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A new scheme is set to revitalise Coventry Cathedral’s Unity Lawn, enhancing the space to create a more inviting spot to enjoy the views of the Cathedral and the surrounding historic architecture.
The project, designed by Studio Morison, will see the existing railings that surround the lawn removed to open the space up, with new benches, lighting, paving and plants to be added. A circular bench will also be added around the largest tree in the lawn, which offers the best view of the Cathedral and the ruins.
Studio Morison are best known for their design work and art pieces such as ‘Mother’, ‘Seafood Disco’, ‘Little Shining Man’ and ‘Look! Look! Look!’.
The Unity Lawn was once a graveyard for St Michael’s Cathedral, but it became overcrowded in the 19th century and once London Road cemetery opened in 1847, no further burials took place in the Unity Lawn.
All graves and memorial plaques will be preserved and protected, with much of the new design focusing on the edges and central walkway. The plans also include the intention to uncover a hidden part of Coventry’s history; a former Coventry-born gladiator whose monument is currently hidden by shrubbery.
The monument states that John Parkes was a gladiator who was born in Coventry in 1681, fought over 350 battles across Europe “with honour and applause”, before accepting his defeat at the age of 52 in 1733. It is thought he was a professional sword fighter and fencing master, but was also known as a boxer.
Councillor Jim O’Boyle, cabinet member for jobs and regeneration, said: “This is a really beautiful spot within the city centre. There are great views here of the Cathedral and the ruins and then close by there is Holy Trinity Church, St Mary’s Guildhall, Drapers Hall and the Council House. It’s a very special area for local people and visitors.
“I’ve been saying for a while now that our intention is celebrate the best of the old and the best of the new and this plan is exactly that. Unity Lawn’s is a lovely place to sit and enjoy the views – a quiet moment in the heart of the city and now it’s set to get even nicer - greener, brighter and more inviting.
“The benches have been designed with Sir Basil Spence’s iconic architecture for the Cathedral in mind so that they complement the area. The trees, which survived the Blitz bombings, will be protected too.”
Councillor Patricia Hetherton, cabinet member for city services, added: “The plans really do look spectacular. It’s also fantastic that we’re able to preserve the history of the area, including uncovering the gladiator monument. There will be lots of new planting and plenty of seating, so it will be a really inviting area when it’s all finished.”
The Very Reverend John Witcombe, Dean of Coventry, said: "We are very excited about the plans to improve the areas of St Michael’s Avenue and Unity Lawn.
"The first of the Cathedral’s values is hospitality and we sincerely hope this will make our outdoor spaces more welcoming and encourage people to pause and reflect in this special part of our city centre.
"We are very grateful to the City Council for making this possible."
The scheme is funding by the West Midlands Combined Authority and is set to begin in the autumn. It is due to be completed by spring 2021.