A message from the Chairman of
The Friends of Coventry Cathedral
Friends Film Show
Saturday 10th February at 2pm
John Laing Centre
The Friends Film Show is an opportunity for members to see three films related to Coventry Cathedral not previously broadcast on national television.
The Pacemakers: Basil Spence (1973)
One of a series of films sponsored by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for overseas distribution. The films were made to project a positive image of Britain and were aimed at the colour television markets of the USA, Australia and Canada. The subjects of these films were all people who, like Basil Spence, were changing the Britain of the day. Rebuilding Basil Spence (2006)
A documentary made by BBC Scotland at the time when the major retrospective exhibition BACK TO THE FUTURE: Sir Basil Spence (1907-1976) was being launched across the UK. The film takes a fresh look at Spence’s place in 20th-century British architecture and asks why he was overlooked towards the end of the century. Search – Coventry Cathedral (c.1969)
An American film narrated by the television evangelist, Bruce Larson. At a time in the late 1960s when the Cathedral’s experimental ministry was attracting worldwide attention, Larson visited Coventry to see for himself. The film includes his interviews with both Provost Bill Williams and Bishop Cuthbert Bardsley. An archive colour film from the 1960s.
For technical reasons the Friends Film Show is open only to members of the Friends. One-Day membership of the Friends will be available on the day price £5.
The Annual General Meeting will be on 12th October 2024.
THE PHOENIX TREE sculpture opposite the Cathedral steps was unveiled last month.
It is part of a new open space created by Coventry University in place of the old administration block of offices. The sculpture was created by Coventry-based George Wagstaffe, and it symbolises the re-birth of Coventry following the destruction of World War II.
At the unveiling George Wagstaffe explained: “Although I didn’t think so at the time, I think the Blitz has had a massive effect upon my work. The idea that things do crumble, do fall away, do break up and out of that can come something greater, something good.”
The new sculpture stands just yards away from another. That other sculpture - The Coventry Boy (1966) by Philip Bentham - pays tribute to the industrial engineering heritage of our city. The Coventry Boy holds high in one hand his Apprenticeship Certificate and grasps a spanner with his other hand. He came from a poor background indicated by his wearing a single shoe, but he has bettered himself as is indicated by his shirt and tie.
The Coventry Boy looks across the road towards the Cathedral, and that is not his only connection with our church. The statue was organised by the Coventry Boy Foundation which was a charity established by Alfred Harris, a local industrialist, and a great benefactor to the city. Amongst other projects to improve the city he funded the first replica Coventry Cross, that has now been re-sited outside Holy Trinity Church.
Alfred Harris was the anonymous donor who gave to the Cathedral the sum of £20,000 that paid for the Graham Sutherland Tapestry. (That would be £350,000 today with inflation considered.) He also paid the travel costs for the weavers to come from Felletin, France to visit the Cathedral on the eve of its 1962 Consecration to see the result of their many years' work in its final place. Mr Harris died in 1976.
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.
A JOHN HUTTON angel engraving at Guildford Cathedral was broken by vandals overnight on 12th/13th January. The glass Cathedral doors at the west end are engraved with sentinel angels and the picture shows the damage done to one of those doors.
The estimated cost to replace the damaged panel is £15,000 plus VAT, and Guildford Cathedral has launched a Fundraising page to raise the insurance excess of £5,000. In 2020 vandals broke one of the John Hutton engraved angels in the west screen of Coventry Cathedral. Our broken panel is currently being conserved. It is too badly damaged to be put back in place.
The Interim Dean of Guildford is the Ven Stuart Beake, who was a Residentiary Canon of Coventry Cathedral from 2000 to 2005. (pictured on the right)
Presented to the Rev’d J B Collisson by the Teachers of St Michael’s Sunday School, Coventry. 1848.
A PRESENTATION PENCIL bearing this inscription was recently offered for sale on Ebay for the sum of £360. It was described as a “VICTORIAN 1848 GOLD PIQUE, SHELL & TURQUOISE SLIDING PENCIL, COVENTRY CATHEDRAL.”
Rev. Collisson was the Vicar of St Michael’s from 1846 to 1858. He hit the newspapers when he was involved in litigation over his levy of a Vicar’s Rate. At that time he was entitled by law to levy a Parish Rate if his churchwardens failed to do so, and the Rate could be used to raise between £280 and £300 a year for him.
The churchwardens had not exercised their right to levy a Rate for many years and wished to do so. The court judgment declared that their rights had not lapsed through non-use (known legally as "laches").
Problems over the Vicar's Rate of St Michael’s dragged on and continued to plague the Vicar’s successors, who also ended up in court. But that is an interesting (and sometimes amusing) story in itself that I will share in a future newsletter.
It is notable that during his time at St Michael’s the Rev. Collisson obtained a church faculty to remove the existing galleries within the building, which was a major structural alteration to St Michael's.
THE WEEK OF Prayer for Christian Unity from 18th to 25th January 2024 was marked by online nightly meditations arranged by the Chapel of Unity trustees.
The theme of the week was taken from the story of the Good Samaritan – “Go And Do Likewise”.
On the Sunday members of many different church denominations filled the Chapel of Unity at a Joint Service. (PHOTO LEFT)
A net zero Cathedral
THE CHURCH OF England is working towards the carbon net zero target date of 2030, and Coventry Cathedral is playing its part. The aim is to reduce and offset the amount of greenhouse gases that the Cathedral uses so that the net impact upon the planet is ZERO.
Members of the Cathedral congregation have been invited to create an ECO ACTION GROUP in order to pool ideas and suggest action to take. If you want to help save the planet or if you have friends who are eco-minded and would feel strongly enough to join the Cathedral’s ECO ACTION GROUP, please get in touch with Simon Danks, the Cathedral’s Chief Operating Officer.
A PLAQUE ON the wall near the Cathedral’s Chapel of Industry reveals the identity of the Cathedral’s former close neighbour – the Triumph Motor Cycle works.
The factory’s story is worth telling as it is important both in the industrial history of Coventry as well as demonstrating the world’s need in the past for that Peace and Reconciliation declared to us all on the road signs that welcome us to Coventry.
Back in 1940 the Triumph factory on this site suffered badly from enemy bombing in the same raid that destroyed Coventry Cathedral. Manufacturing was moved to a temporary site in Warwick until two years later when the new Triumph factory opened in Meriden.
What is often forgotten is that the Triumph Company began with cycle production at the end of the 19th century and was founded by two German nationals – Siegfried Bettmann and Johann Schulte.
Bettmann became the Chairman and in 1902 he spearheaded the introduction of Triumph motor cycle production. He went on to play a leading role in city life. He was the president of the Coventry Liberal Association, a freemason, a founder member and president of Coventry’s Chamber of Commerce, a Justice of the Peace, and in 1913 he became Mayor of Coventry – the first non-British subject to do so.
He was President of the Godiva Harriers and this 1913 photo (above) was taken with club members in the garden of The Priory Assembly Building, 11 Priory Row. (Now called St Michael’s House, the stairs in the background were re-modelled after WWII.) The cup in front of him is the Bettmann Trophy that he donated. He helped Harriers' members in several ways, including health insurance and employment.
In 1914 with his wife he established the Annie Bettmann Foundation, to help young people between the ages of 18 and 40 who wished to start a business. I have every reason to remember this as I benefited from the Foundation’s support during my professional training. I understand that the Foundation ceased in 2018. Peace and Reconciliation. Sadly, the outbreak of war during Bettmann’s mayoralty gave rise to considerable anti-German feelings right across the UK. It was at this time in response to those feelings that the Royal family changed its name from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Windsor. Bettmann had to register with the Home Office as a German-born immigrant. He resigned from the Triumph board and from his Masonic Lodge. In November 1914 anti-German pressure from the Coventry public caused him to resign as Mayor of Coventry.
There is a great deal of irony about his story because at the same time as he resigned, the “trusty Triumphs” were assisting the British war effort. At the start of the war 100 Triumph motorbikes were supplied to the British Expeditionary Force in France. At home Bettmann arranged for the empty Whitley Abbey House to be used by Belgian refugees. He organised fundraising for the Prince of Wales’ National Relief Fund, to which he personally donated £250.
Later in 1930 Triumph Motor Car production began and the Triumph name was closely associated with the rise of Coventry’s motor industry after World War II, particularly when Triumph joined with the Standard Company. Siegfried Bettmann retired from Triumph in 1939 and lived in Coventry until his death in 1951.
Today the Triumph brand can be found on on motorcycles that are made in Hinckley, Leicestershire and by other factories abroad. Since 1984 there has been no Triumph motor car in production, but it is strangely appropriate that the rights to the Triumph car marque today belong to BMW, a company that originates from Bavaria – just like Siegfried Bettmann.