Golden Cross, Coventry

Golden Cross, Coventry

History of the building

The Golden Cross is one of the oldest pubs in Coventry and one of the longest alcohol-serving venues in the country.

First mentioned as an inn in 1661, the Golden Cross is dated to 1583. The structure of the building is typical of the Tudor-style of this period with three-vaulted or ‘jettied’ upper floors. It has close-studding on the upper floors and moulded jetty boards. The finest feature is the ‘dragon beam’ visible in the ground-floor ceiling. This is a large timber beam that enables a jettied first floor to pass round a corner building.

Today, the Golden Cross stands much modified. A restoration in the late nineteenth, early twentieth Century used timbers from the original wooden bell tower of St. Michael’s church. The extension of 1968 saw the interior of the pub change drastically. The gentleman’s bar, smoke room and upstairs club room were gutted and extended to blend into a new structure attached to the building. This doubled its size, but makes it next to impossible for a visitor to imagine the interior as it once was.

In 1955, the Golden Cross was listed by the now-disbanded Coventry City Guild (1914-1961) as a Grade II* listed building of special interest. There are only 3 buildings left like this in the city centre.

It is possible to place the meaning behind the inn’s name ‘the Golden Cross’ as its proximity to the ‘Coventry Cross,’ its new position is only 100meters from the original in Broadgate / Cross-Cheaping. The original Coventry Cross was erected in 1543, some 40 years before the Golden Cross and was “pained in bright colours and smothered in gold leaf. In fact, it held so much gold that on a sunny day it literally glowed [Victorian History of Warwickshire volume II] ”.

After suppression of religious houses, inns became important as meeting places of city companies – a tradition to which the Golden Cross was also privy. Groups such as the Golden Cross Philanthropic Society, formed in 1859 held regular meetings in the club room upstairs. The society was comprised of well-respected men of society and their aim was to help the poor by raising money for local hospitals, schools etc.The Coventry City Supporters club also held a meeting at the Golden Cross in 1951.The club room has, since the 1970s, had a long association with live music.

The Pub stands in the medieval heart of the city enclosed by several other ancient buildings fortunate enough to survive the raids of the Second World War, namely the Coventry Cathedral of St. Michael, St. Mary’s Guild Hall, Holy Trinity Church and the City Council House

The Brewery

Before being taken over by Scottish & Newcastle, the Golden Cross was under the ownership of the Northampton Brewery Company ltd. Their Phoenix Brewery, located on Bridge St, Northampton opened in 1857.NBC had been the first in town to use the new ‘steam’ Burton Union technology and produced clear, clean ale that quickly caused rivals such as Phipps to drop their traditional thick brews to compete. Due to Phipp’s financial troubles and NBC’s small size – it became mutually advantageous to combine force.

The Northampton Brewers merged with neighbour Phipps in 1957 to form the Phipps Northampton Brewery Company ltd, who distributed ale throughout the midlands. One report of their good beer and fair price was reported online by an individual, who recalled of the Golden Cross in the year of the Phipps-NBC merger:

“In Coventry in 1957, a pint of mild in the Golden Cross cost a shilling and a ha’penny; a rather curious sum and at that time the cheapest pint available anywhere in the city centre. It was a very pale mild, brewed by the Northampton Brewery co. [] ”

The Golden Cross still carries the Tudor-style stained glass NBC logo on many windows, and the rather ironic Phoenix emblem.

A timeline of the Golden Cross

1465 - Coventry mint established under Edward IV

1468? - Mint disbanded

1543 - Coventry Cross erected

1583 - Golden Cross built in typical Tudor style.

1661 – A reported 137 inns/alehouses in Coventry, of which the Golden Cross was included

1687 – The first recorded Godiva procession. This left from St. Mary’s guildhall so would have passed by the Golden Cross.

1750 – A stage coach service from Coventry to London commenced

1771 – Coventry Cross taken down due to decay

1849 – Coventry’s last execution outside Coventry’s gaol – neighbouring the Golden Cross

1859 - Golden Cross Philanthropic Society established.

1874 - F. White and Co.'s Warwickshire notes the Golden Cross, the proprietor being a Mr. Robert Warrington

1900s - Golden Cross undergoes extensive restoration and reconstruction.

1913 - First British loop-the-loop accomplished by aviator B. C. Hucks – organised by the Golden Cross Philanthropic Society

1940 - November 14th, Coventry Blitz. After 11 hours solid bombing of the city centre, the Golden Cross emerges unscathed.

1955 – June. The Golden Cross is listed by the City Council as a Grade II listed building of particular interest

1967 – August, proposals for redevelopment and expansion of the existing building

1968 - February 1st - October, Re-development period

1970 - 22nd July, A small fire breaks out in the restaurant upstairs, but is contained.

1974 - Phipps Northampton Brewery, who owned the Golden Cross, is closed, the site demolished

1975 - HOBO groups started to organise meetings upstairs (see ‘Upstairs @ the Golden Cross’)

1981 – Philanthropic Society dissolves.

2004 – Golden Cross is taken over by Scottish & Newcastle Brewery and made transition from ‘managed house’ to ‘lease-hold’

2006 – January 27th, Gene Simmons makes his famous visit to the Golden Cross as part of the ‘School of Rock’

2007 – Threat to the live music licence

2008 – Live music licence restored with soundproofing additions and restoration

The Golden Cross in popular press

There are many articles from the Coventry Evening Telegraph, and it's predecessor the Midland Evening Telegraph in which the Golden Cross makes an appearance.

As of July 2008 many of these are on display within the downstairs bar, available to visitors and regulars alike


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