What will the New Year bring?

This article is re-printed from the newsletter of Coventry Action for Neighbourhoods, courtesy of Paul Maddocks.

We all know that the Coventry City of Culture has many more months to run and we hope the Covid does not affect it too much this year. There has been a lot of restoration work on historic Coventry buildings that should be finished in the new year.

Like the grand historical St Mary’s Guildhall which has been closed for nearly two years. It has had a special restoration and facelift. With new educational interpretation alongside the original features including one of the oldest tapestries in the country, it wonderful stained-glass windows, historic paintings and furniture. The building has had its medieval kitchen opened up again, one of the most complete kitchens of its kind. To do this a new modern kitchen has been built on the back of guildhall to serve grand banquets and functions in the main hall and other rooms. It is planned that the guildhall will be open all the year around and used most evening for functions and hire for various events from music performances to special gatherings. We cannot wait to see the improvements.

Another building that has been closed for a while is the Priory Visitor Centre. This is due to re-open over the next few months run by the Coventry University Student’s Union as a cultural heritage attraction. The vision is for the facility to be used dynamically as a conference and training space, community place and cultural destination. This will also include the Priory Undercroft which is next to the waterfall.

The scheme on Palmer Lane, which is at the back of Burges has been mooted for a number of years. This includes opening up the Sherborne River. New plans have now been submitted which will create a public space with steps leading down to the uncovered river, green landscaping, lighting and public artwork. There will be new seating spaces and there are plans for a cafe or restaurant in what used to be the Illingworth Signs building.

The latest news of the Coventry Cross is that its going to be reassembled in front of the Holy Trinity Church on the grass area. We cannot be clear on timescales, but it is certainly in 2022.

Coventry Cathedral is having new improvements to the cafe/restaurant, education rooms, choir and music rehearsal rooms, toilets, lift and disabled access throughout the building. It’s hoped that it will all be ready for the 60th Anniversary of its Consecration on 25th May 2022.

Covid19 has put back a lot of building work and material supplies have been difficult to get hold of. That is why the Charterhouse Priory and Heritage Park is running a bit late. In addition the Charterhouse has revealed lots more history with the archaeologists finding more objects and information about this very important historical site

What would we like in the new year?

It would be nice for the Police Museum to have a proper home in the old Police Station in St. Mary’s Street next to Drapers Hall and the Cathedral.

We hope the great work that has been done at the Litten Tree Building continues, from a shambles to a bright exhibition centre, all done by volunteers.

We also encourage more environmental projects planting trees growing your own food or getting better energy from solar, wind or other planet friendly sources. Over the Covid pandemic we have grown to like our parks and open spaces even more and we need to save them especially wild areas and rivers that have the wild plants animals and fish that survive there.

Because of the dreaded ‘Omicron’ and the festive season everything has paused; hopefully things will start up again soon. Coventry came into being because of new ideas about how to organise space for people rather than capital, because of new ideas of ownership which placed the public good before profit, and new ideas about how to make a city a delight to walk around without having to buy anything. Perhaps that’s what we should reclaim tomorrow and the rest of the year?

The Council Budget – 2022/23

The Council’s Cabinet has opened consultation on the provisional budget for 2022 / 2023. The consultation response and the Government Grant settlement will all come into play before the budget is finalised in February.  

The Council has an aspirational draft 5-year capital programme which totals nearly £1.5billion. Of this nearly £158m is currently cash-flowed for 2022/23 taking into account expenditure rescheduled from 2021/22.  Further funding will be built into the programme before the final budget report, as the Council is currently awaiting final confirmation of the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement (CRSTS) grant award.

The main components of the Council’s provisional capital programme are set out below with the figures quoted representing the projected sums earmarked currently for 2022/23. The Programme includes:

  • A strategic transportation programme in excess of £25m incorporating the Coventry South package, Housing Infrastructure Fund works at Eastern Green, Keresley Section 106 works and Very Light Rail.
  • Continued delivery of the £31.5m Air Quality programme, which includes works at Junction 7 of the Ring Road and Spon End.
  • Commencing the delivery of the £8.5m Binley Road Cycleway up to Walsgrave Hospital.
  • Completion of Public Realm 5 works, specifically Coventry Cross and Palmer Lane.
  • City Centre Regeneration investment taking forward the city’s Friargate District (building 2) and City Centre South plans.
  • Continued investment in the schools capital works including provision for the expansion of secondary places under their One Strategic Plan, to include the new SEND school proposal at Woodlands.
  • Continued investment in Adult and Social Care in form of Disabled Facilities and Pathway to Care; along with the programme of vehicle replacement and ICT.

The draft programme will be subject to change between now and February with every expectation that some of the proposed expenditure profile will be shifted to later years. Some of the schemes involve a complex mix of funding sources, multi-partner delivery arrangements and challenging planning, technical and approval cocktails that do not always lend themselves to smooth project delivery progress. In overall terms, given the large amount of externally funded and driven proposals within the Council’s Capital Programme it is very likely that a fair degree of flux will continue to be experienced in its cash-flow over the next few years. 

A Story from Phoenix City 2021

An incident from the early adult life of CovSoc founder member, Paul Maddocks, led to a scene in a City of Culture arts video currently on display in the Herbert. Paul writes….

A couple of years ago, just before Christmas 2019, I met up with artist Duncan Whitley who was going to do a film for ‘City of Culture’ to be shown at the Bi Annual exhibition which is currently being shown at the Herbert Art Gallery.

We talked for a few hours about Coventry and different things. One thing he liked was the models that the City Architects used to make about the future of Coventry, to show the people in the special exhibition in the old Herbert Art Gallery which is where the Metropolis bar is now. I said that when I worked at the Council House in 1974 the architects were moving from the Earl Street building where they used to display the models in the glass show case to the new Tower block known as Civic Centre 4. All the unwanted models were being dumped into a skip. I got my father to meet me and we took as many models we could out of the skip for my little brother to play with. One of them was the round cafe. He asked if we had still got them?

I said after my brother got fed up with playing with them, they were put in my parent’s loft. I got married and one day not long after my dad was made redundant from the Ryton factory. He went into a depression and decided to chuck everything out of the loft and set fire to them without telling me. So, I did know what had happened to the round cafe model and the myth of it rotating. Duncan liked this image and had the model remade so he could set it alight again for his film.

A lot of the city models were displayed in the glass show cases in the Precinct and Smithford way so that people could see what the swimming baths would look like etc.

The short film is very high art. I went to the first showing; the full film is not to everyone’s taste but it is a good record of the age we are now in.

You can watch an excerpt from the film here. The full version at the Bi Annual exhibition at the Herbert is a lot longer.

Duncan Whitley (born UK, 1974) is an artist working predominantly with sound and the moving-image. His practice synthesizes the languages of cinema, documentary and spatial sound art.

He has presented site-specific projects, audiovisual works, installations and live multi-channel sound works in the UK, Europe and South America.

Phoenix City 2021 examines Coventry’s relationship to the image of the phoenix – stemming from Donald Gibson’s and Basil Spence’s use of the mythical bird as symbol to represent their respective town-planning and cathedral proposals for Coventry realised in the 1950’s – and the hypothesis that UK City of Culture is conceived in Coventry’s collective unconscious as the city’s next phoenix moment. It is a special collaboration with electronic musician Abul Mogard.

Phoenix City 2021 is currently exhibiting at the Herbert Art Gallery as part of Coventry Biennial 2021 HYPER-POSSIBLE from 8th October 2021 – 6th February 2022.

The Future of the Priory Visitor Centre

The City Council is moving forward with plans for the re-use of the Priory Visitor Centre and the Priory Undercrofts after several years of the buildings being vacant and deteriorating.

The Council has agreed Heads of Terms and will be finalizing a lease with Coventry University Students Union before the end of January for both sets of premises.

The Students Union are planning to operate the buildings as a cultural and heritage attraction underpinned by a commercially sustainable business plan. The vision is for the building to be dynamically used for a conference and training space, community place and cultural destination.

Before the lease is enacted the Council will carry out the refurbishment of the premises. This includes the replacement of the air conditioning unit in the undercrofts – this is needed to maintain the undercrofts as a schedule ancient monument.

Works on the Visitor Centre have now been completed but this revealed further problems with the roof and repairs have now been scheduled to be done in January.

Culture Coventry are relocating the nationally recognized collection of artifacts to alternative locations. They have commissioned specialist companies to undertake an appraisal of the artifacts and arrange for specialists to transport them to alternative locations.  

The most significant asset is the Apocalypse Stone, which is to be relocated to the Herbert Gallery to be displayed alongside three large stoneworks from the city’s collection. The remaining stoneworks collections will be relocated elsewhere.

A very large piece of stonework which was originally part of a pulpit will remain in situ at the Visitor Centre as it is too large to relocate without risk of damage. Discussions are currently under way with the Student Union to ensure the conservation of this artifact.

The Mayor and the Social Anthropologist

CovSoc Member Peter James tells us the interesting story of a well known Coventry character and his step daughter.

Malcolm Kenneth Pridmore was born in October 1869 in Foleshill to parents George and Sophia Pridmore. They ran an Elastic Web manufacturing business at Foleshill Mills in Lockhurst Lane. Malcolm  became a solicitor, then a councillor and was mayor of Coventry in 1914 and 1915. This was a difficult time at the beginning of the First World War. The 1911 Census showed him living at the Hollies in Foleshill Road. He had been born just next door in the family home, a house called Brooklyn.  Malcolm along with George Poole was responsible for the city’s earliest public housing. George was the son of a watchmaker and Coventry’s first Labour councillor.

After 30 years of civic service Malcolm died on 30th March 1945. Probate was granted in Birmingham on 23rd May and he bequeathed his total estate of £86,063 16s 5d to Sheila Gadomski (wife of Zdzislaw Gadomski). Who was she? It’s a complicated story.

Malcolm had moved to Cromers Close off Kenilworth Road when he married Edith Caffyn (a widow) in 1928. His house is now Beauchamp Nursing Home. Edith had a daughter Sheila Caffyn who then became Sheila Caffyn Pridmore. She had married the year before Malcolm died. On May 6th 1944 Sheila married Captain Zdzislaw Gadomski at Chelsea Registry Office. The marriage was short lived and she then married Bruce Tyrell Patterson on 23rd January 1948. Her third husband was Tadeusz Horko a Polish journalist who she married in 1955 in Paddington.

Sheila’s Career

Her formal education was at Roedean and then Oxford University. She joined  the War Office in 1940, and a year later moved to Poland House in Marylebone London. Some years later in 1947 Sheila enrolled at the LSE to research South Africa and wrote a thesis : “The status of the Cape coloured people within the S. African structure”. This led to her writing two books : “Colour and Culture in S. Africa” in 1953 then “The Last Trek” in 1957 using the name Sheila Patterson as the author. A name she continued to use as the author for all her books.

Between 1955 and 1959 she researched West Indian settlers living in Brixton leading to another publication called “Dark Strangers”. During this period Sheila had begun employment at The Institute of Race Relations and from 1960 edited their newsletter. This resulted in the release of her final book entitled “Immigration and Race Relations in Britain 1960-67”.

Towards the end of her career  she became editor of “New Community” in 1971. This was a journal published by the Community Relations Commission, it was intended to bridge the gap between academics and policy makers.

She was described as a striking elegant woman who was basically shy. In the 1970s a friend intimated that Sheila had turned down more speaking invitations than anyone she had ever known. Sheila died after a stroke in a nursing home in Hove  Sussex in 1998 but is buried at St Mary’s in Stoneleigh in the Pridmore family plot along with Malcolm Pridmore, her mother Edith, only child Clarissa (the daughter of Sheila and Bruce Tyrell Patterson) and third husband Tadeusz Horko.

The Pridmore Family Plot at St. Mary’s Church, Stoneleigh