Historian and CovSoc member David Fry tells us about one of the city’s medieval gates.
A few coincidences have prompted this bit of research into one of Coventry’s lost gates:
In preparing a talk on the history of the Coventry Canal I had found that the canal basin was built in an area known as Bishopgate, named after one of the medieval town wall’s gates. It was especially striking that it had only been demolished five years earlier than the opening of the canal basin in 1761, a symbolic moment in Coventry history when an icon of the medieval age gave way to the first step in Coventry’s industrial revolution.
A search for an image of the gate proved unsuccessful until the recent launch of the invaluable new Coventry Atlas website and there was a sketch made in the eighteenth century of the inside of the gate (Fig.1). Sadly none seem to have survived of the outside of the gate; this would have been more impressive as appears to be the case for some of the other gates in the town wall that were on the major routes. It was named Bishop Gate because it marked the entry point of Bishops from Lichfield coming to the shared bishopric with Coventry. It was an important entry point and should have had a gate to suit.
Then in clearing the house of a keen student of Coventry history who had recently passed away I came across a few photocopied pages of the reminiscences of a Mr Richard Jelliffe written towards the end of his life in the mid nineteenth century. He had been born in Bishop Gate in September 1762! More particularly he wrote “in the tower of Bishop Gate”. As no tower can be seen in the sketch it might be concluded that the gate was configured like that of Gosford Gate with a rather grander turreted view to the outside of the wall and a rather plainer view on the inside (Fig 2 & 3).
Figure 2 – Gosford Gate – Outside view Figure 3 – Gosford Gate – Inside view
With the name Bishop Gate applied to the recently opened Coventry University owned student accommodation, the old building has got an impressive heir (Fig. 4). Its 725 rooms in various configurations make it an impressive landmark alongside where the old gate stood which was an equally impressive landmark in Bishop Street, but will the latest Bishop Gate also last for four hundred years?