St Valentine’s Day Festival at St. John’s

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With romance in the air at this time, St John the Baptist Church in Coventry City Centre will be celebrating the life of the patron of courtly love, with four days of music, recitals, readings, exhibitions and services from Thursday 14th – Sunday 17th February 2019.

Every day sees a rare chance to see our famed relic of St Valentine on show in St John the Baptist chapel.

There will also be a chance for engaged and married couples to get their rings blessed by the rector, Father Dexter Bracey.

Saturday includes refreshments on sale on the Hall, readings by acclaimed Coventry poet, Paul A Palmer and a concert at 3pm.

Opening times are as follows:

Thursday 10am – 1pm & 4pm – 6.45pm

Friday 9am – 2pm

Saturday 9.30am – 4pm

Sunday 11.15am – 2pm

St John the Baptist Church
Fleet St
Coventry  CV1 3AY.

More information on www.stjohnthebaptistcoventry.org.uk
Enquiries by text only on 07757 942420.

3,307,996 – That’s a Lot of Tractors

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The February meeting of the Coventry Society is a talk from local speaker, David Walker, on the subject “3,307,996 – That’s a Lot of Tractors”.

David Walker is a former Massey Ferguson employee who has researched and written about the history of the factory in Coventry.

David’s talk will provide an unparalleled insight into what it was like to work in the service department of the world’s largest tractor manufacturer during the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

Joining Massey Ferguson at Coventry as a technical author in 1966, David went on to become heavily involved in all aspects of supporting the company’s products, carrying out everything from writing the service manual for the MF 1200 tractor to providing technical advice to its dealers, issuing service bulletins and troubleshooting on territory as a regional service manager.

Monday 11th February 2019 at 7.30 p.m.

at the Shopfront Theatre, City Arcade.

Covsoc events are free for members. Visitors are very welcome and asked to make a voluntary donation of £2 towards the cost of refreshments and venue hire.

Non members are welcome to book a free ticket for this event here. 

Copsewood Comes Back to Life

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CovSoc committee members with the Lord Mayor of Coventry, Councillor John Blundell, the Lady Mayoress, new residents and staff of Morris Homes

After many years of campaigning and considerable restoration problems, Copsewood Grange was formally re-opened by the Lord Mayor of Coventry on Friday 25th January 2019.  The building was restored by Morris Homes. 

As well as re-opening the building the event also saw the unveiling of a Blue Plaque revealing a little of the history of the building.

Blue plaque on Copsewood Grange
Copsewood Grange – built 1872 for James Hart, ribbon manufacturer. 1879 bought by Sir Richard Moon, chair of nearby London NW railway. Later, Peel Conner, GEC, GPT, Marconi. Restored by Morris Homes 2018. The Coventry Society

There is more information about the history of Copsewood Grange and our campaign to save it here.

As well as the Grange, Morris Homes have also restored the Lodge.p1130436If you are considering purchasing a flat at Copsewood Grange, or perhaps just want to take a look, there is more information here.

 

 

Stop relying on the Big Boys!

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It might be a long-held ambition to build the City Centre South scheme on land currently occupied by Bull Yard, Shelton Square, the City Arcade and Hertford Street but judging by the lack of interest among multi-national companies (highlighted in last Thursday’s weekly paper), isn’t it time to come up with a better plan? Businesses that have traded there for years need a secure future and surely a new face for these perfectly adequate buildings could and should continue to benefit traders and shoppers alike. The scale is right. Car parking on top of the shops is still a revolutionary concept that’s stood the test of time. Rent can be maintained at a sensible level.

New builds inevitably attract exorbitant sums. More than thirty traders have suffered the insecurity of tenure for years. How fair is that? Just look how the area has been allowed to run-down. We need a new vision. One that can be made a reality well in time for City of Culture 2021. It’s high time we saw some small wins in the city centre rather than kidding us along that the grandiose ambitions of multi-nationals can be realised.

Cabinet member for jobs and regeneration Jim O’Boyle recognising there is a downturn in the retail sector across the country said: “Negotiations between the developer Shearer Property Group and potential investors is taking more time than envisaged.” The truth: the City Centre South scheme has been on the stocks since 2012 – for more than SIX years.

Anyone with an ounce of imagination might surely realise the potential for a re-vamped quarter of small speciality businesses. Here they are established and trading well with a loyal customer base. What does Cllr O’Boyle want to do? Throw them out to turn the land over to this apparently unreachable massive new development for the ‘Big Boys’. Does it make sense? Of course not. It’s a great pity that important decision makers like Cllr O’Boyle don’t have a retail background. He might take a more realistic approach to the dilemma of City Centre South. So come on, time to get round the table and start talking to locals for a change.

Read more about the current state of City Centre South in the Coventry Observer.

Copsewood Grange

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Copsewood Grange was erected in 1872 by James Hart, a ribbon manufacturer. The date 1870 is on the Lodge at the entrance to the Grange with what seems to be Hart’s initials carved in the stone. The estate buildings are said to have cost £5000. Hart’s large factory, the Victoria Mills, was in Lancastrian Yard in the Burges. The site is now part of the West Orchards shopping complex. With the decline of the ribbon trade, both the Grange and the factory became known as Hart’s Folly.

The Grange was sold in 1879 to Richard Moon M.D. of the London and North Western Railway, which at the time was the largest joint stock company in the world. He was living there when he was created a Baronet in 1887. There is a bust of Sir Richard in the York Railway Museum. The estate now covered more than 200 acres and included the site of the old Biggin Hall. It is said that Sir Richard Moon bought this house because it overlooked the London to Birmingham railway line, so he could keep an eye on the trains to see if they were running on time. After Sir Richard Moon, a Mrs Mellodew and her two daughters lived at the Grange – (Mellowdew Road, with incorrect spelling, is named after her).

The Grange was sold again in the 1920s when the Peel Conner Telephone Company, which later became the GEC (General Electrical Company), moved from Salford to Coventry to design and manufacture telephone exchange equipment. A huge tract of land was purchased on which was built the factory and housing for employees. GEC used Copsewood Grange as a hostel and social centre for its first employees. These residents planned and initiated the golf course construction and this was recognised as one of the best staff clubs in the country. It was also the clubhouse for the Marconi Golf Club.

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In 1968 deep excavations were dug across the golf course for a new sewerage system. This was the setting for the famous scene in the film “The Italian Job” starring Michael Caine, with mini cars racing through a giant pipe. In the 1980s Allard Way was built through the middle of the golf course and as the fortunes of the GEC fluctuated during the 1990s, the company and therefore the club’s name changed from GEC through GPT to Marconi.

When Plessey/ Marconi closed the factory, it was demolished and the site was sold for redevelopment. At that time the City Council had a policy that where land that had once been used for industrial purposes, one third should stay for industrial use. Unfortunately the one third that was left for industrial use was the area where Copsewood Grange and Copsewood Lodge were situated. The other two thirds of the site were scheduled to be developed for housing. Despite marketing, it was soon clear that no one would take on the Grange and surrounding area for industrial development. The Grange and The Lodge both fell into disrepair, were attacked by vandals and suffered arson attacks.

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In response to this problem the Coventry Society launched a campaign to save the historic buildings. Apart from the heritage aspect of the mansion itself, the Society also argued that its fine sylvan surroundings and landscaped parkland of high quality, was unsuitable for warehouse/industrial units. Endless efforts to secure commercial interest were repeatedly unsuccessful and the Society maintained its position insisting it should be re‐allocated for residential purposes. ‘Save Britain’s Heritage’ joined the campaign and added the property to its “buildings at risk” register. An emergency protection notice was served by the Council for both Copsewood Grange and Copsewood Lodge. While the Society appreciated the need to reserve land for industry and jobs it was quite clear that the prospect of years of dereliction and continuing vandalism would not only have a negative effect on the Stoke area but also be a significant loss to the whole of the City.

In 2012 the City Council agreed to alter the original development plan and approval was given for the construction of 329 homes and a retail unit. Alterations to Copsewood Lodge would enable its rehabilitation as a three‐bedroom dwelling. The plans required the Grange itself to be adapted to create 17 apartments with an internal access road and most importantly a comprehensive management scheme for the trees within the site.

After some years of inactivity, the development site was sold to new owners, Morris Homes, in 2015. After many difficulties, caused by the deterioration of the building, Morris Homes has now restored the Grange to its original elegance with up-market flats.

The Society believes that these buildings form an important heritage asset to the city and we know they are highly valued by local people

A topping out ceremony was held in October 2018, attended by CovSoc committee members.

Les Fawcett and Paul Maddocks of The Coventry Society top-out restoration works to The Grange