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Stowe’s Lions Restored

Anyone in search of fine statuary in Georgian London would have headed to the Hyde Park end of Piccadilly. There they would have found a Vulcan’s forge, owned by the sculptor John Cheere (1709–1787).

Cheere worked in a variety of materials, but his larger garden statues were lead: cast, tooled, and painted to imitate stone. Amongst the grandest were a pair of lions at Stowe House, the guardians of its magnificent south front. They were probably bought c.1760-70, and were highly fashionable in the age of the Grand Tour as they represented the sixteenth-century “Medici lions” then at the Villa Medici, Rome (since 1789 in the Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence). But in 1921, at the demise of the Temple-Grenville family fortunes, they were sold at auction whereupon they made their way to Blackpool on the northwest coast, to reside in Stanley Park. After a 90-year seaside holiday, WMF brokered a deal with Blackpool council to return them to their home. They were installed on 8-9 April with an authentically restored array of 30 spun copper urns. No great house in Britain can boast a vision to match—a treat for Stowe’s 160,000 annual visitors and a perfect conclusion to the decade-long program of work to the mansion’s vast exterior.