Meet Leo, Nottingham’s iconic ‘Left Lion’, gazing out from the Council House steps on the Market Square. Since their installation in the late 1920s, the Lions have been a traditional meeting point for Nottingham folk. Perhaps less so now, as buses no longer drop off on Long Row and the tram stops further across the Square. In fact when I visited the Lions earlier this year the area was pretty quiet, as people stayed at home during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Lions were made by local sculptor, Joseph Else, the Principal of Nottingham’s School of Art at the time. (Incidentally, according to the census of 1891 Else was a lace designer before taking up sculpture). Apparently the Lions are called Agamemnon and Menelaus, but known more locally as Leo and Oscar. To be honest, most people I know refer to them as ‘Left’ and ‘the other one’. Poor Righty, no-one seems to want to meet by you!
Local tradition has that ‘by the Left Lion’ is THE place to meet up in town. Before it was pedestrianised, buses would drive all the way around Market Square and drop off by the Lions. I read on Notts TV site that people from the North of the City would meet by the Left Lion and those from the South met by the Right.
It’s said that the Left Lion will roar when a virgin walks past, whereas the right one will roar when an honest politician passes by. As far as I know, virgins and honest politicians DO exist but the lions remain silent to this day…
Lions in Lace
Research Fellow Dr. Gail Baxter found this Leavers Lace Lion in the NTU Lace Archive last year. (click the little arrow to see the lion in the second image). Leavers Lace is the type most associated with Nottingham, made on a machine invented in the area. Not woven or knitted in the usual sense, it has a warp and bobbins but not sewn, Leavers lace can be quite astonishingly beautiful. It can also be quite grim. But it’s dependant on the creative skill of the designer and the team of technicians and finishers operating the machine.
Inspired by local icons like Leo and Robin Hood, Samantha and I created our Light Night 2017 installation for PorceLace. It featured Nottingham’s Left Lion in lace and porcelain. The video below shows some beautiful images from the night
Buy a Nottingham Lace Left Lion!
I’ve created my own homage to Agamemnon, Nottingham’s Left Lion, in two sizes:
A mounted 180mm lace design. Edged with the phrase ‘Meet me at the Left Lion’ in picot, and ‘Nottingham’ hidden inside. Turn the lights out to reveal the text, as it glows in the dark! The lace is mounted onto black card and presented in a cream 260mm square mount. It fits a standard ikea-type frame.
My Nottingham Left Lion ornament is the perfect postal gift. Measuring approximately 90mm across, it has the same text-as-picot edge and hidden ‘Nottingham’ in the design. It comes with a handy loop to hang the ornament on a tree or against a window. The lace is presented mounted on an original sketch, layered and printed onto special papers. It weighs less than 25g and posts easily with a normal 1st or second class stamp (within the UK, international airmail prices vary).
Looking for a gift? I can post direct to the recipient for you. Simply tell me the item is for a gift and I’ll wrap accordingly.
‘Joseph Else RBS, ARBS, FRBS’, Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011 [http://sculpture.gla.ac.uk/view/person.php?id=msib4_1226573126, accessed 03 Nov 2020]
‘The Story Behind Joseph Else, creator of the iconic lions’ Mathias Balslev Notts TV 25 October 2016 [https://nottstv.com/the-story-behind-joseph-else-creator-of-the-iconic-lions/], accessed 03 Nov 2020
Dr. Gail Baxter instagram https://www.instagram.com/gailbaxterlace