Monthly Archives: June 2011
Whilst the debate over whether Coventry should have a directly elected Mayor continues, last Thursday saw Councillor Keiran Mulhall become Lord Mayor for 2011-12.
Coventry has held the right to annually elect a Mayor or Lord Mayor since the Charter of Incorporation in 1345. In 1953 the office title changed to Lord Mayor following the conferment of Lord Mayoralty on Coventry by Queen Elizabeth II on the eve of her coronation. It is thought this honour was in recognition of Coventry’s industrial importance and suffering during WWII.
We are often asked for information about past Mayors of the city by those interested in a particular period of Coventry’s history, street names or researching their family history. Being so prominent there is usually plenty of information in books, pamphlets, newspapers and news cuttings. The Archive catalogue includes a person database available to view online at http://www.coventrycollections.org/, a good starting point for background information. The database is updated by a Senior Archivist and includes references to documents in the History Centre Archive Collection which may be of interest for further research.
Looking back 100 years Alderman William Lee was Mayor, serving his fifth term. Alderman Lee was a weaver born in Bedworth. Lee was replaced in November 1911 by Colonel William Fitzthomas Wyley.
Colonel Wyley was a chemist and was involved with his family’s wholesale drug company. He was interested in public health, motoring and art. Colonel Wyley owned the Charterhouse from 1889 which he later bequeathed to the city on his death in 1940.
As well as factual information about past Mayors and Lord Mayors we are fortunate to have photographs or illustrations of many. Amongst formal photographs there are a few lighter examples such as these cartoons of Colonel Wyley and Alderman Lee from Hill’s Monthly Recorder, March 1912.
This view of the river at Stratford-on-Avon is by the famous Pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Hunt. Hunt wrote a letter to his wife in which he described the subject as ‘a lovely one’ and explained that he was having problems with the changeable weather. However he seems to have completed the watercolour from memory and imagination, adding such details as the punt and the swimming dog later. The painting demonstrates Hunt’s distinctive use of bright colours to obtain a vivid effect.
This watercolour may well have been made as a study for the landscape background of Hunt’s late masterpiece, The Lady of Shalott, which he finally completed in 1905. The landscape reflected in the mirror in the centre of that picture includes a winding river and a green meadow similar to those in the watercolour. The Lady of Shalott is on display at Manchester Art Gallery.
This watercolour painting is currently on loan to the exhibition The Pre-Raphaelites and William Morris; Artists, Designers and Craftsmen, which is touring museums and galleries in Japan. It is due to come back to the Herbert later this year and will be featured in an exhibition of watercolour views of Coventry and Warwickshire opening at the Herbert in February 2012.