• Phil

St George - Dragon Slayer & Wyken Boy?

I am planning for my "hour's exercise" walk today to be around the ruins of Caludon Castle in Caludon Park just down the road from my Wyken home. Caludon Park is an apt venue for a walk on this St George's day. There is a local tradition that our patron saint was actually born at Caludon Castle.

Several years ago I was lucky enough to be in Barcalona on St George's day and attended the Barcelona v Juventus quarter final Champions League match with my then teenaged sons. St George is also patron saint of Catalonia where he is known as Jordi - hence the Cross of St George appearing as part of the crest of Barcelona FC.Strolling around the city on that day it seemed apparent that the celebration is taken more seriously there than over here (a big tradition of rose giving almost like Valentine's day was apparent around the streets). It is also the case that the Eastern European state of Georgia is named after our saint (hence that nation's flag featuring St George's crosses). This all begs the question how did our local Wyken boy get to be so feted acoss the world?

Around the time of the renaissance Caludon was a centre of culture. John Dowland a lutenist, songwriter and composer spent time in residence there as a music tutor to the children of the Berkeley family. He was renowned throughout Europe and travelled performing to the royal courts of the continent. Other entertainments on the site included traditional mummers plays performing the story of St George's slaying of the dragon. It is thought that it was through these plays that the connection between George and Caludon became established centuries after his death. It is generally held that George was actually a Roman soldier of Mediterranean origin who died around 303BC – about 800 years before any thought of building a castle at Caludon! But the association stuck locally and a remember a group of mummers performing the story of "St George of Caludon" at my primary school (Ravensdale) during the early 1970s.

Shakespeare's birthday and death are both recorded as St George's day. There were links between Shakespeare and the Berkeley family who were resident at Caludon Castle. It is believed that "A Midsummer Night's Dream" was written for a performance at the wedding of Thomas Berkeley and Elizabeth Carey. Elizabeth's father was a patron of Shakespeare's players, "The King's Chamberlain's Men" and Thomas' maternal granfather Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey had introduced the sonnet to England and developed it into the form which later became known as the "Shakespearean Sonnet". Shakespeare also made reference to Thomas Nashe's work "The Terrors of the Night" which dealt with the theme of dreams and had been dedicated to Elizabeth Carey who showed a keen interest in the subject. Both Thomas and Elizabeth were godchildren of Queen Elizabeth I and Thomas' father Henry was godson to Henry VIII.

Caludon links are also mentioned in otherShakespeare plays. Details of Caludon connections with the Tudor & Stuart kings and queens will be further explored in my work in progress and upcoming publication, "A Coventry Ramble...". I'll also be using the lockdown to find online offerings of these plays (and other Coventry related literary subjects) and posting reviews on this blog. That's all for now - rambling off to Caludon.....

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