Stepping inside city's transformed Grammar School.
THE chief executive of Visit England, Viscountess Lady Penelope Cobham, has been shown around Coventry's 12th century Old Grammar School to see progress on a multimillion pound restoration project.
The Grammar School is one of Coventry's oldest and most treasured buildings.
And the 12th century structure - that has gone from hospital, to monastery to grammar school - will for the first time in almost four decades reopen to the public next month, as the new extension to the Coventry Transport Museum.
Delighted with the progress being made, Lady Cobham was quick to notice original details in the transformed building.
The 14th and 15th century benches are adorned with ink wells from the building's school days and visitors who look closely may still see markings of where pupils would play with marbles during their breaks.
The massive restoration project brings the building right up to date, including underfloor heating and disability access. But Gary Hall, chief executive of Coventry Culture, which runs the Transport Museum, said that he still wanted to keep as much of the authentic structure as possible, including the beautiful bell tower, in an effort to evidence the building's long and rich history.
Along with these astonishingly well-preserved clues to life in historic Coventry, Mr Hall also plans to display archaeological finds from the renovation's dig - including old slates, pencils and pottery - in the new exhibit and educational space.
He added: "Coventry is home to a wealth of incredible historic and cultural attractions which are enjoyed by visitors from around the world.
"With Coventry Transport Museum set to relaunch as a newly revitalised world-class home for the city's transport collection, along with the Old Grammar School coming back into use for the first time in decades, Lady Cobham's visit couldn't be timelier.
"We're confident that these new developments, generously funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Heritage Lottery Fund, will bring thousands of new visitors to Coventry and a significant boost to the local economy."
Clive Skelhon, sponsorship manager for Culture Coventry and an ex pupil of Blue Coat School, said: "The project has been a breath of fresh air. Coventry is a very eclectic city, it is a city to be proud of and as far as I remember this building has been here, so this is us finally putting our money where our mouth is."
Lady Cobham added: "Being on the board of Visit England I've seen a lot of renovated old buildings, but very few that had hit rock bottom to the extent that this one had.
"The transformation and the opportunity that it creates is just marvellous."
The restoration work in on schedule to be completed in time for the longanticipated relaunch of Coventry Transport Museum on Saturday June 20, including activities and an official ribbon cutting ceremony.
Visit England | Chief Executive Lady Penelope Cobham with Chief Executive of Culture Coventry Gary Hall and Chair of Culture Coventry Roger Medwell Pictures: Joe Bailey
Visit England | Chief Executive Lady Penelope Cobham with Chief Executive of Culture Coventry Gary Hall and Chair of Culture Coventry Roger Medwell
Pictures: Joe Bailey