What’s in a name?

Coventry has a catalogue of famous names associated with it. From Lady Godiva to Ellen Terry, the city’s history can be seen everywhere and Coventry University is no exception. The Lanchester Library stands prominently overlooking the campus, but who exactly was Lanchester? I went to find out.

By Simon Q from United Kingdom (Armoured Car Lanchester, Mark II Uploaded by tm) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Simon Q from United Kingdom (Armoured Car Lanchester, Mark II Uploaded by tm) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

It is well known that Coventry has figured heavily in Britain’s motoring heritage. James Starley gave the world the bicycle and Jaguar still produces cars in Coventry today. The Lanchester Gallery and the Lanchester Library both share their name with Frederick William Lanchester, who was a consulant engineer for Daimler, one of Coventry’s most famous automotive brands.

Damien Kimberley, a curator and local studies officer at Coventry Transport Museum, says that Lanchester and his three brothers were “pioneers of the motor industry in Britain.” Lanchester began his career with his brothers in Birmingham. “You could argue they were the first to produce a petrol engined car in Birmingham,” says Kimberley.

Lanchester’s motoring know soon spread to Coventry with the Daimler Company. Kimberley says that Lanchester left his brothers “and became consultant engineer for the Daimler Company.” Daimler were one of many motoring companies in and around the Coventry area in years gone by and the city’s motoring knowledge proved invaluable during the recovery of Britain after WWII. “If you look back over time, much of the motor industry was very heavily concentrated in the city centre,” Kimberley says.

Kimberley is also glad that the Lanchester name is remembered at Coventry University all these years later. “It’s great that the name Lanchester is remembered,” he told me. “He was a top class engineer.”

In addition to Lanchester, several other university buildings pay homage to Coventry’s engineering past; the James Starley building shares its name with the man who arguably gave Coventry the bicycle and Singer Halls of Residence is named after one of Britain’s best known motor companies and sewing machine manufacturers. Even though Lanchester’s era is long past, his legacy is still apparent at one of Coventry University’s most dynamic and eye-catching buildings.

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