The story of the Hawkstone lion roaring a message of peace

As the New Year of 1945 dawned, the stone lion of Hawkstone roared.

The lion's den at Hawkstone – it's behind iron railings in that cave.
The lion's den at Hawkstone – it's behind iron railings in that cave.

People heard it, and they were pleased. Because according to local legend, it heralded peace. And of course the roaring stone lion proved right, because that year brought with it victory and the end of the war.

The lion's New Year message made the national press, but strangely seems to have been ignored by the local paper, the Market Drayton Advertiser, so perhaps we might conjecture that its editor dismissed it as a load of hokum.

It is a story that John Ruscoe of Shrewsbury, who grew up in the area, heard years ago.

The view from the top of Hawkstone Park Follies, from where a stone lion roared a message of peace in 1945.

"I remember a local farmer Jim Owen telling me about how he heard the roar of the lion himself back in 1945. The story became a legend. I recently came across an article in the Daily Sketch about it and can see that Jim was obviously not the only one to hear the roar.

"I think this is an appropriate time as it's 75 years since VE Day and also a time when we all need a little peace during these difficult times."

That article in the Daily Sketch was carried on January 9, 1945, under the headline "Legend Lion Roars Peace in 1945."

"From the ancient Roman sacrificial ground in Hawkstone Park, Shropshire, the lion of legend has roared his message of peace this year," it began.

"When his roar is heard three times during the first week of a New Year, says the legend, then peace will come to all who hear it, and the people of the tiny villages of Wem, Hodnet, and Weston-under-Redcastle were jubilant yesterday.

"For the 'lion' was heard on the nights of Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday last week.

How the Daily Sketch reported the story.

"Pilot Officer F C Melhuish, aged 25, whose mind has been trained to facts, not superstition, told me: 'I was in Wem during the week and heard the roar three times. Each time the wind was howling across the plain, but the roar was sufficiently deep and penetrating to be heard clearly above the wind.'

"His mother, Mrs J K Melhuish, said: 'I heard it too, but not for the first time. I spent the first week of my honeymoon here. That was the first week of 1918. My husband and I heard the roar on the same dates and about the same time as we did last week.'

"Mr S R Smith, managing director of the company which acquired Hawkstone Park and turned it into a golf club, said: 'I sleep in the rear of the hotel, and as I am a heavy sleeper I did not hear the roar. But from the comments passed at the breakfast tables during the days which followed I have no doubt that many did, and wondered what it was.'"

Sadly, it doesn't look like anybody will ever hear the Hawkstone lion's roar again.

John says: "The lion was carved out of local Grinshill sandstone and was positioned behind iron bars in a cave carved out of the sandstone on the Redcastle Hill at Hawkstone Park, known as The Lion's Den.

"This was originally one of the many attractions to the Hawkstone Follies many years ago when the public could view him in his den.

"Sadly the lion was destroyed years ago. The iron bars were taken away and used in the war effort. Part of the lion remains and can be seen in the visitor centre at the follies."

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News