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Dragons and medieval bodyguards revive age-old tradition in west Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 08:29 24 April 2019 | UPDATED: 08:50 24 April 2019

The Whifflers from Norwich and Snap the Dragon wait to escort the Mayor of West Norfolk through King's Lynn for Shakespeare's birthday celebrations. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Whifflers from Norwich and Snap the Dragon wait to escort the Mayor of West Norfolk through King's Lynn for Shakespeare's birthday celebrations. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2019

Dragons, medieval bodyguards and a 15th century king on horseback revived an age-old tradition in west Norfolk.

Tim FitzHigham as King Henry on horseback arrives at the Guildhall at King's Lynn as part of the Shakespeare's birthday celebrations. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYTim FitzHigham as King Henry on horseback arrives at the Guildhall at King's Lynn as part of the Shakespeare's birthday celebrations. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

April 23 is better known as St George's Day and the day on which famous playwright William Shakespeare died - as well as when the world celebrates his birthday, the exact date of which is not recorded. And yesterday, the Shakespeare Guildhall Trust (SGT) in King's Lynn hosted a celebratory lunch, complete with a dragon procession which hasn't been seen in the town since 1546.

Norwich's Snap the Dragon, whifflers (Tudor created bodyguards), standard bearers and Dick Fool accompanied west Norfolk mayor Nick Daubney as he made his way from the Town Hall to St George's Guildhall on King Street.

Snap the Dragon and Dick Fool at King's Lynn. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYSnap the Dragon and Dick Fool at King's Lynn. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Norfolk-born comedian and actor Tom Fitzhigham strode down the courtyard on horseback, dressed as King Henry V, and recited the 'once more unto the breach,
dear friends' speech from the playwright's
Henry V.

Ivor Rowland, SGT chairman of trustees, said: “We had a lot of hilarity going down the street with Snap and the whifflers accomp-anying the Mayor and the sun was shining for us.

St George's Guildhall at King's Lynn. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYSt George's Guildhall at King's Lynn. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“What's interesting about today is we are reviving a tradition that hasn't been seen in King's Lynn since the middle of the 16th century, so more than 450 years, and I think this demonstrates the interest that there is in saving St George's Guildhall and reviving some of these traditions. This has been just a little experiment for us today and we're hoping what we have established is something that will be a tradition for hundreds of years to come.”

The SGT was founded to save the Guildhall as a theatre, as it is the oldest working theatre in the UK and is said to have hosted a Shakespeare performance.

Snap the Dragon escorts the Mayor of West Norfolk, Nick Daubney, through King's Lynn to the Guildhall for Shakespeare's birthday celebrations. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYSnap the Dragon escorts the Mayor of West Norfolk, Nick Daubney, through King's Lynn to the Guildhall for Shakespeare's birthday celebrations. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Mr Rowlands added: “Today demonstrates that we can keep it going, that we can revive its fortunes.

“We have a huge fundraising effort ahead of us and this is just the start. This is the trust's first fundraising event and if everything is as well supported as this then I think we have a secure future for the theatre and the Guildhall.”

The Whifflers from Norwich with Snap the Dragon escort the Mayor of West Norfolk, Nick Daubney, through King's Lynn to the Guildhall for Shakespeare's birthday celebrations. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe Whifflers from Norwich with Snap the Dragon escort the Mayor of West Norfolk, Nick Daubney, through King's Lynn to the Guildhall for Shakespeare's birthday celebrations. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

For more information and to buy tickets for upcoming events visit www.shakespearesguildhalltrust.com or kingslynncornexchange.co.uk



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