Coventry, a city and municipal and parliamentary borough of Warwickshire, England, on the Sherbourne, 10 m. N. N. E. of Warwick, and 94 m. by railway N. N. W. of London; pop. in 1871, 39,470. With some adjacent villages it was formed into a separate county by Henry VI., but an act of parliament in 1842 united it with Warwickshire. Its name, a corruption of Concentre, or "convent town," came from a Benedictine priory founded in 1044 by Leofric, lord of Mercia, and his lady Godiva, of which the cellar, 225 ft. long by 15 ft. wide, still exists. The ancient part of the city has narrow, ill-paved, and crooked streets, built up with antiquated houses; the modern part is well laid out, filled with handsome dwellings, and supplied with gas and water. There are three ancient and three modern churches, and several chapels. Among the educational establishments is a free school, founded in the time of Henry VIII. by John Hales, having an income of £950 per annum, two fellowships at Oxford, one at Cambridge, and six exhibitions at either university.
There are six endowed and various private schools, a government school of design, mechanics' institute, two libraries, a convent of the sisters of charity, hospital, dispensary, savings bank, theatre, county hall, drapers' hall, barracks, and a great number of charitable foundations. St. Mary's hall, a venerable building of the 15th century, with a principal room 63 ft. long, 30 ft. wide, and 34 ft. high, has a curiously carved roof, and a large painted window. It was built for the Trinity guild, but is now used for public celebrations, meetings, etc. The manufactures of Coventry were early celebrated. At the commencement of the 15th century an active trade was carried on here in woollen cloths, caps, and bonnets, and there were flourishing manufactures of caps, woollens, and broadcloth. Afterward blue thread, called "Coventry true blue," and still later tammies, camlets, shalloons, and calliman-coes, were staple manufactures; but the articles now most largely made are silks, ribbons, fringes, and especially watches, the last more extensively than even in London. The city is connected with the grand trunk navigation by the Coventry and Oxford canal, and with the chief emporiums of the kingdom by the Great Northwestern and two branch railways.
Coventry was anciently defended by walls and towers, but only a small portion of the former and three of the latter remain; the rest were destroyed by Charles IT. on account of the favor shown by the citizens to the parliamentarians. - Twelve parliaments have been held here, the most noted of which are one in 1404, called the parliamentum indoctum, because lawyers were excluded from it, and one in 1459, called the parliamentum diabolicum, from its numerous acts of attainder. The people were noted for their love of all kinds of shows, pageants, and processions, descriptions of which have furnished matter for several curious and interesting works. The religious dramas called mysteries were performed here with peculiar magnificence as early as 1416, and often in the presence of royalty. Until within the present century an annual pageant was kept up in memory of the lady Godiva, but it is now only occasionally celebrated. She is said to have obtained from her husband Leofric the remission of certain heavy imposts of which the citizens complained, on condition that she should ride naked through the streets of Coventry at noonday.
She ordered the people to keep within doors and close their shutters, and, veiled only by her long flowing hair, she mounted her palfrey and rode through the town, unseen except by an inquisitive tailor, immortalized under the sobriquet of " peeping Tom," whose curiosity was punished by instant blindness. This story, on which Tennyson has founded a poem, was first recorded by Matthew of Westminster, who wrote in 1307, 250 years after its supposed occurrence. On the occasion of the pageant's taking place, a very lightly clad female is still the leading character. Efforts have been made to suppress this exhibition, but with only partial success. - The phrase "sending to Coventry " is supposed to have originated with military men, from whom the inhabitants held themselves aloof.
St. Michaers Church, Coventry.
Coventry, a town of Kent county, Rhode Island, on a branch of the Pawtuxet river, and the Hartford, Providence, and Fishkill railroad, 12 m. S. W. of Providence; pop. in 1870, 4,349. It is noted for its manufactories of mousseline-de-laines, calico prints, coarse cotton goods, and cotton and other machinery.