Friday, March 9, 2012

St. Michaels Cathedral

St Michaels Cathedral in Coventry, photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

On 14 November 1940, the Germans began Operation Moonlight Sonata, which began what the people of Coventry called The Blitz. By the time it was over, the city had been almost entirely destroyed, including St Michaels Cathedral. This building was important to Alfred and Ann. On the 1861 census, Alfred and Ann and their children were living in St Michaels parish. And according totheir granddaughter, Mary Barker Edwards,  Alfred, Ann and three of their children "were singers in that great cathedral, in the choir." She said that Ann was "a good soprano and he a strong bass."
Sky view of St Micael's Cathedral in Coventry, photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

After the Blitz, the city decided to leave St. Michaels as a monument to the horrific events of World War II. I’m glad they did. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Swanswell Gate

One of the most rewarding aspects of being a saga seeker is reconstructing what life was like for those we are researching. As saga seekers we must always be reminding ourselves to cast off the world as we know it and try to understand the world of the past. One of the ways we do this is by studying the community in which our research subject lived.

Alfred and Ann lived in Coventry, England for nearly fifty years.

Alfred and Ann got married in Coventry. They had their babies in Coventry. They buried their babies in Coventry. They made a living in Coventry. They educated their children in Coventry. They slept, prepared food, washed their clothes, worshipped, walked, breathed, and cried in Coventry.

So what can we learn about Coventry?

Coventry was nearly flattened during World War II, so the number of structures surviving from Alfred and Ann’s day are few.

Swanswell Gate, Coventry

Alfred and Ann were living at Swanswell Terrace when two-year-old James and baby Jane died. This is Swanswell Gate. I like to imagine that Alfred and Ann and their children knew this gate well. The wall that surrounded Coventry during medieval days was gone by Alfred and Ann’s day, but Coventry had not grown past the boundaries created by the wall so the roads still had to go through or past the gates. Can you see Ann taking her remaining children for a walk, little John asking her about that funny old tower and Ann telling him stories of Kings of England passing through that gate flanked with their guards and their grandeur. After all, the times may have changed, but surely motherhood and storytelling have stayed the same.