Saturday, January 7, 2023



My wife Kate told that our dogs had been naughty in locating and trying to get into a box of dog treats, so she had “sent them to Coventry”.  

That was a phrase I hadn’t heard in many, many years and it started me wondering as to its origins. That in turn started me thinking about some other items connected with Coventry. 

Here are some snippets . . . 


Sent to Coventry:


Coventry is a historic cathedral city in Warwickshire, England. 

To send someone there is an expression used in England to deliberately ostracise someone, typically by not talking to them, avoiding their company and by acting as if they no longer exist. It is more than just blanking them, it means that they become invisible. 

The origins of this phrase are unknown, here are some possibilities: 

Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, in this work The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England, records that Royalist troops that were captured in Birmingham were taken as prisoners to Coventry, which was a Parliamentarian stronghold. These troops were often hated by the locals. 

A book entitled Lives of the Most Remarkable Criminals (1735) states that Charles II passed an Act "whereby any person with malice aforethought by lying in wait unlawfully cutting out or disabling the tongue, putting out an eye, slitting the nose or cutting off the nose or lip of any subject of His Majesty ... shall suffer death." This was called the Coventry Act, after Sir John Coventry MP, who had "had his nose slit to the bone" by attackers. 

An early example of the phrase is from the Club book of the Tarporley Hunt (1765): 

Mr. John Barry having sent the Fox Hounds to a different place to what was ordered was sent to Coventry, but return'd upon giving six bottles of Claret to the Hunt. 

By 1811, the meaning of the term was defined in Grose's The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue:

To send one to Coventry; a punishment inflicted by officers of the army on such of their brethren as are testy, or have been guilty of improper behaviour, not worthy the cognizance of a court martial. The person sent to Coventry is considered as absent; no one must speak to or answer any question he asks, except relative to duty, under penalty of being also sent to the same place. On a proper submission, the penitent is recalled, and welcomed by the mess, as just returned from a journey to Coventry. 


Lady Godiva: 

In the eleventh century, Lady Godiva reportedly rode a horse completely naked through the streets of Coventry on Market Day. According to legend, her husband, Leofric, demanded an oppressive tax from Coventry citizens. Lady Godiva, aiming to help the citizens, pleaded for him to stop. Leofric supposedly said, “You will have to ride naked through Coventry before I change my ways.” 

Before beginning her ride, Godiva told everyone to stay in their homes to preserve her modesty. She then rode through the streets, her long hair draped so that it covered almost her whole body, allowing only her legs and eyes to remain visible. However, one man, now known as Peeping Tom, disobeyed her instructions and couldn’t help looking out at Godiva riding through Coventry on the horse. Upon doing so, the legend goes, he was instantly blinded. 

After finishing her naked ride, Godiva confronted her husband and demanded that he hold up his end of the bargain. True to his word, Leofric reduced the people’s debts.  People of the town promised themselves that her name would never be forgotten and that always she would be remembered as a brave and kind woman of her word. 

Lady Godiva is a legitimate historical figure, born in 990 A.D. She was known for being generous to the church but there is doubt on her ride through Coventry due to a lack of records about it. The story only first appeared approximately one hundred years after her death.


Lady Godiva, a statue unveiled in 1949 in Broadgate, Coventry. 


The Coventry Blitz: 

The Coventry Blitz was a series of 3 bombing raids that took place on the British city of Coventry during WW2 by the German Air Force (Luftwaffe). The most devastating of these attacks occurred on the evening of 14 November 1940 and continued into the morning of 15 November. 

There were 17 small raids on Coventry, a small industrial city, by the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain between August and October 1940 during which 176 people were killed and 680 injured. 

On the evening of 14 November 1940 515 German bombers bombed  Coventry with the intention of destroying Coventry's factories and industrial infrastructure, although it was clear that damage to the rest of the city, including monuments and residential areas, would be considerable. Later waves of bombings included both high explosive and incendiary bombs. The high explosive bombs and the larger air-mines not only hindered the Coventry fire brigade, they were also intended to damage roofs, making it easier for the incendiary bombs to fall into buildings and ignite them. 

The raid reached its climax around midnight with the final all clear sounding at 06:15 on the morning of 15 November.  In one night, more than 4,300 homes in Coventry were destroyed and around two-thirds of the city's buildings were damaged. The raid was heavily concentrated on the city centre, most of which was destroyed.  568 people were killed in the raid (the exact figure was never precisely confirmed), with another 863 badly injured.  Casualties were limited by the fact that a large number of Coventrians "trekked" out of the city at night to sleep in nearby towns or villages following the earlier air raids and by the use of air raid shelters.  Out of 79 public air raid shelters holding 33,000 people, very few had been destroyed. 

The raid reached such a new and severe level of destruction that Joseph Goebbels later used the term coventriert ("coventried") when describing similar levels of destruction of other enemy towns. 

The raid of 14 November combined several innovations which influenced all future strategic bomber raids during the war:

  • The use of pathfinder aircraft with electronic aids to navigate, to mark the targets before the main bomber raid.

  • The use of high explosive bombs and air-mines (blockbuster bombs) coupled with thousands of incendiary bombs intended to set the city ablaze in a firestorm.

It caused the British to change from precision attacks on military targets and towards area bombing attacks on whole cities. 

On the night of 8/9 April 1941 Coventry was subject to another large air raid when 230 bombers attacked the city, dropping 315 tons of high explosive and 25,000 incendiaries. In this and another raid two nights later on 10/11 April about 451 people were killed and over 700 seriously injured. 

The final air raid on Coventry came on 3 August 1942. Six people were killed. 

Coventry Cathedral was left as a ruin, and is today still the principal reminder of the bombing. A new cathedral was constructed alongside the ruin in the 1950s, the old cathedral kept in ruins as a garden of remembrance. 

The ruins of the old Coventry Cathedral, the most visible modern-day reminder of the Blitz

 It has been suggested that Churchill ordered the firebombing of Dresden as a vicious payback for the German bombing of Coventry (which Churchill is often accused of allowing to burn rather than reveal his access to the German codes.  Those are issues much too complex to look at briefly here. 


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