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

CAROLS BY CANDLELIGHT set the tone for the Cathedral's Christmas services.   In the darkened Cathedral the Cathedral Choir sang with brilliant sensitivity.   The congregation filled the nave chairs and overflowed on to the pilgrim’s benches in the side aisles.
It was wonderful to hear the music of Britten’s CEREMONY OF CAROLS sung by the Girls Choir, accompanied by Cecily Beer on the harp.   The clean-cut melodies and occasional dissonances of Britten’s compositions both reflect and are enhanced by the 20th century architecture of our building.   How I long to hear his Missa Brevis brought back into the regular repertoire.

CAROLS FOR FAMILIES on the afternoon of Christmas Eve encouraged the young children who filled the nave to join in the telling of the nativity story.   It was told with a light touch, with a helping of humour and a great deal of participation.   It is not often that Coventry Cathedral worship is led by a Canon wearing angel wings lit up with fairy lights and a Curate wearing reindeer antlers!
There was also a good attendance at the FORM OF A SERVANT on Christmas Eve.    The mix of traditional and modern carols is nostalgic and at the same time challenging as we think of the significance of the coming of Christ.   At the conclusion of the service the ministers knelt at the Christmas crib to pay homage to the Christ child.   The service ended with a haunting carol sung by the Cathedral Choir at the Christmas tree that captured for me something of the magic and mystery of Christmas.

Bishop Ruth (Acting Bishop of Coventry) took part in morning worship on CHRISTMAS DAY.  During the service the Dean blessed a pectoral cross of nails and presented it to her.   As you can see in this photo taken at the Dismissal the good Christmas attendances continued.

If you are interested in seeing how children celebrated Christmas Eve in our Cathedral in past years, there is 15 mins of home video available online on YouTube entitled “Christmas Eve 2005 in Coventry Cathedral”.   In that year the service was led by Canon Justin Welby.


Friends Programme 2024

The Friends Council has planned a series of activities during 2024.
     10th February 2024 at 2pm – Cathedral Film Show.   Archive film including an US film from the 1960s and a Scottish documentary film about Basil Spence.  Venue – John Laing Centre.
     22nd April 2024 at 10.30am.   A Friendly Monday with Bishop Ruth Worsley (Acting Bishop of Coventry)   Venue – John Laing Centre.
     May 2024.   A guided visit to Charterhouse, London Road.  Details to follow.
     6th June to 7th July.   An exhibition in the Chapel of Industry of prints by Paul Catherall.   Examples of his work are in the picture above.   The artist was brought up in Coventry and has captured the essence of many local buildings.  He is widely exhibited.   Members will have the opportunity to help steward the exhibition.   There will be a Meet The Artist event.   Details to follow.
     September 2024.   A back stage tour of the RSC, Stratford upon Avon.   Details to follow.
     12th October 2024.   Annual General Meeting followed by a presentation about Old Coventry in Photographs – Ben Kyneswood, Coventry Digital.
     Members of the Friends Council would love to hear from members with other suggestions for events/activities.   The contact details are all listed above.
     The Friends’ current programme of activities began on New Year’s Eve with the showing of the 1958 archive film footage that was taken on that date 65 years earlier when the Chapel of the Cross was consecrated.   The film showing was well attended and demonstrated once again that members are keen to preserve the heritage of Coventry Cathedral so that its story can be told to future generations.
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.   



Cathedral Choir

     THE SPONSORED VIRTUAL Christmas Balloon Race organised by the Friends of Coventry Cathedral and sponsored by Michael Mogan MBE was a tremendous success and raised £600 in support of Coventry Cathedral Choir.   
     Thanks to all those members who took part.
     The winning balloon was sponsored by Barbara Clarke, a long-time member of the Friends.  She is pictured receiving the winning prize from the Chairman.   


Mandy Spraggett
(Head of Fundraising, Coventry Cathedral) writes about

The Book of Remembrance
AT THE HEAD of the Swedish steps alongside the Lady Chapel are the cases that contain the Book of Remembrance -  beautifully bound, and inscribed by skilled calligraphers.
     The Book contains the names of deceased loved ones, whom relatives and friends requested their memory be held in a permanent form. We also gratefully remember 'Angels of Hope' who were so fond of Coventry Cathedral that they left a lasting gift in their wills.   For ‘Angels of Hope’ there no costs for this service.
     Names are entered according to the date on which they died.   Each day a page of the book is turned, so the names of those commemorated on their Remembrance Day are seen.
     Friends of Coventry Cathedral are invited to have the names of departed relatives and friends entered in the book, together with a short inscription of no more than 50 letters. There is a charge for this service and an entry in the Book of Remembrance is £100 per name with a dedication message.
     In the case of parents commemorating a child of their own who has died, the words 'Remember our child' will be added (if you wish). Special prayers may be said with parents by the Book of Remembrance on the anniversary of a child's passing.
     We do have special circumstances entries for a baby or a very young child, please contact [email protected] for more details or Complete the 'Arranging a Remembrance Form' on our website Book of Remembrance - Coventry Cathedral
     Please note that due to the nature of the work involved, a period of up to 12 months usually elapses before the names are entered.

 The World’s Most


 Stained Glass

   THE ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST published its list of the World’s 25 Most Breathtaking Stained Glass Windows in December, and Coventry Cathedral’s baptistry window features in that list.
     Cathedrals, art galleries, concert halls, department stores and private homes were included in the Architectural Digest search for stained glass art.   The aim was to discover examples of how architects have used the art form in some of their most iconic designs.   Alongside the picture seen here, the caption reads:
     The Baptistry Window is located inside Coventry Cathedral.
     Designed by artist John Piper, he felt that the use of color and
     abstract pattern was the only way to unite the 198 small openings
     in the wall that needed filling. The piece measures 85 feet high and
     was created in collaboration with glassmaker Patrick Reyntiens.

Cathedral International Air Rally

COVENTRY AEROPLANE CLUB organised the International Cathedral Air Rally in June 1964.   It is the only Air Rally held to date to honour Coventry Cathedral.
     It was a time two years after the Consecration when the Cathedral was one of the country’s leading tourist attractions, and when through the summer months thousands of visitors queued often for an hour or more to enter the building.
     The Air Rally programme (see photo) was published in French, in German and in the English language and it explained the reason for dedicating the Air Rally to the Cathedral.
     “The rebuilt Coventry Cathedral is an international symbol of goodwill; people of many nations have contributed towards building it and it has become the most significant religious building of recent times.   Just as the destruction of the old Cathedral was an example of the misuse of aviation, so we want the Cathedral Rally to be a coming-together of those who love flying for its own sake, and for the opportunity it provides for flyers of all nations to meet with a common interest.”
     Interestingly the entry fee of £10 (or its foreign equivalent) covered the cost of hotel accommodation for two nights and all entertainment and meals – what a bargain by today's standards!
     In the course of the Rally there were prizes awarded for the Time of Arrival Competition, the Oldest Aircraft participating, the Longest Distance flown, the Aircraft with the Smallest Engine, the Concours d’Elegance, and the Miss Coventry Air Rally.
         At the time of the International Cathedral Air Rally the Chairman of Coventry Aeroplane Club was Mr J J Parkes, an aviator who was a key figure in the rise of the motor industry of our city after World War II.  
     At the end of the War he was the managing director of Alvis Ltd., where he re-introduced vehicle production at the Holyhead Road factory.   During the war the company produced armoured vehicles and aircraft engines in over twenty factories.   Parkes introduced cars to the Coventry production line and made it a three-product company.   Incidentally, in the post-war period cars costing over £1000 were subject to 66.6% purchase tax, so it is not surprising that Alvis cars went on sale for £998!
     Mr Parkes always had a keen interest in flying.   He held a pilots licence before the War and then served in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force.   In his flying days he famously formed a close friendship with Douglas Bader.  (Remember Kenneth More in “Reach For The Sky”?)   Mr Parkes retired from Alvis in 1973.

Art Treasure discovered

in storeroom
     A SCULPTURE BY the French artist, Jephan de Villiers, has been discovered by the Cathedral Archivist, Dianne Morris, in a Cathedral storeroom.   Dianne came across the sculpture as she was tidying the storeroom to make additional space to house the Cathedral Archives.  
     The sculptor was a pupil of the famous architect Le Corbusier, and today his work can be found in art galleries across Europe.  Holder of numerous prizes including that of the Institut de France, his work is installed at a number of spiritual sites across the world.
     In 1968 Jephan de Villiers (then aged 26 years) was the first international sculptor to exhibit his work at the Cathedral.   At that time I was working as a student verger at the Cathedral and I recall that he made himself available in the Chapter House to discuss his work throughout the exhibition there.   During the quieter moments I talked to the sculptor about Coventry and the Cathedral.
     The writer and art critic Max Wykes Joyce, the London correspondent of the New York Herald Tribune, wrote: "It is a rare thing to meet a sculptor of the first order, of complete integrity and authenticity... I salute the resurrected cathedral and the master sculptor who exhibits his work there.”
     When the exhibition finished, the artist presented Provost Williams with the plaster sculpture, “The Tree Of Life”, as is shown in the newspaper photo above.   De Villiers arranged the exhibition because he had found the experience of his first visit to Coventry Cathedral particularly moving. 
     As he presented his gift to Provost Williams he said, “The Cathedral affected the whole future of my work, and it is for this reason that I cannot go on without leaving something of myself here.”
     For many years the Cathedral staff walked past the sculpture daily when it was on display in a stairway recess at Pelham Lee House (7 Priory Row), but it has not been seen at all in recent years.    The work is unusual in that within it is encapsulated an order of service from a “do-it-yourself” act of worship that took place in April 1968.   Edric Connor, the West Indian singer and actor, took a leading part in that worship, which made a deep impression on the sculptor.

Cathedral Grant   

COVENTRY CATHEDRAL IS one of nearly 5,000 churches that have benefited from a government grant under the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme.   The fund is intended to help towards payment of VAT costs on building repairs.   Amongst the Midlands cathedrals Coventry has been granted £81,687 and Shrewsbury Cathedral (RC) has received £84,454.   In Warwick, £141,500 has been given to St Mary's Church towards repairs on the 12th Century building's tower.
   MISSING DONKEY  At the start of Advent when the Christmas Crib figures were unpacked to make them ready for display, it was discovered that the donkey has been damaged.   As a result it was missing from the Crib display this year.   The figure has a fracture at its neck and the body damage that is shown in the photograph.   Sarah Hoskings, whose mother created the Crib figures, is exploring the repair options with advice from a conservator.

 Martin R Williams  
  63 Daventry Rd,
  Coventry CV3 5DH  


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Copyright © 2024 The Friends of Coventry Cathedral, All rights reserved.
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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