It was the first time he had been back inside the building in 30 years and the visit brought back fond memories.
William I Iliffe launched the newspaper, as the Midland Daily Telegraph in 1891 and his sons Coker and Edward Iliffe took over running the newspaper in 1917, following the death of their father. Edward was raised to the peerage as the 1st Baron Iliffe in 1933. The paper changed its name to the Coventry Evening Telegraph in November 1941 and the start of the construction of its Corporation Street premises took place in 1957 with Edward laying the foundation stone.
Robert, the 3rd Baron Iliffe, said: “I remember hearing about my grandfather laying the foundation stone as it was the day before my 13th birthday. It was my first term at Eton and I was sent a picture.
“I came here on a visit to Coventry with him before he died in 1960 and moved to Warwickshire with my wife in the late 1960s. I was involved in running the newspaper for some 20 years, becoming Chairman of its publishing company, Coventry Newspapers Ltd., in 1975 in succession to my uncle, Langton, who was the 2nd Lord Iliffe.”
The newspaper was sold by the Iliffe family in 1987 and remained based in the Corporation Street building until it moved to its current offices in the Canal Basin in 2012.
The new 88-bedroom hotel is set to open in September, ahead of Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture in 2021, and will be operated by Bespoke Hotels, the UK’s largest independent hotel group.
The hotel will feature a 160-seat conference suite, meeting rooms, 110-cover restaurant and two ground floor bars as well as a rooftop bar overlooking Belgrade Square.
Many of the building’s original features are being retained as part of the redevelopment, including the panelled Board Room, Directors’ Dining Room and apartment which will become the Lord Iliffe Suite.
Lord Iliffe said: “It’s very flattering that the family name will live on in the building and it’s great that so many features are being kept. It was built as a newspaper building and retaining the newspaper feeling is very nice indeed.
“It’s been quite nostalgic to come back. It was a very happy place and I think a lot of people enjoyed working here and participating in the production of the newspaper.
“It’s been very interesting to see how a building can be transformed and have a modern purpose for life going forward.”
The visit was arranged by The Rotary Club of Coventry which has close links with Lord Iliffe.
Ian Harrabin, managing director of CDP, said: “It was really quite special to walk around with Lord Iliffe and hear his recollections first-hand, gaining a deeper insight into the operation of the newspaper in its heyday in the 1980s.
“I explained that there would be more to see when the hotel is complete, with many artefacts removed for safe keeping during construction. I was very pleased to be able to invite him back for another visit and to stay in the completed Iliffe Suite.”
Pictured: Pictured in the Directors’ Dining Room, from left to right, are Michael Hammon and Robert Villette, both from The Rotary Club of Coventry, Lord Iliffe and Ian Harrabin, CDP
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