Coventry Travel Blog› entry 6 of 111 › view all entries
I was on my way to visit my mother for her birthday, and decided that rather than try to go down after work one day, I would take the day off and travel more slowly. It's totally exhausting travelling to Essex from Manchester, after all - there is no way of avoiding some of the nastiest roads in the UK. So I took the day off, used my free facial voucher in the morning, and started south at lunchtime with a vague plan to do some touristing.
Plan A had been to go to Ely Cathedral, but I left later than I had planned and I knew I wouldn't get there in time to look properly. On the other hand, I knew I had to be clear of any major cities by rush hour, so wherever I went touristing I had to be there by 3pm.
I happened to be passing Coventry at 3pm. Coventry is one of the least picturesque towns in the UK. It was largely destroyed in World War 2. The history books often talk like London was the only town flattened, but Coventry lost almost it's whole city centre in one of the most intensive bombings in the UK (that said, it wasn't as badly hit as Dresden, which is another thing you don't learn in school). So when it was reconstructed in the 1950s and 60s, there was a combination of no money for pretty, and the ideological approach to architecture that meant that people went for concrete monstrosities that weather badly.
The exception is Coventry Cathedral. If you can navigate a traffic centre that doesn't mention the way to the town centre until you are almost there (how is the average visitor meant to know whether they want north or south coventry? There is literally no signage from the M6 that says "city centre," and one sign that says "for historic centre follow stadium" followed by no signs after you get to the stadium, miles from the centre) then parking is nearby, on the edge of a particularly soulless university campus, and you can find one of the finest examples of post war architecture in the UK.
I've reviewed the cathedral, so I won't go into massive detail here, but it is quite an incredible building. From the outside it looks like a large brick hanger, but you can't see the glass or the tapestries from the outside. Inside, the windows look incredible, and are some of the nicest modern glass I've seen anywhere. There is some great art and the side chapels are beautiful.
Almost more affecting, though, are the ruins of the original cathedral, burned out in the war. The shattered walls and spire tear into the sky, stark in the dusk, and there are some wonderful statues (including Epstein's Ecce Homo and one dedicated to reconcilliation that has a twin in the peace garden in Horoshima) to peace.
It is well worth a visit if you're in the midlands.