Here be Dragons, please welcome The Snap Dragon, and his Whifflers to Dancing England

from the Plunkett Collection (1951)

And now for something completely different. On the night, Snap Dragon and other performers will be leading the Lord Mayor in procession from the Council House on Market Square all the way to the Playhouse. More on this in another post.

from the Plunkett Collection (1951)

We’ve been introducing the teams and performers to you steadily over the last couple of months, it’s now the turn of some medieval folklore in the guise of Norwich’s Snap Dragon, and his Whifflers.

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 dramatis personae, and avoided redundancy by taking a freelance sabbatical of almost 150 years.

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. In the 16th century this date shifted to midsummer, and a new character appeared, St. Margaret, often wrongly identified with the maiden rescued by St. George.

In 1471 George was to ride in the “procession and make a conflicte with the dragon and kepe his astate” on two days.

“1534, Philip Foreman to be George this year, and to have 10l. for his labour and finding apparel.
1537, Bought for apparel of the George and Margaret, eight yards tawny, and four yards crimson velvet, to be in the custody of the alderman; so that St. Margaret, who is always painted with the dragon, as well as St. George, was always represented in the procession as well as he, and called the lady of the Gild.”

In 1558, during the Reformation, it was ordered “that there shall be neither George nor Margaret but that for pastime the Dragon to come and show himself as in other years.”

For more on this storey – click to http://www.nor-folk.co.uk/Norwich%20Dragon/oldsnap.html

Or watch this short video.

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