The first thing to know about the Herbert undercroft is that it is not an undercroft. An undercroft is a ‘warehouse’ or storeroom, sometimes underground. The example of at the Herbert is underground but was not initially intended as a storeroom.
What we are looking at is a room that can be divided easily into a shop and workshop. It has a beautiful vaulted ceiling and two doors. The first comes in off the street and the second goes into the property so the owner of the shop can access the living quarters. I would expect that any apprentices would live downstairs in the shop.
On the south side wall is a huge window. It is now bricked up but once would have been paned with horn. There is another small window outside in the corridor.
In the 15th century, Coventry was a very important city. I can not stress how important it was. The court was held here and so a lot of money was spent on consumer goods. These had to come from somewhere and the Herbert undercroft was a workshop and shop selling belts. The owner of the shop worked downstairs at street level and lived with his family on the second floor.
At the time it was above ground. In the last five hundred years, the street level in that part of Coventry has risen by a good eighteen feet. As it did so the windows were bricked up and the shop enclosed. It was now useless as a shop or a workshop so was used as a cellar and in the Victorian period a coal cellar.
During the Second World War, it probably was used as a shelter. It is sobering to realize that the houses above the undercroft were destroyed in the Coventry Blitz but the cellar remained.