The Thameside Lions that guard against flooding

There is always something to look out for in London, even in the most unlikely places.  One might not know that you’re seeing but there are points of interest all over the place.

Should you happen to to be near the Victoria Embankment and peer over the wall without falling into the river below then you might see a number of bronze cast lions heads.


When the lions drink, London will sink!

The mouth of each lion holds a mooring ring, for use by anyone in an emergency needing to tie up a small vessel. There is very little evidence that the rings have ever been used. It is said that if the lions drink the water from the Thames, London will flood.

They were originally sculpted by Timothy Butler as part of the scheme by Sir Joseph Bazalgette to create a new Victorian sewage system around 1868-70 as a permanent solution to the Great Stink.   In fact many of the sewers are on the reclaimed land from the Thames which was narrowed.  As well as the roads and attractive riverside parks that you can find here, underneath the ground in addition to the sewers are the Circle and District Underground lines which were built at a similar time.


Getting back to the lions, there is of course a playful rhyme that helps us to remember the meaning of the lions,  “When the lions drink, London will sink. When it’s up to their manes, we’ll go down the drains.

The lions also hold mooring rings in their mouths for small boats to tie up alongside the embankment.


It’s relatively rare that the Lions do end up drinking but they are getting to drink more as  the years go by and it should be remembered that London is at sea-level and would likely have been more seriously flooded in recent decades if not for the engineering marvel of the Thames Flood Barriers just east of Greenwich.

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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7 Responses to The Thameside Lions that guard against flooding

  1. I love reading anecdotes like this on London’s more obscure attractions. Great review.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. johnrahdel says:

    Since modern day England represents Tarshish in Bible prophecy (see Isaiah 23), I believe that a mega-tsunami is going to inundate London, not to mention the entire east coast of the US (and elsewhere). In these end times, make sure your heart belongs to Jesus Christ and receive the free gift of eternal life.


  3. Pingback: The Coal Posts of London and Hertfordshire | Stephen Liddell

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