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Coventry travel guide — Coventry tourism and travel information

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about Coventry

Coventry is a city in the West Midlands of England. With a population of 304,746 (2002 estimate), Coventry is the ninth largest city in England.

Coventry history

Early history

Coventry is traditionally believed to have been established in the year 1043 with the founding of a Benedictine Abbey by Leofric Earl of Mercia and his wife Lady Godiva. Current evidence suggests that this abbey was probably in existence by 1022, therefore Leofric and Godiva most likely endowed it around 1043. In time, a market was established at the abbey gates and the settlement expanded.

By the 13th century Coventry had become a centre of many textile trades, especially those related to wool. Coventry's prosperity rested largely on the dyers who produced "Coventry blue" cloth, which was highly sought after across Europe due to its non-fading qualities.

Due to its textile trade, by the 14th century Coventry had become the fourth largest city in England. From the 1350s onwards Coventry was protected by city walls.

Due to its importance, in 1345 Coventry was granted a city charter by King Edward III, and in 1451 King Henry VI granted Coventry a charter, which made Coventry a county in itself, a status it retained until 1842, when it reverted to being a part of Warwickshire. During the county period it was known as the County of the City of Coventry. The original city hall is still known as "County Hall" as a relic of this period.

In the 16th century due to the restrictive practices and monopolies of the trade guilds, the cloth trade declined and the city fell upon hard times.

Civil War and aftermath

The phrase "sent to Coventry" originated during the English Civil War, when Coventry, a stronghold of the Parliamentarian forces, was used to house Royalist prisoners. It is claimed that the phrase grew out of the hostile attitude of residents of the city to either the troops billeted there or the Royalist prisoners held there in St. John's church. For whom being "sent to Coventry" was quite an ordeal.

In revenge for the support Coventry gave to the Parliamentarians during the civil war, in 1662 the city walls were demolished on the orders of King Charles II, and now only a few short sections survive.

All surviving traces of the wall can be viewed here

Industrialisation

In the 18th century Coventry became home to a number of French immigrants, who brought with them silk and ribbon weaving skills, which became the basis of Coventry's economy. Coventry began to recover, and again became a major centre of a number of clothing trades.

During the 19th century Coventry became a centre of a number of industries, including watch and clock making, manufacture of sewing machines, and from the 1880s onwards bicycle manufacture. Due to this industrialisation Coventry's population grew rapidly.

Population growth in Coventry

In fact, an early modern bicycle was built in Coventry. The Starley Safety Bicycle produced in Coventry by Rover in 1886, was the first bicycle to include modern features such as a chain driven rear wheel with equal-sized wheels on the front and rear. Prior to this, most bicycles had been of the Penny-farthing design.

20th Century

By the 1930s bicycle making had evolved into motor manufacture, and Coventry had become a centre of the British motor industry, Jaguar, Rover and Rootes being just three of many famous British manufacturers to be based in the area. The city remained prosperous and largely immune to the economic slump of that decade.

Coventry's darkest hour came during World War II when Adolf Hitler singled out Coventry for heavy bombing raids, due to the fact that it was a major industrial centre providing the manufacture of aeroplanes, tanks, engines and armament. Large areas of the city were destroyed in a massive German bombing raid on November 14, 1940. 4,330 homes were destroyed and thousands more damaged in the attack which destroyed the city's medieval cathedral and centre. Industry was also hit hard with 75% of factories being damaged although war production was only briefly disrupted with much of it being continued in shadow factories around the city and further afield. Officially 568 people were killed that night, in what was generally to become known as "the Blitz", although the real figure was probably far higher, as the bodies of some of the victims were never found, and many people were unnacounted for.

The loss of St. Michael's in this air-raid made Coventry uniquely unlucky in being the only English city to lose its cathedral to the German bombing. This was the second time that Coventry had suffered such a fate as it was also the only city to be deprived of its cathedral church during King Henry VIII's 16th century dissolution of the monasteries.

The attack was carried out by 500 Luftwaffe bombers who dropped 150,000 incendiaries, 503 tons of high explosives, and 130 parachute mines in an attack which lasted for 11 hours, making it the single most concentrated attack on a British city during World War II.

The devastation was so great that the word Koventrieren -- to "Coventrate" or devastate by aerial bombing -- entered the German and English languages. In response, two days later the Royal Air Force began to bomb Hamburg (by war's end, 50,000 Hamburg residents had died in Allied attacks).

Postwar

After the war, the city was extensively rebuilt. The new city centre built in the 1950s was designed by young town planner Donald Gibson and included one of Europe's first traffic free shopping precinct (in 1946 the first one was realized in Rotterdam, the idea of which was copied throughout the world.) A new modern cathedral was also built. The rebuilt Coventry Cathedral was opened in 1962 next to the ruins of the old cathedral. It was designed by Basil Spence and contains the tapestry, "Christ in Majesty" by Graham Sutherland and the bronze statue of St. Michael and the Devil by Jacob Epstein. The city was twinned with Dresden, which had suffered an even more devastating bombing attack by the Royal Air Force later in the war, and groups from both cities were involved in moving demonstrations of post-war reconciliation.

The population of the city peaked in the late 1960s at around 335,000. However during the 1970s and 1980s the city fell into recession with factory closures and high unemployment, the population of Coventry also declined by around 10% during this time. In the early 1980s, a hit record was made about Coventry called "Ghost Town" by a local band called The Specials, which summed up the grim economic situation in the city.

In recent years Coventry has begun to recover, with new high tech industries locating in the city. The city centre has also undergone further re-generation to bring it up to date.

Today Coventry has a strong partnership with the german city Dresden, which was destroyed just after the end of the German Wehrmacht defend. 140.000 civilists died in Feb. 1945. by RAF - bombing. The partnership is deeply supported by the populace in both cities; representatively for the entire English people Coventry took part on the reconstruction of the Frauenkirche in Dresden by manufacturing a copy of the roof cross in 2003.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Coventry".

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