searching for forebears in and around Coventry can be confusing, but we hope this explanation will go some way to help those faced with the information that the event has taken place at St.Thomas's church.

Dr Carole. A. Eales, 2020.