Happy St George’s Day! Nowadays, it’s not St George’s martyrdom that propelled him to popularity, but the tales of his heroism in slaying dragons and rescuing maidens.
Whilst St George never visited the British Isles, during the Middle Ages he became revered by the English and according to legend fought on their side in the Crusades and the Hundred Years’ War.
Several cities, towns and villages around the country are enthusiastically celebrating St George, so we thought we would bring you some nostalgic photos that might help in a small way remind us all of what makes England so great!
The cathedral city of Salisbury in Wiltshire is one of the few places to celebrate the English National Day of St George on April 23rd and processions, tableaux, and fireworks make it a special day in the manner of the original medieval celebrations of the occasion.
Ipswich in Suffolk is famous for the Ancient House (or Sparrowe’s House) with its incredible decorative plasterwork known as pargetting. The building was remodelled with its pargetting by Robert Sparrowe around 1670, and an interesting feature of the decoration is St George slaying a dragon (symbolizing evil) whilst wearing a top hat.
The earliest known dedication to St George in a church in England is at Fordington in Dorset (now part of Dorchester) that is mentioned in the will of King Alfred the Great.
The St George’s Church at Fordington that we see today was first built in the Middle Ages, and the Perpendicular tower is 15th-century. Parts of it date from around AD1100, constructed in what is known architecturally as the Norman or Romanesque style. The most obvious feature of this period greets the visitor on entering the porch. This is the tympanum, the semicircular stone above the inner door. It has a carving interpreted as St. George coming to the aid of Crusaders at the battle of Antioch during the First Crusade in 1098.
The Queen’s Head is little changed – maybe a horse trough on the pavement but the front of the building is pure English village pub! It was the starting point for many a village pub crawl and some fun times pushing wheelbarrows of tipsy teenage friends on charity fundraising days in the 1960’s. Little did I realise back in 1966 that forty years later I would still be calling at the Queen’s Head but instead of pushing a wheelbarrow I would be playing an accordian for the Whitethorn Morris Dancers! It has been a popular venue for morris dancers and mummers – particularly on St George’s Day.” (A memory shared by John Howard Norfolk.)
One of the most distinctive buildings of Stevenage in Hertfordshire is the Church of St Andrew and St George near the Town Gardens in St George’s Way, a striking example of modern church design. It was constructed in the 1960s to serve the New Town and was originally consecrated as St George’s, but was re-dedicated to St Andrew and St George in 1984. It is the largest parish church to have been built in England since the Second World War.
Windsor is dominated by its famous castle, the principal residence of the sovereigns of the United Kingdom and the largest continually inhabited medieval castle in the world. St George’s Chapel is the chapel of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, the world’s oldest order of chivalry; the Order was founded in 1348 by King Edward III who was a great admirer of the warrior saint. The Order originally honoured knightly valour, but today’s Knights of the Garter are chosen from people who have served their country notably or achieved something exceptional. Each knight has a stall in St George’s chapel where their knightly achievements hang (crest, helm, mantling, sword and banner).
Halfway along King Street in Great Yarmouth in Norfolk is St George’s Church, one of the few Classical-style churches in East Anglia. It was built in 1714 by John Price, modelled on a baroque design borrowed from Christopher Wren, and endowed by a special Act of Parliament. This historic church has characteristic 18th-century galleries, pulpit and reredos, and a plaster ceiling above the nave. St George’s Church is now used as an arts centre.