IHBC’s ‘Heritage from the (nation’s) doorstep’: Fans in fight to restore George Eliot’s GII listed Coventry home

drawing of buildingThe Guardian explores how campaigners hope that the author’s bicentenary next year, and Coventry’s upcoming city of culture status, will kickstart the restoration of a largely un-tapped national resource, the Coventry home of one of Britain’s greatest authors, George Eliot, Grade II (GII) listed Bird Grove.

image: Coventry Society of Bird Grove in 19th century

The Guardian writes:
Heritage campaigners are battling to restore the Coventry home of one of Britain’s greatest authors to its former glory, as the city prepares to become UK city of culture in 2021. In its Victorian heyday, Bird Grove in Coventry was a two-storey town house with whitewashed walls and grand staircases, and was considered a classic of its genre. It was also home to a young Mary Ann Evans, better known by her pen name, George Eliot.

Today, despite enjoying Grade II-listed status, the property is all but abandoned. The paintwork is cracked, its wooden window frames have been replaced with plastic, and graffiti is scrawled across the walls. An unsightly steel fence runs along one side of the litter-strewn lawn, and a large To Let sign hangs outside. Until recently, the only clue to its historical importance was a small bronze plaque above the entrance.

‘It’s such an important thing for Coventry. This is an author some call the greatest in England,’ said John Burton, chairman of the George Eliot Fellowship. ‘There is little doubt in the minds of academics and biographers that those years in Coventry were crucial to [her] intellectual development.’

Bird Grove became a Bangladeshi Community Centre in the mid-1970s, and it allowed free access for Eliot enthusiasts. Visitors came from as far away as Japan. But funding dried up and the centre closed. Open letters bemoaning the building’s disrepair, coordinated by Burton, have attracted some high-profile signatories. George Eliot’s biographer, Rosemary Ashton, the Bafta-winning director Giles Foster, and the screenwriter Andrew Davies, who adapted Middlemarch for the BBC in 1994, all lent their support. But nothing much came of it,’ Burton said…

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Visit the Coventry Society website

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