History of Coventry

Coventry is a place of discovery and hope, a city with stories to tell full of historical events. Coventry is a city of movement; we were transport makers in the past and are a welcoming city of refuges and those in need, a city of peace and reconciliation.

Take a look at some of the events which made Coventry what it is today.

1043

Benedictine monastery

Earl Leofric and Lady Godiva create Coventry by endowing a Benedictine monastery. The myth of Godiva’s naked ride is first mentioned in Roger Wendover (1235) ‘Flores Historiarum’, over 100 years after Lady Godiva’s death. Benedictine monastery

© Culture Coventry

1153

St. Michael's

St. Michael’s, now Coventry Cathedral, is given to public use under the supervision of St. Mary’s Priory by Earl Ranulf II in his deathbed charter. Previously it was within Coventry Castle as ‘St. Michael’s in the Bailey’. St. Michael's

© Culture Coventry

1182

A Royal Charter

Henry II grants a Royal Charter, allowing Coventry to grow commercially.

1345

Royal Charter of Incorporation

Edward III grants a Royal Charter of Incorporation, allowing Coventry to become the first municipal Council in England, electing its own Mayor, John Ward.

1385

St Anne’s Monastery

St Anne’s Monastery founded by Richard II, later becoming Charterhouse. St Anne’s Monastery

© Enjoy Coventry

1451

Coventry granted ‘county’ status

Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou grant Coventry ‘county’ status with authority over local settlements, stretching as far as Ansty. This status remained until the 1842 Boundary Act, when Coventry returned to ‘city’ status within the County of Warwickshire. Henry VI

© Francis Aidan Gasquet

1456

The Royal Court to Coventry

Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou move the Royal Court to Coventry, with 91 Coventry Councillors supporting the Lancastrians. Coventry is de-facto the country’s capital city until 1459, when Yorkist Edward IV becomes King and capital status returns to London.

1509

Ford’s Hospital

Ford’s Hospital founded on Greyfriar’s Lane. Ford’s Hospital

© Wellcome Trust

1538

Coventry loses its cathedral city status

Whitefriars, St. Anne’s, Greyfriars and St. Mary’s are dissolved, and their wealth confiscated by Henry VIII. Coventry loses its cathedral city status and its population shrinks from 7,000 to 3,000.

1648

St. John’s

Oliver Cromwell imprisons Scottish soldiers in St. John’s Church on Fleet Street. It is said that whilst exercising outside they were shunned by locals, thus leading to the term ‘sent to Coventry’. St. John’s

© EGammie

1714

Blue Coat School

Blue Coat School founded on the site of the former Priory of St. Mary’s. Blue Coat School

© John Lord

1801

Whitefriars

The Former monastery of Whitefriars becomes Coventry’s ‘House of industry’, giving work and alms to the poor. The workhouse remained until the Second World War when it became a Salvation Army hostel. Whitefriars

© Julian Osley

1828

Ira Aldridge

Ira Aldridge becomes Britain’s first black theatre manager at the Coventry Theatre. Ira Aldridge

© James Northcote (1746-1831)

1843

Coventry College of Design

Coventry College of Design founded, later becoming Coventry University. Coventry College of Design

1896

Coventry car industry

Coventry car industry founded with the building of the Daimler factory on the site of the Widdrington Cotton Mill near the Canal Basin. By 1913 there were 23 motorcar manufacturers.

1918

St. Michael’s Church

St. Michael’s Church gains Cathedral status.

1938

Donald Gibson

Donald Gibson as City Architect begins his plans to modernise Coventry City centre. Post War planning and reconstruction

© Imperial War Museum

1940

Coventry Blitz

Coventry is bombed by the German Luftwaffe, destroying Little Park Street, Earl Street, Coventry Cathedral, the Rex Cinema and factories in the Hillfields and Foleshill area. Coventry Cathedral

1948

Broadgate opens

Broadgate is opened as the first civic space reconstructed after war. The precincts and other spaces soon followed as Gibson’s team took to rebuilding the city in a modernist style. Post War reconstruction

©Imperial War Museum

1962

Coventry Cathedral

The new Basil Spence-designed Coventry Cathedral is consecrated in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II. Coventry Cathedral

© Herry Lawford

1965

University of Warwick

University of Warwick founded in Canley, Coventry. University of Warwick

© JR James Archive

1979

Two Tone Record label

Two Tone Record label formed in Coventry University Students Union, with contracts signed for Specials, Selector and Madness. Two Tone Record label

1981

The Specials hit ‘Ghost Town’

‘Ghost Town’ by the Specials, documenting Coventry’s economic woes, goes to number 1.

1987

Coventry City FC wins the FA Cup

Coventry City FC wins the FA Cup

© Ben Sutherland

1992

University status

Coventry Polytechnic becomes Coventry University.

2021

City of Culture

Coventry is UK City of Culture, following Derry/ Londonderry and Hull. Coventry City of Culture 2021

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Coventry University No.1 Modern University No.1 Modern University in the Midlands
Coventry University awarded TEF GOLD Teaching Excellence Framework
University of the year shortlisted
QS Five Star Rating 2020
Coventry City of Culture 2021