Serving the communities of Bures St Mary and Bures Hamlet
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The Bures Dragon: Part 1



There have been many accounts in the British Isles of dragons and/or flying reptiles.
One true account, recorded in a chronicle from 1405, told of a giant reptile at Bures in Suffolk:

Reference 1:- Legend says Saladan give Richard 1st the gift of a crocodile which was housed in the Tower of London, amongst King's Beasts, and escaped into the marshy lands of Essex. There is no record of such an anmal in the papers of the Tower or in those of the Zoological Garden. Had there been such an animal it could have escaped from the Tower several times between 1200 and 1400 as the bulwarks of the Tower were repeatedly flooded or destroyed by angry Londoners,
There is a slight tie-up with Richard I and the Crusades. Guy de Lusignon of France, an ally of Richard I during the Third Crusade, collected exotic beasts and, it is said, a woman changed into a crocodile lived in a small hut by the river on his French estate. He and his family quarrelled with the French King and came to England. One became steward to the Abbey of St. Edmundsbury and the others married into the English aristocracy. The only written record is the tale of a Monk, John de Trokelowe.
The tale is amongst the 1401 St. Alban papers at Cambridge. It in itself is undated but this is a monk's tale and could have been written more than a hundred years later when only the event was remembered, the name of the Lord forgotten and the then owner recorded.

Winifred Beaumont, Wormingford Historian

Reference 2: The tale of the Monk John de Trokelowe, 1405.
"Close to the town of Bures there has lately appeared... a dragon vast in body with crested head, teeth like a saw and tail extending to an enourmous lenth. Having slaughterd the shepeherd it devoured very many sheep. There came forth an order, to shoot at him with arrows, to the workmen on whose domain he had concealed himself being Sir Richard de Waldegrave, Knight, but the dragon's body although struck by the archers remained unhurt, for those arrows bounced off his back if it were been iron or hard rock. Those arrows that fell upon the spine gave out as they struck it a ringing or tinkling sound just as if they had hit a brazon plate and then flew away off by reason of the hide of the great beast being impenetrable. There was an order to destroy him in all the country people assembled. But when the dragon saw he was again to be assaulted he fled away into a marsh or mere and was no more seen."

Reference 3
"Close to the town of Bures, near Sudbury, there has lately appeared, to the great hurt of the countryside, a dragon, vast in body, with a crested head, teeth like a saw, and a tail extending to an enormous length. Having slaughtered the shepherd of a flock, it devoured many sheep"

".... In order to destroy him, all the country people around were summoned. But when the dragon saw that he was again to be assailed with arrows, he fled into a marsh or mere and there hid himself among the long reeds, and was no more seen"

Reference 4 :- Dragon emerged from the River Stour near Clappits (possibly Claypits). Proving impervious to arrows etc, it was driven off by the villagers extreme agitation, disappearing into the mere near Wormingford.

Reference 5:- refers to a `fighting dragon` in and around Bures. It was said the dragon was brought to Bures by a Crusader returning from the Holy Land, Many people went from Bures on the Crusades. It was not a very well behaved dragon, indeed it was very nasty piece of work.
It terrorised the villagers and eventually dived into the river and swam downstream towards Wormingford, never to be seen again.

Reference 6:-There is a Crocodile Legend in Lusignon, France. The Lusignon Family collected strange beasts and Guy de Lusignon, who was with Richard I on the Third Crusade, is said to have kept a 'woman changed into a crocodile in a hut on the river bank.' Guy quarrelled with the French King and his family fled to England. One became steward to the Abbey of St. Edmundsbury and the others married into the English Nobility

Reference 7:- Bill Cooper published a book called "After the Flood" where he gives several accounts of man and `dinosaurs` living together :-

Bures gets a mention

ISBN 1-874367-40-X

Reference 8
15th Century tale

However, there is also a more mythical origin for the names of these places. There is supposed to be a 'warden's small leather-bound book' to be found in the Library of the Dean and Chapter at Canterbury, which contains the following story:

"Memorandum that on Friday the 26th of September in the year of our Lord 1449, about the hour of Vespers, two terrible dragons were seen fighting for about the space of one hour, on two hills, of which one, in Suffolk, is called Kydyndon Hyl and the other in Essex Blacdon Hyl.
One was black in colour and the other reddish and spotted. After a long conflict the reddish they had come, that is to say, each to his own place to the admiration of many beholding them".

'Kydyndon Hyl' aka Killingdown Hill is now Kedington Hill in Little Cornard parish, with Shalford or Sharpfight Meadow (opposite the Henny Swan) below it beside the river Stour. 'Blacdon Hyl' is Ballingdon Hill a mile away across the river, partly in Essex.

Roger Frith: 'Dragons in Essex', in 'The East Anglian Magazine', Vol.21 (Nov.1961-Oct.1962), pp.523-4

Reference 8a

Later in the fifteenth century, according to a contemporary chronicle that still survives in Canterbury Cathedral's library, the following incident was reported. On the afternoon of Friday, 26th September, 1449, two reptiles were seen fighting on the banks of the River Stour (near the village of Little Cornard) which marked the English county borders of Suffolk and Essex. One was black, and the other, reddish and spotted. After an hour long struggle that took place "to the admiration of many [of the locals] beholding them, " the black monster yielded and returned to its lair, the scene of the conflict being known ever since as Sharpfight Meadow.

Extract from :- The fighting dragons of Little Cornard. In: Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain,
Reader's Digest, 1973, p. 241

There are two possible explanations for this tale:-

1. This legend could stem from the time of Richard 1, the Crusader (1157 -1199)?
Although the dates are incorrect.
He was given a gift of a crocodile by Saladin. After the King returned from the Holy Land the crocodile was housed in the Tower of London. This housed a menagerie for over 500 years, eventually closing down in 1831.

One fine summers day it smashed the cage to pieces with its mighty tail and escaped into the Thames. It was not heard of for months but for some unexplained reason, appeared in the marshy fields of North Essex..

A monk `John de Trokelowe` told of this `green dragon` near Bures. The locals organised a search in order to find this beast and kill it with arrows. However, it avoided any serious injury and escaped into the marsh, never to be seen again.


2. or even......

When Bures Lake was excavated the remains of a monster were found.
Could it have been the dragon?
Unfortunately not, Colchester Natural History Museum thought it was most probably, a prehistoric elephant.


WISSINGTON CHURCH - between Bures and Nayland also depicts images of the dragon on its interior church wall.>>>>
wissington dragon

All references to the Dragon which I have sourced, clearly state `Bures` where it was first seen, although it swam off in the direction of Wormingford - trust Wormingford to actually claim they slayed it !!

Continue Part 3
Continue to Part2
WORMINGFORD - our adjacent village also lays claim to the dragon.
However both the Bures and Wormingford accounts agree, it was most probably the escaped crocodile given to Richard 1st.

Alan Beales, revised 25.05.10
updated 20/03/2015
Acknowledgement to the "Villager" for the Dragon clip-art
Reference "Wormingford" by Winifred Beaumont
Acknowledgement to Eileen King the Lt Cornard Recorder