Coventry – The Phoenix City

A Phoenix from the ashes, Coventry is a modern city in the heart of England just an hour from London. Risen from wartime rubble, it’s a part of Britain’s heartland which beat strongly through assaults laid upon it by the Saxons and Norman’s …

By the 14th century, Coventry was an important centre of the cloth trade, and throughout the Middle Ages was one of the largest and most important cities in England.  In the 18th and 19th centuries, Coventry became one of the three main British centres of watch and clock manufacture, and in the late 19th century, it became a major centre of bicycle manufacture. The city has now won the title of UK City of Culture for 2021  and will see an estimated 2.55 million visitors over that year.

The beautiful and historic city, infamous past home of a Lady Godiva, embraces the fascinating development of the motor car at Coventry Transport Museum, discovers Coventry’s history and culture at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, all within the shadow of an awe-inspiring 14th century Cathedral ruins. We’ll see what’s on at the dynamic Belgrade theatre and suggest a place to eat at a unique restaurant.

thrust 2 coventry motor museum
Thrust 2 Coventry Motor Museum (C)  David Dixon

Coventry’s vibrant city centre provides the perfect contrast to the surrounding Warwickshire countryside. Our first stop is a fantastic free attraction in the centre of town. The Coventry Transport Museum is the birthplace of the British cycle and motor industry so come here to learn about how transport is developed from the earliest cycles to the fastest cars on the planet. Explored as a journey through time, the museum takes you from the nineteenth century, through the Blitz experience, then boomtown spirit of speed and ghost town galleries, right up to the present day. The 1897 Daimler “Pheonix” wagonette, one of the oldest cars built in Coventry, originally cost just £335.
A 1980 Mini Metro, once owned by Lady Diana Spencer and was said to have been a gift from Prince Charles himself built in 1997. The Thrust Supersonic car holds the current world land speed record of 763 miles per hour, the first land vehicle to break the sound barrier.

The beautiful old street of Bayley Lane borders St. Mary’s Guildhall, the original home to the merchants’ guilds founded in 1340 and the first seat of local government. Parts of a 12th century Castle were found on this site during the restoration in 1824. Mary, Queen of Scots, and Shakespeare on the long list of visitors to have passed through the doors. The view into the courtyard is much as it would have looked to visitors many centuries ago, another wonderful free attraction.

Herbert Art Museum and Gallery
Herbert Art Museum and Gallery (C) Herry Lawford

The free Herbert Art Gallery and Museum from 1509 has extensive collections that are grouped into four or five main categories: Natural History, including a hundred eighty thousand specimens from around the world, Social and Industrial history revealing Coventry’s fascinating parts from the settlements in 2000 BC to the Olympic football games. Archaeology investigates thousands of exhibits excavated in and around Coventry including beautiful Anglo Saxon jewellery. Finally the Visual Art collection of over six thousand works, including a major British artist LS Lowry, Stanley Spencer and Paul Nash.

Next to the Cathedral ruins, you’ll find the Slug and Lettuce which is set in the Old County Hall and dates back to 1783. Until the mid-80s this was Coventry’s main court with recognisable cell doors still within, and this was the site of the last public hanging in Warwickshire. Features from the old courtroom have all been beautifully restored including the judges seat the crown crest viewing gallery and dock.

coventry cathedral
Coventry St Michael

Coventry has been a place of Christian worship for over thousand years. It has had three cathedrals, the first was the monastic St. Mary’s of which only ruins remain in Priory Row,  the second St. Michael’s, a 14th century gothic Church destroyed in World War II. The ruined walls here tell the story of its troubled past in 1940 when the city and the cathedral were devastated by bombs dropped by the Luftwaffe. The very next morning it was decided to rebuild the cathedral a third time as a sign of faith, trust and hope for the future of the world. The 1962 Cathedral, in bold pink-grey sandstone, stands next to the blackened ruins of its 14th century predecessor. Inside is Graham Sutherlands’ immense 20 meter Christ in glory tapestry from 1962, and a charred cross made from roof beams of the destroyed Cathedral.

belgrade theatre
Belgrade Theatre (C) Amanda Slater

The Belgrade Theatre is the only professional theatre in Coventry offering an exciting range of high quality shows for all ages and tastes one of the largest regional producing theatres in the UK. It was built in 1958 as part of the reconstruction of Coventry after World War II and named after the Serbian capital Belgrade who donated wood for the construction. It has a long history of producing innovative new drama, and still passionately believe that theatre can change lives. The theatre is held fondly in the hearts of the hundreds of people that visit every year.

For a longer stay, there is a great choice of accommodation in the historic city centre with great connections to the rest of the UK. Coventry is a prime location for conferences events and celebrations making it a fantastic place to live, visit or study.

The splendour of the old alongside the new is truly uplifting and moving experience combining a world-famous history with technology innovation and forward-thinking. Coventry is a city rich in imagination and diversity.

See these places and more

These places and many others are listed as markers on the map on our home page. Places to visit in the UK and Ireland.

Please leave a comment or contribution below - Leaving your details is optional