The Exeter lion has seen a hidden change here recently that has struck small controversy among long time Exonians because of its history at the school. For many of you who haven’t noticed — in fact, the Exeter lion has been unchained.

Where did the chain go? And why?

What appears to be a lion on its hind legs is indeed what meets the eye. Many confuse the Exeter lion rampant with a griffin. A griffin is a mythical mix of an eagle and a lion; if a griffin were depicted it would appear with a beak. Firstly, to make the situation unambiguous, the Exeter mascot is indeed a lion.

The derivation of the lion comes from the founder John Phillips’s family itself. Nathaniel Hurd created a bookplate for John Phillips in 1775 before the school’s opening in 1781. Later at an unknown date John Phillips was removed from the bottom of the crest and was replaced with “In usum Academia Phillipsiae Exoniensis” after it became the property of the Academy. In this insignia was born the Exeter lion that was taken from the middle of the symbol.

Russell Weatherspoon is a long time Exonian who finds that this situation needs to be addressed.

“I’ve been working on getting information for about three weeks now, and I hope that this week I can get some substantive statement,” said Weatherspoon.


Chain is present on the official T-shirt from 2010.

Since his time at Exeter beginning in 1987, Weatherspoon noted that he has seen Exeter’s red color drift from lighter to darker, but he only recently noticed the chain was were missing.

In fact, a metal lion cutout with the initials “PEA” planted outside the Alumni office on Elm Street near the Dining Hall seems to bear signs of a recent un-chaining. The collar is there but the chain looks missing.

More puzzlingly, the old lion with the chains and the new lion without the chains seem to co-exist. The Exeter bookstore stocks logo merchandize in both varieties. The tables in the Grill, various memorials around campus, and even the student activities Facebook page still show the lion with the chain. The two entrances to the Assembly hall bear different lion crests referencing the town’s namesake — Exeter, England –one, chained, one unchained.

So, no help there.

“On the t-shirts they handed out to both the Access and upper school students the collar is there, but it doesn’t have the chain,” said Weatherspoon.

The presence of both versions shows that this change has occurred recently, yet no one of the Exeter administration has stepped forward publicly with an explanation. 

“The “we” itself could come from a number of different places,” said Weatherspoon, speaking on who might have confirmation of the refashion.

The director of the Phillips Exeter Communications department, Robin Giampa, was contacted, but was away on a school retreat and unable to provide a response. So far no one has come forward with answers or statements as to why the chains would be removed. We hope we can report soon on the bottom “lion.”