Lions of London: 6 of the Most Famous Lion Statues In London

Written by on 28th February 2018
Category: City guides

Lions are an important part of Britain’s identity. The Barbary lion is a national symbol, dating back to the Middle Ages, that’s been used everywhere from medieval armour to the English Coat of Arms. Nowadays appearing on the England cricket team crest, this distinctive animal is of great cultural significance.

As a leading UK business, SilverDoor Apartments prides itself on its lion logo. This iconic branding has been with us a long time, and gone through many transformations down the years. Having rebranded in 2017, we got thinking about what the SilverDoor lion means to us. The inspiration for it came from lion head door knockers, which are typically found on prestigious households around the world. A door knocker represents an opening to a home, and, as a serviced apartment agent, it made sense for us to align the business in this way. Take a look at how our branding has evolved.

In London, there are as many as 10,000 lion statues and structures scattered about the city, some in recognisable locations, others tucked away, out of sight. Keen to see a few up close, we went out in search of them and found these six beautiful lion sculptures.

1. The Lotus Garden Lions

Outside the well-known Chinatown restaurant, Lotus Garden, is a pair of Asian-themed stone lions, greeting visitors as they arrive. These sculptures bear the resemblance of Chinese guardian lions or “Foo Dogs” as they’re also known. Such lions were a common sight in Imperial China and can be found in front of tombs, palaces, temples and government buildings.

2. The British Museum Lions

This proud creature is one of many lion statues adorning the northern entrance to the British Museum, near Russell Square. Legend has it the lions come alive at midnight for a stretch, yawn and drink of water. Sir George Frampton, the sculptor behind them, is famous for such other works of art as the Edith Cavell memorial at the National Portrait Gallery, and the original Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens.

3. The Sotheby’s Sekhmet

Look closely above the Sotheby’s auction house in Mayfair and you’ll see a lion statue made entirely of black basalt. The ‘Sotheby’s Sekhmet’ has its origins in Ancient Egypt, and was reportedly carved in 1320 B.C. Sotheby’s acquired the sculpture in the 1800s along with a number of other Ancient Egyptian treasures.

4. The Lions of Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace has lions on both its main gates and the nearby Queen Victoria Memorial. The lions on the gates form the basis for the Royal Coat of Arms, and wear crowns, to show their importance. The Queen Victoria Memorial, likewise, boasts two sets of bronze lion statues, each with a huge figure. A set of the lions was apparently given to the Queen as a gift from the people of New Zealand.

5. The South Bank Lion

It’s hard to miss the famous South Bank Lion. The coade stone sculpture is 12 feet high, 13 feet long, and located at one end of Westminster Bridge: a popular tourist spot, overlooking the Thames. The statue is Grade II* listed, and was originally mounted to James Goding’s Lion Brewery in the same area – now a demolished building. The statue is made from a hugely weather-resistant form of stoneware and, as a result, retains many of its original details, despite its age.

6. The Trafalgar Square Lions

Welcome to Trafalgar Square: home of beautiful fountains, terrific street performers and a number of colossal bronze lions created by sculptor, Sir Edwin Landseer. The four lions adjoin Nelson’s Column and have paws similar to that of cats. During the designing of them, Landseer apparently requested for a dead lion from London Zoo to be brought to his studio as a reference point.

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