Jacob Epstein in Auld Reekie

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Paul Maddocks, Deputy Chair of the Coventry Society, writes ….

“I came across this interesting 1961 photograph of the plaster cast of the Jacob Epstein statue of St. Michael and the Devil suspended above Waverley Market, Edinburgh Old Town. I am not sure if any of our Coventry Society members know it full story?

“This photo of the statue suspended over the entrance to Waverley Market was taken in 1961 from Waverley Bridge looking towards Forsyth’s store (now Topshop) in Princes Street. The statue was created by the American-born modern British sculptor, Jacob Epstein to be displayed on the wall of the newly-built Coventry Cathedral. A Memorial Exhibition to Jacob Epstein (1880-1959) was held in Waverley Market in Edinburgh during the 1961 Edinburgh Festival.

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“A local Edinburgh person recalls his visit – ‘The Epstein Exhibition was probably one of the most successful events ever in the lifetime of The Festival. Myself and some of my friends, not arty types in the slightest, were so impressed we went twice. On one of the times we saw Albert Finney who was appearing, if I remember rightly, at The Assembly Hall’

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“The Waverley Market was originally a market for animals etc. but over the years it became a covered area for other attractions like fairs and concerts with a garden on top around the skylights. I wonder if the fact that Sir Basil Spence had his offices and came from Edinburgh had any influence. Especially it being only a year until the Coventry Cathedral was to be opened he may have even had an hand in organising the exhibition?

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“Allan Dodds, of Nottingham, in March 10th, 2010 said – ‘I’ve just conducted some research into the Epstein exhibition and learned that Campbell Harper Films Ltd produced a documentary of it. The Commentator was Tom Fleming whom I met at a ceilidh in Edinburgh. I still have his autograph.’

“The St. Michael and the devil statue must have been a plaster cast as the finished bronze statue weighs four tons and the figure of St. Michael is approximately 6 metres tall and simple scaffolding like this would not be strong for such a weight. Sir Jacob Epstein died on 21 August 1959 (aged 78) at 18 Hyde Park Gate, Kensington, London. The statue constitutes a powerful symbol of the triumphant resurrection of the Cathedral despite the powers of evil and destruction. It was unveiled on the Cathedral in 1961 by Epstein’s widow, Kathleen Esther Garman, Lady Epstein (married 1955-59).”

 

Charterhouse Progress

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On 17th June a small group from the Coventry Society was shown around the Charterhouse to see the progress being made with the Archaeological investigations and the regeneration of the building itself.

After being issued with PPE and a safety briefing we were shown the re-excavation of the monks’ cells, just outside the cloisters. This area had been previously excavated in the 1980s and the area was being re-opened and extended into the garden area behind.

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There would originally have been twelve cells. The Historic Coventry Trust is planning to rebuild two cells using the existing archaeological outlines. One will be a cell as it was at the time of the Dissolution and the other will be a modern equivalent, where it will be possible to experience absolute silence.

The Carthusians monks lived as hermits in small two story cells, although there is no evidence here of a staircase or any fire places. It is assumed that the top storey was accessed by a ladder. The monks were bought food from a communal kitchen by the lay brothers, twice a day, but it must have got very cold in winter.

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An old well has been re-excavated although it is not certain whether it was a communal well or just shared between two cells.

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Some of the original floor tiles have been exposed as has a garden edge formed from tiles on end.

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At this point we were hit by a downpour and made a quick retreat to the inside of what would have been the Prior’s lodge.

The main alteration to the buildings is being done in the Victorian extension, where a new kitchen and lift shaft are being installed.

At the other end of the building the medieval timber framed extension is being re-built. The timber frame had been infilled with bricks many centuries ago and the extra weight had damaged the frame, which is now being carefully restored. We were surprised that some of what appeared to be very badly rotted beams were being re-used but oak retains a lot of strength, even in these conditions.

 

Next we went onto the roof where the roof timbers have been completely exposed and protected by a huge over-roof of steel and plastic. Each roof timber is being carefully adjusted with oak inserts to give the correct fall and to reduce the waviness of the roof. State of the art laser equipment was being used to get the correct alignment of the timbers.

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Two chimneys are being re-built and a further one was rebuilt a few years ago. As the correct sized bricks are no longer available some similar sized bricks were being cut down to the correct size to match the existing ones.

From the roof there is a wonderful view of the whole site where new gardens are being created and together with a heated garden wall, the original dating back to the early 18th Century when the land was one of the foremost garden nurseries of the age, growing oranges for stately homes in the county.

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Our thanks to the Historic Coventry Trust for the tour. We are hoping that our members will get another opportunity for a tour when restrictions are eased.

The regeneration project at the Charterhouse is being funded by a grant of £4.3 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

There are more photos on our Flickr site.

Cycle Parking for Organisations

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Transport for West Midlands in collaboration with “Park that bike” is launching a project to support the growth of cycle use in the West Midlands.

Voluntary sector groups, businesses, shops, offices, cafés, pubs, churches, dental practices and surgeries can get free cycle parking! Various designs of cycle stand are available.

The bike stands are free of charge but you are responsible for installing them on your own property (they will provide full instructions) in a location that Park That Bike has approved.

Cycle Parking for Organisations is supported by Park That Bike to help organisations across the West Midlands by providing them with free cycle parking.

The scheme is aimed at encouraging more cycling and people to use their bikes to get around by offering to deliver free bike racks to up to 100 businesses, health establishments and community organisations.

PARK THAT BIKE

Good quality cycle parking reduces the likelihood of bikes being stolen or damaged and tells the world that your organisation is doing its bit to encourage cycling. To apply please complete this on-line form. Click below to find out about the free cycle parking that’s available in your area.

This initiative is run by ParkThatBike and supported by various local councils across the UK, including Transport for West Midlands.

How it works

On application, an organisation will be able to choose the type of cycle parking they think will suit their needs best. Organisations can apply for up to four cycle stands free of charge: Conventional bike racks, heart-shaped stands, wall-mounted rails, PlantLocks (a combined planter and bike rack) and free-standing “toast-racks” are available to choose from.

The experts at Park That Bike will be on hand to support with the best location for the parking while ensuring it is delivered on private land. Once that is approved, Park That Bike will send out the cycle parking.

Following which successful applicants will have 10 weeks to install the new parking. The first round of applications is open now and there is a limited number of units available. Submit an application and also find information on eligibility requirements.

There is more information and an online application form here.

City of Culture will Now Start in May 2021

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Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture has been pushed back to start in May 2021, due to the coronavirus crisis. Starting in May instead of the beginning of the year will “allow a fuller programme of public events”, according to the organisation team.

“The current crisis has hit our city, our region and our sector hard,” the chief executive of Coventry 2021 said. The new start date will enable the maximum possible number of people to visit and take part, he added. Chief Executive Martin Sutherland said: “We are delighted that we will be able to have a year of celebration – a time when the city and country need it most – and that the dates are now set in stone.”

City of Culture will not start till May 2021 When the Coventry 2021 programme commences, a currently untitled event will see two theatre and events directors – Nigel Jamieson and Justine Themen devise and create alongside international artists and residents including local young people, families, schools, faith organisations, performers, choirs and sport and community groups.

Uniting residents to explore the values at the heart of the city, and their hopes for the future, citizens of the city will take part in hundreds of workshops to create music, performance and dance for the event and build structures across the city, culminating in a spectacle on a scale the city has never seen before. It will create a powerful and diverse story about the spirit and energy of Coventry and celebrate the voices of people from every ward in the city.

Chenine Bhathena, Creative Director of Coventry 2021, said: ‘Nigel Jamieson and Justine Themen are the perfect pairing to kick off our year in truly spectacular style. But they are only part of the team, and that’s where it gets really exciting. The event, which will be created over the coming months, will be truly made in Coventry.’

The programme will now run until May 2022 and will enable St. Mary’s Guildhall to be open for more of the City of Culture Year.

There is more on the City of Culture website.

Planned Changes to the Planning System

The Government has announced significant plans to change the planning system in the post-Covid era. The plan is a major effort to build more homes and get more people to own their own homes as well as giving a nod to protecting the rights of tenants and reducing homelessness. The anti-planning rhetoric of the Government is combined with some rather good changes that we are happy to see.

Below we outline the main changes planned and in some cases our attitude to them.

The key changes at a glance

Planning reforms

  • Introduce new permitted development rights for building upwards on existing buildings by summer 2020 – add up to two floors to your detached house – this is likely to result in quite unacceptable developments.
Maxing out on Permitted Development Rights.
  • Consult on potential permitted development rights to allow vacant buildings to be demolished and replaced with new homes without planning permission – an unnecessary change that will reduce the quality of the built environment with likely unintended consequences.
  • New support for community and self-build housing schemes, including support finding plots of land – a very minor element of the economy which will not make any significant impact on housing need. People who can afford to build their own home can afford to buy a pre-built home.
  • Support the Oxford-Cambridge arc by setting up a new spatial framework for the area, setting out where housing will be delivered up to 2050, and create four development corporations across the region (Bedford, St Neots/Sandy, Cambourne and Cambridge, which includes plans to explore the case for a New Town at Cambridge).
  • To accelerate new housing and infrastructure development. A helpful and sensible policy.
  • With early affect it will be permitted to convert vacant shops into residential units. It is claimed that this will help rescue our High Street. However the decision of the last Government to permit the conversion of offices to houses had some unexpected and unacceptable results, with the creation of the smallest housing units anywhere in Europe with conditions worse than the Victorian era. We had hoped that the lessons had been learned.
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Will we get more of this if planning permission isn’t required?

Housing Delivery Test

  • Review the formula for calculating local housing need to encourage more building in urban areas
  • Require all local authorities to have an up-to-date local plan by 2023 or government will intervene
  • Continue with plans to raise the Housing Delivery Test threshold to 75% in November 2020. This is the test of whether housing demand is being met by local authorities. However local authorities are not the main provider of housing and we are not clear what will be done to address the problem of large private house builders holding onto huge land banks.
  • Reform the New Homes Bonus to ensure local authorities that build more homes have access to greater funding.

Planning departments

  • Implement new planning fee structure to better resource planning authorities and link funding to improved performance. If this leads to Planning Departments being properly funded, we support this. The lack of funding for enforcement of planning rues is deplorable.
  • Provide automatic rebates of fees when planning applications are successful at appeal.
  • Expand the use of zoning tools to support development that is aimed at simplifying the process of granting planning permission for residential and commercial property. This approach is loaded with dangers for the environment and local community. Planning is there to protect us from unacceptable development.
  • Make it clearer who owns land by requiring greater transparency on land options – we support this initiative. Any actions which address the excessive land banking by house builders is to be welcomed.
  • Support local authorities to use compulsory purchase orders by introducing statutory timescales for decisions and ending the automatic right to public inquiry – we support this.

Homeownership

  • Continue with the proposed First Homes scheme, which offers eligible first-time buyers new homes at prices discounted by a third.The last scheme resulted in housing providers increasing the price of housing by the exact amount of the grant provided – meaning that the Government was subsidising house builders rather than first time buyers. It will be interesting to see if this problem is solved.
  • Form partnerships with developers and local authorities to be the frontrunners for delivering the first wave of new homes – good idea!

Design

  • Revise National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to encourage good design and placemaking throughout the planning process – an excellent idea which we support.
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This is why we need a design guide! 
  • Respond to the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission and take forward recommendations calling for urban tree-planting and giving communities more influence over design – another great idea.
  • Implement a new National Design Code to allow residents of communities to have more influence over design. Allow local areas to produce their own design codes for new development – we support this approach.

Climate and sustainability

  • Review policy for building in areas at flood risk by assessing whether current NPPF protections are enough and whether further reform is needed – the development of housing in floor plains is a national disgrace. Hopefully this new approach will stop it for good!
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This is  what you get when you build in areas subject to flooding
  • Introduce Future Homes Standard in 2025, which will require up to 80% lower carbon emissions for new homes – a welcome step but not sufficient and too late.
  • Create a new net zero carbon housing development in Toton in the East Midlands through a development corporation.