A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 8, the City of Coventry and Borough of Warwick. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1969.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
BUILDINGS (fn. 1)
Religious Houses and Schools (fn. 2)
THE BENEDICTINE PRIORY OF ST. MARY. (fn. 3) The early history of the priory buildings is one of frequent disturbance. The first church, consecrated in 1043, is known to have been richly adorned, but to have been plundered by Bishop Robert de Limesey c. 1100. At the same time he is said to have destroyed the monks' houses and carried away building material. (fn. 4) In 1143 the priory was turned into a fortress by Robert Marmion, and the monks were temporarily dispossessed. (fn. 5) Fifty years later they were again ejected during the episcopate of Hugh de Nonant (1188-98). De Nonant is alleged to have torn down the monastic buildings to their foundations while lodgings for his newly-created canons were erected in their place. (fn. 6) At this time the church was said to be unfinished, (fn. 7) and there is other scanty evidence that rebuilding was in progress in the late 12th century. A prior's seal, identified as that of Moyses (1183-9), showed a large cruciform building with a west porch flanked by towers, a tall central tower, and smaller towers above the aisles or transepts; this may have been a representation, real or imaginary, of the cathedral church. (fn. 8) In 1188 there is mention of 'Master Reynold the mason', evidently a person of importance who at one time owned houses on priory land outside the cemetery wall. In 1224-5, when this site was granted to the bishop for the erection of a palace, Reynold is referred to as the priory's 'late mason'. (fn. 9) No structural remains of a 12th-century church have so far been identified although carved capitals and other stones of the period have come to light. It is likely that when prosperity returned to the priory after the middle of the 13th century a new start was made both on the church and on the monastic buildings. The existing remains of the west front are of this date, (fn. 10) suggesting either that the nave was then rebuilt, or that the impoverished state of the priory had delayed completion of the Norman church. By 1291 there was a chapel of St. Clement attached to the cathedral, juxta porticum; (fn. 11) various other altars and chapels are mentioned at different times, including a Rood Chapel and a Lady Chapel. (fn. 12) Contributions to the fabric were being made in the earlier 14th century and in 1409 there is reference to one of the altars in the 'new work', (fn. 13) perhaps indicating additions at the east end of the church. It is evident from recent excavations that most of the conventual buildings were either built or rebuilt in the 14th and 15th centuries; (fn. 14) those mentioned in various documents include cloisters, chapter house, prior's and other chambers, refectory, infirmary, grammar school, and guest house. There were also the usual domestic buildings, an outer court, a porter's lodge, and a mill on the River Sherbourne. (fn. 15) In 1404 the so-called unlearned Parliament met in 'a great chamber in the priory', while the Parliament of 1459 was held in the chapter house. (fn. 16) In 1462 the corporation agreed to divert the city wall so that it should no longer divide the priory's pools near the river from the precincts. (fn. 17) The priory was surrendered in 1539 and wholesale destruction followed.
The precincts occupied a site extending from the churchyards of St. Michael and Holy Trinity on the south to the Sherbourne on the north, and from beyond the modern Priory Street on the east to what is now Trinity Street on the west. The church stood on the southern and highest part of the site, parallel to and just north of the present Priory Row. Hill Top, the narrow lane which runs downhill from Priory Row towards the river, crosses the site where the transepts and central tower once stood. Owing to the sloping ground the floor of the church was about 12 ft. below Priory Row, while the cloisters and other monastic buildings occupied a series of terraces at still lower levels. Of the fragmentary remains which survived the Dissolution almost nothing is left above ground. No systematic excavation of the site took place until 1965 and attempts to reconstruct the layout of the buildings have hitherto been based on chance discoveries, many of them inadequately recorded.
The most substantial remains of the church so far uncovered lie at its west end. During the preparations for the rebuilding of the Blue Coat School in 1856 the base of the west wall, standing to a height of about 6 ft., was excavated and left exposed. (fn. 18) At each end of the wall are the bases of square towers, projecting beyond the aisles in the form of small transepts, the total length of the west front being something over 130 ft. An eye-witness at the time of the excavation described traces of a west porch outside the central doorway, paved with tiles and having jamb shafts of red and white stone in alternate courses. (fn. 19) Attached to the inner face of the west wall are the bases of the respond piers of the nave arcades and, beyond them, those of the arches which divided the aisles from the transeptal towers. These piers have moulded shafts with double-roll bases and are of later-13th-century character. There are remains of spiral stairways in the angle turrets of both projecting towers. The north tower had been left standing to a considerable height when the church was demolished, and in the 17th century was converted into a house. (fn. 20) A drawing of c. 1800 shows, in spite of deteriorated stonework, that the remaining external features were also of 13th-century date. At the second stage of the tower there were polygonal angle turrets with attached shafts, and a single-light window is visible below three bays of trefoil-headed arcading. (fn. 21) In 1856 the tower was partly demolished and the remainder was re-faced and incorporated in the Bluecoat School building. (fn. 22)
These excavations established the western extremity of the church, its floor level, and the width of its nave and aisles. The next discovery eastwards was that of two pier bases of the south nave arcade below No. 7 Priory Row; these are no longer visible but their position was recorded by T. F. Tickner in 1909. (fn. 23) In 1959 excavations in the garden of No. 8 Priory Row revealed floor tiles and part of what was thought to be the north-west pier of the central tower, still standing to a height of about 10 ft. (fn. 24) To the east of Hill Top, the evidence is more confused. Masonry in the wall of No. 9 Priory Row, abutting on Hill Top, was long thought to belong to the east wall of the south transept. (fn. 25) It is now considered that this may not be in situ, but was built of re-used material. The same is probably true of the remains in the cellars of Nos. 9 and 10 Priory Row. (fn. 26) In 1825 underpinning operations at No. 9 were said to have revealed part of the south wall of the church, but its exact position does not appear to have been recorded. (fn. 27)
While excavations for the new Coventry cathedral were in progress in 1955, the northern half of what is presumed to have been the east end of the medieval church was uncovered. The remains included the bases of two small polygonal apses with boldly projecting buttresses. (fn. 28) Their position suggests that the east end may have consisted of at least three such radiating apses. Partly on the evidence of re-used stones in the foundations, one of which was carved with 14th-century ornament, (fn. 29) it is thought that the work is likely to be of the 15th century - a date generally considered too late for any form of chevet. It is possible that a 15th-century chancel, or a Lady Chapel to the east of it, had a three-sided termination, (fn. 30) and that polygonal chapels or sacristies projected beyond it. Alternatively radiating chapels may have been added to an existing Norman apse, as was done about a century earlier at Tewkesbury. (fn. 31) Another discovery in 1955, to the west of the northernmost apse, was a length of wall running east and west. This wall, which has now disappeared, contained the sloping sill of a large window in which were incorporated mullion bases with mouldings of Perpendicular character. (fn. 32)
The general picture is of a large cruciform cathedral with a central tower, shallow transepts, and a polygonal east end, built at several different periods and having a total length of about 425 ft. It would thus be comparable in size to the cathedrals of Gloucester, Worcester, and Norwich. The arrangement of the west front with its transeptal towers was similar to that at Wells. In addition to the west doorway, remains of which exist, there appears to have been an important entrance from Holy Trinity churchyard. (fn. 33) Owing to the sloping site there were almost certainly crypts below the north side of the church.
Destruction of the cathedral after 1539 was fairly complete, although it has sometimes been stated that, for a time, the central tower was left standing. (fn. 34) The only evidence for this suggestion appears to be a sketch of Coventry made in the 1570s by the herald, William Smith. (fn. 35) This shows a fifth church tower in addition to the four which can be seen today. The extra tower could, however, be that of the Whitefriars church, still standing until about 1574; (fn. 36) alternatively Smith may have included the northwest tower of the cathedral, known to have survived and perhaps of greater height in his time. In any case the drawing may never have been accurate and it is now difficult to identify the features shown, or even to establish from which aspect the view was taken.
The cathedral site, with other priory land, came into the hands of the city in 1574-5. (fn. 37) The ruins were continuously used as a source of building stone but it was not until the middle of the 17th century that much clearance or levelling took place. In 1655 John Bryan, Vicar of Holy Trinity, obtained a grant in fee farm of the western part of the site, including the remains of both western towers. Bryan had already converted the south-west tower, 'faced with new stonework', into a gatehouse, built himself a new dwelling, and laid out gardens; the north-west tower was also made habitable. To the east of Bryan's property stood two 'pillars of stone', on one of which was a cistern forming part of the city's water supply. (fn. 38) These pillars, which the corporation was careful to reserve for its own use, may well have been the remains of the piers supporting the central tower of the cathedral. (fn. 39) It is also possible that Hill Top, not shown on Speed's map of Coventry (1610), originated as a track used by those carting away stone and attending to the waterworks. By the 19th century the north side of Priory Row was built up with houses except for an area east of the Blue Coat School which had been consecrated as a new burial ground for Holy Trinity in 1776. (fn. 40)
A few outlying buildings attached to the priory survived the Dissolution. Remains of the bishops' palace, incorporated in 'a mean house' at the northeast corner of St. Michael's churchyard, disappeared with the construction of Priory Street in 1856-7. (fn. 41) A stone arch which is thought to have belonged to the main gate of the priory was in existence until 1704. (fn. 42) It stood on a site now covered by Trinity Street, probably giving access to an enclosed forecourt outside the west front of the medieval cathedral. A surviving length of wall containing a pointed doorway, attached to the base of the north-west tower, may have formed part of this enclosure. The priory guest house stood further north, at the former junction of Ironmonger Row and Palmer Lane. (fn. 43) This building was demolished in 1820 and views of it show a timber-framed structure of three stories which may have been built in the late 13th or early 14th century. The upper floors had deep jetties, supported on curved brackets, and there were remains of several mullioned windows with cusped heads to their lights. (fn. 44) Vaulted cellars below the guest house survived as part of the Pilgrim public house until the construction of Trinity Street c. 1935. (fn. 45) The priory mill, 'denuded of all its ancient features', stood at the lower end of New Buildings until 1847-8, (fn. 46) while New Buildings itself, constructed in 1645, covered the site of the priory dyehouse. (fn. 47)
Before the archaeological excavations of 1965 almost nothing was known about the layout of the monastic buildings immediately north of the priory church. The area was covered by the gardens of houses in Priory Row, by partly demolished industrial buildings in Hill Top, and by recent buildings connected with the modern cathedral. Several chance discoveries of earlier date cannot now be precisely located. These included part of the precinct wall, found to the south-east of New Buildings in 1849, and a vault or crypt nearby, found in 1856. (fn. 48) In 1858 and 1883 three column bases, assumed at one time to have belonged to the cloister, were discovered on the west side of Hill Top. (fn. 49) On the opposite side of the road, and at right angles to it, a 50-ft. length of medieval walling was visible until the later 19th century. It contained several pointed openings and what was thought to be a triple window surmounted by a relieving arch; above this the lower parts of two stone windows had been incorporated in a timber-framed outbuilding. (fn. 50) Further south discoveries were made in 1856 during the installation of a sewer in Hill Top; these included stone coffins, 'masses of foundations here and there crossing the line of the excavations', and a doorway 10 ft. below ground level from which a newel stair led downwards. (fn. 51) It was in this same area that piledriving operations in 1965 revealed indications of a stone-vaulted building. As a consequence of this discovery archaeological excavations were put in hand under the joint auspices of the Ministry of Public Building and Works and the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. Results obtained before the end of 1966 enabled a plan to be prepared, showing much of the monastic layout to the north of the medieval cathedral. (fn. 52) Identification of buildings was suggested by the known arrangement of other Benedictine houses, notably that at Canterbury; it is evident, however, that the plan at Coventry was partly governed by the steeply sloping site which made impracticable the building of any long range on a north-south axis.
Immediately north of the cathedral nave, and about 5 ft. 6 ins. below it, lay the cloister, with a cellarium along its west side. The cloister garth was about 80 ft. square, surrounded by alleys 10 ft. wide. Here the mortar bedding for floor tiles, and a few of the tiles themselves, were found. In the centre of the east alley the jambs and threshold of a doorway into the chapter house were in position, one of the jambs retaining the bases of attached shafts. The chapter house, standing clear of the north transept of the church, was about 64 ft. long with an apsidal or polygonal east end. On the inner face of the south wall at this end were stone seats, and many fragments of painted glass were found nearby. A structure north of the chapter house was identified as the undercroft of the dorter, probably square in plan; it was here that the column bases discovered in 1858 and 1883 belonged. On the east side of Hill Top, where pile-driving for a modern refectory extension had revealed the springing of a stone vault, a building was found with its floor level over 12 ft. below that of the chapter house. It was four bays long from north to south by two bays wide and had an eastward extension, giving it an L-shaped plan. The base of a central column was in position and several of the vaulting ribs lay where they had fallen. The newel stair recorded in 1856 appears to have been at the south-west corner of this building and the 50 ft. length of walling with the so-called triple window formed part of its north wall. It is suggested that this structure formed a vaulted undercroft to the farmery of the priory. Between it and the east end of the church a number of stone coffins and earth graves indicated the site of the monastic cemetery. (fn. 53) Excavations in the northern part of the site in 1966 revealed the frater undercroft along the north side of the cloister, with, linked to it by a pentice or passage, a structurally independent kitchen measuring about 30 ft. by 23 ft. The site of the kitchen court was crossed by a stone-built drain and this area produced hundreds of coarse-ware sherds and animal bones. Also discovered was the position of the rere-dorter which lay north-east of the dorter. In general no work was found during the excavations to which a date earlier than the 14th century could be definitely ascribed. In some cases solid rock formed the wall foundations, suggesting that, if earlier structures had existed, a complete clearance was made before rebuilding.
THE CARTHUSIAN PRIORY OF ST. ANNE. (fn. 54) The Coventry Charterhouse, founded in 1381-2, occupied 14 a. of land at Shortley, the site being south-east of the town and outside its walls. The property lay immediately south of Burstall or Bisseley Mill, (fn. 55) and was bounded on the west by the River Sherbourne. The foundation stone of the church was laid at the east end of the choir by Richard II in 1385. Already seven cells for the monks had been given by various benefactors, the first being situated on the east side of the cloister next to the chapter house. Soon afterwards the number of cells was increased to eleven, but some years elapsed before the monks could occupy their new quarters. The establishment in its completed state would have included accommodation for lay brothers and servants as well as the usual service buildings. At Coventry twelve schoolboys were also housed on the premises. At least part of the site was surrounded by a high stone wall, much of which is still standing; in 1506 Thomas Bond bequeathed £20 towards the wall. (fn. 56) The only surviving building, which was converted into a private house after the Dissolution, probably dates from the early 15th century. When the priory was dissolved the property contained 7½ a. of woodland, presumably at its southern end. Quantities of stone were removed from the site in 1542. (fn. 57)
In spite of many changes of ownership (fn. 58) the site retained its identity and is still (1965) largely open ground. In the 19th and 20th centuries, however, the course of the river was straightened along the western boundary. (fn. 59) The approach is from the west, where a drive from the present London road crosses the Sherbourne by a bridge which was rebuilt in 1955. (fn. 60) The earlier bridge had two semi-circular stone arches and dated at least from the 16th century. North of the bridge a small timber-framed cottage, now demolished, had a stone base which W. G. Fretton suggested was part of the original porters' lodge. (fn. 61) From this point the boundary wall, of red sandstone masonry and about 12 ft. high, skirts the northern end of the site. Immediately to the north stood the former Bisseley Mill. In this part of the wall is a medieval doorway and also the remains of a garderobe, built out on corbels over a former bend of the river. (fn. 62) The wall continues about three-quarters of the way along the eastern boundary of the site, where a substantial section is of grey stone, probably from Whitley. From the garden behind the house two other walls, one of which is certainly medieval, join it at right angles.
The existing house, incorporating the only surviving priory building, stands about 100 yds. east of the bridge. The position of the other monastic buildings can only be conjectured, but it is generally thought that the church stood to the north-east of this range and at right angles to it. (fn. 63) The essential feature of the layout of all Carthusian houses was the great cloister, round which the monks lived in individual cells, cut off from the world and from one another. At Mount Grace (Yorks.), where the most complete remains of an English Charterhouse survive, the cells were four-roomed structures of two stories, each standing in its own walled garden about 45 ft. square. The only access to the cells was from the cloister alley where each had a doorway and a service hatch. (fn. 64) Similar layouts have been revealed by recent excavation at the London Charterhouse and at Hinton Priory (Som.). (fn. 65) At Coventry, where the establishment was comparatively small, we know that there were eleven cells - five on the east side of the cloister, four on the south side, and two 'in the west corner'. (fn. 66) The position of the great cloister has been much discussed, Fretton suggesting that it lay between the house and the river where foundations of walls indicated the presence of an enclosed court. (fn. 67) Sir William Wyley, who owned the property for fifty years, favoured a site to the north of the church, (fn. 68) while Thomas Sharp believed that it was south of the church, covering the level rectangular garden to the east of the present house. He stated that the ruins of a cell on the south side of the garden were in existence until c. 1800 and that human remains and a stone coffin had been found below the lawn, indicating the use of the cloister garth as a monks' cemetery. (fn. 69) The recorded layout of the eleven cells also supports Sharp's view. None is mentioned on the north side of the cloister, where, to judge by the arrangement at other Carthusian houses, there would have been a range of buildings, including the chapter house and the sacristy, between the cloister alley and the church. The existing base of a medieval wall to the north of the lawn may represent the south wall of such a range. The west side of the cloister, where only two cells are mentioned, would have been partly occupied by the surviving building. There is, moreover, a weather-mould at the appropriate height along the east wall of this building, suggesting the presence of a cloister alley. In the late 18th century it was recorded that a garden wall contained 'the marks of many small doors, the entrances into the cells'; (fn. 70) it is not known, however, to which wall this refers.
The existing early-15th-century range is mainly of local stone ashlar and is about 60 ft. long by 28 ft. wide. There is no stone wall above first-floor level at its north end where a timber-framed addition is of 16th-century date. The roof has been replaced, but its original carved tie-beams are in position and some of the stone corbels which supported its archbraces have survived. The internal arrangement has been confused by the insertion of many later floors and partitions, but from the first the range was divided into two by a stone cross-wall. The larger and more northerly section, which is about 40 ft. long, may have been single-storied or alternatively have consisted of a low ground floor and a tall upper chamber, open to the roof. It was entered by a doorway, now blocked, in what is thought to have been the east cloister alley; above this are traces of two tall pointed windows. The upper part of the internal dividing wall was covered by a magnificent painting, applied directly to the stone surface, depicting the crucifixion. (fn. 71) Only the lower half of the painting survives below an inserted floor, and what remains is interrupted by later openings cut through the wall. An inscription beneath it appears to commemorate the completion of the house under William Soland (or Sowysland), who was prior during the period 1411-17. (fn. 72) Flanking the central crucifix there are traces of large seated figures near each end of the wall and, to a smaller scale at the base of the cross, are angels, a centurion, and a soldier. Another small figure carrying a book has been variously identified as the Virgin, St. Anne, or St. John the Baptist. To the south of the dividing wall the building has always been of two stories, the upper and lower rooms being connected by a stone newel stair in the thickness of the east wall; beside the stair is a chimney with an original moulded fireplace on the first floor. The upper room had at least one large window facing west, the jamb of which survives. To the south of the ground floor room, divided from it by a stone wall pierced by a small doorway, is a passage running from east to west across the building. This has original entrances at both ends and another small doorway leading south. (fn. 73) Beyond the passage the range comes to an end, but there are indications that it formerly extended further; here a garden wall, which continues the line of the east front, contains various blocked openings and is of medieval origin.
On the west side of the range two low projecting wings, partly timber-framed, were in existence until the middle of the 19th century. (fn. 74) There is evidence that at least the north wing, or a structure on its site, formed part of the priory buildings. (fn. 75) It is possible that the two wings enclosed a 'little cloister', a known feature of other Carthusian houses. (fn. 76) If so, the cross passage at the south end of the existing range would have connected the two cloisters. To the north-west of the house, near the entrance bridge, there may have been an irregularly-shaped outer court where the lay brothers and servants were accommodated.
Any identification of the rooms in the existing range can only be tentative without more knowledge of the general layout. If, as has been supposed, the building lay along the west side of the great cloister, its southern end with the newel stair, fireplace, and access from the cross passage, may have been the prior's cell. It is possible that the large room to the north of it containing the wall-painting was the monks' frater or refectory. The suggestion, made elsewhere, that it was a guest hall (fn. 77) seems unlikely if it communicated with the great cloister where the monks carried on their lives in strict seclusion.
Many alterations took place when the building was converted in the 16th century, including the insertion of at least one extra floor as well as partitions and chimneys. One first-floor partition carries a 16th-century wall painting of fine quality, executed in black and white. (fn. 78) The design includes the figure of a warrior and much early Renaissance decorative detail. The arms of Sampson Baker (d. 1584) may be contemporary or a slightly later addition. The corresponding partition on the floor above also has 16th-century painted decoration and another shield of arms, those of the Clinton family, has been superimposed on the medieval wall painting. Alterations were again made in the 18th century, when the house was given sash windows and Georgian doorways. (fn. 79) A stable block is also of this date.
The brothers John and Francis Wyley, who acquired the property in 1848, converted the building into two dwellings. They demolished the west wings and built extensions at the south-west corner of the house. Sir William Wyley was responsible for further alterations, and in 1889 he discovered the medieval painting behind 16th-century panelling. (fn. 80) He also built a Gothic summerhouse on the east side of the garden. At his death in 1940 the house was bequeathed to the city and until 1957 was occupied as an old people's home. (fn. 81) In 1965 most of it was empty while the grounds and outbuildings were in use by the parks and cemeteries department of the city council.
THE FRANCISCAN FRIARY, OR GREYFRIARS. (fn. 82) Little is known about the buildings of the house of the Franciscans or Greyfriars apart from its 14th-century church, the central tower of which has survived. In 1234 the friars were using timber from Kenilworth for shingles to cover the roof of what was presumably their first church, which may itself have been of wood. Late in the 13th century Roger and Cecily de Montalt were buried near the great altar in the centre of the choir. The area of the precincts was enlarged in 1289; the site lay south of the town and, at the time of the Dissolution, was bounded on the south-west by the city wall, on the north-west by Warwick Lane, on the east by Greyfriars Lane, and on the south-east by Cheylesmore Park. In the 14th century there was a gate in the park wall for the use of sick friars. The stone church, which survived until the Dissolution, was probably started c. 1359 when the friars received permission to take stone for their buildings from a quarry in Cheylesmore Park; this grant was confirmed in 1378. Members of the Hastings family of Allesley had earlier built a chapel on the north side of the church in which several generations were buried from 1305 onwards and where the glass in the windows contained their arms. (fn. 83) They may also have contributed to other building work. Throughout the life of the establishment benefactions were received from important citizens of Coventry, many of whom were buried in the church or precincts. (fn. 84)
The size and shape of the church can be partly reconstructed from the surviving work at the crossing, from a document quoted by W. G. Fretton and thought to give the measurements of the building before its demolition, and from excavations on the site in 1829. The discovery of human remains in 1829 suggested that the graveyard lay to the north of the church and the cloister to the south. At that time William Reader prepared a conjectural plan of the church which in many respects agrees with the 16thcentury measurements. (fn. 85) It shows a cruciform building about 250 ft. long, having an aisled nave and an unaisled chancel of about equal length. There were short transepts, which may have served as porches, each with a chapel attached to its east wall. The arrangement at the crossing was unusual. The area below the central tower was rectangular, being shorter from east to west than from north to south, so that the chancel projected westwards into the crossing. It is thought that the nave altar stood against the western tower arch and that the base of the tower served as a passage between the transepts. This plan emphasizes the size and importance of the chancel, used only by the friars, and its separation from the more public parts of the church such as the nave and aisles. When the tower was built its rectangular base was reduced to a square by the insertion of secondary north and south arches inside those leading to the transepts. Corbelled arches across the angles of the square completed the support of the slender octagonal tower.
A chapel dedicated to St. Anne was mentioned in 1518, and a Rood Chapel was built in the churchyard in 1520; the latter was enlarged in 1522. There was also a chapel of St. Nicholas which Fretton has identified with the Hastings chapel, thought to have lain east of the north transept. It is not possible on the existing evidence, however, to determine the exact position of the various chapels.
The house was dissolved in 1542 and the buildings, apart from the church tower, were quickly demolished. It had previously been reported that the church roof was of very good timber and was covered with lead, but that the timber of the housing, which was roofed with tiles, was 'stark nought'. (fn. 86) Except for some of the building material, including the stone and 'other stuff' belonging to the chapter house and vestry, the property was granted to the city after the Dissolution. (fn. 87) The land subsequently changed hands many times, but the corporation retained the tower and kept it in reasonable repair. The fact that its top was blown down in 1551 and 'new built' in 1608 (fn. 88) makes it possible that this was the embattled octagonal tower without a spire shown in William Smith's sketch of Coventry made in the 1570s. (fn. 89) Repairs to the spire were again necessary in the 17th and 18th centuries. The land around the steeple, used for many years as an orchard, began to be developed for building about 1820 when Union Street was cut across it. Part of the site was bought for a new church and the existing tower was presented to it by the city. (fn. 90) Christ Church was built in 1830-1, covering approximately the area of the medieval nave, the base of the tower serving as its chancel. After the church had been gutted by fire during an air raid in 1940 the ruins were demolished, but once again the tower survived. (fn. 91)
As it stands today, the structure of the octagonal tower remains substantially as it was built in the 14th century. Its outward appearance, however, has been altered by a complete re-facing with Bath stone in 1831; other work of the same date hides much of the base. The four supporting piers with their moulded arches are still in position while above them the original red sandstone of the walls can be seen. At a higher level there is an internal arcaded gallery which formerly communicated with the roof spaces of the medieval church; the lines of the old roofs, reaching to the string course below the belfry windows, were visible before the tower was refaced. (fn. 92) At the belfry stage there are tall two-light windows on the cardinal faces of the octagon and blind windows on the diagonal faces; all have pointed heads and tracery of mid-14th-century character below a continuous hood-moulding. The design of the parapet, pierced with quatrefoils and surmounted by pinnacles, does not appear to be medieval. (fn. 93) The total height is 211 ft., of which more than half is taken up by the octagonal spire. The walls are exceptionally thick, making this the strongest, as well as the earliest, of Coventry's surviving medieval towers. (fn. 94)
THE CARMELITE PRIORY, OR WHITEFRIARS. (fn. 95)At its foundation in 1342 the Whitefriars house occupied a site of 10 a. on the southeastern outskirts of Coventry, small additions being made to the property in 1344, 1352, and 1413. The western approach was from Much Park Street, where there was an outer gate, and from there a way (later part of Whitefriars Lane) led eastwards to the conventual buildings. (fn. 96) Immediately south of the buildings the road from London entered the town by way of Much Park Street, and it was at that point that New Gate was erected at some date between 1355 and 1367. (fn. 97) The city wall was laid out to inclose the Whitefriars property to the south and east, the friars being required to contribute to its construction and maintenance. Near New Gate they already had a chapel containing an image of the Virgin, and offerings received here, particularly from travellers on the London road, were one of their main sources of revenue. The chapel, which became known as the 'Lady Tower', was reconstructed as part of the city wall and given a bridge across the outer ditch. The prior was allowed a postern in the southern stretch of wall, and at the point where this turned north towards Gosford Gate there was a large circular tower. (fn. 98) Just outside it lay the River Sherbourne and Whitefriars Mill. The conventual buildings were disposed round a large cloister, to the north of which stood the church, dedicated to St. Mary. In 1384 there was a bequest of £300 for the enlargement of the friars' church, and in 1413-14 a piece of land was left 'for the enlargement of their habitation'. The city annals record that 'the new work' at the Whitefriars fell in 1446. (fn. 99) Thomas Bond left 20 marks in 1506 towards the completion of the cloister.
The house was surrendered in 1538 and five years later the site of the church, of which the friars had never held the freehold, came into the hands of the corporation. At about the same time the remainder of the property was acquired by John Hales who had earlier taken a fancy to its situation and wished to have a dwelling-house there for his own use. Some of the buildings were demolished but Hales retained and extended the range along the east side of the former cloister. This he called Hales Place. In the choir of the former church he set up a school, using the choir stalls as seats for the boys, but in 1556-7 the corporation claimed possession of the building, ostensibly with the object of making it into a parish church. The boys' seats were therefore removed to the former St. John's Hospital, another of Hales's properties, and the school was continued there. (fn. 100) The Whitefriars church, however, remained unused, and in 1572 it was taken down and the materials were sold. In 1573 a 'great bell' was disposed of, and the church tower is said to have fallen in 1574. (fn. 101)
Hales Place remained in the family until 1717 when it was sold to pay the debts left by Sir Christopher Hales. In 1642 the house had been damaged during the bombardment of New Gate by the king's forces. (fn. 102) Having changed hands several times during the 18th century, the property was bought in 1801 by the newly-constituted directors of the poor for conversion into a workhouse. (fn. 103) It seems to have been at this period, before any alterations were made, that the appearance of the buildings was recorded by a number of artists and engravers. (fn. 104) The workhouse was opened in 1804 and much extended during the later 19th and 20th centuries.
Apart from the substantial range along the east side of the former cloister, the only medieval structure still in existence is the outer gateway to the friary. This is incorporated in a row of later buildings on the east side of Much Park Street, where it gives access to part of Whitefriars Lane. The front and back walls, about 3 ft. thick, are of stone, each pierced by a wide four-centred arch. The passage between them formerly had timber-framed side walls, but is now partly rebuilt in brick. The arch on the street front was flanked by small pointed openings which were used in the 19th century as doorways to the two tenements into which the building had been converted. (fn. 105) The doorways were later altered and the windows are also modern insertions. In 1965 the gatehouse was in use as a small pottery works.
The former cloister, lying 200 yds. south-east of the outer gate, was about 100 ft. square. Its east side was bounded by the existing range which has short projecting wings at each end; these wings represent all that is left of the two-storied buildings which inclosed the cloister to the north and south. Along the west side there may have been no buildings other than the cloister alley itself. At the south-west angle was a gatehouse, which gave access to the south alley. (fn. 106) The remains of this building were damaged by bombing in 1940 and the site is now covered by a road embankment. Nineteenth-century drawings show a square vaulted structure with parts of an upper story, arched openings to east and west, and three niches above the outer arch; by this time the external ground level had risen nearly to the springing of the arches. (fn. 107)
The church stood to the north of the cloister, projecting well beyond it both to east and west. Recent excavation of the site has shown that it was a cruciform building about 303 ft. long, with an aisled nave of nine bays and an unaisled chancel of six bays. The transepts were of shallow projection, the south transept adjoining the north cloister alley and perhaps communicating with it. There are indications that the central tower, originally shorter from east to west than from north to south, (fn. 108) was later rebuilt on a square plan. The reference to 'new work' in 1446 and the character of some of the worked stones found on the site suggest that at least part of the church was of 15th-century date.
The existing east range, of local stone ashlar, is a two-storied building about 150 ft. long. On the ground floor it is divided longitudinally, the western half consisting of a stone-vaulted cloister, 12 ft. wide and of eleven bays. The stonework is of elaborate design and exceptionally fine workmanship. The bays are divided externally by buttresses and each bay has a three-light opening to the cloister garth, the lights being separated by twin shafts and having trefoiled ogee heads. In two of the bays the divisions have been removed to form doorway openings beneath segmental arches; this alteration and the raising of the ground level by about 3 ft. may have been the work of John Hales. Internally there is blind arcading between the lights and above the arcade is a string course from which the vaulting ribs spring. At the north end of the cloister a window replaces an original external doorway; at the south end are two pointed doorways, one leading by a rising flight of steps to a door in the south gable-end of the range, the other to what appears to have been a newel stair to the upper floor. The surviving cloister bays in the north and south wings, one in the former and two in the latter, contain the remains of blocked three-light openings similar to those in the east cloister. In the south wing a third bay is entered from the cloister garth by a pointed doorway with a moulded and enriched arch of three orders. Thomas Sharp suggested that this had been removed from elsewhere by John Hales. He also thought, from the position of ancient walls which have now disappeared, that the monastic buildings originally extended further southwards, beyond the south wing. (fn. 109)
Behind the cloister in the east range are two long vaulted rooms, plainer in style than the cloister, lit by pointed 14th-century windows. Between them is what is thought to have been the westernmost bay of the chapter house. In its complete form the chapter house evidently projected eastwards from the back wall of the range, but this projection has been cut back and the wall built up with masonry. An imposing archway, from which part of the tracery and a supporting column have been removed, gave entrance to the chapter house from the central bay of the cloister. Flanking the arch are two narrow passages leading north and south to the vaulted rooms.
The whole upper floor of the range was undivided by structural walls and is thought to have been the friars' dormitory. Many alterations were made here by Hales in the 16th century, particularly to the windows. On the east side and in the end walls, however, a number of single-light transomed windows with ogee heads have survived, some having one straight and one splayed jamb. To explain this curious feature it has been suggested that the dormitory was originally divided into cubicles by wooden partitions which were placed in line with the straight jambs, the splays on the opposite jambs giving extra light to the individual cells. (fn. 110) The arrangement at each end of the range, where there are two such windows flanking a much taller pointed one of three lights, also suggests the existence of lateral cells with a central aisle between them. The tracery of the central windows, of early Perpendicular character, is said to date from the 19th century, but a drawing of c. 1800 shows the window at the north end of the building to be of similar design; the south window had been partly blocked, but possibly not destroyed, by Hales. (fn. 111) At the northeast angle of the range an external stone staircase, consisting of two flights with a half-landing between them, was demolished in the later 19th century; this may have provided access from the dormitory to the choir of the church. An external stair in the northeast corner of the cloister, also destroyed, may not have been of medieval origin. (fn. 112)
When John Hales converted the property in the mid 16th century the former cloister garth became a forecourt to the house. The court was entered by a gateway in its north wall, said to have carried the arms of the Hales family; (fn. 113) this wall was built across the site of the south transept of the church. (fn. 114) To complete his house Hales extended the medieval range at its south end and his successors may have made further additions. By the 18th century these buildings, which were partly timber-framed, inclosed a small courtyard. (fn. 115) Sixteenth-century alterations to the medieval block included the construction of new gable-ends to the truncated north and south ranges, as well as the insertion of partitions, fireplaces, staircases, and many new windows. The whole roof appears to have been replaced at this time. The central part of the former dormitory was converted into a long upper room with a coved plaster ceiling, an oriel window facing west, a large fireplace opposite, and a panelled screen across its south end. (fn. 116) Early views of the east side of the building show a projecting wing, now demolished, near its north end. (fn. 117) This wing, which had a stone base, late Perpendicular windows, and a timberframed upper story, is said to have been built by Hales and to have contained a chapel. (fn. 118) There is, however, an earlier doorway leading from the former dormitory at the same level as the upper floor of the wing, and it is possible that some pre-Dissolution structure had occupied the same position.
When the property was acquired for a workhouse, the buildings were evidently in a dilapidated condition. In the late 18th century they had been occupied by 'a number of poor families', (fn. 119) perhaps the 'jersey combers and weavers' mentioned by Fretton. (fn. 120) In 1801-4 the directors of the poor erected a new block facing what is now Gulson Road - a three-storied red brick building of eleven bays with a hipped slate roof and a central pedimented doorway. In the medieval range the former cloister was glazed and used as a dining room for the inmates. (fn. 121) The upper floor was divided longitudinally by a brick wall and various new partitions and fireplaces were inserted. At the same time the four central bays of the main roof appear to have been strengthened by the addition of tie-beams to the trusses; (fn. 122) these trusses had carried the coved ceiling inserted by Hales and were probably of the arch-braced collar-beam type. Elsewhere queen-post tie-beam trusses have survived, as well as some of the curved wind-braces of the 16th-century roof. In the later 19th century the medieval range was restored (fn. 123) and several new traceried windows were introduced. The timberframed buildings round the south courtyard were gradually replaced: in 1843 by a west block with 'Tudor' window-glazing, and in 1863 by several blocks in red and blue brick. (fn. 124) By the Second World War the institution had been greatly extended and covered a large area.
After severe bomb damage in 1940, parts of the old workhouse were occupied as a hostel by the Salvation Army and later the medieval range was used for storage by the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. In 1965-6 it was in process of restoration by the city architecture and planning department with the help of a grant from the Historic Buildings Council. The work included the lowering of the ground floor to its original level and the removal of all partitions in the former dormitory so that it could be used as a museum gallery. There was much restoration of stonework and timber, but wherever possible medieval and 16th-century features were preserved. (fn. 125) Meanwhile a traffic roundabout on the new Inner Ring Road had impinged on the former cloister garth, and a projected high-level road was designed to pass over the site of the church. Excavation of the church site was therefore carried out between 1961 and 1964, the work being jointly sponsored by the Ministry of Public Building and Works and the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. (fn. 126)
HOSPITAL OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST. (fn. 127)The only surviving building of St. John's Hospital stands at the junction of Hales Street and Bishop Street and represents the remains of its 14th-century church. Some years after the dissolution of the hospital in 1545 it became the Free Grammar School.
The hospital precincts were bounded on the west by Bishop Street and its continuation St. John's Bridges (later Burges) and appear to have extended as far east as Swanswell Pool. (fn. 128) During excavations in 1794 piers belonging to what was probably the first church on the site, dating from the foundation of the hospital in the third quarter of the 12th century, were discovered at a considerable depth below the floor level of the present building. (fn. 129) Part of one of these piers was preserved for many years outside the east window. (fn. 130) It has been suggested that the difference in level between the 12th- and 14thcentury churches may be accounted for by the increased height of the street when fords across the two rivers were replaced by bridges. (fn. 131) Little is known about the layout of the buildings within the precincts but W. G. Fretton believed that there was a quadrangle immediately south of the church. (fn. 132) An infirmary existed inter pontes in 1385, (fn. 133) and in 1410-11 the infirmary is described as being opposite and a little to the south of the junction of Well Street and St. John's Bridges. (fn. 134) There is also reference to a hall on the south side of St. John's Hospital with three tenements between it and the river. (fn. 135) Hales Street, constructed in 1848, would now cover the site of any such buildings, but some part of them may have survived until 1794 in the library wing of the Free Grammar School. (fn. 136) The discovery of human bones to the north and east of the church may indicate the position of the burial ground. The master's lodging, later occupied by the headmaster of the school, also stood north-east of the church. (fn. 137)
The nomination of a bed in the hospital in 1444 specifies its position as 'in a part of the church . . . on the west side near the door and near the buttery there'. (fn. 138) This implies that some of the sick or infirm were accommodated in the body of the church, and it is probable that the chancel only, perhaps enclosed by a wooden screen, was used for sacred purposes. (fn. 139) In 1522 the hospital maintained thirty beds for poor people and the establishment consisted of a master, three priests, three clerks, and five sisters. (fn. 140)
The surviving architectural features of the church suggest that it was built shortly before the middle of the 14th century. The material is local red sandstone, much decayed externally except where renewal or re-facing has taken place. In its original form the building consisted of an unaisled chancel of two bays, an aisled nave, and a north-west tower. The south aisle has disappeared, and about 10 ft. was cut off from the west end of the nave and from the tower during road widening in the late 18th century. Internal alterations, including a further raising of the floor level, date from the 16th-century conversion to a schoolroom. (fn. 141) The nave and chancel are structurally undivided; the continuous trussedrafter roof, which has 'scissor' bracing above the collars, (fn. 142) is hidden by a barrel-shaped ceiling of 16thcentury plaster. The chancel windows have finelymoulded jambs, obliterated externally by the weather, and tracery of c. 1330. There is a blocked doorway at the 14th-century level on the north side of the chancel and there is said to be a piscina, concealed by flooring, in the south wall. (fn. 143) The arches of the nave arcades, each of two bays, are still in position, although the openings have been filled with masonry and the capitals cut away; the two arches leading to the demolished south aisle are visible externally from Hales Street. The east bay of the north aisle has been identified with a chapel dedicated to St. Katherine, in existence at least by 1343. (fn. 144) It has a 14th-century east window, a 15th-century north window, and an arch of two orders dividing it from the narrower west bay of the aisle. Beyond the west bay another arch gives access to the base of the tower, now reduced to less than half its original length from east to west; the tower formerly contained a 14th-century west window. The west wall of the shortened nave is of 19th-century date, but it is known that the earlier west end had projecting buttresses and a central doorway surmounted by a large Perpendicular window. (fn. 145)
After the dissolution of the hospital the property was granted to John Hales, who, it was later alleged, converted into ready money the lead of the church, the bells, and the 'houses within the precincts'. (fn. 146) Probably the demolition of the south aisle and of the upper stages of the tower took place at this period. Shortly afterwards the church was occupied by the Free Grammar School. (fn. 147)
HOSPITAL OF SPON. (fn. 148) This 12th-century foundation, first a leper hospital dedicated to St. Leonard and afterwards known as the chapel of St. Mary Magdalen, (fn. 149) was said in 1410-11 to stand at the far end of Spon Street ad finem ville, (fn. 150) and its site was thought in the 19th century to be near the junction of Allesley Old Road and Hearsall Lane. (fn. 151) Having come into the possession of the Crown at the Dissolution the chapel was granted in 1554 to Ambrose Gilbarde and Richard Allynton, (fn. 152) and later formed part of the Holy Trinity Church Estate. (fn. 153) Its last remnant, used as a barn, gave its name to Chapel Fields and survived until c. 1800. (fn. 154) A drawing of about this date shows it as a stone building with a thatched roof; its only visible ancient features are some buttresses and a very small single-light window. (fn. 155) Carved heads, one of which is illustrated, are said to have been preserved when the barn was demolished. (fn. 156)
BABLAKE OR BOND'S HOSPITAL. (fn. 157)The older part of Bond's Hospital dates from the early 16th century when it was founded under the will of Thomas Bond (d. 1506) to accommodate ten almsmen. It was a long two-storied range, forming the north side of the quadrangle of the pre-Reformation College of Bablake. (fn. 158) The building is said to have been the subject of an 'entire reconstruction' in 1832-4, (fn. 159) but it is evident that the original shape was retained, that parts of the ancient structure survived, and that many of the carved timbers were re-used or copied. (fn. 160) The range is largely constructed of close-studded timber-framing with some modern brickwork, but the lower part of the east end, abutting on Hill Street, is of stone ashlar. The principal gable-ends have carved barge-boards, bressummers, and oriel windows, and there are smaller gabled oriels on the south front. In general, however, the timber-work is less ornate than at Ford's Hospital. (fn. 161)
The central part of the range originally contained ten rooms for the almsmen with access corridors along the back. The rooms were later subdivided as the number of resident almsmen increased, reaching a maximum of 20 in the 19th century. (fn. 162) The fenestration of the south front before the rebuilding of 1832-4 suggests that the lower rooms may have been in the form of cubicles, with a long clerestory window above the partitions and individual windows below. There was a cross-passage to the east of the men's rooms and probably also one near the west end. (fn. 163) At each end of the range were larger rooms on both floors, but subsequent alterations have made it impossible to know how the original accommodation was arranged; this included a chapel, a priests' chamber, a room for a woman to attend the almsmen, and presumably a kitchen. (fn. 164) The large bay at the west end has been completely rebuilt and carries the date 1834; its front projects slightly and has a large and a small gabled oriel side by side, apparently copied from the original elevation. (fn. 165) At the east end the upper room is lit by an oriel window in the large timber-framed gable which faces Hill Street. There are indications that this room once had an open roof and painted decoration to the ceiling. The lower room, now the smoking room, may formerly have been the kitchen; behind it was a small projecting wing reaching to the point where the city wall, which ran behind the hospital, originally joined Hill Street Gate. (fn. 166)
After the dissolution of the chantries the use of the chapel was apparently discontinued and at some period the priest was replaced by a master. Alterations to the building took place in 1746 when the master's house was repaired and the kitchen became known as the hall. (fn. 167) In 1752 seats for the almsmen and a desk for the master were installed in the lower corridor so that prayers could be read there. (fn. 168) The back wing appears to have been extended in 1816 when an addition at the Hill Street end was said to be opposite the footpath which later became Bond Street. (fn. 169)
Part of the building was ruinous in 1832, when its reconstruction was put in hand under the direction of Thomas Rickman and H. W. Hutchinson. (fn. 170) The scheme provided for rebuilding the west end and a rearrangement of the men's rooms in the central block. Alterations to the south front included new windows and the replacement of Georgian doorways by the present ones of Tudor design. (fn. 171) The chimneys were surmounted by tall decorative pots which were damaged by bombing in 1941 and subsequently removed. The street front was re-faced and the back wing again extended by the same architects in 1846-7. (fn. 172) This end of the building now (1965) contains the smoking room, matron's quarters, and domestic offices. In the central block are rooms for fifteen almsmen, and three bathrooms. At the west end there is a prayer-room on the ground floor with a board-room above it. The board-room was provided in 1834 for the feoffees of the estate and the Church Charity trustees; (fn. 173) it still contains carved chairs of the 17th and 18th centuries and portraits of Thomas Bond and John Hales.
FORD'S OR GREYFRIARS' HOSPITAL. (fn. 174) William Ford, by will of 1509, endowed an almshouse to be built beside the Greyfriars Gate for five men and one woman. The building was erected by Ford's executor, William Pisford the elder, who increased the endowment. Pisford's will of 1517 provided for six men and their wives, as well as a chantry priest who was to have a chamber in the almshouse and use of the chapel there. In 1529 William Wigston (a co-executor of the sons of William Pisford) signed with others a tripartite deed under which feoffees were first appointed. (fn. 175) An inscription on the walls of the building recorded this last date, which has sometimes wrongly been given as that of the foundation and erection of the hospital. (fn. 176) Wigston laid down that five houses were to be occupied by married couples and the sixth by a nurse to look after them. (fn. 177) At least by 1800 the charity was confined to women, of whom as many as seventeen were resident in the later 19th century. (fn. 178)
The almshouses are timber-framed and of two stories, built round a narrow court which is entered from the street by a passage through the ground floor of the front range. The oldest part of the present building, presumably dating from the second decade of the 16th century, consists of this front range and the two ranges flanking the courtyard. The former contains the matron's quarters to the north of the central passage, and a room thought to have been the chapel directly above it. The paved courtyard, which is 39 ft. long by 12 ft. wide, has four of the original almshouses opening from it, two on each side. These dwellings formerly consisted of two rooms, one above the other, (fn. 179) but various internal alterations have been made necessary by the changing numbers and needs of the occupants. The structure at the far end of the courtyard, through which a passage leads to the garden, is also timber-framed, but is plainer in style than the rest of the building. It may have been added either in 1529 or in the 17th century, when the number of inmates was increased by two couples. One of its upper rooms was formerly a meeting-place for the feoffees. An extension of the back range, projecting obliquely into the garden, has now been demolished; in the 19th century it contained extra living rooms, pump and washhouses, and coal storage. (fn. 180) In the early 19th century the trustees of Cow Lane Baptist chapel were paying 6d. a year for permission to use the hospital as a right of way. (fn. 181)
In spite of its small scale, Ford's Hospital has always been considered one of the most perfect examples of timber-framed architecture in the country. It has been well maintained over the years and has suffered little external alteration. (fn. 182) The timbering is close-studded throughout, the studs on the street front and in the courtyard carrying miniature carved buttresses with moulded bases, off-sets, and pinnacles. The doorways have fourcentred heads with carved spandrels, and the tracery in the window-lights includes no less than fifteen different designs. (fn. 183) The street front is symmetrical, the central doorway being flanked by nine-light mullioned windows, while the upper story has three gabled oriels with carved bressummers, barge boards, and finials. There is great variety in the carving both here and on the small gables at each end of the courtyard. The upper stories of the building are jettied, the deep overhangs being coved and moulded. In the courtyard the eaves have a similar treatment, while at intermediate levels the window-sills form continuous, heavily-moulded strings. This, with the carved studs, gives an effect of great richness in a confined space. Oak seats have survived in the four corners of the court, the rainwater heads there are dated 1784, and there was formerly a clock of the same date on one of the end windows. (fn. 184)
In the air raid of 14-15 November 1940 the north side of the building received a direct hit and eight women were killed. (fn. 185) Between 1951 and 1953 the damaged part was rebuilt, largely with original timbers, and the whole structure was thoroughly restored. The front range had formerly been flanked by other timber-framed buildings, but the house on the south side was taken down before the Second World War. The building to the north was now demolished, stone walls were built along the street frontage, and additional windows were inserted in the side walls of the almshouses. The enlarged garden was laid out in 1953 and has since been voluntarily maintained by Rootes Horticultural Society. (fn. 186) In 1965 there was accommodation in the almshouse for seven women and a matron.
THE COLLEGE OF BABLAKE. (fn. 187)The collegiate buildings lay immediately north of what is now the parish church of St. John the Baptist. The original parcel of land at Bablake, granted in 1344 for the erection of the collegiate chapel, is thought to have lain with its long axis north and south, giving frontages to Hill Street of 117 ft. and to Fleet (formerly Spon) Street of 40 ft. If, as has been supposed, the chancel of the present church represents the position of the first chapel, the earliest accommodation for priests would have stood along the Hill Street frontage, occupying the northern half of the site. (fn. 188) Foundation walls of structures adjoining the chapel on this side were recorded by W. G. Fretton in 1875. (fn. 189) The buildings probably included a hermitage, mentioned in 1362, but not subsequently. (fn. 190) It is likely that the whole site of the college had been acquired by the last decade of the 14th century, when the line of the city wall was apparently laid out to inclose it. (fn. 191) The complete property would thus have been bounded on the west and north by the city wall, on the east by Hill Street, and on the south by Fleet Street. Part of the wall forming the western boundary is still standing.
By 1548, when the college was dissolved, the buildings appear to have formed a complete quadrangle north of the church, (fn. 192) which itself had been enlarged to its present size. The north range, built c. 1506 and still standing, consisted of Bond's or Bablake Hospital. (fn. 193) The east side was occupied by the building which, in a different form, was later occupied as Bablake School. (fn. 194) The south range, now gone, probably contained the wardens' chambers, a school-house, and the main assembly hall. (fn. 195) A hall of St. John at Bablake is mentioned as early as 1364 and such a hall existed throughout the life of the college. (fn. 196) Its structure may even have survived as the so-called 'dirge hall' until the 19th century. In 1461 there is a reference to a gate in Hill Street, surmounted by turrets. (fn. 197) Fretton believed that this stood between the church and the south range where, in the 19th century, 'an obscure narrow thoroughfare' entered the former precincts from Hill Street. (fn. 198) Little is known about the range on the west side of the quadrangle except for the suggestion that priests' chambers stood there. (fn. 199) Other accommodation mentioned in the 15th century included a porch between hall and church, a parlour, a great gate, a long room, a kitchen, a wax chamber, and a latrine. (fn. 200) In 1545, three years before the dissolution, the priests, then nine in number, were said to occupy separate chambers in the precincts. (fn. 201) It may be assumed that all these buildings were of stone or timber, or a combination of the two, and that there were alterations and rebuilding during the 200-year life of the college.
After the site had passed into the hands of the city in 1548 (fn. 202) the buildings, with the exception of Bond's Hospital, appear to have stood derelict. In 1560 part of the east range was remodelled or rebuilt to accommodate a boys' hospital, later Bablake School. (fn. 203) In the 1570s 'the Dirge Hall at Bablake, the wardens' chambers, the priests' chambers on the west side, and the schoolhouse were all laid out together, repaired, and some part rebuilt, to make a house of correction, commonly called Bridewell'. (fn. 204) The Bridewell, which survived for more than 250 years, seems at first to have occupied the south range of the quadrangle and probably part of the west range also. The Dirge Hall was used at times by the Bridewell and at times for other purposes. (fn. 205) By the early 19th century most of the west range had been demolished. (fn. 206)
Great changes occurred on the Bablake site between 1831 and 1834. (fn. 207) The south range, including the Bridewell, was pulled down and most of the land bought by St. John's parish for the enlargement of the churchyard. The materials of 'the old house called the Dirge Hall' were sold for £118. (fn. 208) New buildings for Bablake School, including a master's house, were erected on the west side of the quadrangle on land 'formerly used as a master's garden' and extending 'at the south end over a small piece of ground on which part of the old Bridewell stood'. (fn. 209) At the same time Bond's Hospital and the old school were restored, the gateway between them was rebuilt, and the stone conduit in the quadrangle, placed there in 1613, was removed. (fn. 210)
In the late 19th century the school buildings on the west side were demolished and replaced by singlestoried offices. (fn. 211) Apart from this there have been no major changes on the site since 1834.
FREE GRAMMAR SCHOOL OR KING HENRY VIII SCHOOL. (fn. 212) The school, maintained for a few years by John Hales in the former Whitefriars church, had probably moved to St. John's Hospital by 1557. (fn. 213) The seats used by the boys, originally monastic choir-stalls, were brought to the hospital church (fn. 214) which was then fitted up as a schoolroom. The interior has been little altered since that time. The 49 carved oak stalls, of 15thcentury date, are arranged on a platform round the north, east, and south sides of the former chancel and along the north wall of the former nave. The misericords originally attached to the seats have been removed. (fn. 215) The stalls are not of uniform design and, as the establishment at the Whitefriars never exceeded eighteen, some must have come from other dismantled churches in the city. Two angle stalls have diagonal arm-rests and perhaps were originally placed at the western angles of some monastic or collegiate choir; (fn. 216) these and several others have slots for the upright members of a canopy. Oak desks, placed in front of the seats, are carved with cusped panels and have poppyhead finials; the woodwork, here as elsewhere, is much worn and defaced by the penknives of generations of schoolboys.
At the conversion of the building the floor level was raised about 4 ft., the lower parts of the windows were walled up, the roof was given a barrel-shaped plaster ceiling, and the arches of the former nave arcades were blocked with masonry. (fn. 217) The street front of the church appears to have been little altered; a view of c. 1793 shows the lower stages of the north-west tower surmounted by timber-framed gables and a bell cupola, while the west doorway of the nave forms the school entrance below an original Perpendicular window. (fn. 218) The chapel at the east end of the north aisle was, at some period, made into a separate classroom. (fn. 219) By 1572 the house north-east of the school, originally occupied by the master of the hospital, was taken over by the headmaster, and another house in the grounds was allotted to the usher. The master's house, demolished in the late 19th century, had by that time acquired Georgian external features, but may well have incorporated a medieval timber-framed structure. (fn. 220)
In 1601 a library was established at the school, housed in a wing which fronted on the street on the south side of the main building. Its lower story, which was of stone and contained blocked pointed windows, may have formed part of the original hospital. At the junction of the wing with the school was a pointed doorway, which had presumably given access to the former south aisle of the church. The timber-framed upper story of the library, with its continuous mullioned window and central oriel, is more likely to have dated from 1602. The same is true of 'a large and ponderous staircase' which formerly existed between the library and the school. (fn. 221)
In 1794 the widening of St. John's Bridges (now Bishop Street and Burges) resulted in the demolition of the library wing, and by 1801 the west wall of the school had been rebuilt further back. (fn. 222) The new front had an embattled gable flanked by turrets and pinnacles and incorporated a curious mixture of pseudo-Gothic features. (fn. 223) These were violently abused by a contemporary critic, who described them as 'bloated excrescences' and 'purloinings of modern architectural patchwork'. (fn. 224) A tablet on the old front, which carried a Latin inscription commemorating the foundation of the school, was broken and never replaced. (fn. 225) A large bracket supporting a clock, probably one renewed in 1690, (fn. 226) also disappeared during these alterations.
The construction of Hales Street in 1848 brought about further changes. All the school property to the south of the main building was cut off and the usher's house was demolished. Before this time the grounds were said to be 'a picturesque spot, studded with tall elms and gigantic chestnut trees'. (fn. 227) In 1852 the west front of the school was reconstructed in its present and more orthodox Gothic form. A chimney was also added on the south side, blocking a 16thcentury window. (fn. 228)
The school having moved to a new site in Warwick Road in 1885, the old building was put up for sale and W. G. Fretton launched an appeal for its preservation. It was bought by public subscription, vested in trustees, and given to Holy Trinity parish for use as a church hall. (fn. 229) Fourteen carved misericords were removed from the stalls and taken to the new school, twenty having previously gone to Holy Trinity Church. (fn. 230) Early in the 20th century a twostoried addition was made on the north side of the old building for parish purposes, and at some period the tracery was renewed in the east window and its sill was lowered to the original level. In the air raid of 8 April 1941 the building was damaged by blast. It remained in poor condition until 1962 when a restoration was put in hand under the direction of C. R. Redgrave and L. A. Clarke. Funds were made available by the Historic Buildings Council, the Pilgrim Trust, the city corporation, and public subscription. (fn. 231) By 1965 the structure had been repaired, the tracery of several windows had been renewed externally, and a new doorway had been inserted on the south side of the building.
The new buildings of the school, now known as King Henry VIII School, stand at the junction of Warwick Road and Spencer Road. The original range, dating from 1885, was designed by Edward Burgess, and was built of red brick with stone dressings in the Tudor style. Various extensions were made between 1889 and 1936. During the air raid of 8 April 1941 the school caught fire and several of its buildings were destroyed by high explosive. Among the losses were three of the misericords from the old school which were hanging on the walls of the library. (fn. 232) The gutted building was restored by 1950 and later extended.
BABLAKE SCHOOL. (fn. 233) The old building of Bablake School stands on the west side of Hill Street, forming the east range of the quadrangle which, before 1547, had belonged to the College of Bablake. (fn. 234) The school was founded as a boys' hospital in 1560, (fn. 235) but the structure may well incorporate parts of a late medieval range which had formerly been in use by the college. The existing building is about 80 ft. long by 20 ft. wide and is largely timber-framed. An open single-storied hall in the centre is flanked by two-storied end blocks, each of two bays, the whole being under one continuous roof. Along the west side, facing the quadrangle, is a timber-framed cloister of two stories; this originally had 23 bays but is now interrupted by a 19th-century wing at the south end. (fn. 236) The lower arcade has four-centred arches, while those to the gallery above are subdivided and have trefoil heads; all the woodwork has been much restored, brick buttresses have been added, and the projecting porch has been rebuilt. The pointed doorway in the lower cloister is probably the original one, giving access to a former crosspassage immediately south of the hall. Internally the two-bay hall is divided by a massive open truss, having a cambered tie-beam supported by deep arched braces. (fn. 237) The hall roof, which has curved wind-braces below the purlins, appears to be of the same date as the truss. On the west side the roof is carried down over the upper cloister, suggesting that this also was part of the original structure. On the east side, however, there have clearly been alterations. The vertical post supporting the truss stands clear of the outside wall and a narrow first-floor gallery has been inserted between them; on the ground floor the post has been cut away. Above the gallery the tie-beam of the truss projects to the outside wall and carries the eaves of the main roof. This arrangement suggests that the truss and roof may originally have belonged to a building of the 'wealden' or recessed hall type, of which there were many examples in Coventry in the 15th century. (fn. 238) The street front, however, shows no sign of this form of construction and the whole east wall may have been rebuilt, giving a wider hall, in 1560. The ground floor of the street front is of stone ashlar with a slight projection in the centre. The continuous upper story, of close-studded timber-framing, is jettied at first-floor level, the ends of the joists being concealed by a moulded bressummer. The mullioned windows may date from 1560, but the dormers above are probably late-17th-century insertions.
At its foundation the hospital was primarily a boarding establishment for 21 poor boys and a nurse, and at one time the teaching took place in the Dirge Hall. (fn. 239) Later the ground floor room to the north of the hall was used as a schoolroom. (fn. 240) In 1681 the structure was found to be in poor condition (fn. 241) and improvements were apparently put in hand. In the hall there is a large inserted chimney with an open fireplace, the lintel of which carries the date 1681 and the name of Edward Owen, mayor. The hall staircase and gallery balustrades, with their ballcapped newels and twisted balusters, may have been inserted at this time.
In 1832-3, on the reorganization of the school to include day boys, a new school building and a master's house were erected on the opposite side of the quadrangle. (fn. 242) The architects, as for other work on the site at this time, were probably Rickman and Hutchinson and the new work was said to be 'of a character in keeping with the ancient building'. (fn. 243) The old school was altered and restored for use as a boarding house, the former schoolroom becoming a dining hall. (fn. 244) The carved oak chimney-piece in this room is dated 1629 and formerly belonged to the Bridgemans' house in Little Park Street, demolished in 1817. (fn. 245) Later in the 19th century a small projecting wing was added to the west front of the old school.
Shortly after the removal of Bablake School to Coundon Road in 1890, the buildings on the west side of the quadrangle were demolished. In 1898 offices for the Bablake School Foundation were erected on part of the site; this building is now used by the Bablake Old Boys' Association. The old school became a parish room for St. John's Church and later, before the Second World War, a museum for the Coventry Guild. (fn. 246) It is now (1965) occupied as offices for the General Municipal Charities and the governors of Bablake School.