St Mary’s Cathedral (Cathedral No. 1)

St Mary's Cathedral

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.

St Mary’s Cathedral (Cathedral No. 1)


The Prudential Assurance Co. Ltd

The Prudential Assurance Co. Ltd (11 Broadgate) was designed by Mr A Bentley Williams of Oxted in 1938. The mock Tudor, half timber building used beams from the sixteenth century Staple Inn, Holborn (London) and other timbers & tiles from an old barn at Upton Warren near Bromsgrove (Worcestershire). Opened for business in March 1940, with a sombre reminder of the war – 

The basement is to be opened to the public as a shelter for 325 souls. 14th November 1940 the building was burnt out. The shell of the building was unsafe and had to be demolished.  

After the destruction of the main office, temporary arrangements were made to receive claims at 1 Queens Road, 33 Hertford Street or 507a Foleshill Road 

The building stood approximately where Wilko is today. 


Owen Owen

Owen Owen

After the demolition of Butcher Row in 1935 [the oldest part of Coventry dating back 700 years], the Liverpool based Owen Owen department store planned a new venture in Coventry.

After several delays, the store opened 11an 17th September 1937 to coincide with the opening of Trinity Street. Employing over 400 staff, the store sold almost everything. Like many of Coventry’s 1930s grand designs, it was completely destroyed on the 14th November 1940.    

Owen Owen - Artists Impression 1936

Owen Owen Ltd and their associated company J. P. Hughes Ltd possess two large stores in Liverpool, which have now reached a stage of demanding further developments. Coventry with its population of 200,000 and a further 100,000 in towns immediately adjacent was considered large enough to support a store of this statue, the first venture for the company outside of Liverpool.

Owen Owen Ltd a family-owned business was originally founded in 1868 and caters in the main for the family with incomes of between £200 and £600 a year [Today’s money £10,000 – £30,000]

Alderman Flinn

“The scheme would make a revolutionary change in the appearance of the centre of the city, a fine building appearing in the place of the dilapidated and undesirable property.

We believe that part of the money that goes out of the city can be saved if a ladies’ store is built here”. The project will mean employment for 200, 300 people”.

Mr Duncan Norman – Managing Director of Owen Owen Cambridge University graduate –

“A dozen suitable young ladies from Coventry will be selected for service in our Liverpool store, where they will ‘get on to our wavelength’ and then come back to form the nucleus of our Coventry staff of saleswomen.

We recruit most of our assistants from Cambridge University. We have enough young men with high academic qualifications on our staff to from a university board of examiners. Yet the Varsity men do not hold the really big jobs in Owen Owen.

The responsible official in the firm’s large associated concern is a young man still in his twenties who was selling shirts behind one of the store counters a few years ago. He is the son of a miner. Another key man was looking for a job when he first joined Owen Owen’s staff quite a short time ago.

These men work hand-in-hand with the ‘varsity graduates and the whole secret of their successful co-operation is team work, based on a “happy family” spirit.”

Mr Duncan Norman & Mr H. Abel general manager of the Owen Owen will tour American Stores for three weeks to collect ideas. 

Triangular building -1,900 square yards [1588 square meters] Frontages: 226 ft Cheaping, 117 ft Ironmonger Row, 32ft Broadgate. Maximum height 90ft. The total estimated cost of £70,000. Planned to Open in time for Christmas 1936.

Cantilevered Steel Framework Frame (1,700 tons) reducing the number of internal columns leaving a large uninterrupted floor space. Fitting will have a maximum height of 3ft 3inches adding to the sense of space. Initial design including cladding in Portland Stone. The plan for Portland Stone was later altered to a rustic brick façade due to cost.

Air Conditioning – A a cost of £10,000, air exchanged six times every hour – four and five million cubic feet an hour. 62 degrees F humidity 55%. Three fans each 8ft in diameter.

Three Lifts – including one service lift serving every floor, the two others were for sales floors serving customers. Stairs to every floor. 

Two escalators between the basement and the ground floor and the first floor. American idea – instead of being tucked away they will be fitted in the centre of the floor. Operated by light ray control, the first of its type in the kingdom – When not being used the apparatus will be running very slowly, as soon as a passenger breaks the invisible ray the rate will gradually accelerate. At the closing hour each day the motion will be reversed.

Boilers capable of producing 2,000 gallons of hot water within the space of ten minutes and an electricity substation & transformers. Water sprinkler tank 10,000 gallons  – largest in the West Midlands [capsule 33 ft long 8 ft wide] lowed into position by hand.

3rd Floor – Staff Offices

2nd Floor & Roof Garden – Toys, Carpets, Rugs, Linos,  mattress & bedsteads, Furniture and restaurant adjoining the roof garden.  The fully equipped kitchen for the restaurant will be fully electric with odour extraction and a pressure griller – A chop or steak is clamped between two hot plates and is cooked from both directions at the same time perfectly in two minutes. 

1st Floor – Hats, Frocks, Children’s shoes, Coats, Baby & Infant Clothes, Nightwear, Knitwear, Dress Fabric,

Ground Floor – Women’s Clothes – Blouses, Pyjamas, Gloves, Smocks, women’s underwear, Handbags, Shoes, Perfume, Stockings, Children’s Clothes, Men’s Clothes

Luxuriously arranged ladies hairdressing department with eleven cubicles fitted with the very latest devices and a twelfth is to be devoted to beauty culture.

Lower Ground – Curtains, Sheets, Bedding/sheets/blankets, Hardware, Drapery, China. 

Basement Library, Café for a quick-lunch service including a soda fountain.

Sub-Basement – Reception and Despatch connected to a tunnel to Palmer Lane, a turntable will allow electric trucks to exist after entering. The tunnel removes the need for a road level delivery bay, allowing for an uninterrupted line of windows at street level on all sides.

Mr. Eli Pearson of Coventry undertakes the excavation work. 

Excavation to a depth of 23 feet near Ironmonger Row – 30 feet near Broadgate. 30,000 tons to be excavated including about 10,000 tons of very hard sandstone [Enough to build the Cathedral which weighs 6,226 tons].

About 40 men required along with a battery of mechanical excavators & pneumatic drills over 8 – 10 weeks. Later, a night shift had to be brought in to help excavate the stone – At dusk flood lights surround the “quarry”. Hundreds of people have made excursions to the spot after dark to see the spectacle

Excavation of the stone is slow and expensive – Owen Owen wish to use explosives to hasten the work – the authorities deny permission.

As the work progresses, Mr E. Carey Hill president of the Coventry Archeology Society is given permission for the society to carry out a survey – Mr Shelton finds the following.

Earliest finds are from the 14th Century. Pottery, coins, boots and stonework

Two pillars of the gatehouse which are through to have led to the precincts of the old monastery or to the priory. The gatehouse was demolished in 1704

The area of Owen Owen was used as the quarry for the stone to build the priory/cathedral. Evidence of the quarry includes wooden wedges used to split the rock.

About 10 feet deep –

Remains of a shed and the foundations of a building of some size.

Blackened and broken hazel sticks which were used for roofing.

Four wells have been found so far and the bottom of one of them was reached at depth of 20 feet. The others were once far deeper than 20 feet.

One well had been sunk and bricked around for a depth of 17 feet and had then been bored through the solid rock for another 17 feet at least.

At 17feet deep –

Piles for a cattle shed that once stood against the side of the old quarry. Smoke stains on the rock along with sheep/goat bones suggest an ancient cooking place.  

Mr W Jones manager for W Tomkinson and sons of Liverpool. The general contractors engaged to construct the new store.

Work is delayed – Only eight workers on site – should be about 150 due to the national shortage of steel – The Government has first call on steel for defence purposes. Mr Jones Said

“This is one of the biggest problems of the building industry today. The primary cause was of course the great activity in the manufacture of munitions, warships, aeroplanes and other things in which steel was used for defence purposes. The Government had first call on the steel reserves. It would not be an exaggeration to say that nine out of ten large buildings in the course of the construction were being held up.” 

1936 November – Steel delivered, and work starts once more from Messrs Redpath Brown of Manchester. 

Two big electric cranes with masts that extends 110 feet are used.

1937 May – Bucket fell on to the head of a labourer, Alfred Clarke – taken to Hospital with a concussion and cuts to the head.

Mr. Duncan Norman – Managing Director of Owen Owen & T.J. Hughes. 

Mr G. S. Conway – General Manager of the Owen Owen (Coventry) Store 

He was once a well known professional Ruby Player during the 1920s read more here & here).

Total Staff 450

From many staff adverts here is a summary of the workforce:

270 will be on the sales floors of which at least 150 will be saleswomen/girls.

Senior and Junior Selling Staff for –

Haberdashery, Ribbons, Lace, Handkerchiefs, Scarves, Jewellery, Bags, Umbrellas, Perfumery, Stationery, Art Needlework, wools, Stockings, Gloves, Ladies’ Outfitting, Corsets, Woven Underwear, Overalls, Baby Linen, Coats, Gowns, Outsizes, Juvenile Wear, School Wear, Mackintoshes, Costumes, Knitwear, Blouses, Furs, Millinery, Men’s Wear, Boy’s Wear, Ladies’ Shoes, Children’s Shoes, Fabrics, Fancy Linens, Drapery, Blankets, Soft Furnishings, Cabinets, Bedsteads, Carpets and Linos, Hardware, Lampshades & Library.

25th May 1936 Female Clerks aged 18 to 23 to train in Liverpool for clerical positions in the Coventry Store. Call at the Labour Exchange Cheylesmore between 2 pm and 4 pm.

Experienced Window Display Men – Must be used to all types of departmental store display. Shorthand Typist aged 22 to 25 as Staff Office Clerk. Knowledge of dealing with personnel preferred. Juniors Aged 14-15 will also be required for these sections. Girls will be employed as despatch Clerks and Boys as Despatch Sorters and Store Porters. Junior Buyer’s Clerks aged 18 to 20 slight previous clerical knowledge an advantage. Despatch: Van Drivers, Van Porters (Age 18-20) Packers (Male). Receiving Room Male & Female Checkers (Age 18-20). Maintenance Door Men, Duty-Men, Night Watchmen, Female Cleaners. Fully Experienced Hairdressers and Beauty Culture Experts (Female). Experienced Waitresses, cooks luncheonette hands, soda fountain girls, and kitchen staff. Experienced Coat and Gown Fitters and Alteration Hands & Typists. Upholsteress fully experienced in Pelmets and loose covers.

Mrs. Elsie Thomson former Mayoress of Coventry becomes the librarian at Owen Owen. Previously she was chair of the Public Libraries Committee.  

The staff also had a successful football team which played against other local company teams on a regular basis. Along with an amateur dramatics society, company dances and many other social events.

1936 September 14th– Appointments now being taken for Hairdressing and Beauty Culture – Please phone Coventry 5566

September 16th 200 prominent figures in Coventry’s civic and business life will be the guests at a dinner to be given in the store restaurant. Jack Wilson and his boys were invited to perform, unfortunately, they had a prior engagement at the Birmingham Empire Theatre.

The toast by Alderman Vincent Wyles

“Shopping Future of Coventry”

He was proud of the Trinity Street scheme he brought forward 27 years ago which had provided the forerunner of the scheme.

“ I may say this store has meant using our credit to the uttermost. We have responded to Coventry’s invitation by the most supreme act of faith in a material way that any business firms could possibly undertake. We have indeed sunk our eggs in the Coventry basket”.

Mr C. P. Russel who is Chairman of the Retail Distributors Association said

“Far from hurting the small trader, a departmental store of this size and attraction makes shopping centre where none existed previously or only in a small way.”

He recalls the shopping of Coventry of half a century ago (1880s) with all its shuttered windows and could trace the extraordinary evolution in the shopping system that had taken place since then.

Grand Opening 1937

17th September 11 am

Opening Ceremony by the Mayor Alderman A.H. Barnacle at Broadgate Entrance to coinciding with the Opening of Trinity Street. A huge crowd gathers –  Women who were unable to get a glimpse of the ceremony used the makeup mirrors from their handbags as periscopes.

Mayor Barnacle

“People should now dispel forever the old bogey of Coventry’s Backwardness it was now their duty of the citizens of Coventry to spend their money in the city. The citizens of Coventry had a direct interest in the Company’s prosperity inasmuch as the Corporation was the owner of the site.

When the lease of 99 years ended, he hoped the history of the store will have been such that the Corporation of 2036 would have no hesitation in granting a renewal of the lease. To Messrs Owen Owen and to all tradesman in the city the Mayor said he wished good luck and prosperity in the developments that so obviously lie ahead in Coventry.”

Presented with a gold key, he unlocks the doors. The Mayoress was presented with a bouquet of flowers and then they tour the store and were the first to sign the visitor’s book.

Soon after the doors opened and mainly women who hoped to be among the first customers rushed in.

Theft – Winifred Foster and a 14-year-old girl stole two woollen jumpers and cutlery. The woman was fined £5 and the girl was ordered to be sent to an Approved School Mr Davile Superintendent School Attendance Officer for Coventry, said the girl had not a bad school record but she was easily brought under discipline. She had a history of a fall on the head which was said to cause her to commit actions of which she was not aware of.

Expert in modern fabrics from the Lux Washability Bureau of Messrs Lever Brothers is this week advising shoppers at Owen Owen store Coventry upon care and treatment of all modern fabrics.

“Tell me why do my socks so beautiful and soft and sufficient in length to clothe my calf, become so hard and so short that they will not meet the suspender after the wash?”

Apparently, that sock’s walnut shell look was merely due to rubbing in the wash. Hard rubbing and hot water applied to wool so takes up the texture that if continued it would eventually produce felt.

I made a mental note to give instructions upon how the job should be done at home in the future to my wife.

Next, a young woman asked about what was once a nice blue costume, now prettily shaded in odd places with pink.

“Mother used to tell me that a dash of red ink in rinsing water would brighten up colours, but something has gone wrong this time.”

In a few minutes, I was discussing with the best of them the most successful way of performing the weekly wash, with help from the expert. I know a lot now, but please don’t ask me questions – the expert knows best. And anyway, I am only interested in socks!

The P. & O. liner S.S. Strathmore due in at the opening of the Toy Fair at Owen Owen Second Floor.

Theft – Jean Morris (21) Bridge Street Rugby charged with stealing.

First staff dance of Owen Owen held at the Gaumont Ballroom, attended by some 300 dancers. Music supplied by Jim Wanley’s band and Mr. H. Harfield was Master of Ceremonies

Theft – Alice May Scothern fined for stealing silk handkerchiefs & playing cards.

Late Night Opening – Wednesday, December 22nd 7:30 pm, Thursday 23rd 8 pm Friday Christmas Eve 9 pm. Re-opening Wednesday 29th at 9:30 am.

In accordance with tradition at Owen Owen five years ago – employees at the stores are to have three days spring holiday with full pay during the next few weeks.

Over 420 members of staff and their friends attended the carnival dance at the Rialto Casino. Mr H Harfield (secretary of the social club) was master of ceremonies. Music Rialto Cassinians Band.

March 1938

Mechanical man Monsieur Patou visits for three weeks!

Don’t fail to see his demonstrations, they’re mysterious, baffling! See if you can answer the question that everyone in Coventry will be asking:

Is he man or machine?

Coventry shoppers rubbed their eyes in amazement yesterday afternoon when a car pulled up outside Messrs Owen Owen Store in Broadgate and from it a alighted a man wearing a silk topper, silver-knobbed cane and immaculate evening coat.

But it was not so much the manner in which he was attired as the way in which he walked from the car to the main doors of the store that made the people stare. His gait was of no ordinary human being but more than anything it resembled that of some mechanical man. Actually, they were witnessing the arrival of Monsieur Patou the mechanical man.

Monsieur Patou will demonstrate in the store every day at 11:30 and 3:00. With a show of Magic in the second-floor restaurant at 4:30.

The newly formed Owen Owen plays [Amature Dramatics Society] will perform “9.45” at the Sibree Hall in aid of the Coventry and Warwickshire hospital.

“Admittedly there was wooden acting, but it was almost confined to the minor roles, and the work of most of the principals was distinctly encouraging. A mystery play by Colin Sewell and Owen Davies “9:45” contains four confessions of a murder, and calls for a powerful portrayal of a succession of melodramatic situations.

The heaviest role, that of a baffled, cross-questioning police inspector was given adequate expression by Edward Neighbour. His best support on the “serious” side of the play came from Mary Williams, Eric Rose, Nicholas James and Eric Giles. But the gem of the show was a comedy characterisation contributed by Flora Pollock as an irrepressible maid.

Also in the cast were George Saunders, Fredrick Hartfield, Peggy Mackett, Albert Hutton, Eileen Shaw, Marjorie Brewer, Eric Smith, Clifford Harrop, Barbra Finlay and George Wilkinson.

Although the timing of entrances and exits were often faulty, the work of the producer Mr Smith was accomplished neatly. With amateur drama having a rather lean time in Coventry it is heartening to find a new society making such a praiseworthy debut. The society donated a total of £7 7s to the hospital.

For lasting natural beauty, why not try a Eugene Wave by Owen Owen. We are registered Eugene Wavers

(Phone 5566 department, first floor).

Owen Owen, the national Eugene Hairdressing window display competition winners!

Theft – Mr John Henry Davies (61) – 93 Fir Tre Avenue fined for stealing a case of eye black He had no previous convictions. Since he had a motor accident five years ago, he had been subject to attacks during which he was quite unable to control himself. At the time he took the eye black not know what he was doing.

Miss Constance Annie Bonner (assistant at Owen Owen) marries Lieutenant Jack Nowell Richards R.N.R. Merchant Navy. Their future residence will be Calcutta, India where Lieutenant Richards is stationed.

Mr D. C. Hodge General Manager of Owen Owen addresses the Coventry Round Table meeting –

“He who whispers down a well, about all the goods he has to sell, never makes as many dollars. As he who climbs a tree and hollers!”

It is the feminine section of the public whom this “hollering” is chiefly designed. For if a woman is not wondering what she is going to wear, she is probably thinking how nice a new carpet will look in the dinning room. But it is the men who are to blame. As they go to work all day and leave the woman at home to wonder and to fall easy prey to the art of the advertising manager.”

7th June 4:30 The B.B.C. artist Carroll Levis and his Discoveries appear at Owen Owen to introduce the “Tea Time Trio” who will be playing at the Hippodrome. 

[Film staring Carroll Levis can be found on the BFI player – click here]

Hundreds of holidaymakers mobbed Carroll Levis when he appeared. The opening programme was relayed to the ground and first floors where many people unable to find accommodation in the Café listened to the artists. Outside the stores, a solid block of people waited to have a glimpse of one of radio’s most popular personalities.

Fred Hill and Alfred Russell of no fixed abode were charged with using obscene language in Cross Cheaping. P.C. Horton said the men were shouting outside of Owen Owen and threatened to break windows. They went to the milk bar but were turned away, again using bad language. They were both fined £1 which they were unable to pay so were imprisoned for 14 days.

Power Cut to the city between 1:23 – 1:45 causing a complete blackout in the basement Snack Bar of Owen Owen. Customers had to finish their lunch by candlelight.

Giant Cake on display to mark Owen Owen’s 1st Birthday. At 3 pm Friday 15th September the cake will be cut by Phil Taylor (world skating champion)   and Elsie Heathecote (Britain’s loveliest skating champion) both starting in the great ice show “Winder Sparks” at the Hippodrome. The ceremony to be broadcast throughout the store. 

Mr Duncan Norman Director of Owen Owen

“From the moment of our decision to build and open the store, he said we have received nothing but help, encouragement and consideration from all those with whom we have come into contact – from the Corporation – through its members and its first class body of officials and from the press and from the general public. Also, thanks to our fellow traders of Coventry. We look forward to the future development and progress of the city of Coventry as a shopping centre”.

Apparently, the firm had made mistakes at the start of their career in the city. An instance was not realising how great were the numbers of young people in the city, but they now felt they could supply the young folk with their requirements at the prices they wished to pay.

 National promotion of physical fitness. Exhibitions of the health, sport and fitness to be held at Owen Owen, attended by over 8,000 visitors. Lord Leigh Opens the week-long exhibit with the speech –

“During the last month people had been shaken out of the apathy into which they had fallen after the war, the crisis had made them wonder whether they had not become a little soft and comfortable. We have to shake ourselves out of this comfort. The situation in Europe was such that they would have to tackle in the near future problems which would call for a clear mind and sound bodies.”

The exhibition will include a number of models, the largest of which, a great municipal sports and recreation centre is over 15 feet long. Hundreds of photographs will be on display covering every phase of the subject.

Miss Evelyne Laye (who is appearing this week at the New Hippodrome) inspected some home and kitchen bargains including a saucepan.

“I am a keen housewife myself and I am having a cottage built near London. I am personally supervising all the furnishing and equipping of my new residence. So pots and pans are specially interesting to me at the present time!”.

Theft – The same women who stole black clothing from Marks and Spencer also steal from Owen Owen. The items were for a funeral.  

“Why be dull in the winter time?”

Fashion parade at Owen Owen displaying all manner of gaily coloured tartan woolly frocks

Owen Owen Players in “Baa Baa Black Sheep” is probably the least successful of the produced stage works of Ian Hay and P.G. Woodhouse, but the Owen Owen Players captured its spirit of fun at the Sibree Hall, raising money for the Purley Schools.

The play was the polished work of Edward Neighbour, who blessed with an enviable stage presence took every situation easily in his stride. His frolics as a pseudo-clergyman made his elementary farce acceptable and he revelled in the tangle of misrepresentation and misunderstandings.

He was by far the outstanding performer but under the direction of Eric Smith, most of the other players reached a high level of acting. For instance, the village sergeant, portrayed by Winder Williams, was more believable than most versions that I have seen on the professional stage.

Eric Giles as a supposedly Puritanical magistrate made brief but convincing appearances. Villager characterisations by James Hopner, Jennie Bamber, Gladys Ramsay and Daphne Dickson were amusing, and Barbra Finlay worked hard to make her leading role of the masquerade effective. The Owen Owen players with their initial production early this year proved themselves strong contributors to Coventry’s amateur stage.

But I prefer to see them handling material more serious than “Baa Baa Blacksheep”!

See fee father Christmas & the Silver Jubilee Express, Second Floor Owen Owen.

Did you know as many as 20 children are lost and found again every day in Coventry during the Christmas shopping rush? At Owen Owen it is the practice for lost children to be taken to the inquiry bureau, where they can content themselves with a storybook until their mothers arrive to collect them.

While in some cases the children have been returned to their parents after being lost for only a few minutes, several hours have elapsed before others could be happily restored.

1938 December – Sanforized-shrunk shirting measuring 129ft was hung on the front of the store for 7 days and 7 nights. It was then washed 7 times by the London laundry to show its non-shrinking qualities.



Theft  – Mrs Phyllis Margery Tomkinson stole several articles. She said she went to the store to get some hot milk for her child. She felt hot and ill. Her husband informed the bench that his wife had been very ill. When told the fine was £2 the woman fainted and had to be carried out of court.

Dance – Over 420 staff and friends of Owen Owen attended the carnival dance by the stores social club in the Rialto Casino last night.

Fire 9.30 smoke was seen coming from the top floor of Messr Owen Owen’s store. The fire was in a tallboy (or Wardrobe) in the furniture department on the third floor. Another package was found placed behind a book in the library. The fire was started on purpose – similar to a spate of fires in the city including one at the Burtons, Marks and Spencer, Woolworths Store an hour and a half later that same day. An envelope containing nitric acid in a toy balloon and magnesium power started the fires. Links to the I.R.A. have been suggested.

Theft – Frances Newell (17) from Rugby fined for stealing a neckless, along with a nine year old girl who also stole a number of items.

Theft – Violet Sillito (32) housewife Lower Ford street & Frances Elizabeth Thomas (25), Tallants Road fined for stealing. At the end of the case Mrs Sillito fainted and had to be carried out of court.

Lost –ladies black fur glove in or near Owen Owen, Will finder please return 4 Wright Street Coventry – Reward!

We won’t labour the point. It’s obvious that the fit of a corset can make or mar the most carefully modelled frock or costume. We have a private fitting room where your Twilfit corset can be fitted with the assistance and advice of our experienced corsetier.

Private Fitting Room First Floor.

Theft – Husband and Wife Benjamin Harry and Elizabeth Harry charged with stealing a child’s Mackintosh & cape for their daughter. Both fined. 

Chairman Mr Duncan Norman announces the company had not expected to make a net profit in the first full year working – but they had done so well there was a small profit.

“We are quite certain that we can anticipate a happy future for this Coventry business”.

Owen Owen Players present “A Bill of Divorcement” by Clemence Dane at Sibree Hall in aid of the Coventry Nursing Association.

Although it was an ambitious production for an amateur society the players initially and collectively were convincing. An outstanding performance was given by Eric Smith as Hillary Fairfield a man who having been certified insane recovers his senses and returns home to find that his wife well played by Jennie Bamber has divorced him to marry Gray Meredith played by Edward Neighbour.

Hilary is left in the care of his daughter, Sydney who has given up her fiancé, Kit Pumphrey when she knows there is hereditary insanity in the family. Marjorie Brewer gave an excellent interpretation of the irresponsible and outspoken Sydney and was well supported by Clifford Harrop as kit. Eric Giles (The Reverend C. Pumphrey) and Nicholas James (Dr. Elliott) acquitted themselves well, while Flora Pollock gave a praiseworthy study of a puritanical maiden aunt.

In conjunction with Courtaulds, Owen Owen present the Rayon Fashion Show.

Theft – Edna Park (17) telephone operator and a 14-year-old stole three pairs of ladies hose, a pair of socks and two art silk dresses. Probation 12 months.

Swill – Owen Owen have 20 bins (approx.) of café swill per week. This is an excellent opportunity for any stockbreeder who requires good weight producing food at an economical price.

Dangerous Driving – Stanley Wells (37) charged with driving without due care and attention. He drove down Trinity Street crashing into a Taxi and mounted the pavement heading toward the shop window of Owen Owen but was stopped by a Bus queue barrier missing the window by only 3ft. Charged £5 10s. 

W.V.S. Display – A National Service display arranged by the National Service Committee and manned by members of the Women’s Voluntary Staffed by women in the attractive and practical uniforms. An official of the A.R. P headquarters said – 

“ We are ready to start our general scheme immediately the code message to do so is received. The telephone here is being manned throughout the 24 hours of the day”.

People were again flocking to A.R.P. offices with inquiries to be fitted with respirators. Shopping activity for window darkening materials, candles and preserved foodstuffs, continues.

Recruitment stand for National Service was opened on Friday 1st September at Owen Owen.

Relief fund for the Broadgate I.R.A. bombing – Owen Owen Ltd contribute £20 Staff of Owen Owen contribute £5 6s & 4 1/2 pence

Theft – Margaret Gibson (28) seen by Detective constable Dickens acting suspiciously. When followed she threw herself down the escalator which was coming up from the basement. Picking herself up and made her escape, but later arrested by P.C. Tansley. She was to have been drunk. Fined.

Theft – Myra Irene Shanks (32) stole hats, stockings, a vest, a toy panda and a pot of cream. Fined £5.

Lost in Owen Owen – Scarab Ring, sentimental value reward Stage Door, Hippodrome.

1939 November

350 Women Wardens needed but only 60 have so far enrolled.  The primary objective of the wardens is to keep the populace calm during the course of an air raid. The supervisor, Miss Betty Winslow said –

“Homely sort of women is what we want. They must be level headed, in fact, the sort of women the neighbours would run to if they were in trouble at any time.”

Applicants must be between 35 and 50 years of age. When an air raid warning sounds they would be allocated to the shelters in the city centre, which include those at Owen Owen, British Home Stores, Smarts, Mills and Mills the Cathedral crypt and others in Cox Street, White Friars Street, Bishop Street, Bayley Lane, West Orchard, High Street, Hay Lane, Much Park Street, Broadgate, the Market Hall Cellars and at the Gas and Electricity Showrooms in Corporation Street.

Enrol at Owen Owen today!

Theft – Ronald Barham (40) stole a pair of gloves and a woollen scarf. Due to previous offences, he was sentenced to three months hard labour.

Appeal – Norway appeals for Wool for their armed forces to fight in the depths of winter, many stores including Owen Owen donate.

Attempted Theft – Housewife Edith Avery (23) 22 Birchfield Road charged with the theft of a handbag. Miss Sarah Roderick said she observed the women handling several bags in the handbag department. The woman dragged a bag towards her surreptitiously and after looking round her walked away and then began to run. The store detective followed –

the defendant turned around and said

“You are following me”

The detective replied

“Yes I am. I am the store detective and you have taken a bag without paying for it”.

The police arrested the defendant – used the defence said she picked up several handbags, put one down and did not realise she had the shop handbag in her hand. The charge was dismissed.

Theft – Margaret Watson stole items along with Jemima Gibb Noble (38) a well-dressed mother of five, the eldest is 21, stole a dress and various other articles. Due to prior convictions, she was sentenced to 28 days imprisonment with hard labour. With her husband in employment, she had no reason to thieve. When the sentence was announced the prisoner wept and another woman was carried screaming from the court. Margaret Watson received a fine.  

Theft – Florence Plummer (31) stole hats, bottles of perfume and other articles. Her husband was in France and she had four children and only 42 s a week with which to keep them [about £80 in today’s money]. Probation.

Theft – Mary Cronin (30) maid of no fixed abode from Killarney stole a pair of gloves and razors. Fined.

Theft – Elsie Mansell (36) and Isobella Scott (26) both married and apparently living together stole various articles. Both received a fine. 

Mrs Griffiths who announced the Coventry Police Court decision said –

“The magistrates have got to stop you women going around pilfering from shops. This kind of thing becomes a positive menace”

Half day opening – Discussion on Half day opening. Coventry Half Day is Thursday the same day most of Coventry workers are paid, forcing people to travel to Birmingham. 

Mr Duncan Norman managing director talks to the Coventry Psychology Group at the Geisha Café on the topic “Psychology in Business”. He stressed the importance of giving subordinates free rein in the suggestion of ideas. Members of office staffs, he said, should never be afraid of going to their immediate chief with suggestions for improvement.

Theft – 12-year-old girl stole several items. Her mother said she had run wild since the schools had been closed. She also said her husband was in the hospital and not expected to live. Probation 12 months.

1940 February Injury – Thomas Donnelly (28) walked into a plate glass window at Messrs Owen Owen on Wednesday night during the blackout. He cut his head and was taken to the hospital.

Hair – Owen Owen won a diploma in the Eugene 21st anniversary window display competition for which Sir William Crawford K.B.E. was chairman of judges.  The competition was open to hairdressers and stores throughout Great Britain.

“Despite the grievous loss of selling space caused by the talking over of a great part of one of the principal selling floors as a public air raid shelter the business continues to go right ahead”

Lost – Upstairs Ladies toilet – will the person who found Wallet Purse (belonging to a soldier’s wife) containing notes and silver, kindly return to 86 Beanfield Avenue. 

Colour – At the outbreak of the war women suddenly became practical. During those first few weeks, they brought plain, serviceable clothes, tailored frocks, and warm overcoats, and imagined that their choice was going to see them through for the duration.

Now with the first burst of Spring sunshine, all these good resolutions seem to have been thrown to the wind. The fact that women are still interested in new fashions was evident.

It is a well-known fact that colours have a psychological effect upon the wearer and in order to keep up the spirits of the “home front” the new Spring shades are to be brighter and gayer than ever this year. With a three-day display of all the latest Courtaulds’ “Tested-Quality” fabrics.

Opening Hours – Customers had become accustomed to black-out hours of opening hours. Now it is Spring, and the evenings are getting lighter there is a discussion about later opening hours, but concern that comes autumn, change to the hours will become  

Theft – Lydia Tasker & Doris Hickey stole a powder puff, two pairs of stockings & handkerchiefs – Fined.

Theft – William Edward Randall (55) sole a clock. He had been drinking and was seen to take the clock and put it in his pocket. He had 10 previous convictions. Randall who said he suffered from his nerves was sent to prison for three months with hard labour.

Theft – Edna Partridge (32) housewife stole lady’s wearing apparel and a bottle of perfume. Fined.

Madam Kusharney Psycho-Analyst – Direct from her B.B.C. audition is to carries out readings for two weeks. Free sessions will be given in the restaurant 2nd floor between 10.00 and 11.30 am and 3.00 and 4.00 

Theft – Mrs Elizabeth Blackett (42) stole gloves & socks. Fined.

Required – Lift girls – tall and of good appearance. ​

Theft – Phyllis Parry (34) stole various items. Fined.

Protect yourself from flying glass – An anti-splinter protection for your windows can be quickly and simply applied by the fixing of curtain net inside the glass – available at Owen Owen.

Missing – Sergeant Henry Lewes Price (36) Royal Warwickshire regiment married and lived at 17 Grove Street Coventry – bandsman in the territorials for a number of years and former employee of Owen Owen – Missing in action. 

Theft – Phyllis Dora Cassell stealing a mackintosh – case dismissed for lack of evidence. 

Theft – Renee Kate Golspink (25) stole a necktie and belt – fined.

Wedding Reception – Mr Geoffrey Victor Dipple and Miss Dorothy Butler hold their wedding reception at the Owen Owen Café.

Theft – Mary Colquhoun & Isabel McPheators, Mary Ann Waugh and Jane Agnew stole dresses, Slippers and woollen goods. All fined. 

Theft – John Edward Still  & Mary Ellen Still stole items several items. Both fined.

Shopping hours changed store will open at 10.30 each morning for the next two weeks.  

Domestic Science Lecture-demonstrations will be given at Owen Owen from by the domestic science staff of the makers of Bird’s Custard, Jellies and other fine food products. Miss Clare demonstrates Cottage Garden Casserole along with explaining the benefits of healthy foods sourced from an allotment, wasting no leaves is the answer.

With the increased tax of luxury goods, women will also have to cut down on cosmetics or find substitutes. Good cold cream can be made out of lard mixed with a little milk and witch hazel.

War Weapons Week organised by Coventry Local Savings Committee will have a display of pictures depicting the activities of the Army, Navy and Air Force, scale models of aeroplanes (including German fighters and bombers) will be on display at a number of bureaux across the city, including Owen Owen.

Theft – Nora Connolly (29) tempted by impulse stole three pairs of silk stockings. Fined.


15th October – Owen Owen suffers bomb damage

16th October Will all staff please report at the staff entrance tomorrow (Thursday 17th October) in the following order

Café – 9:30 am, Ground Floor Staff 10.00am Lower Ground Floor and First Floor 10.30am Office and Service Staff 11.00am.

17th October – Owen Owen are proud to announce that owing to the loyalty and industry of their staff, they are able to open the store tomorrow, Friday at 2.30 pm.

1940 - 14th November: Last Advert of Owen Owen...

No child saw the winter wonderland - like much of Coventry, it was destroyed on the night of the 14th November 1940

November 19th – Owen Owen (Coventry) Ltd NOTICE TO ALL STAFF – All instructions to staff will be published through the columns of this paper. A staff office to deal with queries will be opened in the city as soon as possible. All wage clerks are asked to report to Miss Arthwison, Linden House, 4 Spencer Road Coventry.

November 21st – Notice to all staff – Temporary offices have been opened at 2 Queen’s Road Coventry. All staff are asked to call there on Friday or Saturday next for their wages and further instructions. If possible please call at the following times – Selling Staff: Friday from 10 am to 1 pm, Café Staff Friday 2 pm to 4 pm Non-Selling Staff Saturday 10 am – 1 pm.

November 26th – Owen Owen wishes to announce that they will shortly Reopen in smaller premise on the opposite side of Trinity Street –

The opening date will be announced later.

Owen Owen

Burton’s (1,2 & 3 Broadgate)

Burton's (1,2,3 Broadgate)

Montague Burton's 1930 - 1940

Tailoring for the modern man. 

By the 1930s Montague Burton was a rapidly growing business. The chain store was already established in the city of Coventry. Burton’s pursued a strategy of obtaining prominent corner locations and building an imposing stylish shop to cement its modern brand (read more here)

For Coventry that meant the demolition of the old City Hotel along with 2 and 3 Broadgate.  The store was one of the very few buildings that survived the  World War II bombing. It was put to use as a Savings Kiosk and Services Club. 

The building stood in the way of the 1950s reconstruction and was demolished in the late 1940s. However, fragments of the Burtons building (and the City Arms) may still exist under the modern Broadgate.  

July The historic City Arms Hotel at the junction of Broadgate and Smithford Street has been acquired on a long lease by Messrs Montague Burton Ltd, tailors from the Governors of Bablake school, for the extension of their premises. The new emporium will include not only the site of the City Hotel, but also the firms existing premises at No 2 Broadgate and the confectioner’s shop at No 3 Broadgate. Thus the shop will have an extensive frontage to Broadgate and Smithford street and the proposal should do much towards modernisation of the appearance of the city’s centre. The planning for the rebuilding have been passed by the General Works committee and the demolition of the City Hotel will not be long delayed.


September 23rd Burton’s New Store 1,2 & 3 Broadgate Opens to the Public

March – New Billiards Licence: application billiard tables and bagatelle boards and alike, at 1 to 3, Broadgate Coventry (first floor). 

October – Burton’s Corner, Broadgate Coventry KRAZI GOLF. The finest and most select course – Grand Opening Tomorrow Friday October 24th at PM, Beautiful prizes given weekly 100 Guinea silver cup to be given on New Years Eve. [In the photo above you can see the KRAZI GOLF signs in the 2nd floor window]

March – The Cup Final – The actual autographed ball used in last year’s cup final at Wembley is now on view in the window of Messrs Burtons. 

August – We want Your Support at the Crippled Kiddies’ Sports Meeting Next Saturday, August 15th 1931 at the Rover Sports Ground Coventry. Open flat events at 100, 200, 300 and one mile: 800 Yards Midland Ladies’ Championship (The world’s champion, Miss Gladys Lunn Competing); International Athletes in the Great Inter-City Relay Race; Cycle Racing and Boy’s Events etc. Prizes on View at Burtons Broadgate. Announcements and Music by Amplifier, kindly supplied by Messrs Blackmere, Ford Street 

November – A special Armistice Week appeal is being made by the Coventry District Council of the League of Nations Union by means of an attractive display of dolls in Messrs Burton’s Main premises in Broadgate. The dolls are dressed in national costumes of each constituent nation in membership with the League and the display is backed up with disarmament posters and initiations to join the local branches. This novel scheme of advancing the claims of the League of Nations has attracted a great deal of attention.

June – Catering Cares Abolished – Those who want to organise a whist drive, or dance or hold a wedding breakfast, cannot do better than put their catering out to a firm of specialists and the proprietors of the Venetian Restaurant and Grill Room of 1,2, and 3 Broadgate Coventry (over Messrs Montague Burton Ltd) are able to meet all demands in this direction. They are equally willing to undertake inside or outside catering work. The restaurant is of course a well known place of refreshment in the centre of Coventry.

September – Gaumont Dance Hall – Foxtrot Competition 1st heat Saturday, final Oct 8. Prizes on view Burton’s Tailors Broadgate Mr G Knedrick Judge and demonstrator – SyncoScamps Coventry’s famous band in attendance.

January – Peace Ballot Helpers Wanted – Send your name to the organiser:- Mr G Eames Burton’s Building 1-2-3 Broadgate N.B. Viscount Cecil at the Central Hall, Monday, January 21st at 8pm.

June – The “Venetain” Café – Restaurant Broadgate Coventry (Above Montague Burtons) Entrance Smithford Street On Carnival Day and at all times for the most POPULAR LUNCHEONS TEAS AND SUPPERS Now under New Management

August – Van Crashes into Shop Window! A Coventry post office mail van got out of control shortly before 10 o’clock last night and crashed into one of the plate glass windows of Burton’s tailors in Broadgate. The van had come from Greyfriars Lane and had turned towards Broadgate. When he noticed something wrong the driver apparently switched off his engine and jumped clear before the van mounted the pavement. Although there was a constable o point duty and a large number of pedestrians about no one was injured. The radiator and the windscreen of the van were badly damaged. 

October – Grand Opening Night of the Rialto Casino with the “Five-Star Ball” Ladies’ souvenir gifts and prizes to the value of £150 Now on display at Burtons Broadgate.

October -Fire Outbreak at Coventry Shop – During the early hours of today Coventry fire Brigade were notified by a policeman that there were signs of a fire at Montague Burton’s premise at the corner of Broadgate and Smithford Street. It was found that a quantity of brown paper wooden boxes and sacks had become ignited in the basement probably through their being a near a stove. The firemen were able to confine the outbreak to this part of the premise without any other damage being caused. When the flames had been extinguished the fire men had to wear breathing apparatus to combat the thick smoke.


February – Following the deliberate fire at Owen & Owen just after 9:30pm a second fire was discovered. Just before 11pm the fire Brigade were called to Messrs Montague Burton’s shop on the corner of Broadgate. A fire had been started by placing a packet among a quantity of paper beneath a counter. The firemen gained entrance by breaking a glass panel. As the result of the prompt discoveries of the fires the damage done was extremely slight in every case.

Mr A. G. Whitehead manager of the Broadgate shop of Messrs Montague Burton Ltd provided view of the Coventry dress –

“Some of the Bank clerks in Coventry wear tweeds, whereas in London those holding similar positions would never dream of doing so except, perhaps on their half-day’s holiday. On the whole, I think that Coventry men are well dressed. At one time they used to visit the private tailor and when they bought a suit – very often it was expensive one – they made it last a very long time, sometimes for 10 years. It became stained and spotted, and at the end of its period of usefulness it did no look very attractive. To-day 75 percent of the men in Coventry buy new suits fairly frequently and many of them on an average purchase a new suit twice a year. Although I would not say that people in Coventry are dressed as well as those in London, I do consider that Coventry folk, having regard to the fact that it is an industrial centre are well dressed.”

“Speaking of umbrellas,  the London man always had an umbrella, of course motoring had a lot to do with the disappearance of the umbrella. To the motorist an umbrella is an encumbrance and most people in Coventry use motor cars and buses. In London where people use trains and tubes an umbrella is a necessity. People in Coventry are not very particular about their hats, and many did not wear them at all. I do not think that if a new hat were designed it would have the effect of making more men wear hats”


2:32 pm – IRA bomb explodes in Broadgate. Historic Coventry provides a full account of this tragedy. 


14th November – Burton’s shop was gutted by the bombing, but the structure survived. One of a handful of buildings in Broadgate left standing. 

September 19th Mayor to Open Savings Kiosk – for the convenience of shoppers and other visitors to central Coventry, a kiosk has been set up in Broadgate for the sale of National Savings stamps and certificates.

The Kiosk which has been placed under the cover of Messrs, Montague Burton’s former shop will be formally opened by the Mayor (Alderman J.A. Moseley). Mr S T Peirson (Chairman of the savings committee) presided and among those present was the Bishop of Coventry (Dr Mervyn Haigh). Mr Peirson said the savings in Coventry were very unsatisfactory. There were 1,609 streets in Coventry but so far only one tenth of them had a savings group. Coventry was asked to raise £6,000,000 a year or £500,000 a month. They had done nothing like that. It could not be done without everybody’s help.

The Major in declaring the kiosk open appealed to workers now earning high wages to be thrifty and to save for the lean times that would come in the reconstruction period after the war. They did not want to see people applying for poor law assistance after the war when they had an opportunity now to save for themselves. Coventry citizens should see that there was nothing lacking on their part in winning the war. Alderman J Hold also appealed to the workers to save.

Open daily from 10am to 6pm.

January –During Warship week – There will be shop window displays in the principal local establishments. On the ground floor of Messrs Burton’s war Damaged Premises in Broadgate there will be a display of mines and torpedoes in the charge of a naval rating.

May – Vaults of the former City Hotel uncovered due to bombing.  

September – Services Club to be opened in Broadgate. A service club is to be opened in Coventry under the guidance of the committee of the Mayors good fellowship fund in conjunction with the Mayors of Coventry’s good fellowship club the committee on the first and second floors of premises in the corner of Broadgate and Smithford Street.

It will be staffed by voluntary workers and it is proposed to supply refreshments at a reasonable price and writing accommodation and materials free of cost. It will be run as a place where men of the forces can find every comfort during their stay in the city. Post War Hospitality. “It is appreciated that this effort is very late so far as the war position is concerned, but it is felt that it will be a very considerable time after the war with Germany is over before troops are released from the Services and we feel it is possible a more important matter to continue our effort when other organisations may have stopped Mr H B Jackson honorary organiser of the Mayor’s Good Fellowship fund told the Evening Telegraph – The good fellowship club acts as the official hostesses to both overseas and home forces and it is hoped that the use of the accommodation in Broadgate over Messrs Burton’s premises may give facilities for even greater hospitality than is at present being enjoyed by service people in Coventry.

Large numbers of service men have visited Coventry and through the good work of the club and the generosity of householders many have spent their leave here, returning to these hospitable families when ever possible. “It is considered that Coventry will become a place where all service people will try to visit before leaving for home” said Mr Jackson. An appeal for funds for this work is to be made in the immediate future; meanwhile work in preparing the premises to make them suitable as a services club is being put in hand. 

November – Service Club to be Launched – The sum of £400 has already been subscribed towards the provision of a Services Club at Coventry, and last night a joint meeting of the Mayor’s Good Fellowship fund and Good Fellowship Club Committee decided that they had sufficient funds to enable the work to commence.

The club is to be stablished on the first floor of Burton’s Broadgate premises and the joint committee of these two organisations who are promoting the scheme point out that while the available funds are sufficient to allow of a start being made on the work further substantial help is still required.

Early Start – it was reported that intimation had been received from the Ministry of Works that a licence necessary to permit of the patching up of the property to make it thoroughly weather proof would be favourably considered. Work in that direction is to be put in hand immediately. A sub committee was appointed to deal with the purchase of furniture crockery and cutlery and efforts will be made to have the premise ready for receiving visitors from the services in about a months time. The committee appeal for the gift of loan of chairs, a piano, a radiogram or wireless. A number of comfortable chairs which were purchased by the fund early in the war for the use of Service sites round Coventry are still in use, but there are several in stock that will be available for the Broadgate Premises.

30th December 1944 - Mayor serving Tea at the opening of the Coventry Service Club


December –  Coventry Services Club idea Born in “Devil’s Kitchen” Four years after the conception of the idea following the establishment of the W.V.S’s “Devil’s Kitchen” during the great November air raid on the city, Coventry’s united Services Club situated in the former Broadgate premises of Messrs Burton’s was officially open yesterday afternoon by the Mayor and Mayoress (Alderman and Mrs G. E. Hodgkinson). Mrs Councillor Hyde Chairman of the Mayor’s good fellowship fund and originator of the club scheme presided. She thanked the firms and citizens of Coventry for their contributions to the fund which had made the opening of the club possible and expressed gratitude to Messrs Jackson Wilson and Mason for their work in securing equipping and decorating the premises. She also paid tribute to Mr Pearson of the YMCA for his willing co-operation.

The long delay in opening the club was entirely due to force of circumstances she said. Three premises had been previously quipped only to be requisitioned by the Government. She hoped that the club would not be too late and that it would do good work. She knew of similar clubs inspired in America and Australia by the “Devil’s Kitchen” which showed that our spirit was shared all over the world.

Fostering Fellowship – Declaring the club open the Mayor said that the spirit on which it was founded was forged when the city was under fire in 1940 and 1941 when neighbours deserved the name and the community spirit was general. It was hoped that the club would foster this fellowship and would make Coventry a city to be remembered by members of the forces. The Mayor regretted that members of the American forces were unable to come into the city as the club had intended to cater for all services.

He hoped that as facilities were provided for men in the services so they would be provided for on their return to civilian life. Proposing a vote of thanks to the Mayor Captain W F Strickland MP said the city had made a good choice in electing Mr Hodgkinson for he worked instinctively with the welfare of the city at heart. He (Captain Strickland) was sorry that Americans would be unable to use the club and took the opportunity to pay tribute to hose gallant soldiers who were links in an important partnership. “Nothing” said captain Strickland “is so badly needed in the world to day as good fellowship” Clubs such as these would foster that spirit among nations.

Leisure Hours – Mr H B Jackson stated that public contributions to the fund for the club amounted to £600 in cash and many articles of equipment. The club would not be competing with the YMCA but co-operating wit it. It aimed to provide means for the Forces to spend their leisure hours and was not for the provision of meals. Tribute was paid to Messrs Burton’s who had let the premises at the “peppercorn rate” of one penny per week. The county Army Welfare Officer Colonel J A Mellor said the fact that service men and women did not want meals only but a place to be able to relax to spend leisure hours with companions and to be able to write home. He hoped that soon a second room would be opened. The club which at present occupies the top floor of the building is furnished with chairs and armchairs has concealed lighting and a buffet. There is room for dancing and writing materials are available. It is hoped that the second floor will soon be equipped and ready for use.

January  – Services Club Fully Justified – Although it has been open just over a week it is being very clearly demonstrated that Coventry United Services Club in Broadgate fulfils a great need.

Provided through the Mayors Good Fellowship fund – it is open daily from 2pm to 10 pm and the staff of voluntary workers operate on a rota. Troops passing through Coventry from overseas are among those who use the club, which is providing particularly popular with service men and women who are stationed in the part of the country and spend some of their free time in Coventry. The club is occupying Burtons former premises and it is desired to open another floor as a games room. This will cost from £200 to £300. The club is therefore desirous of railing further funds on that account. To date between £600 and £700 has been subscribed to meet the cost of starting the club and adapting the premises.

April – Negotiations go on to buy out Burtons for the redevelopment of Broadgate. Burtons want a corner site with Smithford Street after the redevelopment is completed – not realising that Smithford Street will disappear.

Delays in acquiring the building and neighbouring Wilsons shop means the central Godiva round about garden will be delayed. An exchange of flowers from the Dutch National Committee  will now have to take place on Greyfriars Green.

15th April 1947 – Burtons shop handed over to the council. Willsons have yet to be be handed over.

January – Broadgate Scheme Progress – Smithford Street was closed at 11am this morning to vehicular traffic in order to permit the demolition of the remaining block of buildings at the Broadgate End of the street. This task will be finished it is expected by the middle of February. It will then represent a substantial  step forward towards the completion of the big Broadgate Traffic Island which is an essential feature of the city’s central redevelopment plan. The passage of pedestrians up and down Smithford street will not be interfered with. Motor vehicles will be allowed to proceed as far as a turning circle just above the White Lion Hotel. Heavy vehicles such as are often seen in Smithford Street with goods for delivery at shop sand businesses will be additionally permitted to turn into Vicar Lane in order to facilities backing.

Burtons Building Demolition – A demolition gang has entered Burtons premises outside which scaffolding has been erected. The job will be  a heavy one for it will mean the removal of concrete floors and steel girders and as well as some substantial blocks of stone.

Wilsons premises adjoining Burtons block will be vacated next week-end and will be ready for the demolition men to start work. The Savings centre on the other side of Smithford street has been fetched down and Weaver to Wearers shop nearby is half demolished. Under the road near this point have been found the remains of an old wall constructed of massive block of stone. There were no fragments of pottery at hand to help in the determination of its age and it has been covered up again


The junction of Smithford Street & Broadgate had been a cornerstone of the city’s layout for hundreds of years. On the 5th January 1948 at 11am Smithford Street was closed traffic for ever more. The old entrance to Smithford Street was scrubbed out to make way for Broadgate House. The new upper precinct that forms the western route through the city centre was built approximately 20m to the north.   


March – 6,000 Gallons underwater tank to meet water needs. The problem of proving dry weather water supplies for the flowering shrubs in the Broadgate garden island has been solved by constructing an underground water tank in the basement of the Burton premises at the top of Smithford Street. It is to be filled with water draining off the roofs of the temporary shops opposite. This will be directed into a pipe passing underneath Broadgate through a culvert. Is that the reason for the missing tree in modern day Broadgate??

Burton’s (1,2 & 3 Broadgate)

Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer

M&S came to Coventry in 1929. The ancient buildings of 12,13 & 13a Smithford Street were demolished. The chapel at the rear on Vicar Lane was incorporated into the new store.

The Corporation was developing plans to widen the street – so the new store had a ‘false front’ that could be removed in the future. Shoplifting was a common occurrence. In 1940 like most of the city the store was destroyed.


Councillor Grindlay asked

“Who are Marks and Spencer and what is the nature of their business?”

(This was met with laughter at the meeting).

Alderman Batchelor replied

“Similar to Woolworths, but they don’t restrict themselves to sixpenny articles.”

The plan – temporary and permanent building erected on the site of No 12, 13, and 13a Smithford Street by Marks and Spencer Ltd (approved by the general Works Committee).

Vicar Lane corner will be splayed off so as to facilitate vehicular traffic between Smithford Street and the Lane. Mark’s and Spencer will be allowed to build a ‘temporary’ frontage on Smithford Street paying rent to the Corporation on lands for at least 10 years. Later the land will be used for street widening. Designed by Mr A. E. Blatzer of London at a cost of £300,000 to £400,000. The cost is expected between

12, 13 and 13a Smithford Street currently occupied by Hat manufacturing Company Ltd, J T Moy and Son Ltd and Broadway Tailors.

In 1927 a notice of dilapidation was served on Moy.

During the demolition of the final wall of the building immediately behind the premises of Messrs Marks and Spencer was commenced a hidden room was found.

The wall concerned was the furthest from the proposed arcade, and was unusually smooth and upright. It contained a fireplace. When the wall was knocked down it revealed another fireplace of older brickwork behind it. The most peculiar feature of the affair is the fact that there is a space of at least five feet between the two walls making, in reality, a secret apartment.

That this was ever inhabited is doubtful. However, because the place was sealed up entirely as it probably had been for centuries.

[Here’s a guess – Could this have been a Priest Hole?]

Marks and Spencer Ltd have decided to pay an interim dividend of 10% actual less tax on the ordinary and “A” ordinary shares of this company on account of the year ending 31st March 1931.

March – Dorothy Emeline was charged with the theft of a child’s pleated skirt value 2s 11d from Marks & Spencers stores on Saturday. She was placed on probation for six months.

June – Jeannie Wright (36) married – 41 Cow Lane sent to prison for 3 months for stealing razor Blades valued at 3s 6d from Marks & Spencer.

September – Theft of a lady’s skirt valued at 4s 11d Florence Marriott 23 Holbrook Lane was seen by the shop assistant of taking the skirt from a stall, put it under her coat and walk out. The store manager said the woman told him she had no money and she thought she could sell the skirt. The woman had four children and a husband who was unemployed. The bench gave her another chance – probation for six months.

July – Alice Worth found guilty of theft of many items from the Co-Op Woolworths and Marks & Spencers fined £4 and imprisoned for 28 days.

May – Rosa Harriet Tams – Housewife 56 took three tomatoes, one wash leather and ladies underclothing valued at 9s 10d from Marks and Spencer’s. Wife and mother of grown-up children. The family are all of good character – she did not know why she did it.  Bound over in the sum of £5 for six months.


June – Women’s Charity Cricket Match to raise funds for the hospital – Marks & Spencer staff vs Woolworths staff. Woolworth’s girls in white jerseys and shorts – Marks and Spencer girls white shirts and grey shorts.

August – Robert Stanley Stainer charged with stealing two Men’s shirts from Marks and Spencers.

October – Ada Wykes Housekeeper in Tile Hill stole two lady’s dresses, a lady’s handbag and an umbrella.

February – Why Not become a club holder? Spare time work earns a generous commission and helps your income considerably. No clerical worries, everting simple and straightforward. Satisfaction guaranteed – Apply at the Club Desk. Marks and Spencer Store 12-13 Smithford Street Coventry. 

September – Thomas Cooley found guilty of stealing six pocket wallets, a tobacco pouch, a purse, an alarm clock, boot polish and soap. 


November – One man sentenced to hard labour for 28 days and fines imposed on four women for stealing from Marks & Spencer. 

Alfred George Denscombe steam wagon driver stole four pairs of gents kid gloves and two mufflers to the value of £1, 3s 6d – he had served 13 terms in imprisonment the last in 1923. Two housewives – Jane Baldwin, Sarah Bond both charged with stealing boys boots, a pair of child’s shoes, half a pound of tea and various other articles to a value of 12s 8d both were fined £1. Mrs Florence Pratt and her daughter Mrs Bertha Howe were charged with stealing two shirts and a doll to the value of 8s 10 and were both fined £1. 

The store has now been compelled to hire a store detective to put a stop to all the pilfering!


April – Magistrate remarks:

“Maybe somethings should be done about the number of cases stores like Marks & Spencers bring to the courts.

The modern way of shopping in putting goods in temptation of the public may in part encourage this kind of unfortunate behaviour!”

April – Harriett Ingham widow charged with stealing shoes valued at 5s. let off with a  caution.

June – Maud McPherson charged with stealing goods to the value of 12s from Marks & Spencer and Woolworths. 

June – Ellen Potts charged with stealing a handbag – the store detective had seen her drop the handbag into a larger bag. Pleaded guilty and let off. 

June – Agnes McGuiness (29), Elsie Alton (18) and mary Bonder (17) charged with stealing three umbrellas, one pair of shoes, one child’s dress, two pairs of artificial silk knickers, one artificial silk scarf, one jar of face cream to a value of £1, 6s. The older woman fined 40s the other two fined 20s. 

November – Adelaide Jean Morris (21) charged with stealing gloves, scarves, slippers, a handbag, handkerchiefs, fountain pen, soap, tinned food, biscuits, a broach and toothpaste. Fined £3. 

November – Catherine Sarah Ann Stanley (39) charged with stealing lady’s gloves, a pair of child’s cloves a handbag, and ring. Fined £1

January – Beatrice Minshall (50) charged with stealing various articles. Fined 40s.

February – Initiative across the city shop traders to reduce opening times. Marks & Spencer along with Woolworth’s will now close at 8:30 pm on Saturdays rather than 9 pm to reduce the hour’s shop assistants need to work.

April – Violet Morgan (36) – Charged with shoplifting. 

May – Ellen Eliza Rushton (60) stole a pair of ladies fabric gloves and a tube of face cream. She said “since she had lost her daughter she had lost herself”. Fined £2.

May – Elizabeth Blackett (41) stole a pair of ladies gloves, a pot of sandwich paste and one tine of fruit. Her Doctor said she was of good standing – about a year ago her husband had met with a serious pit accident and since then she herself had gone out to work, but struggled due to illness. Probation for 12 months. ​

October – Mary Ainley found guilty of sealing a number of items. Fined 40s. Phyllis Edith Manning and Elsie May Hare both fined 40s for theft of various items. 

November – Violet Helen Simpson (44) stole a handbag fined £1. 

November – Doris Evely Ashby (18) stole various items – probation for 12 months. 

December – Over seven children lost their parents in the store and were cared for by the staff – a similar situation has arisen Woolworths. Owen and Owen have made special provision with an area near the bureau office with children’s books to keep lost children occupied while they wait for their parents. 


October – Edith Anne Parr (50) Widow and her daughter Margaret Jane Rogers (28) found guilty of stealing a number of items – all black. They were stolen for a funeral. The magistrate whilst sympathetic said it was no excuse and fined them each £2. ​

January – City Fire Brigade Called to Marks and Spencer within the city danger zone at 8.40 by the watchman who saw smoke emerging from behind the refrigerator on the cooked meats counter. The firemen who turned out with two machines found the electric motor of the refrigerator was on fire. This was promptly dealt with by chemical extinguishers – no damage was caused except to the motor which was burnt out.

February – Elsie Evelyn Walker (35) stole men’s kid’s gloves – fined £1. 

March – Annie Evely Ledbetter (38) May Kathleen Page (39) stole child’s dresses, a lady’s dress, a cardigan, two jerseys, a blouse and four torches. Each fined £1.

March – Annual Marks and Spencer Dance. 

July – Staff raise £3, 5s for War effort – Marks and Spencer corporate donate £2.

July – Lily Picken (35) fined £5 for stealing various items with the help of an 11-year-old boy who was put on 12-months probation. 

August – Mary Colquhoun , Isabel McPheators, Mary Ann Waugh and Jane Aqnew were all found guilty of theft. Each fined between £1, 10s and £3. 

August – Elsie Nora Mansell (30) pleaded guilty to theft of a pair of sandals, two pairs of ladies gloves and a lady’s skirt. Fined £2. 

September – Mrs Mary Elizabeth Fellows fined £2 for theft of a suit. 

September – Lily Jamieson (29) stole shoes and a vest – fined £2

November – Dorothy Hurt (38) stole jars of jam, fish paste, clothing and a loaf of bread. When apprehended in the store she said – I have plenty of money, and I would have paid for them if the young woman assistant had only asked me for the money. When arrested she was found with £10 in her possession. She had been in the city only a few weeks, having come from Wales. Her husband was in work and there was no excuse for her behaviour. As she stood crying in the dock “I didn’t want to take them, I don’t want the things and I don’t know what made me do it.  I have never done anything like that before”. She was fined 20s.


November 14th – The Coventry Marks & Spencer Store is destroyed in the Coventry Blitz. 

(more to come..)

Marks & Spencer

Coventry Arms

Coventry Arms

The central landmark in Broadgate. Demolished in the 1920s to make way for the National Provincial Bank. During the demolition stone from Coventry Castle / Cathedral was reportedly found, along with a 14th Century fireplace that was hidden under wooden panelling.

The panelling was later used to restore St Mary’s Guild Hall in the 1930s. Named the Coventry Arms by at least 1903. Below is a potted history of the last 25 years of its life.

Wanted a girl about 14 as Nurse Girl. Apply Newman “Coventry Arms”, Smithford Street, Coventry.

2nd September Coventry Motor and Cycle Carnival – 4th Annual parade committee meet at the Coventry Arms to discuss the next event planned for October.


14th October  Committee meet again. The plan – Assembly in the Barrack Square at 5 o’clock. Judging at 5.30. Three stoppages bottom of Holyhead Road, corner of Lower Ford Street and Raglan Street and top of Bishop Street. Money collectors  – Boxes may be obtained from the Coventry Arms, the offices

9th March Second Hand Bicycle Wanted: must be in good condition and cheap. Apply Coventry Arms Smithford Street.


 28th September – Fire at the Craven Arms Stables, Mr Walter Newman the landlord of the Coventry Arms helped move a cab, but slipped and sprained his ankle. (History of the Craven Arms coming soon, including the fire and the fire Brigades Peeping Tom Engine).

2nd January – Tickets for Coventry City F.C. and the Match with Crystal Palace – available from the Coventry Arms.

28th July Mr Walter Newman licensee of the Coventry Arms runs for the Guardians Vacancy Radford Ward on the Coventry Board of Guardians.

7th OctoberLicensing committee agree to the transfer of the licence from Mr Walter Newman to Mr Thomas Strong.

12th November – Tickets for the Grand Northern Union Football Match in Coventry – St Helens vs Hull. kick off at 3 pm.

3rd May – Coventry Northern Union Football Club First Annual Meeting held at the Coventry Arms.

6th October – Celebrating the first win of the Coventry Northern Union F.C. Mr Strong hosts an evening of entertainment for the Coventry players. 

13th February – Bar General Wanted experienced and good references required. Coventry Arms, Broadgate.

10th February – Inter-club Matches: Believed to be Billiards – Southam Coronation Club vs Coventry Arms Hotel. At Southam on Monday evening the victors winning by six points. Socres –

Southam: Dr Ormenrod 100, W.C. Collier 100, F.G. Watson 100, W.H. Plummer 80, A.Martin 85, Lt. Tuson 100, Dr Lattey 46. Total 611 

Coventry Arms T.Strong 86, H.G. Tett 70, E. Ingham 86, H Burton 100,  E. Venn 100, Vz. Ranford 75, T Watson 100, Total 627.

8th April Good Bar General Wanted – reference required Coventry Arms Broadgate.

11th – 26th June Young Girl daily to take children out – Mrs Jeffrey Coventry Arms.

25th February Bar General Wanted also general to assist in bar when required – Coventry Arms Broadgate.

23rd February – Fire Brigades Meeting held at the Coventry Arms.


28th August Married lady with baby, requires bed and sitting-room furnished – Apply Coventry Arms Broadgate.

23rd – 26th April – Girl wanted for housework and assist bar Coventry Arms, Broadgate.

19th August – Lost black and white cat answers name, Billy. Reward to be given to anyone returning to Coventry Arms, Coventry.

10th October – Bar General Wanted, also Cook General Coventry Arms, Coventry.


12th July – Gertrude Driver, munition worker stole a pair of scissors valued at 2s 3d the property of the Ministry of Munitions. Miss Driver was further summoned for receiving from a person unknown a metal tankard value 10s belonging to Thomas Strong of the Coventry Arms Coventry. She stated that she went to have a drink, and a man handed her the mug. Miss Driver refused to take it from the man, but when on the tramcar the man offered it to her again she put it on her lap. For the theft the girl was fined 25s and costs.

12th March – Mr Strong objects to a restaurant “Black Cat” 56-57 Hertford Street having an alcohol licence. Other objectors included Mr Nelson on behalf of the Coventry and District Licensed Victuallers Association, Mr Wilford the licensees of the Railway Inn, Mr H I Mander on behalf of the Coventry District Free Church Council and the Coventry Branch of the British Women’s Temperance Association. Who would want to drink alcohol while eating a meal at a restaurant?

29th May – Girl Wanted for housework and assist bar in evenings Coventry Arms Broadgate.


5th July – Mr Strong (land lord of the Coventry Arms) charged with driving a motor car at speed dangerous to the public in Greyfriars Lane, Smithford Street and Broadgate, on the night of June 19th 1919. Mr Strong was reported to be driving near Broadgate at 10-30 pm on June 19th. Coming out from Greyfriars Lane with full lights burning at a terrible speed. The engine was roaring and all out, and apparently travelling on the second or third gear.

The car just missed the lamp standard on the opposite side of the road, knocked down a man, continued at a wild pace turned around and finished inside Herford Street. Estimated speed: twenty to twenty-five miles an hour. Witnesses had to move away sharply to prevent being knocked down. Mr Strong had only been driving a car for five weeks, and on this night put his foot on the accelerator instead of the brake. The consequence was that the more he applied pressure to what he thought was the brake and greater was the speed of the car.

There was no doubt the estimate of the speed was exaggerated, but the incident did scatter the crowd. It was a pure accident and not a question of wilful misconduct or careless driving.

Defendant bore out his solicitor’s statement and said that when he saw the people he was excited and nervous and thought he did quite well to miss the people as he did. The case was found proved, though the magistrates accepted the defendant’s explanation. A fine of £10 was imposed £1 5s special costs.

17th February – Woman (daily) Wanted for cooking and house work; also Girl for Housework and assist bar, lie in Coventry – Coventry Arms.


30th July – Coventry Police Court: Mr Marson (Ironmonger) had ‘two’ drinks on Saturday 20th July in the Coventry Arms. At 2:15 pm the police were called to eject him for being drunk and disorderly. It took four officers to remove Mr Marson to the police station, St Marys Street. The police report he was very drunk, using filthy language. During his ejection one of the officer’s trousers were torn beyond repair. During his night in the cell, Mr Marson caused considerable damage. Local reports suggest Mr Marson had sadly turned to drink in recent years.

The Bench considered Mr Marson’s position in the city as well-known trades man for some years, decided to be lenient. For being drunk and disorderly he would be fined 40s and for the damage he would have to pay a fine of £5 in addition to the damage of (£10, 16s 6d).

12th April – Temporary licence transfer of the “The Coventry Arms” Smithford Street from Thomas Strong to Edward Reynolds.

14th May  – Good cook general required; good references Evenings off – Apply Coventry Arms Broadgate.

29th May – Licencing Justice: Application to extend hours of opening for city centre public houses. Estimated that 1,000 to 1,500 country people visited Coventry on Friday afternoons. Of which 200 or 300 are farmers resulting in a good deal of money being spent with the tradesmen.

5th July – Lost black and white fox terrier information or return to Coventry arms, Broadgate, Coventry.

2nd September – Bar General wanted must be used to business. Good references essential apply Coventry Arms Broadgate.

4th October – Lost white wire-haired Fox Terrier puppy. Name “Roy” Finder rewarded, return to Coventry Arms, Broadgate.

15th October – Barmaid (Smart) wanted week-ends Fridays and Saturdays Apply Coventry Arms Broadgate.

25th November – Bar General wanted. Good home and wages, must be used to business. Closed Sundays references essential Apply Coventry Arms Broadgate.

3rd November – Cook General (good) wanted; good home and wages – Apply Coventry Arms, Broadgate.

27th November – Bar General wanted, good home and wages, must be used to business. Closed Sundays references essential – Apply Coventry Arms Broadgate.

It was requested that the hours of opening be from 2.30 pm to 4.30 pm on each first day afternoon which coincided approximately with the times of the arrival and departure of the farmers. The facility would be treated as a privilege and would not be abused in any way.

22nd / 23rd July – Agricultural show held in Coventry. Pubs in town including the Coventry Arms allowed to open 2pm – 6pm. Last time the show came to Coventry was five years previously.

3rd February – Barmaid wanted weekends , quick trade – Apply Coventry Arms.

4th May – Bar General wanted, wages £1 per week live in, closed Sundays good references essential apply Coventry Arms.

27th June – Aftermath of the carnival – Mrs F. Wallace was trying to climb on to one of the window sills outside the Coventry Arms in order to get a good view of the Carnival Procession, when she slipped and fell to the ground cutting her head. She was detained in Hospital.

23rd September – Cook General wanted must be good plain cook. Wanted £1 week live in references required Apply Coventry Arms.

19th December – Coventry Arms allowed to open at 5 pm next Thursday instead of 6 pm on the occasion o Waratahs’ match with Warwickshire. – What’s the Waratah’s match? – click here for Wikki page.

13th April – The Brewers plan to pay £2,000 to the corporation to surrender The Coventry Arms licence.

21st June – Bar General Wanted, experienced, smart and quick. Wages £1 weekly. Closed Sundays good references essential – Apply Coventry Arms Broadgate, Coventry.

10th July – Bar General wanted experienced, smart and quick. Good references essential. Wages £1 week. Closed Sunday – Apply Coventry Arms Broadgate.

11th September – Demolition of Johnson and Mason’s Premises behind Coventry Arms on Hertford Street in progress. Great difficulty will be experienced in taking down the front portion of the premises which is fifty feet high. Messrs W.H. Jones and Son of Lockhurst lane await the ‘ownership’ of the Coventry Arms.

In the foundations of Messrs Johnson and Mason’s a number of building stones have been found that are thought to belong to the Coventry Castle of ancient days or the old monastery which was destroyed by Henry VIII.

15th October – Magistrates Court listing of a case for possession of the Coventry Arms. Case labelled “Mayor & Corporation of Coventry Vs. Edward Reynolds” The case was dropped before it was heard in court.

29th October – Corporation takes possession of the Coventry Arms pub portion. Possession of the dwelling areas to be taken on the 5th November.


2nd March – Corporation in negotiations with owners to purchase the property for street widening. The General Works Committee Invites Tenders for Demolition of the Coventry Arms & National Provincial Bank Premises Smithford Street.

Demolition - Coventry Arms

November 1928


7th November – The famed 17th-century oak panelling in one of the ground floor rooms is to be carefully removed for safe keeping. The woodwork includes a huge carved oak fireplace reaching from the floor to ceiling with the date 1621.

When the panelling was removed, a 14th century carved stone fireplace was uncovered in marvellous condition. Approximately 9ft 6″ high, 8ft 6″ wide, with a depth of 12″. Originally constructed with an open hearth, with a wide chimney. The open fireplace allowed for approximately 4ft high and about 8ft wide. Above the fireplace, there is a carved frieze approximately 8ft wide, 2ft 6″ high 10″ thick. Containing five panels each with a shield, upon traces of coats of arms can be seen. The central panel contains a carved figure of an ecclesiastical character. The fire place obviously came from a building of great wealth and importance.

Above the frieze is a wide stone recess, providing a stone shelf while along the top is a further stone lintel containing handsome mouldings, with a further central figure that has a bearded and folded arms. Unfortunately the concentrated heat upon one side of the fireplace has crumbled the stonework. The stone fireplace is to be carefully removed.

A second discovery – In the room above there was a second oak panelled apartment. Again when the panelling was removed second stone fireplace was discovered, situated immediately above the one already described. Though somewhat similar in size the upstairs fireplace is not so lavishly ornamented as the lower one. It is 9ft high 6ft 2 in wide and has a carved frieze rail 1ft 6 inch high. The panel is diamond shaped about 11 inches square also containing shields. The coats of arms and a gild lion can be clearly seen.

8th November A party from the Corporation, including the Mayor inspected the wonderful old carved stone fireplaces discovered in the “Coventry Arms” demolition.

Coventry Arms is no more...

1928 13th December Lost white fox terrier Dog address collar Coventry Arms Broadgate please return to 2 St Osburgs Road or Police Station – Reward.

Coventry Arms

Kings Head Hotel

King's Head Hotel

The Kings Head Inn was an important coaching house in the centre of Coventry. In the late Victorian period it was transformed into a grand hotel. later, in the 1930s it was updated and destroyed in 1940.

The Kings Head started life as a coaching house on Smithford Street, which can be seen on the right-hand side of this illustration. 

May – Saturday 7th  Kings Head Assembly Room, King’s Head Inn, a selection of music will be played by Master and Miss Smith.

The boy is 7 and the girl is 5. They will play the violin, piano-forte and musical glasses. To begin at 7pm, tickets 2s 6d each, children half price. Tickets from Mr Smith at the George Inn, Little Park Street. Also available from the Herald newspaper offices, Coventry.


The Duke of Wellington visited Coventry and stayed at the Kings Head.

July – Mr Green, a balloonist accompanied by a young lady made his nineteenth assistant in his magnificent balloon from Warwick to Lutterworth. Mr Green and his intrepid assistant packed up their balloon and travelled back to Warwick.

On root, they changed their horses at the Kings’ Head, Coventry. The next day the following poem was published in the paper by a Coventry local ..

“Green, who rides above the clouds, and makes the people wonder, might soon be wrapped in a shroud, by one loud clap of thunder; ‘T’woud send his air balloon in twain, and send him headlong down again.”

November – Warwickshire Agricultural society Committee Meeting held at the Kings Head Coventry to discuss prizes for the year, and other business. The committee will be happy to see any of the members of the society – dinner on the table at 3 o clock. 

December 1st – Richard Crane charged with stealing from Mr Williamson, the King’s Head Coventry. Mr James Williamson, the Landlord of the Kings Head Coventry, identified the property [including a spoon and a plate bought from the predecessor in the Kings Head]

September – Warwickshire agricultural society will meet Friday 6th October next in a field near the village of Baginton. A competition for Ploughing will take place. The hedging and ditching competitions will be in a field in the occupation of Mr Robbins, about half a mile distant between Baginton and Stoneleigh Park. After the committee will meet at 2 pm at the Kings Head Coventry for dinner and to arrange the competitions for the next year. Dinner on the table at three o clock.


16th March – The Kings Head Inn, Coventry to be let, with immediate possession at a very moderate rent.

The Kings Head family hotel, commercial and posting house, established upwards of a century and situated in the centre of the city of Coventry. In the immediate locality of the Coventry station of the London and northwestern railway to and from which there is an omnibus belonging to the inn. Comprising of 30 good sized lofty chambers and servants bedrooms, nine sitting, drawing and dining rooms of large dimensions and equal in comfort to any private apartments. Market room, 49 feet by 16 feet 6 inches, commercial room, well-constructed bar, tap, coach office, the usual description of domestic offices.

A superior arched cellaring [given the location the cellar could be very old – the 14th century?], adapted for wholesale stores, an extensive range of coach-houses, stabling, granaries and requisite outbuildings.

The tenant may be accommodated with the valuable and appropriate Household Furniture, Wines, Horse and other effects at a fair valuation. For a view apply on the premises and for any further particulatrs and to read, to Messrs Woodcock, Twist and Son Solicitors or Messrs. Brown & Clarke, Auctioneers, Coventry.


19th December – Charles Sabin Most respectfully informs his friends that his House Warming Dinner will take place on Wednesday at the Kings Head.

N.B. Dinner at half past four o’clock.

November – Clergy meeting of the Archdeaconry of Coventry – A meeting of the Clergy of the Archdeaconry of Coventry was held at the King’s Head Coventry. Upwards of 300 were present more than any similar meeting in the memory of the oldest member of that body. Point of discussion – that so-called bishop of Birmingham..

January – Warwickshire Scripture Readers Association Annual Meeting held at the Kings Head.

October – Charles Sabin (Landlord 1848 – 1851) Begs to thank his friends and the public in general for their kind patronage and wishes to inform them that the business of the hotel will be carried on as usual. N.B. Post horses, cars, gig & close boxes and lock-up coach houses.

March – County Fire Office London annual county meeting.

April – Coventry Election: Kings Head Coventry 10 o’clock Friday  Electors and freemen of Coventry.

September – Rams for Sale – 10 Purebred Shropshire Yearling Rams

August – Pollution of Rivers  – A meeting was held at the Kings Head to discuss what measures could be taken to abate the nuisance arising from the sewage of the city of Coventry being emptied into the rivers Sherbourne, Sowe and Avon.

Present: Hon. And Rev J. W. Leigh (chairman) W. Davenport Bromely Esq. M.P. George Jones Esq I.P. Evans Esq, Richard Robbisns Esq Messrs, Weston W. Robbins T. Harris, Power, Carter, Berry & co.

The resolution passed: Owners and occupiers on the banks of the river have and are sustaining from sewage being emptied into the river. It will be impressed upon them the necessity of having the aforesaid nuisance wholly removed or abated.

If the commissioner, appointed by parliament, requesting them to visit, inspect and report upon the Sherbourne, the Sowe and the Avon rivers from the city of Coventry to Warwick Castle – that the committee will visit and preserve that kind of neighbourly feeling which now exists between  inhabitants of the neighbourhood and the city of Coventry. But should they, unfortunately, fail to do so legal steps shall be advised by counsel.

January – The yard and stables of the Kings Head Hotel Coventry to be let with immediate possession. The horses (Blacks and greys) in good working condition; Broughams, cars, hearses, mourning coaches, cabs, omnibus, harness., to be taken by valuation. The yard and stabling are convenient and spacious and there is an old and valuable connection, which may be largely extended. Full particulars with inventory may be had of Mr Thomas Clarke, Auctioneer – Coventry.

December – Kings Head Hotel Coventry post horse, car and cab trades will be carried on as usual, in conjunction with the hotel. An omnibus to meet the trains. Excellent hearses and mourning coaches. Sabin & Co. proprietors are also available.

March – Warwickshire schoolmasters association met at the Kings Head. To discuss the new code of teaching. Mr. J . Steane of Holy Trinity school observed that he had no desire to underrate the value of music being taught in an elementary school, but he thought the code required too much of the teachers and children. If the inspectors were not satifsfied with the manner in which the songs were sung.. If the children’s voices were a little coarse the teacher was called to account!


June 29th – Kings Head Sale on Thursday 

(Sale due to losses on the Stock Exchange)

[Known as the Panic of 1873 – 1877]

A highly important sale of RARE OLD CHINA, finely executed Florentine bronzes, OIL PAINTINGS, curious metal articles from the Spanish revolution and other works of art, the property of a connoisseur reluctantly compelled to dispose of the same owing to recent heavy losses in connection with the stock exchange. 

The sale includes fine specimens of old – Chelsea, Capo di Monte, Delft, Plymouth, Vienna, Frankenthal, Bow, Derby, Spode, oriental, serves, Majolica, Berlin, Dresden, Worcester, Bristol, enamels etc.

March– Notice! Notice! Mr. L. Knight specialist in the Eye and Ear, will attend at the Kings Head Hotel Coventry On Friday, And every alternate Friday for the convenience of his patients in Coventry and Neighbourhood Hours 4.30 to 7 pm Patients will please bring cards and bottles.


Kings Head Hotel


Every accommodation can be obtained there; also that it is intended to make extensive alterations and additions to the hotel with the view of increasing the accommodation and promoting the comfort of those who patronise it. Cabs & Carriages & Posting business carried on as usual.

The Kings Head coaching is transformed into a large Victorian hotel

The Kings Head Hotel

Opens December 1879

January – Kings Head Hotel Company – Livery and Bait Stables Good Stabling & Loose boxes Lock up Coach Houses Open and closed carriages Broughams Landaus Wagonettes, Wedding Carriages Cars and Hansoms Always Ready Orders received at Car Office Kings Head Yard Hertford Street Entrance.

November – Mayor remarks:

“When we look through the city and see the great improvements that have taken place in Broadgate in the giving up of the property and the corporation for the widening of the high street near the bank, the purchase of land and the building of the market hall the setting back of the Kings Head hotel in Smithford street the proposed alterations which will be carried out very quickly in the opening up of west orchard I think we may feel satisfied with ourselves that Coventry is improving”.

December – NOTICE !! King’s Head hotel company – Public Luncheon bar will not open on the 18th Inst 17th December.


From where to Buy in Coventry  

In the course of the present century and more especially since 1850, great improvements have been made in various quarters of the city. One of the greatest improvements was undoubtedly the building of the “King’s Head Hotel,” a handsome five storied building of red brick, with white stone facings, situated in the very heart of the city, with frontages in Hertford Street and Smithford Street, at the junction of Broadgate and High Street. the principal entrance is in Hertford Street and the first thing that strikes one on entering is the fine proportions of the entrance hall and vestibule, which is handsomely decorated and adorned with some fine works of art, also the handsome wide staircase leading from same to the upper floors of the hotel.

The splendidly appointed commercial room the finest in Coventry, is immediately to the right of the entrance hall, while to the left is the wholesale wine, spirit, and cigar department, from whence the very extensive cellars are approached well stocked with an unusually good supply of choice old wines, spirits etc. At the extreme corner of the hotel is a spacious and beautifully fitted and ornamented bar, each window of which is filled with rich, stained glass, specially painted and graphically depicting various well known incidents in the history of the city. 

While on this subject we may mention that stained glass is profusely used for window decoration throughout the building. A well upholstered, commodious and elegantly ornamented lounge and hotel bar is in the centre of the building approached from Hertford and Smithford Streets, and by a covered way from the principal entrance. Adjoining this is the billiard salon, again the finest in the city, in which are two of the most improved tables by Thurston and Co. with combination cushions; every accommodation for both players and lookers-on being provided. The corridors are remarkably light, cheerful and well ventilated, paved with encaustic tiles and appropriately ornamented. Next the hotel-bar and approached by a separate entrance from Smithford Street is a private bar and smoke room. Upstairs the drawing, dinning, coffee, sitting rooms, as well as bedrooms are all well and luxuriously furnished. Comfort and convenience seem to be the predominating elements of the place and to the attainment of each in their highest degree the perfection of luxury cleanliness and good order is apparent to which Mr and Mrs George Fox-Spencer both devote their energies.

Brandies, whiskeys, ales and stout, and other liquors and cigars, are on hand in large quantities and everything supplied is notably of the highest possible standard. The stables are well managed and a good stud of horses for saddle and posting purposes are kept and the hotel omnibus meets all the principal trains, so that visitors need to have no trouble with regard to the safe removal of their luggage. 

The culinary arrangements of the “King’s Head” are particularly interesting. They are situated on the top floor of the hotel, and roasting and grilling etc are done in cleverly contrived ovens, which permit the products of the combustion to escape. There is no smell from the cooking machines, so that visitors are never troubled with odours from the kitchens permeating the air of the other departments. We particularly noticed these improvements in the culinary contrivances, a matter not sufficiently studied in many elegant hotels, where more attention might certainly be paid to the department of the chef de cuisine. On  the occasion of our visit to the “King’s Head” we were invited by Mr G Fox-Spencer, the proprietor, to inspect the kitchens and must confess that the appliances the order observed and the scrupulous cleanliness of the larders, and in fact, of every spot where the cooks perform their important duties, surprised us. 

We must not omit to mention that there are large assembly, auction and commercial sample rooms attached to the hotel. In connection with and but a few minutes’ drive from, the hotel is the King’s Head Farm; here tennis-courts and a bowling green, as well as other amusements, are provided for the use of visitors; a certain number of whom can be accommodated in a comfortably appointed cottage on the farm. The hotel is supplied with fresh butter, eggs, milk and vegetables from the farm daily, this being a unique and excellent feature, ensuring everything of the kind used for consumption being perfectly fresh and wholesome. To sum up, the hotel is an immense advantage to Coventry and is certainly one of the very first as it is the largest in the city. We were never before so favourably impressed with hotel management as on the occasion of our visit to the King’s Head. 

Kings Head Hotel

Market Hall & Tower

Market Hall & Clock Tower

The Coventry Market Hall was built in the 1860s, complete with a clock tower. It became the beating heart of the city until its destruction in 1940.


The ‘old’ Market Hall was a relatively small structure situated to the West of Broadgate, between West Orchards and Smithford Street. Built in the yard of the Peacock’s Inn, in 1719. It was known by some as Solomon’s Temple – apparently named after one of the custodians of the Market building. However important this market building was, the main market was the open air market in Broadgate.

January – Coventry Corporation considers the idea of a new Market Hall

February – Land on Holyhead Road sold off by the Corporation to fund the New Market Hall.


Alderman H Soden –

“The state of Broadgate on Market Days was a disgrace to the city – positively uncivilised!

It had been decided some time ago that the crockery dealers should be restricted to Market Street and the fish sellers to another part.

But lately the crockery dealers have found their way back to the centre of the town and are making a great nuisance of themselves!”

20th August – Queen Victoria gives Royal Assent to the building of the Coventry Market Hall via the Coventry Market Hall Act 1863 

December – The Corporation reports the cost is between £5,000 – £10,000 for the buildings, about £6,000 for the land but that excludes the property already owned by the Corporation. The Clerk then reports a figure of £25,000 to £30,000 for the whole project. [Sounds like he was making it up on the spot!].

January –  An exhibition at St Mary’s Hall of several designs, each comprising of 7-8 drawings. They were all well received by the Corporation and the people of Coventry.

However, the winning design was modified by the Corporation to allow for a Crystal Palace style roof from the second best design. The site chosen will remove a number of old buildings that a strange to the city would hardly believe could exist in the centre of a respectable old place like Coventry.

The primary entrance to the Market Hall will be from West Orchards that will include a row of high-quality shops. The second entrance will be via Market Street. The entrance from Broadgate will be widened with the removal of the City Arms Inn. In all, this will be a marked improvement and benefit to public sanitation.

The ornamental tower, adapted from the fixing of a clock was taken from the winning design was not to be erected immediately due to cost. It may, however, be added with advantage at a future period when the town is more prosperous. It has been proposed that a time ball might be added to its extreme summit instead of the customary wind vane – the watchmakers of the city would see this as a great advantage to be in immediate communication with Greenwich.

September – A suggestion of a ceremony and dinner to mark the laying of the foundation stone was put forward. The motion was not carried and so, never too place.

Contract awarded to Mr W Tomlinson of Coundon – Between 1865 and 1867 the demolition and building work takes place.

Grand Opening

Wednesday 19th June 1867

The Coventry and Midland Manufacturing, Industrial and Art Exhibition 

Local Societies & Associations are invited to take part in a procession on the opening day. 
Notice to exhibitors – no goods will be received after 10th June.
Season tickets (including admission on the opening day) will be ready on and after Monday next.
They will be on sale at the Herald Office & Corn Exchange – Adults 15s, Children 7s 6d.

Two enormous lumps of Coal from Wyken Colliery – each weighing up to two Tons will be standing against the exits.

Numerous models of buildings.

Interesting displays of natural products of minerals and fossils.

A quantity of old armour and guns from Coombe Abbey.

300 Pictures on loan from the Earl of Craven, Earl of Dudley, Earl of Warwick, Lord Leigh, Mr Bromley MP, Mr Wise MP and some treaures from Dr Dewes and Mr Gulson. Rev J W Leigh has provided a selection of water colour drawings. Mr Eaton MP specimens of Alhambra decoration taken from the Alhambra Palace.

Ancient Corporation records will be arranged in cases down the centre.

Valuable assortment of antiquities from Lichfield museum will be on display.

The celebrated Kenilworth Buffett of carved oak will be on display, which formed an attractive object in the great exhibition of 1851 and was afterwards purchased by the inhabitants of Warwick and presented by them to the Earl of Warwick on his marriage. [ The buffet has not moved from Warwick Castle – click here ]

Every Day – the fair fountain will be flowing, pipping Bullfinches & Machinery in Motion, Doors open at 10 o’clock and close at dusk.

The Exhibition will be open every Saturday afternoon after 2pm for the WORKING CLASS at six pence each.

[To the musical profession – a gentlemen required to act as organist and pianist at the Coventry Exhibition, also six instrumentalists for the quadrille band – apply at the market hall]

  • Right Honourable Lord Leigh
  • Lord Lieutenant of Warwickshire
  • The Right Honourable the Earl of Clarendon
  • K.G. James Marriott
  • Esq Mayor of Coventry
  • The Right Rev. the Lord Bishop of Worcester
  • The Right Honourable Lord Lyttelton
  • Lord Lieutenant of Worcester
  • The Right Honourable the Earl of Aylesford
  • The Right Honourable Earl Howe
  • The Mayors of Tamworth, Lichfield, Nottingham, Derby and Stratford, Captain Adams
  • Rev. J.H.Iles (Wolverhampton)
  • Rev. R.H. Baynes (Coventry)
  • Rev. S.H Wilddrington
  • Rev. Dr Temple, Rev. A.W. Wilson (Coventry)
  • Rev. E.E. Delf (Coventry)

July – Shilling days – Monday, Tuesdays Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Half Crown Days – Thursdays. Children Half Price, Season Tickets down to 10s.

August – ‘Everyone should read Mrs Brown’s Trip to the Exhibition at Coventry priced at two pence published by Mr W. Fred of Taunton’.

Exhibition Prize Medal – The committee of the Coventry Exhibition hereby offer a prize of £5 for the best design for a medal to be given o the successful exhibitors.

1st November – Starnurer Howkin – DRUNK and DISORDERLY! in Market Street – The prisoner pleaded guilty and expressed his regret for the offence. The bench discharged him with a fine of 2s 6d in the poor box.

20th November – The letting of Market Hall Shops and pitches will start at 12 o’clock promptly. The sale of ale, porter, wines or spirits will not be permitted in any part of the market hall.

2nd December – Market Traders OUTRAGE! They are now paying four times the rents they did in Broadgate. They make a request o the Mayor and Aldermen that they can trade each of the first five evenings of the month until 8 pm with the use of free gas light.

Saturday 30th November 1867

Last Open Air Market in Broadgate

Under the Coventry Market Hall Act 1863 – Any person other than a licensed hawker, who sell’s or exposes for sale in any pace in this city expect his own dwelling place or shop will be liable to be a penalty not exceeding forty shillings.

This will come into effect on Monday 2nd December 1867.

July – Property on Broadgate bought by the Corporation to be demolished to make a wide access to the Market.

November – The roof of the market hall is leaking. The market committee say they have painted it as best they can but can never guarantee that it will never be watertight.

September – Mr Kemp’s celebrated Hal Green Cabbage Plants available at Coventry Market Hall on Friday 21st and the following two Fridays. Orders left at the White horse will be punctually attended to.

The Market Hall is struggling to make any money, with most of it empty. The Corporation suggests moving the Butcher’s from Butcher’s Row into the Market Hall.  Another suggestion was to mothball the main hall and only use the outdoor area and the minor hall. Neither idea are carried out.

[A white elephant in the making?]


Tower & Clock Opened to the Public

Mr E T Loseby won the contract for the clock and was awarded £308 10s but owing to Mr Losbey’s desire to make the clock as perfect as possible, it is believed to have cost him in the region of £600.

A clause in the contract – for every second the clock varied over 1 second the winner of the contract would forfeit £1. The clock was to be wound once per week. The clock was finsihed by June 1870.

[Years later the clock was described as the second best public clock mechanism in the UK, second only to that of Big Ben]

October – Billingsgate language that is begin used by the fish stalls is untenable! can anything be done to abate this nuisance?

11th June – The Coventry Midlands Fancier’s Society – first annual meeting show of pointing and other dogs. Schedule of prizes can be obtained from Mr J W Mills 73 Little Park Street. Entries to be made by 25th May 1879.

June – Post of custodian of the Market Clock – responsible for winding and regulating the clock, salary of £10 per annum. terminable by three months notice on either side.

19th November – A group of men watched the clock awaiting the electrical signal from Greenwich, so that watches could be compared and if need be rectified. Mr Samuel Corbett of Smithford Street is in charge of the clock – along with many clocks in the Coventry area for factories and mansions. 85 steps to the clock and a further 30 to the roof where the bell is located which strikes on the hour. The summit of the tower also carries the wires which are connected to the time signal from far below.

The maker E.T. Loseby of Leicester was born in 1817, a son of a clockmaker. Bullet holes observed in the clock face – the crack from them is monitored with dates recorded next to marks – the first is 31st May 1912. The latest was recorded as the 6th June 1914 which reached the rim and is now turning back on itself. [Who knows why the didn’t like the clock to shoot it?]

Four gas lamps make the clock face visible which are lite automatically at 6:30 pm. The clock tower is 100ft high, diameter 5ft wide, numbers are 91/2 inches, minutes are 1 1/2 inches, minutes 2ft 10 1/2 inches with a breath of swell of 5 inches and an hour hand 2ft  1/2 inches long with a breath of swell 5 1/2 inches. The bell is 10 cwt and is struck by two hammers alternatively 25 lbs each with a fall of 5 inches. The weight driving the striking part is 450 lbs and the hand motion weight is 150 lbs. Each of the large weights has a clear feet of 40 feet in eight days.


“The Magistrate expressed the opinion that the Market Hall should make better protection against small boys!”

August – Four boys aged nine to eleven were brought before the magistrates charged with Larceny. Arthur Edgar Longbottom (Aged 10, 6 Bully Yard), Peter Hogan (Aged 10, 17 Greyfriar’s Lane), William Ball (Aged 9, 34 Warwick Lane), Joseph Ball (Aged 9 Greyfriary’s Lane) all scholars of Chyelsmore school.

Accused of stealing twenty-seven pocket knives, three sets of feeler gauges – the property of Edward Norton an ironmonger who has a stall in the Market Hall. Along with ten shillings worth of chocolate belonging to Thomas Herbert Glenn who also has a stall in the Market.

The spikes on the bottom of the arcade were forded away between Thursday evening and Friday morning. The boys all pleaded guilty. The parents of the boys had acted very well and took every precaution to see that their boys told the truth.

The boys had hidden the items in a partly demolished house in Greyfriars Lane, where they had been playing. The defendants were bound over the probation of offenders Act to be of good behaviour for twelve months.

Market Hall & Tower

The Rex Cinema

The Rex Cinema

Gone with the Wind...

The Rex cinema, built in 1937, it was one of the most sophisticated cinemas in the UK. Sadly it only lasted 3 years 6 months and 17 days before it was completely destroyed in World War II. The night before it was due to show "Gone with the Wind".

Mr H.T. A. Philpot makes an announcement at a social gathering in December 1935 of his intention to build a new Cinema in Coventry that will include a café and snack bar. Coventry Corporation sold the land at the recently completed Corporation Street for £17,250 on condition that a cinema and shops will be completed within 18 months.

Restaurant – clean modern lines, soft indirect lighting, a tropical bird aviary and mirrors. The restaurant will be terraced in the style of gay continental clubs.

Snack Bar – a frieze of caricatures of famous film stars sprayed onto the wall.  

Auditorium – warm soft pastel shades of red with metallic finishes. Large vertical coves and square panels that will light the main ceiling. Curtain – gold fire proof satin.

Entrance Hall – will be brilliantly lit with soft red and gold. The pay boxes stocked with chocolate and tobacco kiosks. The large foyer will provide for both the stalls and balcony so there will be no external queuing in bad weather.

July – Building work began. Students from the Technical college visit the building site to admire the new modern pile driving method to ensure perfect foundations. First-time piles of this type to a depth of 18 ft were used in Coventry.

Apparently – During foundation works – a large masse of old foundations, huge quantities of soft black mud and a huge amount of water ingress. Large masses of horns of cattle bones and what appeared to be blood were encounter. It was suggested at the time by Mr J B Shelton (enthusiastic antiquarian) the site was once the site of the Bablake pool. If more excavations were made he suggested an old mill may have been encountered. During foundation works at the wine lodge, corner of corporation street, an ancient paddle was found. It was also suggested the large mass of cattle bones may have been from a period when the animal herds were slaughter on mass due to a plague.

Injury! Workmen injured on site – John Kirby (28) treated for a cut to head and shock. Henry Bunker (60) cut to the face and injury to the leg.  And again, Dec 36 – Ambulance called for William Deacon suffering a cut to the head after a mallet fell on him!

Cinema designed by Robert Cromie, with Mr Montague Marvin acoustic expert ensured perfect acoustics. Seating Capacity for 2,562 (500 in the circle, 2062 in the stalls). Total cost £150,000 £6,000 on furniture, decoration and kitchen equipment. Restaurant seating capacity 200, snack bar 100. Between 9th Feb – 28th Feb 1937 663 lunches, 1,218 teas, 1,039 dinners averaging 150 meals per day.

450 / 500 Tons of steel costing £12,000. Cantilevered girder for the balcony: 98 feet long, 8ft 6 inches wide, weighing 46 tons, cost £1,150 and £110 to transport it from Glasgow. 113 Piles were sunk for the foundation. The steel frame encased in brick with white reconstituted Portland Stone with a cavity ensuring the cinema is sound and damp proof.

Long window 56 feet overlooking Corporation Street. Kitchen to be ultra modern and fitted with all gas appliances – A large Regulo controlled range with the new solid top and four ovens.


Opening Night

Monday 8th February 6:50 pm. 

500 guests of the management – enough to fill the circle, stalls to be opened to the public on a first come first served basis.

Mayor [A.H. Barnacle] opened the cinema, congratulated the Philpot Brothers for a wonderful building which would undoubtedly help popularise corporation street. He added, the street had been subject to much criticism, but would be given a new start with the Rex, before long the street would gain popularity and importance of Corporation Streets in other cities.

The Mayor remarked – during his youth the great fair was the only principle source of amusement. Colonel W.F. Wyley, added – I recall a time when Coventry had only one small theatre – in Vicar Lane. [This memory would go back to about 1880 and his memory would be of the Empire Palace which stood near, what is now, Barracks Car Park]

Congratulatory telegrams came from W.F. Strickland M.P. (who couldn’t attend), Mr Lupino Lane, Mr & Mrs George Formby, Mr Basil Dean etc.

Mr Billy Milton (British Film Star), Miss June Duprez, the former Coventry Repertory company actress who is now enjoying screen success were introduced to the audience.  M’lle Vanda Greville, the French film actress was also in attendance but was to shy to come on to the stage.

The programme included – God save the king, Coventry Mayor Speech, British Movietone News, Bottles (cartoon), Interlude – Wurlitzer Organ, Feature Film – San Francisco (about the 1906 earthquake, 30 years previous, likely many of the guest would have read the news first hand).

Wurlitzer Organ – only one in Coventry

Mr Reginald Dixon was at the helm (but some reports that he was ill that night and Arthur Aikman stood in..)– he closed his performance with an extremely ‘hot’ version of Tiger Rag – Recording of him playing at Blackpool here. Reginald Dixon was booked for 4 days. Harry Farmer was to follow. 

Many guests danced on the stage to music by the Hippodrome Orchestra under the direction of Mr. W. Pethers who composed a piece especially for the night.

Projectionists – George Smith and Eddie Wileman

Only known image of the Rex Cinema restaurant

February –

16th 8pm, only a week after the cinema had opened a power cut caused the cinema to close early. All 2,200 customers were given commentary tickets. 

2,500 school children from across Warwickshire attend a Robert Mayer series of concerts for Children.

18th – Mirrophonic sound reproduction to be installed in the Rex after many transatlantic cables with the American company. The Rex is to be the first cinema in Europe to be fitted with the sound system. It was hoped this would have been ready for the opening night, sadly it proved to be impossible to obtain the system in time.

Thanks to the new Di-phonic horn system everything recorded on the soundtrack of the film, every variation in pitch and volume, is evenly distributed throughout the auditorium, preventing ‘dud spots’. The system adds a quiet beauty, even the rustling of a dress is fully auditable with the Mirrophonic sound.

At a trade show in London where the system was demonstrated, an audience of cinema professionals who had calmly sat through showings of San Francisco in their own theatres using conventional sound systems were fetched from their seats during the terrifying sounds conveyed during the earthquake sequence.

The Rex Cinema Coventry will be a ‘show house’ for the sound system. Hundreds of important people in the cinema industry from Great Britain, and indeed, Europe will travel to Coventry to hear our cinema sing aloud.

March –

George Formby makes a personal appearance at the Rex during an afternoon performance, whilst he is performing at the Theatre Royal Birmingham in “Dick Whittington”.

Cinema applies to the council for a licence to sell intoxicating liquor – summary of some of the comments:

Any person dining at the Rex, who would like to take whisky or beer with his meal has to send out for it. The drink has to be carried through the streets when it rains it is unfortunate the drinks are watered down. It would be impossible to carry cocktails from the nearest licenced premises without spilling them. Mr R. Oxley of the Queens Hotel objected to the licence. He said, he had visited the Rex Cinema, but not the restaurant, however, he had heard birds whistling overhead.

Mr Ferraro oversaw the catering at the Rex. He had previously worked at Ciro’s London and 12 trips on the Queen Mary. During the licensing hearing, it was asked – “Has the manager found that the Rex, unlike the Queen Mary, will not run on water?”

After a long hearing, the Coventry Licensing Justice decided to grant a licence for the consumption of intoxicating liquor with meals for a term of 3 ¼ years. NO vertical drinking to be permitted.

Plans made to combine the snack bar with the Rex banqueting hall next door. A small snack bar (that looks more like a cocktail bar) was to be installed in the restaurant.

May –

200 cinema electricians and projectionists from across the Midlands are invited to a special look around and lunch at the restaurant.

Royal heritage film to be shown every day during the week of the coronation. Any Boy, of any age, with the name REX will be given two free seats upon the presentation of their birth certificate.


November – Famous American Visit – Mr Spyras Skouras who owns over 800 cinemas in America was on holiday in England.

He made a special visit to Coventry to see the Rex cinema after it was recommended to him as one of the best provincial cinemas. Mr Skouras had visited several London cinemas and had been bitterly disappointed.

However, he was obviously delighted with the Rex cinema, Coventry. He commented upon the skilful design of the cinema, he said the restaurant was the best he had seen associated with a cinema outside of America.

Fire in the neighbouring shops – papers fall into the electric fire. Fire brigade quick put it out, no major damage.

The Coventry branch of the Electrical Association for Women met at the Rex Cinema.

January – Air Defence Cadet Corps Appeal: The sum of £78 has been raised by the appeal made at the Rex Cinema last week for funds to provide greatcoats, boots and other equipment for members of the No. 8 F (Frederick Bird) squadron of the Air Defence Cadet Corps, Coventry.

Through the co-operation of Mr H. T. A. Philpot and the management of the cinema the appeal was made by various speakers, each night prior to the showing of the air film “The lion has wings”.

The squadron expresses appreciation of the generous response of the public and states that the total contributed includes a donation of 10 guineas from No. 5 Group Centre of the Observer Corps.

Last image the Rex - The army makes an appeal for funds
The last advert for the Rex - Many local adverts in the build up to "Gone with the Wind" showing on the 26th August 1940 at 1.15 and 6.15 daily.


25th August – Direct hit by a high explosive bomb lands on the circle blowing the cinema apart.

The frontage and restaurant survive. Local paper – just a single line saying it’s out of the listing. The Avery in the restaurant was damaged but some of the birds were found to be still on their perches.

The nearby West Orchard Church & West Orchard Congregational Sunday School led the Easter parade just before the war. A large colourful banner was used in in the precession. After the bombing, it was found floating tattered in the breeze on the debris of the Rex Cinema.

Reports of bombing in/around 2nd November / early October? another hit destroys the cinema, nothing is left this time.

Later stories were reported in the 1970s – Eddie Wileman projectionist went to the cinema on Monday Morning to get ready for the showing of Gone with the wind – Corporation Street was fenced off and the Rex had gone with a blast.

19th March – Two cases of theft of lead the property ministry of supply from sites in Coventry came before the Coventry magistrates yesterday. In one case, the theft of lead from the site of the Rex cinema corporation street was alleged against two Birmingham men – Arthur Percy Griffin, 69 and Thomas Leo Leathem. Detective Coleman said Leathem was employed as a labourer salvaging material from the Rex site, and the other man was a lorry driver moving the material. The two men took the lead to a metal merchant and received £1 17s. 6d. Leathem told the Bench that he had a fit of temper and took the metal. Griffin said other drivers had had orders not to take it, but he himself had not had any such order.

Each man was fined £3 and Leathem was ordered to pay £1 7s and Griffin 10s. 6d costs.

June 14th – Coventry people heard the sound of an explosion on Sunday Morning. The façade of the Rex Cinema was blown up by a charge, the south side of Corporation Street had to be closed temporarily. 

September 26th – Battle of Britain Parade Sunday Programme: A great combined parade, representative of all services will take place at Coventry. The Mayor (Mrs Emily Smith) will take the salute accompanied by a group Captain A. G. Miller and Brigadier A. Smith.

The parade will march in column of threes, and the head will pass the saluting base on the site of the “Rex Cinema” in Corporation Street at 3 pm.

Council committee objects to a market opening on the site of the former Rex Cinema. The objection was based not on the increase of competition, but to the fact that a new market site, distant from others was proposed. It was felt that this helped to removed opportunities for comparison of traders offers by the shopping public.

April – Army Apprentices Mobile Exhibition: The famous queen mary trailer, complete with scale models of tanks, guns and modern army equipment made by boys of the army apprentice schools will be open to the public at the Rex Cinema Site Saturday 26th April 10 am – 6 pm. Free Admission

August – Sea Scots to exhibit canoes and other sea scouting equipment on the former Rex Cinema site Corporation Street for a one-day event.

December – Coventry Men’s Morris and sword dancing club augmented by a team from Birmingham will perfume at 2:30 pm on the bombed site (old Rex Cinema).

West Orchard Market to transfer to the Rex Cinema site to make way for the new Owen Owen store and the new hotel as part of the Broadgate Redevelopment.

October 9th – Market opens on the site of the Rex Cinema – Grand opening of the Rex Market at 10.30 Friday 9th October 1953 by the Lord Mayor of Coventry. Managed by Mr Leslie Walker Special displays of materials, dresses art ware, fancy and leather goods, chinaware, laces, ladies & Gentlemen’s wear, shoes, hardware, jewellery, books, novels, animal foods, pet shop, toys, confectionery, fresh fruit and vegetables, flowers, plants, light refreshments, ices, children’s roundabout. It’s a market well worth visiting.

Public notice – Coventry council give public notice of compulsory order to buy the land.

Coventry Council compulsory purchase the Rex Buildings Corporation Street at a cost of £82,475 as part of the Smithford Way redevelopment plan which include a 13 storey tower block.

Workmen building an entrance to the new multi-storey car park on Corporation Street unearthed tons of iron girders which were the old foundations of the cinema. These girders are to be torn out before the new roadway is finished. All that was the Rex Cinema has now gone, but some of the Rex complex, the shops (next door to the cinema) still remain, known as Fortress House.  

The Rex Cinema