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Here is what we think is the only comprehensive record of pubs and beerhouses within the Coventry city boundaries going back as far as available records allow. This is an ongoing project so contributions, corrections or additions to this archive, especially anecdotes, photos and media are most welcome. Feel free to contact us for a pint and a chat anytime.

The City Arms


'Ma Coopers' circa 1900.

The name comes from the Coventry Coat of Arms. As Earlsdon was being laid out in 1852, the two corner plots that the City Arms stood on were purchased by Thomas Dylke, a Coventry watchmaker, for £55 5s 0d each. The following year these plots were sold to Benjamin Bird for £110 7s 6d in total. This Gentleman's address was then Smithford Street where he had the license for the Queens Arms, Cross Cheaping (1841). He had also been living in Longford where he held a farm and also ran the Engine Inn in the village (1850). Because he had only rented the 'Engine', the thought of owning an inn of his own naturally appealed to him and seeing newly developed Earlsdon then without a pub and obviously in need of one, he lost no time in getting a house built which he named the City Arms. He installed a bar and the necessary stock and opened for business. As his wife, Amelia, died soon after the move, his daughter and son-in-law came to help him run the business but by 1861 he had remarried and now with his new wife, Ann, and a little maid of all work aged 11, he settled down to enjoy Earlsdon life for the next few years.

With the local population totalling five or six hundred and with the opening of the Royal Oak and the Earlsdon Cottage, custom at the City Arms must have been somewhat limited. But pubs were not used merely for social needs; they also served as useful business venues for the local watchmakers and as convenient places for the carrying out of inquests. In November, 1861 an inquest was held at the City Arms on Elizabeth Hawkins, aged 32, who was burnt to death at her home in Warwick Street when her skirt caught fire. This was the age of crinoline and in those days when open fires were the only means of heating and cooking, many women lost their lives in the same way. However, by 1872 the brewing plant were offered for sale with Bird claiming that it was a declining business. The City Arms was purchased by the Flowers family, the Stratford-upon-Avon brewers, who had probably been his suppliers, for £700. Benjamin, now aged 64, felt it was time to retire and sold the business as a going concern.
Now began a succession of lesser landlords, Johnathon Hawley, Edwin Pitman and John Merifield. It was while Merifield was there that in 1889 a bowling and skittle alley was erected for which Flowers paid £50 with the landlord paying them an annual fee of £2. It became a very welcome relaxation and favourite pastime for the local watchmakers. In succession to Merifield came the City Arms's most famous and popular incumbent, Mrs. Mary Jane Cooper or 'Ma' Cooper as she was always known. 'Ma', born in Coventry, had been a nursemaid to the six children of Edgar Flowers and his wife, then living in Warwick, but when the children no longer needed a nanny, at the age of 45 she left and married Robert Cooper, landlord of the Lamp Tavern in Market Street, also a Flowers House. 

Earlsdon Street from the top of Albany Road looking south west with 'Ma' Cooper's City Arms on the left, the Albany Social Club on the right and the Royal Oak beyond.

'Ma' took over the licence of the pub when Robert died in 1891 but after caring for children in the cultivated atmosphere of the Flowers' home , the hurly-burly of life in a city centre pub must have been quite a strain and when the City Arms in Earlsdon became vacant, Flowers suggested she should take over and she gratefully accepted. For the next 25 years, short, stout 'Ma' reigned supreme in her little kingdom and soon became loved and respected by all her patrons. Many a tale has been told about her strictness, never suffering fools or drunks lightly, and her many kindnesses and sympathy to those in trouble or in need. it was not uncommon for her to tell a man that she considered he had drank enough and should go home to his wife and family; young men who entertained young women in the pub would be told to stop wasting their money. The garden was her pride and joy and woe betide any man, woman or child who trespassed on her beloved flowers. She died at the pub in 1921 of simple old age and was buried at London Road Cemetery, her funeral attended by hundreds of mourners.

William Tansy was the next landlord, followed in 1929 by Leonard Chambers during whose time (1931) the old building was demolished and replaced by the present grand 'Tudorbethan' structure with prints in almost every room depicting Shakespeare plays and erected slightly further back away from the road.

In the 1960s the tenants were Reg Suffolk and his wife. The Suffolk family had been in the licensing trade for about 300 years. In 2000 it was sold to Wetherspoons along with a pub in Newcastle on Tyne for £900,000. A ground floor extension to the bar took away the car park to the rear and the City Arms reopened after 3½ months closure.

Thanks to earlsdon.org.uk for photos and info
newspaper clipping

Newspaper clipping from The Coventry Telegraph 1963

Known Licensees are;
1853 - 1872 Benjamin Bird (see also Queens Arms, Cross Cheaping 1841 to c1849 and the Engine Inn, Longford in 1850)
1874 - 1881 Jonathan Horley
1882 - 1885 Edwin Pitman
1886 - 1893 John Merifield
1894 Mrs. E. Merifield
1896 S. E. Merifield
1896 - 1921 Mary Jane Cooper (see also Lamp Tavern, Market Place)
1924 - 1927 William Tansley
1926 - 1949 Les S. Chambers
1959 - 1961 Reg A. Suffolk (see above and also Rose and Crown, and Craven Arms both High Street)
1961 - 1962 W. J. Butcher
c1972 - 1978 Kenneth Frank Grenwell
1985 Ken Greenwell
1853 - 1872 Benjamin Bird (see also Queens Arms, Cross Cheaping 1841 to c1849 and the Engine Inn, Longford in 1850)
1872 - 1961 Flowers
1998 - 1999 Crooked House
1999 - 2000 Receivers
2000 - present JD Wetherspoons
City Arms_Earlsdon_Coventry_Aug10

The City Arms today

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Name From the city coat of arms

CS6 Ma Cooper

3.1863 News 2-49 Festival to celebrate the marriage of the prince of Wales ( later Edward VII ) to the Princess Alexandra of Denmark.

'.....on Wednesday evening there was a reunion of the gentlemen residents of Earlsdon at a public diner held at Mr Bird's City Arms '.

1872 E&CE P67 Even the City Arms had all its bewing plant and fixtures and fittings up for sale in 1872 with the landlord claiming it was a declining business.

9.11. 1890 LJ Vol 1 P61 CITY ARMS, Earlsdon Alehouse
Owner : Flower & Sons, Stratford
Licensee : John Merrifield
1.3.1894 TOL to Elizabeth Merrifield
11.4.1895 TOL to Sidney Edward Merrifield
27.10.1898 TOL to Mary Jane Cooper

c1890 CBH P13 ALLARD & Co ( Bicycles )
Like his parents before him, Allard bought into the pub trade from 1890, first owning the Hare & Squirrel ( Cow Lane ), then the City Arms, Earlsdon and eventually the Market Vaults back in the town centre. He is not on our list

c1890 E&CE P46 Photo

' The houses in Earlsdon Terrace can be seen in the distance with the City Arms just to the left '. Surrounded by trees.

E&CE P67 ' Within 10 years two public houses had been opened, the Royal Oak and the City Arms '.

c1896 - 1921 Source 25 Photo, Earlsdon Xmas Card 2009

City Arms M. J. Cooper

White fencing in front of pub

Source 25 Photo, Earlsdon Xmas Card 2009

Pub now painted white

c1907 E&CE P49 Photo

DYKC P30 Q1 Photoof Ma Cooper and the pub

c1910 CSubs P55 Photo

c1920 CWL P46 Photo

c1924 E&CE P9 Photo

1926 News 19 Photo of pub ' Flowers '

1929 - 1930 E&CE P69 Old and new City Arms

1933/34 }

1935/36 } P. James ' Wines and spirits of best quality

1937/38 }

1939/40 )

1935 GT Flowers Alse ISC A Flowers house

10.2.1961 Citypubs 30 The City Arms of Earlsdon - better known as ' Ma Coopers ' is owned by Flowers of Stratford-on-Avon. One cannot write about this hostelry without mentioning Ma Cooper, who kept it for many years, She was formerly employed by Flowers at their home at Stratford- on-Avon as a nurse and later was put in charge of the City Arms. the pub was reported to be over a century old and while there I saw a photograph of the place taken about 50 years ago with Ma Cooper in the centre and several customers standing around. At the time it had an early Victorian front.

Many are the stories old customers can relate about this old lady who was noted for her sternness, and it was not uncommon for her to tell a man that she considered he had had enough to drink and that he should go home to his wife and family.

1982 WRAG3 Large pub popular for its good meals

6.1.2000 News 28 Wetherspoons take over

3.2000 News 2-31` Sold to Wetherspoons for £ 900,000 with another pub in Newcastle on Tyne. ' It is Wetherspoon's policy to retain and restore as much of the pub's original features as is practical ......with a ground floor bar extension to the rear of the property. It is hoped that the refurbishment will begin in early May and will take approximately three and a half months to complete, during which time the City Arms will be closed for business.

Copy of 1929 architects drawings included

News 2-31 From City Standard 5.4.1957

' The original Ma Cooper's stood a little way up the street, a square whitewashed house seperated by a cobbled courtyard from the white- fenced garden which occupied the corner. I remeber hearing that she kept order in her house with a formidable tongue. The garden was her pride and joy, and woe betide any man. woman or child who trespassed on her beloved flowers.

Source 43 Who, for instance, has not heard of Ma Cooper, formerly of the City Arms, Earlsdon.

Of her it is said that if any young man entered her public gouse with a young woman, she would drive him away telling him ' not to waste his money '.

News 2-32 My father, Len Chambers, was manager of the City Arms from 1926 until his death in 1949.

CSubs P56 Earlsdon's pubs were and still are popular places, the most famous being the City Arms, affectionately known remembered as ' Ma Cooper's ' after Mary Jane Cooper, who took over the running of the pub in 1896 until her death in 1921.

The original Victorian pub was demolished in 1930, rebuilt in a mock-Tudor style, an remains a popular venue.


1853 Heritage P4&5 Benjamin Bird

1861 Census Benjamin Bird 50 yo b Keresley widower

3.1863 News 2-49 Mr Bird

1868 Buchanan Benjamin Bird

1871 Census Benjamin Bird Earlsdon Terrace
1872 Heritage P4&5 Benjamin Bird

1874 C&B Jonathan Horley

1879 Stevens Jonathan Horley

1881 C&B Jonathan Horley

1886 C&B J. Merifield
1890 LJ Vol 1 P61 John Merrifield
1893 Reporter J. Merifield
1894 LJ Vol 1 P61 John Merrifield
1894 LJ Vol 1 P61 Elizabeth Merrifield
1894 R&G Mrs E. Merifield
1895 LJ Vol 1 P61 Elizabeth Merrifield
1895 LJ Vol 1 P61 Sidney Edward Merrifield
1896 R&G S. E. Merifield

1896 CSubs Mary Jane Cooper becomes licensee A couple of years early
1898 LJ Vol 1 P61 Sidney Edward Merrifield
1898 LJ Vol 1 P61 Mary Jane Cooper
1903 R&G Mary Jane Cooper

1905 R&G Mary Jane Cooper

1909 R&G Mary Jane Cooper

1911/12 Spennell Mrs Cooper

1912/13 Spennell Mrs Cooper

1919 Spennell Mrs Cooper

1921/22 Spennell Mrs Cooper

1921 CSubs Mary Jane Cooper died

1924 P. James William Tansley

1926/27 P. James William Tansley

1926 News 19 Les Chambers becomes licensee

1929 P. James L. S. Chambers

1931/32 P. James L. S. Chambers

1933/34 P. James L. S. Chambers

1935/36 P. James L. S. Chambers

1937/38 P. James L. S. Chambers

1939/40 P. James L. S. Chambers

1949 News 19 Les Chambers died

1955/56 Barrett Not listed in street section

1959 Citypubs 30 Reg A. Suffolk

1960 Barrett W. J. Butcher

1961 Citypubs 30 Reg A. Suffolk

1960s & 1970s News 2-78 Reg & Maureen Suffolk

1961 Barrett W. J. Butcher

1962 Barrett W. J. Butcher

1966 Barrett

1972 - 1978 Source 37 Kenneth Frank Greenwell

27.6.1985 News 91 Ken Greenwell


1852 Heritage P4 & 5 2 corner plots bought from Freehold Land Society by Thomas Dylke, a Coventry watchmaker, for £ 55 5s 0d each.

1853 Heritage P4 & 5 Purchased by Benjamin Bird for £ 110 7s 6d the pair. Until recently he had been living in Longford, where he had a farm and also ran the Engine Inn. He only rented the Engine.

1872 Heritage P4 & 5 Benjamin, now 64, sold the business to Flowers, for £ 700
1890 LJ Vol 1 P61 Flower & Sons, Stratford
1898 LJ Vol 1 P61 Flower & Sons, Stratford
1935 GT Flowers Ales ISC Flowers

1961 Citypubs 30 Flowers

1998 - 1999 Croooked House

1999 - 2000 Receivers

6.1.2000 Wetherspoons purchases

3.2000 News 2-31 Wetherspoons actually purchases

News 2-47 Wetherspoons

News 2-48 Wetherspoons

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