• Phil

Heritage Open Days

I have spent some of the weekend visiting some of the sites open to the public for this year's "Heritage Open Days" events. I started off with a visit to Coventry Watch Museum in Spon Street which is run entirely by volunteers.

The Watch Museum is housed in three cottages which were part of one of Coventry's remaining court type lodgings which were developed around the city centre (e.g in Spon Street and Gosford Street) as the population grew rapidly around the city's industrial heart in the 1800s. The site boasts a surviving Victorian toilet block (3 toilets to accommodate 155 people at one point!) and second world war bomb shelter.

I arrived at the watch museum just in time for a talk by Jo of "Walking Tours Coventry" who described experiences with the seven ghosts purported to haunt the site. Jo is very knowledgable about Coventry history and keeps her audience well entertained. I also went along to one of her walks on Friday evening where we were told about many little known Coventry stories and learnt about sites around the cathedral area of the city centre including execution sites, a large air raid shelter still complete with 1940s decor, the cathedrals, churches, inns and much more. Jo does city centre tours every Friday evening at 7pm from outside the "Slug & Lettuce" pub - thoroughly recommended!

After my visit to the Watch Museum I called into St John the Baptist church. All there were very friendly and enthusiastic about another of our historic buildings which is well worth a visit. It is said that the phrase "sent to Coventry" goes back to the English Civil War when the City was a parliamentarian stronghold and the building was used to house royalist prisoners who were shunned by the local population.

On Saturday morning I paid a visit to the Police Museum housed at Little Park Street Police Station. Exhibits include the death mask of Mary Ball, hanged in 1849. If you want to hear more about her one of Jo's Friday evening walks (see above) is essential. The remains of a cycle that was used in an IRA bombing in 1939 and items used in various murders are also on display. There is a serious risk that this museum will be lost to Coventry and moved to Birmingham. Please sign the petition to keep it here.

I'll be continuing the ramble over the week as I visit more of the Heritage Open Days offerings.....

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