THE BISHOP of Coventry has backed our #SaveThePriory campaign by calling for the Priory Visitor Centre to be re-opened, describing it as ‘one of our city’s great treasures’.
The Coventry Observer’s campaign is calling for the now locked doors to the city’s first priory and cathedral – founded 1,000 years ago by Lady Godiva and the Earl Leofric – to re-open to the world after closing in February because of Coventry City Council cuts.
Shutting the internationally important ‘city’s birthplace’ is said by the council to be saving just £100,000 a year – less than half the council chief executive Martin Reeves’ annual earnings.
The Bishop of Coventry, the reverend Dr Christopher Cocksworth, told the Coventry Observer: “Like many people in Coventry, I was very sad to hear about the closure of the Priory Visitor Centre.
“St Mary’s Priory became the first Coventry Cathedral in 1102, and it played a very important role in the early life of our great city.
“Coventry has such a significant story, and our historic heritage helps us to tell that story to a world that urgently needs to hear it.
“The Priory Visitor Centre is one of our city’s great treasures, and I hope that a way can be found for it to be reopened.”
Coventry South Labour MP Jim Cunningham last month also joined growing calls on his party colleagues at the council to re-open the tourist destination in Priory Place to enable current and future generations to share in Coventry’s rich history.
Blackadder actor and former Channel 4 ‘Time Team’ presenter, Sir Tony Robinson, has also backed our campaign, saying the remains and artifacts from St Mary’s Priory and Cathedral were an ‘irreplaceable part’ of global heritage.
Eminent medieval historian and TV presenter Dr Jonathan Foyle also told us the Priory Visitor Centre was of national importance and not enough had been done by the city to promote it before its depressing closure – a view shared by others including city tour guide and and Tory councillor Roger Bailey who says the venue represents ‘the city’s birthplace’.
The Priory Visitor Centre only opened little more than a decade ago.- its magnificently preserved remains having been buried out of sight for hundreds of years.
Their discovery came during excavations for the city’s Millennium project, the Phoenix Initiative, and created such excitement that Channel 4’s Time Team visited twice.
Treasures include a glorious Chapter House wall painting, carved sandstone gargoyles, medieval glass and 14th century tile floors.
In response to our questions, the council last month mooted the possibility of open days in the interim while formal expressions of interest from potential takeover parties were being sought.
But there is no certainty that it will ever re-open.
Our campaign is calling for the Priory Visitor Centre to be re- opened as soon as possible, especially at a time when the city’s is bidding to become European Capital of Culture.
How YOU can support our #SaveThePriory campaign:
Our letters page.. Share your thoughts and experiences, in words or pictures, and say what Coventry’s proud medieval history means to you.
On Twitter @covobserver. Using the hashtag #savethepriory to pledge your support.
On Facebook.co.uk/covobserver. Keep up to date, and share your thoughts.
Head to our dedicated #savethepriory web page, and get the latest on the battle to Save the Priory Visitor Centre