Restoration Intern Are We There Yet?

20 July 2015

A pair of 1790s’ Medici Lions were recently returned to the South Front, to prowl its portico, after going missing in 1922, the day of Stowe’s famously large ‘car boot’ sale. They were discovered in 2012 in a more natural habitat: Stanley Park, Blackpool.  Blackpool Council was willing to loan the lions to Stowe to prevent the possibility of them being stolen, after a series of lead thefts within the park.

But, unbeknown to the Medici lions, their territory had been lost in their absence. In 1927, Stowe School installed art deco style concrete lions to fill the important-looking plinths. But they soon slunk away to take up position outside the school chapel when the real deal returned in 2013.

Inter-pride relations have never been more complicated. The lions on the North Front are the original pair bought in 1778 from Eleanor Coade, which were removed and subsequently bought back during the North Front restoration project of 2000. The lions flanking the cricket pavilion, which guarded the North Front after their predecessors were sold in 1922, are copies commissioned by the school before the original Coade pair was recovered.

This means that there are now four pairs of lions at Stowe (oh, and two more mounted on Cobham’s Monument), each securing a key entrance. We hope that there are no more newcomers to unsettle what appears to be a finally reconciled and fully protected homestead.