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.
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.