Hidden historic gem prepares to wow visitors – Coventry City Council

A building that has been a part of the city for almost 700 years and has undergone a major transformation is set to reopen to the public in the heart of Coventry’s historic cathedral quarter.

Following a massive refurbishment and restoration programme, St Mary’s Guildhall will offer visitors a new immersive experience with cutting edge interpretation, hands on activities, as well as the opportunity to explore the newly uncovered Medieval Kitchen – one of the best preserved in the country – which is fully accessible for the first time in almost 100 years.

Restoration work was also completed on the stunning St Mary’s Guildhall tapestry – dating back to the turn of the 16th Century.

New interpretation programmes, including a digital tour and interactive activities have been developed to explain the story of the tapestry and enable visitors to clearly see and understand more about the beautiful artwork.

In 2017 Coventry City Council embarked on a process to reimagine the venue, helping make the transformation happen by enabling and securing more than £6m of funding with the support of major national funders to create what will be a major visitor attraction for Coventry.

The transformation was made possible by a £1.4m grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, thanks to National Lottery players and through the Cultural Capital Investment Fund resourced by Coventry City Council, Arts Council England, and the Government’s Getting Building Fund through Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership – amounting to a further £4.9m.

Now, No Ordinary Hospitality Management is managing the venue using their specialist expertise to help visitors to enjoy the fantastic attraction.

The Guildhall opens on Friday 22 July.

Councillor Jim O’Boyle, Cabinet Member for Jobs, Regeneration and Climate Change, said: “It is an absolute privilege for me to have been a part of the work to transform St Mary’s Guildhall from the outset.

“Coventry’s Guildhall, one of the finest in the country, was a hidden gem.  But one with massive potential that, like us, national and regional funders recognised. The redevelopment of the Guildhall means its legacy will live on for local people and visitors to enjoy for many years to come.

He added: “It is a perfect example of what can be achieved when we combine the best of the old with the best of the new. The new here being the technology for people to learn more about the hall’s wonderful history. It is now an even more prized asset for the city.

“I’m sure that No Ordinary Hotel Management will help to make it a really popular venue for a really wide range of events – which is an important part of the legacy of the scheme.”

Councillor David Welsh, Cabinet Member for Heritage in Coventry, said: “As a Council we have helped secure external investments amounting to £5.6million to breathe new life into the Guildhall, which is such a jewel in Coventry’s heritage crown.

“The work that has been completed has strengthened that position still further as the extensive work that has been undertaken has sensitively restored and refurbished many important parts of the Guildhall.

“It has been a fantastic joint effort from funders through to craftspeople who have worked during a pandemic both carefully and sensitively, to make this transformation a reality.”

He added: “Visitors will get to see and understand much more about its fascinating heritage and history, and I’m delighted that local people from all backgrounds will get to see and experience its beauty.”

Abigail Moore, Heritage and Venue Manager at St Mary’s Guildhall, added: “We are so excited to be welcoming visitors back to the Guildhall and sharing its fascinating 700 year history in a whole new way.

“With the augmented reality, visitors will get a really immersive experience seeing a virtual recreation of a medieval banquet in the newly uncovered kitchen, and then being eaten in the Great Hall.

“We will share the story of the Guildhall from its time as a seat of power for the Royal Court, to acting as a Victorian soup kitchen. There will be a children’s trail and guides and written interpretation, to help bring the whole experience to life.”

“As part of our remit in ensuring St Mary’s Guildhall is at the heart of the community discounted entry applies for Coventry residents with a valid Go CV card and free entry for Go CV Plus card holders.”

St Mary’s Guildhall is widely recognised as one of the finest medieval guildhalls in the country, which dates back to 1352 and miraculously survived the blitz of 1940 which devastated much of the city centre.

The stunning tapestry (pictured) located in the St Mary’s Guildhall, Coventry, and dating back to the turn of the 16th Century, was reinstalled after the completion of detailed preservation work by specialist conservators.

The restoration of the artefact has helped to preserve the Tapestry, and the details and colours have been revealed.

It is the oldest in Britain still hanging on the wall for which it was designed.

The Tapestry which features two central figures believed to be King Henry VI and his Queen, Margaret of Anjou, records Coventry’s status as the regional capital of the Midlands in the years 1480 to 1520.

The Council has worked closely with a range of partners, to redevelop, refurbish and restore more than a dozen impressive cultural capital schemes that are completed, with more than £40m of external funding. 

Further information including opening hours and prices can be found at www.stmarysguildhall.co.uk  and further information regarding GO CV can be found at www.gocv.co.uk.

To get a closer look at the building, watch the video below.


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