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Lion figures were the standard figureheads of all Royal Naval ships which bore them and also standard in other European navies allowing for local differences of design. There is one surviving British example at the National Maritime Museum, one supports the gable of the Red Lion Inn at Martlesham in Suffolk, and an older, probably 17th-century example in Sussex, though in poor condition and of uncertain origin. The Maritme Museum has secong example which is thought to be of 18th-century north European origin.
A figurehead is a ship’s ‘spirit’. The tradition of creating a figurehead as a carved representation of the spirit of a ship goes back at least to the ancient Greeks, and possibly before. The original Greek ships had eyes painted on either side of the bow. The Romans copied this tradition and added decorative carvings. The Viking dragon ships are maybe the best known for their mythical animal figurheads, used to ward off evil spirits while at sea and also to declare the status of the ship’s owners. By the middle Ages, a wooden carving of a beast, a person, or a mythological figure, attached to the front of the ship under the bowsprit was used throughout the world. The most common figurehead for English ships in the 1600’s was a lion.
This ship’s figurehead was carved 30 years ago, and a steerer and velocipede wheels added to turn it into a unique hobby horse. Though initially on display in a museum (below), in recent decades it has been kept in dry storage.
The DANDYLION, a unique hand-carved artistic creation
1800s Hobby Horse with Ship’s Figurehead of a Lion
LENGTH: 76″. WIDTH: 6″. HEIGHT: 36″
28″ Wooden Velocipede wheels with metal band tyres
National Maritime Museum info with thanks to: http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/18794.html
Figurehad carving photo with thanks to: https://tallshipsgallery.co.uk/portfolio/a-lion-figurehead-for-lhermione/
Figurehead info with thanks to: https://bmkaratzas.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/ship-figureheads-basil-m-karatzas/
Red Lion info with thanks to: https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/3276172