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Register A Look At Cheylesmore Manor

The remnants of a medieval royal palace in Coventry city centre is one of the buildings opening for Heritage Open Days.

The gatehouse of Cheylesmore Manor is squirreled away behind sixties concrete in New Union Street.

Cheylesmore Manor

It used to be the only unfortified royal palace outside London.

Now it is better known as the register office, and is the oldest building in the country to hold that function.

As with many old buildings it has been added to and changed over the years.

It is thought that it was built for the Earl of Arundel in 1237. By 1320 it had passed to Queen Isabella, wife of Edward II along with the lavish Cheylesmore Park that surrounded it.

Queen Isabella will be on hand when the building opens for the Heritage Open Days weekend to tell visitors her part in its history.

Coventry Tour Guide Barbara Bickerton will be getting into character to bring the Queen back to life.

Isabella had the house during the time that Coventry had very strong links with the royal family. Her son Edward the Black Prince took possession of it afterwards, and in 1385 Richard II allowed the people of the city to take stones from the quarries in his park if they would include it inside the city walls they were building.

It fell into disuse as Coventry’s links with royalty waned. In 1661 Charles II granted the house to a loyalist, Sir Robert Townsend, to recognise his support of the Royalist cause - hardly a popular move in a Roundhead town.

During this era the changes were made to the building that can still be seen now.

The Cheylesmore estate was slowly swallowed up by the city, and the house declined further.

It left royal ownership in 1798 when the Prince Regent, later George IV, sold it to the marquis of Hertford. It is rumoured that this was after the Prince lost a caterpillar race!

Demolition was gradually permitted in the 20th century as the buildings decayed, but the government stopped the council from demolishing the gatehouse.

After restoration work the building opened as a register office in 1968. It will be open on Sunday 17 September from 11am to 5pm for visitors.


1230: manor house built by William de Albany

1275: first called Cheylesmore Manor House. It is valued at 5 marks a year, about £3.30 today.

1320: building passes to Queen Isabella

1336: Edward III sends his son (the Black Prince) to live there with Isabella, the prince’s grandmother

1385: the building is enclosed in the city walls

1450s: Henry VI spent various periods at the house – they could have coincided with his first of madness

1530s: it is described as being “somewhat in ruine” by John Leland

1557: Queen Elizabeth granted the manor to the mayor.

1798: Prince Regent sells the house to the Marquis of Hertford.

1871: WH Eaton buys the house for £100,000. in 1887 he was made Lord Cheylesmore.

1930: Original 14th century timbers found in condition, with ivy growing through bedrooms and parts of the building having been turned into top shops.

1955: part of the building demolished

1966: restoration work begins


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CWN / Heritage / Heritage Open Days / 18 Aug 00

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