The Gates and Garden – Community History

If you have any experiences or stories about the city gates and Lady Herbert’s Garden that you would like to share, we would love to hear from you!

Entries should be no more than 500 words long, and any accompanying pictures are very welcome. These should be sent to francesca.marsland@historiccoventry.org.uk. Please note that entries will be credited by name, unless you request otherwise.

Consider:

  • What do the city gates mean to you, and what are your most significant memories of the site?
  • What does Lady Herbert’s Garden mean to you, and what are your most significant memories of the site?
  • How have you seen the sites and surrounding area change over time? Do you have any photos that demonstrate this?
  • What significance do you see the sites having in Coventry’s heritage?

Cook Street Gate and Ye Old Tower Inn – c. 1910
Sent in by David Fry

“As a newcomer to Coventry, but now a resident of several decades, I never fail to be surprised by the number of hidden historical gems in the city. Although little is left of our medieval city walls, to have two of the original gates remaining is a bonus – and yet they too are well hidden, despite being right in the city centre. Unless you are on your way to and from Hillfields you would not see either, nor the other gem of Lady Herbert’s Garden, which links them both. Originally in the shadow of the Coventry Theatre, now tucked away behind the Millennium Square development, they all seem to be fated to a life of being Cinderellas to the more accessible attractions. And yet the garden can be a peaceful delight right next to the hurly burly of city traffic. Invariably I always take visitors to see the remarkable earliest known carving of the city’s coat of arm inside the arch of Cook Street Gate– a six hundred year old work of art, in wood but still clearly visible for any passing pedestrian to see. Finally Swanswell Gate, unmistakably medieval, despite its many alterations, is all the more intriguing for having its arch bricked up and you are left wondering what it’s like inside!” – David Fry

‘I love the Swanswell Gate. When I worked on the Stoney Stanton Road for about a year in the mid 80s, I used to walk past it every day when I went into the town centre to get my lunch. In that winter that was the only hour of the day in which I saw any daylight and the gate was the only thing of beauty that I’d see.’ – Laurence Tilley

Swanswell Gate and the Hippodrome – 1930s
Sent in by David Fry

‘I love Lady Herbert’s Garden a lot. Mostly because it’s a spot of beauty that offers people a timeout from the city centre. But I think also due to associated memories of Saturday contact with my biological dad when I was a kid. He’d often take my and my little sister for a walk around Pool Meadow and the garden.’  – Raef Boylan

It Follows You In

This Arcadian slice

comes at the price

of turning your back on the city,

to take a walk for no purpose

but meandering exploration,

rewarded with the relief

of serene nature, contained and secure.

A pigeon-swoop away, just

beyond the perimeter:

buses throttle each other,

breathe exhaust down your neck;

compete with pedestrians

in a clamorous mixtape of inconsideration.

But, for now, none of the unsightly

is within sight.

Just you and the blue tits and the stone frogs,

and a daffodil gang nodding in agreement

that yes, it is peaceful here.

The park railings, all individually embossed with Florence Herbert’s initials

– Raef Boylan