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SWT to unveil spectacular Dragon sculpture

18 January 2023 : Council news, Community, Art and culture

Somerset West and Taunton Council will be unleashing the “Taunton Dragon” in Taunton High Street on Saturday 11 February 2023.

The spectacular 4-metre-high public art sculpture created by local chainsaw artist Matthew Crabb, will be unveiled by the Mayor of Taunton, Cllr Sue Lees, and the Chair of SWT, Cllr Hazel Prior-Sankey.

The Taunton Dragon was commissioned by the Council after two trees planted when the High Street was originally pedestrianised in the 1970’s were removed having outgrown their brick planters posing a danger to people and properties.

SWT planted three new trees in the district for each tree removed in line with its three-for-one tree replacement policy.

The Council’s Cultural Development team saw an opportunity for a piece of public art to create a focal point in the High Street and drive footfall to businesses, while putting Taunton on the map as a cultural destination in line with the new Cultural Strategy being developed for Somerset.

The artwork inspired by the iconic Somerset Dragon is intended to leave a legacy for Somerset West and Taunton Council before the new Somerset Council is created on 1 April 2023.

The dragon theme is embedded in Taunton’s history. Taunton began as a Saxon village where a dragon is believed to have been the royal emblem of the Anglo-Saxon Kings of Wessex.

Somerset’s flag, Coat of Arms, County Cricket team and the new Somerset Council are all represented by a dragon.

Dragons also appear frequently in Somerset’s folklore, for example, at Carhampton, St Carantoc tamed a dragon, whereas in Aller a dragon in the form of a flying serpent breathed flames and poisonous fumes.

Carvings on the chancel screen of All Saints Church in Norton Fitzwarren, dated 1509, reputedly show the Dragon of Norton Hillfort where the dragon is alleged to have risen from the putrefying bodies of those killed in a great battle at the Hillfort.

SWT’s Executive Member for Culture, Cllr Caroline Ellis, said: "Super talented local chainsaw artist Matt Crabb has crafted the most stunning and awe-inspiring dragon sculpture for residents and visitors of all ages to enjoy.

"Made of incredibly durable cedar, the Taunton dragon will delight and inspire us for decades to come.

“Taunton is at the heart of one of the most creative counties in the land blessed with so many creatives and craftspeople - a county with a great tradition of folklore, mythology and a rich heritage.

“Our dragon celebrates and amplifies all this and will support us in reviving the High Street and in putting Taunton and Somerset firmly on the arts and cultural map where they belong.

“Do come and meet the dragon and enjoy all the fabulous activities on offer that weekend and in half term week."

The Taunton Dragon will be unveiled at 3pm on Saturday 11 February 2023.

SWT has an afternoon of fun activities planned to include dragon themed arts and crafts, fire performances, Somerset County Cricket Club mascot “Stumpy” and plenty of other surprises.

Shops and local businesses have also been invited to join in the celebration with dragon themed window dressings as well as a special dragon themed augmented reality trail.

Follow #TauntonDragon via @SWTCouncil or @visit_taunton's social media channels for updates.