We’re counting down an ‘advent’ calendar of highlights from the exhibition Plays, Processions and Parchment: Discovering Festive Traditions in the North East of England, which launches on 19th April. This exhibition celebrates some of the forgotten folk traditions, religious rituals, performance history, and plays from the region.
With three days to go, into our countdown slithers the Sockburn Worm. According to local legend, Sir John Conyers slew the Sockburn Worm with his falchion – which allegedly can still be found hanging in Durham Cathedral.
The tale is said to have been the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, but whether this is true or not, it’s certainly the case that stories of worms and dragons are found throughout the North East. They also feature in some of the medieval religious plays of the period, with some worm costumes appearing on stage. These were perhaps meant to represent the devil.
Conyer’s worm-killing falchion is still housed in the Cathedral, although not on display (perhaps kept securely in case it is ever needed to deal with a future dragon infestation), but the exhibition features other worm and dragon stories, as well as less well known folk traditions.
Plays, Processions and Parchment runs from 19th April to 22nd May in the Chapel of Nine Altars, Durham Cathedral. Entry is free. Visit the website for more details, and to see the accompanying programme of weekly talks. The exhibition is curated by Records of Early English Drama North East.