Dragons of Norwich, Norfolk: Statues of 2015; History of the Snap Dragon

Updated on July 9, 2019
annart profile image

I love visiting places unknown, at home and abroad. Learning about history and traditions helps us understand the world around us.

Eye, Eye: Dragons Everywhere!

Eye Spy Cecil
Eye Spy Cecil | Source

Norwich, Norfolk

City of Norwich, County Town of Norfolk, England
City of Norwich, County Town of Norfolk, England | Source

Dragon Trail

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.


Delightful Dragons

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

Legend of Ludham
Legend of Ludham | Source

Ludham Dragon

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 Twilight

Click thumbnail to view full-size
An owl flies towards you from the cathedral, below the stars,......& stunning reflections take you into the heart of the city.
An owl flies towards you from the cathedral, below the stars,...
An owl flies towards you from the cathedral, below the stars,... | Source
...& stunning reflections take you into the heart of the city.
...& stunning reflections take you into the heart of the city. | Source

Twilight Skies

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

Striking Cecil is sponsored by an optician's practice
Striking Cecil is sponsored by an optician's practice | Source

All-Seeing Dragon!

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

A Gassy Dragon!  As Argon is non-flammable, how does this dragon breathe fire?
A Gassy Dragon! As Argon is non-flammable, how does this dragon breathe fire? | Source

Non-Flammable Dragon

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.


Sabra

Kings, Queens, Castles, Greens, Flowers & Swirls
Kings, Queens, Castles, Greens, Flowers & Swirls | Source

Comic Superhero?

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.


Ascalon

Striking Monochrome with Red Nostrils
Striking Monochrome with Red Nostrils | Source

Reflecting Flint

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!


Biggles

Biggles, hero of comic books & reminder of the Battle of Britain
Biggles, hero of comic books & reminder of the Battle of Britain | Source

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.


Double Decker

Double Decker features a blue sky, with his wings mirroring the awnings of Norwich market on a sunny day
Double Decker features a blue sky, with his wings mirroring the awnings of Norwich market on a sunny day | Source

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!


Skipper

Art Nouveau style in Royal Arcade
Art Nouveau style in Royal Arcade | Source

George Skipper

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

Red cross of St George on the Union Jack, with white & blue stars
Red cross of St George on the Union Jack, with white & blue stars | Source

Patriotic George

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 Draco

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Miniature Draco Guarding the HouseStarry Eyed
Miniature Draco Guarding the House
Miniature Draco Guarding the House | Source
Starry Eyed
Starry Eyed | Source

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 Dragons

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Buzz, depicting bee hives, bees in the sky with clouds and sunbeams, honeycomb, lavender & daisies.  Designed to reflect the beauty of the Norfolk countryside, she stands in the shopping mall.Dinosaurs...Gogo King Tut (from the Egyptian King Tutankhamun)GogoSteggles, based on a Japanese legend about a fishermanDragon's Hoard, gold dust over her back & gems all overNorvica Serafina, meaning 'Fiery One', by Norwich School, standing in Cathedral Close.  The scales were created using finger prints of the staff & pupils of the school.  Sherlock, complete with tweed waistcoat, button hole, violin, notebook & 221B Baker StreetGogoCaptainUSA - Captain America, a superhero dragon to swoop down, scoop you up & remove you from danger, based on the superhero character of Marvel Comics
Buzz, depicting bee hives, bees in the sky with clouds and sunbeams, honeycomb, lavender & daisies.  Designed to reflect the beauty of the Norfolk countryside, she stands in the shopping mall.
Buzz, depicting bee hives, bees in the sky with clouds and sunbeams, honeycomb, lavender & daisies. Designed to reflect the beauty of the Norfolk countryside, she stands in the shopping mall. | Source
Dinosaurs...
Dinosaurs... | Source
Gogo King Tut (from the Egyptian King Tutankhamun)
Gogo King Tut (from the Egyptian King Tutankhamun) | Source
GogoSteggles, based on a Japanese legend about a fisherman
GogoSteggles, based on a Japanese legend about a fisherman | Source
Dragon's Hoard, gold dust over her back & gems all over
Dragon's Hoard, gold dust over her back & gems all over | Source
Norvica Serafina, meaning 'Fiery One', by Norwich School, standing in Cathedral Close.  The scales were created using finger prints of the staff & pupils of the school.
Norvica Serafina, meaning 'Fiery One', by Norwich School, standing in Cathedral Close. The scales were created using finger prints of the staff & pupils of the school. | Source
Sherlock, complete with tweed waistcoat, button hole, violin, notebook & 221B Baker Street
Sherlock, complete with tweed waistcoat, button hole, violin, notebook & 221B Baker Street | Source
GogoCaptainUSA - Captain America, a superhero dragon to swoop down, scoop you up & remove you from danger, based on the superhero character of Marvel Comics
GogoCaptainUSA - Captain America, a superhero dragon to swoop down, scoop you up & remove you from danger, based on the superhero character of Marvel Comics | Source

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, Snap, steal a boy's cap, give him a penny and he'll give it back'
'Snap, Snap, steal a boy's cap, give him a penny and he'll give it back' | Source

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.


Statues

Have you seen any statues of animals or others like these dragons?

See results

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Ann Carr

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      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        16 months ago from SW England

        Hi Flourish! Fish and pigs sound good! The map is usually done when our cities have these statues, so that families can try to find them all and make it more fun - it all becomes educational that way and children always love a treasure hunt!

        Thanks for the visit.

        Ann

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        16 months ago from USA

        These were beautiful! I’m not sure which is my favorite. Two nearby cities have had similar exhibits, one being painted fish and another being painted pigs. I like the idea of a map of the city that involves seeing these statues in various locations.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        16 months ago from SW England

        Thank you, Rinita, for your kind comments. I'm glad you enjoyed this. 'A beacon of dragons' is a great collective noun. I'm making a list!

        Ann

      • Senoritaa profile image

        Rinita Sen 

        16 months ago

        Oh, and how about "a beacon of dragons" as a collective noun?

      • Senoritaa profile image

        Rinita Sen 

        16 months ago

        This was an enlightening and fun virtual tour, Ann. Thank you for sharing with us. Your research on the subject is impeccable, and I loved those photos.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        16 months ago from SW England

        Hello Dora! Glad you enjoyed this. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Always much appreciated.

        Ann

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        16 months ago from The Caribbean

        Enjoyed the dragon fest. Thanks for the historical and mythical backgrounds.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        16 months ago from SW England

        Thank you, Catherine. I'm glad the dragons made you smile and that you enjoyed the hub.

        Ann

      • CatherineGiordano profile image

        Catherine Giordano 

        16 months ago from Orlando Florida

        I love dragons and these look delightful.They made me smile and brightened by otherwise dreary day. Thanks for this beautiful article.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        16 months ago from SW England

        Thank you, Susan. Shame you missed them but maybe you can catch the Hares? I appreciate your comments and thanks for popping by today.

        Ann

      • Susan Hambidge profile image

        Susan Hambidge 

        16 months ago from Kent, England

        I missed these dragons! What a shame as I do love Norfolk. I really enjoy it when a city does a trail of these art statues that are painted in different designs. The one I remember the most was the original elephants in London, but there are lots of great ones around the world. Lovely photographs Ann.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        16 months ago from SW England

        Good to see you Linda. Thank you for your comments and I'm glad you enjoyed the dragons. I was spell-bound when I came across them.

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        16 months ago from SW England

        Thank you, John. That's interesting about the emu and other statues. It seems to me that Australia and New Zealand are really good at statues of animals etc. I've seen quite a few all over, as you've seen in some of my poetry hubs.

        We have a few here and I think it's catching on more. They are so engaging and a visual element enhances a historical or environmental point so well; it becomes more memorable.

        Glad you liked the dragons!

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        16 months ago from SW England

        Thanks for your comments, Mary. I bet the real dogs in that park are at pains to understand what's going on! Thanks for sharing that.

        Dragons do have a certain 'aura' don't they; I know many people who collect ornaments of them, including my daughter - huge to minuscule!

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        16 months ago from SW England

        Hi Eric! Yes we are keen on topiary here, especially in the gardens of the grand estates.

        The Norwich dragons were all auctioned off for the charity but there are hares which you can see this year! Dragons do command more fascination I think.

        Thanks for the visit, Eric. I always enjoy them along with your great comments.

        Ann

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 

        16 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

        The dragons are beautiful, Ann! There was a somewhat similar display of colourful orca statues in Vancouver a few years ago, but based on what I saw they weren't as attractive as the Norwich dragons. Thank you for sharing the lovely photos and the information.

      • Jodah profile image

        John Hansen 

        16 months ago from Queensland Australia

        I really enjoyed this Ann, educational as well as attractive pics of all the dragons. Having written a poem about 'Skipper' for your challenge I was obliged to read this article about the Norwich Dragons and it didn't disappoint. Excellent job as always. The neighbouring town to where I live, Wondai, has statues of two dingoes in front of its art gallery and an emu sculpture at the back. The dingo seems to be the symbol for the town also having a rest stop called Dingo Park. The emu is to commemorate a tame emu that used to wander the streets of the town until she was hit and killed by a car a few years ago.

      • aesta1 profile image

        Mary Norton 

        16 months ago from Ontario, Canada

        There's apark in toronto where the placed statues of dogs, each one doing something different. It is fun to watch real dogs circle around them. These dragons, though, are quite spectacular.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        16 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Statues, cemeteries and museums are must see's when travelling. In England I like the garden shrub like statues.

        My son and I decided that dragons can fly. So their bones were very light and paleontologists have nothing to go on.

        We want to go to see your dragons.

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        16 months ago from SW England

        You're too kind, bill. I'm glad I can offer 'quality' as I'm anxious to keep up the standard. I look back over a few of mine from time to time and they often seem better than my latest ones but one is always harder on oneself, don't you find?

        Of course, I know yours are always going to be 'top notch' too.

        Gorgeous sunshine this evening as it begins to think about falling over the horizon; we have spectacular sunsets here and there have been no clouds to get in the way for a while. The plants need water though...

        I appreciate your visit, as always, and your continued loyalty and support, bill. Thank you.

        Ann

      • annart profile imageAUTHOR

        Ann Carr 

        16 months ago from SW England

        Thanks, Mike. It was fun and brightened even more an already vibrant city. The fact that they raise huge amounts of charity makes it even better. It's not an annual event but there is one this year. Trouble is, Norwich is at the opposite side of the country for me and one pig of a journey! North/south is much easier.

        Bristol do one often and I expect quite a few other cities do as well.

        Glad you enjoyed this and that it brought a smile!

        Ann

      • mckbirdbks profile image

        mckbirdbks 

        16 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

        over many smiles - offer many smiles

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        16 months ago from Olympia, WA

        I'm going to be brutally honest here, Ann, and I hope this isn't read by very many of my HP friends....but day in and day out, there are very few articles I actually look forward to reading. After what? Seven years? Been there, done that, seen most of it, blah, blah, and blah some more. But your articles are always worth the price of admission, and you never disappoint.

        Bravo and keep on doing what you are doing. This old man needs to read quality writing from time to time.

        Have a superb Monday, Ann!

        bill

      • mckbirdbks profile image

        mckbirdbks 

        16 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

        Hi Ann - I am not sure what to say other than Montclair needs dragons. What a wonderful way for a city to attract attention, over many smiles and aid charity all at the same time. Thanks for bringing this cultural phenomena to my attention. How fun.

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