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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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