Snap the homeless Norwich dragon gets new church lair

The Norwich 'snap' has a new home at St George'schurch, Tombland. Photo: Bill Smith The Norwich 'snap' has a new home at St George'schurch, Tombland. Photo: Bill Smith

Sam Russell samuel.russell@archant.co.uk
Friday, August 22, 2014
9:32 AM

A homeless Norwich dragon has been taken in by a church named after a famous dragon slayer.

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The Norwich 'snap' has a new home at St George'schurch, Tombland. Priest in charge John Minns. Photo: Bill SmithThe Norwich 'snap' has a new home at St George'schurch, Tombland. Priest in charge John Minns. Photo: Bill Smith

But far from fearful, Snap appears to be enjoying life at St George Tombland – dangling in a cosy corner, above its kitchen.

The fire-breathing beast is most famous for leading the annual Lord Mayor’s Procession, and starring at other civic functions.

Snap had been living at St Gregory’s Church in St Benedict’s Street until it turned into a popular antiques centre.

With no space for 15ft Snap to move without knocking over historic treasures, he faced eviction.

Snap the dragon moves into his new home of St George Tombland church.Snap the dragon moves into his new home of St George Tombland church.

Luckily for him, he did not have to wait long for an offer of new lodgings.

For Canon John Minns, priest-in-charge at St George Tombland, took a fancy to Snap and set about convincing the powers that be to let him move in.

“I wrote a letter to my parochial church council saying we have a need to care for the homeless, and we have a dragon without a home,” he said. “They all, unanimously, said yes.”

Moving day was yesterday, and the 25-kilo mythical creature was lugged into the church by two whifflers – who part the crowds at the front of the Lord Mayor’s Procession each year – and verger Peter Callan, who built the pulley system to hold Snap.

And Canon Minns hopes Snap will be a positive addition to his church.

“We had the idea that if we had a power failure we could ask Snap to boil the kettle,” he said.

“My only fear was that if we have visiting preachers they will
have these big white eyes staring at them.”

He added that Snap could attract people into the church at the next dragon festival.

Whiffler Mike Jones, who is the man who brings two-legged Snap to life at civic events, said: “We hope this is his permanent home.

“He looks penitent but very contented here.”

His colleague Peter Salt, whose duties including wielding a wooden sword and parting a safe route for the mayor through the crowds, said moving Snap was no mean feat.

“He’s just bulky and awkward to handle,” he revealed. “But he’s half the weight of the previous dragon –he was one hundredweight.”

Norwich’s dragon tradition stretches back to 1408, when Snap’s first incarnation led a parade.

Initially St George slayed Snap each year, with a new Snap successor crafted every year – until budget cuts forced a rethink.

One of the more recent Snaps was destroyed in a house fire in the 1970s, but the current Snap has been going strong since 2009.

The previous Snap had run his course through wear and tear, but donated his head to the current model.

He has timed his move into St George Tombland well, with £680,000 spent on restoration work to date and a £70,000 phase of work to repair the south porch about to begin.

Heritage Lottery Fund grants have made the work possible, and when the north and south porches re-open the church will be fully accessible for people with disabilities.

Do you have a story about a dragon? Email samuel.russell@archant.co.uk

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