A brief history of Medieval Coventry
The city was the ‘boom town’ of the late medieval period. Between c. 1350 and c. 1500, Coventry grew to be the fourth most populous and fourth wealthiest city in England, after London, York and Bristol. Its growth was based on its role in the international and domestic wool and woollen cloth industries, but it was also an important centre for metalworking, the leather industries and other crafts.
The civic ceremonials, processions and ‘mystery plays’ of Coventry were of national importance. Coventry’s merchants were amongst some of the wealthiest in the country and the Trinity Guild had royal patrons. It was an important ecclesiastical centre, with a Benedictine priory cathedral, two of the largest parish churches in England and three influential friaries.
The city, situated at the crossroads of the national road system, and with some of the strongest defences in the country, was of great strategic importance. It was no coincidence that the Lancastrian royal family chose Coventry as a new seat of power in the period 1456–1460 at a time of national unrest. The city played an important role in the Wars of the Roses, and holding Coventry was seen as crucial to controlling the rest of the kingdom.
Parliament was held in Coventry twice in the 15th century, as well as a number of Great Councils. And in 1451 was even made its own county! The County of Coventry survived for nearly 400 years.