Long standing Coventry Society member Paul Maddocks was invited to be at the launch of the completed restoration of Siegfried Bettmann’s Billiard Room and the original features include eight murals painted on canvas in the pre Raphaelite style by artist Oscar Mancine. Due to Covid restrictions it was a small quiet event. Paul and the Lord Mayor plus the photographer were the only people in the Billard Room when this photograph was taken. The main event was conducted outside, to a small number of well-wishers.
The Lord Mayor of Coventry, Councillor John McNicholas, spoke of the history of this important historical building once being the family home of Siegfried Bettmann who owner and founded the Triumph Motorcycles and cycle companies. Before unveiling a small plaque inside the building to mark the full restoration of the building in the presence of Ramesh Parmer and famous musicians Neville and Christine Staple who are local residents.
The Coventry Society put a blue plaque on the building in 2015 to honour Siegried’s time there, and highlight the importance of this historic building. The Victorian mansion has been used as a teachers centre, and most recently was home to Coventry City Council teams including the learning and behaviour support service.
Rickesh Parmar, of developers P&K Estates, told Charles Barker a local resident of Stoke Park and editor of ‘Avenews’ the local newsletter of the care that went into restoring this grand old North Avenue house.
“When we first visited Elm Bank back in 2018, tucked away on a tree lined road, hidden by a solid stone wall, we were struck by its beauty and history. We immediately saw its potential. Its mystery and allure captured us and we could see why people in Stoke Park were so protective of it and wanted the best for it.
“After a few months on the site, we reviewed our plans and decided to drastically improve the specification. We wanted to create one of the best places to live in Coventry and felt this wonderful building deserved extra care and investment. There has been an incredible amount of work done to bring the shine back to Elm Bank. A huge part of the project was the removal of asbestos which was engrained in many of the building’s original features, and dumped under the old boiler house. All the asbestos is now gone.
“The original sash windows have been overhauled and rebated for Planitherm double glazing. They have been re-weighted, with the pulleys and ropes replaced. Now they are still an original part of the house, but thanks to modern methods, are as good as new. We found that only part of the roof had been felted so we decided to strip the outside of the roof and re-felt it, improving quality and adding longevity to the building.
“During our planning and research we decided that old imperial bricks would tie in better with the original building, so we sourced more than 18,500 reclaimed bricks for the reconstruction of the courtyard and the new extensions. The engineering undertaken to strengthen the house was unbelievably complex. Every floor joist was doubled up to add strength and the first floor was lowered by six inches to make the second floor usable. The wonderful trees in the grounds of Elm Bank are of huge importance both to the property and to Stoke Park. Arboricultural consultant B J Unwin, with more than 30 years’ experience compiled a full report on the condition of the trees as left by the city council, the previous owners. We tackled 36 issues raised by the report and unfortunately had to fell one tree that was dangerous, and one that was already dead. The work has ensured that the Elm Bank trees will be safe for future residents. As part of the maintenance plan the trees will continue to be monitored to ensure they are maintained for many years to come.
“Girders hold everything together. Now the restoration of the property and the 14 new unique apartments, bungalows, and mews apartments are almost complete and we are incredibly proud of what has been achieved. We have kept original features of the house, and as much as possible, preserved its history. But we have also used modern techniques to give it longevity, allowing Elm Bank to continue its story for years to come.”
The project has won praise from Coventry’s Lord Mayor, Councillor John McNicholas, who said: “When I first walked round Elm Bank I saw a shell, and I heard a vision that I couldn’t appreciate until I saw what I have seen today. That vision has come to pass. The quality is superb, the use of local tradespeople is excellent, and I feel this can only be good for the future.”
The house had deteriorated over the years it had been used as offices. The courtyard and the side of the house for example, have been completely transformed and the Coventry Society are glad it has been saved and going to be looked after for the future.