Phoenix by George Wagstaffe
The current location of the sculpture in Hertford Street. When The Phoenix was first re-installed, you will notice in the background signs that had the sculpture design on them; unfortunately they are now gone.
This is how the Phoenix looks today.
The ‘Phoenix’ in Hertford Street is by George Wagstaffe. It is a sculpture that symbolises the rebuilding of the city like the mythical Phoenix Bird rising out of the ashes of a fire. Originally it was displayed in the City Centre Precinct, in Market Way between the then British Home Stores and F. W. Woolworth store.
Originally it was going to be a relief sculpture and mounted on one of the buildings but during the planning stage in the early 1960’s it was changed to a free standing sculpture. Local artist George Wagstaffe has changed it from a bird and used a young person to symbolise the new city and its people rising from the flames of the bombed and burnt city. It was first made in resin and metal and unveiled in May 1962 by H.R.H. Princess Margaret. It was displayed on a brick wall attached to a small information display building which also symbolised the rebuilding of the city. It had the appearance that it was still under construction. In 1987 when the city precinct area was being redesigned the statue was removed, it had started to show damage done by the weather so a bronze cast was made from it and it was this new bronze sculpture you can see at the bottom of Hertford Street on a brick plinth.
Its original location in Market Way.
George went to his local Coventry College of Art in 1955. He stayed there to teach until he was aged 27 in 1962. That year he got the commission to design the ‘Phoenix’ statue. Afterwards he taught at the Caludon Castle School until 1968. He did a bit of independent sculpting before teaching again, this time at the Stoke Park Community College. His studio is in Hawkesmill Lane, Allesley where he still works.
His work can be seen around Coventry and Warwickshire, but his most famous work “Naiad” was relocated to the Upper Precinct in July 2021 after a period spent in a Council store. The Naiad is a sculpture of a young girl sitting on a rock which was commissioned for a site in the middle of a pool that was in Palace Yard between various city council offices. George had originally made it in 1958 aged 21 and again he made it in resin and metal. Over the years the one time peaceful courtyard started to go downhill and without cleaning and maintenance the fish pond became covered in green algae and rubbish. The weather and vandalism meant that it had to be moved as it was almost destroyed in 1976.It was replaced in cast bronze with the assistance of George. The City Planning Department paid for one cast and George had another cast made, which he keeps in his garden. The City Council’s Naiad was repositioned in Lady Herbert’s Garden in the Millennium refurbishments but within months it was vandalised and metal thieves had broken it free from its mounting. But they must have been disturbed as it was still in the garden grounds. It was moved into storage and after restoration was located in the foyer of No 1 Friargate. It has more recently found a home in a water feature in the regenerated Upper Precinct after the decision was made to build over the original site.
The Naiad in its new home
George was recently commissioned to create the Godiva Awards Trophies which were awarded by CV One for categories such as Tourism, Retail, Pubs etc.
A Godiva Award Trophy