The main entrance gates and piers to Coventry War Memorial erected in 1926 to a design by Coventry's City Engineer.
Reason for Listing
The main entrance gates and piers to Coventry War Memorial Park, constructed in 1926 to a design by Coventry's City Engineer, are designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
Architectural interest: they are a good example of an early C20 memorial park entrance displaying good workmanship, decorative detailing and use of materials;
Historic interest: they form part of the earliest phase of the War Memorial Park and form an important functional and decorative feature within it;
Group value: they form part of an important group with the War Memorial, contributing to the latter's significant level of special interest, and together form part of the earliest phase of the memorial park layout;
Setting: its surviving designed landscape setting, both in terms of its layout and planting, contributes to its special interest.
In 1919 Coventry City Council invited members of the local community to form a War Memorial Committee to consider ways to create a fitting memorial for the city to commemorate the local soldiers who had lost their lives in the First World War. It was decided that this should be a park, which would also be a welcome and valued new asset, as the provision for open space in Coventry was limited at the time. The favoured location was Stivichall, and in 1919 the land was purchased from the Hon AF Gregory following a public appeal for donations. The plans for the park were partly dictated by earlier features and in particular the course of a medieval track, which would divide a formal section from playing fields. The latter were assigned for games and physical recreation for which Coventry had scant provision in 1919. The formal area would include rock gardens, which utilised existing cattle ponds, and in the centre, a War Memorial with radiating avenues planted with memorial trees. A children’s playground, pavilions, shelters and refreshment rooms would also be provided. Due to a lack of funds and priorities elsewhere, such as local housing provision, the creation of the park would take over ten years. When the park was formally opened on 9 July 1921, which included a dedication and memorial service followed by folk dancing and races, only the preparation of the ground had been completed. In 1922 the path layout was agreed with the Council, and in 1923 it was decided that the main entrance should be at the Grove; that the War Memorial should be sited on the high ground in the centre of the park; and that memorial trees should be an important element within the design. Plans were also made for a pavilion with lavatory accommodation for which works started in 1924. By the end of that year a temporary bandstand that had been erected in the summer of 1923, and the Earlsdon Cricket Club pavilion were removed. Planting of the park started in the spring of 1925, and the avenues were opened that summer. On 8 October 1927, the War Memorial, built to a design by the local architect Thomas Francis Tickner, was opened by Earl Haig. In 1926 the City Engineer drew up plans for the main gates, which were completed a year later. On 25 February 1927 the Coventry Herald reported that the memorial had been partly finished, that the paths in the park were lined with copper beeches and that it included a beautiful rock garden, flower beds and shrubs. Golf was introduced in 1930 when a small golf course was laid out on land by the railway. In 1933 the City Engineer prepared plans for a shelter, tea room and conveniences, for which a classical style was chosen. Building work continued during 1934 and the pavilions were first used for the carnival in June 1935.
During the Second World War large sections of land in the park were ploughed and used for food cropping and demonstration allotments. As shown on aerial photographs taken in c1946-7, most of the mature trees in the playing fields had disappeared, possibly because of intensive sport use, but more likely because of the introduction of anti-aircraft guns in 1941, a row of concrete cubes (probably to defend an underground ammunition store situated in the park), trench shelters, and a roadway to allow military access to the pavilion. After the War in 1948-52, a memorial tree planting campaign took place to commemorate the local people who lost their lives in the Second World War, resulting in the planting of another avenue across the north of the golf course to the pavilion, and one near the Beechwood Avenue entrance, where by 1977 a car park had been created. In the early 1950s children’s facilities were developed in the park including play equipment and a paddling pool. In 1963, a German Peace Garden was opened to the north of the rock garden. In 1990 an aviary was introduced in one of the former tennis courts, and replacing a collection of war time huts that stood on this site.
Memorial tree planting continues (2012) and recently Coventry City Council has refurbished the park through joint funding from the BIG and Heritage Lottery Funds Parks for People Programme.
The main entrance to Coventry War Memorial Park was constructed in 1926 as part of the creation of the park laid out between c1920 and 1935. The wrought iron gates were made by Hill and Smith of Birmingham. The gate piers, designed by the city engineer, were, as reported in the Coventry Herald of 25 February 1927, constructed of reclaimed stone from Coventry's medieval city wall, which had been kept in store following the dismantling of one of the surviving sections.
Main entrance to Coventry War Memorial Park constructed in 1926, consisting of decorative wrought iron gates by Hill and Smith of Birmingham, hung between four gate piers built in stone reclaimed from part of Coventry's medieval city wall, the taller inner gate piers topped with lanterns.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.