Maiwand Lion

New booklet celebrates the history of Reading’s Maiwand Lion

  • Fascinating insight into Reading’s most famous monument
  • Available from Reading Libraries now

THE FASCINATING history of Reading’s most iconic monument, The Maiwand Lion, has been revealed in a new booklet published by Reading Libraries.

Local historians Mike Cooper, Katie Amos and Andrew Scott shine a spotlight on the intriguing story of the Maiwand Lion, which has stood proudly in the Forbury Gardens since 1886.

The authors look at the Battle of Maiwand, and the death of the men the statue commemorates, as well as revealing the hidden histories of the men listed on the plaque. They also explore other aspects of the lion including what it represents to the town, how it features in Reading’s art, football, songs and poems and not to mention April Fool’s jokes! 

Cllr Karen Rowland, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Culture, Heritage and Recreation, said: “The Maiwand Lion stands proudly in our much-loved Forbury Gardens, but how many of us stop to wonder why and how it came to be there? I’m delighted that Reading Libraries have published this fascinating booklet – a must-read for anyone curious about the history behind our lion.  Thanks are due to the hard work of authors Mike, Katie and Andrew for compiling this tribute to Reading’s most iconic monument.

"The lion has come to mean so much more to the people of Reading beyond just its noble commemoration of those that died at the Battle of Maiwand, as the booklet details. The Maiwand Lion has most recently and poignantly, become the symbol of ‘Reading Together’ following the tragic Forbury attacks of June 2020.”

Ten fascinating facts about the Maiwand Lion:

  1. At the time of its unveiling, the Maiwand Lion was the biggest statue of a standing lion in the world.
  2. The statue marks the dead of the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment in the Afghan War (1879-81).
  3. The cast iron lion is a massive, 31ft from nose to tail and weighs approximately 16 tonnes.
  4. It is an urban myth that the legs on the lion are incorrect!
  5. The sculptor, George Blackall Simonds did careful research and the lion is based on actual lions in London Zoo.
  6. George Simonds was a member of the family of local brewers, synonymous with Reading and also created the jubilee statue to Queen Victoria that stands in the Town Hall square today.
  7. The statue was cast into 9 separate pieces, then assembled on-site and lifted by a crane onto its plinth.
  8. In the 1970s there was a proposition to relocate the sculpture to Reading’s IDR – thankfully rejected.
  9. In 1992 the lion inspired the Evening Post to print an April Fool’s article stating that the Forbury Gardens were to become a zoological park.
  10. Since 2003 it has also been possible to raise a glass to the Forbury Lion with his very own Loddon Brewery beer!

The booklet is available from Reading Central Library, and branch libraries, for £3 per copy, or for £2 the library can send you the full colour pdf version by email.  Pop in and speak to staff or email for more details.