Blackpool Council is announcing the return of the lions in Stanley Park's Italian Garden to their original home at Stowe House in Buckinghamshire.
The two lions sit proudly at the entrance to the Italian Gardens but due metal thefts in the area and the loss of a number pieces of public art the Council made the decision to remove the lions before they too became victim to vandalism.
Emergency talks were held the Stowe House Preservation Trust and an agreement has been reached that will see them moved to a safer location.
The deal sees the lions being fully restored by Rupert Harris Conservation and heading to Stowe on a 50 year loan agreement brokered between Stowe House Preservation Trust and the Council with the help of the World Monuments Fund.
In return, Blackpool will be receiving two full size, identical copies of the lions. In addition, any Blackpool resident wishing to see the lions in-situ at Stowe will have the right to free entrance to the House and Gardens during normal opening hours for the duration of the loan.
Cllr Graham Cain, Cabinet member for Tourism and Culture, said: "We've thought long and hard about this as we've had a number of metal thefts from the park, including the statues of the shepherds and shepherdesses which were cut off at the feet. It's such a shame to see valuable historic artefacts being vandalised and destroyed. We felt it was time to look at moving the lions to a safer location. It couldn't be more appropriate that they're heading back to Stowe on loan.”
Elaine Smith MBE, Chairman of Blackpool Civic Trust, said: "We've been so worried about the lions. There have been a number of vandal attacks recently and one of the lions was starting to look particularly bad. I know the Council have consulted with the Friends of Stanley Park as well as the Civic Trust and this move has our full support. I feel sure Stowe will look after them as long as they're there.”
Nick Morris, CEO of the Stowe Preservation Trust said: "This incredibly gracious offer by Blackpool has been a dream come true for us. The lions are one of the few features we know the current location of, and whilst they're only on loan, it's still exciting to think they're coming home. Our thanks go out to Blackpool and its residents for making this happen. Hopefully we'll get lots of Blackpool people coming to visit them.”
A competition for schools will be held to name the two replica lions when they arrive early next year and the names will be inscribed on the new plinths being created for the lions.
In addition to the new lions the council will also be commissioning replica statues for the Italian Gardens to replace those stolen last August.