No evidence of drover’s paths

I wish Jeremy Ireland every success with his planned Superbrocante whatever that is but I hope that his expertise in that field is somewhat greater than his knowledge of Leamington history.

In the article in last week’s Courier we read about the ‘old drover’s paths’ in Leamington, the route of which is described in some detail. Having spent over 40 years researching local history in this neck of the woods, I find it rather strange that never once in that time have I ever come across any reference to drove roads in or through Leamington.

None of the respected chroniclers of the town’s history Manning, Dudley, Cave or John Drew ever mention the phrase and the Leamington Enclosure Award of 1768 is equally silent on the subject of drove ways, although it does mention the ‘alleged drovers path’ described by Jeremy Ireland which the Commissioners ordered ‘that it remain for ever of the breadth of 4 feet in very part and be continued as a public path or footway’.

There isn’t a shred of evidence that drovers ever set foot in Leamington and any stories about Leamington drove roads is pure myth. The nearest that drovers ever got to Leamington was at Cubbington where they regularly walked herds of cattle down the appropriately named Welsh Road from collecting points in mid-Wales to Smithfield Market in London.

It is entirely conceivable that small numbers of farm animals were walked from local farms to slaughter- houses which formed an integral part of most butchers’ premises in the 19th century up until the passing of the 1848 Public Health Act, but large-scale droving of animals was never a feature of Leamington’s past history.

Jeremy Ireland’s local history credentials are further diminished when he refers in the Courier article to Satchwell Court as being ‘one of the area’s oldest buildings’. I know the building to which he refers, it was built in 1807 but it has never been called Satchwell Court. It has the name Satchwell Place writ large along the front of it in letters two feet tall and had he actually visited the site he would have at least got the name right.

Historically,Satchwell Court was a small close of back-to-back houses, long since demolished, but the name survives as a section of the Royal Priors shopping centre (circa 1987).

There is a wise maxim in journalism which applies equally to those given to making pronouncements on local history which says ‘Check your sources’. If you chose to ignore this piece of advice then don’t be surprised if better informed people ‘out there’ seek to put the record straight.

Alan Griffin, Leamington History Group