Richard Lee and the Dove of Peace
Article by Paul Maddocks, Chair of Coventry Society.
Reverend Richard Lee a Coventry City Councillor and Alderman, played a major part in rebuilding Coventry and especially its schools after the war.
Richard Lee was born in 1873 in Mexborough, Yorkshire. In 1902 he became a congregational minister and in 1914 he became Unitarian minister of Bury, Lancashire. He was a pacifist throughout the First World War.
In 1918 he became leader of the Free Religious Movement in Dundee. After the ‘Great War’ in 1919 he wrote “What everyone should know about the Great War” and “Lenin versus Lloyd George”.
He was a pioneer of the Labour Party in Durham and Northumberland and associated with Keir Hardie, the founder of the British Labour Party. Between 1922 and 1928 he was a Unitarian minister in Glasgow and became a member of Glasgow City Council in 1924.
Then in 1928 he moved to Coventry to be Minister of the Great Meeting House (Unitarian Church) and in 1932 he was elected to the Coventry City Council. In 1945 he was made Alderman of Coventry City Council.
He was an active worker in the peace movement, being national executive of the Peace Pledge Union and a member and officer of other similar organisations. He died in Birmingham Hospital, on Sunday 30th April 1950, aged 77.
While Richard was on the City Council Education Committee he commissioned Walter Ritchie to create various works of art for the different new schools being built in the city after the war. They became personal friends.
Lee had two daughters, Mrs Una Chistholm and Miss Richenda Lee who became a teacher at Whitley Abbey Comprehensive School. After Richard died in Birmingham Hospital, on Sunday 30th April 1950, aged 77, his daughters commissioned the sculpture which depicts a dove issuing from the hand of God on a pole 4 metres high with a stone around the base bearing an inscription – Alderman Richard Lee 1873-1950, the pacifist after whom the school is named. There was also a quotation from the Sermon on the Mount. The inscription is now hidden by bushes and undergrowth.
Walter Richie made a wooden image of the dove for it to be cast in metal. This wooden dove can be seen in the Belgrade Theatre stair well, the hand is still in the collection of the Walter Richie estate.
Walter Richie was born in Coventry 27th April 1919, a son of a car painter he was already a fully competent sculptor at 18, having been trained by local masons. “They taught me how to hold a hammer and chisel, also the crowbar, a most useful tool.” At 18 he was commissioned by Warwickshire County Council to sculpt a mermaid riding a seahorse.
Walter went to Eric Gill as a pupil, paid for by Warwickshire County Council, but had to leave in 1939 due to the our break of war. In 1953 Coventry City Council commissioned him to do the two large Portland stone reliefs of ‘Man’s Struggle’ in Coventry Precinct (created between 1954 and 1959) which are now on the side of the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum facing Earl Street.