Lady Godiva ( -1067) was a religious woman renowned for her generous gifts to churches and abbeys. Her birth date is unknown, but her marriage to Leofric, Earl of Mercia in c.1035 is chronicled. She was a wealthy landowner in her own right. Godiva pleaded with her husband to reduce the heavy taxes on the people of Coventry and he promised to do so if she would ride naked through the city. She ordered the people of Coventry to stay indoors, cover their windows and close their doors and made a cloak of her hair to cover herself. The story of her ride was first told in the 12th century. This striking lifesize equestrian bronze statue, entitled Self-Sacrifice, representing Godiva on her ride, was sculpted by William Reid-Dick and was commissioned by W.H. Bassett-Green, a Coventry industrialist, who presented it to the city. The Historic England listing entry explains that this public sculpture ‘symbolised the regeneration of Coventry after its bombing and was donated to boost morale at a time when rebuilding work was delayed by shortages.’ In its original location facing the clock tower of Broadgate House (where it could be seen by ‘Peeping Tom) it created a focal point for Broadgate. In 1990 it was turned around and now faces the Upper Precinct. The design of the pedestal is similar to the work of Sir Edwin Lutyens (d.1944), who had been a friend of Reid-Dick. The pedestal is inscribed on two sides with lines from Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poem ‘Godiva’, the name of Bassett-Green, the donor, is on the third. For further details see George T. Noszlopy, Public Sculpture of Warwickshire, Coventry & Solihull, LUP, 2003, pp. 124-25.
Location: Entrance to Broadgate shopping centre, Coventry.