Synopsis: Detailing the history up to the present day of Coventry, a once medieval city in the heart of England. The recent discovery of the Doom Painting, “one of the most important discoveries ever made in the field of medieval art” in Holy Trinity Church.
65 years have gone by since the ending of World War 11 and much water has passed under the bridge. We have seen dictators come and go and come again with the accompanying abuse of power.
On the night of October 14, 1940, Coventry’s factories producing mostly armaments and munitions were the target of massive aerial bombardment, altogether 500 tons of bombs were dropped by the Wehrmacht, Germany’s ace bombing crews. Coventry was demolished and 554 people killed. I clearly remember that night as we had a bomb in our front garden and had to be evacuated to Wales while the debris was cleared away.
Now Coventry has entered into a magnificent new era. Known as the birthplace of the Godiva legend and the motor industry in Britain – founded by Daimler in a disused cotton mill in 1896 – it has become a twentieth century manufacturing powerhouse and crucible of international peace and reconciliation. This once famous medieval city held the only royal court outside of London during the time of Henry V1 and his Queen, Margaret of Anjou, Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned in St. Mary’s Guildhall while in the great priory church of St. Mary, Parliament was held in 1404 and 1459.
John Davenport was born here in 1597 and became one of the pioneers of the New Haven colony. He also helped found Yale University.
There is quite an American connection – the city has three twin towns in the United States, Coventry in Connecticut 1962, in Rhode Island in 1971 and in New York State 1972. The city’s famous Godiva statue was unveiled by the wife of the American Ambassador to Britain in 1949. Coventry was known as Britain’s Detroit, and Jet pioneer Frank Whittle, born in Coventry in 1907, spent the last 20 years of his life in the USA and died at his home in Maryland in 1996.
After more than $2 billion being spent on the biggest program of development including a $320 million Arena project Coventry is definitely on the map. There has been created a football stadium, concert venue and conference center, as well as one of Britain’s biggest casino entertainment complexes. In a special quarter in the center of city, major shopping, bars and restaurants, hotels, apartment development and cutting edge new public spaces add to the ambiance.
But that is not all, today people from all over the world flock to Coventry to visit the Cathedral which was rebuilt and consecrated in 1962, and in nearby Priory Place below the ground, the undercrofts of the Priory where monks lived in the 11th century are a incredible discovery. The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum holds a collection of Graham Sutherland drawings from his monumental cathedral tapestry while the Priory Gardens are the venue for City Stories, an annual summer re-telling of stories from Coventry’s past, including the tale of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s brush with the authorities over a peace sculpture in 1968. The very recent discovery of the Medieval Doom Painting in Holy Trinity Church has stirred the imagination of people worldwide and has been called “one of the most important discoveries ever made in the field of medieval art”. Be sure to visit Robert Orland’s fabulous website and make an in depth journey through Historic Coventry.
Nearby interesting places to visit are Kenilworth Castle and its fascinating Light and Sound Show, Warwick Castle, perfectly preserved, and close by the Lord Leycester Hospital whose glorious gardens contain an original medieval pineapple press. Stoneleigh Abbey and Stoneleigh Park, home of the National Agricultural Centre and the world renowned Royal Show. Charlecote Manor is an exquisite Tudor house where the herd of red deer are descendants of the ones allegedly poached by Shakespeare. By the way, Stratford is only a short drive from Coventry and the beautiful country shire of Warwick spreads out to be enjoyed along scenic routes.
There are a number of hotels you can stay at including Nailcote Hall Hotel, Golf and Country Club which is a privately owned hotel with a fascinating history – Oliver Cromwell used the hall as a staging post before his assault on the nearby Royalist stronghold of Kenilworth Castle. It possesses all the oak-paneled charm of an historic English country house hotel with its own 9-hole golf course. The Brooklands Grange Hotel and Restaurant has been awarded a coveted AA rosette for its restaurant and in 2004 was the highest rated Coventry hotel in the prestigious Godiva Awards for tourism.
The Hilton, Coventry has its own Living Well Health Club complex and is situate right at the heart of the country’s motorway network.
It is easy to reach Coventry by car along the M1 or the A1 from London. Birmingham Airport is close by and you can then train in to the center of Coventry. BritRail offers superb rail service from Euston, the short 1 hr and 20 minute journey takes you through the verdant countryside and now aboard the Virgin trains, delicious food and drinks are offered. It is a wise idea to purchase your BritRail pass in the USA because you get such great prices, and they are the exclusive representative of the entire National Rail Network which covers the length and breadth of Great Britain enabling you to discover England, Wales and Scotland. Trains are fast and very frequent and the BritRail Pass covers it all, and for those of you connecting to Europe, you can have the freedom to discover great regions of Europe with a European National Rail Pass
Change is again in the air in a place that has made a virtue of it over its colourful, thousand-year history. But don’t wait to be sent to Coventry, gird up your loins and take a journey of a lifetime.
Tel: 1 866 BritRail
Tel: +44 2476 46 6174