Reading’s most iconic monument, the Maiwand Lion in the Forbury Gardens, is set to undergo conservation work this spring

Specialist conservation contractors, Cliveden Conservation – the experts who also work to restore, protect and conserve the Abbey Ruins - have been commissioned to carry out work on the Maiwand Lion.

Starting today (Monday 6 March) the work will include: 

  • Carefully removing two bronze plaques to allow for stone repairs;
  • Cleaning and waxing of the bronze plaques;
  • Repairing indents in areas of the plinth;
  • Removing any vegetation around the plinth;
  • Thorough cleaning of the statue and plinth;
  • Raking out and repointing of open joints.

If you are visiting the Forbury Gardens you may notice Heras fencing and banners surrounding the monument while the work is taking place for the safety of the public. We are expecting the work to take around 8 weeks.

You may also notice the much-loved Forbury Bandstand is currently undergoing some conservation work to ensure it can be enjoyed by visitors to the gardens for generations to come. It is temporarily closed and over the coming months specialist conservation experts will be working to improve the stability of its structure. Once all the work is completed the final touch will be a fresh coat of paint in its original colours of white and green.

This conservation work follows on from the series of High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) funded monument cleaning and conservation that has been taking place since February around the town centre, with work being carried out on The Queen Victoria Jubilee Statue by Reading Town Hall, the Jubilee Cross and the Zinzan Tomb in St Mary’s churchyard, and the Simeon Monument in Market Place.

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 commemorates 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!

Learn more about the history of the Maiwand Lion in a booklet by local historians Mike Cooper, Katie Amos and Andrew Scott which shines a spotlight on the intriguing story of the Maiwand Lion, which has stood proudly in the Forbury Gardens since 1886.

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.

Last updated on 06/03/2023