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Detective work by amateur historian from Farnham solves riddle of Rochester lions’ sculptor

By Medway Messenger reporter

One hundred years after they were created, the mystery sculptor of the lions on Rochester Bridge has finally been revealed.

The four lions, which adorn the entrances to the bridge, had puzzled historians for decades with no records on the bridge mentioning the sculptor’s name.

The lion sculptures on Rochester Bridge were the work of Henry Charles Fehr
The lion sculptures on Rochester Bridge were the work of Henry Charles Fehr

The lions were created when the bridge was reconstructed to allow more clearance for boats to pass underneath.

Spotting the sculptures on a visit to Medway, amateur historian Frank Turner, of Farnham, Surrey, contacted the Rochester Bridge Trust to learn about their origin.

But when they couldn’t identify the mysterious creator, Mr Turner set out on a mission to put a name to the unrecognised work.

Searching through the trust’s records, he found that the sculptures were made by Somerset company J. W. Singer & Sons.

Amateur historian Frank Turner
Amateur historian Frank Turner

After contacting the current owners of the business, Mr Turner was told that most of their records were held at Frome Library. Following a bit of research, the mystery was soon unravelled.

Henry Charles Fehr, a famous Victorian and Edwardian sculptor whose work includes the bronzes at the entrance to Tate Modern, was identified as the lions’ creator.

Mr Turner, a retired rail booking clerk, said: “I travelled to Rochester for the Heritage Open Day because I had never visited a bridge chapel before. The Old Bridge and the lions immediately caught my attention.”

The trust’s bridge archivist James Gibson said: “In this centenary year we are delighted finally to discover the identity of the sculptor of the lions.”

He added: “Rochester can take great pride in having not just one but four genuine sculptures by Henry Charles Fehr.”

Lady Darnley opens Rochester Bridge in 1914
Lady Darnley opens Rochester Bridge in 1914

The reconstructed bridge was opened to the public on May 14 1914 by Florence Bligh, the Countess of Darnley.

The Rochester Bridge Trust is marking its centenary year with a series of exhibitions, lectures and other events. More details can be found at www.rbt.org.uk

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