Transcript from Coventry City Council 1985 brochure GVA 1444 TB 8 85 , with updates where needed.
Lady Herbert's Garden Conservation Area was designated on the 8th August 1969. The original extent comprised the established garden and nos. 1-19 Chauntry Place, and the Coventry Theatre.
On the 6th April 1977 it was extended to include landscaped areas which had
been added to the old garden after the completion of the adjacent section of the
Inner Ring Road.
Map of Conservation Area in 1985
Speeds map of Coventry circa 1610.
This is the oldest surviving map of the city. It shows the line
of the wall during the one hundred years between its completion in the
mid-sixteenth century and its destruction in the seventeenth. The
arrow indicates the surviving stretch in Lady Herbert's Garden. Historical
The City Wall
Lady Herbert's Garden contains the most complete surviving remains of the medieval City Wall. These comprise the only gates which survive from the original twelve, and the 150 metre stretch of wall which connects them. A large proportion of this stands to near the original height and displays well the quality of the construction as well as old masons marks and the impacts of small projectiles.
Coventry became a walled city by slow stages between 1355 and
1539. The wall, which was constructed of red sandstone, survived
until 1661 when the City's fortifications were slighted by order of
Charles the Second, probably as a retaliation for the city's support of
the parliamentary faction in the Civil War. The stretch of wall now
standing in the Garden was built between 1432 and 1462. It survived
the slighting and remained complete until 1854 when it was reduced to the
state in which it appears to-day.
Cook Street Gate
Like Swanswell Gate, Cook Street Gate is an example of the lesser type
of City Gate. These followed a more or less standard design while
the four main gates in Gosford Street, Much Park Street, Spon Street, and
Bishop Street - were built to individual designs and on a larger
scale. It is nearly square in plan, projecting externally beyond the
line of the wall. The room above the gateway has a two light square
headed window facing Cook Street and lateral doorways connecting with the
top of the walls. Grooves for a portcullis are visible in the jambs
of the outer arch. The gate was presented to the city by Colonel
Wyley in 1913 and restored in 1918. The stone vault above the
gateway is missing and the parapets have been
This was originally known as the Priory Gate and gave access from the
priory to the prior's fishponds outside the wall - now the Swanswell
Pool. The road through the gate was diverted in 1858 and the gate
was patched up, roofed and converted into a dwelling and later a
shop. The gate was acquired for the city by Alfred Herbert in 1931
and restored to its present appearance in 1931-2.
The construction and laying out of the Garden began in 1930 as a memorial to Alfred Herbert's second wife. The site had formerly been occupied by the Chauntry and Rope walk, some of the worst slums in the city. The last section of the original garden was completed in 1939 when the rock garden and pool were constructed in the South West corner on the site of the old Hippodrome Theatre. The garden is laid out very compactly and incorporates a wide variety of planting and landscape within a small area. Sheltered leafy glades contrast with open lawns and flower beds commanding fine views over the city centre, and there is a lovely range of colour throughout the year. To the visitor the garden seems much larger than it actually is. On the east side of the wall the main footpath connecting the North and South entrances follows the line of the old ditch. The two blocks of alms homes at the north end of the garden, known as Lady Herbert's Homes, were built in 1935 and 1937 in a red brick, tudor style and face each other across a private beautifully laid out walk over. The occupants of the single person bungalows were to be poor widows or elderly spinsters who had lived for a reasonable period in or near Coventry. Both blocks were severely damaged during the war and had subsequently to be rebuilt.
The construction of the inner Ring Road in 1977 enabled the
landscaped area to be extended up to the edge of the new road and careful
design of the elevated section enabled the open space to be extended under
the road to link up with the Swanswell Pool. These works greatly
enhanced the surroundings of the Conservation Area.
In 2000 this extended area was further enhanced by the construction of a Garden of International Friendship, and a major restoration was carried out on Lady Herbert's Garden. In 2002 the old Hippodrome Theatre was demolished to make way for Millennium Place. A glass bridge was built linking this new place to the Garden of International Friendship, and a major new pedestrian route was construction linking the place to the Hill Top conservation area. This new development was known as the Phoenix Initiative.
Today Lady Herbert's Garden is a mature and tranquil open space in the heart of the city. It is well maintained by the trustees in association with the corporation and is a popular lunchtime sitting out spot.
Despite its comparatively recent establishment it has become a
distinctive and well loved feature of central Coventry. As a
Conservation area it will continue to remain so.
The major development of Millennium Square, the Whittle Arches, Priory Place plus opening up Priory Gardens, Priory Undercroft and the Priory Visitor Centre is now complete. For a map see OpenStreet Map (this link should open with these features in the centre, but zoom or pan if you want to see it all in context).