History Behind this Lion Statue on Oxford Street
Ever noticed this lion statue on Oxford Street? It’s been recently refurbished and so can be admired again outside Bond Street Station.
Oxford Street isn’t typically somewhere you might go to admire London’s architecture, but next time you’re there it’s worth looking out for Stratford Place.
Opposite one of Bond Street Station’s exits you’ll find it, a little cul-de-sac of 18th century architecture.
Marking its entrance is a brick pillar and on top is a statue of a lion, looking down on Oxford Street.
If it seems very new in these pictures, it’s because it’s recently reappeared after a refurbishment, the site has been used by Crossrail for the expansion of Bond Street Station.
Here is what it looked like, next to the 1969 office building, back in 2008.
Image Credit: Google Maps
So what’s the story?
History of Stratford Place
Built up in the 1770s, the land was owned by Edward Stratford (later 2nd Earl of Aldborough) who hired the architect Richard Edwin. to build 22 houses.
The site was leased from the City of London and was known as Conduit Meads because they used the River Tyburn as a source of clean water.
The wiggly line of Marylebone Lane from the map below is a reminder of the route of the – now subterranean – Tyburn River.
(Thomas Jeffreys 1765 map) Leaflet | © Maptiler and OpenStreetMap contributors
13 houses of the original designs survive, including the grandest – Stratford House – which faces onto Oxford Street. This was used as the Earl of Aldborough’s residence.
The lion statues flanked the entrance, a kind of 18th century gated community and you can see a 19th century print of depicting one here.
As the lion takes pride of place of the Earl’s coat of arms, presumably that was why a lion was chosen for decoration.
Image Credit: Wikipedia Creative Commons
Stratford House was used as a private residence throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, renamed Derby House after the Earl of Derby who lived here between 1908-1932.
During the Second World War it was let (rent-free) to the auction house Christie’s after their saleroom was damaged in an air raid. Christie’s Chairman Sir Alec Martin had helped store the Earl’s art collection outside of London so was owed a favour.
Post-war it transitioned into commercial space, variously used as galleries or office headquarters and since 1962 its been known as The Oriental Club after its occupiers.
Historic Details in Stratford Place
Elsewhere in Stratford Place you can find reminders of its residential past. The odd boot scraper outside a front door for wiping away the crud of London’s streets;
As well as a charming pair of snuffers – over-sized candle snuffers which extinguished flaming torches used to light the way home before electric lights.
In terms of notable residents, No.7 was the London home of Martin van Buren, the US Ambassador to London in 1831, who would become the 8th US President between 1837-41.
Today Stratford Place is also home to the High Commissions of Tanzania (no.3) and Botswana (no.6).
Outside No.6 you will also see this plaque, part of the BBC Black and British History Project which commemorates the visit of the three Kgosi (leaders or Chiefs) Khama III, Sebele I & Bathoen I in 1895.
In 1887 their territory had been seized by the British for use of the mines. But when the British South Africa Company tried to acquire the area in 1895 the three Kgosi defended their land from colonisation and it was established as a British Protectorate until the Republic of Botswana was established in 1966.
So next time you’re on Oxford Street, look up to admire this lion statue opposite Bond Street Station and have a wander down Stratford Place.
It’s not the only historic animal to make an appearance on Oxford Street…
Explore London’s twinkling streets this Christmas and hear about all the fun history hiding in plain sight in the West End! Book your spot on Eventbrite here.
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