Peeping Tom, Hertford Street (artist unknown)
The Peeping Tom head and shoulders sculpture is currently located in Hertford Street, mounted high up over the entrance to the covered walkway. It was originally a public house sign. It is not known who made it. It was displayed sitting in the top corner window of the Peeping Tom Public house which was on the corner of Hertford Street and Bull Yard, not far from where it is now. It was moved when the road was being redeveloped in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. The Peeping Tom building had for a long time stopped being a pub and was then run by G. E. Jones as a general clothes shop, but all the time Peeping Tom was still there peeping down on the Coventry people passing by. When the row of buildings were going to be demolished it was felt that the statue could be reused in the new developments.
This photograph was taken around the 1910’s when the building was a pub and railway hotel. You can just about see the statue in the top corner window.
This photograph is of the bottom of Hertford street in the mid 1960’s. You can still see the statue in the top corner window.
There were other Peeping Tom figures around Coventry. Before the Blitz there was another Peeping Tom which was in the window of the old Kings Head Hotel, on the corner of Smithford Street and Broadgate. The Kings Head Hotel was bombed in the Coventry Blitz but the statue was saved. Please note you can tell the difference between the two; one looks to the left (Hertford Street) and one to the right (Kings Head Hotel).
The Peeping Tom figure at the Kings Head Hotel. It was sometimes dressed up with a hat.
The statue from the Kings Head Hotel was found after the Blitz. You will notice that this figure is looking to his right and he has legs. Its now in the Herbert Museum. A copy of it made in resin and is located in the upstairs of the Cathedral Lanes shopping complex, in a showcase just over the main entrance.
On Sunday 10th September 2017 Coventry celebrated 950 years since the death of Lady Godiva, who died in 1067. She was one of the founders of Coventry and is now known all over the world, through the legend of her self sacrifice to help the citizens of Coventry. Like all good legends the story has been added to and embellished over the years. Spoken language changes all the time so there will always be misunderstandings. Whether “she rode a horse with no clothes” meant she was naked has always been open to question. Early versions of the legend did not feature the character of Peeping Tom. He only features much later in history. It was not until 1681 when a painting of Lady Godiva riding in the empty streets of Coventry showed a man standing looking out of a window at her. This could have been the Earl Leofric checking that his wife was doing her ride. It was not until after this that the legend started having the character of Peeping Tom a tailor who peeped out of a upstairs window at Lady Godiva. But for his sins he was struck blind! Thomas was a very common name in Coventry at that time and a lot of tailors had eye problems because of their long hours working on producing fine stitch work in very poor light. It was not until the Victorian times that the legend really became international with the Tennyson’s poem in 1859 and many artists who had run out of Greece and Roman goddesses to paint started painting Lady Godiva in various poses of undress. Horses and beautiful women have always been the attraction for many artist and here with the legend of Lady Godiva you have both.