Sunday, 1 April 2012

Kenilworth Castle and Coventry

As you can see, we had another nice weather day so we took advantage of it and drove ~1 hr to Coventry and nearby Kenilworth Castle.  Yesterday was cool and cloudy but every other day this week was outstanding (unless you need the rain).  It was a little cooler today (50-55F) but I'll take the sun any day.

A quick side note or two before I get into the day out.  We've had a little extra stress this week because of a possible impending strike of fuel tanker drivers.  Seems everyone here can and will strike at some point.  The government came on the radio and said don't worry, the negotiations are going fine, besides they have to give 7 days notice (which they haven't), we are training military folks to transport fuel and no need to panic.  But, you might as well top off and fill every spare container you have.  Great.  Mad panic at the petrol (gas) stations with queues (lines) and shortages.  I normally go 3 weeks on a tank and I was getting low.  So was Kuk.  She had to go to 4 stations before she could find diesel.  I just had to wait an extra 15 minutes one morning.  Most things here are great; striking isn't.

Note number 2:  as we were preparing to leave this morning, Kuk notice a bunch of water dripping out under the sink.  Drain pipes (PVC) had come loose.  Called the landlord; fixed by the time we returned.  Renting is nice sometimes.  :-)

Okay, on to Kenilworth.  Kenilworth reminded me a lot of Ashby de la Zouch (previous link).  Both were neutered, so to speak, after the civil war (1600s) and are in ruin.  Interesting stories behind them though.

[Paraphrasing from wiki:]  As with most castles here, this dates back to Norman times (1120s) but was upgraded along the way.  The castle was significantly enlarged by King John at the beginning of the 13th century. John of Gaunt spent lavishly in the late 14th century, turning the medieval castle into a palace fortress. The Earl of Leicester (Robert Dudley) then expanded the castle once again, constructing new Tudor buildings and exploiting the medieval heritage of Kenilworth to produce a fashionable Renaissance palace.

The interesting bit was that Robert Dudley was quite close to Queen Elizabeth I (the "Virgin" Queen).  He spruced the place up for her occasional visits and worked on becoming king.  Well, for a variety of reasons, that never happened.  (One reason is that QE I was enjoying running the country and marrying someone would only weaken that -- kings > queens in those days).

Moving on, or at least around, the grounds.  This is the former stables and is now the tea room (cafe) and has a nice overview exhibit.

This is the gatehouse.  It was built as part of the Queen Elizabeth wooing (i.e. newer) and was also spared during the civil war fallout.  It was apparently given to one of the friends of Parliament who wanted to looked after (for his own benefit).  It's been rented out as a guest house through the years.

Coat of Arms (I assume) inside the gatehouse.  If I had a coat of arms, I'd have a lion sticking out his tongue too.

Some period furniture.  A sign denoted that the early 20th century tours commented that this was one of the few beds in Warwickshire that Queen Elizabeth I didn't sleep in (see, it's "Virgin" Queen -- always in quotes).

From the gardens looking back up.  What a day.  Can't believe all the sun and blue skies we've been getting.  Alex is having some deep thoughts -- I'm fairly certain it's not about the history though.

Back from the castle looking on the garden.  I'm not sure if the shrubs are normally brown this time of year but there is concern about a drought here if you can believe it.

more ruins -- a little closer this time
On the backside of the castle, as if usually the case, there was a very steep hill.  Alex had fun going down and trying to come up.  We need to send him to knight school as he was having some trouble.

coming up on all fours -- the photo doesn't capture the grade very well, but it was steep

from the main castle area back to the gatehouse on left and stables on right

After a very pleasant 2 hrs or so and a picnic lunch, we made the short drive to Coventry.  Now Coventry on its own isn't a whole lot to look at.  It's population is similar to Derby but it seemed smaller in the city center area.  Most of the architecture is modern because the city was bombed (blitzed) during WW II.  But, as you'll see, that's why we came.  It provided a nice contrast to the older history we've become accustomed to here.
They do have some older looking half-timbered buildings.  I'm not sure if they are new or refurbished or what but it gives the area a decent feel.

Besides the WW II history, Coventry is also known for Lady Godiva.  From Wiki:  Lady Godiva was an 11th century Anglo-Saxon noblewoman who, according to legend, rode naked through the streets of Coventry in order to gain a remission of the oppressive taxation imposed by her husband on his tenants. The name "Peeping Tom" for a voyeur originates from later versions of this legend in which a man named Tom had watched her ride and was struck blind or dead.

Unfortunately, the statue is in the middle of a construction makeover for the 2012 Olympics (12 football (soccer) games will be played there).

 I could get closer on the side.  I like this legendary stuff that is hundreds of years old.

The main reason for me wanting to visit Coventry was the cathedral.  The medieval building was destroyed by incendiary bombs during the Blitz on November 14th, 1940.  (Coventry was likely a target due to its munitions and metal-working factories).   Much of the city was destroyed.  The cathedral was left ruined as a reminder of the tragedy of war.  In the 1950s a new cathedral was built adjacent to the old one.  For the photo above, I'm standing in the old and the new is in the background.

It helped that it was such a nice day.

Forgiveness and reconciliation were big themes here.  They found 2 wooden beams left in the rubble and made a cross (this is a replica; the real one is inside the new cathedral).  They also made crosses from the many remaining medieval nails that were found.

The kids enjoying themselves

church next door

I did like this very graphic sculpture of St. Michael vanquishing Satan on the outside the new cathedral.

I also liked the fact that pigeon landed on his head too.

We paid the rather eye-watering fee to go inside the new cathedral to have a look around.  This exhibit was from Cincinnati and represents God seeing if a city is remaining true (plumb bob = true/square -- get it?).  Corny art in a church.  Gotta love it.

They had 8 of these carved tablets.  I mainly took a picture because they said that this became the Coventry font.  Hmm, not in my MS Word US edition.

They dragged this rock from Jerusalem, carved a scallop and use it for baptisms.

Modern feel, as you'd expect.  No pews.  That's a monster sized tapestry at the far end.

 very tall and colorful stained glass

Some perspective -- this church is newer than Queen Elizabeth's reign.  The Queen will be celebrating her Diamond (60th) Jubilee in June.  We plan to head in the opposite direction to Scotland.

Back outside -- etched glass.  Pretty neat.

Back in the old cathedral, here is another example of the Reconciliation/Forgiveness theme.  Coventry has become "twinned" with a number of cities including Dresden, Germany which also suffered major bombing losses in WW II.  Not a big "church" guy, but I do think they were hitting on the right themes here.

There was also a Blitz Museum on site.  It was a real treat to talk to this Coventry native who was a child during the bombing raids and WW II.  He spoke enthusiastically about his childhood and the raids, rations, shelters, gas masks, etc.  It was all he knew so it didn't seem like a hardship to him.  Well done, my friend.

Next stop:  The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum.

Didn't want to spend too much time here on such a nice day, but it was next door and free so we did check it out.

Famous Lady Godiva painting by John Collier c. 1897.
 Back outside the art museum for a nice family shot with both cathedrals in the background.
Last quick stop was to the Transport Museum (also free, and the only thing open after 4 on Sunday).  Good old Frank Whittle, the father of jet propulsion, was from Coventry.  Coventry has quite the history in the auto manufacturing business but most of that has left over the last few decades.

Believe it or not, I'm not a big car guy.  It was a nice walk through at the end of the day.  I'm sure an enthusiast would get even more out of it.  (I'm not that familiar with British cars for one thing).  They had some old ones on display though.

 and some old, but not that old, Triumphs (which presumably have a connection with Coventry)

They had a display and video on the land speed record of UK Thrust 2 (mid 80s) with Rolls-Royce gas turbine engines.

 . . . and the later Thrust SSC (supersonic) with 2 jet engines (sorry for poor photo).  We were getting nudged along at this point -- closing time was approaching.

and last but not least, a Delorean (Back to the Future) -- it was to be manufactured in Northern Ireland.

Phew, what a day.  Packed in a little more breadth than depth than normal but we wanted to get in a nice overview trip to the area.  Good times.  Really enjoyed the castle and appreciated the recent history of the cathedral (bombing raids -- hardly seems possible to my sheltered generation, much less my kids').

No blog next week as we'll be traveling over Easter.  Have a good couple of weeks.


  1. Nice Post! We're going to Scotland too over the Jubilee. What is your gameplan?