26th Jun, 2022

Coventry's medieval gem St Mary's Guildhall in line for multi-million-pound revamp for UK City of Culture 2021

Editorial Correspondent 17th Sep, 2019 Updated: 17th Sep, 2019

COVENTRY’S treasured medieval Guildhall is in line for a multi-million-pound investment for UK City of Culture years 2021 and beyond.

Coventry council which owns the building is submitting a planning application to its planning committee to carry out “investigation work” that could pave the way for major renovation – including a rooftop bar terrace and potentially opening up its historic kitchens.

It follows years of debate about how to better use and open up the listed St Mary’s Guildhall in Bayley Lane next to the Cathedral ruins.

It has been described by TV historian Dr Jonathan Foyle as among the finest surviving examples of a Guildhall.

But there has been public concern about it falling into disrepair, and harm from its use for commercial events including council functions and weddings, including the odour of fatty foods from its stone walls.

Last year saw a furore over painting the ceiling of the undercroft in a bid to try and attract more people to its cafe.

Council leaders have said they would explore how to improve opening hours for tourists and visitors in a viable way by attracting more income, while preserving the city’s heritage.

A council statement said this week: “The application follows the recommendations in a report from specialist heritage architect and consultants.

“The report recommended that the council reviews St Mary’s Guildhall so it can make sure that the building is a high-quality visitor attraction in 2021 and beyond.

“The medieval Guildhall is one of the finest in the county, with a magnificent interior that includes a stunning 16th century tapestry. It is also thought to have one of the last intact medieval kitchens in England.

“This original kitchen was covered up in 1954 but if the planning application is approved work will begin to see if the kitchen can be uncovered. The work will help to discover the original kitchens current condition and will reveal the scale of restorative work that may be required.”

Councillor Jim O’Boyle, cabinet member for jobs and regeneration, said:“St Mary’s Guildhall is a Grade 1 listed building – one of many jewels in our crown and much loved by local people. But it’s also one of our best kept secrets and we are keen to change that.

“It has real potential and revealing one of the last intact medieval kitchens in England would make it a real draw, offer a comprehensive visitor experience and would also create another event space in the heart of the city.

“The Guildhall needs to be a venue that is attractive to people, one which is expected of such a landmark building and which will see a huge increase in national and international visitors who will be visiting the city in 2021 and beyond.

“I’ve said many times, that we need to maximise the potential of such city treasures and seeking planning approval to carry out the works is the first step on our journey to deliver our vision going forward.”

The planning application for the investigation works will be submitted later this month. If approved work could start early next year.

Work is also underway to secure funding for the larger project to transform the Guildhall, including the rooftop bar.

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