People, Politics and Planning: the Reconstruction of Coventry’s City Centre, 1940–53

  • Tony Mason
  • Nick Tiratsoo


In November 1940 much of central Coventry was destroyed in a large‐scale German air attack.1 Subsequently, the city’s Labour Council vigorously campaigned for a certain type of reconstruction, one that would provide the focal point for their wider vision of a new kind of socialist society. The following paragraphs trace the evolution of this aspect of local authority thinking from the moment of the blitz in 1940 to the initial phase of actual rebuilding some ten years later. The aim is to highlight the relationships between the City Council, its local electorate and the national administration in London. How and why did the City Council opt for one particular type of central reconstruction and to what extent did decisions over such questions reflect the wishes and aspirations of local people? On the other hand, how did government ministers and civil servants react to an avowedly socialist local Council’s plans, and was the climate of opinion different after Labour replaced the Coalition at Westminster as the war ended in 1945?2


Local Authority City Centre City Council Local Election Ring Road 
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  1. 1.
    The argument and information in the following paragraphs has been compiled as part of a larger investigation comparing the post‐1945 reconstruction of Coventry and Bochum. This project, which is financed by Stiftung Volkswagenwerk of West Germany, involves teams based at the University of Warwick (Coventry) and the University of the Ruhr (Bochum). We would like to thank Louise Campbell, Junichi Hasegawa and especially our colleague on the Coventry team — Bill Lancaster — for help with the material presented. We are also very grateful to Mr David Rimmer and his staff at the Coventry City Record Office for their help in locating Coventry Council records.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The sources used to underpin what follows will be fully cited in the final joint report on the Bochum—Coventry project (to be completed in late 1988). Major series consulted include files in the Public Record Office (particularly BT 177/26; HLG 52/1509; HLG 71/13,600, 610, 617, 1287 and 1570; HLG 79/125–7 and 130–3; HLG 88/9; HLG 102/186; T 229/520–1) and the Coventry City Record Office (especially those collected by the Town Clerk); the minutes of the Coventry City Council and its Redevelopment (subsequently Planning and Redevelopment) Committee; and local and national newspapers and periodicals (including Midland Daily Telegraph, Coventry Evening Telegraph, Coventry Standard, ArchitectsJournal, Architect and Building News, and Town Planning Review). Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Reported in Coventry Standard (7 December 1940).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    P. Johnson‐Marshall, ‘Coventry: Test Case of Planning’, Official Architecture, 21 (1958) p. 225.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    The Gibson plan is included as Appendix Five in HLG 79/130: report on ‘Bombed Areas — Redevelopment of Coventry’ by H. R. Wardill, 23 January 1941.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Montagu Slater in Reynolds News (2 March 1941).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Reported in Midland Daily Telegraph (26 February 1941).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    HLG 79/130: report by H. R. Wardill, 23 January 1941, Appendix 3 (iii) p. 8.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Truth (7 March 1941).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Reported in Midland Daily Telegraph (26 February 1941).Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    This judgement is reported in HLG 79/131: letter from E. H. Doubleday to B. Gillie, 16 May 1944.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Quoted in Coventry Evening Telepranh (28 June 19461.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Coventry Standard (20 Ju1y 1946):Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Coventry Evening Telegraph (25 June 19461Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    HLG 79/127: letter from E. H. Doubleday to A. M. Jenkins, 1 October 1945.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    HLG 71/13: ‘Technical Dept. Reconstruction Areas Technical Examination Committee. City ... of Coventry ... Report’ [n.d., but 1946].Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Planning and Redevelopment Committee, 10 January 1951.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Coventry Standard (1 October 1949).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Jeffry M. Diefendorf 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tony Mason
  • Nick Tiratsoo

There are no affiliations available

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