Coventry & Warwickshire

Visitors given rare access to medieval undercroft in Coventry city centre

"The merchants who owned it were clothiers, and the cupboards were where valuables were stored."

Building historian George Demidowicz explains the history behind a piece of Coventry city centre that is rarely seen by visitors.

Few people realise that the medieval undercroft, near to the front of the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, exists, and it is now being opened to the public.

On 23 and 24 June, and by prior appointment on later dates, members of the public will be able to see where goods were stored 600 years ago.

Mr Demidowicz, who was involved in the conservation of the undercroft, said that the merchant also bought and sold wool and traded in girdles, which were fashionable at the time.

Many more cellars

The stone-vaulted undercroft was built by a rich merchant in the 14th Century and survived the bombing during World War II.

Mr Deidowicz said: "Because they're below ground, they don't get necessarily bombed in the Blitz.

"If you have an incendiary hit the building above, it would burn the building, but it wouldn't necessarily destroy the vault underneath."

The undercroft is similar to the nearby undercroft at St Mary's Guildhall, but is much smaller, and is accessed via a staircase inside the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum.

A plaque marks the spot outside the gallery and museum where the medieval undercroft lies, and close to where the merchant's house once stood.

It is thought that many more cellars could exist underneath the city centre.

Underneath a nearby modern council building, another surviving medieval undercroft has a bricked up tunnel that once led to other undercrofts and cellars.

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