‘Saint George shalt called bee, saint George of mery England, the sign of victoree.’ - Edmund Spenser
St George’s day is almost upon us, and as the nation celebrates our patron saint, we wanted to take a moment to celebrate the other character in his story - that is, the dragon he tamed and killed. We’re fond of heraldic beasts, you see - and we’ve had the opportunity to craft rather a lot of them over the years.
Thanks to our association with the City of London Corporation, Lord Mayor, Guildhall, Livery Companies and Sheriffs, we’ve become warmly familiar with crests and coats of arms of all sorts, and one beast that appears with regularity is the fearsome dragon, which has been associated with London since the 14th century.
The dragon has been in friendly competition with the heraldic lion since the 1300s, with both beasts adopted as the supporters of the City of London’s arms - Saint George’s Red Cross - and crest. Originally, coats of arms represented the right to carry weapons and raise armies, but they were later adopted by companies and institutions.
From Grant’s first Sheriff’s badge and chain, our founder was intrigued by heraldry, and by the opportunity to model the heraldic elements in such a way that the badges would not appear flat or sterile, but instead would feel lively and full of movement. The dragon pictured was one of the items showcased at the Goldsmith’s exhibition about Grant.
With heraldic symbols like the London Dragon, interpretation is ingrained in the tradition. Initially, the London Dragon was often confused with the heraldic lion - and over the years, the depictions have evolved beneath the patient hands of smiths like us - adding scales, or ridging the spine, introducing a barbed tongue or batlike wings.
Because the form of the dragon shifts depending on the craftsman who breathes life into the smoldering creatures. Some are depicted with leonine muscularity, others are created with sinuous bodies evoking meandering serpents. We’ve refined and fallen in love with both types over the past fifty years.