QUEEN VICTORIA ROAD
Coventry Retail Market
A market hall built in 1957 to designs by Douglas Beaton, Ralph Iredale and Ian Crawford of Coventry City Architect's Department.
EXTERIOR: The market consists of a series of concrete arches joined by a ring beam, all left exposed, with brick infilling and a concrete roof, laid out as a car park, with a central circular roof light. It has a circular plan, just over 84m in diameter and 4 ½ m high, is laid out with 160 island stalls, arranged in groups of two or four units in concentric rings, with 40 'shop stalls' set into the perimeter wall, 16 of them facing inwards, and a small circular, glazed attendant's kiosk situated near the main entrance to the south-east side. The basement, under the western half of the building only, is laid out as a delivery and storage area.
INTERIOR: Inside, the circular space is characterised by the tall V-shaped concrete 'columns' that hold the roof. The timber stalls, designed as the traditional 'market table', can be secured after trading by raising the side flaps and by sliding boards into horizontal channels and locking these into position. Some of the original shop and stall signs have survived. Natural light enters via the clerestory windows along the top perimeter of the building and through the clerestory lighting and oculi in the central dome. The space under this dome, designed as an area for shoppers to rest, is lined with seats and has a terrazzo mosaic floor designed by David Embling, with a central sun motif, a gift from the Coventry Branch of the Association of Building Technicians. Two of the adjacent V-shaped roof supports are adorned with a bronze plaque, one commemorating the opening by Princess Alexandra in 1958, and the other listing the names of the members of Coventry's Markets and Baths Committee of 1958-1959. Above the current market office is an impressive painted mural by art students from Dresden commissioned especially for the market in the 1950s in a Socialist Realist manner, depicting farming and industrial scenes. The V-shaped supports near the central dome and the walls near the current fish mongers are decorated with colourful figures of mermaids, sailors and Neptune made by Jim Brown in the late 1950s, and moved here from the former fish market (Victoria Buildings, now demolished).
HISTORY: Coventry's retail market was built in 1957 to designs by Douglas Beaton, Ralph Iredale and Ian Crawford of Coventry City Architect's Department. Tenders were sought in December 1956. In November 1958 it was officially opened by Princess Alexandra (Lady Ogilvy, born 1936). It was claimed to be the first large scale covered market in England erected after the Second World War, that at Wolverhampton, built 1955, being partially open. It was built on the site of Barracks and Rex Markets, which had been partially damaged during the bombing of Coventry in November 1940, to accommodate the former stallholders whilst providing additional facilities. Various designs were considered, but eventually a circular design was chosen to encourage circulation and to offer a number of entrances. It was given a flat roof in order to create a car park (with a heated ramp to prevent icing, now no longer there), and was to become the central focus for a complex scheme of linked roof car parks in Coventry. A well loved feature of the pre-war market of Coventry had been a children's merry-go-round, designed by David Mason with models of vehicles manufactured in Coventry, which was erected near a café outside the main entrance. This merry-go-round, known as the Coventry Market Roundabout, moved around the site as the market and various adjoining shops opened. It now stands inside the market (it is not fixed and as such is not listed). The market was attached to Victoria Buildings, formerly known as the Ace Works. These engineering works had survived the war and were subsequently converted to a fish market, with its upper floors remaining in use as factories. The cast-iron columns of Victoria Buildings were decorated with the colourful figures by Jim Brown, the City Architect who was responsible for much of Coventry's art work in its new buildings. The fish market was demolished in the late 1990s, and the figures are now situated in Coventry Retail Market.
SOURCES: N Pevsner and A Wedgwood, The Buildings of England: Warwickshire, p 272
The Architect and Building News, vol 208, 14 July 1955, pp 38-39.
The Architect and Building News, vol 122, 21 July 1955, p 92.
The Architect and Building News, vol 215, 22 April 1959, pp 508-510.
Architecture and Building, February 1959, pp 62-66.
Official Architecture and Planning, January 1959, pp 28 & 31.
J & C Gould, Coventry Planned - The Architecture of the Plan for Coventry 1940-1978 (unpublished report commissioned by English Heritage, 2009).
Elain Harwood, 'Coventry Retial Market' (unpublished English Heritage report, 2008).
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: Coventry Market is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Completed in 1958, it is one of the earliest remaining examples of a post-war market building that has survived mostly intact.
* It played an important role in the socio-economic history of Coventry in providing the city with a lifeline and meeting place in the years after the bombing of the city in 1940, when most of its commercial buildings had been destroyed.
* It contains an early example of a roof car park, reflecting Coventry's innovative plan for car segregation as first conceived by City Architect Donald Gibson in the late 1930s and the relatively high level of car ownership in the mid-C20, mainly due to Coventry's car industry.
* Its circular plan, a relatively traditional form for market halls, has been successfully translated into a modern architectural idiom giving the building a distinctive appearance, making it a good example of 1950s Festival of Britain style architecture.
* It contains significant art work that contributes to its architectural and historic importance.