St Mary’s Cathedral

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St Mary’s Cathedral (Cathedral No. 1)

This is a short potted history of Coventry’s first Cathedral – much of its history has sadly been lost. I’m in no way a historical expert so apologies if this isn’t completely correct.

8th Century

 St Osburga abbess of a nunnery that stood on the site.


Nunnery destroyed by Danish raiders.


4th October dedication of the church and abbey of St Mary’s.

12th Century

The pre-existing monastery – The Benedictine Priory of St Mary’s was transformed into a Cathedral.

16th Century

Henry VIII.. the Reformation came and with it the dissolution of the Monasteries. Coventry Cathedral fate was uncertain.

1040s (ish)

Around this time the church became a Cathedral – becoming the Bishopric of Coventry and Litchfield.


Leofric dies – buried in the abbey church.


Lady Godiva dies – buried in the abbey church [the crypt of both Lady Godiva and Leofric is rumoured to still lie underground]


monks were kicked out by Robert Marmion who fortified the Priory and laid siege to the nearby castle.


Monks kicked out again and their lodgings demolished by Bishop Hugh de Nonant.


Monks allowed to return.


Impressive West Front added. The Bishop of the Bishopric of Coventry and Litchfield preferred spending time in Litchfield. Apparently, the monks of Coventry were always arguing – Litchfield monks were much better behaved.

14th Century

Black death and plague.


15th January – Only 13 Benedictine monks were kicked due to the reformation. Having one Bishopric with two Cathedrals was an issue – they had a choice of which one to save.

The mayor, the Aldermen and the Bishop of Coventry and Litchfield tried to save the cathedral.. in vain. The money could not be raised by the local community to save the Cathedral.

500 years of historic documents destroyed.


Demolition of the Cathedral and Priory began. John Hales (is this where Hales Street is named after?) bought the site for £1,000 and demolished it.


Blue Coats School founded in the ruins of the cathedrals northwest tower.

Bits of the Cathedral remained up to the 1800’s – slowly decaying and demolished bit by bit.

Stone from the Cathedral can be found all over the city – when the Coventry Arms was demolished cathedral stone was found beneath.

When Owen Owen as built in the 1930’s the quarry for the stone that built the cathedral was found.

Sources –

The Archaeology of the medieval cathedral and priory of St Mary, Coventry by Margaret Rylatt and Paul Mason

Coventry’s First Cathedral – The Cathedral and Priory of St Mary: George Demidowicz

Coventry Cathedral Time Team – available on youtube :

And of course Wikipedia