Little is known of the earliest history of Coventry, but prior to its existence there were settlements in nearby Corley and Baginton, which came to be occupied by the Romans, and later by Saxon invaders. These locations were probably chosen because they lay on early trackways, and were situated on light, easily worked soil free from thick forest and undergrowth; unlike the heavy clay soil, covered in marsh and forest near the north-eastern reaches of the Forest of Arden on which Coventry would rise.
It is likely that the first settlement here grew around a Saxon nunnery which had been founded c. AD 700 by St. Osburga. With the forest being mostly unsuitable for the cultivation of crops, the Saxon settlers would have cleared the land and concentrated on raising cattle and sheep, eventually leading to Coventry's successful wool industry and great wealth. The name "Coventry" would have had its origins at this time and has had several forms of spelling, as well as many theories regarding its meaning, but "Cofa's tree" is thought to be a most likely source of the name. Nothing is known of Cofa, but a tree planted by, or named after him may have marked the centre or the boundary of the settlement. An alternative favoured by some is that "Coventre" is derived from the words "Coven" (old variation of "Convent") and "tre" (celtic: "settlement" or "town") giving rise to "Convent Town".