Dragons of Norwich, Norfolk: Statues of 2015; History of the Snap Dragon
Eye, Eye: Dragons Everywhere!
Dragons and Norwich go together; they have an historical tie, more of which I’ll reveal later.
Two charities, ’break’, Changing young lives’ (children’s care) and ‘Wild in Art’ are behind the GoGo….. statues which began with elephants in 2008. I visited Norwich in the summer of 2015 and was surprised to see the Dragon statues scattered about the city. GoGoDragons was in full flood with 80 dragons of inspirational designs, some large (sponsored by various businesses) and smaller ones designed by local schools. They added a palette of colour to an already vibrant town.
A map of the Dragon Trail was available. Not for the faint-hearted, this took the intrepid explorer around every area of the city as well as into the suburbs. I saw quite a few but nowhere near all of them.
Not only does this idea raise money for a worthwhile local charity but also it gives you a tour of this beautiful city, thus teaching history, geography, architecture and local mythology to boot!
I was entranced at each dragon I came across. As I love to take photos of just about anything, this was a bonanza of subjects; wonderful creatures in stunning surroundings under an azure sky.
I'd like to show you a few of the dragons I came across, to give you a sense of the fun and interest they cause. Each one has a name which reflects either a myth or history or something to do with its sponsor. All the same size, shape and orientation, the variety is amazing.
Luda was inspired by the legend of the Ludham Dragon. He depicts Norfolk landmarks and wildlife, including a barn owl and, down on its flank, a heron nests amongst the fishermen.
Mythology has the Ludham Dragon living in tunnels under the village of Ludham and terrifying its occupants.
Norwich TwilightClick thumbnail to view full-size
I was struck by this image of the owl which seems to be emerging from the darkness, gliding in silence to land nearby.
Eye Spy Cecil
Eye Spy Cecil's scales are replaced with eyes, each one looking through a different colour. He's one of my favourites as my father was an optometrist.
The little red dragon with him is the mascot for a local company - he reappeared in several other locations.
Argon, chemical symbol Ar, atomic number 18, is a noble gas, the third most abundant gas in the Earth's atmosphere. It is inert, colourless and odourless. It's used in arc welding, lasers and electric bulbs and gets its name from the Greek word for 'lazy', a reference to how little it reacts to form compounds.
Though non-flammable and non-toxic it can cause asphyxiation by displacement of oxygen.
In my research I found the following meanings for 'Sabra':
- any Jew born on Israeli territory
- Hebrew name for a prickly pear
- a moth
- a tank
- a fictional Israeli female superhero in the Marvel Comics universe
With her varied depictions of kings and queens, castles, flowers and fiery swirls, I prefer to go with the Marvel Comics superhero.
Sabra sits well against the greens of the park; she's both subtle and intriguing, one of the prettiest dragons to my mind.
An outstanding dragon, Ascalon stands outside Norwich Guildhall, with his spotted and diamond-shaped scales blending with the flint of the building. He becomes part of the history, he's hard and durable like the flint and he has a hint of his fire-breathing in his nostrils, ready to strike.
All references to his name mention Ashkelon, a coastal city in Israel and also refer to many types of sword or lance. The Battle of Ascalon was the last action of the First Crusade. Ashkelon was the name given to the lance or sword used by St George to slay the dragon. Swords, dragons, mythology, it all fits well in this city of dragons!
RAF, WWII & Battle of Britain
Biggles stood in Cathedral Close, sporting an RAF emblem and wearing flying goggles. He marks the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII and the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain (both being 2015) and takes the shape of his own Spitfire plane. Biggles is a fictional pilot and adventurer, the hero of adventure books written by W E Johns.
Sky & Market
Two-layered like a double-decker bus, this dragon sat at the Castle Entrance leading up the steep slope to the dominant Norman building above. He was sponsored by a local bus group. I didn't understand why his wings bore colourful striped rectangles until I found out that they mirrored the market awnings as he flew above in the deep summer-blue sky. Great fun!
Some of you might recognise this dragon from a recent challenge hub of mine. He was positioned in Norwich's Royal Arcade, a Victorian shopping mall designed in 1899 by George Skipper. Skipper is painted in art nouveau style, featuring aspects of nature including peacocks, flowers and flying birds, along with the tree of life, creating a colourful mixture of patterns and intricate weaving of symbols.
Gorgeous George The Beast of Beeston
Sponsored by a local leisure group, Beeston, Gorgeous George is resplendent in his flag and stars, with Union Jack eyes. St George might have slain the dragon but he seems to have become one in the process!
Mini DracoClick thumbnail to view full-size
Draco et al
My daughter has a smaller statue of another of the dragons, 'Draco'. His larger persona in Norwich glowed in the dark and was covered in constellations. Draco is the name for one of the constellations and is the Latin for 'dragon', from the Greek meaning 'serpent'.
In Greco-Roman legend, Draco the dragon was killed by the goddess Minerva and tossed into the sky.
One of the accepted collective nouns for dragons is 'a wing of dragons'. I thought 'a fireflight of dragons' might work, as well as my 'galaxy of dragons' below. Can you suggest any suitable collective nouns for them?
These are a few of the others I saw as it seems rude to leave them out:
Galaxy of DragonsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Mystical & Memorable
The dragon statues were remarkably varied in design and colours.
Many of the names were mystical, some plain crazy and some obvious such as Biggles and Captain America. I’ve researched some of them and the results are with the photos.
They provided delight and entertainment for visitors and residents alike and brought families together in their search for all 80 scattered in and around the city. I had a marvellous day and found some extra unexpected delights along the way.
The subject for this year (2018) is ‘Hares’; I’m sure that will be just as spectacular.
Norwich's Snap Dragon
Snap's Historical Tie
Norwich’s Snap Dragons have their roots in mediaeval tradition. There were ‘mummers’ plays performed by a band of actors in the street, the most famous of which being the legend of St George slaying the dragon.
The Norwich Snap Dragon appears to be a unique survivor in British tradition having made the transition from medieval guild play to become associated with the investment of a new mayor. It narrowly escaped the extinction suffered by the rest of the characters in the play by taking a ‘freelance sabbatical’ of almost 150 years.
The Snap Dragon is constructed to be carried by one man, by straps over his shoulders. The form is barrel-shaped, formed around a horizontal pole (head at one end, tail at the other) and two small wings conceal the man’s face. The man’s hands are left free to operate the head and hinged lower jaw (this makes a loud click when it shuts, hence ‘Snap’).
It is traditionally associated with the Norwich Guild of St George, founded in 1389, and was paraded around the city on St George’s Day. Both St George and the Dragon had prominent positions in the procession. Some accounts suggest there was a mock battle.
City of Norwich
My walk round Norwich and its beautiful historic sites gave me a taste for this city. The dragons led me to the Cathedral, Castle and other important historical buildings, all to be revealed in another hub....
I hope you enjoyed walking the Dragon Trail with me.
Have you seen any statues of animals or others like these dragons?
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Ann Carr