New plans to revitalise Coventry Cathedral’s Unity Lawn

The new design takes inspiration from Sir Basil Spence’s iconic architecture for the Cathedral and retains the historic surrounding trees.

Pictured: computer-generated visualisation of the Unity Lawn pathway, foliage, lighting and benches.

A new scheme in Coventry city centre is set to revitalise Coventry Cathedral’s Unity Lawn, enhancing the space to create a more inviting spot, while retaining its historic features.

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, offering the best view of the Cathedral and the ruins.

The Unity Lawn was once a graveyard for St Michael’s Cathedral, but became overcrowded in the 19th century and was replaced by London Road cemetery in 1847.

All graves and memorial plaques that will exist will be preserved and protected, with much of the new design focusing on the edges and central walkway.

Pictured: computer-generated visualisation of the Unity Lawn from above.

The plans also include the intention to uncover a hidden monument of a Coventry-born gladiator which is currently covered 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.

Cllr Jim O’Boyle, cabinet member for jobs and regeneration at Coventry City Council, praised the news.

“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,” he said.

“I’ve been saying for a while now that our intention is [to] celebrate the best of the old and the best of the new, and this plan is exactly that.

“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.”

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, due to be completed by Spring 2021.