The Cliveden Baboons

One of the granite baboons in the Long Garden at Cliveden in Buckinghamshire

Fear not, these baboons are not wild beasts but ancient granite statues, thought to be between 2,000 and 2,500 years old.

Originally created to flank the entrance to an Egyptian temple, the baboons are believed to represent the Egyptian god of writing and wisdom, Thoth - who was often depicted with the head of a baboon, which is considered to be a sacred animal.

The baboons' travels

The pair were purchased in Rome in 1898 by Cliveden’s wealthy American owner and passionate collector of sculpture, William Waldorf Astor. He placed them in his newly redesigned Long Garden, along with other pieces from his collection. 

The sculptures were removed in the 1960s and were in private ownership until they were donated back to us in the early twenty-first century. Prior to their return to the gardens, it was necessary for them to undergo complex and painstaking conservation work with sculpture specialists. One baboon was in a particularly poor state of repair, a fall having broken the statue into several pieces.

A baboon being installed in the Long Garden at Cliveden
A baboon sculpture is returned to the Long Garden at Cliveden in Buckinghamshire

A rare Egyptian example

The Cliveden baboons are an extremely rare example of ancient Egyptian sculptures set in an English garden. There are several examples of limestone baboons but no granite ones of this design, particularly with mirror image tails - one wraps around to the left, the other to the right (most representations show the tail to the left).

The baboons return to the garden was made possible by our visitors who contributed over £12,000 to their conservation and reinstallation by buying a ticket for our annual raffle.

Please note that in order to protect the statues from the winter weather, they are covered from November to March each year.