Lions And Zoos

The 140-year history of the Weelsby Woods lions and how they came to be in Grimsby


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They’ve been in Grimsby for over 140 years, but it’s strange to imagine them anywhere other than Weelsby Woods.

The iconic lions have been welcoming people to Weelsby Woods for around 70 years – and have been sitting on generations of children.

But they began their life elsewhere in Grimsby after being commissioned by Tommy Campbell in 1876 for his private residence.

Sculpted by Richard Winn, the two lions were installed on plinths inside the front door of Mr. Campbell’s home at Abbey Villa, on Abbey Road, Grimsby.

The Grimsby Observer wrote in 1876: “You can see in the yard of MM. T Enderby and Sons an unusual sight in the form of two life-size lions, each carved from a rough block of Cursham Down stone.

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The lions are moved from one part of Grimsby to another before arriving at Weelsby Woods. Photo credit: Richard A Bain

“They were created by Mr. Richard Winn, the wood and stone carver from Grimsby, whose work reflects a careful and careful study of the proportions and general physique of the King of the Forest.

“The lions weigh two tons each and, when placed on their pedestals outside of Earl Campbell’s residence, their noble and imposing appearance, unmatched in the neighborhood, will undoubtedly attract a great deal of admiration from passers-by.

After a stay at Grimsby Zoo in Sutcliffe in the 1930s, the lions were said to have been donated to a former Grimsby City Council in the 1950s.

Photographs, attributed to Richard A Bain, who grew up on Abbey Road, show his brother, John, enjoying a ‘ride’ on one of the lions as they were moved to another location.



Photographs, attributed to Richard A Bain, who grew up on Abbey Road, show his brother, John, enjoying a 'ride' on one of the lions as they were moved to another location.  Photo credit: Richard A Bain
Photographs, attributed to Richard A Bain, who grew up on Abbey Road, show his brother, John, enjoying a ‘ride’ on one of the lions as they were moved to another location. Photo credit: Richard A Bain

They arrived at their current site in Weelsby Woods shortly after it opened to the public in 1951.

The woods were donated to the people of Grimsby by one of the wealthiest fishing magnates in the town’s history.

Fred Parkes, president and CEO of the Grimsby-based Boston Deep Sea Fishing and Ice Company, donated nearly 150 acres of the Weelsby Old Hall woodland.

His gift has been described as “a magnificent and exceptionally generous gift”.



Ross Cotton, 4, of Grimsby, one of many children who enjoy a ‘ride’ on the lions on a visit to Weelsby Woods. Photo from 1991

According to the Grimsby Evening Telegraph of August 24, 1948, the gift was offered on the basis of an agreement that “the earth is to be preserved perpetually as an ‘open space’, no trees are to be felled or pruned” unless it ‘is absolutely necessary’, and none of the buildings, other than shelters and public facilities, are to be erected on the land ‘.

The lions, which have been welcoming people to Weelsby Woods for around 70 years, have only been removed once for restoration work by Leake’s Masonry Ltd of Louth in 2006.

In November 2013, they were sadly disfigured with spray paint by stupid vandals.



The Dry Ice UK company cleans up vandalized lions at Weelsby Woods, Grimsby

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However, a Grimsby-based cleaning company quickly stepped in to restore both statues for free.

Engineers from Dry Ice UK, based out of Europarc, were sent to Weelsby Woods to remove the paint with dry ice, making them look almost new.

At the time, Business Development Director Roy Nicholls said: “We heard about the damage and as a sign of goodwill to the region we wanted to help.

“The statues are an integral part of the region, so we want to restore them to their former glory.”

The lions still guard Weelsby Woods today and continue to be enjoyed by its many visitors.

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