The Little History of Coventry by Peter Walters


Our Chairman, Paul Maddocks, reviews a book written by one of our own members, Peter Walters. Let’s hope they are still friends!

Paul writes…

‘The Little History of Coventry’ – yes it is little as the title says, but this lovely hard backed book with its deep red ribbon bookmark is a nice and handy size that can easily fit into your side pocket or hand bag. But what hides among its 193 pages are fascinating stories bursting to get out. Best of all – it’s full of things about Coventry! The story takes us from its early beginnings with Lady Godiva and the Earl of Leofric, through the growth of the Benedictine Priory of St. Mary into a large and powerful Cathedral. The growth of other monastic orders of the Greyfriars’, the Whitefriars’ and the silent order of the Carthusian’s at the Charterhouse monastery to the Cistercians out at Coombe Abbey – they all played a major part in the growth and wealth of the city.

The book lists the surprising number of different Kings and Queens that have been involved with this city due to its wealth, central location in the country and its defensive walls. It also covers the people who have played a major part in forging this city into what it is today, as well as its trade guilds and various religions, companies, societies and clubs.

The book describes the many industries that have been the back bone of the city such as the early woollen weaving and dyeing of cloth which led to the expression ‘true as Coventry Blue’. The silk ribbon weaving industry and many precision craft based industries like watch and clock making. It was its small manufacturing of high quality precision items that allowed Coventry to quickly change to manufacturing other engineered goods like sewing machines, cycles, motorcycles, cars, aeroplanes, machine tools and anything new.

I also like the more recent history of people like George Hodgkinson who played such a big role in Coventry before and after the Blitz and the rebuilding of the city, onto the big players in Coventry’s economy the city’s two universities, Warwick and Coventry.

The book is neatly laid out with easy to access subjects and will be a very good ‘go to first’ reference book. This timing of the book is very good with the up and coming City of Culture 2021. It puts Coventry’s background of where we came from and where we may be going to into focus. I hope schools that do not usually learn about local history can find this book a good way into getting their student to appreciate their city and learn about the importance of our history and culture.

Through the dark times of war and famine the city has always been able to rise like the phoenix. As they say from Boom time to Ghost town and back again, a roller coaster through the history of Coventry.

The book is truly an eye-opening journey through the events and characters that have shaped Coventry and its story and made the city one of England’s hidden jewels.

I think Peter Walter the author and fellow Coventry Society member has truly made himself a Coventry citizen, though he is not a native, but it sometimes takes an outsider to point out our strengths and our positives and Peter has done a great job with this lovely little book – a must for everyone in this year’s Christmas stocking.

Paul Maddocks

Peter Walters will be attending the next meeting of the Coventry Society at 7.30 p.m. on Monday 9th September and will be selling signed copies of this book at a substantial reduction.

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