Draper’s Hall Comes Back to Life

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.

An interesting feature, possibly from an earlier building on the site.

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.

The Ballroom being restored to its original glory.

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.  

Viewing the historic kitchen with original ovens, range and bread oven.

One thought on “Draper’s Hall Comes Back to Life

  1. I remember working here at Draper’s Hall back in the early 1980s. I worked with the Magistrates Courts for some 13 years. It was used for Family Court work not Youth Courts. The Methodist Central Hall was used for Youth Court work and had a separate entrance at the rear of the building for it. We also used the old Wheatley Street School for court rooms and remember having to take court papers down there until it was demolished to make way for the new bus station. The Family Court Office was based in St Mary’s Hall which is the office I worked in (amongst others) and we would go to Drapers Hall regularly until the New Magistrate’s Court was opened by HRH Princess Anne in around 1984-5. I still have the programme from the opening ceremony.

    I particularly remember the toilets in Drapers Hall which the magistrates used as they were very ornately decorated porcelain with a blue Delft type pattern and solid wooden seating. The Ballroom with the Minstrel Gallery was used as a waiting area for people using the courts. Just before entering the ballroom, the WRVS had a little refreshments stall.


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