Third George Eliot Walk in Coventry
Sonia Ritter Leads Walk to Foleshill
The third of Vanessa Oakes's Coventry walks took place on Sunday 18th August 2013.
Vanessa had put out plenty of publicity for this last walk, and clearly several of the participants in the first two walks had told friends, so about 40 of us gathered at the Canal Basin on Sunday 18th. Appropriate readings from letters and novels were beautifully read by Sonia, dressed again in our version of George Eliot's dress, the original of which is at Nuneaton Museum and Art Gallery, and is the model for the dress shown on the statue in Nuneaton.
We set off along the towpath, Sonia having started with a reading close to the statue of Brindley, the man behind the planning of the Coventry Canal. You certainly see different aspects of Coventry from the canal. Eventually we reached Cash's wonderful cottage factory, a building which could so easily have been lost. It has an interest for Eliot lovers because Charles Bray was one of the influential people trying to persuade the Cash brothers to build the new idea of a cottage factory, where weavers had the advantage of factory efficiency and power, but could make their own decisions about working hours. Sadly, by the time the factory was complete the industry was in its death throes and became a more traditional factory in future years.
We cut through to Foleshill Road and into George Eliot Road. When the new street signs were put up in Foleshill a few years ago, it clearly didn't occur to the department responsible to check the spelling of Eliot, and so she was given a double L. When alerted to their error, the Council painted over one of the letters. It is a disgrace. Coventry City Council should be ashamed of themselves and should replace the sign properly. We will put pressure on them until they do!
Sonia read an excerpt to us as we stood outside the steel fence of Bird Grove, which also has no outside indication that this was the home of the future George Eliot for nine years - at the time when she was developing intellectually to the position where she could hold her own with the best minds in Europe. Present day Coventry can't even spell her name.
From there we returned to the canal and, crossing the rather stylish bridge by Electric Wharf, made our way to the rear of the Club which is built on the site of Charles and Cara Bray's home, Rosehill. Some decades ago, Gabriel Woolf planted a tree near the Club in memory of the Brays, but it has long since gone. There was a special feeling for us in the grounds where Sonia made her last readings near the spot where the Brays, any visiting intellectuals and radicals, and Mary Ann Evans would sit on the grass discussing the world and its woes.
Published on 26 August 2013