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

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