HISTORY OF THE LIBRARY
We remember the third headmaster, John Tovey, because in 1602 ‘at his earnest request the Library at the Free School was begun’. The rules stated ‘that there be dictionaries chained in the school for general use of scholars’. It was both a school and a public library and as such was one of the first public libraries in the country.
The Library had a splendid collection of books and relied on former pupils, the gentry of the city and even visiting royalty for donations.
At the end of the 16th century, when the school building was altered to widen Hales Street, the books were taken to St Mary’s Hall for storage. On their return they were put in a small damp room and the decline set in. An inspection in 1830 accounted for 200 books, though most were in poor condition.
In 1885 the School moved to Warwick Road but a little later the School accounts record ‘for sale of old books, £70’ – our priceless relics from 1602, gone. However, had they remained, it is likely they would have been lost when the school was destroyed during bombing in 1941.
In 1958 our Memorial Library was opened, dedicated to the memory of the Old Coventrians who died in the two World Wars. In 1996 it was given a facelift and rejuvenated and in 2002 we celebrated our quarter-centenary and remembered John Tovey’s foresight that led to his ‘earnest request’.