Did you know that there are over 10,000 lions in London and that we, in Hammersmith & Fulham, have about 1500 of them?
This will not be news to the residents of the Peterborough Estate around New King’s Road, south of Eel Brook Common. These houses have rather squat little lion statues going up and down their gables and across their front in every conceivable position. There are over 1200 lions, and originally when the estate, built in 1899, was quite a bit bigger, there would have been even more, probably bringing the total to something like 2000!
Present-day residents of the estate may not, however, be aware of the reason for their vast lion pride. The lions, made of sandstone, were the trademark of the builder, Jimmy Nicholls, and when he placed an order for them, he accidentally put an extra 0 on the number so that instead of ordering, say 250 lions , he ordered 2500, and found out his error only when the lions were delivered to him; he then had to consider how to use this vast quantity up!
His solution often startles people walking down these streets for the first time if they chance to look up and see all these little lions silhouetted against the sky! (He was also able to use up some of his huge supply on another estate that he built in Barnes.)
However, if the Peterborough Estate accounts for the huge quantity of Hammersmith & Fulham lions, other lions in the Borough are perhaps of a higher quality and look more like the real beast. St Peter’s Square, for example, boasts 6 splendid creatures, and St Peter’s Villas another 5. A very sad black lion crouches in the appropriately named Black Lion Lane. And standing out high over the road is the lion atop The Slug at Fulham, 490 Fulham Road. Several other streets of the Borough boast lions’ heads.
Hammersmith & Fulham in fact possesses the highest number of lions or lions’ heads of any other London borough except the City of Westminster.
If you would like to know where they are all to be found, do look at a well illustrated little book entitled “London Pride: the 10,000 Lions of London” by Valerie Colin-Russ and published by Frances Lincoln Ltd at £9.99, or look on the library catalogue for a copy. This lists all the lions in London by Borough and includes many in Hammersmith & Fulham not mentioned here.
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I’m researching a walk for my podcast and radio Walking Wandsworth. We encountered these Lions on a walk down Wandsworth Road. Your post has helped me researching the show. Thank you.
Thank you for the lovely comment, Dominic.
I researched my family tree fifteen years ago, which was when I first came across the name Jimmy Nicholls, and learnt about his lions. James Nicholls was my 2nd great grandmother’s brother (2nd great grand uncle???). I did not know about his ordering mistake which resulted in so many extra lions! I wonder: is there is any further information about him in your library? I’d love to learn more about the man himself, rather than just dates and addresses.
Hi Julie. Yes there may be but we’re currently closed due to the coronavirus. You’re very welcome to drop us a line firstname.lastname@example.org and when we reopen our local history volunteers can look into this for you. Kind regards, Kath Shawcross, Archivist