A Victorian History of South Street School by Brian Stote Note new venue: The Shop Front Theatre, 38 City Arcade, Coventry Monday, September 10 starting at 7.30pm On‐street parking nearby Refreshments Visitors welcome
Members were welcomed to the south Warwickshire village of Harbury in our host’s country kitchen before we set out for a guided tour. Linda Ridgley of Harbury Society took us on a whistle‐stop tour that In the autumn of 2010 we staged a symposium in partnership with Coventry included the magnificent Manor House, University highlighting the need to urgently restore and re‐use some of the city’s once a farmhouse and dating from the 16th more important heritage buildings. Two years on we can report good progress. century. We saw many an old stone houses We are often asked ‘how can a society like CovSoc make a real difference? Aren’t you with several courses of bricks below the wasting your time? On one hand the Society has no ‘official’ standing in the planning eaves showing where the roof had been process, yet we firmly believe that we can act as facilitators, bringing together local raised to create an upper storey. Linda told people, official bodies and not least developers themselves, in the earnest hope that us about the Harbury Co‐op, founded something of worth will result. around 1863 and one of the earliest in The latest ’success’ is the restoration of 31 Allesley Old Road, an historic master Warwickshire. Long before it became part of watchmaker’s residence and top shop that had not only fallen into rack and ruin over the Rugby Society it had amassed sufficient several years but appeared to have become a lost cause. Residents living close by capital to buy land in the village and for had tired of looking at the ugly hoardings that surrounded the site on the corner of some years paid double the divi of other Lord Street. Yet the boards were far from secure allowing arsonists on more than one societies! occasion to set fire to the building. The Society instigated a site visit last year with key members of the Council but we didn’t let it rest there. We had regular conversations with Council officers, pressing for an order to be served on the owner of the premises. The action paid off and the result is there to see. We now understand the historic top shop that was once attached behind the house will also be reconstructed with materials saved after demolition. We look forward to seeing the completed restoration find a new use in due course. So what else has CovSoc facilitated? Restoration: a recent picture of 31 Allesley Last month we were pleased to Old Road fronted by a new brick wall report that Copsewood Grange and Archive: David Fry and Colin Walker sweeping round into Lord Street its Lodge will now be rebuilt. We had examining some fascinating documents kept in touch with the developer of New Century Park where the mansion stands and again through our persistence and Harbury still sports five public houses and campaigning to save another important element of the city’s history, the Council when we reached the 16th century agreed to a change in its planning policy for the site giving elbow room to bring Shakespeare Inn we turned into the lane forward a housing plan that would also secure the future of the Grange. leading to the village school where retired Last year we also instigated the formation of the Charterhouse Trust to save this listed Deputy Head, Nigel Chapman, and his building for the people of Coventry. dedicated team of archivists were on hand Alongside our efforts we can also report that a local restaurateur finally completed to show us a most remarkable collection of the rehabilitation of the old County Court building, opening it as a classy enterprise, documents and pictures relating to the The Establishment. The other good news has been the interest shown by Coventry village. Members were fascinated by Transport Museum in the re‐use of the Old Grammar School in Hales Street. We are Harbury’s rich history, the quarrying and following that announcement with interest. arrival of Brunel’s railway. There is plenty more to facilitate on the Heritage front—the Whitley Pumping Station Linda insisted her village was no picture (a plan by Severn‐Trent to covert to apartments several years ago and left on the postcard, but goodness, our visit to the shelf); a new use for the former Toy Museum, historically the gatehouse to lanes and backwaters left many looking Whitefriars, the nationally important Monastery itself and Drapers’ Hall. forward to a return visit.
DRESDEN How well reconstructions have worked Christopher Davies, who has been studying the reconstruction of German cities wrote to the Society asking the question: “Why is it that in Britain we need to make modernist mistake after modernist mistake while places like Dresden and Potsdam demonstrate how well full reconstructions are possible.” He has a point. While towns and cities across Europe have rebuilt in traditional styles from the past, often replicas of building that were destroyed in the war, we in Britain have turned our backs on the architecture from Victorian and Edwardian times, sometimes creating boring facades of concrete instead . The website of Historischer Neumarkt Dresden revealed some interesting work that has already been achieved in this northern German city. The German website says: “For many of us the
reconstruction of the Frauenkirche gives rise to hope that the surrounding Neumarkt will also be restored to its historical appearance as an harmonious piece of town planning. Considering the large number of faceless, if functional, new buildings in the centre of Dresden, we consider it the last chance to give Dresden back its old identity and at the same time a centre which offers a high quality of life to its inhabitants. It will take a long time to achieve our aims.” Is there something here we can relate to the City Centre Centre South plan? We have elegant buildings at the top of Hertford Street and in the Society’s comment on the South development asked that new buildings should be architect‐led rather than purely driven by commercial developers.
An interesting courtyard constructed in the 1950s at the centre of Coventry Council offices is obviously in need of some tlc reckons Paul Maddocks, who has taken some interesting record pictures for the newsletter. Palace Yard in Earl Street, opposite the Council House, was built on the site of the historic building of the same name, and was part of the post‐war Architect and Planning Department. Interestingly the yard was designed as a library of building materials—bricks, slabs different tiles, enabling staff to see how materials weathered. (This idea was also used in Civic Centre three, again using different panels, floors and wall materials.) Each sample had a little plaque, with manufacture, name, colour and other details and several have survived. A fountain and seats were made using small marble tiles, very much in the Festival style of the 1950s. A rectangular lily pool once had a sculpture by George Wagstaffe—The Nymph— sitting on a rock, a popular and restful space surrounded by trees. A weeping willow is still there as is the broken fountain. But benches are upturned and Palace Yard is now an unofficial car park. City Council staff must look out at this sorry state everyday, wondering when the courtyard might be a place to sit at lunchtime. It’s yet another possible place that Coventry Society might have a hand in restoring. There could even be help from the local community and office workers themselves.
The pfi project to enhance the levels of lighting and reduce energy usage across the city is now well underway. We expect to see the contractors Balfour Beatty tackling the replacement of lights in the 16 conservation area very soon and the Society is concerned to see appropriate replacements. One of the key issues is the retention of distinctive lamp post with lanterns that give the street character. It would appear that standards now being adopted could threaten their future, and we are seeking discussions with both the Council and contractor. In the meantime we are asking residents to write to their councillors asking them to ensure that appropriate lamp standards and levels of lighting are introduced. Contacts 77 Craven Street, Coventry CV5 8DT Tel: 024 7640 2030 Email: email@example.com If Twitter is your thing, you can follow us at https://twitter.com/#!/CovSoc We also have our own page on Facebook. You can also follow us there at http://www.facebook.com/CoventrySociety
More news and views on our website: www.coventrysociety.org.uk
The monthly newsletter of the Coventry Society