Heritage at Risk

St. Mark’s Church is still on the At Risk Register

Historic England has published its latest register of Heritage at Risk. The Register identifies sites most at risk of being lost as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development.

The publication reveals that no new heritage assets in Coventry have been added since last year’s list was published and a number of buildings have been removed from the list.

This year, the surviving length of the medieval city wall and one of the gate houses, Cook Street Gate, have been removed from the Heritage at Risk Register following the completion of repair works to the scheduled monuments, funded by a grant of £142,106 by Historic England.

The report acknowledges the work undertaken through the Coventry High Street Heritage Action Zone, based around The Burges. “Special focus has been given to Lady Herbert’s Garden and The Burges Conservation Area, which is the National Demonstrator for the High Street Heritage Action Zone scheme – under which Historic England has provided £2 million to the Historic Coventry Trust. The result has been transformative with shop fronts sensitively restored; breathing new life back into what had been a forgotten corner of the city centre”. However Lady Herbert’s Garden remains on the Heritage at Risk register.

The other building removed from the list is Holy Trinity Church. A National Lottery Heritage Fund Grant for Places of Worship was awarded in 2017 to assist repairs and re-roofing works were completed in August 2019.

There are eleven sites still included on the Register. These include a number of buildings that are currently being restored but are not yet been complete. For this reason the Grade I Listed Charterhouse is still shown as “poor condition” although work in the building is scheduled to be completed this year.

The Grade II*Listed Nonconformist Chapel at London Road Cemetery is also includes despite approved plans to convert the chapel for office use. A grant application has been made to Historic England to assist with repair works.

The Grade II* Listed Basement of the Old Star Inn, Earl Street, is awaiting redevelopment as part of the new Coventry University building.

Other sites in Coventry that remain on the Register include the Grade II* Listed Whitefriars Gatehouse (36 and 37 Much Park Street and archway in between), which is described as being in poor condition. The continuing threat of heritage crime, assorted masonry repairs and renewal of defective floor timbers above the archway are all issues to be addressed. A grant application has been made to Historic England by the historic Coventry Trust to assist with repairs to convert the Gatehouse for use as holiday accommodation.

The Grade II Listed St Mark’s Church and boundary walls to Stoney Stanton Road and Bird Street – are described as being in poor condition. Now relicensed and re-ordered for public worship, it has a catalogue of building fabric defects that require urgent attention including reroofing works, the renewal of rainwater goods, drainage and assorted high-level masonry repairs.

The Grade I Listed St John the Baptist Church on Fleet Street is described as being in poor condition – The red sandstone used in its construction is of variable quality and its repair and maintenance is an on-going issue, in particular, the condition of the nave clerestory. Transept roof coverings will shortly require renewal due to material failure.

St. John the Baptist Church is in “poor condition”

Allesley Castle, which is a Scheduled Monument, is in generally unsatisfactory condition with major localised problems.

Stoney Road Allotments, which is a Grade II* Registered Park and Garden grade II*which includes five listed buildings continues to be in a generally unsatisfactory condition, with major localised problems. The summer houses are the principal elements at risk, and have not been maintained since listing in 2001. A conservation management plan has been produced (2018) for the gardens but not yet formally adopted. The SRGA are currently preparing a grant application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund to repair the summerhouse.

Stoney Road Allotments is still awaiting restoration.

There are three Conservation Areas that remain on the At Risk Register.

  • Lady Herbert’s Garden – Conservation area with listed buildings and scheduled monuments – condition Very Bad – Deteriorating significantly.
  • London Road Conservation Area – Conservation Area with listed buildings and part of scheduled monument – condition Very Bad but improving.
  • Naul’s Mill Conservation Area – Conservation Area with listed buildings – condition poor but improving.

Christmas Market

The Coventry Observer has reported that there will be mistletoe, mulled wine and marshmallows when a Christmas Market comes to Coventry City Centre later this month.

Thanks to the Coventry BID the area in Broadgate will be transformed into a winter wonderland with cabins packed with festive food, drink and gifts from November 25 to Christmas Eve.

Star-themed lights will add to the atmosphere and the traders will complement those who already reside in Hertford Street.

Some cabins are also being offered to local traders and craft businesses which will be able to showcase their wares to Christmas shoppers heading to Coventry.

The cabins, which proved a hit in the city in 2019, will provide the perfect addition to the Coventry Glides ice rink in the Cathedral ruins.

They will add to a festive feel across the city centre with Coventry BID partnering with Coventry City Council to deliver fantastic lighting across the main streets and areas.

The BID is lighting up key areas including Cathedral Lanes, Upper Precinct, Smithford Way and Market Way, with the council funding a glittery canopy of star-themed lights in Broadgate and lights in other city centre streets.

Trish Willetts, BID Director, said: “We are delighted to be bringing the festive cabins back to Coventry this Christmas.

“It’s no secret that it’s been a difficult time for retailers in the city so we’re throwing everything at this Golden Quarter to bring people to Coventry for their Christmas shopping and festive fun.

“The cabins will not only provide people with lovely festive food and drink but will be showcasing some of our local makers and producers who will be taking up residence in some of them for a week at a time.

“Everything we do is aimed to make Coventry as appealing as possible for shoppers and visitors from across the region so they come in their droves to shop, celebrate and spend in our wonderful businesses.”

What Next for Whitefriars?

What next for Whitefriars? That was the question posed by Carol Pyrah, Executive Director of the Historic Coventry Trust, at a meeting of the Coventry Society held at the newly re-opened Drapers Hall on Monday 8th November.

Carol and her team of Site Managers gave the society an update on the work that the Trust is undertaking in the city. She described the Trust as an “entrepreneurial heritage trust” which relies on the income generated from regenerated buildings to conserve them for the future. She reminded members that the Trust came out of the work undertaken by the Coventry Society and in particular the symposium organised by the Society in 2010 to identify the priorities for restoring the city’s buildings at risk.

The meeting took place in the Regency splendour of the restored Draper’s Hall. Hannah Pierce the Draper’s Hall General Manager told us about the music programme she has put together for the Hall which commences this month.  She has created a programme to give something for everyone in the city and fill some of the gaps that are missing in Coventry’s music scene. Coventry Music Service has already moved into the building and young people will soon have the opportunity to practice their music in classical surroundings.

If you are thinking of a staycation with a difference you can now book accommodation at some of the city’s most iconic buildings – Cook Street Gate, Swanswell Gate, and 3 – 6 Priory Row will all shortly be available to hire and in the future Whitefriars Gatehouse will become available after its restoration. These buildings will also be open to the general public for Heritage Open Days and on other occasions.

3 – 6 Priory Row

Following the completion of the Burges Heritage Action Zone project, earlier this year, planning permission has now been granted and tenders are being prepared for the opening up of a length of the River Sherbourne near Palmer Lane.

Hannah Jones, the Charterhouse General Manager, lamented the fact that Charterhouse is not yet ready to open to the public, but it is now due to open in June 2022. Most of the internal work is now complete and work is progressing on the external environment. This is often delayed by archaeological findings that arise every time a spade is put in the ground.

Roofing work at the Charterhouse last June

The Charterhouse, the Charterhouse Fields and London Road Cemetery are now being seen together as a Heritage Park. A great deal of work has been done by volunteers to bring the vegetation under control and the Heritage Trust is working with Warwickshire Wildlife Trust to create a wetland habitat and to investigate the best way of revealing a view of the famous Stephenson viaduct.

Plans are moving forward to create a new footpath / cycle route along the Coventry Avoiding Loop railway line and a new pedestrian route has already been created from the Charterhouse car park via a pedestrian crossing and a re-opened access to London Road Cemetery. Eventually you will be able to walk from the cemetery via the Charterhouse Fields and the Loop Railway line returning via Far Gosford Street for a walk through some of Coventry’s most fascinating heritage.

The Anglican Chapel at London Road Cemetery is now nearing completion, just awaiting the completion of a re-instated tile floor. The Society is in discussion with the Trust to have a future meeting there. Plans for the Non-Conformist Chapel are in place but not yet completed.

One of the Heritage Trust projects that is a bit different to the others is Draper’s Bar / Metropolis Restaurant. The building was gifted to the Trust by the Alan Higgs Trust and is a modernistic building created on the foundations of the original Herbert Gallery.  The restaurant is being run as a training centre for the hospitality industry and Coventry’s young people have a life changing opportunity for education and training. As well as a bar and restaurant the building hosts an exhibition about our changing city.

One of the learning points about the Trust’s programme is that modernising buildings is not sufficient in itself and needs to be accompanied by an activity programme. The Trust has put together a programme of engagement and volunteering to support all elements of the programme, including events in Lady Herbert’s Garden, the London Road Cemetery, the Charterhouse Fields and an extensive arts and performance programme for the Burges.  

With great progress being made with all of these projects the question arises about what comes next and in particular what is to happen with Whitefriars Monastery. The building is currently in use as a store for the Herbert Gallery. With the plan for this store to be moved to the Ikea building, there is the prospect of this building becoming available in the medium term.

The building has been used in the past as a museum, exhibition space and performance area. One of the limiting constraints is the proximity to the ring road and the noise that generates.

Carol asked us what we thought should become of the building in the future. Obviously it has to be a use that generates enough income to support its future maintenance.

So what do you think should happen? What would you like to see the building used for? Please let us know and we will pass all your ideas to the Heritage Trust.

Coventry and Dresden through Modernist postcards

Coventry and Dresden in Germany were twinned following the mass destruction of both cities from bombardments during the Second World War.  The twinning relationship is being celebrated at a talk about  modernist postcards on Friday at the Litten Tree Building (LTB) and onliine.

The talk follows the changing post war landscape and architecture by looking at the representation of both cities in postcards.

CovSoc member and local historian David Fry will take us through Coventry’s journey, focussing on the new Coventry Precinct.

Berlin based Ben Kaden will show us the changes that took place in Pragerstrasse in the Centre of Dresden.

Both will talk about the new buildings, public art, everyday life in each city and the postcards themselves.

You’ll be able to join in and ask questions at the event. You’ll also be able to see the postcards large scale, at The LTB and online throughout the Festival.

This is the first of a series of conversations planned between people in Coventry and Dresden on how they see their cities and is part of the Coventry Dresden Friendship Festival.

Friday 12 November 2021, 16:00 – 18:00

Live at the Litten Tree Building and worldwide on Zoom.

Tickets for the Live event:

Tickets for the Zoom event:

Proposed Demolition of St Nicholas Church, Radford

Coventry City Council is currently considering a planning application for the demolition of St Nicholas Church, Radford, and the redevelopment of the site for affordable housing. The Coventry Society has responded to the planning application expressing our very serious concerns about the way in which the building has been neglected over many years, ending up with a situation where the demolition of St Nicholas is virtually a fait accompli.

The church has been a significant local landmark since its consecration in 1955. The building was designed by nationally important architects, Lavender, Twentyman and Percy. The design of both the interior and exterior of the church were striking and innovative. It was added to the City Council’s local list of architecturally important buildings in 1992. It has been recognised locally and nationally as a fine example of post war, innovative British architecture, although Historic England declined to list the building as being of national architectural and heritage importance.

However, over the last 20 years, the building has been allowed to deteriorate to the extent that the conclusion in the Heritage Impact Assessment accompanying this planning application is that the possibility of refurbishment is “unrealistic” The cost of refurbishment is estimated to be £2.8 million. Photographs accompanying the planning application show how what once was an impressive, bright, modern church is now a waterlogged shell in appalling condition.

St Nicholas was last used for worship in 2009 and has been vacant and disused since that time, with its condition gradually, but steadily deteriorating. Over a considerable period, roofing materials were stripped from the church, stolen and not replaced. Faults in the original design of the building became apparent. But at no time was an effective strategy for maintaining the building apparent. We have to ask how the deterioration and degradation of such a significant building, an important example of Coventry’s ground – breaking post war architecture, has been allowed to take place.

We were not party to decisions taken or not taken in relation to the maintenance of St. Nicholas over the last twenty years, and it is not clear whether there was ever a decision to intentionally allow the building to decay, or whether this happened by default. However, the diocese of Coventry has a responsibility to the City and to the community served by this church and should be held responsible for decisions taken and not taken which have led to the sad situation in which we now find ourselves. They should at least make clear how this situation arose.

We have reached the stage with St. Nicholas, where an objection to the application to demolish is pointless. The building is beyond reasonable refurbishment. The damage has been done over a long period during which time the building has been sorely neglected. The important lesson to learn from this case now is that other significant post war Coventry buildings, and churches in particular, should not be allowed to deteriorate in this way.