A message from the Chairman of
The Friends of Coventry Cathedral
Chairman's E-News
April 2024


   FORTY YEARS AFTER the Coventry Cross of Nails was recovered from the wreck of HMS Coventry in the Falklands, one of the members of the diving team has had it commemorated on canvas.

   On the initiative of diver Ray Sinclair, the South African artist, Dave Coburn, has pictured the rescued Cross of Nails in the grasp of a diver emerging from the sea bed.   

   HMS Coventry was a Type 42 destroyer sunk in the Falklands War.   The Coventry Cross of Nails stood in the ship’s chapel.   The recovered Cross of Nails is now aboard the destroyer, HMS Diamond, that is currently deployed in the Mediterranean.

   Operation Blackleg was the name of the Royal Navy diving operation that set out to recover all the secret documentation that went down with HMS Coventry.   The divers discovered the Cross of Nails in the course of their recovery work and brought it to the surface with other rescued material.   Ray Sinclair, who now lives in Brisbane, Australia commented:

“To this day, Operation Blackleg has been the Royal Navy's finest achievement in deep saturation diving recovery from inside a warship – on the same page as the gold recovered from HMS Edinburgh. One was for the security of NATO, the other was about treasure.”

The painting is on display in the Royal Navy Submarine Museum,  Gosport.

THE CHAIRMAN’S NEWSLETTER is slightly delayed this month as I have been away visiting family and friends in New Zealand.  
     Last month I shared a picture of the extraordinary sunset skies over Coventry caused by Saharan sandstorms, and during my time away I witnessed a similar sunset spectacle whilst staying on the shore of Lake Wanaka, South Island.
It brought to my mind the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem “Pied Beauty”.
      Glory be to God for dappled things –
      For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
      Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
      Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough.
      And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
     As I sat quietly contemplating the scene, I started to think of some of the things I see regularly and take for granted.   Strangely, one of those things inside the Cathedral that came to mind was the iron screen at the entrance to the Chapel of Christ in Gethsemane.   It has a particular significance that is often overlooked.
     We all know that Basil Spence was the architect who designed Coventry Cathedral, but the crown of thorns at the chapel entrance was designed by Spence as his one specific artistic contribution to his Cathedral.
     We know a lot about Spence's screen.   The screen was made in the workshops of the Royal Engineers.   It was formally presented to the Cathedral at a short service of dedication in December 1961.   At the service led by Provost Williams, Canon Joseph Poole read passages from St Luke’s Gospel about the agony Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.   Canon Edward Patey read from the Gospel of St Matthew about the making of the crown of thorns.
     Construction of the screen had begun in April 1961 in the Blacksmiths and Welders Shop of the Trades Training Workshops at the Royal School of Military Engineering in Chatham.   From there it travelled to the Royal Engineers Depot at Long Marston, where it underwent a thorough preservation process before being painted egg-shell black.   The original suggestion that the Royal Engineers wished to contribute to the new Cathedral followed a visit by Bishop Bardsley to the Long Marston workshops. 
     At the presentation service Brigadier E F Parker, Commandant of the School of Military Engineering, formally presented the screen to the Cathedral.   He was accompanied by Brigadier H R Greenwood and Colonel T H Egan.
     Brigadier Parker spoke movingly about the project.   There had been enthusiastic work contributions from both military and civil craftsmen at the workshops.    Everyone was delighted to make a contribution to what was one of the finest buildings in the country to the Glory of God.

(left to right)    December 1961.   In the Chapel of Christ in Gethsemane after the presentation service are Provost Williams, Brigadier E F Parker, Brigadier H R Greenwood and Colonel T H Egan.
     In response Provost Williams spoke of the significance of the gift from the Royal Engineers, who were still remembered with fondness in the city for their help and kindness after the Coventry Blitz.   “We shall treasure this screen in the same way as the other artistic treasures of this Cathedral.”
     To complete the story of the Chapel, the furnishings of the Chapel of Christ In Gethsemane were donated by members of the Old Cathedral Girls’ Fellowship as a memorial to Miss Ethel Loveitt, who had been one of their leaders. 
     Miss Loveitt (PHOTO LEFTwas a parish worker whose ministry centred around St Michael’s Mission, a building which housed the Cathedral’s city outreach in Whitefriars Lane.   In those days the Mission stood and worked in one of the most deprived areas of Coventry.   From there she distributed coal, food, clothing, faith, hope and love.   Her figure cycling around the city with a basket stuffed full of odds and ends was a familiar sight.
     She and her sister, Janet, died whilst caring for a bedridden lady during the great air attack of Good Friday 1941.   That was Coventry’s second great blitz.   In 1941 it was the Easter bombing attack that destroyed Christ Church – Coventry’s third spire.
     At Ethel’s memorial service it was said, “There could have been no single person in the city whose loss could possibly have been felt by a larger number of people.”    Amongst many, many other activities, “Lovey” (as she was known) organised outings that introduced crowds of city centre slum-dwelling children to their first experience of the countryside.   As a result of her work the story was told of the child who knocked on the door of St Michael’s Mission and asked, “Jesus lives here, doesn’t He?”.
     The furnishings of the Chapel of Christ in Gethsemane are a fitting memorial to a lay worker whose work and actions carried the message of the Gospel into the city.

Bishop Cuts The Ham
THIS NEWSPAPER PHOTOGRAPH taken at the Coventry Cathedral Annual Fete in 1936 captures an aspect of Cathedral life that is long gone.
     Here we see the Rt Rev Mervyn Haigh, Bishop of Coventry, who skilfully managed to reach the final of the Cutting Down The Ham competition.   I have no idea of the competition rules, but as the Bishop is blindfolded and is approaching a ham that is dangling from a rope with a pair of shears in his hands, I imagine that it was a timed challenge.  
     The Bishop could not pull rank against the clock, however, and although he was a competition finalist, the eventual winner was Miss Howarth.   The ham was provided by Messrs Slingsby & Turnbull (that is a shop name I remember from childhood).
     The Cathedral Fete in 1936 was held for the second year running in the garden of Mr and Mrs Evan O C Howells, who lived on the Kenilworth Road.
     All through the day there were sports and other fun competitions.   There was a tennis tournament, a three-legged race, a slow cycle race, a backward race and a wheelbarrow race.   Men competed at clock golf, a men’s skipping race and in a skittles game.   Ladies competed in Musical Pairs and in the Ladies’ Hoop race.  
     Bowling For The Pig was a competition that attracted a lot of interest.  The pig was donated by Colonel Wyley, one of our Cathedral Churchwardens, and it was won by Mr D S Stephens.
     There are no post war newspaper reports of the Annual Cathedral Fete, so I can only think that they did not continue after 1940.



The Annual General Meeting will be on 12th October 2024.

     VICARS RUIN is the name of a beer produced by the Church End Brewery and it is illustrated with a picture of Coventry Cathedral Ruins on its beer pumps.

     The brewery is located in Ridge Lane, near Nuneaton and is one of the many craft breweries that have sprung up locally during the last twenty years.   Brewing began in an old coffin workshop behind the Griffin Inn, Shustoke, Warwickshire but today it occupies a refurbished social club.  


THIS MOUNTED PHOTOGRAPH was taken on the 18th April 1958 in London when Provost Howard met Chancellor Konrad Adenauer.   Adenauer was the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) from 1949 to 1963.   The Chancellor signed the photograph.
     Adenauer was on a state visit to the UK when he asked to meet with Provost Howard at the German Embassy.   The meeting took place the day after he attended a State Banquet with the Queen at Windsor Castle.   The Chancellor presented a gift of £4250 to the Coventry Cathedral Reconstruction Fund.
     The Cathedral Diary records the occasion.
   The Chancellor said he gave it ‘as a German and as a Christian’.   The Provost said that he received it with deep gratitude ‘as an Englishman and as a Christian’.   It was made clear that the gift was from the Government of Germany.
   Subsequently the Provost sent Dr Adenauer a Cross of Nails, which he acknowledged ‘as an expression of the wish of the German people to help make good what a ruthless Regime destroyed’.
     That was not the last contact with Chancellor Adenauer. At the time of the Cathedral’s Consecration in 1962 he sent the following message:
   The Consecration of Coventry Cathedral – 17 years after the end of such a terrible war – is an event of truly historical significance.
During the period during which this great cathedral has been rebuilt new links have been established between the peoples of Britain and Germany.   Out of these links has grown an ever closer relationship.   I believe that the German contributions made in recent years to the reconstruction of this house of worship are modest but genuine tokens of goodwill.
   Today the peoples of Britain and Germany are both members of a community of nations united in the determination to protect the heritage and the tradition of our Christian civilisation.   May the Cathedral of this city become the symbol of understanding among nations, of good neighbourliness and of peace.

You are Welcome!     
If you are enjoying this newsletter and are not yet a member of the Friends of Coventry Cathedral I invite you to join us today. 
The Friends support the ministry and buildings of Coventry Cathedral so that it can be there for future generations.
Joining is easy.   Simply use the online
                         membership application form.   

Lance Percival (right) with Fred Emney.   A still from the newly discovered film.
Lance Percival Discovered
THE ONLY FILM that survives of an episode from the BBC TV series “Lance At Large” has been rescued from the former BBC Studio in the Cathedral undercroft.
     It is unusual for any Cathedral to have a BBC Studio, but the undercroft rooms were a gift from the BBC in time for Coventry Cathedral's consecration in 1962.
     They were regularly used for radio and television filming until the BBC launched BBC CWR with its own studios.   In the early years Geoffrey Green would turn up on Saturday afternoons to broadcast the Midlands football results from the Cathedral's undercroft studio while Choral Evensong continued upstairs.
     Lance Percival (the star of “Lance At Large”) rose to fame on the Saturday night satirical programme “That Was The Week That Was”.    The discovered episode also features Fred Emney, Hugh Paddick and Diana Chappell.  There was just one series of “Lance at Large” and all the recordings were later wiped by the BBC.   The newly-discovered film is the only episode to survive.
     The film was originally broadcast on 10th September 1964.   Its contents do not relate to Coventry, so its presence here is quite a mystery.   The cannister had an Australian label, so it may have been sent to the ABC to be shown.  It was returned to someone at the BBC and somehow ended up at the Coventry Cathedral studio. 
     This story was recently featured on BBC TV Midlands Today.

(Left) The statue of Our Lady in the Cathedral Lady Chapel.   (centre) John Bridgeman in his studio.   (right) Coventry's second sculpture by John Bridgeman. 
A second sculpture

WE ARE ALL familiar with the statue of Mary in the Cathedral’s Lady Chapel, but I have just read in the Coventry Telegraph of another Coventry sculpture by the same artist, John Bridgeman, of which I was unaware.
     The other sculpture is an untitled abstract work and it can be found in the city centre on an area of grass behind Lamb Street close by a surviving section of the old city wall.   It is noticeable as it is 2 metres tall, but its location is out of the way and hides it from casual view.
     At the time when Bridgeman created the Cathedral’s statue he lived at Upton, Warwickshire and was head of the Department of Sculpture at the College of Arts and Crafts in Birmingham.   Some of the original designs for the lower section of the Cathedral tapestry had included scenes from the life of Mary, mother of our Lord.   Those scenes were dropped as the design developed, so that when the Cathedral finally opened there was no visible reference to Our Lady in the final design of the Lady Chapel.
     Bridgeman’s statue of Mary was commissioned by the Cathedral as a memorial to John Wickens, who was the Provost’s Verger from 1957 until his sudden death on 29th May 1969.


 Martin R Williams  
  63 Daventry Rd,
  Coventry CV3 5DH  


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The Friends of Coventry Cathedral was founded in 1934. It is an independent Charity No. 1061176 registered in England and Wales, with an annually elected Council.
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