Thinking About Lions

And there I was: thinking about the many lion shaped sculptures I have seen in the UK. I can safely say I have seen more of them than I have seen of the real thing back in South Africa!  I decided to try to collate these sightings into one post so hold onto your hat as I reveal: Rooooaaaaaaaarrrrrr!  Incidentally, there is an excellent page by Bob Speel that features more lions than I have seen so far and I would like to acknowledge their work.

The first three are not found in the run of the mill tourist trap, but rather in cemeteries. 3 of the Magnificent Seven garden cemeteries in London have lions as memorials.

Nero the Lion (upper image) adorns the grave of George Wombwell in Highgate Cemetery (west section) 

While the Bostock Lion (image below) may be found in Abney Park Cemetery He adorns the grave of  Frank C Bostock

The un-named King of the Beasts may be found in Brompton Cemetery, and he rests atop the grave of John “Gentleman” Jackson,  a renowned bare-knuckle fighter and self-defence teacher. 

On a large granite plinth beside Westminster Bridge on the South Bank of the Thames we will find the “South Bank Lion“,  (also known as the Red Lion), it is a Coade stone sculpture of a standing male lion cast in 1837. It has stood at the east end of Westminster Bridge in London, to the north side of the bridge beside County Hall, since 1966.  It was sculpted by William Frederick Woodington and was originally mounted on the parapet of James Goding’s Lion Brewery on the Lambeth bank of the River Thames. 

Our next four lions live in Trafalgar Square where they endure the hordes of selfie taking tourists.  Oddly enough I have never really photographed them as they are usually festooned with people. The bronze lions were sculpted by Sir Edwin Landseer and although part of the original design, were only added in 1867. Each lion weighs seven tons and were not finished until nearly 30 years after the square opened.

Of course there are not only lion statues but lions do feature in the mooring rings on the Victoria Embankment.

The Tower of London Menagerie was also illustrated by 3 lions (1 lion and a pair of lionesses) that I saw when I visited London in 2015. I am not sure whether this was a permanent installation at the Tower of London though as the statues did look as if they were made from chicken wire. However they do appear on the Google Earth 2019 image of the area where I saw them and were made by Kendra Haste in 2010.  13 galvanised wire sculptures depict  a family of lions, a polar bear, an elephant and a baboon troupe that commemorate some of the inhabitants of the Menagerie.  Incidentally  the first record of a lion in England was in 1240, referring to the upkeep of “the King’s lion”.  

 Moving away from London we pause at Reading where we find the most impressive of the lot:

Forbury Gardens in the city of Reading  is a pretty one, with a bandstand and lots of trimmed grass and pathways. It is also home to a very special memorial:

“This monument records the names and commemorates the valour and devotion of XI (11) officers and CCCXVIII (318) non-commissioned officers and men of the LXVI (66th) Berkshire Regiment who gave their lives for their country at Girishk Maiwand and Kandahar and during the Afghan Campaign MDCCCLXXIX (1879) – MDCCCLXXX (1880).” “History does not afford any grander or finer instance of gallantry and devotion to Queen and country than that displayed by the LXVI Regiment at the Battle of Maiwand on the XXVII (27th) July MDCCCLXXX (1880).” (Despatch of General Primrose.)

Known as the Maiwand Lion, it is a very big memorial, and definitely the largest lion I have ever seen. I battled to photograph it too because of the changeable weather when I was there. 

There are 4 lions outside St George’s Hall in Liverpool that flank the cenotaph, Unfortunately I did not photograph them but you can see them in the image below. (image is 1500×503)

Liverpool is also home to the  oldest Chinese community in Europe and boasts a pair of “Guardian Lions” who stand watch on either side of the Chinese Arch that is the entrance to Chinatown .  An additional pair stand guard on either side of  Great George Street. 


A lady with a lion is also featured on the statue of Colin Campbell (Lord Clyde) in Waterloo Place, London. On  the base of the pillar sits an allegorical woman – said to be the Empress of India, Britannia, or by others, Victory – lounging on a reclining lion. The sculpture is by Carlo Marochetti and was erected at Waterloo Place in 1867  The funny thing is that I do not have a photograph of the statue but only this part of the base. 

Make no mistake, this is not an exhaustive list of all the iterations of lions in the United Kingdom, if/when I finally do get back to London I will try to get images of the other lions mentioned on the relevant page by Bob Speel . I do have poor images of the one lion at the base of the Victoria Memorial outside Buckingham Palace but will rather try get all four when next I am in London. The problem with that memorial is the crowds of people and the potential for lousy weather.  The 4 bronze figures with lions, represent Peace (a female figure holding an olive branch), Progress (a nude youth holding a flaming torch), Agriculture (a woman in peasant dress with a sickle and a sheaf of corn) and Manufacture (a blacksmith in modern costume with a hammer and a scroll).





I was able to add the lions in from the Victoria Memorial following my trip to London in August 2020. The weather was grey and windy at that point so the images are not great.  During that trip I also discovered this pair above a gateway at Somerset House. Unfortunately I was not able to get high enough to grab a better pic of the pair.

A pair of very eroded lions flank the water gate to York House in the Victoria Embankment gardens.

There is one last lion that I thought I would add in just for fun.

The British and Irish Lions

And that concludes my brief look at the lions in London and elsewhere.  I hope to add to this at some point, but I do not guarantee anything; besides, there are dragons in London that are equally interesting.

DRW © 2020 – 2021. Created 09/06/2020, images updated 31/08/2020

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