The last part of our holiday was a two night stay in Coventry in the West Midlands. Coventry is the 11th largest city in the UK, well-known for its car industry and the legend of Lady Godiva and Peeping Tom for which there is a statue in the city’s central square, Broadgate.
Coventry was heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe in November 1940, causing considerable damage, and much of the city had to be rebuilt. The centre is therefore very modern, but some of Coventry did escape the bombing – notably Medieval Spon Street. Many of the buildings here were originally in different parts of the city, but having survived the bombs, they were relocated here and the area is now a conservation area. We liked Coventry – there is plenty to do there. The Waterstones is located not far from Spon Street in a modern building in the shopping area known as Lower Precinct.
One casualty of the bombing raids was St Michael’s Cathedral which was left with just the outer walls and its spire. A new cathedral, also called St Michael’s, was built next to the ruins of the bombed one and opened its doors in 1962. Most (but not all) cathedrals are built in a west to east orientation, with the altar being at the east end, but the new cathedral is perpendicular, the altar being at the north end. This was so the original building could be left as a memorial to all civilians injured or killed by war or other conflicts. Understandably the new cathedral is in the modernist style and has some beautiful features including its attractive stained glass. I think it’s a lovely building.
Cathedrals – old and new (outside)
Coventry ‘new’ Cathedral (inside)
On the outside of the cathedral is a large sculpture by Jacob Epstein. Entitled St Michael’s Victory over the Devil it symbolises the triumph of good over evil. Michael is the Patron Saint of Soldiers, doctors, and grocers, amongst other things!
Coventry was home to the Coventry Sewing Machine Company from the 1860s. They went on to bicycle manufacturing which was popular in the area. By the early 20th century this industry had been joined by the motor trade, and many notable companies set up factories in the Midlands, including big names such as Jaguar, Hillman, Morris, Triumph and the French company Peugeot. Coventry houses an impressive transport museum with many exhibits hailing from the area. On the day we visited it was really quiet – the only people there apart from the few staff members were the two of us and a family of four! I imagine that during non-Covid times it is much busier.
Lady Godiva Statue
(The outside photos of Coventry Cathedral were taken in 2012 on a previous visit to the city)