Mags asked ‘Who eats alligator chips?’ and I believe that in Norwich, the answer may be the Snapdragon.
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 , and avoided redundancy by taking a sabbatical of almost 150 years. [Above you see one in the Bridewell Museum, below, the one from the Castle Museum.]
The Snap Dragon is constructed to be carried by one man, by straps over his shoulders. The form is barrel-shaped, formed around a horizontal pole (head at one end, tail at the other) and two small wings conceal the man’s face. The man’s hands are left free to operate the head and hinged lower jaw (this makes a loud click when it shuts, hence ‘Snap’). Here’s a procession in the 1950’s
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. In 1471 George was to ride in the “procession and make a conflicte with the dragon and kepe his astate” on two days.
In 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.”
The office of Mayor was abolished by the Municipal Reform Act of 1835 so Snap was no longer required for official duty. Norwich acquired a Lord Mayor (a purely ceremonial post) in 1910 but it was not until around 1980 that a dragon re-appeared
Dragons will be back on the streets of Norwich when the Dragon Festival returns between Monday 10 and Sunday 23 February 2014 due to popular demand.