The City of London is guarded by 14 watchdragons, fearsome beasts that stand over the major routes into the city based on the dragons that are in its coat of arms. This dragon is one of the 2 originals located on either side of Embankment, made of cast iron it stands on 6 feet high plinths of Portland stone and guards the Holborn Viaduct, a victorian bridge that spans Farringdon Street and was engineered by Rowland Mason Ordish.
They were originally mounted above the entrance to the Coal Exchange on Lower Thames Street, designed by the City Architect, J. B. Bunning, and made by the London founder Dewer in 1849. The dragons were preserved when the Coal Exchange was demolished in 1962–63.
A small sign on the base of the dragon says that they were formerly mounted above the entrance of the City of London coal exchange, and the inscription “Dewer London 1849” can be found on the back of their shields for authenticity.
The statue features a bronze plaque that says “These dragons represent a constituent part of the armorial bearings of the City of London and have been erected to indicate the western boundary of the city. This commemorative plaque was unveiled by the Rt Hon The Lord Mayor Sir Ralph Edgar Perring on 16th October 1963”
Less noticed is a stone plaque on the wall next to our dragon that marks the last visit by Queen Victoria to the City of London, in March 1900, and the location where she was presented with the Mayor’s sword.
The dragon boundary marks are all painted silver, with details of their wings and tongue picked out in red. They stand on one rear leg, the other lifted against a shield, with the right foreleg raised and the left foreleg holding a shield which bears the City of London’s coat of arms, painted in red and white. This stance is the equivalent of the rampant heraldic attitude of the supporters of the City’s arms.
There are now thirteen dragons around the City of London. In addition to the Birch dragon at Temple Bar, and the two original Coal Exchange statues on Victoria Embankment, there are two replicas of the Coal Exchange design at the south end of London Bridge, two on High Holborn near Gray’s Inn Road, and single replicas on Aldgate High Street, Bishopsgate, Byward Street, Moorgate, Goswell Road (north of Aldersgate Street), Farringdon Street, and at the south end of Blackfriars Bridge.