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Whitefriars Gate, 36-37 Much Park Street

A Grade II* Listed Building in St Michael's, Coventry

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Latitude: 52.4049 / 52°24'17"N

Longitude: -1.505 / 1°30'17"W

OS Eastings: 433772

OS Northings: 278662

OS Grid: SP337786

Mapcode National: GBR HGN.DX

Mapcode Global: VHBWY.VTQ7

Plus Code: 9C4WCF3W+X2

Entry Name: Whitefriars Gate, 36-37 Much Park Street

Listing Date: 5 February 1955

Last Amended: 12 April 2019

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1087114

English Heritage Legacy ID: 218539

Location: St. Michael's, Coventry, CV1

County: Coventry

Electoral Ward/Division: St Michael's

Built-Up Area: Coventry

Traditional County: Warwickshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Midlands

Church of England Parish: Coventry Holy Trinity

Church of England Diocese: Coventry

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Postern gatehouse to the Carmelite friary, late C14 or C15, later converted to form two dwellings.


Postern gatehouse to the Carmelite Friary, late C14 or C15, later converted to form two dwellings.

MATERIALS: the front and rear elevations of the gatehouse are constructed from dressed red and green sandstone. The side elevations, originally timber-framed, have been replaced by brick. The roof is tiled.

The northern wing is a masonry construction, rendered, with a brick chimneystack and tiled roof.

PLAN: the gatehouse is a rectangular range orientated roughly north-south, facing west onto Much Park Street. A secondary range abuts the north-east corner of the gatehouse and projects eastwards.

EXTERIOR: the principal elevation of the gatehouse is a symmetrical composition of two storeys with a central carriageway arch. Most of the ground floor is built in red sandstone, and the first floor is green sandstone with red stone dressings. On either side of the carriageway there is a doorway and a window, and there are two windows on the first floor. The northern doorway has an arched head in replacement stone; the southern door has a heavily weathered flat lintel. Ground floor windows are one-over-one sashes; the southern window lintel is chamfered, indicating the original, narrower opening. On the first floor the sashes are two-over-two. The carriageway opening is a four-centred arch with a deep cavetto moulding. The timber frame of the first floor, inserted in the late C16 or C17, is lower than the apex of the arch; the floor plate and studs are exposed.

Within the archway the northern wall is timber framed with brick nogging on a sandstone plinth; these materials bear evidence of having been reused. The southern wall has been rebuilt in brick, probably in the C19. Joists cross the width of the opening, and are reinforced by an axial beam, carried on later cross beams inserted into the brickwork.

The rear of the gatehouse is constructed in red sandstone. The central opening above the archway is thought to be the only window original to the elevation. The irregular openings on the left of the elevation bear evidence of having been inserted. On the left of the carriageway is a narrow doorway with an arched lintel, roughly in line with that on the front elevation; there appears to have been a corresponding doorway to the right of the carriageway, which has been blocked. To the right of this a former chimneystack projects from the building line, it has sandstone quoins, beyond which it is rebuilt in brick. Its position at the corner of the gatehouse suggests the building originally extended to the north. There is a monopitched scar in the masonry suggesting the absence of earlier structures, present on mid-C18 maps. Brick chimneystacks rise at either end of the roof, and there are two inserted raking dormers.

The rear range was built in two phases from west to east; this remains evident through the break in the roofline. The range is two storeys and has a pitched, tiled roof with a deep brick stack on the west gable. All doors and windows have been replaced, though their general arrangement has been preserved. On the north elevation the segmental openings, buttress and the first-floor weaver’s window are notable features. Other elevations are largely blind.

INTERIOR: the gatehouse, as reconfigured, is two storeys and an attic, and is two rooms deep. The principal rooms are at the front of the building, and service areas and stairs to the rear. On the ground floor, large fireplaces, possibly late-C16 or C17, have been inserted to heat the front rooms; that in the southern room has wide brick jambs and a rendered masonry hood, and in the northern room has a single sandstone jamb and is built into the brick gable. The door and window openings in these rooms, though modified, retain stylistic detailing: splayed windows openings, shouldered arches with slightly vaulted corbels. In the rear rooms the masonry of the eastern elevation bears various irregularities and modifications, interpreted possibly as niches and an early stair.

At first-floor level sections of the upper part of the carriageway arch are visible in the west wall. There is a sloping offset above the arch, stepping down on either side. There are windows openings which bear evidence of having been widened, probably at the point that the building was converted to two dwellings, in the C16 or C17. The adjacent recesses, apparently original to the building, are likely to have served as cupboards. The transverse timber-framed dividing wall is also of the C16 or C17, built in reused timbers. The lateral subdividing wall, forming two rooms on each side of the first floor, is later, coinciding with the insertion of the curved brick fireplaces in the late C18 or early C19.

In the attic, there are stone features at the north and south extremities of the west wall; these may relate to a truncated parapet structure. The roof, constructed from reused timbers, consists of a two gable trusses and a central truss rising from the transverse timber-framed subdivision. The north and south trusses have been altered, and the central truss represents a better survival: it has a tie beam with slightly raking struts to the collar, with smaller vertical timbers suggesting it was always closed. Wind-braces rise from each truss to a single rank of purlins on either pitch of the roof. On the eastern pitch, raking dormer windows have been inserted. In the southern room there is a C19 brick fireplace with a C18 grate.

Dog-leg stairs rise on either side of the rear of the building to the rear of the large ground-floor fireplaces.

The interior of the rear range, since the restoration following the fire, is an open-plan, double-height space. The party wall, which included a wide chimneystack, has been removed, as has the first floor, though the principal beams have been replaced, and one of the lesser fire-damaged beams has been reused. The fireplace is blocked, though the wide stack survives. A modern stair provides access to an opening into the northern staircase of the gatehouse.


Whitefriars Gate, on Much Park Street, was built as a postern gatehouse to the Carmelite friary established in Coventry in the mid-C14. The precise date that the gatehouse was constructed is unconfirmed; the land was acquired in 1352, ten years after the Carmelite friary was founded, and so the structure could have originated from that point onwards. However, the most recent detailed analysis of the building (Historic England, 2017) suggests it was built in the late-C14 or C15.

The gatehouse escaped destruction during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and along with the other friary buildings, passed into the ownership of John Hales, the Crown administrator largely responsible for dismantling Coventry’s monastic institutions. It remained in Hales’s family for almost two centuries, after which it changed hands several times until, in 1801, it was acquired by the Coventry Guardians of the Poor. It later passed into private ownership and served various commercial functions, before standing empty for a period in the mid-C20. It was renovated in the 1960s and used as a toy museum until the early C21.

Much about the original form of the building is uncertain due to later alterations, but it appears to have included the main archway, possibly a secondary pedestrian access, and some form of associated first-floor accommodation. Although it now stands in relative isolation, the gatehouse was once abutted on both sides. Both gable ends of the building are reconstructions – though some reused early timbers remain embedded within later masonry – and there is some speculation as to whether it originally extended beyond its current footprint; the modified chimneystack on the rear elevation strongly suggests that it extended further north. It has been suggested that the principal elevation was crenelated, or for a parapet to have stepped upwards towards the centre. The modified block-work above the archway may relate to a former statue niche.

Following the Dissolution there was a major phase of redevelopment, when the building was converted to form two dwellings. The date this occurred is uncertain; it has commonly been attributed to the early C19, however, recent analysis suggests it may have happened some years earlier, possibly in the late C16 or C17. The near-symmetrical ground-floor arrangement, with its two large, post-medieval fireplaces, suggests accommodation for two sets of residents was created at an early stage. The over-sailing first-floor interrupts the archway, likely having been lowered from its original level. Internally, a transverse timber-framed partition was introduced on the first floor, dividing the building equally in half and creating two large rooms on the first floor, which were probably originally open to the roof – an attic storey having been inserted later. Both internal walls of the carriageway passage have been rebuilt. While the brick-built southern wall is probably C19, the timber-framed northern wall may date to the period of conversion, bearing similarities to the transverse partition internally. The timbers, and the sandstone plinth, bear evidence of having been reused.

A second phase of updating and increasing the amount of accommodation is evident through the inserted lateral partition on the first floor, creating two rooms on either side. The brick fireplaces are from this phase of development; their different positioning is likely to relate to having shared existing chimneystacks on the former party walls. The attic floor is supported on the lateral subdivision, suggesting it was inserted at the same time. Dormers to light the attic were inserted, and the stairs to the rear of the ground-floor chimneystacks were probably constructed at this point too. The fireplace in the southern attic room, though with a C18 grate, was probably inserted in the C19.

The 1960s renovation of the gatehouse was undertaken by Ron Morgan. Openings were inserted within the partitions to create access between the two units. Various blocks of masonry were replaced externally, replicating the earlier form.

There is a rear range, possibly constructed in the C17 or early C18, adjoining the northern gable of the gatehouse. This appears to have been built in two phases as two residential units, independent of the gatehouse. The first seems to have had a minor industrial function, with a weaver’s loft on the first floor. The date the internal link with the gatehouse was created is not known, though it was likely to have been in the C19 or C20. This range was subject to severe fire damage in 2009, necessitating the entire replacement of the roof, reconstructed as an entirely pitched structure, rather than replicating the slight gambrel of the eastern range. Also lost in the fire were the first floor, the eastern chimneystack, and all doors and windows.

Reasons for Listing

The postern gatehouse to the Carmelite friary, late C14 or C15, is listed at Grade II*, for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* as a building which pre-dates 1700 and retains a significant proportion of historic fabric from the first, and later phases of development;
* an important and rare survival of a medieval gatehouse structure associated with an urban friary;
* a characterful building incorporating local building materials, retaining dressed stone detailing, and internally, with timber-framing of a number of phases;
* the rough course of development of the building into secular domestic use, and its subsequent evolution, remains discernible form the building fabric.

Historic interest:

* one of a handful of Carmelite gatehouses that survive nationally;
* the building has evidential potential in revealing further information about the original form of the gatehouse, and about urban friaries more generally.

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