St Mary's Hall is a fantastic looking red sandstone building. It was built between 1340-1416. The South wall is thought to include parts of a 12th Century castle. The building was originall the guild hall and chambers for the merchants Guilds of St Mary and holy trinity founded 1340 and 1364. It became the first seat of local Government in the town.
According to the popular story, Lady Godiva took pity on the people of Coventry, who were suffering grievously under her husband's oppressive taxation. Lady Godiva appealed again and again to her husband, who obstinately refused to remit the tolls. At last, weary of her entreaties, he said he would grant her request if she would strip naked and ride through the streets of the town. Lady Godiva took him at his word and, after issuing a proclamation that all persons should stay indoors and shut their windows, she rode through the town, clothed only in her long hair. Only one person in the town, a tailor ever afterwards known as Peeping Tom, disobeyed her proclamation. In the story, Tom bores a hole in his shutters so that he might see Godiva pass. In the end, Godiva's husband keeps his word and abolishes the onerous taxes.
The Statue of Lady Godiva was created by Sir William Reid Dick and was unveiled at midday on 22 October 1949 in Broadgate.
The ruined Cathedral Church of St Michael dates from 1300AD. It was one of the largest Parish Churches in England, it was originally built for the Earls half of Coventry, and became the Cathedral of the diocese of Coventry in 1918. It was on the night of 14th November 1940, however, that one of the most momentous events in the life of the Cathedral took place. The building was hit by German bombing and was destroyed, leaving the shell of the building and the magnificent West Spire which now dominates the City. Today you can visit the remains of the Cathedral, much of the original outer structure with elegant carvings, decorative arches and splendid craftmanship can still be seen.
'The Cottage' at 22 Bayley lane was built about 1500 and is the only remining example of numerous timber framed housed which stood in this area. It is notable for its' original carved and traceried woodwork. Chimneys were added in the 17th Century and the shop window is early 19 Century.
Coventry was once a County in its own right. The Boundary act of 1847 removed this status from Coventry but the old County Hall retained it's name. The County Hall was built in 1783-4 and was designed by the architect Samuel Eglington. It was used for County Court and quarter sessions and is the only remaining 18th Century building of architectural distinction in Coventry. At one time it also housed the Prison governer of the adjoining jail which stood next door in Trinity Lane. The last public execution to take place in Coventry was in the street outside the County Hall (Cuckoo Lane) in 1849.
The transport museum on Millenium Square has a splendid collection of British cars and other wheeled things: long-gone marques such as Sunbeam, Humber, Alvis, Standard...... the days of Empire when we had a motor-manufacturing industry. There are a few glamour boys as well: the Thrust SSC (I'm afraid that exceeding Mach 1 at zero altitude seems perverse to me), a couple if FI cars including a 50's Maserati and the six-wheeled Tyrrell oddity.
The Millenium Place has a couple of things worth to notice, even if you don't go into the Transport Museum. First, the arches and bridges over Millenium suqare which must give an astonishing panorama at night. Then, of course, the transport museum. It focuses on cars as Coventry was a home to several assembly lines until the late 20th century and has always been a city with a focus on the car manufacturing industry. A small part is also dedicated to aviation as also parts for aircraft manuifacturers were produced here.
At the Millenium Place, you will also find the statue of Sir Frank Whittle. The legacy of this coventrian was the invention of the turbojet engine which he developed independently from his german counterpart von Ohain in the 1930s. However, none of them can claim this invention without considering the efforts of romanian Henri Coanda who flew a motorjet-powered aircraft in 1910 without further following its development. Part of the museum is also dedicated to Sir Frank Whittle and his invention.
Although it is a bautiful gothic church, the Holy Trinity Church does not receive much attention due to the neighbouring Cathedral. Finished in the late 14th century, it replaced an older chapel which stood on the same place. Although frequent renovations and modernization replaced some of the original material, the church has kept its style almost purely gothic. The spire is from 1667 after the original one crashed down udirng a thunderstorm two years before. A painting from 1430 is regarded as the main treasure of this church.
It should be mentioned that the most remarkable buildings in Coventry’s skyline are the often-mentioned three spires. Only the one of the Holy Trinity Church belongs to a church still in function!
Until November 14th 1940, when it was bombed by Nazi Germany, St. Michael’s Cathedral was one of the most impressive clecrical buildings in England. What could be saved out of it was transferred into the new building which was finished in 1962. The old cathedral is still hallowed ground and is used as a monument for peace and understanding. The wooden cross, made out of two former beams and placed behind the alter directly after the bombing, still stands on its place. Regularly, memorial services take place here. The tower can still be climbed. Tickets for it are sold in the small souvenir shop directly at the base of the tower. There, you’ll also get a card which you have to return when you come back from the tower. This is to ensure that nobody is locked down in the tower (I wonder, if this has ever happened…). It will give you a wonderful view over the city.
For further information about the cathedral’s history and the new building, please check out my separate tip about it.
The cathedral has always played a mayor role in the history of Coventry and can be seen as Coventry’s heart. The founding year of the city is mostly given as 1043 – the year when Eral Leofric founded an abbey on the spot where the old cathedral stands now. Only few remains of this abbey which was replaced by the gothic St. Michael’s cathedral by the 13th century. On Noevmber 14th 1940, Coventry was “blitzed” and, like large parts of the town center, destroyed. Only the tower and the outer walls remained. Rather than rebuildiding the Cathedral, it was decided to build a new one next to it. In this process, a focus of partnership with Germany took place. For example, the new Cathedral was consecrated on the same day (may 25th 1962) as the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, which suffered a similar fate. Both churches, together with the Cathedral of Volgograd (former Stalingrad) are in possession of an artwork called the Stalingrad Madonna, which was drawn by a german soldier during the battle of Stalingrad. Also, some other church treasury is shown in the new cathedral making it worth a visit. Outside, the large bronze sculpture “St. Michael’s Victory over the Devil” is worth to notice. For further information about the old cathedral, which can still be visited, please check out my separate tip about it.
Coventry is the birthplace of the British cycle and motor industry and the Transport Museum displays the world’s largest collection of British road transport, including 240 cars, commercial vehicles and buses, 100 motorcycles, more than 200 cycles and around a million archive and ephemera items.
In Spon Street there are a number of houses and shops dating back to the 15th century. which have been restored or re-located there. These give a wonderful picture of how a town would have been at that time.
The modern cathedral of the city was built to replace the old fourteenth century St Michael's Cathedral that was destroyed during World War 2 on the 14th November 1940.
The new cathedral was built by Basil Spence.
Coventry now has a brand new concert venue which can match the best in the UK, the Ricoh Arena home of Coventry City, This last month has seen both Bon Jovi and The Red Hot Chilli pepppers perform here
Bon Jovi, with over 40000 fans in the staduim, what a night
As an armaments centre, Coventry was a prime target for German bombing raids in WWII and in 1940 the medieval cathedral in the city centre was hit.
After the war, the ruins were left as a reminder and are now a place of contemplation and the venue for Mystery Plays held every two years as a symbol of reconciliation.
The new St Michael's Cathedral designed by Sir Basel Spence was bult beside it.
The broad steps leading to the entrance are guarded by a striking bronze figure by Sir Joseph Epstein of St Michael triumphing over the devil.
Inside is Graham Sutherland's tapestry showing Christ in Glory above the altar. The Baptistry is dominated by a window with impressive abstract stained glass, the work of John Piper and there is a font consisting of a rugged boulder brought from Bethlehem. The small Chapel of Gethsemane is protected by a screen in the form of the crown of thorns, designed by Spence himself.
There is no charge for admission, but the cathedral does rely on visitor donations.