Lion Gate Gardens, TW9

Place Name

Literal in that this leads to the most southerly entrance to Kew Gardens – which is adorned with a stone lion. The original Lion Gate (which did not have a lion figure) had stood where Cumberland Gate stands today. It was moved during a reorganisation of the gardens, as a result of the arrival of the railway. At the same time the main gate on Kew Green, that had been adorned with lion and unicorn figures (thought to date from the reign of George IV in the late 18th or early 19th centuries) was changed, freeing up the statues to be used elsewhere. The Lion and the Unicorn are symbols of the United Kingdom. They are, properly speaking, heraldic supporters appearing in the full royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom. The lion stands for England and the unicorn for Scotland. The combination therefore dates back to the 1603 accession of James I of England who was already James VI of Scotland. By extension, they have also been used in the arms of Hanover between 1837–1866. The lion was seen as a symbol of strength and had been used throughout the ages by monarchs. The unicorn was actually thought to exist. At the time of the union this poem was doing the rounds:

The Lion and the Unicorn

Were fighting for the Crown.

The Lion beat the Unicorn

All around the town

Some gave them white bread,

And some gave them brown;

Some gave them plum cake

And drummed them out of town

And when he had built him out,

He beat him in again;

He beat him three times over,

His power to maintain.

This was originally part of the Selwyn estate and was laid out sometime around the mid-1880s.


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