Lady Godiva Clock, Coventry

Lady Godiva clock, Coventry

Over the years Coventry has had a bit of a hard time. Bombed heavily during World War II, the Modernist post-war reconstruction which was groundbreaking in its day has few fans left. However, in Broadgate - the dead centre (as it were), a building with a facade that only its mother could love has a special treat for keen-eyed visitors.

Above the Lady Godiva News kiosk (oh yes) there are two doorways with black eagles on them, signifying Coventry rising from the ashes, and a triangular window above. On the hour, Coventry's most famous heroine Lady Godiva comes rolling out of one door on her horse, buck naked of course with only long hair to cover her modesty. As soon as she appears, famous voyeur Peeping Tom pops out of the window above to get a good eyeful. She rides from one doorway to the next as bells alert goggle-eyed onlookers. In a flash it’s all over.

Both Lady Godiva and Peeping Tom are local heroes. Lady Godiva has another statue in the centre of Broadgate and she looms large in Coventry’s history. Another Peeping Tom statue watches the shoppers in Cathedral Lane shopping centre and the bizarrely-titled Peeping Tom News, a sibling of Lady Godiva News, lurks round the back of the clock.

The legend goes that Lady Godiva, an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman who was the wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia, threatened to ride naked in protest at her husband’s decision to raise taxes. He ordered the populace not to look and everyone obeyed apart from local tailor Peeping Tom, who was cheeky enough to catch a quick eyeful. He paid a high price for his moment of pleasure and was blinded.

It’s not entirely clear why this hasn’t become one of Britain’s top tourist attractions. After all it is free and contains nudity. Mechanical clocks were at one time an essential feature of any self-respecting shopping centre. If you can’t manage a peep at Coventry’s, Masquerade author Kit Williams designed ones in Cheltenham, Telford and Milton Keynes or you could catch the magnificent Roland Emett’s The Aqua Horological Tintinnabulator in the Victoria Centre, Nottingham.

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