Coventry Design is Celebrated on Mugs, Tee Shirts and Badges

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For many years the only thing you could buy to commemorate a visit to Coventry was a postcard or bookmark from the shop under the Godiva clock. Now with City of Culture on the horizon several new promotional products are coming our way.

CovKid is producing a new range of Coventry inspired designs to promote the city. They tell us that “Covkid came from two things:

1) An appreciation of the city’s post war design – architecture and art – much of which isn’t fully recognised – it is “hidden in plain sight”.

2) The shortage of Coventry things to buy for locals and visitor mementos in the run up to City of Culture. If we’re going to boost the visitor economy, we need things for people to buy that are iconically Cov! This is needed both to build local pride and to remind visitors to come back and tell their friends how great the city is.

The idea was to highlight design that is uniquely Coventry through a range of products using graphic reinterpretation – graphic art work inspired by key city features, not actual technical drawings. By highlighting the design, the city’s architecture and art features are more likely to be recognised, valued, preserved and enhanced.

“MidCentury” design is now cool and the city is pretty unique in the scale and quality of the post war reconstruction. Other cities have grasped this and bring in high spending visitors – such as Le Havre, which is now a World Heritage Site.

The first products were four mugs, produced in a limited edition of 250 of each. They feature the Cathedral, the Elephant building (Sports Centre), Broadgate House and the University’s Engineering & Computing Building.

“The core ethos is to go for a high quality special product, rather than mass market and the mugs are bone china.”

The mugs were launched at MIPIM, the international conference for property developers, earlier this year. A further four mugs are being launched in October and a range of tee shirts is also being produced.

You can see the designs on CovKid’s website and Instagram site.

One of the tee shirt designs that is really successful is the graphic reinterpretation of the Baptistry window in the Cathedral.

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Tee shirts are now on sale at the Cathedral shop and there are bags and cushion covers coming of both this design and the Elephant which has proved very popular. Ladies scarves are also being made ready for Christmas 2019 with both a design inspired by the window and another by the tiled artwork in the lower precinct.

“The plan is to try things out and see what products and designs people like in preparation for 2021.”

The Covkid image for the Telegraph Hotel has recently gone up on the hoarding (see photo below).

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CovKid mugs are also on sale at the Herbert Gallery and the Transport Museum.

Another company that has taken on the challenge of producing Coventry promotional products is Etch and Pin. They are producing enamel badges of some of the iconic buildings and features of the city, including the Elephant building and the Old Cathedral.

Their website states “Our limited-edition pin badges were launched in July 2018, with a brand-new badge released every month. Each badge has its own limited edition number and comes with a backing card displaying the limited edition number.”

The badges sell for £6 each with £1 from each badge sold donated to a local charity. To date, they have raised over £2,500 for Coventry charities. So far they have released 14 Coventry pin badges – all celebrating the city in various ways.

Another recent initiative is the creation of a new website and magazine called “Coventry Native”. According to their website “Coventry Native is home to inspiring and imaginative products made by some of the most exciting creatives in the city. We search, stock and collaborate with independent makers providing you beautifully made, independent products that support and sustain our community. We also publish features and interviews with individuals who are changing the future of creative culture in Coventry.”

The Native Magazine is produced quarterly and products, including cards and other memorabilia, can be purchased via their website.

CovSoc Visit to Tamworth

Our August visit was to the historic town of Tamworth, courtesy of the Tamworth and District Civic Society. We gathered in the 18th Century Town Hall and were officially greeted by the Mayor, Cllr Richard Kingstone who told us about the town, the building, the Council and the mayoral regalia. We were then shown the Mayor’s Chamber before a tour of the town led by Chairman of the Society and Green Badge Guide David Biggs.

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Tamworth Mayor Cllr Richard Kingstone

The Town Hall was built in 1700 and paid for by Thomas Guy, famous for Guy’s Hospital in London. It stands on pillars above the historic butter market. In front of it is a statue of the town’s most famous citizen, Sir Robert Peel, who lived in nearby Drayton Manor. The statue stands in front of the window from which tradition holds that he recited his Tamworth manifesto which created the modern Conservative Party.

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The statue of Sir Robert Peel outside Tamworth Town Hall.

The town itself is much older than Coventry and was the capital of the realm in the Anglo Saxon period. The town was founded at the confluence of the Rivers Tame and Anker, which link to the River Trent, the Humber and the North Sea which were navigable by early settlers.

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The confluence of the Rivers Anker and Tame, which connect via the Trent to the Humber

Tamworth became famous courtesy of King Offa (he of the dyke fame) who was King of Mercia. He built a palace here and made it the capital of Mercia. However it was burnt to the ground by the Vikings in 874. It was rebuilt in 913 by the Aethelflaeda the daughter of King Alfred the Great. She is held in high esteem in the town even today and last year they celebrated the 1100th anniversary of her death in 918.

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Statue of Aethelflaeda in front of Tamworth Castle.

Over much of its life Tamworth was divided between Staffordshire and Warwickshire, with the boundary running right through the town and consequently the town having two of everything – magistrate, town hall etc. The town only became firmly part of Staffordshire in 1888.

The castle dates from the Norman invasion and stands on its original motte, being the second highest in the country after Windsor. It is believed that it was built on the site of a previous Saxon fortification. In the Civil War the castle was besieged by Parliamentary forces in 1643 and its destruction was ordered but never carried out, unlike Kenilworth and our own city walls. It stands today as a wonderful example of a mediaeval castle.

In 1345 Tamworth suffered a disastrous fire and much of the town was destroyed, but it was soon re-built, with new buildings being built on the foundations of the previous ones.

Tamworth suffered the fate of many towns and cities in the 20th Century, with the Council allowing the large scale destruction of historic buildings to create a “modern” town centre that is now looking rather sad. The town became an overspill area for Birmingham in the 1960s and several tower blocks were built to destroy the historic profile of the town.

We had a really interesting visit and tour of the town and we give our grateful thanks to the Tamworth and District Civic Society for this. We will be hosting a return visit in 2020.

There are more photos on our Flickr site

Draper’s Hall Dig Reveals Ancient Coventry

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Excavations at Drapers’ Hall have revealed details of how Coventry’s historic centre was used through its long history.

The Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) has excavated the site between Draper’s Hall and the former Browns Bar ahead of the transformation of Draper’s Hall into a new music venue. MOLA staff say that finds from the site have provided a ‘tantalising insight’ into what the artefacts uncovered may have been used for.

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Finds include a ‘bird bone pen’, medieval glass and even bone fragments.  Negotiations are taking place with the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum to display the finds there.

A MOLA spokesperson said: “These observations are just the beginning. Our specialists will analyse the finds from the site in detail to tell us even more about the medieval industrial processes, production and craft activities taking place in the area.

“It is hoped that the artefacts found from the dig will be displayed at the Medieval Gallery at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, alongside those from the 1989-89 dig, and that the artefacts will also form the basis of a major exhibition on Coventry’s textiles history.”

Among the finds during the excavation were 18th or 19th century ladle bowls, with the heraldic arms of the Drapers Company – active from 1613 onwards. Also a 16th or 17th century bird bone pen has a tapering ‘nib’ at its distal end which would have been dipped in ink.


It also uncovered stone moulds that would have been used for casting metals in the 14th or 15th century.  Two similar broken examples have been found in Coventry in antiquity.

MOLA says it is thought that the fragment of painted medieval glass may have once been part of the nearby Benedictine Priory and Cathedral of St. Mary. This is due to similarities with other glass fragments found on the priory site.

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A set of 16th century beads was found in a rectangular stone-lined pit, thought to have been used for fulling, together with the remains of a bone used to create buttons.


The Grade-II listed building was built in the classical style in phases from 1832 and follows other buildings on the site. It was the headquarters of the city’s Worshipful Company of Drapers and has also been a magistrate’s court, church centre and even an air raid shelter. It has lain empty since the early 1990s.

The Historic Coventry Trust, in collaboration with the Princes Foundation, aims to have the restored hall opened in 2020, in time for the city’s tenure as UK City of Culture the following year.

There is more information on the Museum of London Archaelogy blog.  All photos courtesy of MOLA.

Coventry’s Military Heritage – a new book by David McGrory

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Coventry’s military heritage goes back to the Middle Ages. Coventry Castle was built by the Earl of Chester in the early 12th century. It was fought over during the civil war in King Stephen’s reign and demolished afterwards, although one tower remains as part of St. Mary’s Guildhall, which was built on the site. In the later mediaeval period Coventry grew into one of the leading cities of England and continued to thrive in the Industrial Revolution as an industrial centre. Coventry was held by the Parliamentarians in the Civil War and during the Napoleonic Wars a barracks was built in the city which remained in use until the early 20th century.

A major munitions producer during World War 1, Coventry sent many young soldiers to fight abroad in the conflict while thousands of women worked in its factories. At the time of World War 2 it was a leading centre of motor vehicle, aviation and armaments manufacturing and became the target for German aerial bombing campaigns. The Coventry Blitz destroyed a large part of the historic city, including the Cathedral, but the city was reborn after the war and is a thriving major city in the Midlands today. This book will be of interest to all those wishing to know more about the military heritage of Coventry through its history.

Covsoc Chairman, Paul Maddocks, has read the new book and provides us with this review:

“On the surface this looks like many of Dave McGrory’s books on various aspects of Coventry’s History – this time its Coventry’s Military Heritage. It starts from Prehistory with early Bronze Age battle axes, through the Roman occupation in and around the city and the Danish invasion that involved the sacking of St. Osburga’s nunnery around AD 695. The book covers the history of the Motte and Bailey Coventry Castle, where it was and what remains, going on to the City’s defensive wall and gates. The book is well illustrated mainly from Dave’s own personal collection of images. Coventry played a major role in the War of the Roses; it is where King Henry VI in 1455 brought the Royal court for safety and later Parliament was held in the Coventry Priory. Parliamentarian and Royalist battles, armour and troops are all covered in the section on the Civil War and Coventry’s major part in it story.

“But among the pages of the book there lies a small nugget of information which I have never heard before. It is in the chapter about Coventry being a Garrison City, and all the different Regiments, troops and horses that were stationed or passing through Coventry on their way to different conflicts. Among this Dave has quoted from a book called ‘An Impartial History of the War in America between Great Britain and her Colonies’ by Edmund Burke 1780.

“Edmund Burke wrote that George Washington was born in Coventry on 3rd September 1727.

“Yes George Washington! It goes on to say Washington discovered an early inclination to arms and first entered as a private man in General Wade’s regiment in the year 1746 – and served against the Scottish rebels. When the French War broke out in America in 1755, Mr. Washington went over to that country. It continues saying that in the War of Independence he was raised to Colonel, then General, then Supreme Commander-in-Chief of all the Forces of the United States?

“Dave checked out the parish records of the time in question and found the marriage of a John Washington to Mary Remington in Holy Trinity Church in 1725. Did they have a baby? John Washington died and Mary married again to a John Smith in 1735. There is no record of George Washington’s baptism in the Holy Trinity Church records but strangely the Saint Michael’s Church records have a page missing where such a birth would have been recorded.

“I am not one much for conspiracy theories but if you are going to have the first president of America you want him to be American not British, but it is well known George Washington did serve in the British Army in his career.

“So were there two George Washington’s both fighting in the same regiments in the same battles?

“History books say George Washington was born on February 22, 1732 at Popes Creek in Westmoreland County, Virginia, and was the first of six children of Augustine and Mary Ball Washington. George Washington was inaugurated as the first President on April 30th, 1789. Edmund Burke’s 1780 book had been printed nine year before this. So Edmund wrote his history without knowing that George Washington was going to be the first President of the USA and therefore had no axe to grind about whether he was born in England or America.

“The book is packed with other interesting facts such as George Neal from Coventry, born poor, spent time in the workhouse, served on Admiral Rodney’s flagship ‘Formidable’ but was injured by shot that broke his leg and was discharged. Later he joined the 77th Regiment and went to India and served with (later to be) the Duke of Wellington. He was injured again by grapeshot which shattered his hip. Years later he was shot in the leg and later again part of a grenade hit his head causing part of his skull to have to be removed. But he survived and lived his days out back in Coventry selling oranges to soldiers in the streets around the barracks. When he died the 11th Hussars gave the old soldier a full military funeral.

“There are also many interesting accounts of the Barracks and the different troops stationed in the city covering the Napoleonic Wars, survivors of the Charge of the Light Brigade, the Boar War, the First World War and finally the Second World War.”

David McGrory is one of the foremost historians of Coventry. He was born in the city, has ancestral connections with the city going back at least 300 years and has always been fascinated by its remarkable past. He has published at least 26 books and articles on the city’s history.

David McGrory’s latest book, Coventry’s Military Heritage, is 96 pages and was published in July 2019 by Amberley Books. The book is available from all good bookshops and from Amazon for £14.99, or £12 on Kindle.

A Pinfold for the Twenty First Century

Near to the War Memorial Park on Coat of Arms Road is an old animal pound which dates back to the time of King Charles II.

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The Coventry Society, then known as the Coventry Civic Amenity Society, restored and cleaned up the city’s last animal pound and returned it to the care of Coventry City Council in 1975.

The remains of the Stivichall Animal Pound date back to 1663. It was used to keep beasts; cows, horses, sheep or goats which had strayed from the common fields and were wandering the streets. It was used to enclose them in the pound until their owners reclaimed them, for a fee! But now only two walls and the floor remain.

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Recently it fell into neglect again due to Council cuts and had to be cleared up once again by volunteers. This view shows the weeds and looks diagonally across from corner to corner, with the southern end of the Memorial Park in the background.

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Nettles and brambles discourage getting too close an investigation, but you can just about see the extremely weather beaten wooden engraved plaque on the left wall which states “City of Coventry – Stivichall – An animal pound existed here before 1663. – To mark the restoration by Coventry Civic Amenity Society this plaque was unveiled by Councillor JD Berry Chairman of the Planning Committee. – November 1975”.

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Removal of invading vegetation has revealed the stone flags lining the pound. The photo is taken from the north wall of the pound looking towards the gateway at the south-east corner.

Jim Passmore, a Covsoc Committee member and also a Friend of the War Memorial Park and a Coventry Tree Warden, tells us that “in December 2018 at a Friends of the Coventry War Memorial Park committee meeting a member, Rene Whitlock, asked if the Coventry Tree Wardens could clear and restore the Animal Pound since she knew that Tony Rose and I have been working for some time carrying out work on the Kenilworth Road Spinnies.

“So Tony and I finally started work in February 2019. A simple job, just clear the pound!! On 5th May Tony and I led a walk along the Kenilworth Road Spinnies, and one of the attendees was Mick Fitzpatrick from the Stivichall Grange Residents Association. Later in the month Tony and I were contacted by Mick.

“When volunteering at the War Memorial Park with the rangers he broached the subject of having a fence around the pound. A few day later I followed this up and was told that they had some fencing which could be used along with a gate. This is now due to be installed in mid August.

“In early June Mick, Tony and I discussed having a re-opening at the Heritage Weekend. Mick was already in contact with Cllr Linda Bigham about other matters and asked if she, as Lord Mayor, would officiate at the re-opening – to which she agreed.

“An application was then made to have the ceremony as part of the Heritage Weekend, and an official invitation made to the Lord Mayor.

“The extremely weather beaten wooden engraved plaque is currently in my shed being restored. This will be placed back on the wall together with a new plaque for 2019 before the ceremony. The ceremony is scheduled to take place between 11am and noon on Saturday 14th September 2019.

“As a link with the previous opening, the event will be attended by Murial Stanton, wife of Mr Stanton seen in the centre of the group shown carrying out the previous restoration (see above).

“It is hoped that the Stivichall Grange Residents Association will be looking after the pound in the future.”

The Animal Pound was included in the land purchased on 27th of January 1921 by Coventry City Council from donations for the War Memorial Park.

The photo below shows a similar pinfold in the village of Berkswell.

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25 Years of Heritage Open Days

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This year marks the 25th anniversary of Heritage Open Days. Coventry was involved in the very first Heritage Open Day in the UK in 1994. The Coventry Society was involved right from the start.

Roger Bailey, a Coventry Blue Badge Guide, and now a City Councillor, recollects those early years.

“I so remember the first event. It involved the then purpose built Tourist Information Centre which has since been demolished. Also Whitefriars, when it was a museum, Drapers Hall, County Hall and Holy Trinity Church. In support was the new Godiva exhibition at The Herbert Art Gallery, plus The Museum of British Road Transport. Various entertainments took place which included music, dance and playlets.

“In the following year, we also had the Hippodrome Theatre open as well as The Old Grammar School and the Canal Basin. In 1996 we were joined by the Toy Museum and the Council House. The Charterhouse joined in 1997.

“Compared to more than 50 sites open this year, there were fewer than ten in those early days. This big change has taken many years to achieve.

“As we head towards City of Culture, it seems to me that it will play a very important part in highlighting what makes our city different from any other and also give us the chance to promote how unique it is and how important it was to the history of England.

“My own contribution will highlight Coventry’s links to an ancient city in Egypt of over 3,000 years ago. I am currently working on this with a leading expert in the history of Egypt, specifically the expert on the city of Amarna, where it seems the original idea of a precinct came from. The professor will shortly publish his thoughts in the next copy of the Amarna twice a year newsletter on the origins of postwar Coventry and other such cities, and he has very generously taken some of my input and given me credit. From this I hope to give one or more lectures, the first to the Coventry Society and also publish a small leaflet. Both dependant on a small amount of finance, which I hope to raise.”

Roger Bailey has for many years chaired the working group that oversees and promotes Heritage Open Days in Coventry.

 

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An artists impression of the Egyptian city of Amarna

The Chair of the Coventry Society at the time of the first Heritage Open Day, Irene Shannon, remembers all the hard work that was put into arranging the re-enactment of Mary Ball’s trial at the Old County Hall.

“Children acted as the judges & magistrates and PC Howard from the Police Museum related the story and provided historic costumes. He also showed the death mask of the last woman to be executed in Coventry, Mary Ball, in 1849.

“An estimated 20,000 people watched the Nuneaton housewife’s hanging in Cuckoo Lane. She had confessed to poisoning her husband – although she denied the allegation until her hand was held over a candle during an interrogation.

“The Council did clear the Old County Hall of rubbish and dead pigeons, Mark Singlehurst from the Conservation team produced the information leaflets. Great fun but hard work!

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The dock in the old County Court

“It would be nice to ask the members or the public who visited that 1st weekend for photos they took. We were all very busy and photographs were not so easily taken back then as they are today. I wonder if the Coventry Telegraph covered it?”

This year’s Heritage Open Days take place over two weekends in September. Starting on Friday 13th September the event runs until Sunday 22nd September. The City Council will be publishing a printed leaflet with all of the venues listed. There will also be full information listed on the Council’s website.

The Coventry Society has been involved in every one of the Heritage Open Days held over the past twenty five years. This year the Society will be back at the Old Grammar School with the Coventry Family History Society.

We will be promoting the Coventry Heritage Trust’s project for the restoration of the Burges with displays and guided tours. We will also be celebrating the Lady Herbert’s Garden and the Burges Conservation Area and the “daylighting” of the River Sherbourne in the city centre. We will be there on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th September from noon – 4 p.m. There will also be guided tours of the Burges scheme on Saturday 14th, Sunday 15th, Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd September at 12 noon, starting from the Old Grammar School.

If you have any photos of the Heritage Open Day in 1994, then please email Karin Aspin at the City Council.

More of Coventry’s Heritage Set to be bulldozed

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Plans have been published to demolish three characterful buildings in Warwick Road and replace them with a modern concrete office block (see above).

The plans involve the demolition of 23, 25 and 29 Warwick Road. All three of these buildings demonstrably enhance the character of the Greyfriars Green Conservation Area which adjoins the proposed development. They also make a positive contribution in their own right. There is a very good case to be made to say that these buildings are all worthy of local listing and we are convinced that if Coventry had its own Conservation Officer there would be a strong case for extending the boundary of the Conservation Area to include these buildings.

23 Warwick Road is known as Bank House. It is a modern office building designed by architects Twentyman Percy & Partners for Martin’s Bank and the Royal Insurance Group. It was built in 1965. This building is mentioned in a seminal book on Coventry’s mid-20th century architecture – Coventry New Architecture (Lewison & Billingham, 1969), and in the latest Pevsner. The building shows an important contribution to the artistic and architectural redevelopment of Coventry in the post-war period. The high quality of the design and the materials (marble, glass, ashlar limestone panels, etc) is a good example of Coventry’s ground-breaking post-war reconstruction.

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25 Warwick Road, (formerly known as Clive House and prior to that Fernilea), is a late Victorian villa building overlooking Greyfriars Green. It is a handsome double fronted two storey house with bays to either side of a central door. We believe that it makes an important contribution to the character of the area.

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29 Warwick Road was formerly known as Avonmore. It is another handsome late Victorian Villa – a double fronted two storey house with bays to either side of a central door. It also makes an important contribution to the character of the area.

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The Coventry Society suggests any development in this area needs to consider whether the existing buildings and the space around them can be re-used and adapted.

The Coventry Society is not ‘anti-development’. We agree with Councillor Jim O’Boyle’s quotation “Best of the old, Best of the new”! But this is a key location on the main entrance into the centre of the city and the existing buildings contribute to the sense of place and history.

We challenge the developer’s assertion that views of these buildings are “glimpsed and filtered” from the Conservation Area and that they are “only considered to contribute to the Conservation Area by virtue of their consistent scale and the enclosure they provide to the green and as part of a now fragmented historic townscape”. Their historic nature needs to be considered – their contribution to the historic townscape of this conservation area is considerable.

We request the Planning Committee to give consideration to a sustainable reuse of these buildings, preserving their historic interest and character and the embodied energy of their construction.

You can view the planning application and make online comments here.