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The Register Office, formerly the Cheylesmore Manor gatehouse and cross-wings

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

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Latitude: 52.4048 / 52°24'17"N

Longitude: -1.5111 / 1°30'40"W

OS Eastings: 433353

OS Northings: 278640

OS Grid: SP333786

Mapcode National: GBR HFN.1Z

Mapcode Global: VHBWY.RTGC

Plus Code: 9C4WCF3Q+WG

Entry Name: The Register Office, formerly the Cheylesmore Manor gatehouse and cross-wings

Listing Date: 5 February 1955

Last Amended: 3 May 2019

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1299033

English Heritage Legacy ID: 218536

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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Gatehouse and cross-wings to a C14 manor house, restored in the mid-C20 by FWB Charles.


Gatehouse and cross-wings to a C14 manor house, restored in the mid-C20 by FWB Charles.

MATERIALS: a timber-framed structure on a sandstone plinth, with tiled roofs.

PLAN: the three-bay gatehouse is orientated roughly north-west to south-east, with a central carriageway arch, which would have provided access to the manorial buildings, now demolished, to the south. The gatehouse has cross-wings at either end.

EXTERIOR: the timber-framed building stands on a plinth of roughly-hewn sandstone blocks, and has three distinct sections: the C14 south-eastern cross-wing; the C16 three-bay gatehouse; and the C15 north-western cross-wing.

The south-eastern cross-wing is constructed from large box framing with substantial curved struts and braces. It projects forward of the building line on the south-west elevation, where it has been truncated from the former manorial buildings. It has a pitched roof with shallowly overhanging eaves. Windows, all replaced in the 1960s, are casements in timber mullioned frames.

The three-bay gatehouse abuts the cross-wing. It is of close-studded timber-framed construction beneath a pitched tiled roof. It has a central carriageway arch, also with close-studded walls, with a doorway with a depressed-arch head. The gatehouse is symmetrical on the north-east elevation, and on the south-west elevation the rightmost bay is obscured by a staircase clad in timber weather-boarding.

The elevations of the north-western cross-wing are also of close-studded construction. On the north-east elevation the upper floor overhangs an open ground floor, where there is a thick masonry wall at the junction between the gatehouse and the cross-wing, enclosing its ground floor. A timber post supports the northern corner of the overhanging upper storey. There is a doorway within the wall with a pointed-arch head. The cross-wing projects forward of the gatehouse on the south-west elevation. It has a strip of casements on the first floor, and on the ground floor, the timber framing on the return has been infilled with glass. The roof is pitched.

INTERIOR: the C14 south-eastern cross-wing is subdivided into a ceremony room (the Library Room), and a lobby and toilets on the ground floor. The large box-framing of the timber frame is exposed; a number of the timbers have been replaced, replicating the original form. The floor frame, with deep beams and roughly-hewn joists, retains a greater proportion of historic timbers. Upstairs, there are also two rooms: a ceremony room (the Manor Room) and ante room. The southern roof truss within the ante room has a collar and tie beam, with a collar pulin supported by a brace at either end. The rafters are roughly hewn, and are tied at the collar with pole timbers. The central truss and northern truss are of queen post form, with braces at either side rising from the posts of the wall frame. There is a single rank of purlins and coupled rafters with wind-braces. Within the Manor Room is a central jointed upper-cruck truss rising from the wall plate. The posts and braces of the wall frame are substantial, and on the north-west wall they abut the stud-work of the adjacent gatehouse. There is a low doorway with canted head between the two.

The gatehouse is in three bays, the central of which on the ground floor is void, being the carriageway arch. The other two ground-floor bays are in use as a store room and a waiting room. The waiting room, abutting the southern cross-wing and sharing much of its wall framing, has corner posts supporting a beam holding the joists of the floor above. The other walls are of close-stud construction with corner struts. The store room is of the same general form of construction, but has a wide stone fireplace on the party wall with the northern cross-wing. The stone is roughly hewn with chamfers to the opening; the lintel has been replaced in concrete. On the first floor a large ceremony room (the Black Prince Room) occupies the northern two bays, and there is a waiting room in the southern bay. In the Black Prince Room there is a wide fireplace with a moulded surround. A huge slab of stone forms the lintel, and is shaped to a depressed-arch with roll mouldings. The chimney recedes to the wall plate. Walls are close-studded and have a mid-rail. The trusses at either end of the room have deep collar and tie beams, and there is a single rank of purlins with wind-braces. The central truss consists of a tie beam with raking struts rising to the purlins. This general form of framing is also apparent in the adjacent waiting room.

The northern cross-wing is a single bay on the ground floor, which is occupied by a stair. The rear wall of the ground-floor bay is built in masonry, and has a doorway with an ogee arch and chamfered surround. Walls otherwise are close-studded timber frames, again, with frequent instances of replacement timbers. The open-well stair is thought to have originated in the C15-C16, and rises to a landing providing access to a manager’s office within the first-floor bay of the northern wing, and to the Black Prince Room. The stair has been largely rebuilt; it has a closed string, open risers, and square newels. A number of original newel posts have been retained, and these have spade-shaped finials and pendants. In the manager’s office is a fireplace similar to that in the Black Prince Room; it has a slightly cambered head and roll mouldings. The roof structure within the northern cross-wing has coupled rafters with a single rank of purlins with wind-braces, and trusses with a collar and tie beam with studwork in between.


Cheylesmore Manor was established by the Montalt family in the mid-C13. The Montalts inherited the Earl of Chester’s estate, including a castle and parkland to the south of Coventry’s old city centre. The new manor was intended to replace the castle, and stood overlooking the park. It became a Royal Manor in the C14 when ownership passed to Queen Isabella, and subsequently to Edward, the Black Prince. Some of the manorial buildings, and the park-side setting, were lost in the late C14, when the town walls were constructed enclosing the manor, but separating it from the park.

The south-eastern wing of the building is understood to be the earliest, with most sources dating it the C14; the north-western wing dates to the following century. Documentary evidence reports the manorial buildings were in a poor condition in 1421, and were repaired with timber from the park. A 1538-1539 report on the adjacent Greyfriars buildings noted that, by that stage, the hall at Cheylesmore had collapsed; a contemporary account described a ‘palace now somewhat in ruin’. It is likely that the three-bay gatehouse, which stands between the cross-wings, was rebuilt at around this time. Repairs were undertaken in the C17, and in the C18 century the building complex was gradually subdivided into tenements, and extended and converted into weavers’ houses.

Coventry suffered badly in the Second World War, and in 1955, at the zenith of the drive towards post-war redevelopment, the southern wing of the complex was demolished. This part of the building, recorded by the RCHME prior to its demolition, was identified as the original solar, which had been converted to a series of weavers’ lodgings and top shops.

This left only the gatehouse and two cross-wings, though at that stage they were barely identifiable as a historic timber-framed building, being entirely coated in render and with C19 casement windows. In the 1960s a comprehensive restoration of the surviving structure was undertaken by Freddie (FWB) Charles, and the building was converted for use as the ceremonial rooms of the registrar’s office. Charles is widely recognised as a leading expert on the conservation and repair of timber-framed buildings. He trained as an architect in Liverpool and then joined the Modernist offices of Maxwell Fry. After the Second World War he set up practice in Bromsgrove, where he was involved in the establishment of Avoncroft Museum, and over the course of the following decades undertook, in collaboration with his wife, Mary, the restoration of hundreds of historic buildings in the Midlands. His approach was thorough and methodical, and his great works on medieval barns and historic houses were masterpieces of investigation, documentation, and execution (Fielden, 2002). His seminal work was ‘Conservation of Timber Buildings’, first published in 1984; in this, Cheylesmore Manor forms a case study, providing a detailed account of Charles’s conservation philosophy and the work undertaken.

The restoration intended to return the building to its C16 form, preserving and reusing as much original timber as possible, and removing most later additions. The render was stripped and the timber framing revealed. All external infilling was replaced with modern fabric, but internally early infilling fabric was reused where possible. The design of the replacement windows was based on one found within the building. The chimneystacks, post-dating the medieval period, were removed, but the substantial fireplaces within the building were retained and restored.

Reasons for Listing

The Register Office, formerly the gatehouse with cross-wings of Cheylesmore Manor, is listed at Grade II*, for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* a timber-framed building which substantially predates 1700 and which retains a significant proportion of its original historic fabric;
* as a rare survival of a medieval manor gatehouse;
* illustrating high-quality, high-status timber-frame construction of the C14, C15 and C16, with heavy, uniform close studding, box-framing, and carefully-finished timbers;
* an exemplar of FWB Charles’s progressive approach to timber-frame conservation, favouring the maximum retention of original fabric, and the accurate replacement of timbers only where necessary.

Historic interest:

* the last surviving ranges of Cheylesmore, which became Coventry’s only intramural medieval manorial complex, first established in the C12;
* from the C14 it was a royal manor, with close associations with Queen Isabella and Edward, the Black Prince.

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