Continuing Gary Stocker’s Sunday series of posts on the folklore, ancient sites and legends of Britain. If you have similar stories to share from the area in which you live, please read the footnote and send them in.
The philanthropic Lady Godiva (“God’s Gift”). Lady Godiva is certainly one of Coventry’s most famous (and favourite) daughters. She lived in Coventry with her husband, Earl Leofric, in Norman pre-conquest times and just after. She did manage to retain her lands after the conquest.
Anyway, I am sure that a lot of you are familiar with the legend, her husband kept on putting the rates up, which was having an economically detrimental effect on the citizens of Coventry. So she asked him not to do it again. He said that he would not if she rode naked through the streets of Coventry, so she did!
She let it be known beforehand, so everyone in respect to her modesty, stayed inside away from the windows and doors. Except for a lecherous tailor who became known as Peeping Tom. Accounts vary as to what happened to him. Some say that he dropped dead and others say that he became blind. The legend appeared about two centuries after it supposedly happened and there are various theories about what really happened, if it happened at all. Whether it did or not, I still like the idea that there are some people in authority who care about the people below them!
There are various statues around Coventry about this. There is a statue of Lady Godiva in the city centre. Also in the city centre is a clock. On the hour a jack of Lady Godiva comes out underneath the dial, whilst a door above the dial opens and Peeping Tom appears! Near there, under a covered walkway, is a wooden bust of Peeping Tom. He was originally in a pub called the “Peeping Tom”, which eventually became a clothes shop. Although he did remain on public view in one of the windows.
There were actually various Peeping Tom statues around Coventry. My dad and his parents were from Coventry, but had to move out when their house got badly damaged in the blitz. My grandfather had been in the First World War, but was too old for the second one. He had a reserved occupation at Riley Cars anyway. He told my dad that one morning after an air raid, one of the Peeping Tom statues (I am not too sure which one) had had a metal chamber pot put on his head in place of a protective helmet. A case of the British sense of humour shining through adversity!
About the author
Gary Stocker graduated from Coventry Polytechnic in 1991 with a degree in combined engineering. He worked in civil engineering for nearly twenty years. For the last six years he has worked in materials science and currently works as a test engineer. His hobbies and interests include voluntary work, conservation work and blacksmithing. He is also interested in history, mythology and folklore and he says, “most things”.
How did your granny predict the weather? What did your great uncle Albert tell you about the little green men he saw in the woods that night? What strange creature stalks the woods in your area?
So many of these old stories are slipping away for want of being recorded. legendary creatures, odd bits of folklore, folk remedies and charms, and all the old stories that brought our landscape to life…
Tell me a story, share memories of the old ways that are being forgotten, share the folklore of your home. I am not looking for fiction with this feature, but for genuine bits of folklore, old wives tales, folk magic and local legends. Why not share what you know and preserve it for the future?
Email me at email@example.com and put ‘Living Lore’ in the subject line. All I need is your article, bio and links, along with any of your own images you would like me to include and I’ll do the rest.