Coventry is England’s ninth largest city and rates at the twelth largest in the UK. It is part of the county of Warwickshire and also part of the West Midlands region. Historic places to see in Coventry
The city’s history is a long and complicated one—here’s a few highlights:
Coventry was an important transportation hub as early as the 12th century. Gates existed from at least the 14th century and by the 16th a main coach road from London to Holyhead went through Coventry. The demolition of Coventry’s wall (built during the last part of the 14th century) was begun after the restoration, but the gates were only removed in the 18th century.
During the 12th century the town was divided between the established Benedictine priory and the Earls of Chester who owned the other half. Thus a rivalry was created between the two. After many political shenanigans, in the 15th century the two havles were united.
Coventry became the seat of the crown when, in 1455, Queen Margaret moved the Royal Court to the city as she was concerned about the safety of her husband King Henry VI who suffered from periods of mental illness.
A canal was begun in 1768 going from Coventry to Fradley Heath and then ownwards to Birmingham, linking to other canals.
Ribbon weaving and watch making developed in the early 1800s, thus increasing the population of the city. These industries tapered off by the 1860s, but were followed by the development of the bicycle and motor industries which brought more workers to the city. During the 20th century other industries—airplanes, machine tools, and munitions--further increased the population.
Although many of Coventry’s city center historic buildings were destroyed by age, the 1940’s bombings, or on purpose by town planners to get rid of slums and to adapt the city to modern times and transport, some historic buildings do remain for visitors to enjoy.
Located next to Coventry Cathedral is the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. It's the place to visit to learn about the history, culture, and arts of Coventry.
The 14th century St Michael’s Cathedral Church in the city centre was bombed on November 14, 1940 and mostly destroyed except for its late 14th century spire which stands 90 metres (295 feet) high. The (new) Coventry Cathedral is located on the same site. The ruins of the old cathedral are Grade I listed.
Old Grammar School/ Coventry Transport Museum:
The old school is located on the corner of Bishop and Hales Streets. It was originally a church dating from the 1100s before a school was located in the building in 1557. Although a large part of the building was demolished in the early 1800s a school continued to use it until 1885. It was refurbished in 2005 and incorporated as part of the Coventry Transport Museum. This museum reflects Coventry’s history as a manufacturing centre for bicycles, tricycles, cars and motorcycles. An events venue is part of the redevelopment.
The Golden Cross:
Located on Hay Lane, this timber framed pub is the oldest in Coventry and dates from approximately 1583.
The octagonal Greyfriar’s spire was part of a 14th century church belonging to the Fransciscan order. The spire and tower survived the dissolution of the monasteries and also survived the rebuilding of the church (called Christchurch) by the Victorians. The church was destroyed by a 1941 German air raid but the spire survived.
St Mary’s Guildhall:
Dating from 1342, and a Grade 1 listed monument, the Guildhall originally served as a venue for the Merchants Guild, thus its name. It also served as the first seat of local government, the court of Henry VI (15th century), as an armoury during the Civil War, as a theatre in the 18th century, and in 1860 as a soup kitchen. Its latest use was as a performance venue. Of note are the stained glass windows, particularly the one of Henry VI and his ancestors, and the hanging tapestry thought to be of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou. It serves as an event venue and a restaurant currently occupies the undercroft.
The Cottage at 22 Bayley Lane:
This medieval timber framed building is a Grade II listed building, dating from c1500. Of note is the original carved and traceried woodwork. The chimneys were added in the 17th century and the shop window dates from the early 19th century.
Little Park St House:
This early Georgian house in the city centre is a Grade II listed building. It was built in the provincial Baroque style for a silk merchant.
These buildings were the gateway to a Carmelite priory which was founded in 1352. In 1538 the priory was dissolved and the buildings were used as a private dwelling until 1717. It became a workhouse for the poor in 1804. It was bombed in 1940 but restored in1965. Of note are the range on east side of a former cloister, the tiled roof, the buttresses with offsets, and the ground floor arched windows. The first floor served as the friars' dormitory and has a canted oriel bay window.
The Old Windmill Pub building, on Spon St, dates from the 16th century.
Holy Trinity Church:
Dating from the 12th century, the church is Grade I listed. The chapel was added in 1526 while parts of the upper tower and spire were rebuilt between 1666-69. It was restored in the 19th century.
Coventry was famous for its Cross (between Holy Trinity Church and Cuckoo Lane) from medieval times. It didn’t weather well and was replaced in the early 1400s. It only lasted 100 years. In the early 1500s another cross was begun after a legacy was left by Sir William Hollis, a former London mayor. Completed in 1544, it stood 57 feet high and boasted many statues, was brightly painted and covered with lots of gold. However this cross only lasted until the mid 1700s when demolition began. A replica of the original cross was completed in 1976. In 2018 the cross was moved to make way for commercial development.
Lady Godiva statue:
Located in the pedestrian only area of Broadgate Square, the statue dates from 1944 and commemorates the 1th century noblewoman Countess Godgifu, wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia, who, according to legend, rode unclothed through the city to influence her husband to stop the heavy taxation of his tenants. This tale is now considered to be a myth.
At the dissolution of the monasteries and the guilds the only remaining religious foundations were Bond's Hospital and Ford's Hospital. Many religious buildings on the sites of the dissolved houses were demolished. Dating from 1509, this Grade I listed timber framed building was restored in 1951-3 after it suffered partial destruction in the German air raid of 1940. It was used for almshouses and provides accommodation today for people of limited means.
Bond’s Hospital, Hill Street:
The hospital was founded by a former Coventry mayor, Thomas Bond, in 1506. It is also provides accommodation today for people of limited means.
Bablake School, Hill Street:
Bablake, a half-timbered Tudor building, was originally built as a boy’s school. It was founded by Queen Isabella in 1344. It is still used as a school, but an independent one.
Cheylesmore Manor Gatehouse:
The timber gatehouse and parts of two wings, located on New Union St, is a remnant of a medieval royal palace and park. It now serves as the city register office. It was thought to have been built for the Earl of Arundel in 1237. Edward II’s wife Queen Isabella came into ownership in the early 14th century, and, after her death, Edward the Black Prince (her grandson) owned it. The manor house, after many changes in ownership and use, eventually became mostly a ruin.
St John’s Church:
The Grade I Iisted church is on the corner of Spon St. It dates from 1344 and was founded by Queen Isabella. Further additions were made to the original church during the 1400s. When King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries and guilds it impacting the main reason for its existence. It was used as a prison for Royalist soldiers in 1648 but became a parish church in 1734. Parts were restored between 1850-70.
Priory Row Townhouses:
These date from c.1648, but the timber used in their building dates from 1414-15. Built on the site of the former Benedictine priory, they can be viewed from the exterior.
Located between New Union St and Warwick Lane, the first Christ Church dated from the early 1200s and was built by Franciscan monks. King Henry VIII ended its use in 1538. However, the tower and the spire were saved. In the 19th century it was rebuilt but on a smaller scale. In the 1940s air raids the main church building was destroyed.
This building dates from 1913 but was not completed until 1917 due to World War I intervening.
Spon St buildings:
There are a number of Tudor buildings, some moved from other streets, that can be viewed along Spon St.
Coventry is located 153km northwest of London, 31km east-southeast of Birmingham, and 18km north of Warwick.
For more information on St John Church go to: St John Church
For more information on St Mary’s Guildhall go to: St Mary’s Guildhall
For more on the Coventry Transport Museum go to: Coventry Transport Museum
Also of interest:
Historic Coventry which is working to regenerate all of Coventry’s heritage.
Coventry Music Museum
Coventry Watch Museum
The Weavers House
All photos courtesy Geograph Britain as follows:
Coventry Cathedral exterior by Tom Pennington; Greyfriar’s green by Robin Stott; Tower of old cathedral by Keith Evans; Coventry new cathedral interior by Sue Adair; Golden Cross pub, Council House by Mat Fascione; Greyfriar’s spire by David Stowell; Guildhall exterior, St John’s Church by E Gammie; Guildhall interior, Lady Godiva statue; Herbert Art Gallery and Museum by David Dixon; The Cottage, Whitefriar’s by Julian; Old Windmill pub by Stephen McKay; Holy Trinity Church, Ford Hospital by Philip Halling; Cheylesmore Manor Gatehouse, Priory Row Townhouses by Ian Rob; Coventry Cross by Mike Faherty; Christ Church by David Stowell; old Grammar School by Roger Templeman; Coventry Cross by Mike Faherty.
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