A carved lion known as the Brackenbury lion, which had been removed for safety reasons, has been returned to a niche on Balliol’s façade.
The Brackenbury lion is named for Hannah Brackenbury (1795-1873), who was a major benefactor of the College. Balliol’s Brackenbury Scholarships in law, history and natural sciences are funded from her endowment; and the rebuilding of the south and east ranges of the Front Quad in the 1860s, designed by Alfred Waterhouse, was largely funded by her. These buildings are known as the Brackenbury Buildings and include the College’s Broad Street façade. Miss Brackenbury supported the College because she believed she was descended from the family of John Balliol, the founder, although that supposition was not provable by written evidence.
The Brackenbury lion was removed from a niche in about 2009 when part of it fell off, narrowly missing a passerby. (The empty niche, above a bay window, is shown right in 2015.) During recent cleaning and repair work on the Broad Street façade, Wells Cathedral Stonemasons restored the lion at their workshop. The lion has now been re-instated in its rightful place, secured with a central dowel and tethered to the wall with a steel strap so that there is no danger of it falling.
The carved lion is one of several bogus heraldic allusions to Hannah Brackenbury which appear on the buildings, including her shield, which appears near Balliol’s front gate. The Brackenbury lion is also shown lying down, viewed from the side, as in a stained-glass window at Portslade Church, Sussex, where Hannah Brackenbury is buried.