In the medieval period the practice of the longbow was essential to Englands defences. This was a time when Kings of England had large estates in areas which are now part of France and had to defend them from the encroachment of the French kings.
Battles such as Crecy in northern France in 1346 between the French Army commanded by King Philip VI and the English Army commanded by King Edward III; and Agincourt in 1415 between the French Army commanded by Constable Charles d’Albret with other French noblemen, – the French King Charles VI was suffering from a Psychotic illness with associated mental incapacity at the time – and the English Army commanded by King Henry V, were fought including massed ranks of longbow men.
Every town and village had an area for men to practice the longbow and in Polesworth it was the area around where the railway station once stood. Before the railway was built the road north out of Polesworth did not follow the route of the present Station Road. High Street extended west along what is now a walkway between the house and bungalow where Bridge Street ends and Station Road begins and then bent round to the north east turning into Bere Lane, the name deriving from the growth of the settlements Barley crops. Although spelt bere it was pronounced bear and the road was marked as Bear Lane on early maps and is reflected in the name of Bear Lane Close, a housing development off Station Road near the railway.
From the walkway to the Station Road recreation area Bere Lane would have carried on across what is now The Gables and then followed the present road north. A map of the early 1700s shows this road clearly but marks it as Bear Lane and there is a lane off called Butt Lane leading to the Butts area where men practiced the longbow usually each Sunday after church. Nothing remains now to indicate this site, not even a road name.
The lane was renamed Station Approach when the railway and station was built and Bear Lane was renamed Station Road when the road was put through from High Street as it is now; the straightening of the road was to make a more direct route to and from the railway station for transportation of goods as the railway had opened up the market of goods into and out of Polesworth. To modern eyes these names seem banal but it must be remembered that the railway coming past Polesworth was a major event and the renaming reflected the pride the Victorian landowner of the time had in this massive feat of engineering.
There was also a mine in the same area called Butt Lane pit with a shallow shaft sunk between where the railway station was and the present road bridge over the railway but that had ceased production by 1858, and most likely closed when the railway was built. These mine workings extended down Station Road and there is at least one air shaft along the route, the mine workings causing subsidence problems for houses built above it in the past.
By Margaret Henley
Chair of Polesworth History Project Group