The Bures Dragon

The Bures Dragon is a legend about a Dragon that came out of the river Stour near Sudbury, the nearby village of Wormingford takes its name from the dragon and was renamed to Wormingford before 1254. There are various versions of the legend, tthat can be seen on this website:

From my research we can see that Liston manor is a couple of miles upstream from Wormingford. We know that by 1185 Liston was in the hands of the De Liston family. Avicia De Lyston was recorded in 1185 as being the son of Robert and widow of Godfrey The Chamberlain. She had at least one son of age. She also had the right to make the wafers for the Kings coronation which went with the land. We then have numerous records of Ranulph Fitz Godfrey the Chamberlain, we know it is Godfrey that was the chamberlain by the way the Latin grammer is written “Radulfo filii Godefridi camerarii” taken from Seine Inférieure: Part 1, translation 160 when Richard I was in Rouen. William Marshall was also a witness. Earlier we have a record of Ranulph being sent to fetch William Marshall by Henry the Young King after they quarrelled.

Later when Henry The Younger died, Ranulph joined the Household of Richard I. William the Marshall paid for him to take the cross and join Richard I on Crusade. Whilst they were on Crusade, Richard’s bride to be was taken prisonor by Isaac Komnenos ruler of Cyprus, after she was driven ashore by storm. Enraged by Isaac’s treatment of his future wife, Richard invaded Cyprus and captured Isaac. He promised not put him in chains of iron so had chains of silver made instead. Isaac was put in the custody of Ranulph. They then went on to lay siege to Acre and it was during this Seige that Ranulph died ( Roger De Hoveden ). Custody of Issac went to the Knights of St John along with the rights to Cyprus. They then sold the rights to the Knights Templar who later sold them to Guy De Lusignan.
After several battles and hard negotiations with Saladin, Richard returned home when he had news that John his younger brother was causing problems back in England. Unfortunately Richard was captured by Leopold V Duke of Austria.

Now back to England in 1212, in the Red book of the Exchequor we have a record for Baldwin De Bethune who is recorded as being a tenant at Liston. Also that year we have Johannes De Liston being recorded as having the right to make wafers for the Kings coronation. Baldwin is noted as one of the Knights that accompanied Richard I back from Crusade, he was held captive with Richard by Leopold. When they managed to get back to England Richard rewarded him with a bride, Hawise of Aumale he became Count of Aumale. They had one daughter who married the eldest son of William Marshall. Johannes De Liston also had a son Godfrey who went on to become Lord of Cookham and Bray and the seven surrounding hundreds by 1248. This included Windsor when the Castle was being extended. Godfrey also had the inherited right to make the flour for the Kings Coronation which went with his manor at, Witham, where the Knights Templar built the Great barns of Cressing. There is also a record of a Thomas De Liston son of Nigel De Liston at Long Melford on the opposite bank of the Stour to Liston. Thomas is Clerk to William De Valence a member of the Lusignan family and half brother to Henry III.

What has this to do with Bures Dragon I hear you ask, well it occurs to me that if Baldwin De Bethune was with Richard I, when they returned to Liston they may have visited Liston to tell the Liston family of the death of Ranulph. They may well have had a small crocodile with them, given as a gift by Saladin. I have images of it now, Mrs Liston feeding the baby crocodile which she kept with the farm yard animals. It was fine when it was small but as it grew it became a little more problematic. Eventually it became a real problem, it was too big and too large for farm yard and for her to kill so whilst her husband was away, she just left the cage door open and the beast escaped into Stour where it continued growing and gave rise to the legend of the Bures Dragon.

Reference 1: This is the oldest recorded account of the dragon.
The tale of the Monk John de Trokelowe, 1405.
This text has been translated from the original Latin text, extracted from the “Chronicles of Johannis de Trokelowe and Henrici de Blaneforde” held in the British Museum
John of Trokelowe was an English Benedictine of the fourteenth century. He was a monk of St Albans Abbey, who in 1294 was living in the dependent priory of Tynemouth, Northumberland.
Under the common in these days, the great dragon, the body of the muscle, a crested head but with jagged teeth, the length of the tail, stretching out too much, who had lately appeared, to the hurt of cattle, According to the villages of the Buryram close to Sudbury, who crucified a shepherd, he destroyed the flocks, of the sheep in abundance, and slew him.
But to which of practicing archery, AERVA of the Lord Richard de Waldegrave his, a soldier, whose Temple is in the dominion of the dragon cast out this secret, and not go out with; But the body has eluded all of his shots from the archer, spring back arrow from his ribs like a knife or a hard stone; and encroach on the spinal column fell, banishment and rattling as the rendering of fendissent plate shrinking, and the distance flown, the skin will become unworkable monstor killing the country as a whole. assailed by arrows, when he saw himself again to the truth, he was summoned, he fled to the swamp, and lay hidden among the reeds; nor was seen any more.

( “Aerva and fendissent”, unable to find english equivalent words)

Reference 2: Legend says Saladan give Richard 1st the gift of a crocodile which was housed in the Tower of London, amongst King’s Beasts, and escaped into the marshy lands of Essex. There is no record of such an animal in the papers of the Tower or in those of the Zoological Garden. Had there been such an animal it could have escaped from the Tower several times between 1200 and 1400 as the bulwarks of the Tower were repeatedly flooded or destroyed by angry Londoners,
There is a slight tie-up with Richard I and the Crusades. Guy de Lusignon of France, an ally of Richard I during the Third Crusade, collected exotic beasts and, it is said, a woman changed into a crocodile lived in a small hut by the river on his French estate. He and his family quarrelled with the French King and came to England. One became steward to the Abbey of St. Edmundsbury and the others married into the English aristocracy. The only written record is the tale of a Monk, John de Trokelowe.
The tale is amongst the 1401 St. Albans papers at Cambridge. It in itself is undated but this is a monk’s tale and could have been written more than a hundred years later when only the event was remembered, the name of the Lord forgotten and the then owner recorded.

Reference 3:- refers to a fighting dragon in and around Bures. It was said the dragon was brought to Bures by a Crusader returning from the Holy Land, Many people went from Bures on the Crusades. It was not a very well behaved dragon, indeed it was very nasty piece of work.
It terrorised the villagers and eventually dived into the river and swam downstream towards Wormingford, never to be seen again.

Reference 4:-There is a Crocodile Legend in Lusignon, France. The Lusignon Family collected strange beasts and Guy de Lusignon, who was with Richard I on the Third Crusade, is said to have kept a ‘woman changed into a crocodile in a hut on the river bank.’ Guy quarrelled with the French King and his family fled to England. One became steward to the Abbey of St. Edmundsbury and the others married into the English Nobility

Origins of the surname Liston and Alliston