Coventry holds the title of UK City of Culture 2021 and it’s not hard to see why. Beneath the modern exterior, Coventry holds a rich history dating back to the middle ages. With stories from the Blitz to Lady Godiva, this city holds many historical treasures.
Coventry was one of the worst-hit cities during the Blitz, including the most devastating bombing in November 1940 which saw the destruction of the magnificent Coventry cathedral.
The ruins of the medieval Grade I-listed structure remain as a visitor site and reminder of the bombings, adjacent to a new cathedral (also Grade I-listed). Designed by Sir Basil Spence, the new building features a huge and austere tapestry by Graham Sutherland as well as stunning stained-glass windows.
The legend goes that Lady Godiva, an English noblewoman, was said to have rode naked on a horse through the city’s streets in protest of a tax her husband (Earl of Mercia) had imposed on his tenants. Later versions of the story say that a man called Thomas, who watched Lady Godiva riding naked, was struck blind or dead and is the origin of the unflattering label of ‘Peeping Tom’. The city today pays homage to the legend in various forms including a clock and a large statue depicting the lady on her horse.
Arts and culture
Warwick Arts centre, on the outskirts of the city is one of the largest of its kind outside of London and has a great programme of films, plays and performances. The city itself boasts the Herbert Art Gallery where you can view the famous painting of Lady Godiva by John Collier (1897) as well as many other interesting exhibits.
The Car Museum
The Coventry Transport Museum possesses a genuinely impressive collection of cars, motorcycles and pushbikes accumulated from Coventry’s time as the car manufacturing capital of the world. Even to non-car fans this collection is a must-see, with exhibits ranging from Queen Mary’s Daimler to the earliest bicycles. Don’t miss the Thrust SSC simulator, which puts you through the motions of achieving the world land speed record. The museum also boasts the very car that set the record in 1997, one that is still held today.
The birth place of Two Tone
The Specials, an English band known as the originators of Two Tone music (which fuses ska with punk rock) was formed in Coventry in 1977 by Jerry Dammers. Worshipped by their mod-attired teenage fan base back in the late seventies and early eighties the band quickly rose to fame due to their unique sound and interesting lyricism. According to The Telegraph’s Andrew Perry, the band’s songs cut right to the quick of young people’s daily experiences in Britain’s cities. Their deceptively skilful narratives told of teenage pregnancies and street violence, all set to a sound, which defied racial division – an idyll embodied by the band’s Anglo-Caribbean personnel. Even decades later their songs continue to resonate across the music scene, echoing on through the work of modern-day devotees such as the Streets and Lily Allen.