“¿An illuminated script?”

I have been asked to take part in Coventry Pecha Kucha Volume 1 and share some of the bizarre facts I’ve picked up over the years about Coventry.   This lead me to realise how much I’ve learned through working at The Herbert, so here are ten bijou factettes I’ve learned through the Herbert Illumination talks which take place every month:

1) Far from being a commercialised American import, Trick or Treating still happens in an unbroken tradition in some places in England, for serious prizes too.  The craze started returning to England earlier than I thought too, with British newspapers having articles on how to make costumes in the 1920s or 30s.

2) The central figure in the Keresley Miners Wife’s Support Group banner is in a strong tradition of women leading people to victory, such as the goddess Nike or Liberty.

Delacroix's 'Liberty Leading the People'

John Yeadon's Miners Wife's Support Group Banner, on show in the Herbert's History Gallery

3) Littlewood’s catalogues and shops were built on their football pools empire.   The pools meant they had a wide network of people who could be trusted to collect money and who were already well know in their local communities.  This is vital for the weekly collections for catalogue shopping.

4) The excellent cheesemakers Fowler’s of Earlswood made use of the early days of the railways by guaranteeing any farm close to the railways a good price for their milk, enabling them to supply the rapidly expanding city of Birmingham with fresh milk.

5) Ralph Beyer based the letter shapes he used in Coventry Cathedral on painted letters from Roman catacombs.  This echoes one of his mentors, Eric Gill, who rather than learning Roman lettering in the usual way, from a cast of a cast of a cast of Trajan’s column, went back to the originals and found subtleties lost in the reproduction process.

6) In the 1950s the English Folk Dance & Song Society effectively re-constructed the Playford dances, originally published in 1652.  They decided (for no good reason) that before the dance started, everyone would rise up on the balls of their feet.  It you rose to far, they stopped the dance and tried again, and if you didn’t rise far enough the also stopped it and started again.

7)The wonderful woodland alongside Coventry’s Memorial was planted as a commercial enterprise to provide timbers for naval shipbuilders.

8 ) In Victorian times, sentimental paintings of rural cottages found a huge audience as rural workers moved to the growing industrial cities and wanted a reminder of their past lives.

9) When a car runs through a puddle the splash is actually travelling forwards, so stand behind the puddle if you want to stay dry!

10) Look at many canal bridges in Coventry and you’ll notice panels of more modern bricking and faded yellow painted circles.  This is because during the Blitz, many water mains were damaged, so canal bridges had sections knocked out of them where fire fighters could lower hoses into the cut.   The circles helped people find them in the black-out.  This one is on Stoney Stanton Road.

Canal bridge showing replaced brickwork and marks showing where to drop hoses

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Posted on 07/10/2010, in Collections, Communities, Coventry and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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