Coventry is a city and metropolitan borough in the county of West Midlands in England. With a population of 303,475 at the 2001 Census (306,000 est. 2007), Coventry is the 9th largest city in England and the 11th largest in the United Kingdom. It is also the second largest city after Birmingham in the English Midlands by population, although both Nottingham and Leicester have larger urban areas.
Coventry is situated 95 miles (153 km) northwest of London and 19 miles (30 km) east of Birmingham, and is notable for being further inland from the coast than any other city in Britain. Although harbouring a population of almost a third of a million inhabitants, Coventry is not amongst the English Core Cities Group due to its proximity to Birmingham.
Coventry was also the world's first 'twin city' when it formed a twinning relationship with the Russian city of Stalingrad (now Volgograd) during World War II. The city was also subsequently twinned with Dresden, as a gesture of peace and reconciliation, and 27 others around the world.
Coventry Cathedral is notable for being one of the newest cathedrals in the world, having been built following the World War II bombing of the ancient cathedral by the Luftwaffe. Coventry has since developed an international reputation as one of Europe's major cities of peace and reconciliation, centred around its Cathedral, and holds an annual Peace Month. Coventry is also notable because Coventry motor companies have contributed significantly to the British motor industry, and also because it has two universities, the city centre-based Coventry University and the University of Warwick on the southern outskirts. Coventry is also famous for the legendary 11th century exploits of Lady Godiva. Their football team is Coventry City F.C. who are in the Coca-Cola Championship and were founded in 1883.
By the 14th century, Coventry had become an important centre of the cloth trade, and throughout the Middle Ages was one of the largest and most important cities in England. Coventry was granted city status in 1345, and later became a county in its own right.
Hostile attitudes of the cityfolk towards Royalist prisoners held in Coventry during the English Civil War are believed to have originated the phrase "sent to Coventry", which in Britain means "to be ostracised"; although their physical needs were catered for, the Royalist prisoners were literally never spoken to by anybody.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Coventry became one of the three main UK centres of watch and clock manufacture and ranked alongside Prescot, near Liverpool and Clerkenwell in London. As, the industry declined, due mainly to competition from Swiss made clock and watch manufacturers, the skilled pool of workers proved crucial to the setting up of bicycle manufacture and eventually the motorcycle, automobile, machine tool and aircraft industries.
In the late 19th century, Coventry became a major centre of bicycle manufacture, with the industry being pioneered by Rover. By the early 20th century, bicycle manufacture had evolved into motor manufacture, and Coventry became a major centre of the British motor industry. Over 100 different companies have produced motor vehicles in Coventry, car production came to an end in 2006 as the last ever car rolled off the lines at Peugeot's Ryton plant despite having the highest productivity and quality of any Peugeot plant. Production was transferred to Slovakia with the help of EU grant aid to Peugeot. This made Peugeot deeply unpopular in the city. The design headquarters of Jaguar cars is still in the city at Whitley, their last plant at Browns Lane having closed in 2004.
Coventry suffered severe bomb damage during World War II, most notoriously from a massive Nazi German Luftwaffe air raid (the "Coventry Blitz") on November 14, 1940. This led to severe damage to large areas of the city centre and Coventry's historic cathedral was ravaged by firebombs leaving only a shell and the spire. Aside from London, Hull and Plymouth, Coventry suffered more damage than any other British city during the Luftwaffe attacks, with huge firestorms devastating most of the city centre. The city was targeted due to its high concentration of armaments, munitions, aircraft and aero-engine plants which contributed greatly to the British war effort. Following the raids, the majority of Coventry's historic buildings could not be saved as they were in ruinous states or were deemed unsafe for any future use, although several were later demolished simply to make way for modern developments.
In the postwar years Coventry was largely rebuilt under the general direction of the Gibson Plan, gaining a new pedestrianised shopping precinct (the first of its kind in Europe on such a scale) and in 1962 Sir Basil Spence's much-celebrated new St Michael's Cathedral (incorporating the world's largest tapestry) was consecrated. Its pre-fabricated steel spire was lowered into place by helicopter. In 1967, the Eagle Street Mosque opened as Coventry's first mosque.
Coventry's motor industry boomed during the 1950s and 1960s and Coventry enjoyed a 'golden age'. During this period the disposable income of Coventrians was one of the highest in the country and both the sports and the arts benefited. A new sports centre, with one of the few Olympic standard swimming pools in the UK, was constructed and Coventry City football club reached the First Division of English Football. The Belgrade Theatre was also constructed along with the Herbert Art Gallery. The 1970s, however, saw a decline in the British motor industry and Coventry suffered badly. By the early 1980s, Coventry had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. In recent years, the city has recovered with newer industries locating there, although the motor industry continues to decline. As of 2008, only one motor manufacturing plant remained operational, that of LTI Ltd, producing the popular TX4 taxi cabs.
The M6 motorway directly to the north of Coventry acts as an artificial boundary which precludes expansion into the Bedworth-Nuneaton urban area, as does the protected West Midlands Green Belt which surrounds the city on all sides. This has circumvented the expansion of the city into both the administrative county of Warwickshire and the metropolitan borough of Solihull, and has helped to prevent the coalescence of the city with surrounding settlements such as Kenilworth, Leamington Spa, Warwick, Rugby, Meriden and Balsall Common.
St. Michael's Cathedral is Coventry's best-known landmark and visitor attraction. The original 14th century cathedral was largely destroyed by German bombing during World War II, leaving only the outer walls and spire. At the time of the bombing, the Spire of St. Michael's was the third tallest in Britain (Ely and Salford cathedrals being taller), but due to the architectural design - it was the tallest standing spire and not constructed as part of the roof (as is the case with the neighbouring Holy Trinity Church), thus surviving the destruction of the main Cathedral. The new Coventry Cathedral was opened in 1962 next to the ruins of the old. It was designed by Sir Basil Spence. The cathedral contains the tapestry Christ in Glory by Graham Sutherland. The bronze statue St Michael's Victory over the Devil by Jacob Epstein is mounted on the exterior of the new cathedral near the entrance. Benjamin Britten's War Requiem, regarded by some as his masterpiece, was written for the opening of the new Cathedral.
The spire of the ruined cathedral forms one of the Three Spires which have dominated the city skyline since the 14th century, the others being those of Christ Church (of which only the spire survives) and Holy Trinity Church (which is still in use).
Another major visitor attraction in Coventry city centre is the free-to-enter Coventry Transport Museum, which has the largest collection of British-made road vehicles in the world. The most notable exhibits are the world speed record-breaking cars, Thrust2 and ThrustSSC. The museum received a major refurbishment in 2004 which included the creation of a striking new entrance as part of the city's Phoenix Initiative project. The revamp saw the museum exceed its projected five-year visitor numbers within the first year alone, and it was a finalist for the 2005 Gulbenkian Prize.
The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum is a major art gallery in the city centre. About four miles from the city centre and just outside Coventry in Baginton is the Lunt Fort, a reconstructed Roman fort. The Midland Air Museum is situated just within the perimeter of Coventry on land adjacent to Coventry Airport and near Baginton.
Coventry was one of the main centres of watchmaking during the 18th and 19th centuries and as the industry declined the skilled workers were key to setting up the cycle trade. A group of local enthusiasts are in the process of setting up a museum in Spon Street.
The city's main police station in Little Park Street also hosts a museum of Coventry's Police Force. The museum, based underground, is split into two sections - one representing the history of the city's police force, and the other compiling some of the more unusual, interesting and grisly cases from the force's history. The museum is funded from charity donations - viewings can be made by appointment.
Major improvements continue to regenerate the city centre. The Phoenix Initiative reached the final shortlist for the 2004 RIBA Stirling Prize and has now won a total of 16 separate awards. Further major developments are potentially afoot, particularly the Swanswell Project, which is intended to deepen Swanswell Pool and link it to Coventry Canal Basin, coupled with the creation of an urban marina and a wide Parisian-style boulevard. A possible second phase of the Phoenix Initiative is also in the offing, although both of these plans are still on the drawing-board. The redevelopment of the Belgrade Theatre is currently in progress, and the building of IKEA's first city centre multi-storey store has recently been completed and was opened to the public on 16 December 2007.
Coventry City Football Club have recently started playing at their new home, the Ricoh Arena, a 32,000 capacity stadium in Foleshill in north Coventry, and their football academy is now based at The Alan Higgs Centre, a leisure centre in south-east Coventry opened in 2004. The Highfield Road stadium has been demolished making way for new housing and a small green.
Coventry City Farm is a small farm in an urban setting. It is mainly to educate city children who might not get out to the countryside very often. The farm closed in 2008 due to funding problems.
The River Sherbourne runs under Coventry's city centre; the river was paved over during the rebuilding after World War II and is not commonly known.
Coventry has two universities; Coventry University is situated on a modern city centre campus and the University of Warwick, which lies 5.5 km (3.5 miles) to the south of the city centre within Coventry near the border with Warwickshire. The University of Warwick is one of only five universities never to have been rated outside the top ten in terms of teaching excellence and research and is a member of the prestigious Russell Group. It won the BBC TV University Challenge trophy in April 2007. Coventry University is one of only a handful of universities to run a vehicle design degree course that is second only to the Royal College of Art course in prestige.
Coventry also has three further education colleges within city boundaries, City College, Henley College and Hereward College.
Many of the secondary schools in and around Coventry are specialist colleges, such as Finham Park School, which is a Mathematics and IT college, a teacher training school and the only school in Coventry to offer studying the International Baccalaureate, and Coventry Blue Coat Church of England School which has recently become a specialist college of Music, one of only a few in the country. Bishop Ullathorne RC School became a specialist college in Humanities in 2006. Woodlands School in Coventry is now also a sports college, which has a newly built sport centre. Ernesford Grange School, in the South East, is a specialist science college. Coundon Court School is a Technology college. Pattison College, a private school opened in 1949, specialises in the performing arts. There is also Caludon Castle School, a business and enterprise school, which has been rebuilt over 2005-2007. Exhall Grange School and Science College is in the North of the City, although, its catchment area is north Warwickshire.
The Woodlands School, which is an all-boys' school, and Tile Hill Wood School are the only single-sex schools left in Coventry. However, their sixth forms have merged to form the "West Coventry 6th Form", whose lessons take place in mixed classes on both sites.
Theatre, art and music venues in Coventry include:
Sporting teams include Coventry City (football), Coventry Sphinx (football), Coventry Copsewood (football), Coventry Rugby Club (Rugby Union), City of Coventry Swimming Club (swimming), Coventry Blaze (ice hockey), Coventry Bears (rugby league), Coventry Godiva Harriers (athletics), Coventry Bees (speedway), Coventry Crusaders (basketball), Coventry Cassidy Jets (American football) and Four Masters GAA Club (Gaelic football).
In football, Coventry City have been in existence since the late 19th century, but did not reach the top flight of the Football League until 1967, when they were promoted as Second Division champions. Their highest league position so far is sixth place in the First Division in 1970, and their only major trophy to date is the FA Cup which was won in 1987 with a 3-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley. Coventry were founder members of the Premier League in 1992, but currently play in the Football League Championship (formerly Division One) where they have been since 2001.
2005 was a good year for sport in Coventry. Not only did it become the first city in the UK to host the International Children's Games, but three of the city sports team won significant honours. The Blaze won the treble consisting of Elite League, playoff and Challenge Cup, the Jets won the BAFL Division 2 championship and were undefeated all season, while the Bees won the Elite League playoffs. In 2007, Coventry Blaze won the Elite League and the British Challenge cup and narrowly missed out on the treble by losing in the semi-finals of the playoffs.
The Coventry Bees are based at Brandon Stadium to the east of the city. The stadium has operated both sides of World War II. The Bees started in 1948 and have operated continuously ever since. They started out in the National League Division three before moving up to the Second Division and, later to the top flight. They have operated at this level ever since.
Before World War II speedway operated at Foleshill Stadium in the City and was the base for the pre-war Coventry teams.
|Coventry R.F.C.||Rugby union||1874||National Division One||Butts Park Arena|
|Coventry City||Football||1883||Football League Championship||Ricoh Arena|
|Coventry Bees||Speedway||1928||Speedway Elite League||Brandon Stadium|
|Coventry Crusaders||Basketball||1987||English Basketball League||Coventry Sports Centre|
|Coventry Blaze||Ice Hockey||2000||Elite Ice Hockey League||SkyDome Arena|
Arguably Coventry's most famous resident was Lady Godiva who, according to legend, rode through the city naked on horseback in protest at high taxes being waged on the cityfolk by her husband Leofric, Earl of Mercia. According to the legend the residents of the city were commanded to look away as she rode, but one man didn't and was allegedly struck blind. He became known as Peeping Tom thus originating a new idiom, or metonym, in English. There is a statue of her in the city centre, which used to stand out in the open but is now situated under the much-maligned Cathedral Lanes shopping centre canopy (see right). There is also a bust of Peeping Tom looking out from a bridge that crosses one branch of the shopping precinct.
Other famous people from Coventry include Sir Frank Whittle, the inventor of the jet engine, the poet and novelist Philip Larkin, the noted trade union organiser Tom Mann, the actors Nigel Hawthorne and Clive Owen, the pioneering electronic composer Delia Derbyshire, the broadcaster Brian Matthew, the record producer Pete Waterman, the athlete and former 5,000m world-record holder David Moorcroft, Ian Bell, the Ashes winning cricketer and the 2003 Rugby Union World Cup winners Neil Back and Danny Grewcock, former England boxing captain and European champion Errol Christie, author Lee Child, the Cyborg Scientist Kevin Warwick, Jerry Dammers, writer of the song "Free Nelson Mandela" and the driving-force behind The Specials, Terry Hall, lead singer with The Specials, Fun Boy Three and The Colourfield (and a celebrated solo artist in his own right), Clive Scott and Barrie Bernard who were members of the band Jigsaw, Hazel O'Connor, a rock singer of the 1980s-1990s, Paul King (lead singer of the mid-80s band King), Clint Mansell (lead singer of the 1990s indie band Pop Will Eat Itself), Julianne Regan (lead singer of the 80s-90s band All About Eve), Jason John (aka Jason Herbert) of the 1990s boy band Big Fun, Julian Little, DJ/Producer (Portamento/RAW) was born in Coventry, Lee Dorrian, (a former member of Napalm Death and later Cathedral - both well-known bands in the grindcore / death metal and doom metal scenes respectively), and Bolt Thrower, (another band well-known in the death metal scene). Roy Allbrighton, the lead guitarist and vocalist from Prog Rock group Nektar, who have been recording and touring since the early 1970s and are still popular in the US and Europe, is from Coventry.
In the 19th century, the inventor James Starley and his nephew J.K. Starley lived in the city, and were both instrumental in the development of the bicycle, and for starting the British bicycle industry. J.K. Starley was also responsible for founding Rover. A statue near Warwick Row commemorates James Starley.
The politician Mo Mowlam who was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland spent part of her youth in Coventry. Joseph Paxton, the architect of the Crystal Palace, was a Member of Parliament for the city from 1854 to 1865.
Two Tone ska bands The Specials and The Selecter are both from Coventry – one of The Specials' best known hits, Ghost Town is often thought to be written about the city. Other bands from the city which found success include The Primitives, Fun Boy Three, The Colourfield, King, The Sorrows and The Flys. More recently, indie-band The Enemy, hailing from the suburb of Holbrooks, succeeded in reaching No.1 in the UK album charts with their debut We'll Live & Die In These Towns in July 2007.
2004 Olympics 4x100m relay gold medallist Marlon Devonish is also from Coventry, and in November of the same year he was awarded with an MBE. He also appeared at the opening ceremony of the International Children's Games held in 2005.
Professional footballer 'super' Luke McCormick hails from Coventry having grown up in the city before moving to Plymouth Argyle FC.
Jen Ledger drummer with Christian band Skillet was born in Coventry.
Coventry is also home to Rajinder Rai more commonly known as Panjabi MC who came to become famous with his smash hit single Mundian To Bach Ke or in English, Beware of the Boys (Knight Rider remix) and also with the German underground dance floor filler Jogi. Other notable Bhangra stars that reside in Coventry are The Specialist known for his ground breaking album Word is Born and Repazent as a collaboration with Tru Skool. Another known Bhangra artist amongst the British Asian community is Silinder Pardesi.
Young entrepreneur Calum Brannan and the business he started at the age of 15 youmeo.com is based in Coventry.
The city's list of more infamous individuals includes:
This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added of Coventry at current basic prices by Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of British Pounds Sterling:
|Year||Regional Gross Value Added 1||Agriculture 2||Industry 3||Services 4|
Coventry has long been a centre of motor and cycle manufacturing, dating from 1896. Starting out with some less familiar names such as Coventry Motette, Great Horseless Carriage Co, Swift Motor Company and more familiar names like Humber, Riley, Francis-Barnett and Daimler and the Triumph motorcycle having its origins in 1902 in a Coventry factory. The Massey-Ferguson tractor factory was situated on Banner Lane, Tile Hill, until it closed in the late 1990s. Although the motor industry has declined almost to the point of extinction, the Jaguar company has retained its corporate and research headquarters in the city (at Allesley and Whitley), and Peugeot still have a large parts centre in Humber Road. The famous London black cab taxis are produced in Coventry by LTI and these are now the only vehicles still wholly built in Coventry.
The manufacture of machine tools was once a major industry in Coventry. The Alfred Herbert company became one of the largest machine tool companies in the world. Unfortunately in later years the company faced tough competition from foreign machine tool builders and ceased trading in 1983. Another famous Coventry machine tool manufacturer was the A.C.Wickman company. The last Coventry machine tool manufacturer was Matrix Churchill which was forced to close in the wake of the Iraqi Supergun scandal. It had been owned by the Saddam Hussein government, via front companies, and closed amidst much controversy and bad feeling.
Coventry's main industries include: cars, electronic equipment, machine tools, agricultural machinery, man-made fibres, aerospace components and telecommunications equipment. In recent years, the city has moved away from manufacturing industries towards business services, finance, research, design and development, creative industries as well as logistics and leisure.
Coventry is near the M6, M69, M45 and M40 motorways. It is also served by the A45 and A46 dual carriageways. Coventry has a much used inner ring road opened in the 1960s (approx.). Phoenix Way, a dual carriageway running north–south opened 1998 (approx.), has improved traffic flows through the city.
For rail, Coventry railway station is served by the West Coast Main Line, and has regular rail services between London and Birmingham (and stations beyond). It is also served by railway lines to Nuneaton via Bedworth. There is a line linking it to Leamington Spa and onwards to the south coast. Coventry also has two Suburban Rail stations in Canley and in Tile Hill.
Bus service operators in Coventry include National Express Coventry, Travel De Courcey and Stagecoach in Warwickshire. Pool Meadow Bus Station is the main bus and coach interchange in the city centre.
The nearest major airports are Birmingham International Airport, some 17 km (11 miles) to the west of the city and Coventry Airport in Baginton, from which Thomsonfly operates commercial scheduled flights to more than 20 European destinations, located 8 km (5 miles) south of the city centre.
Coventry has a large incineration plant which burns rubbish from both Coventry and Solihull and in the process produces electricity for the National Grid and some hot water that is used locally. In addition, some rubbish is still put into landfill.
In October 2006, Coventry City Council signed the Nottingham Declaration, joining 130 other UK councils in committing to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of the council and to help the local community do the same.
Traditionally a part of Warwickshire (although it was a county in its own right for 400 years), Coventry became an independent county borough in 1889. It later became a metropolitan district of the West Midlands county under the Local Government Act (1974), even though it was entirely separate to the Birmingham conurbation area (this is why Coventry appears to unnaturally "jut out" into Warwickshire on political maps of the UK). In 1986, the West Midlands County Council was abolished and Coventry became administered as an effective unitary authority in its own right.
Coventry is still strongly associated with its traditional county, Warwickshire. This may be because of its geographical location, forming a large protrusion into the county.
Coventry is administered by Coventry City Council. The city is divided up into 18 Wards each with three councillors. Coventry had long been considered a stronghold or source of safe seats for the Labour Party. The city council was for years described as a "one party state", but has been Conservative-controlled since the local elections on May 4, 2006 (although the Conservative group held the administration on the casting vote of the Lord Mayor since June 2004). A notable politician serving with Coventry City Council is former Militant Tendency Labour MP Dave Nellist who now represents the Socialist Party (England and Wales).
The leader of the controlling Conservative group is Ken Taylor, who has held the post of Leader of the Council since 2004. The leader of the opposition Labour group is John Mutton.
Certain local services are provided by West Midlands wide agencies including the West Midlands Police, the West Midlands Fire Service and the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive (Centro) which is responsible for public transport.
In 2006, Coventry and Warwickshire Ambulance Service was merged with the West Midlands Ambulance Service. The Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance service is based at Coventry Airport in Baginton.
At the Annual Meeting of the City Council on May 17, 2007, Councillor Dave Batten was elected as the new Lord Mayor of Coventry. Councillor Batten has been a Labour councillor for 16 years representing the Westwood Ward. Councillor Batten's wife, Lyn, is Lady Mayoress. The Deputy Lord Mayor is Councillor Andy Matchet. He has been a Conservative councillor in Earlsdon since 1999.
The Bishop of Coventry since April 1998 has been the Rt Revd. Colin Bennetts, who retired from the post on December 1, 2007. The Reverend Canon Dr Christopher Cocksworth was nominated Bishop of Coventry on March 3, 2008.
Coventry is now twinned with 26 places across the world:
|Parkes, New South Wales||Australia||1956|
|Graz||Austria||1957||Binley & Willenhall|
|Sarajevo||Bosnia and Herzegovina||1957|
|Coventry, Connecticut||United States||1962|
|Coventry, New York||1972|
|Coventry, Rhode Island||1971|
At first areas in close range of the bomb were evacuated (including a school and a hospital), however, as the day progressed larger parts of the city were closed off. Later, a cordon of 500 metres was enforced.