The Lion Brewery

The Lion Brewery was a prominent riverside landmark in Lambeth, just before it was demolished in 1949 for the building of the Royal Festival Hall. The pilastered building was the storehouse, designed in 1836 by Francis Edwards for the Coding family. As the section shows, the storehouse was massively constructed of load-bearing brick with an all-iron interior, a typical form of construction for Victorian warehouses, with floors of barrel-vaulted brick arches and timber joisting. It became disused in 1924 and badly damaged by fire in 1931, and was almost derelict thereafter. The Shot Tower to the left was retained during the Festival of Britain in 1951 and was afterwards demolished for the building of the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

The lion on top of the building was made of Coade Stone.

The South Bank Lion

The South Bank Lion, also known as the Red Lion, is a Coade stone sculpture of a standing male lion cast in 1837. It has stood at the east end of Westminster Bridge in London, to the north side of the bridge beside County Hall, since 1966. Painted red between 1951 and 1966, the paint was later removed to reveal again the white ceramic surface underneath.

The statue is about 13 feet (4.0 m) long and 12 feet (3.7 m) high, and weighs about 13 tonnes (14 tons). It is made of Coade stone, a type of ceramic stoneware that resembles artificial stone and which is very resistant to weathering. The fine details of its modelling still remain clear after decades of exposure to the corrosive atmosphere in London throughout the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries caused by heavy use of coal. The statue was made in separate parts and cramped together on an iron frame.

The lion was originally mounted on the parapet of James Goding’s Lion Brewery on the Lambeth bank of the River Thames; Hungerford Bridge spanned the Thames nearby from 1845. The Lion Brewery closed in 1924 and the building was demolished in 1949, to make way for construction of the Royal Festival Hall as part of the Festival of Britain. The lion was removed, revealing the initials of the sculptor William Frederick Woodington and the date, 24 May 1837, under one of its paws. It was painted red as the symbol of British Rail, and mounted on high plinth beside the entrance to the Festival of Britain near Waterloo station.

The statue was removed from outside Waterloo station in 1966 to allow the station to be extended. The red paint was removed, and the statue was moved to its current location on a large granite plinth beside Westminster Bridge. The plinth bears the inscription “The South Bank Lion”. The statue was given a Grade II* listing by English Heritage in 1981.

A second, similar Coade stone lion was removed from the Lion Brewery when it was demolished. Painted gold, it is now located above the central pillar of the Rowland Hill Memorial Gate (Gate 3) to the west of Twickenham Stadium.

A recumbent Coade stone lion, made in 1821 to a different design by Thomas Hardwick for King George IV, is mounted above the Lion Gate at Kew Gardens. It is partnered by a Coade stone unicorn, which surmounts the Unicorn Gate at Kew.

Other Information

Built:  1836
Demolished:  1949
Architect:  Francis Edwards


  • Royal Festival Hall, Lambeth, London SE1 8XX, UK


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