A stunning lion sculpture, made by stone mason Carrie Horwood of Cat’s Eye Carving, was revealed to the public on 19 July 2023 at St Mary’s Parish Church, Dover.

The lion is a scaled-down replica of a grotesque that adorns the entrance of the historic Stone Hall at the Maison Dieu (Dover Town Hall).

The lion will be part of a new sensory tour of the Maison Dieu when it reopens in spring 2025 after a £10.5m Lottery-funded restoration. It will be especially accessible for blind and partially sighted visitors and will have its own audio description.

Grotesques are stone carvings of humans or animals that were common in medieval churches, castles, and cathedrals. Some were frightening, ugly, or bizarre creatures (hence their name), meant to scare away evil spirits. The Maison Dieu grotesques were created by Neo-gothic art architect and designer William Burges.

Carrie spent 200 hours designing and carving the grotesque at various public events over the last two months where nearly 2,000 people have watched her at work and learnt about the Maison Dieu restoration. Hundreds more have tried their hand at stone carving, chiselling out their initials or a simple design into smaller blocks of stone, or made a rubbing of a Maison Dieu wyvern dragon which was also carved in slate by Carrie.

The grotesque is made from Lepine limestone, which comes from a quarry near Poitiers in France. This was once part of an ancient seabed and is full of tiny fossil shells. It dates from the Jurassic period when dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus Rex lived. Lepine has a very fine grain, which makes it perfect for carving.

Carrie said: “Stonemasonry is usually inaccessible, and I’m so proud and honoured to share it with everyone, and to give people a chance to have a go. I’m also thrilled to be part of the history and future of the Maison Dieu. I moved away to train 24 years ago, so to be able to bring my skills back to Kent is truly amazing.”

By Ed

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