THEY roared for Blackpool for many years but now they have returned home.
Town hall bosses have revealed the lions from Stanley Park’s Italian Gardens have gone back to their original home at Stowe House in Buckinghamshire.
The two lions sat proudly at the entrance to the gardens but due to the number of metal thefts in the area and the loss of a number pieces of public art, the council decided to remove the lions before they too became victim of raiders.
Emergency talks were held with the Stowe House Preservation Trust and an agreement was reached which will see them returned to the safer location.
The deal means the lions will be fully restored by Rupert Harris Conservation and head to Stowe on a 50-year loan agreement.
In return, Blackpool will receive two full size, identical copies of the lions.
In addition, any Blackpool resident wishing to see the lions in-situ at Stowe will have the right to free entrance to the house and gardens during normal opening hours for the duration of the loan.
Coun Graham Cain, cabinet member for tourism and culture at Blackpool Council, said: “We’ve thought long and hard about this as we’ve had a number of metal thefts from the park, including the statues of the shepherds and shepherdesses which were cut off at the feet. It’s such a shame to see valuable historic artefacts being vandalised and destroyed.
“We felt it was time to look at moving the lions to a safer location. It couldn’t be more appropriate that they’re heading back to Stowe on loan.”
Elaine Smith, Chairman of Blackpool Civic Trust, added: “We’ve been so worried about the lions.
“There have been a number of vandal attacks recently and one of the lions was starting to look particularly bad. I know the council have consulted with the Friends of Stanley Park as well as the Civic Trust and this move has our full support. I feel sure Stowe will look after them.”
Nick Morris, CEO of the Stowe Preservation Trust said: “This incredibly gracious offer by Blackpool has been a dream come true for us. The lions are one of the few features we know the current location of.”
A schools competition will be held to name the two replica lions when they arrive early next year and the names will be inscribed on new plinths being created for the mighty beasts.
In addition to the new lions the council will be commissioning replica statues for the Italian Gardens to replace those stolen last August.