Specialist conservation contractors have been appointed to transform some of Coventry’s oldest buildings into special short stay visitor accommodation in time for the city being UK City of Culture 2021.
Historic Coventry Trust (HCT) has awarded the £606,000 contract to Messenger Construction Ltd to restore three timber-framed Lychgate Cottages in Priory Row and convert them into four self-contained units which will be let for short breaks.
The ‘chocolate box’ black and white cottages were built in 1415 and are the only buildings from St Mary’s Priory to survive the destruction of Godiva’s Cathedral during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539.
Skilled craftspeople from Messenger Construction, who work with public and private property owners including the National Trust and Historic England, have started work on the careful restoration of the ancient timber framed structures.
Funding for the project has been secured from the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF), the Cultural Capital Investment Fund and the Government’s Getting Building Fund through the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) and the West Midlands Combined Authority.
Graham Tait, Assistant Director at HCT, explained that the unique project in the Cathedral Quarter would attract visitors who may not previously have stayed overnight in Coventry, boosting the local economy.
“These notable cottages have been underused for many years. The project is part of the Trust’s partnership with the Council to restore much of the city’s ancient heritage in time for City of Culture in May 2021,” he said.
“The cottages will attract leisure visitors to Coventry to stay in a piece of ancient history linked to Lady Godiva.
“The Trust has completed a new 250-year lease from Coventry City Council and will carefully look after the buildings for many generations to come. The cottages will be open to the public on open days for people to understand their unique story. We are also keen to document the more recent history and are encouraging any former residents to get in touch.
“The partnership with the Council is giving a new lease of life to our underused heritage and is seen as a national trailblazer for regenerating the city and its economy through its heritage.”
Cllr Jim O’Boyle, CWLEP board director and Coventry City Council’s Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration, said: “This is another major step in our innovative partnership with the Trust following the restoration of The Charterhouse, Drapers Hall and regeneration of The Burges which are already underway. Including the Council’s plans to restore St Mary’s Hall, the level of investment in the city’s heritage is unprecedented and will put us in a great position to take advantage of the boost in visitors resulting from City of Culture.
“The cottages will provide a very special experience for people to stay in the Cathedral Quarter and explore the other attractions. The increase in visitors will boost spend and jobs in the city centre’s shops and restaurants. These buildings have so much potential but have been underused for decades with no public access. The successful transfer to Historic Coventry Trust shows the true power of us working together in partnership.”
Matthew Mckeague, Chief Executive of the Architectural Heritage Fund, said: “This is a key moment for Lychgate Cottages. Our Transforming Places Through Heritage programme is all about helping to transform town and city centres, enabling them to become thriving places, strengthening local communities and encouraging local economies to prosper.
“Historic Coventry Trust’s project at Priory Row will bring a new lease of life to these significant medieval timber framed buildings in the heart of the city centre. We are pleased to be working in partnership with Historic Coventry Trust, which is also one of our pilot Heritage Development Trusts, to showcase how innovative heritage schemes like this can help revive town and city centres.”