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The Secrets of the South Bank Lion

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The striking large white lion statue at the south end of Westminster Bridge has watched over the Thames on the South Bank for nearly two hundred years but its original position was rather higher up, on the top of the Lion Brewery in Lambeth.

James Goding had the Lion Brewery built in 1836–7, the main building facing the river was five storeys high topped off with a large white lion made of Coade stone. The Lion did not have travel far because the Coade’s Stone Works were located nearby, the works opened in 1769 and was run for the first 25 years by the remarkable Mrs. Eleanor Coade. The factory flourished for over 70 years, most due to the fact that the ‘recipe’ for Coade Stone was a closely guarded secret.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Coade stone was not really stone at all but was rather ceramic stoneware that was considered a ‘wonder’ material in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Cheap to produce, It was mostly used for moulding neoclassical statues, architectural decorations and garden ornaments of the highest quality and remained resistant to the vagaries of the weather. It was popular with the Royal Family and was used on St George’s Chapel, Windsor; The Royal Pavilion, Brighton; Carlton House, London; the Royal Naval College, Greenwich; and Buckingham Palace. However the glory days of Coade Stone were over when large lion for the Lion Brewery was produced in 1837, in the same year, the artificial stone factory was closed down.

The Lion Brewery continued to operate until 1924 when it was bought out by Hoare and Co. brewers, of Wapping. The main building was seriously damaged by fire in 1931 and eventually the whole complex was demolished in 1949 to make way for the Royal Festival Hall.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The Lion was saved from the building and was reused as part of the Festival of Britain. For some reason, the lion was painted red and mounted on a plinth near the entrance to Waterloo station. In 1966, during the redevelopment of Waterloo station, the statue was cleaned and red paint removed to bring it back to original colour and moved to its current location on a large granite plinth next to Westminster Bridge. The plinth bears the inscription “The South Bank Lion”. and the plaque gives further information about the Lion surviving the bombing in the Second World War and how he was preserved in the accordance with the wishes of His Majesty King George VI. The statue was given a Grade II* listing by English Heritage in 1981.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The statue which is about 13 feet (4.0 m) long and 12 feet (3.7 m) high, and weighs about 13 tonnes (14 tons) is a reminder of long gone Lambeth industries and has been a reassuring landmark for generations of Londoners.

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Review: National Maritime Museum in Greenwich

The National Maritime Museum is located within the historic buildings that form part of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site and is run by Royal Museums Greenwich which comprises of the Royal Observatory, Cutty Sark, National Maritime Museum and Queen’s House.

Greenwich has been the home to a naval-based art gallery since the early 1800s, however the idea for a National Maritime Museum goes back to the 1920s, when a public appeal was launched to develop a ‘national naval and nautical museum’. Sir James Caird purchased the A.G.H. Macpherson Collection of over 11,000 maritime prints, along with ship models and many other items, to help begin the Museum’s collection.

Over a decade later, the National Maritime Museum was opened by King George VI in 1937 and now holds some of the most important items in the world on the history of Britain at sea, including maritime art, cartography, manuscripts, official public records, ship models and plans. In the last ten years, more gallery spaces have been added and a new library and archive has been developed.

Highlights of the ground level area are the remarkable collection of figureheads from the late 17th century until the early 20th century, the stern gallery of HMS Implacable, a full size Type-23 frigate propeller and the lavish 20 metre The state barge built for Frederick, Prince of Wales and launched in 1732.

On the ground level is the Jutland 1916 gallery which was opened to mark the centenary of the Battle of Jutland, the largest sea battle of the First World War.

Also on this level is J.M.W. Turner’s largest painting of The Battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1805, which is one of the highlights of the museums art collection and the Voyagers gallery which tells the story of Britain and the sea and Maritime London.

Moving up to other levels, there are series of galleries and displays including the Nelson, Navy, Nation gallery which explores the life and times of great British hero Horatio Nelson and the history of the Royal Navy and British people from 1688–1815. One of the highlights is the actual uniform Admiral Nelson was wearing when he was fatally wounded at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Visitors can find out about Britain’s maritime trade with Asia in the Traders: the East India Company and Asia gallery and find a moments peace in the beautiful Baltic Exchange Memorial Glass gallery which commemorates World War I dead.

The museum has opened four new galleries from September 2018, Tudor and Stuart Seafarers uncovers stories of adventure and piracy, ambition and greed. Polar Worlds discover the challenges of extreme environments. From Arctic and Antarctic exploration to the impact of climate change on human lives. Pacific Encounters voyage to the world’s largest ocean and hear hidden histories of exploration and exploitation. Sea Things explores more personal connections with the sea with a series of personal stories.

The museum attracts many children and families with its AHOY! children’s gallery and you can enjoy food and drink in the Parkside Café and Terrace which features the popular Yinka Shonibare’s replica of Nelson’s HMS Victory in a bottle.

The National Maritime Museum is one of the top free museums in London and is often visited by those who wish to explore the many delights of historic Greenwich. The museum has in recent years worked to show their remarkable objects in a way that they illustrate particular stories and events. This very popular museum has been innovative in the way it uses historical objects and multimedia to tell the fascinating story of Britain’s maritime past.

For more information and tickets, visit the National Maritime Museum website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here