LITERATURE-LOVING pupils in Kenilworth have written to the prime minister in support of a campaign to save the former Coventry home of great Victorian novelist George Eliot – after who their class is named.
Children of ‘Eliot Class’ at Park Hill junior school are backing our sister paper The Coventry Observer’s Bring George Eliot Home campaign.
They are calling for more to be done with the writer’s one time Foleshill home – the Grade II*-listed 19th century mansion Bird Grove.
They were inspired after their teacher Dan McGunigal saw TV coverage of the campaign, which has been running since October in partnership with the George Eliot Fellowship.
The nine and ten-year-old pupils have posted letters to prime minister Theresa May, culture secretary Matthew Hancock, Coventry council leader George Duggins and others.
Aleksa Whiting told us: “We’ve been writing to Theresa May saying that, even though she has lots to attend to such as the NHS, preserving English heritage is paramount. Maybe we could have a centre that teaches English and people can study George Eliot.
“We’d ask Theresa May to transfer some of the rooms back to as they were when George Eliot lived there. It will help to preserve it, and maybe open up some of the rooms.”
Hannah Shillington said: “It would be good to help George Eliot be as recognised as Shakespeare.”
Abbie Hawkes added: “It’s really important that everyone knows about George Eliot. She’s written amazing books. If they put up information plaques at her home, schools could learn more about her.”
Joe Haggarty said: “George Eliot’s home is her home. There’s no even a plaque there.”
Eleanor Smith said: “It helps that Shakespeare has got a birthplace where people can go. But who would say Shakespeare is better than George Eliot?”
Eliot class teacher Mr McGunigal said: “When I highlighted the campaign to Eliot class they had such strong opinions that they immediately asked to write to the prime minister to see George Eliot recognised more.
“We really need to listen to their opinions in the hope that something can be done to recognise Bird Grove as a place of literary interest. The children are even saying that they wish to visit the PM to share their strong views.
“I am so proud of the children’s interest in literature and politics and their plight in trying to make a difference.
“We are expecting a response from the PM by at least Middlemarch!”
Other Year 5 classes at Park Hill also bear famous historic locally-inspired names, including Shakespeare and Lady Godiva.
George Eliot, born Mary Ann Evans in Nuneaton, lived in Bird Grove in her twenties in the 1840s after being schooled in Coventry, her formative years which went on to feature in her works including the classic Middlemarch.
The Observer’s campaign is calling for a blue plaque; access to tourists and visitors interested in George Eliot; and examination of restoration funding which might also work for the building’s private owners; and for Coventry to do more generally to celebrate the writer’s important connections with the city in partnership with Nuneaton – with her bicentenary next year and UK City of Culture in 2021.