The Golden Lion was built in 1520 and is originally thought to be both the Clergy House and the school for the then nearby 14th Century Church of St John the Baptist. It is believed that the first complete English Bible was printed inside the building by John Rogers – John Rogers was the first protestant Martyr burnt at the stake by Queen Mary.
The building has been occupied as an inn and tannery (17th Century), becoming known as the Golden Lion Inn in the early 18th Century. In 1853 the ‘dilapidated old structure’ was purchased by the well-known Birmingham Solicitor, Mr Thomas Simcox.
In 1911 a plea for the preservation of the Golden Lion was launched by the Birmingham Archaeological Society, to save it from demolition due to modernisation and road alterations:
A movement has been set on foot by members of the Birmingham Archaeological Society and others to preserve from destruction the façade of the old timbered structure situated in deritend, Just above St Johns Church and until recently known as the ‘Golden Lion’. Although the interior has through repeated alterations lost all archaeological interest, the frontage has its three gables unspoiled together with a considerable proportion of the walls below.
The BAS were successful in rallying support and the building was successfully moved to Cannon Hill Park. Cannon Hill Park was designed by TJ Gibson (Battersea Park) and donated by Miss Louisa Ryland to provide healthful recreation to the people of Birmingham. It is fitting that the buildings proposed use was as a refreshments and cricket pavilion and memorial to old Birmingham.
The present day, grade II listed, Golden Lion is a restored re-erected timber framed building with plastered infill, with the ground floor faced in brick. The building retains a good portion of its 16th Century frontage (presently facing the park path), with the rear and side elevations 20th century additions. The building was originally part of a city centre street frontage building and is now a stand-alone building. The timbers sourced during it’s reconstruction at Cannon Hill are likely to be ‘ancient’ as opposed to modern, but we are unsure of their exact dating. The in-situ sign dates from the 18th century.
There are a number of key features the Golden Lion presents through its architecture and location. The first is its beautiful site, with a terrace that opens out and provides views across the park towards the boating lake. The second is that it’s a good size and an easy shape – an open plan rectangle on the first floor with a tall beamed ceiling and a ground floor that is divided into an entrance space with side room to the left and long galley to the rear. There are also a number of complimentary local amenities right next door such as the MAC, Moor Green Allotments, and various sporting groups that use the park.
In July 2016 a timber survey was undertaken by Floyd Consultants. Initial assessments have suggested that the overall condition of the frame is not as bad as the scaffolding would suggest. Replacing and overhauling all the timber in the North and South gables (including corner posts and tie beams) and addressing the East ends of central trusses and the jetty structures should provide a stable structure.
As with many heritage buildings, the future success of the Golden Lion rests in co-designing end use. We need to make sure that whatever the building becomes, enough people are motivated to both use it and inspired to help look after it. What do you think the Golden Lion should be? We would love to hear your suggestions!