Possibly one of the weirdest titles for a blog post I’ve made up in a long time, but believe it or not there’s a lot of truth in it.
Having just posted on the subject of time capsules in Time Encapsulation I was browsing through some other information and I came upon this rather bizarre fact, which all stems around the Coade Lion that sits on Westminster Bridge. The lion, always in my mind called Lenny, has been gazing from his perch on the bridge since 1966.
Previous to that he guarded the front of Waterloo station.
Originally he towered over the Lion Brewery, which stood between 1837 to 1949 very near to where the Royal Festival Hall now stands on the South Bank.
I referred to Lenny as a “Coade” lion earlier. Coade or Coade stone is the material that he’s made from. It was invented and perfected by Eleanor Coade in the 1770s consisting of clay, terracotta, silicates, and glass, fired at very high temperatures for exactly ninety six hours. This produced a very hard-wearing, durable and malleable material, which was used by two of the top architects of their time, Robert Adam and John Nash on many London buildings.
Enough of the science, what about the bottle? Well, when the Lion Brewery was being demolished it appeared that Lenny’s days were numbered, but it’s rumoured that King George VI had a bit of a soft spot for him and let it be known that he would not be happy if Lenny was broken up, so Lenny was carefully taken from his vantage point and transferred to a warehouse to undergo restoration.
Although very durable the Coade stone was blackened and stained by over a hundred years of London smoke and so every part had to be thoroughly cleaned. During this process the restorers found located around Lenny’s nether regions a small secret compartment containing a glass bottle which held two coins from the reign of William IV dated 1837 and also a Coade Stone business card. When Lenny was moved to Waterloo bridge a 1966 coin, a letter from the Greater London Council’s chairman with a brief history of the lion, and an article on Coade stone were added to this rather private resting place.
I subsequently found that Lenny had two brothers. One stood at the entrance to the brewery, but went the same way as all the buildings in 1949
I’m not sure where the other one stood and what happened to it during the intervening years, but in 1971 it was gifted to the Rugby Football Union and stands outside of Twickenham stadium. He was subsequently gilded in1991, but it was never reported if he had anything hiding in his orifice.