6th Jul, 2022

City of Culture 2021: Restoration work underway on Coventry's disused historic city gates to offer quirky stays for visitors

Editorial Correspondent 11th Nov, 2020 Updated: 11th Nov, 2020

COVENTRY’s two architecturally important and historic city gates are being restored to offer quirky stays for visitors in time for UK City of Culture 2021.

Work has begun to transform Swanswell and Cook Street Gates – the last remaining of 12 gates in the city wall constructed in the 14th century, as part of a £715,000 restoration project.

Largely unused for decades, Historic Coventry Trust plans to turn Cook Street Gate into a swish single studio apartment accessed by new stairs, with new kitchen and bathroom facilities. Swanswell Gate will provide accommodation across three floors for a couple or small family group.

Ian Harrabin, chair of Historic Coventry Trust, said: “The gates are living reminders of a time when Coventry was the best protected city outside London. They were paid for, built and maintained by the people of the city and the security they provided was a major factor in the growth and wealth of the medieval city. They protected the people against all foes, whether bandits, troops or the plague.

“The story of the power of this collective community action is particularly relevant in these troubled times.

“The walls and gates, which originally circled the city for over two miles, protected the people for some 300 years, until Coventry stood against Charles II in the Civil War. There are remains of the wall in various places around the city but this section including the two gates is the only place where you really get to imagine what the wall was originally like.

“Not only are we restoring the gates, but we are also giving them a use that will help to boost the visitor economy and local jobs. These will be truly exceptional places to stay and we are sure they will be in high demand from locals and visitors alike.”

Historic Coventry Trust recently took ownership of the buildings as part of Coventry City Council’s innovative transfer of 22 historic buildings, approved in December 2017. It has received grants from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Cultural Capital Fund, Coventry & Warwickshire LEP and Architectural Heritage Fund towards the £715,000 restoration project.

The project will be undertaken by Messenger Construction, which is also undertaking the restoration of the Priory Row Cottages in the city centre, in time for Spring 2021.

Visitors will also be able to see the restored buildings on heritage open days.  The Trust will also be organising heritage-based events and activities in Lady Herbert’s Gardens.

Coun Jim O’Boyle, Coventry Council’s cabinet member for jobs and regeneration, plus LEP Board member, said: “It is great to see that work has now started to restore the two city gates that are so emblematic of the city’s long and rich history.

“The council was bold in entering into a partnership with Historic Coventry Trust to restore most of our heritage buildings, but this is now really paying off. This is the sixth heritage site under restoration by the Trust, with all completing in time for City of Culture.

“The gates are going to add something really special to our visitor offer and I can’t wait to see them finished.”

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