The seeds for Coventry's first central museum were sown in the 1930s by the "father of Coventry's archaeology", John Bailey Shelton. A decade of extremely prolific rebuilding in the centre of Coventry gave "JB", as he was known, the opportunity to excavate more land than had previously been possible. During this time he unearthed over 2,000 articles which had laid unseen for up to 1,000 years, and in a few cases much longer. In the absence of a civic museum, he created his own at his premises in Little Park Street, and called it "The Benedictine Museum".
Finally, in the December 1938 issue of Austin's Monthly Magazine he wrote; "...a very generous and welcome gift has been accepted by the Coventry Corporation from Sir Alfred Herbert for building a Museum and Art Gallery for the City, costing approximately £100,000". (The equivalent value in 2022 is almost 7 million pounds!)
The opening took place on the 9th March 1960, performed by Lady Herbert - sadly three years after the passing of Sir Alfred Herbert - but his name and generosity will live on through the museum.
Before the outbreak of war, the new museum was to have been a little closer to the Council House, on the spot now occupied by "Metropolis" - formerly Drapers and, before that, Brown's. However, we're all now familiar with the place now known as "The Herbert", on the corner of Jordan Well and Bayley Lane. The two views above show only subtle changes since the 1960s - most being carried out in 2005 as part of a major renovation scheme.
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