AUG 00] COUNTY HALL, COVENTRY NEWS
Dig For History, Urges Enthusiast
central slice of Coventry’s medieval history is close to being
unearthed following efforts to trace a building’s past by a
at the apparent lack of interest in the old County Hall, John
Russell has been digging around to find evidence that there was
a much older building on the site in Hay Lane in the city centre.
County Hall, home to the city’s courts until 1988, has been
derelict for many years and is currently being turned into a
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to renovate the stonework of the façade of the building will be
revealed later this week when scaffolding is removed.
John Russell, great-nephew of legendary amateur archaeologist JB
Sheldon, has taken the chance to look around the building site
while exploratory trenches have been dug.
similar to Sheldon, who forced the city to take its heritage
seriously by taking his trowel to every site of interest, Mr
Russell has found traces that there was a much earlier building.
has discovered some tiles from the 14th century, which experts
say were made at a kiln in what is now Harefield Road.
Russell said there should be a thorough investigation of the
courtyard area of the old hall, which used to be an exercise
yard for the prisoners of the county gaol.
yard, currently overgrown, is to be used as a dining area in the
pub. Work has stopped on the area while the plans are finalised.
not an archaeologist, but at
the moment there’s a window of opportunity for an
archaeological team to delve into a part of the 14th century
which has never been uncovered.
wouldn’t upset the work that’s being carried out on the
pub because they are going to excavate anyway.”
point to the site being used as a medieval prison, but Mr
Russell thinks the building could have had a grander use.
council and the guildsmen used to parade from the Guild Hall
to St Michael’s church for every meeting.
think it is unlikely that they would have wanted to walk past
are references to a “gaol hall” in old records, and Mr
Russell believes that there may have been another guild hall in
front of the jail.
hopes that an archaeological dig will reveal if the tile he
found is a random deposit or he start of a find that will
explain more about the history of the area at the centre of
Demidowicz, Conservation Officer at Coventry City Council, said
a dig was being planned when the pub moved into the next stage
of the design.
far the only work to have been carried out is external, and
plans for the inside have not yet been finalised.
there is a lot of disruption and digging to the yard area for
service trenches, then the city council will force the
developers to pay for a proper excavation. Otherwise the site
will be left undisturbed.
process of achieving a satisfying scheme has been long,
tedious and intricate over three years.”
and mergers between breweries have meant that the plans for the
Grade II* listed building have changed several times. The
developers are Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries Ltd.
set of plans have to be approved by the city council.
Demidowicz said he wasn’t surprised that medieval tiles had
been found by Mr Russell:
would have been more surprised if there hadn’t been any. You
can’t put a spade in the ground in the centre of Coventry
without finding a piece of something medieval.
found buckets of them when we excavated the old cathedral.”
Demidowicz added that certain features of the old courtroom were
to be kept, including the judge’s bench, the docks and the
visiting the pub, which is aimed at a more upmarket clientele
than the Varsity brand owned by the firm, will be able to drink
in all of these places.