- For alternative meanings see: Coventry (disambiguation)
The precinct, in Coventry city centre.
Coventry is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. With a population of 304,746 (2002 estimate), Coventry is the ninth largest city in England.
Coventry has long been a centre of motor and cycle manufacturing, dating back from 1896, the car and cycle industry has been a strong centre point for this town. Starting out with some less familiar names such as Coventry Motette, Great Horseless Carriage Co, Swift and more familiar names like Humber, Riley and Daimler and the Triumph motorcycle having its origins in 1902 in a Coventry factory. Although the motor industry has declined, the Jaguar company has its headquarters and a factory in the city, and a large Peugeot car factory is located in Ryton just outside the city. The famous London black cab taxis are also produced in Coventry by LTI
Coventry's main industries include: cars, electronic equipment, machine tools, agricultural machinery, man-made fibres, aerospace components and telecommunications equipment.
On the 14th November 1940 during World War II, large areas of the city, including its cathedral, were destroyed in a massive German bombing raid (see History: 20th Century below) and in later raids. The rebuilt Coventry Cathedral was opened in 1962 next to the ruins of the old. It was designed by Basil Spence and contains the tapestry, "Christ in Majesty" by Graham Sutherland and the bronze statue of St Michael and the Devil by Jacob Epstein. Benjamin Britten's War Requiem, regarded by some as his masterpiece, was written for the opening of the new Cathedral.
Coventry is becoming increasingly important as a university city, being the home of the University of Warwick and Coventry University. It is also home to the Coventry Transport Museum, where the world speed record breaking cars, Thrust2 and ThrustSSC are displayed.
Coventry's most famous resident was Lady Godiva, who according to legend, rode through the city naked on horseback (actually, she likely rode the horse bareback, not barenaked), in protest at high taxes being waged on the cityfolk by her husband Leofric. According to the legend, the residents of the city were asked to look away as she rode, but one man didn't and was allegedly struck blind, he became known as Peeping Tom thus originating the term. There is a statue of her in the city centre.
In football Coventry is represented by Coventry City F.C. who in May of 1987 won the FA Cup to bring the cup home.
In Britain, to be "sent to Coventry" means to be ostracised. This phrase has its origins in the English Civil War, during which time the city was used as a prison.
Famous people from Coventry include Frank Whittle the co-inventor of the jet engine, the poet and novelist Philip Larkin, the actor Nigel Hawthorne and the record producer Pete Waterman. The politician Mo Mowlam grew up in Coventry, and the inventor James Starley lived in the city for most of his life. Ska bands The Specials and The Selecter are both from Coventry - one of The Specials' best known hits, Ghost Town was written about the city.
Arts and culture
During the early 19th century Coventry was well known to the famous author George Eliot who was born near Nuneaton. The city was the model for her famous novel Middlemarch (1871).
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Coventry was the centre of the Two Tone musical phenomenon, with bands such as The Specials coming from the city.
Theatre, art and music venues in Coventry include:
- The Belgrade Theatre: one of the largest producing theatres in Britain, the 866 seat Belgrade was the first civic theatre to be opened in the UK following World War II.
- The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum is a major art gallery in the city.
Coventry is near the M6, M69 and M40 motorways. It is also served by the A45 and A46 roads.
For rail, Coventry is served by the West Coast Main Line, and has regular rail services between London and Birmingham (and stations beyond). It is also served by railway lines to Nuneaton via Bedworth. And a line linking it to Leamington Spa and onwards to the south.
The nearest major airport is Birmingham international Airport, some 10 miles (16km) to the west of the city. Coventry has its own airport, Baginton, which is largely a freight airport. However, commercial scheduled flights in 2004 have begun flying to various European destinations.
The Coventry Canal terminates in the city centre.
Traditionally a part of Warwickshire (although it was a county in its own right for 400 years), Coventry became a county borough in 1889 and later a metropolitan district of the West Midlands metropolitan county in 1974. The disbanding of the metropolitan council took place in 1986, whereupon it became administered as a unitary authority.
Coventry is administered by Coventry City Council. The city is divided up into 18 wards each with three councillors.
Nearby towns: Bedworth, Rugby, Solihull, Kenilworth, Leamington Spa, Warwick, Nuneaton.
Nearby cities: Birmingham, Leicester, Lichfield.
Coventry is traditionally believed to have been established in the year 1043 with the founding of a Benedictine Abbey by Leofric, Earl of Mercia and his wife Lady Godiva. Current evidence suggests that this abbey was probably in existence by 1022, therefore Leofric and Godiva most likely endowed it around 1043. In time, a market was established at the abbey gates and the settlement expanded.
By the 13th century Coventry had become a centre of many textile trades, especially those related to wool. Coventry's prosperity rested largely on the dyers who produced "Coventry blue" cloth, which was highly sought after across Europe due to its non-fading qualities.
Due to its textile trade, by the 14th century Coventry had become an important city. It is estimated that Coventry was probably the fourth largest city in England during the medieval period. From the 1350s onwards Coventry became a walled city.
Due to its importance, in 1345 Coventry was granted a city charter by King Edward III, and in 1451 King Henry VI granted Coventry a charter, which made Coventry a county in itself, a status it retained until 1842, when it reverted to being a part of Warwickshire. During the county period it was known as the County of the City of Coventry. The original city hall is still known as "County Hall" as a relic of this period. The population of medieval Coventry peaked at around 10,000 in the mid 15th century. But in the 16th century due to the restrictive practices and monopolies of the trade guilds, the cloth trade declined and the city fell into an economic slump.
Civil War and aftermath
The phrase "sent to Coventry" originated during the English Civil War, when Coventry, a stronghold of the Parliamentarian forces, was used to house Royalist prisoners. It is claimed that the phrase grew out of the hostile attitude of residents of the city to either the troops billeted there or the Royalist prisoners held there in St. John's church, for whom being "sent to Coventry" was quite an ordeal.
In revenge for the support Coventry gave to the Parliamentarians during the civil war, in 1662 the city walls were demolished on the orders of King Charles II, and now only a few short sections survive.
All surviving traces of the wall can be viewed here
In the 18th century Coventry became home to a number of French immigrants, who brought with them silk and ribbon weaving skills, which became the basis of Coventry's economy. Coventry began to recover, and again became a major centre of a number of clothing trades.
During the 19th century Coventry became a centre of a number of industries, including watch and clock making, manufacture of sewing machines, and from the 1880s onwards bicycle manufacture. Due to this industrialisation Coventry's population grew rapidly.
Population growth in Coventry
- 16,000 (1801)
- 62,000 (1901)
- 220,000 (1945)
- 335,238 (1971)
- 300,800 (2001)
In fact, an early modern bicycle was built in Coventry. The Starley Safety Bicycle produced in Coventry by Rover in 1886, was the first bicycle to include modern features such as a chain driven rear wheel with equal-sized wheels on the front and rear. Prior to this, most bicycles had been of the Penny-farthing design.
By the 1930s bicycle making had evolved into motor manufacture, and Coventry had become a centre of the British motor industry, Jaguar, Rover and Rootes being just three of many famous British manufacturers to be based in the area. The city remained prosperous and largely immune to the economic slump of that decade.
Coventry's darkest hour came during World War II when Adolf Hitler singled out Coventry for heavy bombing raids, due to the fact that it was a major industrial centre providing the manufacture of aeroplanes, tanks, engines and armament. Large areas of the city were destroyed in a massive German bombing raid on November 14, 1940. 4,330 homes were destroyed and thousands more damaged in the attack which destroyed the city's medieval cathedral and centre. Industry was also hit hard with 75% of factories being damaged although war production was only briefly disrupted with much of it being continued in shadow factories around the city and further afield. Officially 568 people were killed that night, in what was generally to become known as "the Blitz", although the real figure was probably far higher, as the bodies of some of the victims were never found, and many people were unnacounted for.
The loss of St. Michael's in this air-raid made Coventry uniquely unlucky in being the only English city to lose its cathedral to the German bombing. This was the second time that Coventry had suffered such a fate as it was also the only city to be deprived of its cathedral church during King Henry VIII's 16th century dissolution of the monasteries.
The attack was carried out by 500 Luftwaffe bombers who dropped 150,000 incendiaries, 503 tons of high explosives, and 130 parachute mines in an attack which lasted for 11 hours, making it the single most concentrated attack on a British city during World War II.
For more detail see Here
The devastation was so great that the word Koventrieren -- to "Coventrate" or devastate by aerial bombing -- entered the German and English languages. In response, two days later the Royal Air Force began to bomb Hamburg (by war's end, 50,000 Hamburg residents had died in Allied attacks).
After the war, the city was extensively rebuilt. The new city centre built in the 1950s was designed by young town planner Donald Gibson and included one of Europe's first traffic free shopping precinct (in 1946 the first one was realized in Rotterdam, the idea of which was copied throughout the world.) A new modern cathedral was also built. The rebuilt Coventry Cathedral was opened in 1962 next to the ruins of the old cathedral. It was designed by Basil Spence and contains the tapestry, "Christ in Majesty" by Graham Sutherland and the bronze statue of St. Michael and the Devil by Jacob Epstein. The city was twinned with Dresden, which had suffered an even more devastating bombing attack by the Royal Air Force later in the war, and groups from both cities were involved in moving demonstrations of post-war reconciliation.
The population of the city peaked in the late 1960s at around 335,000. However during the 1970s and 1980s the city fell into recession with factory closures and high unemployment, the population of Coventry also declined by around 10% during this time. In the early 1980s, a hit record was made about Coventry called "Ghost Town" by a local band called The Specials, which summed up the grim economic situation in the city.
In recent years Coventry has begun to recover, with new high tech industries locating in the city. The city centre has also undergone further re-generation to bring it up to date.
Today Coventry has a strong partnership with the German city Dresden, which was devestated by RAF bombers in February 1945. The partnership is deeply supported by the populace in both cities; representatively for the entire English people Coventry took part on the reconstruction of the Frauenkirche in Dresden by manufacturing a copy of the roof cross in 2003.
category:Cities in England
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