Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Lady Herbert's Memorial at St James the Less. Litchfield


St James the Less, Litchfield, in the 1930s. Note Lady Herbert's tomb and the lychgate, as well as the wall and the path up to the church

Sir Alfred Herbert's second wife, Florence, died unexpectedly in May 1930, the day before the completion of the legal arrangements for the creation of Lady Herbert's Garden in Coventry. She was buried at Litchfield in a tomb which she later shared with Sir Alfred, and her mother raised a lychgate at the entrance to the churchyard in her memory. The following press cutting (from June Gracey, her step-granddaughter) gives more detail about the memorial and Sir Alfred's improvements to the churchyard.
The Late Lady Herbert - Memorials at Litchfield
Beautifying the Churchyard
Memorials which have been erected at St James' Church, Litchfield, Hants to the memory of the late Lady Florence Herbert, wife of Sir Alfred Herbert, of Dunley Manor, Whitchurch, Hants and head of Alfred Herbert Ltd, Coventry, were dedicated on Saturday afternoon by the Rev Canon TW Downing, of Knowle, Warwickshire.

The memorials consist of a churchyard wall, which completely fronts the churchyard along the side of the Newbury to Wincheter main road, and a long slab path from the road through the churchyard to the church porch, these being the gift of Sir Alfred Herbert; also a handsome lych-gate, which is the gift of the late Lady Herbert's mother and two sisters.The lych-gate is constructed of English oak on a stone base, and there is a seat on either hand. On the beam on the road side of the gate is inscribed "Come Ye Apart and Rest Awhile" and above this is a bronze tablet which bears the inscription:

"To the Glory of God and in Dear Memory of Florence Herbert, the Gift of her Mother, Louisa Pepper, and of her Sisters, Blanche and Margaret Pepper. May 25th 1930'

The tablet is surmounted by a bronze cross. A paraffin lamp hangs in the centre from the roof. On the churchyard side of the gate appears the words "Depart in Peace".

One feature of the design is that the lych-gate has been set back from the road, which permits of more safely for worshippers leaving the church, the road past being a particularly busy one [sic]. It also allows a car to draw up comfortably without obstructing the road.

Besides giving the churchyard wall and path, Sir Alfred has greatly beautified the churchyard in many ways. One side has been completely opened out, decayed trees removed, and hundreds of bulbs planted in the grass. Another typical work of Sir Alfred has been to ascertain the number and names of children buried in the churchyard, without monumental recognition, and he has erected a headstone on which all the names of those children have been inscribed.

Picture of Beauty

The lych-gate on Saturday was surrounded by a wealth of spring flowers, and daffodils, primroses, hyacinths, lilies-of-the-valley and suchlike flowers abounded in the churchyard, which was a perfect picture of beauty, whilst the day was most genial, the sun shining brilliantly while the clergy and large congregation gathered for the dedication ceremony. The immediate members of the family present were: Sir Alfred Herbert, Mrs Pepper, Miss Blanche Pepper, Miss Margaret Pepper, Masters George Blyth and Gerald Egan, Miss Betty Price, Captain and Mrs Hollick and Master Ian Hollick, also Mr Albert Herbert FRIBA of Leicester, (the archictect responsible for the scheme), who is a cousin of Sir Alfred Herbert. There were also present several members of the Coventry firm, including Mr Oscar Harmer, Mr J Pickin, Mr D Grimson (Directors), and Mr H Grinyer (London).

A short service in church preceded the dedication.

The original cutting can be seen here

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Lady Herbert's Homes and Garden, Coventry



For some more photos of the homes and the garden, click the heading. Florence is also commemorated by the lychgate at St James the Less, Litchfield

Flowery Oasis in Central Coventry
[The Midland Daily Telegraph, Friday May 30th 1930]

It is a particularly happy thought that a section of Coventry's old City wall, built nearly 600 years ago in order to ensure the safety of the inhabitants in those troublous days, should now become the central feature of "A Place of Rest and Refreshment from the Growing Turmoil of the Streets".

As Coventry has already learned through the medium of these columns, Sir Alfred Herbert has made himself responsible for a scheme whereby the most complete remaining section of the city wall, stretching between Cook Street gate and the Swanswell Gate in Hale Street will be cleared of its unsightly surroundings, the old stonework restored, and the vicinity laid out with beautiful gardens in memory of Lady Herbert, who's death took place on Sunday.


It is pathetic to contemplate that Lady Herbert passed away only one day before a legal agreement was reached between the Corporation and the owners of the whole of the remianing property which it was necessary to acquire before the success of the scheme could be realised.








Coventry has had other reasons for appreciating the civic generosity of Sir Alfred and Lady Herbert, who were jointly interested in demonstrating their devotion to their own work people as well as to the city at large, and it is tragic to realise that Lady Herbert will be unable to see the culmination of a scheme with which she had been so closely concerned.

Some time must obviously elapse before the reconstructed 'Rope Walk' - the site of the scheme - is named, but in response to Sir Alfred Herbert's wish, the memory of his wife will be perpetuated though the medium of this flowerly oasis in embryo, with the massive city walls and gates as a reminder of the civic grandeur associated with the spot.

Some such scheme as this has been 'indicated' for many years and it is somewhat surprising that city Councils of the past have tolerated the growth of masses of mean sheds and the accumulation of unsightly rubbish around the city walls which Coventrians of the C15th built with such thoroughness and care, and the existence of which was alone responsible for Coventry's prominent place in the affairs of England in the Middle Ages.

Days of Civic Inertia

When the writer visited the spot yesterday, he was more than ever forced to the conclusion that some extraordinary species of civic inertia must have descended upon the city's governors of the past century, who must have regarded these ancient stone walls with little more regard than would have been paid to derelict tenements.

It is amazing to find for instance that the City Council has had to repurchase what might normally have been considered to be its own walls and gates. They must have belonged to the city for centuries, and even in the semi-destroyed state which the vengeance of Charles II caused them to be left, there were still large sections which remained in perfect condition, particularly the many handsome gateways. While it is true that modern Coventry may have found the presence of gigantic walls and narrow gateways a handicap to its development, it is by no means inconceivable that means could have been found of preserving some of the best features of these embattlements without restricting progress.

It was in the course of the C14th when royal rivalries, intrigues and civil wars and rebellions were frequent occurrences, that Coventry's citizens became convinced of the necessity of surrounding the city with a wall for its adequate protection. In 1328, the inhabitants of Coventry, headed by the monks of the great Benedictine monastery obtained a patent from Edward III permitting them to take a toll of all vendible commodities brought here over a period of six years towards the expense of enclosing the city.

Matters progressed rather slowly, and it was no until 1353 that the recently consituted municipal corporation commenced the job. The first stone was laid in that year by the mayor at New Gate, situated near the junction of Much Park St and Whitefriars St. Richard II appears to have supported the men of Coventry nobly in their gigantic task, for not only did he confirm the powers granted by his father, but granted liberty for the digging of a large quantity of stone from his park at Cheylesmore. This support was continued throughout his reign through the medium of generous gifts of land.

The man of Coventry went about their task in a manner which cannot fail to arouse admiration. They built a magnificent wall, equipped with gates and towers, in which architectural beauty was exploited to the uttermost, and despite the fact that the task took 40 years to complete, the patience of the masons was even equal to the task of beautifying the gates with rich carvings. The wall was completed in about 1395.

It had a length of three miles and in the main wall, the wall was three yards in thickness. There were 32 towers and bastions including twelve gates. The gates were by no means stereotyped in style, and it is unfortunate that the only two remaining ones, Cook St and Stanswell Gates, are among the least imposing of the twelve. Greyfriars gate, which formerly stood at a spot near the bottom of Hertford St, was a particularly fine structure, the tunnel-like aperture running for about twenty yards between two immense circular towers, backed by a solid fort-like structure of considerable depth and containing apartments for men and arms.

For about 250 years these stupendous wall, gates and towers stood in all their completeness, and an annual tax was payable fro their efficient maintenance. Coventry prized her walls in those days with an almost fanatical devotion. In toublous times the inhabitants took their share in the task of 'watch and ward'. As years went by the solidity of those walls became a prize well worth fighting for, not only by the inhabitants who lived under their protection, but also by rival royal factions who appreciated their value as a sanctuary against powerful enemies.

At last came a time when Coventry's walls shut out a king. in 1642, at a time when Charles I had thoroughly alienated Parliament and the country by his high-flown contentions, and after he had failed ignominiously to obtain possession of the walled town of Hull, he came to Coventry with the hope of making this strongly-fortified city the centre of his Midland operations. He had a large force with him, and demanded admission. The people of Coventry welcomed the King, but would not admit his troops. Charles attempted to enter the city by force and even burst one of the gates with cannon-shots, but the citizens manned the breach in the very mouth of the royal guns.

The cavity was filled with carts, barrows and timber, and the King's cavaliers were repulsed with heavy musketry fire from the battlements sustaining very heavy loss. Some years later, popular opinion turned round in the direction of Charles II and Coventry gave some extravagant demonstrations of its loyalty to the new King. Nothing however could efface from his memory the affront which Coventry has offered to his father in that time of his greatest trouble. He resolved that Coventry's walls should never again form an obstacle to the entrance of a sovreign, and in 1662 he sent the Earl of Northampton to demolish the city walls.

The first breach was made at New Gate, where the first stone was laid many years before, and which was also the point at which Charles I had been refused admission. Nearly 500 men were engaged in the work of destruction, which went on for three weeks and three days, but it is stated that the wreckers far exceeded their duties in the wholesale destruction which they carried out.

From that time onwards, Coventry seems to have lost interest in its former proudest possession. From time to time, either sections of the wall were demolished, always at great expenditure of labour, and often with the aid of gunpowder. The stone and other materials were used for building operations, and although there are no records in existence, it is apparent that the Corporation sold remaining sections of the wall to private persons.

The fine gates which were not destroyed by Charles's men were demolished from time to time. New Gate was taken down in 1762. Bishop Gate in 1764. Gosford Gate in 1765. Spon Gate in 1776 and the handsome Greyfriars Gate in 1781. In view of the wholesale destruction which went on for another century or two, it is surprising that even Cook St and Swanswell Gates remain.

Col WF Wyley performed a valued public action when he purchased Cook St Gate and presented it to the city in 1907 and that generous action has now been handsomely followed by Sir Alfred Herbert's gift. Between Cook St and the Swanswell gate in Hale St a considerable section of the old wall still remains, along what has been known as 'Rope Walk', a distance of 150 yards. Most of it consists of an open passage 110 yards in length and 50 ft wide, now used as a timber yard by Messrs Newarks. At the Cook St end there is a wide block of property largely consisting of large sheds, garages etc together with some cottage property and some other buildings of a more permanent character. The Swanswell Gate has also been used as a dwelling house
for many years, and the roadway which once passed through it has been blocked up. There is also some cottage property adjoining.

In its recent parliamentary Act the Corporation obtained powers for the compulsory acquisition of the whole of the property indicated in the accompanying plan, and Sir Alfred Herbert has now come to the aid of the city by offering to pay the costs incurred to the estimated extent of £10,000.

It will be seen that the scheme will also effect and important improvement of Cook St, for it is proposed to demolish all the property surrounding the gate, and to leave it open to more advantageous inspection. The Swanswell gate will also be restored, the gateway in its centre opened, and the space thus cleared will be laid out as ornamental gardens.

Certain section of the wall adjoining this spot are completely covered by buildings, but the foundations will, presumably, be uncovered. The City Engineers have carefully collected large quantities of original stone from the city wall which have been uncovered from time to time, and it is probable that this will be used in the restoration work.



Rebuilding the Coventry Cross

Sir Alfred Herbert makes a very interesting suggestion in the course of his correspondence with the City Council on the subject, when he expresses the hope that it may be possible to gather together some of the fragments of the old Coventry Cross which formerly stood in Cross Cheaping, and re-erect it in the 'Rope Walk' gardens.

There has been more than one such cross in Cross Cheaping the purpose of them having been to designate the site of the market. The first of these erections was quite a simple affair, but a more elaborate one was erected in 1422 at a cost of £50. In 1540 this was removed and its place occupied by a gorgeous Gothic pyramid of four stories, 57 ft high, its niches containing statues of religious and historical personages, the whole being richly adorned with pinnacles, metal-work heraldic shields etc so highly illuminated with gold and colours that it is a tradition that it is almost impossible to look at it when the sun shone.

In 1669 the cross was repaired and beautified at a cost even greater than that of its erection, but from that time onwards it was wholly neglected and in 1771 it was taken down to save the cost of repairs. A similar fate befel this valuable old relic as was met by the city walls and gates in a period of amazing absence of civic pride. For many years it was known that portions of he cross were in existence in various parts of the city and neighbourhood.


The Midland Daily Telegraph, Friday May 30th 1930

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Alfred Herbert Ltd






















Alfred Herbert Ltd of Coventry, Warwickshire.
Telephone: 8781. Telegraphic Address: "Lathe, Coventry". (1937)

Alfred Herbert Limited were machine tool makers in Coventry.

1866 Alfred Herbert was born, the son of a wealthy landowner. The extent of the Herbert family fortune was considerable. His father, in addition to owning a town house in a salubrious area of Leicester, was the largest landowner in the parish of Whetstone, south of Leicester.

Alfred Herbert was educated at Stoneygate Private School, and was destined for University and/or parsonage, until he met up with an old school friend William Hubbard, who worked on a lathe at Joseph Jessop's Engineering Co in Leicester. Herbert was fascinated by what the small lathe produced, so he persuaded his father to let him follow his friend's example. Subsequently he became an apprentice at Jessops.

Later he became the manager of Coles and Mathews of The Butts, Coventry, and began producing machinery for the cycle trade, with guaranteed orders from the Premier Cycle Co (owned by his brother William).

1888 On Mathews' departure, Herbert bought the business for £4000 in partnership with William Hubbard. With the help of Hubbard's considerable inventive capacity, they began making drilling machines and hand lathes, which sold very quickly at about £28 each.


The letterhead of Herbert & Hubbard's firm. Note the logo - the 'Great Paul' - the bell which Alfred had seen being transported to London when he was at school at Stoneygate.

1889 Alfred Herbert and William Hubbard's business was in Upper York Street, Coventry, under the name of Herbert and Hubbard. After a time the partnership foundered and Hubbard was bought out. Later the firm became known as Herbert Machine Tools and eventually grew into the world's largest machine toolmaking company.

1889 Pill picking and sorting machine.
1894 Became private company.
1894 Catalogue of Horizontal and Vertical Milling Machines, Universal Cutter Grinder, Sensitive Drills, Capstan Lathes for general and repetition work, Universal Grinding Machine, Special Machinery for Cycle manufacturers.
1900 Taper Screwing attachment. Article and description in 'The Engineeer
1912 Directory. As machine tool makers of Butts and Ironfounders of Canal Road, Edgewick.
1914 Listed as machine tool makers. Specialities: hexagon turret lathes, capstan lathes, automatic turning machines, automatic screw machines, milling machines, ball bearing drilling machines etc. Employees 2,000.

1919 Labour saving machine tools.

1920 February. Issued catalogue entitled 'The Turret Lathe and its Work'.
1920 June. Capstan Lathe with Rotating Multiple Stops. Photo and article.
1920 June. Small surface grinding machine.
1920 September. Exhibited at the Machine Tool and Engineering Exhibition at Olympia with ten stands of machinery, tools and other equipment.























1940 August. Visit of the King and Queen to Alfred Herbert Ltd

1944 Became public company.


Sir Alfred and Lady Herbert making a presentation to apprentices 1951

1957 Alfred Herbert died on 5th June 1957 and since the entrepreneur's death, the firm has been one of decline.

1961 Tool makers, mechanical engineers, importers and factors of machine tools, components and small tools. 4,700 employees.

1968 By this date they also owned Holbrook and Sons and Churchill Machine Tool Co.
By the early 1970's the workforce was around 12,000 nationally, but redundancies had begun.

In 1980 Tooling Investments took over the firm, but with debts three years later of some seventeen million pounds led to the firm's collapse.

Graces' Guide - the Best of British Engineering 1750-1960s

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The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry











































The following is extracted from the brochure above, which was produced for the first opening of the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in 1960. The photos are of Sir Alfred and Lady Herbert, our grandmother.

Alfred Herbert was born on 5th September 1866, the son of a Leicestershire farmer. After attending Stoneygate School in Leicester, he was apprenticed to Jessop and Sons after which he came to Coventry to take up the position of works manager in a firm of jobbing and general engineers, Coles & Matthews, in The Butts.

A year later the partnership was dissolved and the business was offered to Alfred, who was 22 years of age at the time. He went into partnership with an old school-friend, WS Hubbard and with their fathers' supplying the necessary capital, formed the firm of Herbert and Hubbard.

Hubbard was a clever mechanic with considerable inventive genius, so they decided to make machine tools, the first of which was a very ingenious machine for picking, sorting and storing pills. Machine tools suitable for use in the rapidly expanding bicycle industry were produced and quickly added to the firm's growing reputation. After two or three years Herbert and Hubbard dissolved their partnership and in 1894 a small company, Alfred Herbert Ltd was formed in which Alfred Herbert held the majority of shares. The new firm rapidly forged ahead with the production of machine tools of all kinds; agencies were taken on and foreign branches established all over the world.

Soon after the outbreak of the First World War, Alfred Herbert was appointed Deputy Director and then Controller of Machine Tools at the Ministry of Munitions, for which service he was awarded a knighthood.

During his lifetime Sir Alfred Herbert developed from very small beginnings, the largest machine tool works in the world.

Not that he is only remembered as one of the greatest industrialists of his day; he was also great in another sphere, as benefactor to his adopted city of Coventry.

Among his many gifts to the city were £2000 in 1934 to equip a ward in the Warwickshire and Coventry Hospital for wounded soldiers, two acres of land in The Butts for a park and playground; Lady Herbert's Homes and Garden as a memorial to Lady Florence Herbert in the centre of the city, Town Thorns Manor, which he gave to Coventry as a childrens' home, £10,000 to the hospital and the loan of a like sum free of interest; a covenant with the Cathedral Reconstruction Committee whereby it received £25,000 over seven years; and £200,000 for the provision of the Art Gallery and Museum which is being opened today. This latter sum, with the accumulation of interest, has meant a contribution of nearly £275,000 to the cost of the buildings.

In addition to his public gifts, his private gifts were also many; such as the £25,000 he disbursed amongst his employees to celebrate his 90th birthday.

His death on 2nd May 1957 brought to a close a life of immense achievement and generosity. He was a natural leader of men and carried to the present age the Victorian virtues of thrift and industry.

He will long be remembered not only for his public gifts for which the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum will stand as a most fitting monument, but also for the unfailing courtesy and kindness he extended to all those who worked for him.

The world lost one of its greatest engineering geniuses, Coventry lost a true and loyal friend and Alfred Herbert Ltd its founder and father.'


The Herbert website records Sir Alfred's contribution thus:

The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum is named after Sir Alfred Herbert, a local industrialist who founded Alfred Herbert Limited, at one time the world's largest machine toolmaking company.

In 1938, Sir Alfred donated £100,000 to the City of Coventry to pay for the construction of an Art Gallery and Museum. Building work started in 1939 on a site on the other side of Bayley Lane from the present building.

At the start of World War II only the basement had been completed and work was stopped.

By the end of World War II the city centre lay in ruins, and work on the gallery was put on hold, although the basement was converted to a temporary art gallery in 1949.

In 1952 new plans were drawn up and on 20th May 1954 Sir Alfred was able to lay the foundation stone of the new building. He also donated a further £100,000 to the scheme.

In 1956 the plans were revised to include a room for science and natural history collections. This was because of a bequest from Alderman JI Bates which gave an additional £34,500 to the scheme. This room was called The Bates Room in his honour.

Sadly Sir Alfred did not live to see the Art Gallery and Museum opened as he died on 5th June 1957 aged 90.

On 9th March 1960 Lady Herbert, his third wife, declared the Art Gallery and Museum open

Click here for some recent photos of the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum after its reopening in October 2008

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Sir Alfred Herbert's Memorial Service in Coventry Cathedral 1957



"Humble workers and eminent industrialists united in Coventry Cathedral this week to honour in a Memorial Service the great man who embodied them both - Sir Alfred Herbert. The tribute of little women pensioners who came from the homes he provided for them in Lady Herbert's Garden, and the tribute of the company directors from the length and breadth of the land would have been of equal value to Sir Alfred.

One line in one hymn stood out in the whole service provided food for thought by those who loved and those who honoured him. It was 'Beauty for ashes of the vanished years'. Besides being a man of faith, Sir Alfred has left much behind to show for the vanished years. The quiet works of this generous man were enumerated by the Bishop, Dr Cuthbert Bardsley. Some had never been heard publicly before; all had been done in an unostentatious manner.

As the bishop spoke, a few yards away men worked on Coventry's glorious new Cathedral, answering a request for silence in such a way that not a sound disturbed the simple service - building quietly for the future as Sir Alfred had, yet paying their respects to him as he had to his employees and fellow men.

Twenty-six stewards, employees of Sir Alfred Herbert Ltd, conducted the 2000-strong congregation to their seats in the Cathedral under a grey sky. Many were there an hour before the service started and sat in a cold wind to pay their tribute. Others had travelled hundreds of miles for the occasion.

The service was relayed to Holy Trinity, where the organ music for both services was played by Mr L Tanner. Mr David Pugh, son of Lady Herbert, read the lesson from Revelations, and the service was conducted by the Provost, the Very Rev. RT. Howard. The Bishop was preceded into the Cathedral by the Coventry Cross, born by Mr Raymond Lucas, and employee of Sir Alfred Herbert Ltd. Brother Ronald; the Rev Ian Miller, Vicar of Foleshill, and the Rev RM Spurin, the Foleshill curate who are works chaplins at Sir Alfred Herbert; the Precentor of the Cathedral, the Rev JH Proctor; the Rev Lincoln Minshull, Superintendent Minister of the Methodist central hall; the Provost of Coventry, Canon E Moore Darling, Canon Missioner in the Coventry Diocese.

"A man who did much good in his lifetime". Thus Coventry's Lord Bishop described Sir Alfred. He said: "it isn't easy to be rich and a good man. The temptation of the wealthy man is to retire from creative life to live an entirely selfish existence. "Not so Sir Alfred Herbert. He could have retired years ago and enjoyed himself. But he didn't; right up until nearly the end he and Lady Herbert would travel up to the factory each week. He could have ceased to take any interest in in the men in his factory. He had plenty of money with which to live in luxury. But no. He thought and cared and planned and suffered right into his eighties with those men with whom he had worked so long. He did not regard them as his employees as much as his friends. 'Sir Alfred', stated the Bishop, 'was a man who did good with his money and his mind. Just as money could be used for good or ill, so could the mind.... Sir Alfred had a brilliant, scientific mind aligned with a perhaps still more brilliant administrative mind. To you men who have lost a 'boss' - a greatly respected and almost venerated boss - our hearts go out in sympathy. To his wife and family who mourn the loss of husband and father, we extend our deep compassion. But your sorrow should today be tinged with pride that it was your privilege to know and serve and love a very great man, a prince among men, a good man, full of the Holy Ghost, and of faith. May his soul rest in peace and let light perpetually shine upon him."

Family and Principal Mourners were: Lady Herbert, Miss U Tidd (private secretary), Mr and Mrs AO Hollick; Mrs J Vapenick; Major and Mrs W Allen; Mr and Mrs DWAH Allen; Mr and Mrs I Hollick; Mr and Mrs J Pugh; Mr I Pugh; Mr D Pugh; Mr and Mrs P Lawford, Mrs RS King Farlow; Mr D Bankes-Price; Mr H Piper [chauffeur]; Mr EH Busby [chauffeur]; Mr J Crouch [butler]; Mr G Price; Mrs A Stanley; Miss E Hoffa; the Lord Mayor of Coventry, Alderman Mrs Pearl Hyde; the Town Clerk, Mr Charles Barrett; the Deputy Mayor, Alderman HHK Winslow; and the Chief Constable, Mr EWC Pendleton. Thereafter a list of all those who attended - four columns of names.

The Coventry Standard 1957

Click here for more photos of the memorial service as well as his burial at Litchfield.

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