National Recording Project


Detail from: Memorial to 158 Squadron by Peter W. Naylor, 2009

The James Starley (1830-1881) Memorial


Type Shaft , Panel , Statue

     The memorial has a heavy four sided base, a bust of Starley in an oval frame is on the front, two engraved line drawings of Starley-improved cycles occupy the side panels, the rear panel has an inscription. There are attached Corinthian columns at the corners, and pediments with small reliefs: a gear wheel in bronze protruding at 90 degrees from the front face; heraldic shield and emblems including the city coat of arms on the left face; the initials "JS" on the rear face; and a deteriorated depiction of three columns on the right face. There is a further inscription on the base. The base is surmounted by a column with attached shafts and a stone capital that supports a small statue of 'Fame' depicted as a female figure in classical garb. The figure only occupies a quarter of the whole height of the memorial, and is disproportionately small - this achieves the desired focus on the base and its panels, but is not a particularly successful solution.
     The Memorial Committee was formed by men who had worked with, or known Starley. The cost of £300 was met by public subscriptions, and collections at cycleworks and sporting events.(1) Since being damaged during the Second World War, and restored in 1979, the statue has suffered from vandalism having lost both arms, one of which, was replaced in glass reinforced plastic.(2) The statue was restored some 34 years after the end of the war after a long campaign by Starley's great grandson and interested locals. The same firm provided Starley's funerary monument in Coventry Cemetery which has the same portrait on its front face as appears on this commemorative memorial.
     James Starley (1830-1881) was an early pioneer of the bicycle industry who lived and worked in Coventry. He invented various improvements and made several modifications to bicycle design. He provided two bicycles on the order of Queen Victoria.


Front panel around bust: 'JAMES STARLEY' All inscriptions are incised in a serif-font. Rear panel: 'JAMES / STARLEY / 1884' Front face of base: 'INVENTOR OF THE BICYCLE / 1870' Left face of base: 'AWARDED ROYAL WARRANT / 1885' Rear face of base: 'INVENTOR OF THE DIFFERENTIAL GEAR / 1877' Right face of base: 'FOUNDER / COVENTRY SEWING MACHINE COMPANY / 1865'

Contributor details

Contributor Role
Whitehead and Sons, James Artist

Element details

Part of work Material Dimensions
Plinth Granite, red and grey Overall height 600cm, plinth width 366cm
Figure Ravaccione marble, white 150cm high
Panels/second stage Ravaccione marble, white 200cm high x 96cm wide x 96cm deep
Column Granite, red and grey 80cm high approx.

PMSA recording information

Reference Region
WMcvCVxx162 BM
General condition Fair
Surface condition
  • Previous treatments
  • Bird guano
  • Biological growth
  • Metallic staining
  • Corrosion, Deterioration
Structural condition
  • Replaced parts
  • Broken, missing parts
  • Cracks, splits, breaks, holes
  • Structural damage
  • Graffiti
Road Greyfriars Green
Precise location None
A-Z ref None
OS ref SP331786
Date of design 1884
Year of unveiling 1884
Unveiling details unveiled 8 November 1884
Commissioned by The Committee for the Starley Memorial
Duty of care None
Listing status Don't know
At risk? At Risk

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