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Coventry Society Blog Archive

'Assemble' - Turner Prize winners 2015 - But could it have been Coventry?

By Paul Maddocks 11/12/2015

A regeneration scheme for derelict houses in Toxteth in Liverpool has won Britain's leading contemporary art award. The Turner Prize, set up in 1984, is presented to a British artist under the age of 50 for "an outstanding exhibition or other presentation of their work" in the previous 12 months. Throughout its 31-year history, the Turner Prize has revelled in selecting winners that prompt the question: "Yes, but is it art?". Previous winners have included a shark in a tank, elephant droppings and a light being turned on and off!

'Assemble' are the first non-artists, in the strictest sense of the word, to win the prize. They were nominated for their work tackling urban dereliction in Toxteth, Liverpool, the aim being to use art and design to improve houses and the lives of residents living in an area called Granby Four Streets.

They are a group (numbering between 14 and 18) who have innovative ideas for architecture and design projects. A bit like the aims of the Coventry Society in a way. For years we have been pushing and supporting developments like this to happen in Coventry, like the Fargo Village and the Far Gosford Street redevelopment where the local community, artists, fashion designers, performing artists, imaginative architects and designer have transformed this historic part of Coventry. But its not the only area of Coventry that has had free thinkers. Hillfields was being pulled down after the war seen as not worth saving and new high rise flats were the answer to everything. It was one of the Coventry Society members Ralph Butcher and his team that stopped this and saved Winchester Street, Colchester and Canterbury Street from being whipped off the face of the earth in the country’s first General Improvement Area. Following renovation of the houses and a change of the road layout and other public space improvements, it still stands today as an example of pre-war terrace housing can be upgraded without losing the local community. Another example is Starley Road; one of the only true local resident streets within in the city ring road. Starley Road was named after the famous 'father of the cycle industry' James Starley. Again this road was going to be pulled down for development but the residents resisted and had a hard fight to keep it, unfortunately they did not get ownership of the Drill Hall which they wanted to be a Community and Arts centre.

Liverpool’s Granby Four Street is one of many street around the country that need saving. But in the past top down development has failed. Developers come in turn the local residents out and after the improvements or total demolition move in more affluent people. 'Assemble' draws on a long traditions of artistic and collective initiatives that experiment in art, design and architecture. In doing so they offer alternative models to how societies can work. The long-term collaboration between Granby Four Streets and Assemble shows the importance of artistic practice being able to drive and shape urgent issues.”

Assemble - Turner Prize winner 


No ‘Elephant’ in the room

By Keith Draper, Chairman, December 2014

Like them or loathe them iconic buildings are important to any town or city. They not only provide interesting, even controversial architecture, but also help to make a place different from the others.

Having just returned from a stay in Barcelona, a city famed for its ground-breaking buildings, it set me thinking about the dubious future for some of our own iconic architecture. In particular our Central Swimming Baths and Sports Centre.

In Barcelona there are many examples of unusual buildings including works by world famous architect Antoni Gaudi.

Barcelona’s Design Museum created by David Mackay (MBM Architects) sits next to Jean Nouvelle’s controversial Agbar Tower. The Hub was only allowed a small footprint with much of the building underground. MBM was also chosen to design Port Olympic, a fascinating series of modern designs with the latticework ‘Fish Sculpture’ at its heart.

Barcelona Design Museum

Mercat de Santa Caterina is next to the central Gothic Quarter with its 13th century cathedral. This produce market, completed in 2005, has a multi-coloured ceramic roof with a ceiling made of warm, light wood. Twisting slender branches of what look like grey steel trees among the produce stands hold the roof up.

Market hall in Barclona

On one of the main shopping streets is Casa Batlló, one of the strangest residential buildings in Europe. The balconies look like the bony jaws of some strange beast and the roof represents St George and the dragon. Yes, it’s the work of Antoni Gaudi and interestingly it’s a refurbishment that was tied to an existing building shell.

Gaudi architecture in Barcelona

By the time the Olympic bid had been won in 1986 design and architecture had become the top consideration in Barcelona.




See You In the Local

By Paul Maddocks, Vice Chairman - 27/2/2014

"See you in the local" was a very common phrase not that long ago. The local was not the local church, local shops or the local Post Office but the local Pub. In many communities it was the place to go and catch up on local news and gossip. Slowly all the locals are going. Like the neighbourhood Church, corner shops and Post Offices they are being lost for ever. But shops and Post Offices are being replaced with supermarkets. But what is replacing the local Pub? After seeing the planning applications for the Chestnut pub to be turned into studio flats, the Gosford Park Hotel into student flats and the Beer Engine in to a Cafe/bar. This got me thinking what is happening to our Pubs?

Over the years major changes have happened. It started with extending the opening hours, which sounded like a good idea, just like on the continent! But it meant extra staff, extra heating and lighting, but no great leap in trade. Some started to serve food which helped; then the smoking ban meant smokers had to go outside in all weathers. But all the time supermarkets were cutting the cost of take-home drinks - sometimes costing 25% less than in the pubs.

What will happen to our traditional British Pub? On the radio the Bull is still open in Ambridge. On television the Rover Return and the Queen Vic are still doing well, but in the real world they are vanishing and Coventry has lost its fair share. As Joni Mitchell sang in that Big Yellow Taxi "You don't know what you’ve got till it’s gone!"

Below is a list of some of the Coventry Pubs that we have lost in recent years. If you see any we have missed, or any mistakes, please let us know. Also send us your memories of these pubs and we will add them. 

Alhambra, New Buildings

Aldermoor Hotel, Aldermoor Lane

Admiral Codrington, St. Columba's Close

Angel Hotel, Station Street West

Barras Hotel, Swancroft Road

Bear and Staff, Broadgate

Bell, Bell Green

Beer Engine, Far Gosford Street

Black Eagle, Hotel Leofric

Black Horse, Spon End

Binley Hotel, Binley Road

Binley Oak, Hillfields

Chace, London Road

Chequers, Stoke Aldermore

Cheylesmore, Daventry Rd.

Chestnut, Walsgrave

City Arms, Smithford Way

Climax, City Arcade

Dolphin, Sheriff Avenue, Canley (New)

Elastic Inn, Cox St.

Fletch, Fletchamstead Highway

Freemason, Harnall Lane

Greyhound, Much Park St.

General Wolfe, Foleshill Road

Golden Eagle, Folehill Road

Golden Fleece, Bell Green

Gosford Hotel, St. Georges Road

Grange, Alfall Road, Upper Stoke

Green Man, Longford

Hand & Heart, Far Gosford St.

Hare & Hounds, Gulson Rd. Bramble St.

Hertford Tavern, Craven Street

Hawthorn Tree, Broad Lane

Herald, Canley Road

Hope & Anchor, Whitefriars Lane

Jolly Colliers, Woodway Lane, Longford

Jubilee, Swanswell St.

Lighthouse, Tile Hill Lane

Live & Let Live, Wood End

Lockhurst Tavern, Lockhurst Lane

Malt Shovel, Spon End

Mercers Arms, Swan Lane, by old Sky Blues

Market Tavern, next to Market

Motor Hotel, Dorset Road

Mysterious Monk, Abbey Road, Whitley

Navigation, Stoney Stanton Road

New Star, Jardine Crescent

New Phoenix, Fletchampstead Highway

Red House, Stoney Stanton Rd.

Rose & Woodbine, Stoney Stanton Rd.

Plough, London Road

Peacock, Gosford St.

Penny Black, Greyfriars Lane

Prince William Henry, Foleshill Road

Queens, Primrose Hill St.

Spittlemore, Lower Ford Street

Smithfield, Hales St.

Swanswell, Hales Street

Thistle, City Arcade

Three Tuns, Bull Yard

Three Shuttles, Howard St.

Three Horseshoes, Stoney Stanton Road

Vauxhall Tavern, Hillfields

Waters Wine Bar, High Street

The Whoberley, Wildcroft Road (also known as the Wildcroft and The Morris Men)

White Bear, St James Lane

White Lion, Walsgrave Road

Winnal, Remembrance Road, Willenhall

William IV, Foleshill Road

Yates, High Street

Two pubs I remember from the mid 1970s were The Gate Hangs Well in Howard Street, which linked back to the carpentry trade in the Five Ways area of Hillfields and the Alma Tavern on the corner of Howard Street and the Stoney Stanton Road. Bob Purser - 27/1/2016

Court House before



Court House after