Coventry On Film: From ‘A Heap of Broken Images’


Coventry’s post-war reconstruction and the resilience of its people are the sub-plot for an evening of films about the city, to be screened at Warwick Arts Centre on Friday, November 9.

Coventry Society member Peter Walters will be introducing the films alongside the Art Centre’s recently retired film programmer John Gore.

Among the films to be shown are wartime documentary The Heart Of Britain, the Dylan Thomas-scripted A City Reborn, a fond and at times poignant take on an optimistic post-war Coventry, and Basil Spence, Building the Cathedral, a fascinating glimpse into the architect’s mind as he designed a church that remains one of this country’s truly iconic buildings, representing as it does the recovery of Britain after the Second World War.
The screening is in the Woods-Scawen Room at the Arts Centre and begins at 7.30pm. Tickets are £9 (£7 concessions).


Professor Richard Farnell RIP


Many people in Coventry will mourn the untimely death of Professor Richard Farnell. Richard was a qualified Town Planner who worked as an Assistant Principal Planning Officer in the City Council’s Department of Architecture and Planning. Afterwards he taught Town Planning at Lanchester Polytechnic, which later became Coventry University. Richard stayed at the university over many changes of department and structure teaching on both undergraduate and post-graduate programmes and researching into neighbourhood regeneration. In 2006 he was appointed as Professor of Neighbourhood Regeneration and following his retirement he continued as Emeritus Professor of Neighbourhood Regeneration. Richard has a long biography of published works, many relating to issues of faith and regeneration.

Richard was also active in the world of housing. He played important roles with Coventry Churches Housing Association, which following a sequence of mergers (via Touchstone, Keynote and Prime Focus) finally became Midland Heart Housing Association. In 2006 Richard became the founding chair of the Association. Midland Heart manages 32,000 properties across the West Midlands.

In 2000 Richard was a member of the Government’s Policy Advisory Group on Community Self-help and an adviser on matters of faith to the Charity Commission. He was a National Adviser to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on ‘Faith and Cohesion’ and was the principal investigator for JRF research into ‘Faith in Urban Regeneration’. Richard was also a trustee of the Church Urban Fund.

Richard also had an important role at Coventry Cathedral, where he was a Canon Theologian and chair of the cathedral council.

Richard’s wife, Alison Farnell said: “He will be remembered by many in Coventry as ‘a gentle giant’ or ‘the tall bloke with the huge smile’ because of his warm, gentle nature and his generous friendship.”

Richard died at home in Rugby on 23rd September at the age of 71. He was suffering from cancer. He leaves a wife, three children and seven grandchildren.

A thanksgiving Service for Richard’s life will take place at Coventry Cathedral on Sunday 21st October 2018 at 4pm.

Coventry Society Visit to St. Mark’s


For the October meeting of the Society, we got the chance to see inside the recently re-opened Grade II listed St. Mark’s Church, adjacent to Swanswell Park, with its remarkable mural by Hans Feibusch.

Reverend Tim Eagles, Curate at the Church, welcomed forty members and visitors to the meeting and explained about the mission of this City Centre Resource Church. The Church is not a traditional Parish Church, but working closely with the Bishop of Coventry to help evangelise the city and transform society. There is a particular focus on engaging students and young people.

Architect Graeme Beamish told us about the history and architecture of this Grade II listed Church. Graeme was the Architect employed by the Diocese when the Hospital vacated the premises to survey the building and look at options for its future.

Coventry Society Secretary, John Payne, told the story of Hans Feibusch, who painted the renowned mural at the Church. Hans was a successful and well known Jewish artist who fell afoul of the Nazi regime and was one of the artists denigrated in Goebbels’s infamous Degenerate Art exhibition of 1937. He emigrated to Britain in 1933 and developed a reputation for painting murals in British Churches, painting the mural at St. Mark’s in 1963. He died in 1998 just four weeks short of his 100th birthday.

John also displayed a collection of materials about Feibusch, including books (one of which was signed by Feibusch himself), postcards, newspaper cuttings and other materials which he has donated to the Church.

We were very pleased to have Stephen Cooke in the audience. Stephen was the son of Rev. Christopher Hamel-Cooke, the last vicar of St. Mark’s before it closed in 1972. Stephen remembered Hans Feibusch and told us amusing stories about the “tiny German artist” who stayed with them whilst he painted the mural.

The society is proud to have played a small part in securing the future of this building and its remarkable mural. In addition to making Coventry aware of the mural through a social media and publicity campaign, we also opened the building for Heritage Open Days between 2012 – 2015, put on an exhibition about the mural and requested Historic England to include the details of the mural in the Listing particulars of the building.

The photo shows Society Chairman, Paul Maddocks, Secretary John Payne and Stephen Cooke, son of the last vicar of St. Mark’s in front of the Feibusch mural.

More about the Church on our website here.

The Foundation of our City


What links the Graham Sutherland tapestry at Coventry Cathedral, the Coventry Boy Statue by Philip Bentham, the Fisherman and the Nymph at Coombe Abbey by Percy George Bentham and the Coventry Cross, with carved statues by Philip Bentham, Wilfred Dudeney, George Ford and pennants by George Wagstaffe?

The answer – they were all funded or partly funded by the Coventry Boy Foundation.

So, who or what was the Coventry Boy Foundation?

Alfred Harris, a Keresley businessman, was the sole benefactor of the Coventry Boys Foundation which he created. The charity first came into the news in the mid 1960’s when an anonymous gift was made to Keresley Parish Church for a walkway and ornamental garden. Over the years there were many more gifts which beautified the city and surrounding countryside. Among them were churchyard projects at Corley, Ansty, Stoke, Baginton and Sherbourne. He also liked to provide statues and other public art.

This charity was first registered on 27 Apr 1965. George Footitt of Browetts, the firm that administered the Foundation, said: “Throughout his life, Alfred Harris’s philosophy was to repay to the city something of what he had gained through his business interests. The Foundation was a registered charity whose income was distributed each year at the direction of the founder and five other nominated persons. In March 1996, 21 years after the death of the benefactor and on the death of the last trustee, my father Ted Footitt, the capital of the fund was paid over to the National Trust for places of historic interest or national beauty in accordance with the Trust Deed.”

Mr Harris died in 1975 and is buried at St. Thomas’s Church in Keresley.

Paul Maddocks

Dr Cathy Hunt, The History of Women in Coventry 1850 – 1950


Dr Cathy Hunt will talk about women who lived in Coventry between 1850 and 1950. This was a century of great change but on a day to day basis, progress was not always apparent to those struggling to keep their heads above water, to those desperate to protect their children from the harshness of poverty or to those working towards equality in all aspects of life. Using research from her new book, A History of Women’s Lives in Coventry, Dr Hunt focuses on the often neglected details of women’s daily lives, of triumphs and tragedies, changes and continuities, loves and losses. She examines what it was like for women to grow up in Coventry, to go to its schools, to work in its offices, shops and factories. She also explores women’s experiences of getting married, setting up home and raising children, how women spent their scarce and precious leisure time and what they sought to do in order to improve life for all.

Dr Hunt will be selling and signing copies of “A History of Women’s Lives in Coventry” at the meeting.

Coventry Society meetings are free but we ask non members for a donation of £2 towards refreshments and room hire.

The Meeting is on Monday 12th November 2018 at 7.30 p.m. at the Shopfront Theatre, City Arcade.

Book a ticket via Eventbrite (for non members)

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