Historic Coventry Trust Receives Two More Grants


Coventry’s pioneering Historic Coventry Trust has been awarded two separate grants from the Architectural Heritage Trust.

The first grant has been offered under the Heritage Development Trust Pilot Grant Scheme. A grant of £150,000 will support Historic Coventry Trust through a key transition period as they take on 22 historic properties from Coventry City Council and re-purpose these important listed sites for the future. These include the national demonstrator project for High Street Heritage Action Zones at Hales Street, the 14th-century Swanswell and Cook Street Gates (the only two of the medieval gates to survive), the late-medieval Charterhouse site and the 19th-century Greek Revival Drapers’ Hall. These projects will be restored and adapted to create exciting new commercial and public spaces, events venues and unique visitor attractions and holiday cottages in time for Coventry’s 2021 City of Culture year.

A second grant of £350,000 has been awarded under the Transformational Capital Grant scheme. This is for the Lychgate Cottages.

3-5 Priory Row (known as Lychgate Cottages) are three remarkable close-studded timber frame properties dating from around 1415 and the only upstanding building surviving from the 12th century St Mary’s Priory complex. Historic Coventry Trust intend reviving a national important heritage asset, making the properties accessible to the community and visitors to the city, and providing much needed visitor accommodation in the lead up to Coventry City of Culture 2021.


Ian Harrabin, Chairman of Historic Coventry Trust, said: “These are two very different awards but both will be of great benefit to the city.  Historic Coventry Trust is a lean but ambitious organisation and we have got lots to achieve over the next couple of years. Obviously handling such important and varied projects requires a wide range of skills and is time-intensive, so the Heritage Development Pilot Grant of £150,000 will help us build and sustain those capabilities.

“The £350,000 towards 3-5 Priory Row is a massive boost towards transforming these three 15 Century buildings into unique visitor accommodation while respecting their architectural merit and outstanding historical importance.”

The Architectural Heritage Fund is a registered charity, working since 1976 to promote the conservation and sustainable re-use of historic buildings for the benefit of communities across the UK.  It provides advice, information and financial assistance in the form of early project grants and loans for projects undertaken by charities and not-for-private profit organisations.

Coventry’s Exemplar Post War Church Architecture


For our February meeting we have Architect Aidan Ridyard talking about “Coventry’s exemplar post war church architecture – Looking at the city’s exceptional legacy as part of the international movement to redefine a typology in post war Europe.”

Aidan Ridyard RIBA is an architect from the Midlands, who has spent his professional life studying the European tradition of church architecture; more recently he has been applying this to research into mid-century buildings closer to his home in Warwickshire.

Aidan is managing partner of Burrell Foley Fischer Architects, an award winning practice specialising in the design of contemporary buildings in historically sensitive environments. His refurbishment of the RSA’s Fellows areas within their Grade I listed headquarters was completed last year, and his remodelling of York’s riverfront Guildhall Complex is due for completion in 2021.

Aidan has been working with Coventry University since 2014 and designed the Alison Gingell building (Science & Health) on Whitefriars Lane. He is currently leading the design of their Civic Centre Campus proposals.

Aidan lives in Warwickshire and loves exploring Coventry’s remarkable architectural heritage.


The meeting is on Monday 10th February 2020 at 7.30 p.m. at the Shopfront Theatre, 38 City Arcade. CovSoc meetings are free for members. Guests and visitors are asked to make a contribution of £2 towards the cost of refreshments and room hire.

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Consultation on the Plans for the former Civic Centre Site.

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Coventry University’s Master Planning consultants, Turnberry, are holding a public exhibition of the University’s plans for the former Civic Centre site (opposite the Council House). This will take place on Wednesday 29th and Thursday 30th January 2020 in the covered court of the Herbert Gallery. The exhibition will be open from 15:00 – 18:30 on each day. The project team will be on hand to answer questions and to record your feedback.

The plans include new academic and social facilities, including a new auditorium, alongside residential accommodation for visiting lecturers and researchers.



Building with Hemp


Hemp has a very long association with human history. It was one of the first plants to be spun into usable fibre some 10,000 years ago. Hemp is used to make a variety of things, including rope, textiles, clothing, shoes, food, paper, bioplastics, insulation and biofuel. Also if you mix shredded hemp, with sand and lime it can be used as a material for construction and insulation. Called Hempcrete or Hemplime it is a bio-composite material. A mixture of Hempcrete is easier to work with than traditional lime mixes and it lacks the brittleness of concrete and consequently does not need expansion joints. The result is a lightweight insulating material ideal for most climates as it combines insulation and thermal mass.

Hempcrete has been used in France since the early 1990s to construct non-weight bearing insulating infill walls. Hempcrete does not have the requisite strength for load bearing construction, but with a framework of another material that supports the vertical load it can be used for internal walls. Hempcrete walls are fireproof, transmit humidity, resist mould, and have excellent acoustic performance.

In the UK a new show house has been built to show off the capabilities of hemp. Called ‘Flat House’ it is located on Margent Farm, a 53-acre farming facility in rural Cambridgeshire. Practice Architecture worked alongside hemp farmers to erect this zero carbon home, from pre-fabricated panels in just two days.


Practice Architecture additionally saw the project as a chance to trial using hemp and pre-fabricated building techniques on a large scale. “We have been working with hemp for a while but this is the first project where we have designed and employed a pre-fabricated panel system,”

“Developing an offsite system allowed us to build efficiently, at speed and to build through the colder months of the year – something that can be difficult with standard hemp construction.”


Working off-site with engineers and material specialists, the studio developed large panels made from hempcrete. These were then transported back to the farm and, over the course of just two days, erected to form the structural shell of Flat House. The property was constructed over the footprint of a pre-existing barn.

The project also saw Practice Architecture and Margent Farm develop hemp-fibre tiles, which have been used to clad the house’s external facade. Each tile is bound with sugar-based resin sourced from agricultural waste. “The materials are breathable meaning they regulate the moisture in the air, resisting damp and mould and leading to a healthier environment and air quality.”


A growing number of architects and designers are experimenting with hempcrete in the light of the current climate crisis.

Although cannabis as a drug and industrial hemp both derive from the species Cannabis sativa, Hemp has lower concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The legality of industrial hemp varies widely between countries. Some governments regulate the concentration of THC and permit only hemp that is bred with an especially low THC content.

There is more about the Flat House here.

100 Years of the Bauhaus

Our Chairman, Paul Maddocks, reflects on a century of the Bauhaus.


“As the centenary of the founding of Bauhaus comes to an end, it may be worth looking at what influences it had on all aspects of design today from architecture to furniture.

“When I was at art school in 1969 we had a slide show and we were all given a presentation from a visiting lecturer. He was one of the students that was taught at the Bauhaus School, sadly I do not remember his name. It was to celebrate Bauhaus 50th birthday, I had not heard of this school before or what they did, but I did recognised some of the designs that had come out of its creative process.

“Bauhaus was a school for modernism. It ran from 1919 to 1933. Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany, in 1919, as a new kind of art school based around a holistic approach to the creative disciplines. The German term Bauhaus—literally “building house”—was understood as meaning “School of Building”, but in spite of its name and the fact that its founder was an architect, the Bauhaus did not initially have an architecture department.

“The objective was the creation of a ‘total work of art’ in which buildings and everything in them were designed as a whole entity. The Bauhaus promoted a unified vision for the arts that made no distinction between form and function, and therefore Gropius wanted the school’s architecture to reflect these values. Bauhaus style, also known as the International Style, it was marked by the absence of ornamentation and by harmony between the function of an object or a building and its design.

“In 1925 to 1932 Bauhaus moved to Dessau and Walter Gropius designed the school to reflect the Bauhaus values.


“The Bauhaus Dessau’s most striking features are its glass curtain walls, which wrap around corners and provide views of the building’s interiors, and its supporting structure.

“It is worth looking up Bauhaus and its interesting history, its influences it has had on today’s design in furniture and buildings.”


A photograph of the Wassily Chair, it is one of the most famous pieces of furniture connected to the Bauhaus. Designed by Marcel Breuer, the iconic tubular steel chair was inspired by bicycle frames and made with the latest in steel-bending technology at the time. It is named after Bauhaus master Wassily Kandinsky, and close friend of Klee, who praised the piece.


A photograph of the famous cradle which is a combination of geometric shapes and primary colours by Peter Keller. A student at the Bauhaus between 1921 and 1925, Peter Keller was a versatile designer, artist and architect. While at the school in 1923 he designed a baby cradle for the first Bauhaus exhibition in the Haus am Horn in Weimar.  Peter was influenced by artist Wassily Kandinsky, who was a master at the school.