The Red Lion, High Wycombe

Nominated by: Simon Kearey

It is understood that the original lion was first introduced into the town centre landscape between 1772 and 1832, standing on a portico above the former Red Lion Hotel.

The statue was made famous when Sir Winston Churchill used it as a platform to deliver a rousing post-Second World War speech to the people of High Wycombe in 1945.  Both Benjamin Disraeli and Winston Churchill made election speeches standing on the portico next to the Red Lion statue.  Churchill is even alleged to have tweaked the tail of the lion, when it broke-off in his hand.

There are also lighter sides to its history.  In 1955 it was reported that after a meal in the hotel members of High Wycombe Rugby Club, including Ron Emery and Bill Bartlett, climbed onto the portico and painted the lion white.  Fortunately, this paint washed off easily.  However only a year later the statue was replaced with a new one.

The Red Lion is an important part of High Wycombe’s story and has been used as a symbol for the town on many occasions.

Drawing on the town’s rich furniture and chairmaking history in particular, the current statue was carved by the well-known Wycombe wood-carver and furniture-maker Frank Hudson in his factory in Easton Street.  It was carved from Quebec yellow pine and the resulting statue is said to be taller, bolder, with more swagger than its predecessor.  Around 100 individual pieces were glued together to form the statue.

If there were to be a poll in the High Wycombe and the surrounding areas then this would be the object most thought to symbolise the town, the social history of the town and its important links with the past.

Recently the lion has been the recipient of a successful restoration campaign, which once again tested its popularity and support from a large number of people in the local area.

The Red Lion in Wycombe was nominated by Simon Kearey, on behalf of the Red Lion Restoration and Supporter Group.