Lychgate Cottages (right)
Lychgate Cottages (right)

Immediately outside the gates of Holy Trinity church stands one of Coventry's best-preserved historic buildings. Lychgate Cottages are so named because they were built near the lychgate, the gate through which coffins were carried into the churchyard for burial.

The cottages are the only intact reminders of the medieval priory district and stand immediately beside the ruins of St Mary's Priory, founded by Earl Leofric and Lady Godiva. Remarkably, the cottages escaped destruction in the 1940 bombing raid which destroyed so much of the historic city centre.

The cottages were originally one building, known as Lychgate House, but they have since been divided into three separate cottages, occupying numbers 3, 4, and 5 Priory Row. The site where the cottages stand was once within the forecourt of St Mary's Cathedral, the first of the three cathedrals that have served Coventry over the centuries.

Lychgate Cottages from the south-east
Lychgate Cottages from the south-east

There is some debate about the age of the buildings. Most tourist information suggests that they are original medieval buildings that formed part of the monastic buildings of St Mary's Priory.

The timbers of Lychgate Cottages have been tree-ring dated to 1414, which would support the general theory, but it seems likely that the cottages were not in fact constructed until around 1648. The builder was Rev Bryan of Holy Trinity church, who must have simply re-used timbers that had been salvaged from some other building project. So, while the timbers are indeed medieval, it seems that the buildings we see today are actually 17th century.

Beneath the ground level are 17th-century cellars, which incorporate stone from the medieval monastic buildings.

The Lychgate Cottages are presently occupied by Coventry Prayer House and operate as a religious retreat centre and cross-denominational place for prayer and contemplation.

Lychgate Cottages (left) and St Mary's Priory ruins
Lychgate Cottages (left) and St Mary's Priory ruins

The Prayer House has applied for permission to purchase the property from the city council. However, the future of Lychgate Cottages may take a different direction, as a proposal by the Coventry Heritage Trust calls for the cottages to become one of the city's leading heritage venues, with space set aside for holiday accommodation. When we know more about the building's future we will update this page.

Lychgate Cottages are often open for the annual Heritage Open Days event in September and the Prayer House holds regular open house events.

While you're visiting Lychgate Cottages, do take the time to wander east along Priory Row. There are several interesting Georgian-fronted houses with information plaques telling their history. Number 7 was built around 1800 and was once the home of John Gulson, Lord Mayor in 1867 and 1868. Number 11 dates to the early 18th century and is faced with elegant brick and stone dressing in the Ionic style.

Entrance to Coventry Prayer House, Lychgate Cottages
Entrance to Coventry Prayer House, Lychgate Cottages

11 Priory Row, early 18th century
11 Priory Row, early 18th century

About Lychgate Cottages, Coventry
Address: 3-5 Priory Row, Coventry, West Midlands, England, CV1 5EX
Attraction Type: Historic Building
Location: Immediately beside St Mary's Priory ruins on Priory Row. Easily accessed on foot from the cathedral quarter.
Website: Lychgate Cottages, Coventry
Location map
OS: SP334791
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

Coventry, St Mary's Priory - 0 miles (Abbey) Heritage Rating

Coventry, Holy Trinity Church - 0 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Coventry Cross - 0.1 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

Coventry Cathedral - 0.1 miles (Cathedral) Heritage Rating

Coventry, St Mary's Guildhall - 0.1 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

Coventry Council House - 0.1 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

Coventry City Walls & Gates - 0.1 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

Herbert Museum & Art Gallery - 0.2 miles (Museum) Heritage Rating

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