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Coventry: A Journey Through Time

From the ruins of St Michaels Cathedral to the Black Princes Manor, with the bountiful gardens of Lady Herbert and the old Council Chambers, Coventry's walls are brimming with history.

From the ruins of St Michael’s Cathedral to the Black Prince’s Manor, to the bountiful gardens of Lady Herbert and the old Council Chambers: Coventry’s walls are brimming with history.


Join us in celebrating the 7 places that piece together the story of Coventry’s Journey through time:

1. St Mary’s Priory and Undercrofts

View of the staircase and small chamber 2017 (Javerya Iqbal) -®HistoricEngland
Priory Undercrofts, Coventry ©Historic England

Grade I Listed St. Mary’s Priory is more than just your average ruin. It is the first and oldest Cathedral in Coventry. It was originally founded by the Earl Leofric and Lady Godiva and was ‘given away’ by King Henry VIII in the 16th Century in disagreement with the Catholic Church.

The Priory offers a view into the undercrofts, with lime washed walls paving the way from room to room, through doorways, and onto staircases led by sculpted monks. It even had its moment of fame when, as part of the Millennium Campaign in 1999, the undercrofts were excavated by the Channel 4 Time Team. The team uncovered relics, 14th century floor tiles, and various wall paintings. In special consideration of what was being discovered, Time Team broke their 3-day rule and stayed an extra day to continue excavations.

2. City Centre Roundabout

View of the inner city circular market, Coventry ©Historic England

This market was one of Europe’s first indoor markets, and is probably the first indoor circular markets on the continent.  It retains many of its original features as a Grade II listed building. The merry-go-round more commonly known by Coventrians as the ‘roundabout’ was one of the most loved features, and after years of travel around the precint, it now sits pride of place in the centre of the market.

3. St Mary’s Guildhall

St Marys Guildhall (Main Hall Interior view from the balcony) 6 2017 (Javerya Iqbal) -®HistoricEngland
St Mary’s Guildhall, Coventry © Historic England

The Guildhall has been visited by people from all walks of life, from the Bard and his company of men to Mary, Queen of Scots who was imprisoned there in 1569. The Grade I listed Guildhall formed part of a trio and is well known as one of ‘the finest surviving medieval guildhalls in England.’

4. The Jewel in the Medieval Crown

John Baptist Church (exterior) 2 2017 - (Javerya Iqbal) @Historic England
St John the Baptist (Ba blake) Church, Coventry © Historic England

You are looking at a 14th century Grade I listed building in all its splendour. The Parish Church otherwise known as the bablake (babbelak) church was built on a parcel of land gifted by Queen Isabella, the widow of Edward II. After the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, the parish adapted its character and use. During the Civil War it was the place of imprisonment for the Scottish Royalist Soldiers and was later adapted for use as a dyer’s stretch yard and even a market place.

5. Garden of Flowers

Lady Herbert's Garden and House 1 2017 (Javerya Iqbal) @Historic England
Lady Herbert’s Garden, Coventry © Historic England

Sir Alfred Herbert excelled in his aim to create a ‘garden of flowers’ that acts as a ‘haven of peace and floral beauty’ to commemorate his late wife Florence. In doing so he redesigned and accommodated the changing outlook of the city. Lady Herbert’s Garden is a fascinating green oasis hidden in the city centre. The inner surface of a domed octagonal shelter in the garden is inscribed – In Spring the garden bids its hope; In Summer, all is at its best; In Autumn, still some joy remains; In Winter gardens take their rest.

The gardens are publically accessible, giving visitors a chance to escape from the city.

6. Ford’s Hospital

Fords Hospital Courtyard 4 2017 - (Javerya Iqbal) @Historic England

Grade I listed Ford’s Hospital, formerly known as Greyfriars, was founded in 1509 by William Ford as an almshouse for 6 people. It was bombed in 1940,  tragically killing eight people. Using the surviving timbers, the structure was rebuilt and restored 11 years laterand is still in use as an almshouse.

7. Coventry Cathedral

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The original Cathedral was damaged during an air raid in November 1940, yet the defiance is visible in the ruins of the site – the tower stands tall and the columns stand strong.

The new Cathedral was designed by Sir Basil Spence after he was chosen in a design competition – out of all the entrants he was the only one who proposed to keep the old ruins of the Cathedral intact – in fact he created a new build which both complemented the structure and design of the original whilst also showcasing an aspect of modernity.

Follow the Coventry Heritage Action Zone Instagram account @CoventryHAZ for daily posts and sneak peeks of both past and present Coventry.

Written by Javerya Iqbal, Historic Places Placement Student at Historic England, West Midlands


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5 comments on “Coventry: A Journey Through Time

  1. Great piece on some historic places to visit in Coventry. Coventry Priory is currently open 11-3.30 Thursday to Saturday with tours of the Undercrofts offered at 11,12,1,2 & 3 from a suggested donation of just £2.50 per adult.

  2. Wendy John gilling

    To the whitefriars monastery it would be money well spent on what was once a beautiful medieval city,also please maintain the city wall

  3. Coventry is a somewhat underrated city in terms of its architecture. Fascinating buildings such as St. Mary’s Priory serve as an ever present reminder of the history of Coventry. As you point out, St Micheal’s Cathedral is particularly symbolic of the city’s resilience during the second World War, and it’s close proximity to 21st century architecture somehow enhances this impression.Thanks for sharing!

  4. Coventry is a beautiful mediaeval city with some significant remains, however much of the acclaimed post war rebuilding has been destroyed or is under threat. Many pieces of public art have gone missing including an important Eric Gill sold off in a London auction house. Lady Herbert’s Garden has been allowed to degenerate into a haven for rough sleepers, drinkers, drug users and worse. Other important artworks are under threat including Naiad by George Wagstaffe, locked away out of public view for ten years. It seems we can not trust our city council to look after our public art and must hold them account for their acts of municipal vandalism.

  5. Reblogged this on Karl Quinney and commented:
    With the countdown building up to Thursday’s announcement of who will be the 2021 UK City of Culture, a timely reminder of an article featuring one of the shortlisted cities.

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