In early 2015, Rebecca Moss responded to an open call from a local organisation, Somerset Art Works (SAW) to interpret Somerset's industrial heritage, in particular, the transition from carved stone to mass production of ornamental concrete during the 19th Century Industrial Revolution. Moss commissioned the production of a mould from a Baroque 18th Century foo-dog lion outside a Grade 1 listed building in Bridgwater.
Moss took the mould to a local concrete garden ornament factory, where they made an army of 41 lions. The plan was then to create a defensive army of lions along the sea front of a small seaside town, Burnham-on-Sea, interacting with the curved concrete flood defences. Intense negotiation ensued with the Environment Agency, who were very concerned about the 14 ton army descending onto the sea front.
The project was later additionally supported by The Elephant Trust and Gilbert Bayes Trust in London. Documentation by Rebecca Lennon.
In October 2015, the concrete army was approved to be installed along the esplanade at Burnham-on-Sea, along the Bristol Channel, by the men from the concrete garden ornament factory. This location is especially significant for its early experimental uses of defensive concrete. The foo-dog lions were eventually installed along the esplanade.
Lions House, Bridgwater
Robinswood Stone Concrete Garden Ornament Factory, Somerset
Lions Proposal Feedback
Based on the information supplied so far we would currently not be able to approve a Flood Defence Consent application for your proposal of lions at Burnham-on-Sea sea front.
- There are Health & Safety implications if the lions do become loose due to wave and wind impacts and/or if people climb on the lions. You must make sure that your public liability insurance covers you for this.
- Whilst we do not own the sea wall, you may also require a separate legal agreement from our legal team to install the lions by our flood defence asset.
- We will also require details of how to remove the lions if we need to access the sea defence to undertake works in an emergency, along with access to the required removal equipment at short notice. If we need emergency access to the sea defence, please note that any costs associated with the lions' removal would be recharged back to yourself.
- We also have similar concerns regarding installing the lions on the slipway. A Marine Management Organisation (MMO) licence will be required for slipway works rather than a Flood Defence Consent permission from the Environment Agency.
If a large storm event were to occur when the lions were in situ then they will need to be fixed sufficiently strongly to withstand this sort of impact. It is not uncommon for large pieces of rock armour (weighing 10 times as much as the lions) to be moved by significant wave impacts.
If our outstanding concerns could be overcome, we would want the lions to be in situ for as short a time as possible to ensure there is less risk of damage to the sea defence from the wave and wind impacts.
I note that another option you have proposed is to place the lions either side of the central slipway. Please be aware that again the lions could become loose as they would be covered by each high tide. Lions on the slipway may cause significant concerns for users of the slipway, especially if access along the slipway is restricted (i.e. for rescue boats etc).
Installation at Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset
'The Elephant Trust likes supporting projects and artist ideas that are strange, inventive and off-centre. Mining important issues on art's exchange and value, societal borders and cultural traditions Rebecca's sculptural intervention along the coast of the Bristol Channel fulfilled all these with a lightness of touch: the trustees are not embarrassed to admit that what attracted us most is how happy we imagined we'd feel were we to unexpectedly come across this surreal bestial army one sunny day.'
Oliver Basciano for The Elephant Trust