A City that Rose From the Ashes…..Coventry

England> Coventry

Woolly says – the skies might be grey and the weather unpleasant but to me it seemed an ideal opportunity to head to a city nearby, luckily the women seemed to be in agreement, which makes a pleasant change.  Two short train rides delivered us just on the outskirts of the centre and having checked my map I turned my trunk in the direction of the spire that stood high above the city landscape.  Very much a modern day city Coventry had been rebuilt following the heavy bombings of the second world war when not only were houses flattened but the cathedral was ruined, during the night of 14th November 1940.  Having padded my way through a number of shopping centres the ruins were finally in sight when we were stopped by a gentleman who enquired if we knew the city, Jo was busy snapping pictures so Zoe and I stood and listened for forty or so minutes as he told us about his families experience of the bombs and how he was off to rescue the cobbled streets from being removed by the council.

Although most interesting I could feel my feet starting to freeze from being stationary for too long whilst my small friends’ right tusk has developed an icicle, we finally wished our new travel guide good luck with his quest and were able to wander into the ruins.

Woolly says – The 14th century Gothic ruins were wonderful and the cathedral must have once looked incredible, as I peered up at the windows, shards of stained glass still clung to the stone work.  The spire itself appeared complete and offered us a climb up to the top which none of us seemed interested in completing that day.  The large open space that would have once served as the main place of worship still retained a wonderful feeling of peace and tranquillity, with the clouds crowding closer together I bounced down the steps into the new cathedral area.  The foundation stone of the new cathedral was laid by Elizabeth II on 23rd March 1956 although it wasn’t consecrated until 1962, it was very modern in design.  As we pushed through the glass doors and entered the huge building it was breath taking as an example of how worship could be a part of the future.  One gigantic wall boasted a rainbow effect of stained glass while a Swedish organ gave a whole new view of the organ’s pipes, behind the alter was a huge tapestry (once thought to be the world’s largest) of Christ, designed by Graham Sutherland, it was incredible.  As Zoe sat soaking up every part of it, Jo and I ambled along taking in the large stones bearing biblical scriptures and the very funky choir seats which were unlike anything we had encountered previously. 

We pondered as we left as to if we had seen such a modern cathedral before, India sprang to mind but none of could remember where, we felt glad that modern day worship and design could be so good.  The clouds had continued to corrugate while we had been inside, we hurried onwards.  Passing more shops, Woolly led the way to what I knew was main reason for choosing the city for a visit.

Woolly says – More chain stores and eateries passed by and we paused for a few moments to admire Lady Godiva, who was responsible for a well known story for the area.  Godiva, Countess of Mercia, was an English noblewoman who, according to a legend dating at least to the 13th century, rode naked – covered only in her long hair – through the streets of Coventry to gain a remission of the oppressive taxation that her husband imposed on his tenants. The name “Peeping Tom” for a voyeur originates from later versions of this legend in which a man named Thomas watched her ride and was struck blind or dead. I hoped that the weather had been warmer for her than it was for us!

During the 1950’s and 60’s Coventry became the countries hub for car production, known as the ‘British Detroit’, sadly today manufacturing has gone and all that remains is the Transport Museum which was a must see in my book.  Free to enter we were immediately transported back in time to the beginning of the penny farthing, many examples were on display and I had to wonder how on earth anyone had been able to actually get onto the giant wheels let alone pedal them anywhere.  As the tour led us through the history of the cycle and the many changes it had gone through, we found ourselves being led into the history of the motorcycle, with bone shaking saddles and petrol tanks that would only take a moment to fill it was fascinating.  My trunk picked up the unmistakable smell of new car as we rounded a corner and found the delights of the early Austin’s, Jaguars and many more, wonderful wheel arches gracefully covered the tyres while basic covers were slowly replaced by sleek body work as history unfolded right in front of our eyes. 

A small corridor led us through the blitz and told us how the car manufactures had started to produce army vehicles and munitions during the war before reverting to Daimlers, Mini’s and land rovers in the later years. 

Woolly says – As we reached the modern cars the story of how Coventry’s once thriving car production had ceased and how strikes and picket lines had become a daily way of life before manufacturing was no more.  One room was dedicated to children’s toy cars, planes and boats, as Jo stood remembering her childhood of matchbox cars, I carried on into a whole exhibit on land speed records, which according to the information seemed to indicate that Britain had done rather well on that front from the legendary Malcom and Donald Campbell through to more modern times when Richard Noble took the record.  Two of the ginormous vehicles were on display both of which took me several minutes to walk along before finding a mammoth sized version which might help me conquer the world of speed!

As we squeezed onto the train for our return journey, I could see my small friend smiling to himself, possibly dreaming of becoming the fastest mammoth in the world or more likely what snacks he was going to consume next! A most enjoyable day, a city that has literally returned from the ashes and one that has much to offer, from ruins, cars to naked ladies, what more could you ask for?