Two griffin sculptures were originally installed on Parkes Drive in the 1890s, at the junction of Hamilton Drive near the statue of Sir Henry Parkes. The griffins guarded each side of the main entry road leading down from Paddington Gates.
They were originally manufactured by Villeroy and Boch and made of ceramic. They sat on the same on sandstone plinths they sit on today.
By 1946 the griffins were in poor condition. Each sculpture was missing detail including the head, wings and feet. The surface coating of the sculptures and the mouldings on the top coping stones of the plinths had also eroded. In 1971 the griffins were removed for safekeeping to the Centennial Parklands Depot.
The Trust was pleased to be able fund the restoration and return of the Griffins in the early 2000s, and they were finally reinstated to the Park on 7 April 2005.
Although referred to as griffins, winged lions, such as the ones seen in Centennial Parklands, are not true griffins, but are a hybrid known as ‘gryphonic’. True griffins have the face, beak, talons and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion.
In symbolism, the griffin combines the symbolic qualities of both the lion and the eagle. It is the king of birds and lord of the air united with the king of beasts and lord of the earth.
The eagle parts of the griffin represented the saints with their thoughts, aspirations and souls lifted towards God. Its lion half stood for their courage in the arena and in the continuing struggle against sin, evil, and the Devil. Because of the griffin’s strength and powers of sight, it was believed to guard hidden treasures.