Saltaire Village, World Heritage Site
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Saltaire Village World Heritage Site
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The Lion Story
Written by Roger Clarke

A while ago, James Duncan, Editor of the Saltaire Sentinel, invited his readers to submit their interesting or amusing speculations about the names of the four lions which guard Victoria Hall on Victoria Road. The lions all have names. “Peace” is at the corner of Mawson Street, “War” is on Lockwood Street, “Determination” is on Higher School Street, and “Vigilance” on Lower School Street. I couldn’t resist coming up with a number of suggestions – some more serious than others – some just plain daft.

Vigilance War Determination Peace
Vigilance War Determination Peace

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Most serious...

As to “War” and “Peace”, is it coincidental that the lions are positioned in the “educational area” of the Village, in Victoria Square? This was where Sir Titus hoped to avoid the war between social classes and establish peace in Society. All over Europe there had recently been revolution of the poor against the rich, the “have-nots” against the “haves”. 1848 was a particular high spot. And in Bradford there were Chartist riots. For Sir Titus, education was the key to involving the working classes in “improving themselves” and adopting the values of civilised Victorian society – sobriety, temperance, industry and self help – thus bridging the gap between the classes.

And “Vigilance”, “Determination” and “Fidelity”? I believe that he would have seen vigilance and determination as hard headed, business qualities. Determination implies an ability to act upon firm decisions, and to display single-mindedness and resolution. Vigilance is being alert to avoid trouble, being watchful and wary – all essential qualities in the competitive textile trade in Bradford. Whilst fidelity is important in business (to the extent that it implies dependability, reliability and trust) it also means loyalty, devotion and faithfulness, which have more to do with emotions and closer, more intimate relationships. Sir Titus was not known to display emotion very readily or openly. “Fidelity” would not resonate so much with this very successful businessman.

His dislike of “Fidelity” as a name should not be seen to imply that he was not faithful to his wife and family. I know of no historical evidence or documentary proof that this was so. But if you know of some, let me know and I’ll follow it up with alacrity!!

More light hearted and hopefully humorous!

Does it all matter anyway? We should note that the names on the columns are gradually being eroded and weathered away in the sandstone. Before they disappear completely, it should be documented that “Peace” is at the corner of Mawson Street, “War” is on Lockwood Steet, “Determination” is on Higher School Street, and “Vigilance” on Lower School Street. After all, the lion’s larger cousins in Trafalgar Square seem to have survived quite well despite being nameless. However, I hope that Bradford Council agree with me that part of their charm lies in their names, and it would be a shame to lose them. Hopefully they can be re-carved as part of the continuing improvements to Victoria Square.

I think that if we are to take the names seriously, the lions should have been sculpted to depict their names. If Milnes had been told their names before he sketched them at London Zoo, he might have modelled his lions more appropriately. For example, “Peace” might have been sculpted lying on its back, waiting for its belly to be scratched – or lying under a tree in the shade, with a swollen stomach full of zebra. “War” might have been shown in attacking mode, with claws unsheathed, a snarl on its face, and looking scarred and battered.
“Vigilance” almost like a pointer dog, with paw raised in stalking posture. And “Determination” at a run, pursuing prey.

As it is, they are all very calm and contented. Perhaps there is something in the story which Victorian parents told their children - - that every night at thirteen o’clock, the lions get down from their pedestals and go down to the River Aire for a drink, returning later to face another day, perfectly relaxed.

A recent comment from a Primary School child on one of my school tours around the Village was that “Peace” (depicted licking its paw) was sucking its thumb. Your perspective always depends on where you are standing and where you’ve come from. The younger children always give me lots of food for thought!

Sir Titus realised that Fidelity wouldn’t fit as a name because lions aren’t faithful!! It’s the lioness who is faithful to her cubs and loyal to the family group. In reality, male lions are loners who only appear for mating, or when lionesses have brought down prey – at which point they swagger in, throw their weight around, and gorge themselves at everyone else’s expense. What's that I hear the women say!

© Roger Clarke, November 2005


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