The City of Coventry: Churches, Introduction

Pages 316-321

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.

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CHURCHES (fn. 1)

In their earliest ecclesiastical constitution the areas that were later included in the county of the city and in the modern county borough formed part of the Mercian diocese which was established in the 7th century with its seat at Lichfield. In the partition of the diocese about 680 north Warwickshire, consisting of the Arden district which included Coventry, became part of Lichfield diocese and the southern or felden district part of the diocese of Worcester. (fn. 2) This division of the county between the two dioceses and the consequent ecclesiastical association of Coventry with Lichfield survived for over a thousand years into the 19th century.

According to the decision taken at the Synod of London in 1075, that only the larger towns should be see towns, Bishop Peter in that year transferred his see from Lichfield, which was then only a village, to Chester, the seat of the Norman earls. Later, his successor, Robert de Limesey, finding his influence in Chester overshadowed by that of the earls, resolved to transfer the see again, this time to Coventry where a rich Benedictine abbey had been founded in 1043 by Leofric, Earl of Mercia, and his wife, the Countess Godiva. This move was probably made in 1095, when de Limesey could take advantage of Abbot Leofwine's recent death, though he did not receive papal authorization for it until 1102. At the same time he obtained from the Crown the custody of the abbey. Thenceforward the bishop had a cathedra in Coventry as well as in Lichfield, the abbey becoming, as a result, a cathedral priory. (fn. 3) Robert de Limesey himself, who died in 1117, and three out of his five immediate successors - Robert Peche (d. 1126), Walter Durdent (d. 1159), and Gerard Pucelle (d. 1184) - were all buried at Coventry, but subsequent bishops at Lichfield. (fn. 4) It was possibly one of the manifestations of Lichfield's growing challenge to Coventry's established position as the see town that it was at this time a matter of contention between the monks of Coventry and the canons of Lichfield where the bishops should be buried: in a confirmation of 1183-4 Bishop Pucelle stated that any bishop, dying in office, who chose to be buried at Coventry, should have his wishes carried out absque omni contradiccione; (fn. 5) the monks vainly protested against the burial of Bishop Geoffrey de Muschamp at Lichfield in 1208; (fn. 6) and in 1224 Bishop de Stavensby intervened to prevent the removal from Lichfield of the body of his predecessor, William de Cornhull, (fn. 7) which was presumably being claimed by Coventry.

The bishops continued for several centuries to be occasionally referred to as bishops of Chester (fn. 8) as a result of their brief connexion with the town at the end of the 11th century. From Walter Durdent's time onwards, however, they regularly styled themselves bishops of Coventry until, about 1228, Alexander de Stavensby began to use the double title of Coventry and Lichfield. (fn. 9) When in 1236 the monks of Coventry made it one of their complaints against him that he called himself Bishop of Lichfield and not, as earlier bishops had done, of Coventry only, de Stavensby claimed that the change had been sanctioned by papal ordinance. (fn. 10) This ordinance may have been granted in connexion with the decision reached at Rome in 1228, during the dispute over the election of bishops between the monks and the canons, that thenceforward the two bodies should elect in alternation, the monks having the first turn. (fn. 11)

The bishops do not appear to have had their own accommodation in Coventry (fn. 12) before 1224-5 when the prior and convent, 'to enhance the dignity of the bishopric', granted de Stavensby a plot adjoining their graveyard on which a residence was to be built for him. (fn. 13) In 1283 it was agreed that as the 'episcopal house' was dilapidated and its site too small the prior and convent should grant the bishop a neighbouring site of equal size, with 200 marks for the repair of the existing house and the construction of extra buildings to accommodate the bishops and their retinue at visitations. (fn. 14) This enlarged building may have been the 'palace' which in 1364 the bishop leased, with its gardens, for four years, reserving its use to himself and his household when at Coventry and to his clerks whenever the annual synods were held there. (fn. 15)

The title of Coventry and Lichfield and the palace at Coventry were retained by the bishops until the Dissolution. At the beginning of 1539 Bishop Roland Lee wrote to Cromwell to urge the preservation of the cathedral at Coventry, being his 'principal see and head church', in order, as he expressed it, that 'I may keep my name'. But in spite of the pleas of the mayor and aldermen and the suggestion, supported by Lee, that Coventry should become, like Lichfield, a collegiate church, (fn. 16) the cathedral church was largely destroyed after the dissolution of the priory and the palace gradually fell into decay. (fn. 17) Coventry thus ceased to be the seat of a bishop, although it was not until after the Restoration that the style 'Coventry and Lichfield' was reversed, by Bishop John Hacket (1661-70) and his successors, to that of 'Lichfield and Coventry'. (fn. 18)

In 1837 Coventry's ancient connexion with Lichfield was finally severed (fn. 19) under an Act of 1836, effecting a general reorganization of dioceses, (fn. 20) whereby the archdeaconry of Coventry, comprising the four deaneries of Arden, Coventry, Marton, and Stoneleigh, was transferred to the diocese of Worcester. Thenceforward the former diocese of Lichfield and Coventry was to be known as Lichfield only. (fn. 21) This loss of episcopal title and influence and the subordination of Coventry to a distant see town, with which there were no historical links, (fn. 22) were clearly unpopular, and, with the subsequent growth of population in the Coventry area and elsewhere in north Warwickshire, the new diocesan arrangement proved at length unworkable.

Proposals began to be made in the 1840s to increase the number of bishops in order to keep pace with the general rise in population, especially in large towns; (fn. 23) the Cathedral Commissioners, who were appointed in 1852, recommended, in their report of 1855, the creation of several new sees, including one for Coventry. (fn. 24) A strong local movement in Coventry also favoured the restoration of a diocese, and in 1860 a memorial headed by Lord Leigh and W. S. Dugdale was addressed to the Prime Minister on the subject; a similar memorial from the clergy of the archdeaconry followed. Both were ineffective, (fn. 25) and although attempts on a national scale to enlarge the episcopate continued (fn. 26) and there was constant local agitation, the question as it affected Warwickshire was not formally raised again until towards the end of the century. In the 1880s a scheme was put forward, supported by Dr. Henry Philpott, Bishop of Worcester, for the creation of a separate diocese for Birmingham (at that date still in the archdeaconry of Coventry) which, it was suggested, might also include Coventry within its boundaries and in its title. The scheme had subsequently to be abandoned, partly for financial reasons, and also for lack of general public support and co-operation by the clergy. Instead, Philpott's successor, J. J. S. Perowne, tried the experiment of creating a suffragan bishopric for the Rector of St. Philip's, Birmingham, who continued to reside in that city but took his title from Coventry. This measure, however, did not sufficiently lighten the pressure of work on the bishop nor satisfy either Coventry or Birmingham, (fn. 27) since it ignored the marked differences in their respective characters and rates of development. This incompatibility was noted by the second suffragan bishop, E. A. Knox, in his description of the archdeaconry of 'placid' Coventry as 'administered by the most charming of oldfashioned country clergy, whose interest in Birmingham was, to say the best, tepid'. (fn. 28)

The situation may have been a little improved by the formation in 1892 of the archdeaconry of Birmingham, which removed five rural deaneries - Birmingham, Coleshill, Polesworth, Solihull, and Sutton Coldfield - out of the fourteen into which since 1859 the archdeaconry of Coventry had been divided. (fn. 29) Nevertheless when Charles Gore became Bishop of Worcester in 1902 he found the amount of diocesan administration 'almost overwhelming'. (fn. 30) It was Gore who took the first decisive steps towards a eventual solution of the diocesan problem by allowing the suffragan bishopric of Coventry to lapse when Knox moved to Manchester in 1903 (fn. 31) and concentrating his energies on the creation of the diocese of Birmingham of which he became the first bishop in 1905. (fn. 32) The diocese included the recentlyformed archdeaconry of Birmingham, an area which covered the city and its suburbs and a further part of the north-west of Warwickshire stretching from Seckington and Newton Regis in the north to Tanworth and Nuthurst in the south. The parish of St. Mary, Temple Balsall, was also transferred from the archdeaconry of Coventry to the new diocese. (fn. 33)

H. W. Yeatman-Biggs succeeded Gore as Bishop of Worcester and from that time the aim of a separate diocese for Coventry, which had never been lost sight of, was assured of ultimate achievement. The next stage was the constitution in 1908 of St. Michael's, one of the two ancient parish churches of Coventry, as a collegiate church and the appointment of the new chapter. (fn. 34) In 1910 No. 13 Priory Row was purchased for use as a chapter house (fn. 35) and the Coventry College of Clergy was established there in 1913. (fn. 36) An appeal was launched to raise £60,000 to cover the costs of dividing the diocese of Worcester and providing a bishop's residence in Coventry. £26,000 had been given or promised by the end of 1913, and through the work of local committees a further £16,000 had been raised by the outbreak of the First World War. Though the war temporarily frustrated any further effort (fn. 37) Yeatman-Biggs, who was certainly the inspiration behind the whole scheme, (fn. 38) continued to prepare the ground both in Coventry and outside for the creation of the new diocese, which took place under the Bishoprics of Bradford and Coventry Act of 1918. (fn. 39) On the tenth anniversary of the foundation of the collegiate church, which then became the cathedral, YeatmanBiggs was enthroned as the first modern Bishop of Coventry. (fn. 40) The new diocese extended over the whole of Warwickshire apart from the area in the north-west of the county that was already contained in the diocese of Birmingham. It was made up of the archdeaconry of Coventry, containing nine deaneries, (fn. 41) and that part of the archdeaconry of Warwick (created out of the archdeaconry of Worcester in 1910) (fn. 42) which lay within the county - namely the deaneries of Alcester, North and South Kineton, and Warwick itself. (fn. 43) These thirteen rural deaneries were subdivided into 194 benefices. (fn. 44) Though the names changed from time to time there continued to be thirteen deaneries in the diocese until 1963 when the number was raised to fifteen. (fn. 45)

According to tradition St. Nicholas's Church, which lay in the suburb of Radford to the north-west of Coventry, may have been the church of the earliest settlement in the Coventry area. There is, however, no definite evidence of its existence before 1183-4 and for most of its history it was a dependent chapel of Holy Trinity Church. (fn. 46) Holy Trinity itself came into existence some time between 1101 and 1113 (fn. 47) when it is first mentioned as a chapel claimed by the priory and apparently serving the Prior's Half - one of the two 'halves' into which Coventry was divided in the early 12th century. (fn. 48) It is probable also that St. Michael's (later the other parish church of Coventry), though it is not referred to by name until after 1140, (fn. 49) was built at about the same time as Holy Trinity for the tenants of the Earl's Half. The two chapels were separated from each other by the boundary between the halves, but lay very close together, in what was then one common graveyard belonging to the priory, (fn. 50) and in approximately the same topographical relation - Holy Trinity to the north, nearer the cathedral and the other monastic buildings, and St. Michael's to the south, by the earls' castle (fn. 51) - as when they were rebuilt, both on a much larger scale, in the 13th to 15th centuries. (fn. 52)

The exact relation between the extent of the Prior's Half and that of the later parish of Holy Trinity is not certain. It is clear from two descriptions of the bounds of the Prior's Half in the 12th and 14th centuries, (fn. 53) that it was divided from the Earl's Half by approximately the same line of demarcation running through the centre of Coventry as was Holy Trinity parish from that of St. Michael, and the Prior's Half seems to have been largely coextensive with the nucleus of Holy Trinity parish. This comprised the northern half of the town (including Holy Trinity itself and the priory precinct) and, beyond it, the vills of Harnall, Radford, and Whitmore much of which was owned by the priory. (fn. 54) The parish also included, however, two outlying estates of the priory which did not form part of the Prior's Half, namely, Coundon, to the north-west of Coventry, and Willenhall, a detached hamlet on the south-east, which at least for a time in the medieval period were both served by their own chapels, those of St. Chad and St. James. Their distinct ecclesiastical identity was revived in the 19th and 20th centuries in the creation of two modern parishes, St. Thomas, Keresley-with-Coundon, and St. John the Divine, Willenhall. (fn. 55)

In a number of charters granted in the 12th century the priory was acknowledged by the lay lords of Coventry, the earls of Chester, to be the mother church (fn. 56) not only of their chapel of St. Michael in Coventry itself, but of the chapels on their estates extending over a wide area round, most of which probably formed part of the Earl's Half though its bounds seem never to have been precisely defined as were those of the Prior's Half. Fourteen such chapels are listed in the earls' grants and confirmations, one of which explains their status as that of 'lesser chapels' dependent on the 'greater chapel' of St. Michael. (fn. 57) Five of the chapels were later included in St. Michael's parish; these were Spon, a suburb at the west end of the town, the vills of Bisseley (later called Shortley), Pinley, and Whitley, which lay to the south-east of Coventry between the Sherbourne and the Sowe, and Keresley, a detached hamlet lying beyond Coundon. Whoberley, an indeterminate locality to the south-west of Coventry, was mentioned among the chapels of St. Michael's in these 12th-century lists, but seems later to have been part of the neighbouring parish of Stoneleigh. (fn. 58) The rest of St. Michael's parish was made up of the earls' park of Cheylesmore, due south of the town, (fn. 59) two other localities - Asthill and Horwell - in the same area as Whoberley and equally ill-defined in extent, (fn. 60) and two more detached parts: Caludon, lying to the east of Coventry between Wyken and Stoke, one of the Chester lordships which was not mentioned in the 12th-century grants and was probably a later settlement, (fn. 61) and Broad Oak Waste, part of the earls' wood of Hasilwood, lying north of Harnall and bounded on the other three sides by Foleshill and Stoke. (fn. 62) There was a chapel at Spon by the end of the 12th century, when it became a leper hospital, and chapels also at Caludon and Pinley about the mid 13th century, but both of these seem to have fallen into decay before the end of the Middle Ages. Otherwise nothing is known of the buildings of medieval chapels in the parish. (fn. 63) In the parochial expansion and reorganization of the 19th and 20th centuries Keresley became, united with Coundon, a separate parish in 1848, but Broad Oak Waste was absorbed in the creation of St. Mark's parish in 1869, (fn. 64) and Caludon was divided between the parishes of Stoke and Wyken in a regularization of ecclesiastical parish boundaries in 1923. (fn. 65)

The other eight chapelries that were listed in the 12th-century charters - Ansty, Binley, Exhall, Foleshill, Shilton, Stivichall, Stoke, and Wyken - might also have included Allesley, an estate of the earls of Chester, which was a chapelry of St. Michael's until about the mid 13th century when it became an independent parish. (fn. 66) The rest, with the exception of Ansty and Shilton which for a time in the 15th century claimed to form a separate rectory, (fn. 67) were dependent chapelries of St. Michael's until after the Dissolution. The dates at which these chapels were originally founded is not known, since their presence in the 12th-century lists is the earliest evidence of their existence, but three of them - Ansty, Shilton, and Wyken (and also Allesley) - are said to have been built as refuges for the poor during the civil war of Stephen's reign (fn. 68) and were therefore probably of later date than the other five. Only Wyken church preserves a substantial amount of its 12th-century fabric, but the present church at Ansty may also show some features of the original building and a Norman font survives at Foleshill.

All the chapels so far mentioned, together with the chapel at Sowe, an estate which had been one of the priory's three ancient endowments, (fn. 69) remained under the ultimate domination of the priory during the Middle Ages. All were appropriated in 1259; the priory in most cases provided the chaplains which served them, and held the great tithes. After the Dissolution the incumbents begin to be described as vicars and the livings as vicarages. It was probably at this period also, when the tithes passed into the hands of various lay owners, that the boundaries between the newly-independent parishes were first defined. Disputes over parochial status and parish boundaries still arose, however, as at Stivichall in 1591 and at Stoke in 1669. Some of the smaller or poorer benefices continued to be held together: there was one priest serving Wyken and Stoke in 1535, Wyken was being held with Sowe in 1593, and was held with Binley from the end of the 17th century to 1919, by which date the parish population was beginning to rise rapidly; Sowe and Stoke were held in plurality from 1669 to 1778 and thenceforward as united benefices until 1884; the ancient ecclesiastical connexion between Ansty and Shilton seems to have been maintained from the 17th to the 19th centuries, when they were frequently served by one incumbent or by a vicar at Ansty and a chaplain or curate at Shilton, and the benefices were formally united in 1884. At Stivichall also, and at Wyken, incumbents were called perpetual curates until 1868, after which date they were officially styled vicars, and Stivichall, the last of the parishes round Coventry to be invaded by suburban housing development in the years before the Second World War, was held with a succession of other livings between 1900 and 1930.

Until 1734 there were only the two parishes and two parish churches in Coventry itself, but in that year Spon Street ward in St. Michael's parish was assigned as a new parish to the church of St. John the Baptist, Bablake. The church had formerly been attached to the medieval College of Bablake and, after the Dissolution, had been used for sermons and lectures. In 1734, to save it from current neglect, it was made a parish church by Act of Parliament with the headmaster of the Free Grammar School as its rector.

Apart from Christ Church, which was built in 1830-2 as a chapel of ease to St. Michael's, the earliest modern churches in the area of Coventry were built in the 1840s: in 1841 St. Paul, Foleshill Road, and St. Peter, Canterbury Street, to cater for the increased population of the weaving districts in the south and west of Foleshill and in Harnall; (fn. 70) and in 1849 St. Thomas, Albany Road, for which a parish had been created in 1844 to serve the district growing up between Spon Street and the Butts. In 1869 two more churches were consecrated and two new parishes created: All Saints, to serve the Spitalmoors district developing north of Far Gosford Street, (fn. 71) and St. Mark, Bird Street, to share with St. Peter's the responsibility for Harnall and the district north of Red Lane; and in 1874 St. Nicholas, situated further out of Coventry along Radford Road, was consecrated as a chapel of ease to Holy Trinity. With the exceptions of St. Paul and St. Nicholas most of these new churches of the mid 19th century had been concentrated in the suburbs of the growing city, but there was also some church building in remoter areas at this period. Another church of St. Thomas was built in 1847 in the hamlet of Keresley to accommodate those who were then moving out from Coventry to country houses in Keresley and Coundon. In 1859 a mission church of Sowe parish was opened in Lenton's Lane to serve the district round Hawkesbury Colliery, (fn. 72) and in 1874 a third church dedicated to St. Thomas, then a chapel of ease to the parish church of St. Lawrence, Foleshill, was consecrated at Longford, a suburb in the north of the parish.

In the 1860s St. Michael's Church had set the example of opening mission chapels - one in Red Lane, which was later closed, and a second in Whitefriars Lane - in outlying or particularly needy parts of its parish, as had also Sowe parish church. At the turn of the century several other churches opened similar missions chiefly in the poorer parts of the suburbs: the first to do so was St. Mark, in 1894, in the neighbourhood of Red Lane, followed by St. Thomas, Albany Road, in 1895, for the district of Spon End and Chapel Fields, St. John the Baptist in Spon Street, and St. Peter in Sackville Street, both in 1900. More mission churches and mission rooms were established during and after the First World War, in Wyken and at Holbrooks in Foleshill, in particular for the benefit of munitions workers, who were then being settled in the city. In order to keep pace with the rise in population after the war new parishes were assigned in the 1920s and 1930s to some of these mission churches, which were themselves eventually replaced in most cases by permanent buildings. Such parishes were created at Earlsdon in 1922, where a mission church of St. Thomas had been opened in 1913, at Chapel Fields in 1926, and at Holbrooks in 1935. In 1930 a parish was assigned to St. Anne, Acacia Avenue, a building which had been given to St. Michael's after the war for use as a mission and which was then re-equipped as a permanent church.

The building of new permanent churches and church halls in the developing districts of the city throughout these years was enthusiastically promoted by two successive bishops, Lisle Carr (1922- 1931) (fn. 73) and Mervyn Haigh (1931-42). The first to be built under the Coventry New Churches Scheme (fn. 74) put out by Bishop Carr was St. Alban, Stoke Heath, in 1929, a mission church of Wyken parish which itself became a parish church ten years later. St. Alban's was followed by the parish churches of St. Barbara, Earlsdon, in 1931, and St. Mary Magdalen, Chapel Fields, in 1934. (fn. 75) Fresh appeals were launched by Bishop Haigh in the 1930s. These resulted in the building, in 1936-7, of St. James, Fletchamstead, a mission church of Westwood parish, in an area which had recently been taken into the south-west of the county borough, (fn. 76) and St. Martin, Finham, in the conventional district previously served from Stivichall. (fn. 77) In 1939, before the outbreak of the Second World War put a temporary stop to all further activity, there was a spate of new places of worship: the parish churches of St. Luke, Holbrooks, and St. George, Barkers Butts Lane, Radford, which replaced a church hall; a mission of St. Nicholas in Links Road, North Radford; and the hall churches of St. Catherine and the Holy Cross, built to serve respectively the housing estates at Stoke Aldermoor and round Caludon Castle. (fn. 78)

The greatest loss among the churches in Coventry during the air-raids of the Second World War was that of the cathedral of St. Michael in 1940. Several churches received superficial injury which did not interrupt the continuity of worship in them; five others - Christ Church, St. Luke, Holbrooks, St. Margaret, Walsgrave Road, St. Nicholas, Radford, and St. Paul, Foleshill Road - were severely damaged or totally destroyed. Most of them were restored or rebuilt in situ, but Christ Church was replaced in 1958 by a new church further out of the city on the Cheylesmore estate. Post-war church extension has, as before, followed the growth of new housing areas, notably on the outskirts of the city: St. Chad, Hillmorton Road, situated on the municipal housing estate at Woodend, (fn. 79) and St. John the Divine, Willenhall, on the Manor House estate, were both consecrated in 1957, and St. Francis, North Radford, replacing the earlier mission in Links Road, in 1959. On the west side of the city, where there had formerly been one parish church (St. John the Baptist, Westwood), St. Oswald, Tile Hill, was opened in 1957 and St. Christopher, Allesley Park, in 1960, and in 1964 the responsibilities of St. John the Baptist in the area were further reduced by the creation of a new parish for St. James, Fletchamstead, and of a conventional district for the small daughter church of St. Stephen, Canley. Three of the new churches - St. Chad, St. John the Divine, and St. Oswald - were planned by Basil (later Sir Basil) Spence, the architect of the new cathedral. By using a simple design, largely carried out in glass and concrete, he managed, at the bishop's request, to limit the total cost of building to the £45,000 currently available from diocesan funds. (fn. 80)

The outstanding features of Coventry's recent ecclesiastical history have been the near-complete destruction of the old cathedral in 1940 and the process of building the new, (fn. 81) which culminated in its consecration in 1962. At the time, the burning of the cathedral, on the night of 14-15 November, took on a significance throughout the country and abroad which made the ruins an appropriate place from which to open the Commonwealth Broadcast at the following Christmas. The first open-air services were held in the ruins at Easter 1941. Arrangements were also made for the continuance of worship by the regular cathedral congregation, but the ruins themselves, which, from that point onwards and particularly after the war had ended, were visited by many thousands of people, remained the setting for ceremonies and services associated with events of both local and national importance. These included the enthronement of two bishops, Dr. Gorton in 1943 and Dr. Bardsley in 1956, and Dr. Gorton's burial in 1955; the display of the Sword of Stalingrad in 1943; (fn. 82) a memorial service in 1944, attended by President Benes, for the martyred Czech village of Lidice; and the celebration of victory in Europe in 1945, the Festival of Britain in 1951, and the Coronation in 1953.

It has been emphasized that in the preservation of the ruins and in the planning of the new cathedral there were two closely-related aims. One of these, the provision of the means of interdenominational worship, arose out of the holding of interdenominational services of intercession in the cathedral in the early months of the war and was particularly favoured by Bishop Gorton. A scheme, published under his auspices in 1944, proposed that the rebuilt cathedral should include a Christian Service Centre to be staffed by members of the Free Churches and the Church of England and, as part of the fabric, a Chapel of Unity to be jointly owned. A council of twelve Anglicans and twelve Free Churchmen was appointed to administer the scheme. Although there was criticism in some quarters both then and at a later date, the scheme was supported by a number of national, as well as local, church leaders and governing bodies; accordingly the west crypt under the ruins was equipped and dedicated as a temporary Chapel of Unity in 1945 and an appeal for funds to support the scheme was made the following year. Services and study groups for various religious and civic associations were held in the temporary chapel until 1959. In 1960 an inaugural service was held in the half-completed Chapel of Unity in the new cathedral at which the 'Stone of Witness' was laid at the entrance, and the declaration, originally made in 1945, of adherence to the principle of interdenominational unity was signed by the members of the joint council. The plan for the Christian Service Centre had to be temporarily abandoned in 1947 with the rejection of the first designs for the new cathedral in which it had been embodied, but the funds raised by the appeal were devoted to the building of the permanent Chapel of Unity. Another feature of this co-operation between the churches has been the hospitality extended by the Anglican churches in the city to a number of small Orthodox and Lutheran congregations which have been formed there since the war. The German Lutheran church has continued to hold its services in the Chapel of Unity in the cathedral, and in 1965 Greek Orthodox rites were practised in St. Anne's Church, Serbian Orthodox in St. Saviour's Church, and Ukrainian Autocephalic Orthodox in St. Mark's Church, and the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Midlands was using Holy Trinity Church. (fn. 83)

The second aim was that of making Coventry a centre of international, as well as of interdenominational, reconciliation, particularly between Britain and Germany. The first steps in this direction were made at Christmas 1946 with the exchange of broadcast messages between the provost and a Roman Catholic priest in the devastated city of Hamburg, and continued in 1947 with the mission of friendship from Coventry to Kiel. In the 1950s services began to be held by the German Lutheran pastor for the midlands in the temporary Chapel of Unity for German Lutherans resident in Coventry, and in 1956 representatives of the German Evangelical Church attended the ceremony at which the foundation stone of the new cathedral was laid. Among the gifts made by foreign nations to the new building were two sums of money - one from German churches and the other from the German government - of which the former was to be spent on the windows in the permanent Chapel of Unity. The Coventry Cathedral International Fellowship was also established in old offices under the east end of the ruins which were converted into an International Centre. The vestries behind the east end were rebuilt by a group of German students as an extension to the centre which was opened in 1960 by the Evangelical Bishop of Berlin.


  • 1. This section was completed in 1965. The introduction to it (by Celia B. Clarke and Joan C. Lancaster) is intended to provide merely a background to the histories of the individual churches and chapels which follow, and not a full account of the diocesan history of Cov. or of the religious life of the city at any period, for which topics, see references at V.C.H. Warws. ii. 1-50 passim. For Cov.'s religious houses, see ibid. 52-59, 83-86, 103-5, 109-12, 120-1, and this vol., pp. 125-39.
  • 2. V.C.H. Warws. ii. 1-2, 50.
  • 3. Ibid. 3, 52; J. C. Lancaster, 'The Cov. Forged Charters: A Reconsideration', Bull. Inst. Hist. Res. xxvii. 134-5; see also p. 2. Cov. was confirmed as the episcopal seat by Eugenius III in 1151-2; Magnum Registrum Album (Coll. Hist. Staffs. 1924), 126-7; Bull. Inst. Hist. Res. xxvii. 137.
  • 4. Wm. of Malmesbury, Gesta Pontificum Anglorum (Rolls Ser.), 310; Le Neve, Fasti, i. 543, 544, 546 sqq.; Dugdale, Mon. vi (1), 472.
  • 5. B.M. Add. MS. 32100, f. 123v.
  • 6. Dugdale, Mon. vi (3), 1243.
  • 7. Magnum Registrum Album, 341-2.
  • 8. See, e.g., Coll. Hist. Staffs. (1913), 167, 169 [1356].
  • 9. Magnum Registrum Album, 179, 199, 201-2, 209, 341, 362; cf. ibid. 65, 102, 178, 186, 205, 210, 226, 227, 251, 253, 257, 258, 312, 344, 357.
  • 10. Ibid. pp. xxxvii, 224-6; cf. Cal. Papal Regs. i. 150.
  • 11. Matthew Paris, Chronica Majora (Rolls Ser.), iii. 145.
  • 12. The bp. was occasionally lodging at the priory in 1221: Cal. Papal Regs. i. 84.
  • 13. Magnum Registrum Album, 179.
  • 14. Ibid. 305-6.
  • 15. Second Reg. Robert de Stretton, 1360-85 (Coll. Hist. Staffs. n.s. viii), 102-3.
  • 16. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xiv (i), pp. 14, 26.
  • 17. See pp. 127-8.
  • 18. V.C.H. Warws. ii. 49.
  • 19. It was symbolically perpetuated in the 20th cent. by the inclusion of a stone from Lich. Cath. in the new cath. at Cov.: R. T. Howard, Ruined and Rebuilt, 75.
  • 20. 6 & 7 Wm. IV, c. 77; F. W. Cornish, Eng. Ch. in the 19th Cent. pt. ii, 48.
  • 21. Lond. Gaz. 1837, pp. 167-70; V.C.H. Warws. ii. 50.
  • 22. A. J. Brookes, Bishopric, Collegiate Ch. of St. Mich., and City of Cov. (4th edn.), 56.
  • 23. Cornish, Eng. Ch. in the 19th Cent. ii. 49 sqq., 52- 53.
  • 24. Ibid. 53, 59; 3rd Rep. Cath. Com. [1936], p. xlii, H.C. (1854-5), xv.
  • 25. Brookes, Bpric., Collegiate Ch., and City, 56.
  • 26. Cornish, Eng. Ch. in the 19th Cent. ii. 55, 56-58, 340.
  • 27. Brookes, Bpric., Collegiate Ch., and City, 56-57; cf. E. A. Knox, Reminiscences of an Octogenarian, 1847-1934, 163-4, 176.
  • 28. Knox, Reminiscences, 154, 161, 163, 180.
  • 29. Lond. Gaz. 1892, pp. 4569-82; V.C.H. Warws. ii. 50.
  • 30. G. L. Prestige, Life of Charles Gore, 238, 239-41.
  • 31. Knox, Reminiscences, 207-8; Prestige, Life of Gore, 257; Brookes, Bpric., Collegiate Ch., and City, 57.
  • 32. Prestige, Life of Gore, 249-55; Brookes, op. cit. 57; see also V.C.H. Warws. vii. 356-61 passim.
  • 33. Lond. Gaz. 1905, p. 311; Worc. Dioc. Cal. (1919), 104; see also V.C.H. Warws. ii. 50 and vii. 354.
  • 34. See p. 352.
  • 35. Collegiate Ch. of St. Mich. chapter minute bk. (at Bp.'s Ho., Cov.), pp. 38, 40. From 1913 the chapter met quarterly, while the sub-dean had authority to call a small cttee. in the interim if necessary: ibid. pp. 92-93.
  • 36. Wore. Dioc. Cal. (1914), 157, 158.
  • 37. Ibid. (1915), 184; (1919), 105.
  • 38. This was recognized by the chapter after his death in 1922: Collegiate Ch. of St. Mich. chapter minute bk. p. 238. See also The Times, 17 Apr. 1922, and Cov. Dioc. Cal. (1923), 5-6.
  • 39. 7 & 8 Geo. V, c 57; Lond. Gaz. 1919, pp. 13246-50; chapter minute bk. pp. 94, 121, 137.
  • 40. Chapter minute bk. pp. 138, 152, For the constitution of the new cath., see p. 352.
  • 41. The total number of these had remained constant, but in 1907 two - Rugby and Dunchurch - had been amalgamated and a new one - Kenilworth - created: Lond. Gaz. 1907, pp. 5754-61.
  • 42. Ibid. 1910, pp. 552-3.
  • 43. In addition, the par. of Sutton-under-Brailes was transferred to the new dioc. from the dioc. of Gloucester, and Stretton-on-the-Fosse from the deanery of Blockley (which remained in the dioc. of Worcester) to that of South Kineton. Barston par., formerly in the archdeaconry of Cov., was transferred to Birmingham dioc.: Lond. Gaz. 1919, pp.13247, 13248.
  • 44. Worc. Dioc. Cal. (1919), 105, 137.
  • 45. Cov. Dioc. Dir. (1964).
  • 46. See pp. 6, 30.
  • 47. Sir Alfred Clapham, 'Three Bede-Rolls', Arch. Jnl. cvi, supplement, 41, 42, 45, 47; Bull. Inst. Hist. Res. xxvii. 137-8.
  • 48. See pp. 2, 256.
  • 49. Cal. Chart. R. 1341-1417, 102, a charter granted between 1144 and 1148.
  • 50. There were also, by 1183-4, two other chapels in the graveyard, those of Holy Cross, a chapel of Holy Trinity, and St. Mary [de Monte], which was connected with St. Mich.'s: B.M. Add. MS. 32100, ff. 82v, 123, and see pp. 329, 358.
  • 51. For the date and position of the castle, see p. 18, and also P. B. Chatwin, 'Early Cov.' T.B.A.S. liii. 133-4.
  • 52. Nothing remains of the Norman building in the fabric of Holy Trinity Ch., and only some fragments of Norman stonework in St. Mich.'s: T.B.A.S. liii, pl. facing p. 136, and see pp. 326, 353.
  • 53. Cal. Chart. R. 1341-1417, 101 (charter of c. 1161-1175); S.B.L., Stoneleigh MSS., tripartite indenture [1355].
  • 54. See pp. 71-77, and map on p. 4, The only other medieval chapel buildings in this part of the par., besides Holy Trinity and the nearby chapel of the Holy Cross (see n. 50), were the chapel of St. Nicholas and the 15th-cent. hermitage on Gosford Green: see p. 330.
  • 55. See pp. 329, 364, 367. The chapel in existence at Willenhall by 1183-4 was derelict in 1410-11. There was a chapel at Coundon from at least 1221, possibly down to the early 15th cent.
  • 56. See, e.g., Cal. Chart. R. 1341-1417, 102-3.
  • 57. Ibid. For the later dispute between the bp. and the priory, involving St. Mich.'s, see p. 346.
  • 58. See pp. 8,48, 77, 83, and map on p. 41.
  • 59. For the park, see p. 18.
  • 60. Asthill and Horwell are partly represented by the modern Earlsdon and Hearsall: see pp. 48-50. It was still uncertain in the late 16th cent. whether Asthill and Horwell lay in Stivichall par. or in St. Mich.'s: see p. 336.
  • 61. Seep. 121.
  • 62. See pp. 62, 71, and map on p. 41.
  • 63. Apart from the chapel of St. Mary in St. Mich.'s graveyard (see n. 50) and three chapels - St. Anne by the Charterhouse, St. George by Gosford Gate, and St. James and St. Christopher by Spon Bridge - which belonged to guilds or craft cos. and had no connexion with the par. ch.: see pp. 331-2.
  • 64. Lond. Gaz. 1869, pp. 4425-7.
  • 65. Ibid. 1923, pp. 8320-2.
  • 66. See p. 40.
  • 67. Except where otherwise stated the following section is based on the accts. of chapels and churches given at p. 321 sqq.
  • 68. B.M. Add. MS. 32100, f. 123v.
  • 69. See pp. 40,105.
  • 70. St. Peter's was situated in the recently built-up district of Hillfields or New Town, but, because of the poor state of the rds. in its neighbourhood, it seems that the ch. could not, to begin with, attract the anticipated congregations; in 1851 at least it was claimed that the attendance would have been larger but for the fact that there was then not a 'single paved street in the entire district': H.O. 129/400.
  • 71. For the earlier development of these areas, see C.L., map of Cov., 1837, and map in end-folder in [A. E. Feltham] Cov. Past and Passing, reproducing O.S. Map 1/328 (1851) in C.L.
  • 72. Similar missions, to the Binley and Keresley collieries, were started in the 1920s.
  • 73. See The Times, 4 Feb. 1942.
  • 74. Cov. Standard, 18 May 1928.
  • 75. Holy Cross, 1939-64 (pamph. in Holy Cross Ch.); 'My Church'.
  • 76. See p. 364.
  • 77. See p. 337.
  • 78. Cov. Dioc. Cal. (1937, 1938, 1940); 'My Church'; Holy Cross, 1939-64.
  • 79. Alfred Herbert News, Nov.-Dec. 1957.
  • 80. The Times, 4 June 1957, 6g.
  • 81. The following section is derived from R. T. Howard, Ruined and Rebuilt, B. Spence, Phoenix at Cov., and Cathedral Reborn (1963). Details are given elsewhere of the preservation of the ruins and the progress of rebuilding and a description of the new cathedral in its final form: see pp. 355-6.
  • 82. J. Wheeler-Bennett, King George VI, 586.
  • 83. Cov. Council for Social Service, Handbk. and Dir. (1965), 60, 86-88.