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Post-war redevelopment

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wmrumball
Malvern, uk
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151 of 157  Tue 20th Jul 2021 10:12pm  
Member: Joined Mar 2021  Total posts:2

On 12th Jul 2021 7:27pm, Rob Orland said: Good evening all, A sixth form student named Jessica has contacted The Herbert, asking for help with an assessment. They have asked if I can assist, so I thought I'd share it here in case anyone seeing this is interested in helping out . . . (Jessica's email address, and the "oral history recording agreement" document that is mentioned, are both available from me if anyone considers taking part.)
Hello, I’d willingly participate. My mother was pregnant with me in Coventry Nov 14/15 and I was born in April raids that followed. I very recently wrote an article explaining how that , and later experience of the bombed cathedral both influenced and perhaps even shaped my life. I now live in Malvern and still involved in ministry. The Revd Dr Bill Rumball Click on contact button to the left - preferred contact address.
Bill Rumball

Post-war redevelopment
Kaga simpson
Peacehaven, East Sussex
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152 of 157  Mon 26th Jul 2021 11:54am  
Member: Joined Sep 2014  Total posts:3424

In 1939, Coventry was still mainly Victorian, the old weavers’ houses, ancient buildings and market stalls still existed, but war was looming. We still had our city, but no idea what the future held as people went off to war. But fifteen years later, nothing was rebuilt in a better way, not the cathedral nor the market place, not the market tower nor the street of broadgate or a dozen streets we had known. What we got was an American style city of precincts, drab buildings, a foolish, childish clock and bridge, that took Hertford Street away from the centre, a building that spread across Broadgate chopping it in half, rooftop car parks etc that weren’t liked or wanted for the people used to the old city. But they did not build new factories for over another decade, so we had Dunlop, Armstrong Siddeley, Sterling Metals, etc still polluting the air. So the people that had fought the war, seen abroad, thought, if this is the way it's going to be, then why not change the whole environment for £10 (two weeks’ wages) and the whole family could start anew in a better climate and lots of room, so they left in their hundreds. What you people have is the new city, to your ways and wants, and I believe that’s changing from your own schooldays.
Post-war redevelopment
Helen F
Warrington
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153 of 157  Mon 26th Jul 2021 2:09pm  
Moderator: Joined Mar 2013  Total posts:2744

I think that it's hard to know how much of the emotional changes to Coventry people were due to the War and how much was already ongoing before but I can imagine that the two were conflated into one big hurt. Almost every street in the centre I can think of had already been heavily stripped of old buildings, many of them removed post 1900. While it seemed like Hitler targeted the city indiscriminately, many of the destroyed sections of old buildings were adjacent to relatively new factories or large non industrial buildings. Even areas that retained old street fronts were backed by zigzag factory roofs and others were overshadowed by massive (by their era) multi storey blocks. Gosford Street was dominated by the two factories on the south side. The Spon Street Crow Lane area had similar factories. Most of the north side of West Orchard to Well Street had big buildings including the Chapel. Little Park Street had Swift to the southwest and Bushill's in the middle west side. To the east, towards Much Park Street there were many zigzag sheds and the big brewery buildings. There were factory sheds from Priory Street to the east end of New Buildings. While Broadgate, Cross Cheaping and Smithford Street were mostly shopping areas, they had seen large complexes built - Owen,Owens, City Arcade etc. These weren't part of the old city but they represented 20th century renewal. The adults would have been hurt twice, losing their cherished ancient shops for some ugly new complex and then to lose those, just as they were becoming familiar. I don't know how much objection there was to the late 19th and early 20th century demolitions but I know that both Dr Troughton and Sidney Bunney were prompted to start capturing the city on paper vecause they could see it vanishing. Troughton stuck mostly to medieval buildings and Bunney followed up by capturing the Georgian changes. He overlapped the photographers who documented many of the sights. It's worth viewing the aerial shots on Britain From Above which start at 1919 to see how industrialised the city was before the War. Those who came after saw ravaged swathes of the city and compared them to picture post card views of a city that were already out of date before the War. Of course, ugly as they were, the factories represented work and prosperity, so their destruction hurt in a different way to losing homes and shops. To me Coventry has had an unhealthy relationship with the War. While the deaths were terrible, peace is a wonderful thing and Coventry has a right to remind people of the horrors of war, it's not a platform to build hope on. I think it contributed to the city's problems after the war more than the actual damage. It created something of a 'oh it's damaged now, why bother?' mentality with the remaining parts of the city. I think it explains why so much of what remained was demolished. I agree with Kaga that the decision to not rebuild the cathedral was a significant event and ties in with the drive for new builds rather than treasuring survivors of the bombing. Alternatively the mood to destroy the past might be encoded in the planning department and was so, long before Hitler came along. While I'm not especially sentimental and know that we can't trap places in the past, we have also thrown a lot of treasures out to be replaced with ugliness and 'progress'. Too often modern architecture is designed in isolation and isn't a compliment to its neighbours. Often the discordance is planned to show off how different the architect is. Post War Coventry was especially bad at creating a pleasing whole but I am seeing signs that it is learning. I think I'm seeing signs that the City is starting to love itself again... and then they knock down the Cross and I'm not so sure.
Post-war redevelopment
Kaga simpson
Peacehaven, East Sussex
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154 of 157  Tue 27th Jul 2021 8:59am  
Member: Joined Sep 2014  Total posts:3424

No, Helen. What Coventry did in 1936-39, they built Trinity Street, full of shops exactly the same as Broadgate shops, with parking outside, not on top of shops where older people could not navigate. The same with the Precinct, people had to walk down the Precinct then back up the Precinct, to get transport, and the great big wall of Broadgate House was ugly, like a prison wall, and served no purpose. By planning a shopping centre away from the transport the older you got the more of a nightmare it became. No, the only thing the architect wanted was to be first in everything new, at the expense of the people, and that was the complaint of most people I heard. The beauty of old Coventry was the closeness of being in the city, the smell of new bread, pies, linoleum. In a hundred yards you could buy a jam tart or a tractor, or an ancient history book, or any coloured shoelaces. Now you have to walk miles to get a shoelace, if you’re lucky. OK, so I'm a grumpy old man, and past my sell by date. Jump on a tram outside the shop. How I wish!
Post-war redevelopment
Helen F
Warrington
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155 of 157  Tue 27th Jul 2021 10:02am  
Moderator: Joined Mar 2013  Total posts:2744

Hi Kaga, what you describe wasn't all as a result of the war, although it would have speeded things up considerably. Coventry High Street with its large banks was a forerunner of our modern trend for bigger single premises. The market hall wiped out many small shops and houses along West Orchard in addition to the original market. Corporation Street was built to a much bigger scale than the old streets and wiped out many buildings on Bishop Street, Well Street, West Orchard and Fleet Street. The first Owen Owen was comparable to post-war construction. The theatres/cinemas got bigger. The post-war construction of the polytechnic/university wiped away many of the surviving buildings from the war but wasn't directly connected to the destruction. The issues with transport have developed due to car ownership and personal choice as much as town planning. Pedestrianizing town centres was to try and make the experience of shopping better although I agree that it hasn't worked exactly to plan. Supermarkets have replaced the streets where new bread, pies, jam tarts or coloured shoelaces can be found within a 100 yards, although tractors, lino and history books are a rarity in most outlets. Even more radical, we can now order all those things to our door, which is contributing to the death of the high street that supermarkets started. The efforts to save town centres is based around bringing people back in to live there, the exodus having started well before the war. Scooters and driverless taxis are an attempt to deal with the walking distances - with unintended consequences. This is what I mean about it being difficult to separate modernisation from the impact of the bombing.
Post-war redevelopment
Kaga simpson
Peacehaven, East Sussex
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156 of 157  Wed 28th Jul 2021 10:51am  
Member: Joined Sep 2014  Total posts:3424

Helen, Yes, that’s my point. High Street had been changed before the war, but in keeping with Coventry, and so was the Council House, which still had a medieval outside look, but modern inside. Had the rest of Coventry followed in that trait, would have been ideal, a city to visit, a city of two cultures that blended in with each other. They did it with WWI, why not WWII?
Post-war redevelopment
Helen F
Warrington
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157 of 157  Wed 28th Jul 2021 11:58am  
Moderator: Joined Mar 2013  Total posts:2744

Morning, Kaga. The High Street was in keeping with the era it was rebuilt in but it wasn't in keeping with the bulk of the city. By your time it felt normal because you'd never seen it any other way. In the late 1700s the city street fronts were almost untouched medieval structures, with only a few true Georgian structures. A lot of it was only 2 storey and had limited room for improvement without demolition and rebuilding. The courts were an attempt to house more people and businesses but were horrible. On the main streets the Victorians harked back to early styles including medieval and Roman but with no plan to stick to one or the other. The early 1900s saw the emergence of Art Deco, which was the forerunner of the brick or concrete boxes that dominated for a while. Minimal styling and maximum space was the trend. It was fashion and commerce that determined what was rebuilt plus that style was also cheaper than traditional methods. Money was very tight after the War. Modern doesn't have to echo the past to look good along side it, but it has to compliment it. Coventry is not the only area where there is no overarching style to bring the whole together. In the UK it's the norm to stick stuff side by side that create a discordant appearance. The prettiest places are those with limited colour palettes, styles and materials. I think we are sometimes fooled into how good the past looked because black and white photography rendered everything into 1 colour palette. While a shortage of money and large plots to fill were part of Coventry's misfortune, there was something self destructive going on. I just can decide if it started pre War and/or afflicted the whole country. My own lane has houses of many eras and frankly looks a bit ugly because of it. Edited by member, 28th Jul 2021 12:11 pm
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