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For alternate meanings see: Coventry (disambiguation)

The precinct, in Coventry city centre

Coventry is a city in the West Midlands of England. With a population of 300,848 (2001 census), Coventry is the tenth largest city in England, and is a twin city to Dresden.

Table of contents
1 General information
2 Local government
3 Transport
4 Nearby places
5 History
6 External Links

General information

Coventry is traditionally a centre of motor and cycle manufacture, the Triumph motorcycle having its origins in 1902 in a Coventry factory. Although the motor industry has declined, the Jaguar factory remains and a large Peugeot car factory is located in Ryton just outside the city.

Large areas of the city, including its cathedral, were destroyed during World War II in a massive German bombing raid (see below). The rebuilt Coventry Cathedral was opened in 1962 next to the ruins of the old. 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.

Coventry is the home of the University of Warwick and Coventry University. It is also home to the Museum of British Road Transport, where the world speed record breaking cars, Thrust2 and ThrustSSC are displayed.

In fiction, Coventry was the model for Middlemarch in the famous George Eliot novel.

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. According to the legend, the residents of the city were asked to look away as she rode, but one man didn't and was allegedly struck blind, he became known as Peeping Tom thus originating the term. There is a statue of her in the city centre.

Of Coventry's most notably sons, Frank Whittle the father of the modern jet engine, was born in Coventry.

In football Coventry is represented by Coventry City F.C.

In Britain, to "send someone to Coventry" means to ostracise them.

Local government

Traditionally a part of Warwickshire (although it was a county in its own right for 400 years), Coventry became a county borough in 1889 and later a metropolitan district of the West Midlands metropolitan county in 1974. The disbanding of the metropolitan council took place in 1986, whereupon it became administered as a unitary authority.


Coventry is near the M6, M69 and M40 motorways. It is also served by the A45 and A46 roads.

For rail, Coventry is served by the West Coast Mainline, and has regular rail services between London and Birmingham (and stations beyond). It is also served by railway lines to Nuneaton via Bedworth. And a line linking it to Leamington Spa and onwards to the south.

The nearest major airport is Birmingham international Airport, some 10 miles (16km) to the west of the city. Coventry has its own airport, Bagington, which is largely a freight airport. However, commercial scheduled flights are due to begin from Bagington in 2004. It also houses an aviation museum.

Nearby places

Nearby towns: Bedworth, Rugby, Solihull, Kenilworth, Warwick, Nuneaton.

Nearby cities: Birmingham, Leicester, Lichfield.


Coventry is believed to have been established in the year 1043 when a Benedictine Abbey was constructed. The abbey was founded by Leofric Earl of Mercia and his wife Lady Godiva. And soon afterwards a market and a settlement was established at the abbey gates.

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. Coventry became one of the largest and most prosperous cities in Medieval England, and for many years was one of the few cities in England to have a protective wall.

Due to its importance, 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 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.

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. Some claim that the phrase grew out of the hostile attitude of residents of the city to troops billeted there.

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 still survive.

All surviving traces of the wall can be viewed here

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, the modern bicycle was invented 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 two equal-sized wheels on the front and rear. Prior to this all bicycles had been of the Penny-farthing design.

By the 1930s Coventry had developed a large car manufacturing and motor industry, becoming the centre of the British motor industry. 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 its historic architecture and the fact that it was a major industrial centre. Large areas of the city were destroyed in a massive German bombing raid on November 14, 1940. The city's medieval cathedral and centre were destroyed in that attack, along with 60,000 of the city's 75,000 buildings and 568 people were killed (although unofficial figures put the number of people killed far higher). The attack was carried out by 500 Luftwaffe bombers who dropped 150,000 fire bombs, 503 tons of high explosives, and 130 parachute mines.

For more detail see Here

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).

After the war, the city was extensively rebuilt. The new city centre built in the 1950s was considered one of the most modern of its time, and copied by city planners 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.

Coventry's main industries today include cars, electronic equpment, machine tools, agricultural machinery, man-made fibres, aerospace components and telecommunications equipment.

External Links