The leg that saw the world

A wooden lion's leg from the figure head of the HMS centurion

The lion’s leg is all that survives of the figure head of the H.M.S. Centurion, the ship that took George Anson around the world

George Anson circumnavigated the globe on the Centurion between 1740 and 1744. He was only the second Englishman ever to do this, after Sir Francis Drake who sailed in the sixteenth century. It was on this journey that George Anson captured the Spanish treasure ship Nuestra Senora de Cavadonga. The lion’s leg is all that remains of the lion figure head that would have been on the bow of the ship.

The Leg's Journey to Shugborough.
This leg has not always been at Shugborough. When the ship was broken up, King George III gave the figurehead, which then stood 16 feet high, to the Duke of Richmond, Master General of the Ordnance.  The Duke placed it on a pedestal and used it as a pub sign at Waterbeach on his estate at Goodwood.  

It was then spotted by King William IV, who asked if it could be placed for a while on the grand staircase at Windsor Castle.  

Later it was presented to the Greenwich hospital where it embellished the Anson Ward until it was stored in an outhouse after falling into disrepair.  Captain W.V. Anson, Admiral  Anson’s’ biographer, finally tracked down the remaining leg and reunited it with the 3rd Earl of Lichfield at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Did you know? The lion’s leg is currently mounted on a mahogany shield-shaped plaque in the Verandah Passage in the Mansion.