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High Street Conservation Area

Transcript of extracts from Coventry City Council 1982 draft brochure with updates where needed, and "Coventry City Centre Trail" 1993 (reprinted 2000) brochure.  The full A5 18 page  "Coventry City Centre Trail" brochure covers in total around 60 of the most important buildings and sites. 


The area centred around High Street forms the historic banking and commercial heart of the City.  The majority of buildings in this area are of pre-war construction, richly detailed in the classical tradition with a scale which reflects their importance.

The Conservation Area was declared on 12th October 1982 and it is contiguous with the Hill Top Conservation Area.


Historic Buildings in the Area

Banks in High Street - Jan-2002

High Street forms part of the ancient east-west route through the city from Gosford Street to Spon Street.  Although the Latin form of this name was in use as far back as the 13th century (altus vicus), it began as an alternative name for the western portion of Earl Street.  Some of Coventry's finest mediaeval houses once stood along the south sides of High Street, Earl Street and Jordan Well.  In the early twentieth century, High Street still possessed several fine timber-framed buildings, restored in the 1930s but sadly destroyed by bombing during the Second World War. 

The finest buildings seen here today are those of the major banks, notably the two neo-classical buildings of the early 1930s at the junction with Broadgate.  These are Lloyds Bank at No. 30 and National Westminster Bank at Nos. 24/25 Broadgate.  They are both 'locally listed' (on the City Council's Local List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest).  The former, in Portland stone, by Buckland & Haywood, was built in 1932 and the latter's classical portico formerly terminated the southern end of the old Broadgate and was the only building there to survive wartime destruction.  It was designed by F. C. R. Palmer and built in 1930.  

High Street was one of several departure places for long distance passenger coaches in the nineteenth century and once had a number of coaching inns and other hostelries, notably the Craven Arms (previously and later the Bear Inn), the Board (or Pickering) Vaults and the Rose and Crown (c. 1800), down a court off the south side of the street. The latter survives today, renamed The Courtyard and listed, grade II, but the loss of The Bear in 1982 for modern building society premises, the latest manifestation of a redevelopment trend which had already destroyed Nos. 19-21 High Street, was the catalyst for the declaration of the Conservation Area. The intention was to resist the pressure to demolish the best of the older buildings and to encourage a higher standard of design for any new buildings. 

Other notable buildings in the High Street are the Yorkshire Bank at Nos. 7-11, Yates' Wine Bar (formerly Anslow's, then Waring & Gillow) at Nos. 16-17 (actually in Hill Top Conservation Area), the former Midland Bank (now a restaurant) at 18 High Street / 3 Little Park Street, the Halifax Chambers at No. 22, and the former Waters' wine merchants' premises at No. 29. In Hertford Street, the fašades of the western portions of the National Westminster Bank and the Head Post Office are also important to the overall quality of the area. 

Ford's Hospital - Jan-2002

Listed Buildings

Little of pre-1900 construction remains in this part of the city; however, to the south of High Street are four important statutory listed buildings:

  1. "Ford's Hospital" in Greyfriars Lane, dating from 1509. Listed Grade I.
  2. Kirby House is No. 16 Little Park Street and dates from around 1735-40.  After a period of vacancy and severe dereliction during the 1950s to 1970s, it was restored and rebuilt (except for the front wall) in 1980-82. It is named after Thomas Hulston Kirby, a solicitor, who bought it in 1874.  It is listed Grade II*.
  3. No. 7 Little Park Street, now 'The Varsity', was built for Thomas Bird, a silk ribbon manufacturer, somewhere between 1720 and his death in 1746). It is listed, grade II* .
  4. Courtyard (formerly "Rose and Crown") Public House, High Street court.  Dated circa 1800, listed Grade II.

Also, beneath Nos. 21-22 High Street there are two linked, rib-vaulted sandstone cellars or undercrofts, dating from the 15th century and formerly serving houses which were demolished when the street was widened in the mid-19th century. The cellar under No. 22 is listed, grade I, whilst that under No. 21 is grade II.

Ford's Hospital, Greyfriars Lane 

Kirby House - Jan-2002

Little Park Street (No7 nearest to camera) - Jan-2002

These almshouses were founded under the will of William Ford in 1509 and were erected by his executor, William Pisford, who enlarged the endowment in his own will of 1517.  For the exuberance of its carving, it has been called 'one of the most perfect examples of timber-framed architecture in the country'.  The central doorway leads to an enclosed and secluded courtyard where the rich variety of carving can be examined at leisure.  Bombing in 1940 severely damaged the building, but a skilled restoration scheme was completed in 1953.

No. 16 (Kirby House) and No. 7 Little Park Street

Little Park Street was once a narrow and densely-packed thoroughfare with many timber-framed houses.  Some of these were replaced in the early 18th century by highly fashionable town houses in an early Georgian style.  Kirby House, set back from the street, was extensively restored in 1981-82 after lying empty for many years.  It is interesting to study the stylistic differences between this and No.7, another house of the period a few doors away.

Courtyard Public House - Jan-2002

Recent Developments in the Area

Since the declaration of the Conservation area many developments have been carried out in the area, including:

  1. Barclays moved to their new premises on the site of the former Bear Inn, High Street.
  2. The former GPO sorting office, between Greyfriars Lane and Salt Lane has become a car park.
  3. The former Midland Bank building at the corner of High Street and Little Park Street has been converted to a public house.
  4. No 7 Little Park Street and land at rear fronting onto Salt Lane has been refurbished, extended and converted to a public house.
  5. The former Waring & Gillow furniture store became a wine bar.

In future, demolition of existing buildings within the Conservation Area will not normally be considered unless it can be satisfactorily demonstrated that subsequent redevelopment will result in a positive improvement to the area.


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