The number of plaques now placed on Flickr grows by the day, although we are disappointed by a poor response from the public on the first Civic Day. The site has been split into several city areas and by pressing a button a sequence of photos relating to that area is displayed. The range of plaques is huge, some of them very sophisticated like the image left at Gosford Street. Others are standard blue with the legend of the site often picked out in black lettering. You can continue submitting your own photos to firstname.lastname@example.org
Coventry Planning Dept has made huge changes in recent months and we laud the recent performance results that show a leap from one of the worst performing authorities to first place in the national tables. However the lack of planning enforcement on several of the city’s historic buildings remains a blot on this otherwise much improved service. The city has never been good at taking enforcement action and much of our heritage has suffered as a result. The need for action is more important now than ever before, with development proposals shelved and owners looking to save maintenance costs wherever they can. The fault of course lies with those property owners who let their buildings fall into rack and ruin, but the legislation gives the council powers and a statutory duty to preserve these buildings on our behalf. The focus of regeneration activity in Far Gosford Street has lead to the Council recently serving Section 215 notices on a number of owners. So they can do it, and we desperately need this to be extended to other buildings that are seriously at risk in the city. We have now written to the Council asking them to serve 215 notices on three of the most at risk buildings: Copsewood Grange and its Lodge, Whitley Pumping Station and its gatehouse and 31 Allesley Old Road. But what exactly is a Section 215 Notice? It may be served by the local planning authority where it considers that the condition of a building or piece of land adversely affects the amenity of the area in question. The notice requires steps to be taken that the local planning authority considers will remedy the problem. Failure to comply can lead to prosecution and the LEA also has the powers in the event of non-compliance to carry out the works required under the notice and recover the costs of so doing from the owner of the property at the time. Frontage: Coventry’s Coat of The Council also has additional powers on listed Arms on the Pumping Station buildings and the use of these powers can have a major effect in bringing forward plans for restoration. So why doesn’t the Council use these powers more often? As usual there are several reasons, not least the lack of staff resources as the process can be involved and lengthy. Also the Council has been reluctant to take action when some of its own buildings are not in the best of repair or where plans are being worked up by the building owner. It is our aim to help the Council to resolve its own “problem” buildings and there has been much progress in reducing the list of those at risk. In the meantime we need them to be robustly taking action on other private properties where owners currently can sit back with little fear of action. Do the public really care? Well, in January we could gauge public concern after our article on several most important heritage buildings was published. The Coventry Telegraph asked the public to join the debate and it was quite obvious that significant numbers of Coventry people are concerned. This has since been endorsed through our on-line petition that has seen more than 200 persons register support for saving Copsewood Grange.
The next meeting: Conducted tour of
St John the Baptist Church Fleet Street/ Spon Street Monday, July 11 at 7pm Refreshments afterwards in the Church Hall next door and a discussion with Father Paul Such on his aspirations for Coventry City Centre
The controversy over the future of Charterhouse Fields will no doubt rumble on after Coventry Council agreed to transfer Charterhouse Fields to the Blue Coat Church of England School. According to the Council it’s written that residents are able to use the land. But Dave Griffiths, Residents Association Chairman said: “If the words ‘dual use’ were written through this document we would be happy with that, but these rights are contradicted in the wording.” The Resident’s Association now plan to discuss its response. In the meantime Councillor Dave Nellist has submitted an application for the land to be given village green status. Coventry Society 123 Upper Spon Street, Coventry CV1 3BQ Tel: 07855 113973 Email: email@example.com
More news and views on our website: www.coventrysociety.org.uk
John Russell, who died recently, was a great enthusiast for Willenhall and its community. Through the Willenhall Family History Group he involved many local families, establishing invaluable records of the area and its people. He was a great supporter of the History Fair right from its beginning. Despite suffering with poor health he continued to work hard and only a few weeks ago Coventry Society (Paul and Colin and myself) attended the
St George's Day event he organised. It was incredibly well supported by families from around the area and demonstrated what can be achieved in a community. And of course last summer John and his colleagues in Willenhall gave us an excellent guided tour of the area. He will be greatly missed in Willenhall and farther afield. John is pictured left with Pru Poretta and Paul Maddocks at the St George’s Day event. KD
Saving Bagot’s Castle by John Marshall WE were introduced last month to two extraordinary characters during the Coventry Society’s visit to Baginton. One was Sir William Bagot, an influential 14th century nobleman whose home was Baginton Castle. The other was David Hewer, a current resident of the village, who has ploughed in significant sums of his own time and money to protect the castle ruins and thereby safeguard, almost single-handedly, a truly fascinating piece of local English heritage. But we’ll come back to both of these characters later. First let’s consider the village of Baginton. Many Coventrians will be familiar with some of Baginton’s key features, like the splendid Old Mill building which has long been used as a hotel and restaurant, or the Roman Lunt Fort which dates back to AD60. They may also be familiar with the Post Office on Coventry Road, the Baginton Oak pub, or the entrance to Coventry Airport. But this is not all there is to Baginton. Hidden away off the busy main roads is the medieval centre of Baginton, a tiny little gem of a village which might easily be missed. It is here, in this quaint, quiet and charming little English village that we find two of Baginton’s other hidden jewels – the small but modestly magnificent Church of St John the Baptist, and the secluded remains of Sir William Bagot’s castle. Our guide for the evening was the energetic local historian (and Coventry Society member) David Fry who swept us beyond the church and across the open fields to the remains of a castle which is full of intrigue. Constructed in the late 14th century, only the thick stone basement walls now remain but enough evidence exists to indicate that the original building was probably in the style of a fortified tower house – surrounded by a moat - similar in style to those castles commonly found in the Scottish borders or in Ireland. It would probably have been three or four storeys high and
approached by a bridge at first floor level. Such a building – clearly designed to resist attack – was highly unusual in the relatively peaceful Midlands but David Fry speculated that William Bagot might have made a few enemies during his dramatic rise to power. He had consorted with powerful members of the local aristocracy and under their patronage had become MP for Warwickshire. “From this position in Westminster,” says David Fry, “he had also inveigled himself into the affections of Richard II and become a powerful player on the national stage. He had made lots of enemies both locally and nationally and there are a number of episodes where he had behaved violently in the Warwickshire area. He was described by one historian as a ‘thug’. Perhaps he felt the need for a more secure base than most.” Also intriguing is the fact that Bagot would have witnessed a remarkable episode in English history when, in 1398, Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford, and Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, met at Coventry’s Gosford Green to settle a quarrel by mortal combat. In a scene immortalised by Shakespeare in his play Richard II, the King also rode into Coventry to preside over the battle but halted the conflict before it began. The monarch is reported to have banished both men from England - Norfolk for ten years and Hereford for life - though Bolingbroke later returned as Henry IV. According to conventional accounts, Bolingbroke stayed at Bagot’s Castle on the night before the tournament but David Fry says evidence now suggests that it was King Richard II who actually stayed at Baginton. This background clearly demonstrates the historic importance of Bagot’s Castle but the ruins of this fascinating place might easily have been lost had it not been for a local man, David Hewer, who has battled against the odds for almost ten years to save the site and encourage further excavation. Parish councillor David Hewer secured a lease on the land and has reportedly poured in about £30,000 of his life savings to rescue the site after it became overgrown and a target for vandals. His team of volunteers cleared the site of 30 tonnes of scrap metal, including 8,000 beer cans, after it became a favourite hangout for youths. Mr Hewer also accepted an even bigger challenge more recently when he applied for a grant from English Heritage which required an enormous fundraising drive to secure matched funding. This achieved, the site is now the subject of a new excavation and restoration project. David Hewer’s remarkable achievements at Baginton can be viewed during this year’s Heritage Open Days which take place on September 10-11, when Bagot’s Castle, together with the early 13th century Church of St John the Baptist, will be open to visitors.