Weekly City Spotlight: Coventry


Skyline view of the city of Coventry

Coventry is located in the West Midlands, close to Birmingham and is the 11th largest city in the UK.  Visitors to the city can enjoy such historic attractions as its famous Cathedral and St Mary’s Guildhall, and explore its many museums, including the Coventry Transport Museum which details the key role played by Coventry in the British motor industry.  Coombe Country Park provides a beautiful location with lakes, woodland and gardens in the 500 acre site, perfect for a relaxing day out.

The War Memorial Park is the location of the annual Godiva Festival, and the impressive Ricoh Arena plays host to a wealth of events including concerts from top name performers.  With great retail facilities for those with a passion for shopping, the Belgrade Theatre and Plaza are also added to the endless list of Coventry’s attractions.

Historic Coventry
There were settlements in the area of Coventry as early as the Bronze Age, with the Romans later developing further sites with the location and environment ideal for rural settlements.

Following the devastation caused by the invasion of the Danes in 1016, the area came under the control of the Earl of Mercia, Leofric.  Famously married to Lady Godiva, the pair were responsible for founding the monastery which was built in 1043, on the site of St Osburga.  The legend of Lady Godiva tells of her tireless efforts to convince her husband to reduce the heavy taxes that the people of Coventry were made to pay.  The Earl is said to have commented that he would do so in the event that she would ride naked through the streets of Coventry, which she is said to have done.  However, it is hard to determine how much truth there is in this legendary tale.  What is known is that the Earl of Mercia was a powerful individual and together with Lady Godiva were generous religious supporters, making numerous donations throughout their lives.

The industrial history of Coventry began in the Middle Ages, with its important involvement in industries such as the cloth trade. Coventry would later become a focus for the manufacture of clocks and watches, as well as extensive manufacturing involvement in the areas of the machine tools, bicycles, aircraft and the automotive industry.  Coventry would be the chosen location for numerous automotive manufacturers including Rover, which was originally a bicycle company.

Given the industrial significance of Coventry, it became a target of sustained bombing during the war.  Extensive damage was caused across the city with thousands of homes and businesses destroyed.  Sadly on the 14 November 1940, the Cathedral was hit badly resulting in only the outer walls and spire remaining.  Today, these parts of the old cathedral remain in place, together with a new cathedral building which sits next to these poignant reminders of war.

Popular Culture
Coventry is a cultural and historic city, and as such has been a focus in popular culture.

Films & TV
Nativity! (2009) – starring Martin Freeman and Ashley Jensen, scenes from this comedy film were shot in Coventry Cathedral.

The Italian Job – (1969), Coventry featured in this legendary film starring Michael Caine, with the famous footage of the Minis driving through sewer pipes which appeared to be in Italy, actually shot in city.

The Bouncer and All in the Game – Both starring Ray Winstone, have featured Coventry as a film location.

TV programmes which have been filmed in Coventry include Doctor Who, Keeping up Appearances and The Shakespeare Code.

The Weight of Water (January 2013), by Sarah Crossan, set in Coventry, this book tells the emotional tale of Kasienka and her mother, who are immigrants facing a new life in England.

Pale Moon Rider (1999), Marsha Canham’s Coventry based novel includes characters such as Tyrone Hart and Renee d’Anton in this thrilling love story.

Godiva (2008) Nerys Jones – this historic novel is set in Coventry and focusses on the heroine Godiva, wife of the Earl of Mercia, at the time of Edward the Confessor.

Social Media
Coventry has its own official tourism website, Visit Coventry as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Famous Faces
Arthur Hutt – was born in Coventry 12 February 1889, Hutt was awarded the Victoria Cross for his brave efforts during the Battle of Passchendaele, when as a Private, Hutt took over the leadership of his platoon following numerous casualties, and his resulting action led to the surrender of over 40 enemy soldiers.

Nigel Hawthorne – born in Coventry on 5 April 1929, the BAFTA award winning actor, who starred in many tv, film and theatre productions was best known for the lead role in The Madness of King George as well as playing Sir Humphrey Appleby in Yes Minster.

Pete Waterman – DJ, record producer and member of Stock Aitken Waterman, was born in the Stoke Heath area of Coventry on 15 January 1947.

Tony Southgate – was born in Coventry on 25 May 1940.  During his career as an engineer and racing car designer, Southgate worked for many F1 teams, as well as designing Jaguar’s XJR-9 which was victorious at Le Mans and the Audi R8C.


Coventry Cathedral

The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum (left), and St Michael’s Cathedral

St Michael’s Cathedral
A popular landmark attracting thousands of visitors each year is St Michael’s Cathedral which is located in Priory Street.  Dating back to the 14th Century, the original Cathedral structure was badly damaged during bombing raids in the Second World War.  Work began to build a new Cathedral on the site next to the ruins in 1956, with the design by Basil Spence completed in 1962.

The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum
Free entry can be gained to this award winning museum, which offers a wealth of collections from natural history to archaeology and the visual arts, with a focus on Coventry’s social and industrial history all under one roof. This modern design construction is situated opposite St Michael’s in Jorden Well.

St Mary’s Guildhall
Located in Bayley Lane, St Mary’s Guildhall hosts an excellent collection of fine artworks in this amazing medieval guildhall.  The breath-taking architecture and beautiful stained glass windows offer a unique venue in which to explore Coventry’s history.  Admission is free to historic landmark.

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