Our Parish Church was not built until 1893 but Coventry's connections with the Church of Rome date back to the 7th Century when Canute ruled over Mercia. In 670AD he built a convent in Coventry and installed the virgin Osburg as the abbess.
Before the reformation Abbess Osburg's city (Coventry) was the centre of Christian life in Warwickshire and the Cathedral Priory of St. Benedict was a monastery of prime importance. However in 1760 the persecution of Reformers had reduced the number of Catholics in Coventry to only four!
The Sisters of Mercy: St. Mary's Covent which was later to become SS. Mary and Benedict Church on Raglan Street was founded in 1861 by the Sisters of Mercy where they built a class room. The Sisters allowed the Christians around to use it as a chapel where they came for Sunday Mass. The priest came from St. Osburg's. By 1881 216 Catholics were attending Mass in that tiny classroom.
St. Marys Becomes a Parish:In 1889, St. Osburg Parish was divided and Hillfields area became a separate parish with Fr. Placid Rea OSB as its founder. The Parish grew very fast; thanks to Irish immigrants who came to Coventry in search of work. A church was necessary. In 1891 a plot of land adjoining the Convent was purchased and plans for the building were drawn up. Rev. Fr. Paul McCabe a curate at St. Osburg went to America to raise money for the New church project. As a result he was able to hand over £500 to the building fund. A bazaar held in the Corn Exchange added a further £800. The tender for the building of our church was £3,394.00 excluding the internal fittings this was greatly supported by Lady Gwendline Petre of Whitley Abbey.
Blessing and laying the Foundation Stone: On 9th February 1893 the Bishop of Birmingham blessed and laid the foundation stone and on November 21st 1893 in the presence of His Eminence Cardinal Vaughan the church was opened. It was the first time a "Cardinal of the Romish Church has been in Coventry since the Reformation" (Evening Standard November 1893)
St Marys a very beautiful Church: Our parish originally consisted of a nave, chapel, baptistery, an entrance porch, sacristy and an organ gallery. A large sculpture representing the crowning of the Blessed Virgin Mary fills the arch at the back of the high altar. The centre front panel of the altar depicts a sculpture representing the Annunciation This, together with the Altar of marble was the gift of Lady Gwendoline Petre.
The Pulpit: was a gift from Mrs Thomas Halpin in memory of her brother G.B Tew. It was inaugurated in 1894. In 1895 the chapel of the Sacred Heart got a magnificent do by Lady Gwendoline by putting an altar. Together with Mrs Woolcombe Adams they put the tabernacle which is made of ebony and hammered brass.
The Parish Organ: was added in 1898 it was the most beautiful sounding instrument of its time.
The Stations of the Cross were erected on the occasion of the golden jubilee of Canon J. Walsh by the parishioners as a gift to show their appreciation for 50 years of his service to the church.
Thus by the turn of the century, our parish had been beautified in many ways by her generous benefactors.