White Cellar, Earl Street
|Alternative Addresses:||Much Park Street|
|In c1907 Mary Dormer Harris says that in the mediaeval Coventry house the 'ground, or rather underground, floor was occupied by a cellar of vaulted stone, in town houses often called the "tavern" a word not neccessarily implying the sale of wine there, but simply used for an underground shop.
In mediaeval times the shop appears either like a timber-built shed or as an underground cellar or "tavern"'.
She continues 'An encroachment on the public way must have been the "tavern stairs", which led to underground shops and warehouses, wherof there are many instances in Coventry. Such inconvenience attended the approaches to these taverns that they fell into disuse as shops, and the openings being filled they were thus converted into mere cellars whereof the only communication was with the interior of the house. In 1648 mention is made in the second Book of Council of an order of Leet whereby it was enjoined that grates or doors be made to 'all cellars and taverns by the street side'........ so great was the natural facility for the construction of taverns afforded by the rock whereon this part of the city lies. The mediaeval and Tudor street was made almost impassable by sheds, stalls, bulks and tavern stairs.'
So, the White Cellar appears to have been one of these undeground 'taverns' actually used for the sale of alcohol.
These premises seems to have been of some import during the fourteenth century. In 1332 it was in the ownership of Henry le Baxtere as he leaves it in his will. c1348 amongst the coroners jurors was a single innkeeper, William Cook of the White Cellar. Although only a tenant he must have been a man of substance. c1350 the landlord of the White Cellar turned to a merchant, Henry Dilcock, to be his surety (surety is a pledge that an accused person will attend court on a specified day, in modern terms the person who puts up bail). Then in 1355 the landlord of the White Cellar was fined for breaking the assize of ale (that is, either overcharging or giving short measure).
After this I know of no othere references to the White Cellar. It is said to have stood on the corner of Earl Street and Much Park Street, so did it become something else? Are there still cellars under the new buildings on this site?
Earl Street pre-war featuring St. Mary's Street on the left. Photo courtesy of David McGrory.
LICENSEES:c1348 William Cook
OWNERS:1332 Henry le Baxtere c1348 William Frebern