A historic pub interior of national importance
Listed Status: II67 Moorfields
This richly appointed pub has a layout very similar to others on Merseyside in this guide, namely the Stork Hotel, Birkenhead, and the Prince Arthur, Liverpool. It has an L-shaped corridor wrapping round the public bar on the street corner, and with spaces leading off it. A plan of 1903 shows the public bar as now, but in 1915 the Lion expanded into the building next door. The corridor was then created along with a news room (so-named in the window glass) in the newly acquired area, and a lounge beneath a skylight (the dividing walls were, sadly, taken down in 1967). The corridor has a mosaic floor and a lovely Art Nouveau tiled dado, above which is a timber and etched glass screen, with openings allowing service to drinkers in the corridor. The back fitting in the public bar seems to be Victorian: the dado tiling here is to the same design as in the corridor. There is a fine set of old carved screens in the front windows carrying advertising, something that is occasionally seen in Scotland but rarely in England. The eponymous Lion was a locomotive built for the Liverpool & Manchester Railway in 1838 and is displayed at the Museum of Liverpool. It was last steamed for an appearance in the 1953 British comedy film The Titfield Thunderbolt.
A very fine pub in central Liverpool which is one to compare with other excellent Heritage pubs on Merseyside - the Stork;in Birkenhead, the Prince Arthur; in Liverpool and the Edinburgh; in Crosby
Like them it is a Victorian building (in this case of c.1865) re-modelled about in the early 20th century. They all share corner sites with the public bar occupying the angle and surrounded by an L-shaped corridor. All too have beautiful tiled dados in their corridors dating from Edwardian re-modelling schemes (as seen in our picture). A further similarity is the way the corridor works to provide a drinking area.
Discovery of the documents submitted to the licensing justices enabled former licensee, John O’Dowd, to trace the evolution of the pub to its present form. Back in 1903 a plan shows the public bar laid out as it is now. There was a snug behind it in the heart of the building and left of this, and on the site of the present toilets, a public room labelled ‘parlour’. Then in 1915 the Lion expanded by taking in the building next door at 28 Tithebarn Street also a licensed premises. This enabled the L-shaped corridor to be created round the public bar and the formation of two rooms behind this - a news room in the newly acquired area (the name still survives in the window glass) and a lounge where the skylight is today. Then in 1967, when pubs everywhere were being opened up, plans were drawn up to remove the walls to the corridor from these rooms. These were duly implemented and the corner entrance was blocked. (hence the pub does not merit entry in the Part One of the National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors. In 1979 they added glazed partitions, one outside the gents and one on the right as you enter the news room.
The porch on Moorfields side has mosaic floor and one tiled wall from floor to ceiling. The old looking vestibule entrances at each end of the public bar / passage are modern dating from 1967 - note how they do not match the mosaic floor in the entrances. The Public Bar has a panelled Victorian bar counter with consoles and match strikers on counter front, and glazed bar back with etched glass, shelves and pedimented opening for access by staff. Note how the fridges have been carefully positioned under the counter and no part of the bar back fitting removed, as frequently happens with bar fittings both historic and modern. The L-shaped room has a bare wooden floor, tiled walls in green with a floral design and basic bench seating.
The Lion has a splendid set of elaborately carved window screens situated in the lower part of the front windows with multi glazed panels and a large central etched window. Often seen in Scotland, there are few examples in England. There are three on the Moorfields side the first of which advertises 'Old Highland Whisky', a smaller 'Falstaff Ale' one and a plain glass one i.e. original panel is lost. On Titheburn Street side are ones advertising 'Walker's Scotch 167 Whisky', and beyond the entrance a 'News Room' one in gold on a frosted and etched window. Note the handles on the window screens so you can left them up to clean the windows themselves.
The L-shaped corridor has a tiled dado with Art Nouveau detailing and above is a timber and etched glass screen with sashes, a number of which are in the raised position for service to drinkers in the corridor and the two small rooms off. The first small opened-up room to the right of the corridor is the News Room with a mosaic floor, a match striker above upholstered fixed seating, and an old copper and wood surround fireplace with large bevelled mirror above. The bell pushes in this room which were used to summon up drinks are still in working order but are currently switched off. A news room is believed to be so called because in bygone days newspapers were relatively expensive so would be left around for poorer customers to read. The small Lounge at the rear is another opened-up area with a colourful glazed dome, another old copper and wood surround fireplace with large bevelled plain mirror above, old fixed seating and bell-pushes all around.
The Lion's Name & Inn Sign Reproduced from CAMRA's Merseyale February 2011
The Lion is not named after the King of the Jungle but rather a world famous Liverpool locomotive which operated the Liverpool to Manchester railway, the first inter-city passenger railway in the world. The Lion LMR 57 was one of two 0-4-2 locos built in 1838, the other loco was named Tiger to haul freight on the LMR. The locomotive came to world attention when it starred as the Titfield Thunderbolt, the 1953 Ealing Studios film of the same name. In 1930 the Lion commemorated the 100th Anniversary of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway by steaming on a short length of specially laid line at the Mystery in Wavertee Playground alongside the LMS Liverpool to London line. In 1979 Lion was again centre stage commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Rainhill Trials. It starred in the grand cavalcade of trains, later steaming to Steamport at Southport for public display and short runs.
Lion is owned by the Museums of Merseyside and is one of the major exhibits (alongside a Liverpool Overhead Railway carriage) at the recently opened Museum of Liverpool, Pier Head. The pub sign had weathered badly and in 2009 MerseyAle designer Dennis Jones digitally renovated the sign for the previous licensee John O’Dowd, but the sign was never printed. Surprisingly given the imminent return of the Lion to Liverpool Museum, new licensees Sean and Mike decided to change the sign from the image of the locomotive to a plain design with the pub name.