As neighbouring Solihull Council gives permission for the destruction of an important 20th Century sculpture, concerns have been raised about the future of a mural in Coventry by the same sculptor.
The Solihull frieze adorns the entrance hall of the former Lucas building in Shirley and was created by the celebrated sculptor and designer William George Mitchell. Mitchell’s artwork also adorns the walls of Harrods department store, Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral and several sites in Coventry City Centre.
Solihull Council has given permission for the demolition of the Lucas Building, despite objections from the 20th Century Society. The Council only requires the photographing of the building and the mural. The developers however are considering whether the frieze can be removed and relocated but they are not obliged to do so.
In Coventry William George Mitchell’s concrete panels and friezes are located in a number of areas, including Hertford Street and Bull Yard.
It is the mural in the foyer of Hertford House which is considered to be most at risk as the foyer is now boarded up with steel shutters.
The Mural has a Lady Godiva on the left and shows various scenes from Coventry’s history. It includes the old St. Michael’s Cathedral on fire in the blitz, together with a woman riding a Jaguar at the other end.
The television series Tomorrow’s World did a feature about it when it was being made. The film showed William Mitchell cutting onto the wet plaster and he was following after the workman who applied the final scrim of plaster on to the wall. It had to be done in a day before it dried out or it was too hard to cut or mould.
Another William Mitchell frieze that might be at risk is the frontage of the Three Tuns pub in Bull Yard. This is affected by the City Centre South scheme but no plans have yet been revealed about what will happen to it.
Unfortunately Coventry’s leadership has a reputation for not valuing its post-war architecture and design and in the absence of a Conservation Officer, a post vacant now for more than a year, we have serious concerns about the future of these important sculptural features.
You can see a video of William Mitchell at work in the 1960s here. There is a story about the demolition of the Lucas Building in Solihull here. CovSoc has featured the Mitchell friezes previously in 2016 and as part of its Public Arts trail featuring Hertford Street and The Three Tuns.