Reawakening the Ludham Dragon

If you visited St Benet’s Abbey in August you might have been surprised to see an intriguing willow sculpture of a ‘wyrm’ outside the Gatehouse.
The sculpture is a response to the folk story of the Ludham Dragon which, at some unspecified time in the past, is said to have lived in tunnels under the village, where it terrorised the locals, until a brave resident blocked the entrance with a stone while the dragon was out. In a fury the dragon flew to St Benet’s Abbey, battered the walls with its wings and then retreated to a tunnel under the gatehouse. 
Those of you who attended the conference on St Benet’s Abbey last month will know I’m rather fascinated by this story, and its possible connection with the mythic beast over the gatehouse entrance. So I was very pleased to provide the location for this dragon sculpture which was the idea of local charity, Withy Arts, working with artists from Barrington Farm, a Day Services Centre for adults with learning difficulties based at Walcot. The Barrington Farm artists visited the site where they heard the ‘Yarnsmith of Norwich’ tell several dragon stories including the story of the Ludham Dragon and these were used as inspiration for art works and for the design and making of the ‘Wyrm’.
The sculpture and the artists were on site to meet the Bishop of Norwich after the annual service; and on another day Clare and Sarah from Withy arts helped visitors make willow ‘scales’ to cover the dragon frame. 
I loved this project because it used one of our sites for inspiration, and provided visitors with a new angle on the story of the Abbey.  It brought a group of people to the site – the Barrington Farm artists - who would otherwise never have come; and it provided a showcase for their work to a wide audience, including the congregation of the annual service, holiday makers, and a Bishop. And it provided an opportunity for visitors, especially children, to get involved with a hands-on creative task, which gave them a sense of achievement and will help them remember their visit to the Abbey.
Projects like this have the potential to bring our sites alive, and inspire and engage new audiences. I hope that in the future we can develop similar projects at all our sites.
See for more information on the project.

News in brief

  • Norfolk Records Office Appeal: The NRO have issued an urgent appeal for donations to help them buy important local historical records at the sale of the contents of Morningthorpe Manor next week. All details at this link:
  • Saturday September 10th – Sunday September 11th: Heritage Open Days events at Burgh Castle Fort, Caistor Roman Town and St Benet’s Abbey – click on the News page for more details on activities, including Roman cavalry at the Fort.
  • Saturday September 10th 2.30pm: NNAS lecture Norfolk’s 17th century trade tokens and the Norfolk Token Project Dr Adrian Marsden, Norfolk Museum Service. Town Close Auditorium, Castle Museum, Norwich. Lectures are free to all members; non-members are most welcome and are asked to leave a small donation.