Peter Walters, Vice Chair of the Coventry Society, reports back on our last visit
A green wall, rising thirty feet from the courtyard and dense with foliage, was a surprise highlight of the Coventry Society’s visit to Bond’s Hospital almshouses.
Almost certainly the only one of its kind yet to be installed in Coventry, the living wall brings a wonderfully contemporary touch to an institution that after 500 years is still offering shelter and comfort to those Coventry folk who need it.
The visit, hosted by the charity’s chair, Victor Keene, its chief executive Matthew White and vice-chair Gina Rigby, began in the old boardroom at Bond’s, essentially a Victorian re-build beneath the original sixteenth century roof.
Mr Keene gave the twenty-four Society members attending a brief history of the charity since its foundation, in 1506, by wealthy Coventry draper Thomas Bond, who set up an almshouse for ten poor men, with a woman to look after them.
In his introduction, Victor Keene found space for one or two memories from that long history, notably the story of a seventeenth century Bond’s resident who in pursuit of his ambition to become the almshouse’s senior resident, poisoned a number of his comrades and was buried in unhallowed ground at the top of Bishop Street.
The distant past was very close in the boardroom, not least because its window overlooks a little-seen stretch of Coventry’s impressive medieval town wall.
But the atmosphere changed as Mr Keene led the party through newer parts of the complex and across Hill Street to look at its newest development, Bond’s Lodge.
Opened late last year, the new building adds forty-five new apartments to the Bond’s Hospital portfolio, bringing the number of residents to almost 120, including five living in the recently re-modelled Ford’s Hospital on Greyfriars Lane.
In the middle of the courtyard of Bond’s Lodge, close to the green wall, stands George Wagstaffe’s stunning new sculpture “Waters of Separation”, specially commissioned as an artwork to go with the new building.
Both the green wall and George’s sculpture are already very popular with residents, and the fact that the courtyard is overlooked by the steepling towers of one of Coventry’s biggest student complexes does not disturb them at all.
As it has for 500 years, Bond’s Hospital fits very well into the changing city around it.
For So Long As The World Shall Endure, a new history of Bond’s Hospital almshouses, is available from the charity, priced at £20.