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. 

Plymouth Shows how to Protect Post-war Architecture

 

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Royal Bank of Scotland at St Andrew’s Cross

In a move that would be inconceivable in Coventry, the City of Plymouth has decided to designate its post-war redevelopment area as a Conservation Area.

Plymouth, like Coventry, was badly damaged by bombing during the Second World War and was re-built in the 1950s and 1960s. This followed a plan designed by the famous Town Planner, Patrick Abercrombie. Whilst Plymouth’s redevelopment does not have the grace and beauty of Coventry’s post-war Gibson plan, it is nevertheless valued by local residents, with 59% of people who responded to a consultation agreeing to the Conservation Area designation.

The Plymouth Herald reports that Plymouth’s post-war city centre architecture is set to be protected by a new conservation area. The move approved by the city council’s cabinet would give buildings more protection under planning law. It is also being seen as providing a framework to guide the redevelopment of the area which respects its historic importance.

The city council’s Labour leader Tudor Evans said the proposal was supported by the council’s development partners and would build on work already happening to regenerate parts of the city centre. He told councillors: “What we have got now is a pretty unique collection of post-war buildings.” He added: “This should be seen as another supreme act of regeneration.

“We need to celebrate what has happened in the past, but I think we can use this to kick-start the future again. I think that’s where we see it.”

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Plymouth Council House and Civic Centre

“It is not really about control and regulation, and saying no to stuff, it is really about enabling things to come forward.” the centre of the new area which covers the part of the city centre rebuilt in the 1950s after being mostly flattened by bomb damaged during the Second World War. The city centre was rebuilt after the war as set out in A Plan for Plymouth by architect and town planner Professor Patrick Abercrombie and City Engineer James Paton-Watson. The new status would mean the conservation area could attract funding from bodies like the government conservation agency Historic England.

The area includes listed buildings such as the Royal Bank of Scotland at St Andrew’s Cross, the Theatre Royal, Derry’s Clock Tower, the Bank pub, the Council House and Civic Centre, the former Barclay’s Bank the Unitarian Church and Catherine Street Baptist Church. In an interesting parallel with Coventry, this Church was rebuilt following the bombing of the city and contains a mural by Hans Feibusch.

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Catherine Street Baptist Church, Plymouth

 

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Feibusch mural in Catherine’ Street Baptist Church, Plymouth

Councillors were told 59% of responses during public consultation supported going ahead with the conservation area.

Members of the city council’s ruling cabinet voted to go ahead with the next steps at a meeting on 9th July.

They include council officers creating a Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan. Becky Barrett, Regional Director at Historic England South West, said: “Historic England is delighted that Plymouth’s City Centre has been designated a Conservation Area, having long championed the city’s mid-century heritage as something that is unique and of high quality.

“The rebuilding of the city centre to an entirely new street pattern after the devastation of the 1941 Plymouth Blitz was an unprecedented move in post-war Britain – and that bold architecture survives well and is capable of looking great again!”

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Theatre Royal

“It is part of our national history – just as the City of Bath famously showcases our Georgian heritage and the City of York our medieval past, the City of Plymouth shows English modernism at its best. Conservation Area status will rightly recognise this quality and act as a catalyst for regeneration and investment.”

This dramatic and positive move to protect Plymouth’s post-war design and architecture puts Coventry to shame! All of the comments above could be applied to Coventry, but the City Council has turned its back on the designation of a Conservation Area, even though this is one of the suggestions made before Coventry was designated as a Heritage Action Zone.

It’s time for our civic leaders to follow the example of Plymouth and give our post-war heritage the protection it deserves!

The Coventry Society acknowledges the news report from the Plymouth Herald, which forms the basis of this story.

Is the writing on the wall for another Coventry Listed Building?

IMG_9549In the continued absence of a City Council Conservation Officer, the Coventry Society has concerns for the future of another listed building in the city facing the ongoing pressure for the expansion of Coventry University. This is in the context of powerful Coventry City councillors who have demonstrated an unsupportive attitude to the city’s post-war heritage.

The building in question is the Studio block of Civic Centre 2, its adjoining courtyard and the retaining walls of the courtyard, This was the home of the post-war Architecture and Planning Department in Earl Street.

The buildings were listed as recently as 2017 as a result of a request for immunity from Listed Building designation by Coventry University. The principal reasons for designation were given as follows:

  • Architectural interest: the deliberately spare, curtain-walled studio block with its concrete frame, supported on pilotis, is a good example of refined, modern-movement design of the late-1950s which benefits from careful detailing;
  • Historic interest: the building was the centre of design activity for the vibrant team of architects who were responsible for Coventry’s redevelopment, several of whom subsequently had notable careers in other cities across Britain;
  • Expression of the building’s purpose: the studio floors with their plain and coloured glass walls and the panels showing different samples of tiles, brickwork and paving all show the purpose of the building;
  • Popular inclusiveness: by providing a purpose-built exhibition space at ground floor level with glass walls the building was designed to share the plans and models for the continuing redevelopment of Coventry with its citizens; a rare example of such inclusiveness at that time.

The building was designed by George Sealey working under the city architect, Arthur Ling, who had been appointed in 1955.

 

Jeremy and Caroline Gould, in their book, Coventry: The making of a modern city 1939−73 described the buildings as follows:

“The Civic Offices were arranged around a more formal rectilinear courtyard with a reflecting pool, circular fountain and willow trees and beautifully paved in concrete slabs and granite setts, intended as an exemplar of different landscaping materials.”

“Enclosing the north and east sides of the courtyard (1958−60), contained the Architecture and Planning Department. The north wing is raised on round concrete columns clad in diamond-set white mosaic to form an undercroft containing a glass kiosk for the public exhibition of current city projects and a city model. The offices above were fully glazed in an elegant aluminium curtain wall with milky glass spandrel panels, a significant technical advance, to give natural light to the drawing offices. In the basement, a 15th-century medieval cellar, discovered during construction, was incorporated as the Crypt Club which became the social centre of the department, key to the camaraderie of the staff and to Ling’s informal, ‘democratic’ management style.”

 

The building looks back to a period when the planning of the city was considered to be an activity that should include all citizens. By comparison with the current era, the pioneering architects and planners of that period wanted people to be involved in their work. The architecture showcase was at ground level with glass walls so that people could see the models and plans for the future of their city and could easily step inside to talk about what was going on.

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The courtyard behind the building is located on the site of the historic Palace Yard. Although in recent years, with lack of maintenance by the City Council, it had become a poor run down area, it was originally conceived as a beautiful public square with a mirror pool, fountain, willow trees and a sculptural work by the young and talented George Wagstaff. Naiad, one of the city’s finest sculptures is currently located in Friargate House following a campaign for its reinstatement by one of CovSoc’s committee members.

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Coventry University has ambitions to demolish the listed buildings to create a modern headquarters building as part of a larger scheme in the former civic area where the rest of the civic buildings have already been demolished.

So we are left with the question “Is it within the capability of today’s architects, the University and our elected councillors to re-use an important listed building and public square and create an urban environment fit for the 21st Century?” Or must we continue with the Coventry approach of sweeping away our historic heritage? Coventry has a long tradition of destroying its own heritage for the sake of its perceived future. Will this change? Will City of Culture make any difference to this historic approach?

We wait with anticipation!

 

The Coventry Tile and Mosaic Trail

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Historic England has published a fascinating booklet with a walking trail around the city centre focusing on Coventry’s wonderful heritage of tiles and mosaics. The 26 page booklet ranges from the medieval  tiles, originally from the Benedictine Priory, up to post-war mosaics commissioned as part of the redevelopment of the city centre.

The booklet was published as part of the Coventry Heritage Action Zone. The trail was compiled by Lesley Durbin, an expert and author about architectural tiles. She is the Senior Conservator in the Jackfield Conservation Studio, based at Jackfield Tile Museum in Ironbridge. She has worked in the conservation of architectural ceramics for over thirty years.

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Lesley Durbin

The trail includes eighteen works of art, starting from the Coventry Railway Station. As well as tile work, the trail includes the Mitchell Panels from Hertford Street and the Aztec frieze from Bull Yard. Some of the works of art have been relocated from their original locations, including the Cullen Tiles in the Lower Precinct and the Headley Lewis mosaics, now in the Ikea Car Park. The Martyr’s mosaic  and Tenant’s Godiva Clock, both on Broadgate House, are also featured as is the tile decoration of the former Locarno Ballroom.

The booklet is available from the Herbert Museum and amazingly it is free of charge! Alternatively you can download the booklet here.

The Coventry Society has invited Lesley Durbin to talk to the Society in the New Year. More details will follow later.

Consultation on the Future Development of the Abbot’s Lane area.

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Local Community Pre-Planning Application Consultation

Complex Development Projects Ltd invite you to attend a public consultation event, in respect of their proposed residential-led planning application at the Former Gasworks Site, Abbott’s Lane, Coventry.

The event will be held at:

St Osburg’s Parish Hall, Barras Lane, Coventry

On Wednesday 24th July 2019 From 5.30 pm to 7.30 pm

The event is open to all members of the public, and will showcase and explain the proposed design. It is an opportunity to give us your thoughts and feedback ahead of the planning application being submitted.

Positive Fargo Festival -13th and 14th July

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Next weekend sees the first ever Positive Fargo event at Fargo Village. This is being held as part of Coventry’s Positive Images Festival. The event is being held on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th July 2019 with activities throughout both days, including stalls, vegan food, music and dance, poetry and real ale and cider.

Positive Images Festival and FarGo traders and businesses are offering two days of FREE events and activities for all the family. Lots of activities will be available in all the shops in Fargo Village as well as the opportunity to visit shops and make purchases from the fantastic range of products and goods available. In addition there will be a two day community fair, poetry events in the Big Comfy Bookshop and Real Ale and Craft beers in the Twisted Barrel along with acoustic music on both days.

The programme of events includes:

Saturday 13th July
12noon – Sahyedri Indian Dancers
12.30pm – Interview with Jan Richardson
1-1.30pm – Jan Richardson
1.30-2pm – Indigo Arts performance
2-2.30pm – Interview with Those Fantastic Things
2.30-3pm – Those Fantastic Things
3-4pm – Kizomba Coventry Dancers
Sahyedri Indian Dancers
4-4.30pm – Interview with Nikki Loy
4.30-5pm – Nikki Loy

MUSIC in the Twisted Barrel Brewery Tap
12.30pm and 2.30pm – Ace Ambrose
1.30pm and 3.30pm – Alice Watson

Poetry Event in Backhaus and Co – which is a large café next to the Twisted d Barrel
4.35-4.50 – Casey Bailey – is a writer and educator, who aims to shine light on the darkness.

4.55-5.05 – Sujana Upadhyay – is a bilingual poet, playwright and researcher, whose work mainly explores human relationships (in particular the dysfunctional kind) and our interconnectedness with nature.

5.10-5.20 – Liz Jolly – is a feminist, a lover of nature, books, family, learning and living – and reluctant to call herself a poet (but honoured to accept the title).
5.25-5.40 – Stephen Lightbown – is a poet/spoken word artist, wheelchair user and disability rights champion who was born in Blackburn and now lives in Bristol.
5.45-6.00 – Matt Black – is a joyful mischief maker, an entertainer, former Derbyshire Poet Laureate (2011-13)…and today he is the dog-poet.

20 minute interval

6.30-6.40 – Ann Atkins – is a poet with a down to earth, relatable take on life, who speaks to the audience with a generous sprinkling of humour.
6.45-6.55 -Adam Smith – is a professional poet and performer, delivering earnest observations and outbursts through his words, wonderings and lyrics.
7.00-7.15 – Peter Raynard – is a poet whose debut collection ‘Precarious’ was published by Smokestack Books in 2018.
7.20-7.35 – Nafeesa Hamid – is a British Pakistani poet and playwright based in Birmingham whose work covers taboo themes, using personal experience as a basis for her writing.
7.40-8.00 -OPEN MIC

Sunday 14th July
12noon – Sahyedri Indian Dancers
Vegan Arts Performance Piece
12.15-12.30pm – Interview with Garfield Mayor
12.30-1pm – Garfield Mayor
1-1.30pm – Interview with Jake Rizzo
1.30-2pm – Jake Rizzo
2-2.30pm – Coventry Morrismen
Interview with Joel Drake
2.30-3pm – Joel Drake
3-3.30pm- Interview with Natalie Holmes
3.30-4pm – Natalie Holmes
4-4.30pm – Coventry Morrismen

 

International Busking Day Comes to Coventry

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International Busking Day will be on Coventry’s streets on Saturday 20th July as part of the annual, global celebration of street performance and busking.

Performers from around the world take part wherever they are and join the party on social media as people share pictures and messages from over 50 countries.

The team at International Busking Day are looking for performers to be part of the Coventry’s International Busking Day celebration on Saturday 20 July. “You might be a regular busker or you might not have busked before and want to give it a go – we want to hear from you! Specially selected Coventry city locations will host busking pitches and performers can showcase their talents for audience donations. You don’t even have to own an amp as one of our International Busking Day partners, Roland, will supply each location with a quintessential busking amp – Roland Cube Street Ex. All performers selected to take part will receive a £50 contribution to their hat to start them off.”

Coventry’s International Busking Day 2019 event is open to solo performers aged 14yrs and over, whatever musical style, from classical to country, folk to pop and everything in between.

Organisers of the event state “This is an opportunity to showcase your music talent with a real busking vibe. No stage or fancy equipment – just you and your music. All artists need to make sure they’re completely portable and can perform in a stripped back, lo-fi fashion.

“Artists selected to take part in the event will get the chance to perform at specially chosen city locations. Each pitch will have support from one of our International Busking Day Event Managers and will be equipped with a Roland Cube Street Ex battery-powered amp and a mic and mic stand. Artists will need to supply their own instrument and any leads.”

In Coventry International Busking Days is part of City of Culture’s Music Month with many other music events around the city.

Could this be the start of Coventry having its own Edinburgh style festival in the city centre?