11 July 2023
What comes to mind first when you think of Coventry?
Basil Spence’s Cathedral?
Being sent to Coventry?
Bikes and cars?
Philip Larkin, perhaps?
When most people think of Coventry and its ‘townscape,’ I imagine, they think too of brash, modern architecture, and forget that much of mediaeval Coventry was not wiped out in the Blitz, as I was reminded in recent weeks when I visited Spon End, Holy Trinity Church, Ford’s Hospital, the ruins of Whitefriars, Saint Mary’s Hall and Cheylesmore Manor.
Yet, contrary to popular notions, much of Coventry’s post-war architecture was a brave and innovative effort to build a proud new city after the devastation of the Blitz.
The Precinct has been renovated in recent decades, with new water features and shared public space, along with finding a new location for a ceramic mural designed in 1958 by the architect, artist and writer, Thomas Gordon Cullen (1914-1994), for the people of Coventry as an important feature of the post-war reconstruction of the city centre.
The mural was commissioned by the City Planning and Redevelopment Committee, on the recommendation of Arthur Ling, Chief Architect to the Corporation.
Cullen became a cult figure in architectural circles in the post-war period when his ideas for the improvement of towns and the control of traffic were frequently published. He is credited as originator of the term ‘Townscape’ which became the title of his book on the subject published in 1961.
Cullen is well-known for the opening sentence that introduced one of his articles: ‘There is only one way to enjoy what a town has to offer the eye, and that is the pedestrian’s way.’
The mural was originally sited at the entrance to the Lower Precinct on the ramp leading down to the lower level and on adjacent walls. It originally included maps of the mediaeval city and the new Coventry, drawn in the style of maps of the periods.
The main mural had images of the early Coventry, from pre-historic to the late mediaeval and including the Georgian and the modern era, with references to the city’s then industries. Sadly, the mediaeval maps were destroyed through careless workmanship in the 1970s.
The redevelopment of the Lower Precinct by Arrowcroft Group Plc, funded by Scottish Life was completed in 2002. This, involved widening the ramp entrance of the Lower Precinct to improve the principal access. This involved relocating the mural to a new location.
In their original position, the tiles were securely bonded onto a 450 mm thick concrete retaining wall, from which they could not have been removed without causing damage to the mural.
Arrowcroft, with the support of their building contractor, Costain-Skanska, agreed a method statement with English Heritage so that the wall was cut from the rear into slices, each weighing between 2.5 and 3.5 tons. These were lifted by crane to the new, current location in the Precinct, where the wall sections were re-assembled to recreate the mural.
The tiles were then treated by specialist ceramic restorers, Jackfield Conservation Studio, to remove accumulated deposits and to repair the mural to a condition in which it can be appreciated as an important element in the city’s modern history.
The present panels depict: Pre-Historic Times, Post-War Regeneration, the Motor Car, Watch Making; the Bicycle Industry, 18th century Ribbon Making, and the Post-War Masterplan.
The mural is also a tribute to the life and creativity of Gordon Cullen who was a key motivator in the Townscape movement. Cullen presented a new theory and methodology for urban visual analysis and design based on the psychology of perception, such as on the human need for visual stimulation and the notions of time and space.
Cullen was born in Calverley, Pudsey, near Leeds, in 1914 and studied architecture at the Royal Polytechnic Institution, now the University of Westminster. He later worked as a draughtsman in various offices including Berthold Lubetkin and Tecton, although he never actually qualified or practised as an architect.
Because of his poor eyesight Cullen was not conscripted during World War II, and instead he worked in the planning office of the Development and Welfare Department in Barbados in 1944-1946.
When he returned to London, he joined the Architectural Review as a draughtsman and then as a writer on planning policies. He produced a large number of influential editorials and case studies on the theory of planning and the design of towns, influencing many improvements in the urban and rural environment in the 1950s and 1960s.
His mural in the foyer of Greenside Primary School in west London, designed by Erno Goldfinger, was completed in 1953. His ceramic mural in Coventry, depicting the history of the city and its post-war regeneration, is on a much grander scale, and was completed in 1958.
As a freelance writer and consultant, Cullen advised Liverpool and Peterborough on their city reconstruction and redevelopment plans. In the 1960s he advised the planning aspects of the Ford Foundation’s work in New Delhi and Calcutta. His later work included advising the city of Glasgow and the London Docklands Development Corporation.
He formed the architectural practice of Price & Cullen, with a former student, David Price, and they designed the Swedish Quays housing development in the London Docklands.
Cullen lived in the small village of Wraysbury in Berkshire from 1958 until he died at the age of 80, on 11 August 1994.
He book Townscape (1961) remains an important work on architecture and town planning, and has been republished in later editions as The Concise Townscape.
We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and this week began with the Fifth Sunday after Trinity (9 July 2023).
The calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship today celebrates the life of Saint Benedict of Nursia, Abbot of Monte Cassino and Father of Western Monasticism (ca 550).
Before this day begins, I am taking some time this morning for prayer, reading and reflection.
Over these weeks after Trinity Sunday, I have been reflecting each morning in these ways:
1, Looking at relevant images or stained glass window in a church, chapel or cathedral I know;
2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;
3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.
Trinity Episcopal Church, Catherine Street, Limerick:
Today there are two Church of Ireland churches in Limerick City – Saint Mary’s Cathedral on King’s Island and Saint Michael’s Church on the corner of Barrington Street and Pery Square.
Saint Michael’s Church, which was consecrated in 1844, replaced an older church, Saint George’s on George’s Street, now O’Connell Street, which was founded in 1789.
Saint Michael’s is also known as ‘the sinking church’ as it was not built on bed rock and has sunk ever so slightly over the years.
Saint Munchin’s Church was built as a Church of Ireland parish church in 1827. The architects were the brothers George and James Pain, who built the church in the Gothic style, with four pinnacles at the top of the tower.
Saint Munchin is the patron saint of Limerick. There are many legends about Saint Munchin, who is said to have lived in Limerick in the late seventh century.
Saint Munchin’s Church is on King’s Island, between the Bishop’s Palace and the Villiers Alms Houses. It was built in 1827 and was renovated in 1980 by the Limerick Civic Trust. It was a used for a period by the Island Theatre Company and is now used as a store for Limerick Civic Trust.
Saint John’s Church stands on the site of an earlier church in the Irish town area of the city, which dated from the 1200s. It is located at one end of Saint John’s Square, the first development of Newtown Pery.
The walls around the graveyard were built in 1693 and the present church was built in 1852. The graveyard is the burial place for many Limerick merchant families, including the Russells, who ran the largest mills in Limerick in the mid-19th century.
The church fell into disuse in the early 1970s as the Anglican population of Limerick city declined in numbers. It was transferred to Limerick Corporation in 1975. The interior was completely redesigned and for a period the church was used as a base for the Dagdha Dance Company. It is now the hub for Dance Limerick.
One Anglican church in Limerick that stood outside the diocesan and parochial systems for many years is the former Trinity Episcopal Church on Catherine Street. I often passed this former church on my way between buses in Limerick during the five years I was living in Askeaton, Precentor of Limerick, and the priest-in-charge of the Rathkeale Group of Parishes. But for many people, it must be easy to pass by this former church without noticing the building because of the way it has been integrated into the streetscape of Catherine Street.
Trinity Church was designed by the architect Joseph Fogerty and was built in 1834 as a chapel for a nearby Asylum for Blind Women through subscriptions raised in Ireland and England by the Revd Edward Newenham Hoare (1802-1877).
Edward Newenham Hoare was a Church of Ireland priest and the author of religious tracts and fiction. His father, Canon John Hoare from Drishane, near Millstreet, Co Cork, was the Canon Chancellor of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick and Vicar-General of the Diocese of Limerick, and as Rector of Rathkeale (1803-1813) he was one of my predecessors. Edward’s mother, Rachel (died 1850), was a daughter of Sir Edward Newenham MP.
Edward Hoare was born in Limerick on 11 April 1802 and was educated at Trinity College Dublin (MA 1839). He was a curate of Saint John’s Church, Limerick, in 1830-1831 and later was Archdeacon of Ardfert (1836-1839).
In the 1830s, Hoare was also the editor of the Christian Herald, and he published a number of sermons too. Around 1831, he first proposed opening a chapel for the blind in Limerick, but his plans were opposed by the then Bishop of Limerick.
But Hoare appealed for subscriptions throughout Ireland and the England, and the new church was built as a place of worship for the adjoining asylum for blind girls and women.
The new classical church was designed by the architect Joseph Fogerty and was consecrated and opened on 4 May 1834. Perhaps it was named after Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, where Hoare’s father had been rector earlier in the 19th century.
This was an attached three-bay, two-storey over basement limestone, pedimented church. It was flanked on both sides by a pair of attached two-bay, three-storey over basement red brick townhouses.
The central building is built entirely of smooth limestone ashlar. It has a recessed central double-height entrance bay with a pair of giant order Ionic columns, flanked by a pair of giant order Doric corner piers, flanked by similar giant order Doric pilasters. These support a plain architrave and frieze. The central recess is surmounted by a pediment forming a shallow breakfront, and continuing as a heavy cornice to either side.
A stringcourse is located at the first-floor level with channel rusticated walls to the ground floor level.
A large round-arched window opening with a panelled apron dominates the first-floor level of the recessed portico, with an arched 10-over-15 timber sash window.
Flanking the portico are single round-arched window openings with panelled aprons containing six-over-nine timber sash windows incorporating a spoked fanlight with margin lights. There are square-headed ground floor window openings, each with a limestone sill and an apron underneath, with six-over-six timber sash windows with margin lights.
Three square-headed door openings with double-leaf timber-panelled doors are located at the ground floor level of the portico, opening onto a limestone platform and a stylobate of five steps.
The flanking buildings have red brick walls laid in Flemish bond with cement repointing with concrete coping to the rebuilt parapet walls. There is a limestone plinth course at the ground-floor level over painted rendered basement walls.
The gauged brick flat-arched window openings have patent reveals and limestone sills. There are replacement six-over-six timber sash windows.
There are gauged brick round-arched door openings to each building with patent reveals, modern replacement carved timber door surrounds and overlight and panelled doors, dating from about 2000.
There is an in-filled basement to the south-flanking former house with a modern wheelchair ramp and replica spearhead railings, all dating from about 2000. The north-flanking former house has a concrete platform and four limestone steps that are flanked by replica spear-headed railings on a limestone plinth enclosing the basement.
A round green plaque placed outside by the Limerick Civic Trust reads: ‘Trinity Church An Episcopal church built in 1834 through subscriptions raised by the personal efforts of the Venerable Edward Newenham Hoare.’
Edward Newenham Hoare gave his name to Newenham Street in Limerick. He was Archdeacon of Ardfert (1836-1839), and was later Dean of Achonry Cathedral from 1839 to 1850, and Dean of Waterford from 1850 until his death.
His first wife was Louisa Maria O’Donoghue from Portarlington, and their children included the Revd John Newenham Hoare of Muckross and the Revd Edward Newenham Hoare, Rector of Acrise, Folkestone, Kent. In 1859, he married his second wife, the twice-widowed Harriet, daughter of Colonel George Browne.
Hoare died in Upper Norwood, London, on 1 February 1877 and he is commemorated by a plaque in Christ Church Cathedral, Waterford.
Hoare’s church was designed by the Limerick-born architect and builder Joseph Fogerty (1806-1887), who had a lucrative practice in the city. He was born into a family of builders working from Saint John’s Square in 1824 and from Newtown Pery by 1840, and was baptised in Saint Mary’s Cathedral on 9 March 1806.
His other works included the Theatre Royal in Henry Street (1841), Leamy’s Free School (1841-1845), a Tudor Revival building on Harstronge Street, and several houses in Limerick, and he worked in partnership with his son Robert Fogerty (1843-1917) from offices in Henry Street until his death in 1887.
The apse in the church was added by Joseph Fogerty’s nephew, William Fogerty (1833-1878), in 1858-1859 at a cost of £500.
A stained-glass window of ‘Christ healing the Blind’ was placed in the church in 1877 in memory of late William Franklin, manager of the Provincial Bank, ‘who took deep interest in the Blind Asylum connected with the church.’
Joseph Fogerty’s son, Robert Fogerty, removed the old gas fittings in 1895 and designed extensive alterations and improvements to the church, including new art metalwork, brass light fittings and a new lectern. The church reopened on 7 November 1895.
The building has been in government use since the 1960s, when the church was converted to office use on behalf of the local health board. The building is now used by the Health Service Executive (HSE).
The interior of the building was gutted around 2000, when the galleries were removed and an attic-storey added to all three structures. There is a flat roof with an artificial slate mansard front and sides with lead covered dormers containing uPVC windows.
The cut limestone centrepiece and the two flanking former houses appear to have been radically altered in recent years. But this set of three buildings on Catherine Street remain a fine architectural composition and they form a pleasant aspect in this intact streetscape in the heart of Limerick.
Matthew 9: 32-38 (NRSVA):
32 After they had gone away, a demoniac who was mute was brought to him. 33 And when the demon had been cast out, the one who had been mute spoke; and the crowds were amazed and said, ‘Never has anything like this been seen in Israel.’ 34 But the Pharisees said, ‘By the ruler of the demons he casts out the demons.’
35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; 38 therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’
The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Fighting Climate Change Appeal – Hermani’s story’. This theme was introduced on Sunday.
Find out more HERE.
The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (11 July 2023) invites us to pray:
We pray that we walk with love and care on God’s earth, with vital awareness of God’s comprehensive vision and purpose for his creation.
who made Benedict a wise master
in the school of your service
and a guide to many called into community
to follow the rule of Christ:
grant that we may put your love before all else
and seek with joy the way of your commandments;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
who gave such grace to your servant Benedict
that he served you with singleness of heart
and loved you above all things:
help us, whose communion with you
has been renewed in this sacrament,
to forsake all that holds us back from following Christ
and to grow into his likeness from glory to glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org