National Recording Project

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

The People of Coventry

Summary

Type Other , Panel , Sculpture

     Four panels, placed between the windows of the former Bridge Restaurant, each representing two standing figures depicting Coventry past, present and future. According to Tennant the two male figures represent planning and working; two figures, male and female, which hold an infant represent the family; two other figures, male and female, represent creative maturity; and two female figures represent youth and vitality.(1) The figures are treated in a heavy, massive way that emphasises the bulk and size of the blocks of stone they were carved from. The simplified drawing of the faces and this massive treatment, perhaps derived from Mexican, or possibly Cycladic sculpture, relate the figures, although not free-standing, to Henry Moore's figure groups of the 1930s and 1940s. The representation of 'The Family' in particular shows a similar treatment to Moore's alabaster 'Madonna and Child', for the Church of St Matthew, Northhampton. Sadly it is almost impossible to view the two central panels, as these are obscured by the Kelly's Recruitment building.
     The decision to commission Trevor Tennant to undertake the sculptural work on block B of the development, including the Hertford Street "bridge", was taken by Coventry City Council Planning and Redevelopment Committee on 24 October 1949, on the recommendation of Donald Gibson.(3) Tennant's designs for the sculpture were submitted in person to the Committee on 8th November 1950. (4) The first panel was lifted into place on 28 January 1953 and Tennant was expected to return to Coventry within a fortnight to complete the work.(5) In concept the siting of the figure panels is effective, conveying a sense of integration between architecture and sculpture. However, Tennant was unhappy with the original siting of this work - he saw it as being placed too far from the people it addressed. When Broadgate House was first completed, the figures surmounted the bridge over Hertford Street, which was then in regular use by traffic. The success of the precinct was such that it was decided to pedestrianise Hertford Street. The bridge was left redundant and bank premises were built in its place. The effect of this on Tennant's piece was that it can barely be seen from ground level, only one set of figures being visible from each side of the building. The only place the sculpture can be seen in its entirety is from a distance of forty feet from the balcony of the JB Sports shop which is not accessible to the public. With the added distraction of trees and lights, few people are aware of its presence at all. The intended meaning is, therefore, subverted by its present context.(1)
    

Inscriptions

None visible.

Contributor details

Contributor Role
Tennant, Trevor Sculptor

Element details

Part of work Material Dimensions
Each group Doulting stone 300cm x 91cm x 46cm

PMSA recording information

Reference Region
WMcvCVxx127 BM
General condition Fair
Surface condition
  • Bird guano
  • Other
Structural condition
  • Cracks, splits, breaks, holes
Vandalism
  • None
Road Hertford Street
Precise location Broadgate House, facing Hertford Street
A-Z ref 116 B5
OS ref SP334794
Date of design 1950-1953
Year of unveiling 1953
Unveiling details January 1953
Commissioned by Coventry Planning and Redevelopment Committee
Duty of care None
Listing status Don't know
At risk? No known risk

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