Cozy English Pub and Restaurant
11 North 6th Street, Post Office Box 152, Indiana, Pennsylvania, 15701 • Reservations: 724-463-0776 or reservations@covinn.com
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Spitfire planes defended Coventry during the Battle of Britan.

 

 The Legend of The Coventry Inn

The Coventry Inn was originally founded in 1497 in the town of Bidford–on–Avon in Warwickshire in England. Bidford is located just a few miles up The River Avon from Stratford–upon–Avon, where William Shakespeare was born and raised and to where he returned after his famous career in London. The Roadster Factory once maintained a small warehouse in Bidford–on–Avon, and Charles Runyan purchased a few beams and some fragments of the sign from the original inn when they were found in a barn near Bidford when it was being torn down in 1986.

The Coventry Inn thrived over the centuries under the ownership of more than twenty landlords from Bidford, Coventry, Stratford, and the Cotswolds, and there are some existing paintings of High Street in Bidford which show the form of the inn changing only slightly right into the 20th century. The original inn building had a twin-gabled front very similar to that of the new building in Indiana, Pennsylvania. It has been said that William Shakespeare drank some pints of the local ale there when he returned increasingly to Warwickshire and its country pursuits during the first decade of the 17th century. Certainly, it is known that he had some relatives in Bidford on the paternal side, and there are still some stones in the graveyard beside the Norman church which identify the remains of “Shaksperes” and “Shakespears.”

With the 20th century came motor cars and aeroplanes, both of which were manufactured around Coventry, the principal city in Warwickshire. In the 1920’s and 1930’s, a group of sports car enthusiasts and aviators began to frequent The Coventry Inn, and in 1935, The Coventry Motoring & Aviation Society was founded at The Coventry Inn, which was, by then, catering almost exclusively to racing drivers, pilots, and their associated engineers, mechanics, and friends. As the 1940’s approached, it was clear that war was coming, and there were numbers of Spitfire and Hurricane pilots on the roster of The Society.

During the war, Bidford got its own secret airfield for Spitfires defending Coventry and Birmingham, and Spitfire parts were manufactured for a time in the little motorcycle factory on the Stratford road. Evenings would find 1930’s MG’s, Morgans, and Jaguars, known then as SS Cars, parked along High Street in front of The Coventry Inn. Even in this small village, windows were blacked out at night, and cars drove on the country lanes without headlights to prevent the identification of landmarks by the enemy overhead. Inside The Coventry Inn, there was action every night, however, as the reckless young pilots with their sheep-lined jackets and silver cigarette cases romanced the local girls between thrilling shifts in the skies, dogfighting Messerschmitts in plain sight of the country people below as they went about their daily work in the fields. “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few,” Mr. Churchill said in The House of Commons, and Teddy Runyan and his fellow pilots raised their glasses in salute at The Coventry Inn.

The Coventry Inn was struck by a German bomb during the heavy attack on Coventry on April 8th, 1941, and most of the inn was burned beyond repair. This was the worst attack of all on Coventry which received so many heavy attacks but rose each day from its ashes to keep the aircraft assembly lines in production. The bomb which hit The Coventry Inn, so far out in the country, must have gone astray, or maybe it was simply dropped late to empty the plane for the return trip to Belgium or France. Fortunately, the bomb hit after midnight, and even the landlord had gone home for the night. No life was lost, but all that was saved from The Coventry Inn were a few timbers which remained after the fire had burned out, as all available manpower and firefighting equipment were being used to protect factories and military installations.

The inn was mourned by many, but the landlord’s only son was killed in North Africa, where he served under Field Marshall Montgomery, and by the time the war was over, the landlord and his wife were far too old to rebuild the inn, although they continued to live in nearby Honeybourne for a good many years. The few timbers that had not burned with The Coventry Inn were stored in a derelict barn on Waterloo Road along with some fragments of the painted sign which had hung before the inn, featuring the bull’s eye emblem used on British fighter planes. These only came to light again in the 1980’s when the area was cleared to make room for The Waterloo Park Industrial Estate.

This legend which provides an historical background for The Coventry Inn in Indiana, Pennsylvania was made up entirely by Charles Runyan, right out of his head with a little help from Winston Churchill’s Memoirs, late-night war movies, and a working knowledge of the English countryside, rather like the background for the plot of an English mystery story. The Coventry Inn celebrated the 500th anniversary of its founding in 1997...

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