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Everything you ever wanted to know about the South Bank Lion

Written by
Robert Lordan
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Weighing 13 tonnes and taking pride of place on Westminster Bridge, the South Bank Lion – aka the ‘Coade Stone Lion’ – is one of the capital’s most renowned mascots. Here’s all you need to know about London’s favourite Simba.

  

The former Lion Brewery The Museum of London

He’s been around

The lion hasn’t always perched on the bridge. His first home was on top of the Lion Brewery, a booze factory once based on a site now occupied by the Royal Festival Hall.

  

Robert Lordan

He's clean as a whistle

Coade stone is an artificial material named after its creator, Eleanor Coade. Conjured up in her workshop on the South Bank, Eleanor’s recipe is famous for being immune to pollution. This means the lion looks brand spanking new – even though he was created in 1837.

The lion's original shade, courtesy of PhotoshopRobert Lordan

He's changed

The lion we know today is stripped down – he originally boasted a bright red coat of paint.

famousauthors.org

Zola loved him

French writer Emile Zola was an early admirer of the sculpture and affectionately dubbed it 'my lion'. Years later in the twilight of his life, the French author made a special return visit to gaze upon his beloved statue one last time.

biography.com

He's been saved by royalty

When the brewery was demolished in 1949 the lion’s days looked numbered. Fortunately, ol’ Coade was saved by none other than King George VI who insisted the sculpture be salvaged.

 He met his Waterloo

After his royal pardon, the lion was plonked outside Waterloo station, just in time to greet crowds for the Festival of Britain. At the time the logo for British Railways incorporated a lion so the new location made perfect sense. 

Robert Lordan

 He settled in Westminster

In 1966 the construction of an ugly office block outside Waterloo meant the lion had to relocate again - this time to his present home, the south-eastern corner of Westminster Bridge where he has been snapped by tourists ever since.

Maxwell Hamilton

He's twinned with Twickers

Did I mention the old Lion Brewery boasted two big cats? The other Coade Stone Lion – decked out in gold leaf – now guards Twickenham stadium’s Rowland Hill Gate. Send him my regards if you’re lucky enough to have tickets for the Rugby World Cup.

See more of London's top attractions.

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