A message from the Chairman of
The Friends of Coventry Cathedral
Queen at Cathedral Consecration
This previously unpublished photograph of the Queen approaching the Cathedral on the day of its Consecration is a highlight of the Richard Sadler photo exhibition sponsored by the Friends in the Old Grammar School, Hales Street. Her car is preceded by a police saloon as it drives around Broadgate in front of Owen Owen. A BBC television cameraman looks on from the shop balcony as crowds wave union flags and cheer. On the shop front is a Mercian cross symbol of the Diocese on which is set a Coventry Cross of Nails and the year. The Queen is wearing blue in this photograph and at the Council House she will shortly change into a yellow outfit for the Cathedral Consecration Service. The exhibition of early Cathedral photos is open until 27th May to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of the Cathedral Consecration. Admission is free.
LAST MINUTE ADJUSTMENTS were made to the opening event of the Richard Sadler Cathedral Photo Exhibition when Prof. Louise Campbell tested positive for Covid-19 the day before. In these circumstances she passed her presentation on to the Chairman, who spoke in her place. (photo above) In her address Chenine Bhathena, Artistic Director of Coventry City Of Culture, related Spence's achievement to the many works of art that have been part of Coventry's Year as UK City of Culture.
THE RICHARD SADLER photo exhibitions have been organised by Photo Miners, a local group that is dedicated to preserving the photo record of Coventry’s heritage. In the above photo Ben Kyneswood of Photo Miners is pictured in the portrait section of the Richard Sadler exhibition. He is looking at a portrait of Yehudi Menuhin (left) who played in the Cathedral on several occasions in the 1960s. On the right is Robert Weddle, who was the first Assistant Cathedral Director of Music, and was appointed as Director of Music in 1972.
The Richard Sadler photo exhibitions have been far more successful than was anticipated.
Ben Kyneswood: “The first two Sadler exhibitions were visited by 6800 people with another 4200 visiting the pictures online. The virtual exhibition of Cathedral photos has been prepared and we hope that it will be just as popular. The exhibition booklet is almost sold out and we have had to have the early posters reprinted to meet the high demand.”
From 7th May 2022 members of the Friends of Coventry Cathedral will be able to access the online exhibition of Cathedral photos in the Friends Memorabilia section of the Friends website –
The online exhibition contains additional pictures for which there was insufficient room in the Old Grammar School. The computer screen does not show all the details that can be seen in the prints, but an online exhibition makes these early Cathedral photos available to members of the Friends wherever they are in the world.
When you visit the Cathedral Photos Exhibition in the Old Grammar School, Hales Street you will be able to view a building that was a puzzle throughout my Coventry childhood. I could never get to see inside it.
In my youth this huge medieval building was hardly ever used because of its poor structural condition - save for occasional jumble sales. From time to time the local paper carried stories about Coventry’s neglected medieval heritage, and the trustees responsible for it explained that they simply had no funds to repair it. “Give us the money and we will do the job!” There was war damage, which meant that for a time the building had to be propped up with wooden buttresses.
More recently the Heritage Lottery Fund put the Old Grammar School in good order as part of its grant to the Transport Museum, which now manages it. At last it is safe to use.
The Old Grammar School started life as the Church and Hospital of St John, which was founded in the 12th century by Prior Lawrence from St Mary’s Priory – our predecessor cathedral - to provide medical care. The present building dates from the 1300s. It was seized by Henry VIII in 1545 during the dissolution of the monasteries.
John Hales was allowed to buy it on condition that he founded a school bearing the name of the king – King Henry VIII School. John Hales also owned Whitefriars Monastery (on the London Road) and he moved some of its choir stalls to the Old Grammar School for use as desks. You can see them in the building today – graffiti and all! They are such a precious part of Coventry's heritage that only a trained conservator is allowed to dust them. Needless to say, today they are covered in dust! but you must resist the temptation to clean them.
In 1848 many parts of the old Hospital were demolished to make room for the construction of Hales Street, and a more Gothic style front was added. King Henry VIII School moved out and on to its Warwick Road site in 1885, and thereafter the Old Grammar School sank slowly into neglect until the Heritage Lottery Fund came along.
The Old Grammar School is a Grade 1 listed building. It is now available to hire for conferences, dinners, wedding breakfasts and Photo Exhibitions like ours!
On the 14th May 2022 the FRIENDS are holding a fundraising PUDDING CLUB SUPPER in the Cathedral Pavilion starting at 6pm to which you are invited.
A Pudding Club Supper consists of a very light first course followed by a multiplicity of desserts. At the end of the meal you can vote your favourite as the King of Puddings on the night!
Only the strongest will survive - but what a way to go!
The Pavilion has room for 40 guests. Places at table cost £10 and can be reserved on payment to the FRIENDS of COVENTRY CATHEDRAL at 63 Daventry Road, Coventry CV3 5DH or to any member of the Friends Council (full list below). Payment can also be made direct to the Friends of Coventry Cathedral bank account at HSBC, PO BOX 24, City Branch, Coventry CV1 1QJ
Sort code 40 18 17 Account number 80360244
marking the payment “Pudding". If you pay your contribution direct to our bank, please confirm by email to [email protected] to make sure your name is placed on the list.
Because of the numbers limit places at table will be allocated on a first come, first served basis according to the time when the Chairman receives notification.
Come and join us!
AS WE APPROACH the Diamond Jubilee of the Cathedral’s Consecration it is particularly sad to learn of the death of Colin Semper, Provost of Coventry 1982 to 1987. It was he who presided over the Cathedral’s Silver Jubilee Celebrations in 1987.
Upon taking up his Coventry appointment in 1982 Colin found the Cathedral at a very low ebb. Visitor numbers to Coventry had declined in the late 1970s and the drop in visitor income had led to drastic reductions in the Cathedral’s ministry activities. Colin knew of the problems before he arrived, and immediately upon arrival set about the task of building up relationships with local industry, across the Coventry Diocese and with the local civic administration. He considered it a five year task, and from the outset he said that five years was to be his length of stay.
Colin Semper came from the religious broadcasting sector of the BBC and he brought with him an ease with people and a skill in communicating that served the Cathedral well. His jovial manner and soft voice were disarming, and he worked hard to raise the profile of the Cathedral with great success. He presented BBC Thought For The Day on Radio 4 from time to time, as well as the Feedback programme. Coventry Cathedral now filled the Radio 3 Choral Evensong slot from time to time. Colin met Geoff Elliott, editor of the Coventry Evening Telegraph, and within a month or so was recruited to write a regular opinion piece column in the paper.
To encourage an increase in visitors to the city the Provost set up a Visitors’ Centre in the Cathedral undercroft. Ground-breaking holograms of the Stations of the Cross were commissioned for display – a world first. The Chapter House was fitted with platform seating and converted into an audio video room while inside a bank of twelve projectors presented an extraordinarily moving account of the history and outreach of Coventry Cathedral using the latest technology. Rooms in the undercroft explained Coventry’s history to the visitors, and re-created a blitzed house complete with water gushing from broken pipes. The tourism experts predicted (wrongly as it turned out) that 10,000 visitors a week would be attracted to Coventry for this unique experience, so even though the Cathedral was struggling to survive Colin was able to raise the finance from regional tourism grants and from the City Council. Coventry was the first UK Cathedral to have such facilities.
The task of building relationships with the Diocese was also taken seriously. Colin travelled to preach in any parish of the Diocese to which he was invited, and he encouraged other members of the staff to do the same. On Sunday evenings two or three times a year a Cathedral team that included Provost Semper and the Cathedral Choir took a full Choral Evensong into distant parishes of Warwickshire, usually supported by members of the Cathedral congregation. Parishes responded well to his invitation that they take one Sunday off during the year and come to share the Cathedral morning service and hospitality.
Forging links with local businesses was high on Colin’s agenda, and it produced results. It was the Cathedral Silver Jubilee in 1987, and Colin was offered sponsorship of £30,000 by Jaguar Cars. This sponsorship helped him to arrange three celebratory Cathedral events. John Dankworth was commissioned to compose and then to perform a piece called “Reconciliation” at a Cathedral concert that included not only the Dankworth band but also the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. Secondly, the Jaguar Brass Band gave a Cathedral concert, and, thirdly, a grant from the sponsor facilitated a performance that year of Britten’s War Requiem.
Colin Semper laid the groundwork and established good relationships across the board upon which his successor was able to build for the benefit of Coventry Cathedral. Thank you, Colin, for all that you did for us.
1987 SILVER JUBILEE PHOTOS BELOW (l to r)
a Colin Semper leaves the Cathedral Silver Jubilee service through an avenue of coloured streamers waved by excited children.
b John Dankworth playing his commission "Reconciliation" in Coventry Cathedral.
c Colin Semper poses with the William Lyons family, Bishop Simon Barrington-Ward and the Archbishop of York following the re-dedication of the restored Cathedral bells.
A RICHARD SADLER photo adorns the cover of the FRIENDS' new book published on the 25th May 2022 to mark the Diamond Jubilee of the Cathedral's Consecration.
CATHEDRAL REFLECTIONS is a book of stories about a selection of Cathedral events and people from the 60 years since the Cathedral Consecration. *It tells the story of the Cathedral Office and the days when the occupants of 7 & 8 Priory Row played tennis, bowling and snooker on site
*Discover the exhibition that brought the huge Llandaff Epstein sculpture of Christ to the 1962 Cathedral Consecration Festival and erected it opposite the Golden Cross public house
*Learn details of the mystery and intrigue that surrounded the premiere performance of Britten’s WAR REQUIEM in 1962
*Do you remember Call To Mission – Learn To Live in 1968? Based at the Cathedral it was the largest Anglican mission of the twentieth century and 50,000 people attended.
*You will find Bishops and Deans, the Cathedral bees and stonemasons, a tribute to David Lepine, the history of St Michael's Singers, the Archbishop in Coventry and many more Cathedral topics.
The price is £5.
It will be on sale at the Diamond Jubilee Service on 25th May 2022 - the official publication date. (and probably a little before then when the printers deliver it to the Chairman!) Copies will also be available for sale on the Cathedral campus at St Clares in St Michael's Avenue. (photo below)
On Mondays in May at 12.30pm there is a free recital on the magnificent Harrison & Harrison organ of Coventry Cathedral. The full music programme booklet is available at the Cathedral and music information can also be found on the Cathedral website
· 2nd May 2022 - Luke Fitzgerald (Coventry Cathedral)
· 9th May 2022 - Asher Oliver (York Minster)
· 16th May 2022 - Edmund Aldhouse (Ely Cathedral)
· 23rd May 2022 - Rachel Mahon (Coventry Cathedral)
· 30th May 2022 - Tim Hone (York)
SIR JOHN LAING (1879 to 1978) was head of the company that built Coventry Cathedral. Application has recently been made to Barrow Borough Council for a statue of him to be erected at Furness Abbey.
It was at Furness Abbey that Sir John Laing once prayed for his company when it was in trouble. The firm went on to success, which he always attributed to his prayers.
Sir John was born in Carlisle, and his grandson is seeking to memorialise the memory of his grandfather. The proposed statue is life-size and shows Sir John in a contemplative pose sitting on a bench. The sculptor is Jim Butler, whose sculpture subjects to date have included Richard III and the Queen Mother.
Sir John's faith ran deep. Some years after the Cathedral Consecration it emerged that the Laing managing director had written to Basil Spence shortly before work finished explaining that any profit that the company made from the Cathedral contract would be donated to the Cathedral. The generosity of the company is further reflected in its earlier agreement to fund the Cathedral's office accommodation for three years as the Cathedral's work needs grew in the years before the Consecration.
A STREET ART image of Coventry Cathedral has been added to APPS student living accommodation in Greyfriars Lane. It has been commissioned by the Coventry Business Improvement District (BID) and designed by CovKid. CovKid has already produced mugs and T-shirts with images of Coventry. The aim is to celebrate Coventry's heritage and at the same time to boost local pride and appreciation of our city.
Sunday 22nd May 2022at the 10.30am Communion a newly commissioned Mass by Matthew Martin will be premiered.
Wednesday 25th May at 11am. Cathedral Diamond Jubilee Service attended by Archbishop Justin Welby, Bishop Christopher Cocksworth, Dean John Witcombe, other Cathedral clergy and CCN representatives from around the world.
Please reserve your place online at https://tinyurl.com/2p84f6zn
Or contact Canon Kathryn Fleming at the Cathedral.
Wednesday 25th May 2022 6pm to 8pma Cathedral Feast. An opportunity to hear stories and see pictures of happenings at the Cathedral over the years. Bring your own photos and see them projected on to the walls. Limited tickets available soon from Canon Kathryn Fleming.
For members who have not yet registered on the website.
When you log on to friendsofcoventrycathedral.org.uk
you subscribe by entering your email address. (You are already a member so you do not need to join again.) You can set your own password. This gives you exclusive access to the members’ material in the Members Memorabilia section. From 7th May 2022 members of the Friends of Coventry Cathedral will be able to access an online exhibition of RICHARD SADLER Cathedral Photos in the Friends Memorabilia section of the Friends website.
The Friends membership application form is available online –