Dig out your safari shorts, pack a pair of binoculars and head down to Huddersfield town centre this summer for a lion hunt.
If you’re lucky you could find 200 or more of the proud beasts – adorning everything from a take-away to the most majestic of civic buildings.
Huddersfield has more than its fair share of lions, thanks largely to the Victorian building boom, the use of stone and the fact that the prominent Ramsden family put lions – a symbol of strength and empire – on their own edifices.
As Chris Marsden from Huddersfield Civic Society explains: “It is unusual for a town to have so many lions. They reflect our history; who controlled the town and the fact that people thought lions would support their civic pride.”
Last year Chris lead a ‘lion hunt’ guided walk around Huddersfield, pointing out some of the town centre’s hidden treasures as well as the more obvious lions, and he will be repeating the event later this year. It’s one of a series of walks hosted by Discover Huddersfield from now until October that cover all aspects of the buildings and places that surround us.
Perhaps the best-known lion in town is the giant fibreglass animal that presides over the Lion Chambers building opposite Huddersfield Railway Station. The 11 ft long statue replaced an original concrete and iron lion erected in 1853, which, after more than 120 years, was starting to fall apart. But there are many more lions tucked away above doorways, on window ledges and adorning the facades of the town’s older buildings. Lions are to be found carved in stone or wood, cast in iron or ceramic, painted and plain; but all are in relief and most are in stone. Had Huddersfield been a brick-built town, Chris says, we certainly wouldn’t have inherited as many lions.
If you’d like to stage your own lion walk, start in St George’s Square where there are at least 25 lions on the grand stone buildings – both the Lion Chambers and the nearby Britannia Buildings are particularly well endowed. Estate Buildings on Westgate and Railway Street – a creation of the Ramsden family – also has 20 or more lions, including a number of small lions on the ‘wedding crests’ displayed on the Railway Street side.
But lions are also to be found on Queensgate, New Street, High Street, many side streets and as far as Manchester Road.
The chances are that you’ve walked past lions every day for years without realising they’re there.
Why not get your eye in with our lion hunt challenge?
Name the streets where the following lions can be found. Solutions at the end - the first one’s a give-away.
And if you’d like to know more, join the free lion safari, to be conducted by Chris on Sunday, September 10, this year, as part of the Heritage Open Days series. In the meantime, get to know your town better through one of the regular guided walks on Thursday evenings or Sunday afternoons (£3 per person). In June walks will include a Huddersfield University campus trail, tour of Huddersfield’s lost theatres and cinemas and a geological exploration of the ‘town of stone’. For details visit discoverhuddersfield.com
* While Huddersfield’s lions are far from dangerous, Chris points out that hunting can be a hazardous sport if you’re so busy looking for lions that you don’t see an oncoming car!