1800s Hobby Horse with Ship’s Figurehead of a Lion

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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 second 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

(Now sold)




Andy Peters, Maritima Woodcarving. Working on the Lion figurehead for Hermione. Rochefort. France











The Red Lion at the Star Inn, Alfriston, E. Sussex
In the reign of Henry VIII (1509 – 1547), the lion became the general British figurehead, and remained popular until the end of George II’s reign (1727 – 1760). It was borne by such famous ships as the ‘Great Harry’, Elizabeth’s ‘Victory’ (1569) and Sir Richard Grenville’s ‘Revenge’ (1577). In these vessels the figurehead took the form of a heraldic lion couchant or gardant. James I introduced the Scottish lion rampant, with a Royal Crown. Cromwell eliminated the crown, but Charles II restored it. He began also the custom of varying the figurehead for all first-rates, although the lion remained for ships of all other types.
The former ship’s figurehead shown above once belonged to an 18th century Dutch warship which sank in the channel and eventually washed up on the shores of Cuckmere Haven. It was reputed to have been given to the Starr Inn by a gang of smugglers and this lion has been a prominent local landmark in the village ever since. Up to 2003 it was located on the corner of Star Lane but was moved to its current spot after restoration. The Star Inn itself was built around 1260 by the monks of Battle Abbey and was known as the Star of Bethlehem until the 16th century where it was used as a hostel for pilgrims on their way to Chichester. The pub still contains a sanctuary post which those evading secular laws could touch and claim church protection.











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