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Church of St Mary the Virgin, Coventry

Description: Church of St Mary the Virgin

Grade: II*
Date Listed: 5 February 1955
English Heritage Building ID: 218491

OS Grid Reference: SP3790680883
OS Grid Coordinates: -691026, -15286931
Latitude/Longitude: 1,000.0000, 1,000.0000

Location: 4-9 Hall Lane, Coventry CV2 2UA

Locality: Coventry
County: Coventry
Country: England
Postcode: CV2 2UA

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Listing Text

833/23/138 HALL LANE
(West side)

Parish church. C 1300 chancel, with late medieval phases, on an earlier site. Restored By G.E. Street in 1865. Church rooms (not of special interest) added 1981.

MATERIALS: the older parts of the fabric are in local red sandstone, the late medieval additions are in a grey sandstone or a mixture of both. The south porch and later restoration work favours the red sandstone. The 1980s extension is in dark red brick. All roofs are tiles except the south nave aisle which is lead.

PLAN: the building has a nave with two aisles, that to the south narrow, the same length as the nave and off a three bay arcade; that to the north is broad and extends to the east of the nave alongside the chancel. Opening from the nave is a long three-bay chancel. It has a tower at the west end, centrally placed. The 1980s church rooms attach to the south side of the west tower and wrap around the south-west corner of the south aisle and link up with the south porch.

EXTERIOR: the building sits slightly above the adjacent street level. It is not especially large but each part of the building is independently roofed with a high pitch and gable (except the south aisle) and this gives the impression of the additive nature of the building's development. The C15 tower has angled buttresses and a NE stair turret, an embattled parapet and pinnacles. The tower has a small hollow-chamfered blocked west doorway and a 3-light Perpendicular window above. The belfry has 2-light traceried windows with carved terminals to the hood mould. The north face has a clock face dated 1985. The tower is not as prominent a feature as it must have been in the Middle Ages, mostly as a result of the tall and steeply pitched nave and south aisle roofs, which were replaced and apparently heightened in the 19th century restoration.

The chancel only projects one bay past the end of the large north aisle which dominates the exterior massing from the north. This aisle has deep stone buttresses and a much later addition of small stone vestry squeezed in between the penultimate bay to the west, this has a south gable set in the lean-to roof containing a 2-light window Decorated in design and which appears to be mostly medieval.

To the south of the tower, and attached to it, is the substantial 1980s extension, (not regarded as of special interest). This is a low-lying brick building with deep tiled roof: it is substantial in floor plan and at its south-west corner has a conical roof over the large church room. The main entrance to the church is through the east side of the building which has a glazed frontage adjacent to the south aisle porch. The south aisle is modest in size and scale by comparison with the rest of the building with a square-headed late medieval window at its east end and a shallow sloping roof of slate. The chancel has 2 (cuspless) Y-tracery windows and a priest's door on its south elevation and one still visible on the north side and a large intersecting (cusped) window of 3-lights to the east of c.1300 (with restored masonry).

INTERIOR: the interior is unified by a recent redecoration scheme of painting over a plastered surface. The chancel has an arch-braced roof with a collar purlin; a doorway (no door) to match the south one exists but now opens into the eastern end of the large north aisle; adjacent is tall two-centred arched opening with continuous chamfered jambs providing access into the north aisle. A trefoil-headed piscina on the south wall indicates the position of an earlier altar which has now been removed. The recent re-ordering has brought the altar forward into the middle of the chancel with minimal additional furnishings around. The chancel arch comprises a series of mouldings which die unto the wall a few feet east of where the building joins the nave, and that the intermediary space was once occupied by a rood screen and loft is indicated by the surviving stair (accessed from the south aisle) and opening at upper level.

The nave has two aisles, the north with 2 differently proportioned arches and the south with 3 regularly sized ones. Above these a clerestory of small round cusped windows light the nave, and are likely to be part of a heightening of the nave as part of the Street restoration and re-roofing of the building. The north aisle is north aisle arch braced roof with window braces ad plastered behind.

The west wall of the south aisle has been opened up to provide direct access into the main lobby of the church rooms extension. An organ gallery of c.1980 sits in the tower arch. The church is completely carpeted and the original floor surfaces are not known, but it seems likely that they date from the Street restoration period.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: The most important interior fixture is the early font, probably early 12th century in date and currently located towards the east end of the north aisle on a raised concrete plinth with step. Relief decoration around the tapering bowl comprises round arches supported on plain capitals and columns. However the church also contains some medieval glass, not a common survival in Coventry, in the east window of the south aisle. Each of the six small lights in the head of the window contains an angel with golden wings and hair and a feathered body, each carrying a large shield displaying heraldry (some repair and or repainting may have occurred). The glass appears to be late 15th or early 16th century and therefore contemporary with the aisle.

Two wall plaques, of the 18th century exist in the church (to William and Margery Vale and Richard Adrian (former vicar)). Some good quality late 19th and early 20th century glass is to be found in the church: south chancel window of c.1870; Window in the north aisle by Hardman and 1913 west window in the north aisle signed by C&B, presumably Clayton and Bell. The building is seated throughout with matching modern wooden chairs.

HISTORY: No sign of the 12th century form of the church (attested to by the presence of the font) is evidenced by the current fabric. The chancel may well have been rebuilt completely in the late 13th to early 14th century, although the Y tracery windows and south door look as though they may have been inserted into earlier fabric and as such the chancel could contain older material in the walls. There is no clear indication of the extent of the 13th century as such beyond this reasonably sized chancel. That it was furnished with a rood screen is shown by the surviving opening and stair. The width of the south aisle is narrow for a late 14th century addition and it may be speculated that an earlier aisle existed on this site when the chancel was constructed. The current arcade is difficult to date precisely from the architectural details, a c.1300 or thereafter date would not be impossible. The northern arcade is also of 14th century date and the irregular nature of the two arches, although with matching details suggests this may have led into chapels or respected an earlier arrangement on the site. The current south aisle outer walls are late 15th to early 16th century and the medieval glass in its east window is contemporary with its construction. This must have replaced the previous aisle and the heraldic glass suggests local lay patronage. The size of the north aisle suggests space for a sizeable chapel at its east end and possibly lay burials (the potential presence of burials under the floor should be noted). An earlier window in the chancel north wall has been extended and altered to form an opening into this aisle. As access to the east end of this space was already provided by the door to the east it is not clear when this opening was created, it seems to re-use medieval fabric in some of the jambs. This aisle and the tower are both 15th century in date, but a precise sequence would depend on the availability of documentary evidence. It is unclear whether or not the current tower replaced an earlier structure but this remains a possibility, and might possibly explain the short nave and need for expansion to the north.

No evidence in the fabric or fittings provides information about the period between the middle ages and the Victorian restoration. The latter appears to have recast the upper stages of the building with the nave and north aisle being heightened and re-roofed and a new roof for the chancel. The south aisle roof is plastered and the possibility of older timber structure behind this must remain. The work by Street of 1865 is assumed to have included the addition of the small round clerestorey windows.

The size and scale of the 1980s extension to the church has had an impact on the setting and character of the building. The internal re-ordering at a similar time has also affected the interior and there are no ancient fittings, notwithstanding the font and the chest, now kept against the east wall of the chancel

N. Pevsner and A. Wedgwood, Warwickshire (1966), 440.
Victoria County History: Warwickshire Vol 8 (1969), 345

The Church of St Mary the Virgin is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Extent and historical interest of the medieval fabric (14th century and later) including the surviving windows
* Fittings (notably font and medieval glass) of considerable interest and significance
* Evidence of the building's earlier arrangements and historical development

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.