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20 Things You Should Know About...
Politics In Coventry
  • Coventry's civic charter dates from 1345 and was the first of a new kind of municipal charter in England.

  • In 1381, John Ball, the renegade priest who led the ill-fated Peasants' Revolt, fled to Coventry, but was discovered hiding in a house in the city and taken prisoner.

  • John Onley, mayor in 1396, was the first Englishman born in Calais after the town became an English possession.

  • In 1397, Richard II sealed his own fate by banishing into exile two warring barons, the Dukes of Norfolk and Hereford, at a famous tournament in Coventry. Hereford returned two years later to usurp the throne as Henry IV.

  • Royal Parliaments were held in Coventry in 1404 and 1459, the first dubbed the 'Unlearned' Parliament because the king refused to allow lawyers to stand as members.

  • During a visit by Henry VI in 1451, Coventry was granted the status of a county, separate from Warwickshire. Its independence lasted until 1842.

  • Two days after his victory over Richard III at Bosworth Field in 1485, Henry VII marched to Coventry and was rapturously received by the citizens, who had hastily changed sides.

  • In the autumn of 1520 the mayor, John Bond, ordered a detailed count to be taken of every inhabitant of the city. It is the earliest surviving complete census of an urban population in Britain.

  • In 1605, the Gunpowder Plotters planned to seize James I's daughter Elizabeth from nearby Coombe Abbey, where she was being educated, and proclaim her queen. Word leaked out and she was hastily evacuated to fortified Coventry.

  • Colonel William Purefoy, one of the regicides who signed Charles I's death warrant in 1649, was governor and MP for Coventry in the 1650s.

  • Daniel Defoe, during a visit in 1722, was shocked to see aldermen and even magistrates leading the street fighting during a particularly violent Coventry election.

  • Hertford Street, completed in 1820, was paid for by confiscated union dues paid to the Weavers' Provident Union. They amounted to 16,000.

  • Radical writer and thinker William Cobbett stood as a candidate in the 1821 Parliamentary election and found himself shot at and oughed up by a mob.

  • Another bout of street fighting, during the 'reform' election of 1832, pitted pugilists from Birmingham against navvies from the Oxford Canal, then under construction.

  • Joseph Paxton, designer of the Crystal Palace, was Liberal MP for Coventry in the 1860s. His architectural practice had also designed Coventry's new municipal cemetery, 20 years before.

  • Siegfried Bettmann, founder of the Triumph company, was mayor of the city in 1913, but was hounded out of office the following year because of his German background.

  • In 1937, Alice Arnold became Coventry's first woman mayor.

  • Coventry's City Treasurer from 1922 to 1944 was Sidney Larkin, father of Philip Larkin, the poet.

  • After the November 1940 Blitz, the government wanted to declare martial law in Coventry, fearing widespread civil disorder. Only impassioned pleas by civic leaders forced ministers to change their minds.

  • Coventry's wartime experiences prompted it to become the most enthusiastic of twin towns, with 26 friendship links around the world. The first was Stalingrad, now Volgograd, in 1944, the most recent Jinan in China in 1983.

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CWN / Heritage / Heritage Open Days / 24 Aug 00

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This page modified on 10 November 2008 09:49:15AM