Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Sent to Coventry – 6 March 2011

The londonmidland train company ran a 'Great Escape' promotion, finishing on Sunday, when, for only £10, you could get a day-pass to travel to any destination on its line. We booked tickets for Sunday, and debated where to go. A long journey would leave us less time at the destination, so we decided on Coventry, two hours from home.

Coventry was featured in a war-time exhibition, when we recently visited the London Transport Museum. We were aware that they had suffered heavy bombing on 14th November 1940, due to the many factories in the city, aiding the war-effort. 500 aircraft dropped 30,000 incendiary bombs, damaging 111 factories and 2000 houses were damaged beyond repair. The loss of life was double that in the Christchurch earthquake, but the Christchurch disaster left five times as many houses needing demolition.

After seeing photos of the devastation in Coventry, we were surprised to find quite a significant number of original buildings when we did their town trail. A well designed walk takes in what was left of the old and highlights some of the innovative reconstruction.

Spon Street is a collection of picturesque old half-timbered buildings, moved and regrouped in one street, to give a feel for how parts of the city used to be. The centre of town was rebuilt as the world's first large scale pedestrainised shopping area. This model has of course been copied in many countries since then.

Coventry is well known for a number of things, one being the extremely modern cathedral, built next to the bombed out shell of the original cathedral. The new building is stark and extremely modern for its time. It did make us wonder what will be the shape of the new Christchurch Cathedral will be if they have to demolish the current one . They too will have the scope to radically reshape the look of their new city, and maybe in time (like Napier) it also will become a draw-card for visitors to marvel at the new look they have created.

The second thing that Coventry is famous for is Lady Godiva. The well known story is immortalised in a statue in the town square. She opposed her husband raising taxes, and he said he definitely would go ahead, unless she rode naked through the town. This is also where the expression 'Peeping Tom' comes from, as all the townsfolk hid indoors with their curtains closed, to give her privacy, except for Tom.

The next thing that springs to mind for Coventry is the British motor industry heritage. It was production home of Daimler, Jaguar, Humber, Triumph, Standard, Morris etc, in fact 120 motorbike and 130 vehicle manufactures have operated in this city. The museum has the largest display of British made vehicles in the UK.

It was a great day out, complemented by excellent food, thank you londonmidland for the great escape!

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