A view of the beautiful hand carved Victorian pews with "Polly" the Eagle Lecturn.  The lecturn masqueraded as a money box during 1649 - 1660.

Holy Trinity Church Coventry's History Pages .....Sarah and Andrew invite you to.... come in and "take a pew"......

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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 source)

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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 12th century?

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.

The 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 north side.

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 leaded roofs.

Plan of the church below in 1870 by T W Whitley.

 

 Mr Mark Singlehurst
City Development Directorate.
Civic Centre 4, Much Park Street
Coventry.
CV1 2PY

This article must NOT be copied without the express permission from the City Development Directorate.  Please contact them at the above address if this is requested.  (although this reproduction is believed to be flawless we cannot guarantee that some typographical errors may have slipped through unseen)

 

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PLEASE NOTE: These are historic pages of Holy Trinity Church and the church interior may have changed since our photographs were taken as they do not post date 2005.

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Updated 16/11/08