22nd Sep, 2020

WATCH #SaveThePriory: No signposts on tourist trail to city's birthplace

Les Reid 24th Mar, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

A TOURIST guide has pointed to how the Priory Visitor Centre – the “birthplace of modern Coventry” – did not even feature on important street signposts a the heart of the tourist trail which could have attracted more visitors.

Roger Bailey – a blue badge tour guide and opposition councillor – said it illustrated how, even on the most basic level in the digital age, ineffective promotion had not helped visitor numbers before its closure last month.

There was equally a lack of presence for the Priory Visitor Centre on social media, claimed Coun Bailey.

He urged Coventry City Council’s Labour leaders to urgently re-open the key venue hosting the remains and artifacts from the city’s 1000-year-old first cathedral – and consider how modern and traditional marketing techniques could be used better.

The council argued last week in the Observer that the centre had been promoted by Culture Coventry and Coventry Heritage and Arts Trust and visitor numbers had dropped off since 2005/6.

But Coun Bailey argues the Priory Visitor Centre especially needs to be properly signposted on the city centre tourist trail because of its secluded location in Priory Place, around the corner from Priory Row in front of the cathedral.

Priory Place is a small walkway linking the cathedral to the motor museum and is also home to BBC Coventry and Warwickshire, some restaurants and flats.

Priory Place and the Priory Visitor Centre was developed little more than a decade ago as part of Coventry’s Phoenix Initiative to mark the new millennium.

It was originally envisaged that it would be a wide, sweeping, European-style boulevard that would open up impressive vistas of the cathedral from the other ‘crown jewel’ attraction, the motor museum, in the new Millennium Place.

But the city only succeeded in winning a fraction of Millennium Lottery funding it wanted, and the resulting Priory Place was considered to be somewhat remote and hidden.

As part of our #SaveThePriory campaign, we spoke with Coun Bailey – who included Priory Visitor Centre in his tours which continue despite its closure – next to street signposts in front of the city’s two cathedrals.

It is the city’s key location for national and international tourists.

The signposts direct people to locations including the bus station, sports centre and Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, and to Priory Place, but there is no mention of the Priory Visitor Centre, or what is contained in it.

We also found other traditional street signposts towards the city’s railway station near to the Bull Yard which completely omitted the Lady-Godiva-founded St Mary’s Priory and Cathedral at the Priory Visitor Centre – although it does feature on more recently introduced digital street maps.

In a video interview which can be viewed on our website, Coun Bailey said: “If you look a the sign in front of us now, it simply says ‘Priory Place’.

“What does that mean? It doesn’t mean there is a business centre there, it doesn’t mean there are ruins there, it means nothing.

“People get lost when they get to this point. People have no idea, no clue, of where the location of the first cathedral is.”

He added: “What we are talking about is the birthplace of modern Coventry. There’s a river below Priory Place and the top of the hill above. This is the city’s birthplace.

“The city in general wasn’t giving it the focus it should have had. You only have to see what (medieval historian) Dr Jonathan Foyle and Sir Tony Robinson (Blackadder actor and Channel4 Time Team presenter) have said (both featured in our #SaveThePriory campaign) to know how important this site is for the whole country.

“It’s unique. Time Team visited here twice and they only did that on a handful of occasions at other locations nationally.

“This is a fantastic site and I look forward to seeing it open again.”

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