Above: One of a pair of dragons making the entrance into the City on the Victoria Embankment.
The 23rd of April is St George’s Day which, of course, is all about the famous knight fighting the dragon. The Coat of Arms of the City of London consists of the shield of St George – a red cross on a white background. In addition, there is the dagger of St Paul (the patron saint of the City of London) in the top left quarter. The shield is also supported by two dragons.
In recognition of St Gaoege’s Day, we shall talk about two special dragon figures in the City of London. They stand either side of the Victoria Embankment, marking the boundary of the City with Westminster. Dragon figures now mark the boundary of the City of London on all roads approaching the City of London but that idea only goes back to the 1960s.
The design of the dragons is based on two large dragon sculptures, seven feet high, which were mounted above the entrance to the 1849 Coal Exchange. This was a large building which stood on the north side of Lower Thames Street, designed by the City Architect, J B Bunning. The two figures were cast by London founder, Dewer, in 1849. The Coal Exchange was demolished between 1962 and 1963 for road widening. The two original dragons were carefully removed and re-erected on six feet high plinths of Portland stone at the western boundary of the City, near Temple Gardens on the Victoria Embankment, in October 1963.
The Corporation of London’s Streets Committee selected the statues as the model for boundary markers for the city in 1964. Half-size replicas of the originals were made by Birmingham Guild Limited and erected at the main approach roads to the City of London in the late 1960s. There are also a pair at the southern end of London Bridge – marking the boundary between the City of London and Southwark.
The most impressive of all the City dragon markers are the pair on the Victoria Embankment. Not only are they the largest but, of course, they are the oldest – celebrating 170 years this year.