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Good deed brings castle legacy home to Coventry

Ancient documents charting the life of a castle shrouded in romantic myth and legend are coming home to Coventry.

The deeds of Caludon Castle are being loaned to Coventry Archives at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum for public display, lifting a veil on a history spanning more than 800 years.

The Caludon papers, many in vellum or parchment with royal seals including those of King Edward 1, who granted the licence for the castle to be built, and Queen Elizabeth 1, have been stored in the Devonshire home of Lord Clifford, whose ancestors owned the castle and estate during the 18th and 19th Centuries.

For Wyken-born John Clarke OBE, the driving force behind the loan of the deeds, it’s another advance in his personal crusade to shine a light on Caludon’s rich tapestry.

The story of the castle has intrigued him since he was a schoolboy kicking a ball about in the shadow of the castle ruins.

Now he hopes that the people of Coventry, given the chance to see for themselves evidence of its colourful history, will be fired by the same enthusiasm he has for this overlooked jewel in the city’s historic crown .

He said: “Over the past five years I have been in discussion with Lord Clifford to bring this about.

“It gives Coventry a fantastic chance to learn more about its colourful history. I am particularly excited as it will allow everyone - whether history buffs or schoolchildren - a unique opportunity to see original medieval records, many in Latin and Old English script. Caludon’s past owners included some of the most powerful families in the land, many with strong royal and military links. heir influence went far beyond the royal palaces and battlefields. There are Caludon connections to literary giants like Shakespeare and Thomas Malory.”

Mr Clarke, heads Warwickshire-based public relations firm Century, established in Coventry in the mid-1980s as the city’s first PR company, and is a former deputy chairman of Coventry City FC. He recently put his passion into print as the creator and publisher of A History of Caludon Castle.

His extensive research for the book took him several times to the country seat of Lord Clifford where the documents had been locked in the Muniments Room for nearly 250 years.

The two men became friends during the visits and Lord Clifford agreed to loosen the reins on the deeds and negotiated an initial five-year loan deal with the Herbert.

Mr Clarke said: “The Clifford family was very impressed by Coventry’s success in winning the bid for the UK City of Culture 2021 and believes the Caludon deeds will be a popular attraction during the celebrations of its cultural heritage.”

Victoria Northridge, archivist  manager at Coventry Archives, met the Cliffords to finalise the deal.

She said: “It’s just amazing. To have these documents back in Coventry will be fantastic. John Clarke and George Demidowicz have through the book (A History of Caludon Castle) highlighted this collection.

“John has enabled the discussion to continue to the point where we have now come to this agreement with Lord Clifford and his son Alexander. The papers are really very interesting and will complement our Borough Archives of the same period.”

The documents will be sent to Coventry by specialist couriers early in the new year.

Extensive work will then be undertaken to catalogue the documents and screen in those suitable for online viewing and selecting those which are in good enough condition to go on public display.

It may be up to a year before they can be exhibited, but after 250 years absence, Victoria believes it’ll be well worth the wait.

Article by Steve Chilton

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