If you visit Bath, you might be surprised to come across some large colourful statues of lions and pigs while exploring the city. In case you were wondering what it’s all about, here’s where they’ve come from….
In the summer of 2008 an event called King Bladud’s Pigs was run to raise money for Bath’s Two Tunnels Project. This was a project to create a shared walking and cycle route which gives those using it a view of Bath’s Georgian crescents, and then leaves the city behind via the longest walking tunnel in the UK to emerge into a beautiful deep wooded valley. (It opened in 2013 and is in the top five of all outdoor activities for Bath listed by Tripadvisor).
King Bladud’s Pigs saw 106 life-size pig models decorated by artists in all forms (painters, ceramicists, textile designers, photographers…) go on display around the city – much like the Gromits and Shauns did around Bristol in recent years. When the display ended 70 of the pigs were sold in a great gala auction at the Bath Assembly Rooms, another 35 via online auction, and 1 was raffled. The project raised over £200,000 for the Two Tunnels Project and now some of the pigs are still on display around the city thanks to the kind benefactors who bought them.
Following on from this success, in 2010 a new collection of statues were created. This time 104 life-size lion sculptures were displayed around the city in the same way that the pigs had been. The artists who decorated the lions included Sir Peter Blake, Cath Kidston and Olympic gold medallist Amy Williams. This time over £65,000 was raised for local charities following the auctioning of the statues.
Some of the statues of the lions and pigs can still be found around Bath. There are a couple to be seen around the outside of the Abbey, and another in Bath’s Guildhall Market to name only a few.
But why lions and pigs?
Pigs were chosen because they are part of the story of how Bath was founded. King Bladud had been cast out of court to be a swineherd as he had leprosy. He and his pigs while looking for acorns in muddy ground discovered the healing properties of Bath’s waters. The waters cured the leprosy in himself and his pigs and allowed him to regain the throne and so he decided to found the city of Bath. Ever since Bath has honoured this link within its history and architecture. The acorns lining the top of the houses in the Circus is another reference to the story of Bladud.
The lions were chosen next because lions also appear often in Bath’s heritage. A lion features on Bath’s coat of arms, and over five hundred images of lions can be seen in and around Bath – reflecting the royal heritage of the city.