Blackpool’s Stanley Park lions were today set to get a fitting Royal reception in their new home.
Prince Michael of Kent was due to unveil the historic sculptures at Stowe House in Buckinghamshire following extensive restoration.
The lions, which date back to the 1790s, were sold by Stowe to Blackpool Council in 1922, and have now been leased back in a 50-year agreement.
The two lions had sat at the entrance to the Italian Gardens at Stanley Park, but due to metal thefts and the loss of a number pieces of public art, the council removed the lions last July before they too became victims of vandalism.
In return, Blackpool is receiving full size identical copies of the lions which are set to be in place on new plinths in July, funded by the World Monuments Fund and the Paul Mellon estate.
Chairman of the Friends of Stanley Park, Elaine Smith, said: “We’re delighted to know the lions are settling back into their original home and that our new lions are on the way.
“The Italian Garden has seemed terribly empty without them and everyone’s looking forward to having the copies back in pride of place.”
Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn, who will join the prince to carry out the unveiling, said: “The generosity of the Paul Mellon estate and the World Monuments Fund has ensured the people of Blackpool won’t miss the lions while they’re on loan with fantastic new copies on their way to us.”
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.
Nick Morris, of the Stowe Preservation Trust, said: “The lions look magnificent and we’d like to thank the people of Blackpool again for their generosity in allowing them to come home to Stowe.”