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The Revd. Charles de Havilland and his wife Alice (nee Saunders) had five children when they moved to Nuneaton in 1883 from Hazelmere in Buckinghamshire. The children were Hereward, Ivan, Gladys, Ionie and Geoffrey (born 1882). The new vicarage they moved into in 1886 was designed by Clapton Rolfe, who had designed the first stage of the rebuilt church and cost £2,180 2s 6d, part of which was for the

excavation and removal of Nunnery debris on site.

Geoffrey de Havilland went to King Edward V1 Grammar School in Nuneaton in 1891 and he then moved to Rugby School. Later in his life he found fame as a designer of aircraft.

Fr de Havilland was also linked to the Hollywood stars the sisters Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine. An article in the Heartland Evening News explains that they were the daughters of Charles de Havillands half brother Walter. A Nuneaton man, William Holloway, who had moved to the USA, made the connection as his father had been a gardener at the Vicarage when de Havilland was vicar.


As well building the vicarage, a school room was also constructed during Fr de Havilland's incumbency. This is shown on plans as being on the site of the present hall. A copy of the accounts for this build printed in the Heartland Evening News shows that it cost £160 to build; the school furniture cost £21 17s 6d; and gas fittings 27s 6d. The accounts give details of the Committee set up to oversee the project this was made up of the Vicar, H Stubbs Esq the owner of Camp Hill Hall, Mr J Sands and Mr A Moreton (Churchwardens), Mr Ward and Mr Townshend (Sidesmen), Mr Hood, Mr Buckler, Mr Ensor, Mr Joseph Ebery, Mr James Ebery, Mr Ball, Mr W Green. As well as donations there were staged various fund raising events including a concert at the Newdigate Arms and one at the Drill Hall.


The census returns for 1881 show a population for Nuneaton of 13,714, which by 1891 had risen to 17,426 and in 1901 it was 24,996, and 37,073 in 1911. The parish of St Mary began to expand quite rapidly during this time with many new streets of terraced, semi-detached and detached houses being built. The construction of the church and vicarage meant that the cart track from the Midland Road /Abbey Street junction to the canal by the Cock and Bear public house was used more and Manor Court Road, as we know it today, was constructed in 1892. The road cost £1,300, was 50feet wide and tree lined.


1892 also saw the first public open space created in the town when the land now known as The Rec was opened, lying off Queens Road adjacent to the Abbey Church site.


The Tomkinson family decided to sell off plots of building land in the area at this time. The largest plot, on the opposite side of the new road to the vicarage was purchased by local businessman Reginald Stanley. He built his new home Manor Court on the site. It was designed as a three storey, twelve bedroom gentleman's residence, with stables, coach house and smithy. He and his wife moved in to Manor Court in 1895.


More land was given by James Tomkinson and Reginald Stanley for the building of a General Hospital for the town creating Manor Court Avenue. The first part of the hospital building was opened in 1893 at a cost of £3,500. Dr R B Nason had led the campaign for it to be built.


Industry was moving into the parish, as well as Hall and Phillips hat factory on the site between Bottrill Street and Meadow Street, the Reliant Clothing Factory opened in Queens Road in 1892. A walk around the streets of the parish today gives an idea of how the area developed into the twentieth century. The crowded courts behind the shops and houses of Upper Abbey Street, now demolished, and Midland Road and Aston Road, were joined by houses and businesses in Bottrill Street, Meadow Street, Duke Street, Mount Street, High Street, Broad Street (now demolished), Fife Street, Clarence Street, Queens Road, York Street, Corporation Street, Manor Court Road, Earls Road, Manor Court Avenue, Countess Road, Willington Street, Stanley Road, Charles Street, James Street, Midland Road, Tuttle Hill, Jodrell Street, St Marys Road, Toler Road and Croft Road. These terraces, semi-detached villas and detached houses were very modern for the time. They also show off the products of local brick and tile works, owned by Stanley, among others.

The Abbey congregation must also have grown at this time, and the photograph of the choir taken in 1895 would seem to reflect this.

Fr de Havilland and his family left the parish in 1897 when he moved to the living of St Michael, Crux Easton, bought for him by his father in law. He remained as Vicar there until his death in May 1920.


The parish of St Mary was then in the care of the Vicar of Nuneaton and his curates until 1903, when Fr Bedale became Vicar. Parish life clearly continued as evidence of Sunday School prizes has been given.

A vestry was also built on the south transept wall, a plaque records that it was built by volunteers in 1903.

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