Saturday, 18 December 2010

Scenic Saturday - West Midlands

Number 21 in the series.

This is another of those ‘new' counties (like Avon) but this one still exists. It consists in the main of the City of Birmingham and was, in large part, carved out of Warwickshire. This is a largely urban county which was the heart of England's heavy engineering industry but there is open country to the east of Birmingham, between that city and Coventry. The large Sutton Park in the north-east corner of Birmingham and the Lickey Hills in the south-west do provide some breathing space but otherwise there is little of scenic value in the west of the county.

At the eastern extremity is Coventry, a city whose name is a byword in English folklore. People who are ostracised are said to be "sent to Coventry", although the origin of the phrase is uncertain. Some believe that the phrase dates from the English Civil War, when a military prison was located in that city. Others say it dates from the 18th century, when Coventry was the nearest town to London that lay outside the jurisdiction of the Bow Street Runners and so London criminals would flee to Coventry to escape arrest.

Another reason for Coventry's place in folklore is the legend of Lady Godiva, who supposedly rode naked through the city. The phrase "peeping Tom" also originates here.

In more modern times Coventry became a byword for devastation by bombing. During one night in November 1940, 4,000 homes and three-quarters of the city's factories were destroyed, along with the 14th century cathedral. After the war, a new cathedral was built which is, to my mind, possibly the world's best example of 20th century religious architecture. The engraved glass of the (liturgical) west front, the baptistry window, the tapestry behind the altar: all magnificent. The ruins of the old cathedral are still there, with an altar built from the rubble, and that is our picture this week.


Uncle Skip, said...

A friend of mine had a Hillman Minx he was always having to tinker with. He called it Coventry's revenge.

Brighton Pensioner said...

That was back in the days when there were British car manufacturers! Now we only build for American or Japanese companies.

Uncle Skip, said...

He also, on occasion, called it the Hillman jinx. But he continued to purchase British cars. He was such an Anglophile that, in college, he majored in English.