This weekend is Chinese New Year; next year the dragon, a fantastical creature much loved in British heraldry and vexillology, will be the symbol (remember that the Welsh flag has the red dragon, I-Draig Goch). We decided to explore the capital on foot to discover where these amazing creatures—as well as our readers—await us.
Cast iron statues of dragons—which are sometimes confused for griffins—painted silver with red patterns on their wings serve as markers for the City of London’s borders. The dragon border guard typically carries a shield bearing the city’s coat of arms, which features the red cross of Saint George on a white background with a red sword, symbolizing how St. Paul was martyred—a shorter Roman sword was used to kill Paul, a quicker and less painful death than crucifixion. The statues’ appearance alludes to the two two-meter dragon sculptures that adorned the cornice above the Lower Thames Street entrance of the Coal Exchange, which was built in 1849 but is no longer standing.
The city is currently guarded by fourteen sculptures, the first two of which were erected in the 1960s. They are visible in a few different places, including Farringdon, the Barbican, London Bridge, Blackfriars Bridge, the Victoria Embankment, Liverpool Street, and the vicinity of Tower Hill.