Medieval Coventry is working in partnership with the Visualisation Group, WMG, University of Warwick to create a virtual reality, multi-sensory model of Spon Street as it would have appeared c. 1500. This important industrial suburb was important for its weaving, dyeing and tanning crafts and the model will bring this to life, incorporating the existing 14th- and 15th-century buildings and images of ‘lost’ buildings.
Work has started on medieval weaving, in partnership with professional re-enactors Ruth Gilbert and Tim Jenkins and The Weavers House (www.theweavershouse.org). Here we see Ruth and Tim using the replica medieval horizontal loom and winding quills at the Weavers House.
The next step will be medieval tanning, which we captured in 3D in September 2020 at the UK’s only traditional tanning works in the Forest of Dean. The finished model will be available to the public later in 2021.
Suburban Spon Street was the location for the medieval tanning industry. In the late medieval period leather was used for making belts, purses, shoes, boots, gloves, saddles and tents and for carrying liquids.
The process of turning an animal hide into leather was known as ‘tanning’ (for cattle hides) or ‘tawyering’ (for other hides such as sheep and goat). Tanning was a noxious process which, in most towns in the 15th century, was banished by regulation to the outskirts.
By c. 1500 in Coventry, 70 per cent of Coventry’s tanners worked in the north-western part of the city, around Spon Street, Hill Street and Well Street. Using a mix of documentary and archaeological data, together with an analysis of the existing standing buildings in Spon Street, it is possible to build a picture of tanning and other crafts and industries in the area in the late