Last week CovSoc members were treated to a tour of the ongoing re-vamping of Draper’s Hall, courtesy of Historic Coventry Trust.
The restoration of this historic and interesting building is progressing well with most of the structural work completed and services and utilities installed and operative. Most of the ceilings were complete but walls and floors were awaiting decorative treatment. There is a new stair free entrance at the front corner of the building and a lift for mobility limited people to the upper floor as well as new toilets and other facilities.
The Grade II* listed Drapers’ Hall is one of the few Regency buildings in the city and was built in 1831-2 as the headquarters of the Coventry Drapers’ Guild.
The current building is the third Drapers’ Hall on the site, replacing the previous medieval and post-medieval buildings which the wealthy Guild of Drapers constructed as places to do business, to socialise and to hold events. Interestingly some of the remains of older buildings could be seen in the basement areas. The Draper’s Guild still exists and has promised to return some of the original furniture to the building. Unfortunately the original chandeliers, which still exist in an antique shop in London, cannot be afforded at the moment.
Designed by Thomas Rickman and H W Hutchinson, the current building is in Greek Revival style and consists of a series of grand ceremonial spaces lit by rooflights: a Ballroom, Tea Room and Reading Room. Each of these has decorative plaster ceilings and chimneypieces. In the basement the original kitchens, plate store, wine store and sculleries survive with all their fittings. Parts of the basement were also used as air raid shelters in both World Wars.
The building was last used as a youth magistrates’ court over 30 years ago. Working with The Princes’ Foundation, Historic Coventry Trust is restoring the building as a home for Coventry Music Service and a music and events venue. It is anticipated that there will be weekly concerts in the building. Offices for the Coventry Music Service are ready for occupation.
This project is supported by funding from Alan Edward Higgs Charity, Arts Council England, Coventry City Council Cultural Capital Fund, Coventry Drapers, Foyle Foundation, Garfield Weston, London Drapers, The Prince’s Foundation, Swire Charitable Trust and Wolfson Foundation.
When work is complete the building will be managed by Historic Coventry Trust and The Hall’s grand and historic spaces will be available for hire.
Further visits to Draper’s Hall are planned by the Trust for Heritage Open Days in September and it is hoped that the building will be completed in October.