The two remaining medieval city gates (Swanswell Gate and Cook Street Gate) are being restored by Historic Coventry Trust to find a new life as unique accommodation for visitors to the city
The City Gates were originally two of 12 gatehouses that punctuated Coventry’s medieval city wall.
Completed around 1385, Cook Street Gate was one of the earlier gates to be built. Swanswell Gate was completed a little later in 1440 and was then known as Priory Gate, having originally served as the entrance to the prior’s land. At over two miles (3.2km) long, 12 foot (3.6m) high and nine foot (2.7m) thick the city wall was an impressive fortification, and Coventry was regarded as the best protected city in the country outside of London.
During the English Civil War Coventry supported the Parliamentarians, and even denied Charles I entry into the city in 1642. As a result, after the restoration in 1662 Charles II ordered Coventry’s city walls to be destroyed. The walls were torn down, but the 12 gatehouses were left intact and many were converted into houses. With the city’s 18th- and 19th-century expansion the other gatehouses were gradually lost, leaving only Cook Street and Swanswell still standing.
Swanswell Gate was converted into a cottage in the mid 19th century, and has subsequently been used as a shop, an artist’s studio and a hub for the West Midlands police. Both gates were restored in the early 20th century by city philanthropist, Alfred Herbert who also created the surrounding garden in memory of his second wife, Florence.
With support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Coventry City Council Cultural Capital Fund, Coventry & Warwickshire LEP and the Architectural Heritage Fund, Historic Coventry Trust are currently restoring both buildings, removing them from the Historic England Heritage at Risk Register. In addition to sympathetic repairs, each gate is being internally adapted to holiday apartments, giving guests the opportunity to closely experience a special part of the city’s history.
Alongside the restoration works Historic Coventry Trust is creating an activities and events programme for the City Gates and Lady Herbert’s Garden. This will include opens days throughout the year, events in Lady Herbert’s Garden, oral history and volunteering opportunities.