Holy Trinity History (taken with permission (granted specifically to us, Andrew and
Sarah Price) from The Heritage Open Days leaflet on Trinity
from Coventry City Council - see below for details of
Holy Trinity is one of the largest medieval parish churches in
England, its tall spire (237ft) and length (194ft) approaching cathedral
proportions In existence by 1113, it was built to serve the tenants of the
prior's (north) part of Coventry. Unusually, this major medieval town
remained divided into only two parishes. The other, St Michael's, served
the Earl's part.
Holy Trinity's location, atop the hill on which Coventry
eventually flourished, may be significant. The much larger priory church
and cathedral, now buried beneath the north side of Priory Row, did not command
the summit, yet was established earlier by Leofric and Godiva, in
c.1030-40. What, then, occupied the hill top to prevent building until the
small Norman Romanesque church of Holy Trinity arrived at the beginning of the
A fire in 1257 reputedly destroyed all the Norman church
(whose nave probably occupied the site of the present north aisle), except the
inner north porch, widely acknowledged to be the oldest surviving part and
dateable, stylistically, to somewhere between 1215 and 1250. Certain other
parts of the existing church, however, display early 13th-century stylistic
features, such as the arcades of the crossing, and the size and quality of the
porch suggest a large church. So possibly rebuilding of the Norman church
began shortly before 1257 and subsequent work either incorporated some of the
fabric which survived, or copied it.
There is sufficient other 13th century fabric to show that by
c.1400 there was already a large cruciform church here with central tower, transepts, aisled nave and chancel, and two-storeyed north porch.
A Short Tour
The WEST FRONT and PORCH were rebuilt or refaced
in Bath stone, in Perpendicular style, about 1844, as part of a major
restoration of the church's exterior by R C Hussey between 1843 and 1849.
The NAVE dates from the mid or later 14th century but the
arcades retain 13th-century responds (half columns against the walls). The
clerestory (the upper section with rows of windows) and present roofs were added
in the 15th century. The line of original, lower roof, with a steeper
pitch, can be seen in the wall at the east end above the crossing arch.
The great west or "Te Deum" window, by Hugh Easton, reglazed in 1955,
illustrates the story of the Church of England.
ARCHDEACON's CHAPEL or CONSISTORY COURT (the present
bookshop) originated before 1350 and has a 15th-century roof. Many
monuments formerly in various parts of the church were resited here during a
'restoration' in 1854-56. Over 400 years ago this chapel was used as an
Ecclesiastical Court, or Consistory, hence the name. (photo seen here on the
left is taken from "The Churches of Coventry 1909)
SAINT THOMAS's CHAPEL, founded about 1296, also has a room
above. The former double-arched doorway connecting the porch with this
chapel could be of similar date. The arch between this chapel and the
north aisle has late 13th-century moulding.
The CROSSING and TOWER date from c.1380-1420. The lantern
stage was opened up during the 1854-56 restoration when the ringing floor and
bells were removed. The tower was refaced with Woolton Stone in
1915-19. The stone pulpit attached to the south-east pier is traditionally
dated to c.1470, but could be nearer c.1400.
The NORTH TRANSEPT has a 13th-century north wall, but is
mainly 14th century. The SOUTH TRANSEPT or JESUS CHAPEL is of
similar date. The chapel was established about 1478 but in 1499 was
reduced to the upper section when a clergy house, "Jesus Hall", was
built against the south wall. This blocked the street, so a passageway was
cut through the transept from east to west. Jesus Hall was demolished in
1742 but the "Jesus Passage" was not sealed off until 1834.
The MARLER's or
MERCERS' CHAPEL was the last addition to the
medieval church, established c.1526/27. The ceiling, which is finely
carved at one end only, suggests the stop put to all such embellishments at the
Dissolution of the Chantries, some twenty years later.
The CHANCEL , incorporating CHOIR and SANCTUARY, was rebuilt in
1391, and extended 24 feet to the east (the present sanctuary). The choir, in
its present form, dates from around the 1460s. The sanctuary was much
altered during the 1854-56 restoration by Scott. (the picture seen on the
right here is the Interior, looking east - William Frederick Taunton, 1866)
THE NORTH CHANCEL AISLE retains some 13th-century walling above
the arches into Marler's Chapel.
The lowest four feet of the south wall to the SOUTH CHANCEL
AISLE or BUTCHERS CHAPEL survive from the 13th century church. Both
chancel aisles were largely rebuilt in the 15th century, and are probably contemporary with the choir. The organ chamber was part of the 1854-56
internal re-ordering during which the 18th-century organ gallery across the nave
was removed along with the seating galleries that occupied the upper part of the
nave aisles. The present organ, last rebuilt in 1961, originated in 1861.
The SOUTH or VICAR'S VESTRY, once a chapel, is probably 14th
century, but has a 15th- or 16th century roof with carved joists and bosses,
18th-century panelling and wall seating, and an early doorway surround on the
The SPIRE has required frequent repairs over the years In
January 1665 a gale blew the entire structure down across the chancel, causing
much damage, but within three years it had been rebuilt. In 1776 a new set
of 8 bells were hung in the tower, but removed to a wooden campanile in
1856. The spire was recased with new stone in 1826.
The church was saved from destruction during the November 1940
blitz by the courage and foresight of the Vicar, Canon Graham
Clitheroe, and his
teams of fire watchers, who used water from a great tank in the Archdeacon's
Chapel to deal summarily with each incendiary that landed on the church's nine
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