Burges wins Future Cities Award

The Future Cities Forum has announced the winners of its 2021 Summer Awards. The “High Streets” category was won by Coventry’s Burges Project, recently visited by CovSoc in May. The winners were judged by an all women panel of experts,

The overall criteria for the awards judging were whether the projects showed real vision in their concept and design and additionally but not least, sustainability in how they would be delivered and how they would add to their host cities. The judges were asked to consider the use of heritage to improve the high street from economic, social and aesthetic perspectives.

The Burges project was a partnership between Historic England, the Historic Coventry Trust and Coventry City Council with architects Corstorphine + Wright. The judges stated that “Historic England’s Heritage Action Zone programme has released funds for restoration and upgrading of one of the few remaining medieval / Victorian streetscapes in Coventry, including Hales Street and Palmer Lane, boosting the local economy and engaging directly and successfully with the community.“

The Burges project has restored and regenerated a forgotten part of Coventry’s historic townscape, boosting the local economy and celebrating the city’s rich heritage. The Burges area forms a key element of Coventry’s surviving historic townscape and includes three streets: The Burges, Palmer Lane and Hales Street, all of which lie within the Lady Herbert’s Garden Conservation Area.

Buildings on The Burges and Hales Street date from the late medieval period through to the 19th century. Palmer Lane is also a medieval street which runs alongside Coventry’s forgotten river, The Sherbourne.

The Burges area has survived many changes over time, from those made by city planners and architects in the 1930s to the devastation of the Coventry Blitz during the Second World War and the subsequent redevelopment of the city in the 1950s and 1960s.

Lack of investment in recent decades has seen the area decline, with the conservation area being added to Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register.

The Coventry Society are partners in a consortium that is implementing the Coventry River Cultural Programme. This project is supporting the restoration work in the street with a programme of cultural activity.

Amongst the runners-up in the Science Cities category was Warwick University’s £30 million IBRB biomedical research building – designed by HawkinsBrown Architects and built by Wilmott Dixon – which includes the Wolfson Tissue Mechanobiology and Human Disease Laboratory.

University of Warwick Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research Building

Restoration of Charterhouse Walls Complete

When CovSoc members visit the Charterhouse in June they will have the opportunity to see the completed restoration of the Listed monastery walls.

In May the final stone was laid in the major restoration of the ancient walls that protected Coventry’s Carthusian Monastery as part of a multi-million-pound new visitor attraction.

Cllr Patricia Hetherton, Cabinet Member for City Services at Coventry City Council, had the honour of completing the restoration of the outer precinct wall at Charterhouse off London Road.  The repair work is part of the £8 million scheme that will open later this summer during Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture.

The work to restore the monastic wall to its former glory has now been completed by Coventry City Council in partnership with Historic Coventry Trust. The painstaking restoration by specialist contractor Croft Building & Conservation has used traditional techniques with lime mortar and a large amount of new stone copings to replace those that have deteriorated over the past 600 years.

Ian Harrabin, Chairman of Historic Coventry Trust, said this was another momentous milestone in the history of the Grade I listed building.

He said: “This is really important work as without well repaired copings, the walls would soon deteriorate and it wouldn’t be very long before it looked like Kenilworth Castle.

“Coventry’s Charterhouse follows the format of all other Carthusian monasteries and is set outside what would have been the boundaries of the medieval city and its city walls. The city walls were already being built when Charterhouse was founded in 1385.

“Charterhouse was located outside the city to avoid the temptations of wine, women and gambling, therefore needed its own protection in a lawless time with both an outer and inner precinct wall.

“Monasteries were wealthy with large land holdings and rich benefactors and would have had precious items of silver and possibly gold – also books would have been very precious as they were written by hand and elaborately adorned.

“The outer precinct walls were built from 1400 onwards and have survived largely intact to this day extending to 400m in length. This is unusual with only once other Carthusian site, Mount Grace Priory within the North York Moors National Park, having substantial walls remaining.”

The Carthusians were the most pious of all of the monastic orders, with the core group of ‘choir monks’ living in silence and solitude in individual ‘cells’ within the second level of walls – the inner precinct.

They wanted to emulate the lives of the early hermits who went into the desert and lived in caves, to be in solitude and closer to God.

When Charterhouse opens to the public, there will also be interactive displays charting the site’s history since its founding by King Richard II in 1385 as well as the recreation of part of the cloister and two monks’ cells set in the walled garden.

Charterhouse, which is one of Coventry’s oldest buildings, will be the focal point of the new 70-acre Charterhouse Heritage Park along the banks of the River Sherbourne.

Historic Coventry Trust’s £8 million restoration of Charterhouse has been a partnership with Coventry City Council and major grants have been secured from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic England and several trusts and foundations including Garfield Weston, Wolfson, Foyle and Historic Houses Foundation, Edward Cadbury and AllChurches.

Spon End Gets its Own Opera

Coventry Society members Christopher Sidwell and  Mary Courtney are in the process of creating a Spon  End opera, a multimedia production with music and paintings.

The work currently comprises four songs plus a couple of musical pieces. The main one of these is a spooky bit of electronic music called ‘The Hospital’. The intention is to link them with little links in between and to get Town Cryer Paul Curtis to do an introduction.

Christopher says “The work isn’t only a celebration of old Spon End (though it most certainly is that) – it is more a celebration of what it is to be a ‘Coventarian’ – those people born at Gulson Road hospital plus all those ‘Odd Socks’ that have come here from other places wide and far and now feel a part of this wonderful City of ours. The ‘Odd Sock’ was used as music for an animated film that Mary and I made.”

The production includes a focus on the iconic Moira’s Wet Fish Shop in Upper Spon Street.

Christopher explains “The portrait of Moira (Lock) was part of an original installation and hung in the shop doorway as if greeting people ‘back’ to her shop.

“It was based on a photo given us by Moira’s sister Sheelagh Fulford. Along with Moira’s son Joe Lock she attended one of the craft and ‘Junk modelling’ workshops Mary and I ran to generate the sea creatures for the art installation (Moira’s old shop window) where we returned Moira and her sea creatures to her shop once more. We hope to do this once again next March as part of City of Culture.

The ‘Queen Mary’ painting (which features ‘Sponnie’ the mechanical fish which we built in homage to the old clockmakers of Coventry) was included on my 2021 Calendar. Sponnie was built in conjunction with Fablab and the Grapevine. The Spon Spun Festival is organised by Artspace Coventry.

“The Odd Sock’ song was given away as a free CD to a number of our friends at Christmas a few years ago. ‘Mora’s Wet Fish Shop’ itself has just been released on the ‘Ghostown Chartbusters Volume 3’ CD which is available from the Coventry Music Museum and Just Dropped In records at Fargo Village. We hope to complete the work this year and release it as a CD mini-album.”

The Odd Sock
Moira’s Wet Fish
Black Swan

Christopher adds “Mary and I are currently looking for funding to complete our little project. We need money to run workshops to create the sea creatures for Moira’s shop and also to complete the professional recordings of our little opera. That would not be a huge amount – a few hundred pounds would probably be enough. Many art grants would not be available to us for such a, relatively, small amount and Mary and I are not ‘constituted’ if you know what that means.

“Any sponsors would of course be acknowledged on the CD which will comprise the 4 songs, 2 instrumental pieces and links.” Can you help?

What a lot of talent we have in the Society! We can’t wait to see and hear the finished product!

Telegraph Hotel Finally Opens

(Left to right) Brian Harrabin of CDP, Paul Brown, Regional Director of Bespoke Hotels, Lord Mayor of Coventry, Councillor Ann Lucas, Amy Windsor, General Manager of the Telegraph Hotel and Ian Harrabin of CDP.

Coventry’s Telegraph Hotel has been given the civic seal of approval as it opened its doors to guests for the first time in May.

The Lord Mayor of Coventry, Councillor Ann Lucas, was given the honour of cutting the ribbon and formally heralding in a new era for the former Coventry Telegraph offices.

It comes after months of waiting as the hotel was forced to postpone its opening several times because of the Coronavirus pandemic lockdowns and the tier system.

Amy Windsor, General Manager of the Telegraph Hotel, said: “The opening of the Telegraph has been a long time coming and we have been waiting for many months for the chance to welcome in our first guests to experience this very special building.

“We are absolutely thrilled to finally be up and running properly and letting people see all the work that has gone into creating this beautiful hotel.

The outdoor rooftop bar at the Corporation Street-based hotel has already proved extremely popular, having welcomed more than 3,000 people in the past month to experience the cocktails and tapas menu and thousands more are booked in over the weeks to come.

The open air tapas bar

The Lord Mayor of Coventry, Councillor Ann Lucas, said: “I am delighted to be able to open the hotel and to see the results of this fine restoration project that celebrates Coventry’s post war rebirth.

“The attention to detail is outstanding with the building capturing the very essence of Coventry as we start our year celebrating the city’s culture.  I am sure that the hotel will be a major attraction for locals and visitors alike.

“The city centre has lacked a hotel of this quality for many years and, as my mayoral year comes to a close and we emerge from the pandemic, we can look forward with pride and confidence in our city’s future with a hotel that does us proud.”

The luxury 4* hotel celebrates the cool Mid-Century style of the former Coventry Telegraph offices thanks to a two-year, £18 million investment programme.

The Telegraph Hotel, created by Complex Development Projects, has 88 individually designed air-conditioned bedrooms including loft style penthouse suites on two levels. 

The hotel features an all-day cocktail bar and restaurant dining experience, Forme & Chase, for a full meal, light bites, celebration dinners, afternoon tea and more. The bar and restaurant recreate the glamour of the 1950s retaining many of the building’s original features.

Conferencing, weddings and events are well catered for with the Editors function space – capable of accommodating up to 160 guests across a range of layouts.

The hotel’s most luxurious room is the Lord Iliffe Suite – named after the family who started and until recently owned the newspaper – which includes its own hot tub and outdoor terrace.

There is also the spectacular Winter Garden – which is a private, glazed indoor terrace only accessible from the 11 bedrooms that surround it.

The hotel will be operated by Bespoke Hotels, the largest independent hotel company in the UK.

There are also two private meeting rooms – the Boardroom and Directors – which can each accommodate up to 12 people for smaller meetings and private dinners.

For further information about the Telegraph Hotel or to book a stay or meal visit www.telegraph-hotel.com

Modern Mercia

It is disappointing, but perhaps not surprising, that the best exhibition of postwar art and design from Coventry during City of Culture Year should be taking place in Leamington and not Coventry. But it looks to be a great exhibition and we encourage all members to find the time over the summer for a trip out of town. Paul Maddocks tells us more…

A major exhibition of post-war art in Coventry and Warwickshire between 1945 and 1970 is being shown at the Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum at the Royal Pump Rooms on the Parade in Leamington Spa.

The exhibition explores the rich variety of architecture, art and design produced in Coventry and Warwickshire after the Second World War.

The exhibition runs until 19th September 2021 and is free.

The exhibition has four key strands. The first covers the commissioning by the city architects, Donald Gibson and Arthur Ling, of a wide variety of public art during the rebuilding of Coventry after the war and the modern art and architecture created in other local towns such as Leamington Spa and Stratford Upon Avon.

The re-building of Coventry from severe bomb damage after the Second World War allowed for the wide scale implementation of new ideas of modern town planning that were taking hold across Britain. This focuses on the importance of a harmonious relationship between architecture and public art to create an inspirational place for people to live. The exhibition has material by artists such as Walter Ritchie, George Wagstaffe, Trevor Tennant, Alma Ramsey and Peter Laszlo Peri.

Photo: Sally L. Taylor. Walter Ritchie supervising the dismantling of the ‘Man’s Struggle’ statue from the Abbey End workshop, Kenilworth to be delivered to Coventry Precinct, around 1959.

The second strand explores the emphasis during the 1950s and 1960s in Britain on the importance of high-quality art in everyday life, particularly in the home and in schools, and the form this took in the Midlands. It is exciting that it includes a number of textiles and ceramics by the innovative designer Tibor Reich, whose Stratford based textile company, was internationally renowned and produced designs for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Festival of Britain, Coventry Cathedral, the Royal Yacht Britannia and Concorde among others.

Tibor’s collection of die cast models is now located in the Coventry Transport Museum. I got to know him very well when setting up the various scenes and sets for the car models and had the pleasure of visiting his home which he had designed himself and had many of his textiles, tiles, pottery and various artworks within it.

The third strand explores the modern art commissioned for Coventry Cathedral and other local churches in this period and includes studies for sculptural murals, textiles and stained glass by leading artists of the period including John Piper, Graham Sutherland, John Hutton, Margaret Traherne and Geoffrey Clarke.

The last strand focuses on two prominent local artists in the period by whom we have many works in the collection. These artists are Dick Hosking, who was director of Coventry College of Art in this period, and his wife Alma Ramsey.

These themes are explored through the display of sculptures, maquettes, sketches, photographs, paintings and textiles. The exhibition contains a large number of loans, including from the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Warwick University, Leeds Museums and a number of private individuals and artists. The exhibition includes a number of sketches and sculptural maquettes which have rarely, if ever, been on display to the public.

Changing political priorities and the economic downturn of the 1970s saw the waning of the post-war optimism that had supported such a widespread programme of public art. In the following years, appreciation and understanding of the significance of the art and architecture produced in this period has lessened. Some of the public sculpture, particularly in Coventry, has fallen into disrepair and is under threat from re-development. This exhibition is intended to highlight the importance of the post-war architecture, art and design produced in this region and to encourage visitors to recognise and re-engage with the public art around them.

This exhibition has been organised by Warwick University and Leamington Art Gallery & Museum, and is supported by the Henry Moore Foundation.

The exhibition is free but you need to book a timed access ticket. You can book a morning (10am – 12pm), or afternoon (1pm – 3pm/4pm). Please note, the gallery is closed between 12noon and 1pm for cleaning.


*’Warwickshire Landscape’ by Hugh Richard ‘Dick’ Hosking, c. 1965

You can see see some of Coventry’s post-war pubic art on CovSoc website here.