In previous posts I have introduced the topic of the “democratisation” of culture meaning the ease of availability of historical and cultural material for everybody (and often for free). My “Coventry Ramble” project is two pronged – promoting all things Coventry as I try to live by delivering “on foot services” in a sustainable way. Despite living on a very limited budget I have found historical research can be carried out reasonably effectively for free in the most part (although the occasional fee to view archived documents can be very worthwhile in rediscovering "hidden" facts and accounts).
My recent themes have included the history of St Mary’s Guildhall and as mentioned in my last post I attended a conference there last week based around the very impressive tapestry which has hung there for the last five hundred years or so. I have been inspired to learn more about that tapestry in more detail so aim to learn as much as I can about the figures (both mortal, saintly and possibly both!) depicted on it.
Whilst at the event I was gifted with “Coventry St Mary’s Guildhall Colouring Book” by a friend who shares an interest in local history (she may well have noticed my inept attempts at sketches of parts of the tapestry and stained glass windows as the event progressed!). Although my sketches are very rudimentary I think that attempting to draw or sketch a building or any subject does help with concentration and in avoiding missing detail – so a handy tool in researching and getting to know those buildings. Whenever I take part in guided walks offered by other local historians I am often surprised by details which I have previously missed despite a lifetime of being interested in the history of the city.
The colouring book is a really excellent resource. There are detailed depictions of each of the main rooms in the guildhall with brief easy to understand historical overviews – e.g. explaining that Mary Queen of Scots was held there, kings and queens banqueted there and Oliver Cromwell held meetings there.
I am aiming to learn as much as possible about the tapestry, windows and building generally by colouring in the book. There is a complete picture of the tapestry with a key to identify characters depicted in it. My plan is to view the photos of the windows on Historic Coventry website (another excellent resource) to ensure an accurate colouring regime and to research the characters via the internet, library books and museum initially. These are all free resources and contribute to my “democratisation of culture” theme. Another guildhall related example is my use of youtube to listen to George Eliot’s “Adam Bede” – some scenes in the book inspired by the building. I’ve also been using that resource to get more familiar with Shakespeare plays with Coventry connections (more of all this to come in a later post).
I shall be referring back to St Mary’s Guildhall in coming posts about the history of politics in Coventry. I am “lending” my “on-foot services” to working on the electoral roll canvass for a month or so which makes political history relevant to my current activities. Coventry has seen some lively political events. An entry in the colouring book tells us that “John Thornton also designed the original side windows in the hall before election riots between the Whigs and Tories damaged them in 1780”!
Followers of this blog may have noticed that I have promised to return to many themes – sport, social clubs, industry alongside the canal, local trading groups and musical history just to mention a few. I will attempt to return to these over the next few weeks and months and will try to take inspiration from the theme of that tapestry based event –“Pulling the Threads Together”. I shall be doing this but should I skip a few days here and there it may be because I am a bit busy with my colouring in........!