The first and last sketches on this page are two detailed drawings by Messrs. Paley & Austin, architects, which appeared in the national magazine, The Builder, on the 20th June 1891. It is apparent from the advanced stage of planning and drawing that we were extremely close to actually having this bell-tower built.
The two articles below are transcripts from local newspapers of that period, and demonstrate the general public feeling towards the proposed project at the time.
n Tuesday evening a meeting of St. Michael's Church Council was held in the vestry, under the presidency of the Vicar, for the purpose of discussing the bell question and for other business. There were present Rev. Dr. Mills (vicar), the Revds. C. W. Foster and F. R. Lees; Messrs. A. J. Brookes, J. Astley (church wardens), T. Rickard, J. Dusson and J. A. Palmer.
The Vicar said the Coventry Mercury of that evening was very much ahead in its information on the bell matter. He should like to know if anyone present wished to say anything upon the subject.
Rev. C. W. Foster: What is the present position ?
The Vicar did not know that there was a position. There was a statement in the Mercury, the truth of which he could not guarantee, but he heard it from other quarters, that a gentleman had promised £1,000 towards the new tower, but did not wish his name to be published at present. He saw this in the Mercury, and, as he had said, he had heard it in other directions, but he did not know the gentleman's name. Well, now, the position so far was this ; everybody now knew the bells could not possibly go back to the present tower for ringing purposes : and more than that, there was the highest professional authority for saying that chiming would not be safe above the present groined roof. The result would be, in fact, to wedge the walls outward. Those citizens who had contributed to the restoration would not be willing that chiming should go on below the ceiling and the place be again made a coal-hole of, as it was, before the restoration. Even if the bells were put below the roof, there would not be room enough for the clock and chiming apparatus above. Now, while half the people of Coventry were anxious to hear the bells rung in full peal, the whole of Coventry, without exception, were anxious to have the clock and chimes put back again. (Hear, hear.) The feeling, once strong in favour of the bells going back for chiming, was fast dying away, and some people who had been opposed to a new tower had promised subscriptions towards it.
he above sketch is reproduced - through the courtesy of Mr. John Astley - from "W. Smith's Description of England, 1588." It is supposed to show the appearance of Coventry at that period, with the cathedral tower standing. The reproduction was suggested by the visit, last Thursday, of the three architects, who have been consulted as experts in the matter of the proposed belfry. They were Mr. Ewan Christian, Mr. E. Waterhouse, and Mr. Norman Shaw, R.A. They were accompanied by the Vicar, Mr. Woodcock, and other gentlemen.
After viewing the city from several high points at a distance, they proceeded to inspect the newly-restored church and its surroundings. They afterwards expressed their unanimous opinion that a properly designed bell-tower would not only not detract from the beauty and general effect of St. Michael's and Holy Trinity spires, but would add considerably to their present imposing appearance. Mr. Christian thought there could not be too many towers and spires, and instanced London and other places as examples, and Mr. Waterhouse, emphasising the general view expressed, said that the proposition under discussion was "simply an architect's chance - a glorious opportunity."
The architects recommended an altogether different site from any hitherto proposed, the exact position of which is not at present settled, but it is understood that it will be on the north side of the church, about two-thirds of the distance down the churchyard, but not over the avenue. They recommended a plain tower for a storey or two, all ornamentation to be put on the upper storeys, and the bells to be hung at a height of about eighty feet.
Mr. Woodcock intimated that whatever the cost of the tower, he would only ask the citizens to subscribe £5,000, If it cost £10,000 he will contribute half ; if it cost £14,000 he will contribute £9,000, and so on. The architects have not yet presented a formal report, but it is anticipated that there will not be much delay. They recommended that an architect of position be engaged to prepare designs and plans, and to act generally under the direction of the vicar and church wardens, &c., in accordance with the recommendations they will make. It is said that operations will be begun at once. It is mentioned as an interesting fact in connection with the project that 98 years ago there was a meeting in the parish for the purpose of considering the erection of a new bell tower, and for that period the matter has rested.