Always loved these heraldic beasts that you see dotted around London. They are known as Dragon Boundary Marks and are used to mark the different gates (Aldersgate, Bishopsgate, Temple Bar, Bridge Gate and Moorgate) located around the City of London, by which I mean the one square mile that has traditionally been the central business district and economic powerhouse during the heady days of the British Empire.
Traditionally associated with protection, dragons have been linked with the City since the Great Fire of London in 1666 and they also resonate with the story of St George and the Dragon as St George is the patron saint of England.
The largest pair pictured here can be seen by Temple Gardens on Victoria Embankment, each one being 7 feet high and standing atop 6-foot-high plinths of Portland Stone. They are the originals that stood on the Coal Exchange building demolished in the early 1960s which in turn were designed and created back in 1849.
There is an earlier, fiercer design that you can see at Temple Bar on Fleet Street (pictured) which is pretty spectacular, although on balance I prefer the rather more noble silver version which holds a shield bearing the City of London’s coat of arms, painted in red and white and with details of their wings and tongue also picked out in red.
But there was another pretty cool design around the place for a while too. A street artist known as Ronzo came up with the idea of Crunchy, the Credit Crunch monster back in 2008. He described Crunchy as a a fat, greedy, money-eating beast let loose on society and a terrifying mascot of the global financial crisis. A trio were placed on plinths at the City boundaries and I love the way the dragon markers look down upon them, which you can just about make out in the picture.
Oh, and they are dragons and not griffins. Griffins have the back-end of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle, which looks more like the Temple Bar version.