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

THIS SPECTACULAR VIEW of Coventry Cathedral at sunset was taken last month by Mark Pemberton.   Mark is the Coventry photographer who had an exhibition of his work in the Cathedral last year.
     On the day of the pictured sunset the route of my late afternoon walk took me around the War Memorial Park where I witnessed Coventry’s spectacularly red skies for myself. (BELOW)
     The red skies happened two or three nights in succession, and they were the result of sandstorms in the Sahara Desert.   The desert storms had sent fine particles of dust up high into the earth’s atmosphere to be carried along in the jet stream.   The sand in the atmosphere refracted the light and caused the intensive red hues that you see in the photos.
     The sand dust phenomenon is not unique and can affect the UK several times during the year, though not always with the same spectacular lighting effects.   In some UK regions last month light sand deposits also fell from the sky and motorists found sprinklings on their car windscreens first thing in the morning.   I did not notice that effect on my car in Coventry.


Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.

Lenten Reflections

THE CHAPEL of UNITY is hosting an online 20-minute Poem Reflection at 6.00pm each Monday evening during Lent.  
The reflections follow a selection of the poems taken from 
The Heart’s Time (edited by Janet Morley)
        4th March              The Wrong Beds               Roger McGough
        11th March            Those Winter Sundays     Robert Hayden
        18th March            I am the great sun           Charles Causley
        25th March            Pax                                   D H Lawrence
  For you to join on ZOOM the online link details are:
Meeting ID: 813 1041 7352         
Passcode: 181962

Limerick support
AFTER THE 1940 destruction of the Cathedral there was a spontaneous outpouring of support.   People from across the world wanted to help Coventry Cathedral.   The momentum was such that without any effort at all a Coventry Cathedral Rebuilding Fund sprang into existence.
     This was long before any decisions about rebuilding the Cathedral had been taken.   It was on the 14th May 1946, nearly six years later, that the official Coventry Cathedral Reconstruction Appeal was launched.    It was some ten years later that Basil Spence won the international Architectural Competition to build the new Cathedral.   
     Six months after the Coventry Blitz the spontaneous Fund had grown to a total of £949. 17s. 6d (the equivalent of £53,571.54 today when adjusted for inflation).   Each week more letters arrived addressed to the Cathedral and enclosing contributions to the Fund.  
     Many of the donations were memorial gifts.   From A M M Heathcote came a contribution of £5 “A thank offering for the safety of my son at the Humber Works”.    An anonymous contribution of £3. 7s.0d was sent addressed to “God, Church, Coventry”.   A donation of 2s.6d. was made “as a thank offering by an ambulance driver for the safety of myself and friends during the raid”.
     The BBC paid a fee to the “Provost and Gentlemen of the Choir” for the Christmas Day 1940 broadcast from the Cathedral Ruins, which added a further £8.9s.0d. to the Fund.   Making the adjustment for inflation, that fee is the equivalent of £556.86 today.  
     In August 1943 the Coventry Evening Telegraph reported that the sale of the furniture and other effects at Hall Place, Bexley had raised the sum of £27,725 “the major part of which was bequeathed by the late Countess of Limerick for the restoration of Coventry Cathedral.”  
     This bequest came almost out of the blue.   Two questions spring immediately to my mind – Who was the Countess of Limerick? and What was her connection with Coventry Cathedral?

     The Countess of Limerick’s home was Hall Place, a Grade 1 listed stately home in Bexley in south-east London, built in 1537 for Sir John Champneys, a wealthy merchant and former Lord Mayor of London.   May Pery, the Countess of Limerick, lived there as tenant from 1917 until her death in 1943.   Her husband, the 4th Earl of Limerick, lived at the family seat, Dromore Castle, County Limerick until his death on 18th March 1929.
     Lady Limerick was a recognised beauty in her youth, and throughout her life she was an active, public spirited patriot.   During the Boer war she founded the Shamrock League that raised funds for the benefit of the Soldiers and Sailors Families Association, and in the First World War she and other aristocratic ladies organized a free buffet for returning service men at London Bridge station. For this she was created a CBE in 1920.
     Her only son, Viscount Glentworth, was killed in action on 18th May 1918, and her only daughter, Lady Victoria Brady, died of the Spanish Flu on 27th December 1918.   The only local link that I could discover for the family was that Viscount Glentworth served with the Warwickshire Yeomanry.
     Provost Howard was returning from holiday in the South of England at the time of the 9-day estate sale at Bexley, so he stopped for an hour or two to witness proceedings.   At the auction he spoke with people who had known the Countess, and he later wrote for the benefit of members of the Friends:
     “Her generous bequest arose from the simple desire to help in the restoration of the worst bombed cathedral, and she considered that to be Coventry Cathedral, although she had never seen it.   She was a devout churchwoman and well known for her good works….
     …One reflection was borne in on my mind, which I am sure must have occurred to many others.   If the Countess of Limerick living in Kent could include in her will such a bequest to a Cathedral which she had never seen, what an example she has given to dwellers in Warwickshire and Coventry to do the same!”

Come and Meet the Bishop at
A Friendly Monday
with Bishop Ruth Worsley
(Acting Bishop of Coventry)  
on 22nd April 2024.  
Refreshments from 10.30am.  
Venue – John Laing Centre.

ADVANCE NOTICE:  The FRIENDS' Annual General Meeting will be on 12th October 2024.

THESE BOMB DAMAGED buildings that stood in Priory Row were demolished to make way for the building of the new Cathedral.   They once stood alongside St Michael’s House, 11 Priory Row, which was on the left behind the photographer.
     The photo shows a Civil Defence exercise that was carried out in Priory Row on 30th May 1954.   The moment was captured by Arthur Cooper, and the picture is from one of his glass negatives that were recovered from a house clearance skip, as described in earlier Newsletters.   Today this area that was once Priory Row is occupied by the Cathedral car park and part of the nave.
     It was in 1954 that the Labour-controlled Coventry City Council decided to withdraw funding from all Civil Defence work.   This was on the grounds that Civil Defence is pointless when there is no effective defence against the atom bomb.
     This rubbed the Midlands Region Civil Defence organisation up the wrong way, and against the Council’s wishes it organised the exercise in Priory Row and the surrounding streets.   Mock casualties were rescued from the abandoned bombed buildings while the event was greeted with loudspeaker street protests led by Sidney Stringer, the leader of Coventry City Council.
     If you would like to see what Priory Row looked like in 1954, the British Film Institute has placed on its website a 4-minute amateur film of the Civil Defence exercise that you are able to view online using the following link –

AT CHRISTMAS I enjoyed watching the film “Nativity” the last part of which was set in the Cathedral Ruins.   It was the first time I had seen live camels in the Ruins taking part in a nativity play!   I called to mind one of those other occasions when the ruins became a film set.
     In 2002 David Suchet (famous for his TV role as Hercule Poirot) was at the Cathedral to film an episode of the crime series MANHUNT.   He took the part of DI John Borne, the leader of a National Crime Squad Unit.
     The story that was filmed at Coventry Cathedral involved DI Borne solving a string of racist crimes committed by a radical English nationalist, who eventually blew himself up in front of the altar on St George’s Day.

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.   

 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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