27th Jun, 2022

A rare medieval Coventry sword returns home for City of Culture

A RARE medieval ceremonial sword from Coventry is to be displayed at The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum during City of Culture 2021.

The Coventry sword resurfaced in a rubbish heap in London’s Whitechapel district in 1897 and is currently part of the Burrell Collection at the Glasgow City Museum.

But it will be returning to Coventry for the first time in more than 500 years.

Visitors will be able to see this rare piece of medieval history during its exhibition, which runs from July 3 until November 21.

Mark Webb, director of the Medieval Coventry Charity, a group of volunteers who specialise in the city’s medieval period, said: “The Coventry ceremonial sword is an example of the many surviving treasures from Coventry’s medieval heyday which deserve to be better known.

“It is also a reminder of Coventry’s municipal arrangements, which are amongst the oldest in the country.”

The sword, of which now only the hilt remains, had huge civic importance during Coventry’s economic and political heyday in the 1400s.

Coventry then the fourth largest city in England, was its own county, and for three years during the Wars of the Roses was the royal capital.

It was carried in front of the mayor during processions — most notably during visits by Henry VI and Queen Margaret of Anjouz — and was an important symbol of the city’s constitution and liberties.

But, in 1471, it was confiscated by Edward IV after the Battle of Barnet because the city had refused him entry before the battle.

The loan of the sword to the Herbert has been made possible with the support of Ciaran Davis and a £2,500 grant from the John Laing Charitable Trust.

Ciaran, who previously worked with the Herbert on the exhibition Irish Heart, Coventry Home, telling the stories of Irish families settling in Coventry over three decades, said: “It’s great to see the sword back in Coventry in time for the City of Culture celebrations.

“This item symbolises the rich medieval history of the city and I’m grateful that the grant from the John Laing Charitable Trust means it can return home.”

Francis Nielsen, culture and creative director of Culture Coventry Trust, said: “We are so grateful to everyone involved who has made this loan possible and cannot wait to see visitors encounter an object of such historic importance to Coventry during City of Culture 2021.”

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