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Name:Self Sacrifice (Lady Godiva Statue)
HER no.:MCT16991
Type of Record:Monument


The statue of Lady Godiva riding naked on a large horse was created in 1944 and installed in Broadgate in 1949. It is designated as a listed building.

Grid Reference:SP 3340 7900

Monument Type(s):

  • STATUE (Early 20th Century - 1944 AD to 1944 AD)

Protected Status

  • Listed Building (II*) 469098: LADY GODIVA STATUE

Full description

<1> Coventry City Council, 1980, A Survey of Public Art in Coventry, p.40 (--MONOGRAPH). SCT1940.

The statue is of Lady Godiva, riding naked on a large horse. It is entitled 'Self Sacrifice' and is inscribed on two sides of the plinth 'Godiva'. Lines from Tennyson's poem about the ride are inscribed on two sides of the plinth and the donor's name on the third. The statue is signed.
W. H. Bassett-Green (1870-1960), the donor, was a Coventry industrialist whose interests included stone quarries and cinemas. He commissioned Sir William Reid-Dick K.C.V.O RA (1878-1961) to make the sculpture in 1937 and later gave the city Landseer's painting of the Godiva story.
Reid-Dick began work on the sculpture during the war and had it cast at the Morris Singer foundry in 1944. It was presented to the city in October 1949, and cost about £20,000.
Reid-Dick's Godiva is in the tradition of Academic 19th century sculpture and is primarily a memorial equestrian statue. The naked female figure on a rather military looking horse is of course readily identifiable as Lady Godiva, but the more abstract concept implied by the title 'Self Sacrifice' is not expressed at all in the sculpture. It is essentially a commemorative statue to Lady Godiva to which the title has been added. Sir William Reid-Dick's work was mainly commemorative and porttrait sculpture, for example the memorial to King George V at Westminster of 1939, and the Godiva seems to have been his major equestrian piece.
The legend of Godiva's ride through Coventry has been known and cherished since the late middle ages. Later, Godiva processions were organised and the Peeping Tom legend evolved. It is therefore surprising that no statue to Godiva was erected before 1949. The only memorial statue before this date seems to have been the figure that was added to the Coventry Cross in 1608, that replaced one of Christ to make the Cross a secular piece.
There were at least two attempts to erect a statue to Godiva in the 19th Century; the first in 1860 when an unknown sculptor exhibited a maquette in London with a view to being commisssioned to execute a full size version at a cost of £600. The second was in 1870 when Liverpool corporation offered a Godiva statue that was in store at Derby museum. In both case the sculptures were examined and turned down for reasons of site. Bassett-Green's gift originally presented problems in sitting it in Broadgate. Before that area was bombed it was a busy thoroughfare and the statue would have been placed on a traffic island in the centre of the road. Instead it is now placed to good advantage on the centre of the Broadgate island amongst flower beds, and lawns, between the Cathedral and the new precinct.

<2> DoE, Listed Building Entry (-INDEX). SCT728.

Godiva's ride naked on horseback through Coventry is legendary. This bronze statue was commissioned to form the centre piece of the new garden island of Broadgate, laid out in the aftermath of the Second World War. It was made by Sir William Reid Dick and unveiled on 22nd October 1949. Godiva was repositioned to allow the Cathedral Lanes shopping centre to be built, which now lies over historic Broadgate.
Equestrian figure of Lady Godiva. 1949 by Sir Williain Reid Dick, sculptor, at the expense of William Bassett-Green. Bronze statue on Portland stone base. Rectangular plinth with overhanging cavetto moulding, a podium with cavetto and roll mouldings at the base and battered sides. The design of the base is reminiscent of the work of Sir Edwin Lutyens, who had died in 1944 but with whom Dick had frequently worked. The statue symbolised the regeneration of Coventry after its bombing and was donated to boost morale at a time when rebuilding work was delayed by shortages. It was intended as the focal point of Broadgate, and originally faced the clock tower of Broadgate House where it could be seen by 'Peeping Tom'. Lady Godiva was turned through ninety degrees in 1990, to face the entrance to the Upper Precinct and to lie on axis between the Lower Precinct and Cathedral.

<3> Historic England, 2016, Coventry. The making of a modern city 1939-73., Page 24 (--MONOGRAPH). SCT2190.

A bronze statue of Lady Godiva (now listed Grade II*) by the sculptor William Reid Dick was donated by William Bassett Green, a local developer. It was planned before 1941 and finally erected in 1949.

<4> Stephen Alan Wright. Chartered Architect., 1990, Lady Godiva Statue, Coventry. Report on Cleaning and Conservation for St Martins Property Corporation. (-REPORT). SCT2253.

Sources and Further Reading

<1>SCT1940 --MONOGRAPH: Coventry City Council. 1980. A Survey of Public Art in Coventry. 162. p.40.
<2>SCT728 -INDEX: DoE. Listed Building Entry.
<3>SCT2190 --MONOGRAPH: Historic England. 2016. Coventry. The making of a modern city 1939-73.. Gould, J. and Gould, C.. 166. Page 24.
<4>SCT2253 -REPORT: Stephen Alan Wright. Chartered Architect.. 1990. Lady Godiva Statue, Coventry. Report on Cleaning and Conservation for St Martins Property Corporation.. Wright, S.. A4 simplex. 27.

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • ECT401 - Coventry Public Art Survey

Related records: none recorded

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