top of page
  • ladieswholondonpod

Ep 158: Here be Dragons.

St George's dragon on the Cavalry Memorial in Hyde Park

London is blessed with many a statue of a dragon, and as Chinese Year of the Dragon starts, we've gone on a dragon hunt.

 Starting here with St George's dragons. This one is my absolute favourite. He/she lives on the Cavalry Memorial in Hyde Park. Designed by Adrian Jones, who was known for his horses. He spent over 20 years as an army vet, making him the perfect choice for this piece. You might know his bigger sculpture - The Quadriga on the top of the Wellington Arch in Hyde Park Corner. George holds his sword aloft, continuing the line made by the horse's leg. The horse appropriately agitated as it stands over the dragon. Dead dragon? Alex says dead, I'm not entirely sure. What do you think?

I'll try to take a better photo next time I'm passing on my own. (Mostly I'm there with clients!) This is the St George outside Westminster Abbey. A Crimean war memorial for Westminster School. It was criticized when it was unveiled for being too delicate, too effeminate. George is unusually wearing a tunic rather than armour.

Quite the opposite to Michael Sandle's 1980s version in Blackfriars. He wanted George to be a nasty piece of work, very capable of killing a dragon.

If you do go and have a look, pop inside the Premier Inn behind the statue, to have a peep at the stairs while you are there.

The dragon is more of a serpent twisting round the core of the statue, echoing the spiral staircase inside the hotel.

The hotel staircase from outside and inside looking up

Going indoors we can find St George at the V and A on this magnificent altarpiece from Valencia:

St George Altarpiece - V&A

Have a look online or visit to see the other, sometimes quite disturbing depictions of George's various sufferings. But he's not the only saint associated with dragons.

Head into the medieval gallery to find embroidered copes with St Margaret.

Steeple Aston Cope 1330 V&A Butler-Bowden Cope 1330-50 Embroidered in England V&A

The Butler-Bowden cope on the right is on display at the moment, and shows Margaret transfixing a dragon. Transfixing seemingly another way of saying "stabbing in the mouth". The Steeple Ashton cope more typical image of Margaret appearing from the belly of a dragon after being eaten. Making her the patron saint of childbirth.

And while we're in South Ken. The Natural History Museum has actual dragons. Fossils at least:

Dragon Plesiosaurus

On the pod we talk about various legends of dragons and how they relate to the landscape. There's not a lot of obvious images to share, so have a listen to find out more. Here, just to wet your appetite, is the white horse at Uffington.

Uffington White Horse Credit superdove - CC BY-NC-SA

Chinese dragons are celebrated as wise creatures associated with good fortune and success. They seem more akin the noble beasts we see in heraldry.

Most obviously in London they support the shield of The City of London.

With the motto that can be translated "Oh Lord Guide Us". We approve of that.

City dragons are all over the place. On the weathervane of St Mary Le Bow. On coats of arms on lots of the bollards. And, most visibly, since 1963, on the main roads in and out of the City. 14 dragons mark the boundaries.

Or are there 15? On a sunny day there's a bonus dragon to be found on London Bridge!

The original pair on the embankment used to stand above the entrance to the Coal Exchange - demolished in 1962. You can see them in this image just below the roofline.

The only different dragon is the one on Fleet St. It marks the spot were the Temple Bar used to stand. So officially it's called the Memorial to the Temple Bar. The dragon is much more scary than it's smaller, silver and red, almost cuddly counterparts elsewhere.

And one Chinese dragon to finish: In the British Museum Hutong Gallery are these Ming dynasty roof tiles. Straight in front of you as you enter the gallery, you can't, and shouldn't miss them.

Ming dynasty tile (1400-1500s) British Museum Rm 33 - Hotung Gallery

Happy New Year to any celebrating Chinese New Year. And after the celebrations have finished, you know where else to go to find a dragon.

Get in touch with your favourite dragons, there's plenty more out there, hiding in plain sight.

Since we recorded I've already found two more dragons worth a mention. One for now - the other I need to go and meet in person.....

Back in Ep 87 we talked about Peek Freans biscuit factory. And after the pod Emily organised an outing., I (Fiona) went too, back when I was just an interested listener). In the museum they have a copy of a wedding cake that was made and sent to HRH Elizabeth II and Phillip in 19

Peek Frean's Museum replica Wedding Cake

Here's the cake. To the left is a description of they layers. You should be able to click on the image to enlarge it - it's one big image. On the right is the letter of thanks from the Queen. She says " We thank all concerned for the trouble they took on our behalf, and should like to add a special word of admiration for the beautiful silver statuette of St George and the dragon which we shall always be able to keep in memory of our Wedding Day." Awwww.

You can find Peek Frean's Museum on facebook and Twitter @MuseumPeekFrean

39 views0 comments


bottom of page