Coventry Parish Ruins
Vessey Road, Rehobeth, Somerset County
The Coventry Parish Ruins are the remnants of a two-story seven-bay by three-bay Flemish bond brick church erected between 1785 and 1788. The ruin has been reduced to three primary walls since the south wall rises only a foot above ground level, except for one single-story pier. Transomed entrances were located in the outer bays of the three-bay west elevation, and in the central bay of the north facade; the remaining bays held windows. The reddish-brown walls are accented by ten gauged brick jack arches which survive in place on the first floor. In addition, the structure survives with a three-row belt course and portions of the window and door frames. The site of the earlier parish church is located directly behind the ruin and is marked by four concrete piers. A cemetery extends around the east and south sides of the churchyard.
The Coventry Parish Ruins are significant for their architecture, and for their association with the history of the Episcopal Church on Maryland's rural Lower Eastern Shore in the period immediately following the Revolution. At the time of its construction (1785-88), this church was the largest of its denomination on Maryland's Eastern Shore; not only its great size (76' x 50'), but also its sophisticated detailing, reflect the prominence of the Episcopal Church among the wealthy planters of Somerset County. It is especially noteworthy that this substantial house of worship was constructed in the midst of perhaps the bleakest period in the history of the Episcopal Church in Maryland: following the Revolution, many Episcopalians left the Church because of its association with England; membership declined sharply, and many Eastern Shore parish churches were abandoned. The size and refinement of the Coventry Parish church suggest an unmatched vitality and loyalty within its original congregation. Despite its ruinous condition, the structure retains sufficient integrity to evoke this association: the three standing walls clearly convey its massing, and the refinement of its Flemish bond brickwork--including such features as a stepped watertable, belt course, and ten surviving jack arches of orange gauged brick--remains clearly evident.