Dragon Hill is part of a group of prehistoric sites in South Oxfordshire that includes White Horse Hill, Uffington Fort, Wayland Smithy and a number of burial mounds. These sites are all close to the Ridgeway Path which runs from Overton Hill near Avebury in Wiltshire to Ivinghoe Beacon near Tring in Buckinghamshire.
Dragon Hill is a natural chalk outcrop, round at the bottom and with a flattened top. It situated below the ancient White Horse and joined to the White Horse via a ridge path and set of steps known as the Shepherd’s steps. To the west is a set of hillside terraces known as The Giant’s Stair. The dry valley is called The Manger.
According to legend Dragon hill is the place where Saint George fought against and killed the dragon. During the struggle dragon’s blood spilled on to the ground. The dragon’s blood was so poisonous that it caused a bare patch of chalk on top of the hill where no grass will grow.
St. George is traditionally thought to have been born in Lydda, Palestine to a Christian noble family in the third century AD. He served in the Roman army and was executed by Diocletian in Nicodemia because of his Christian faith.
Eleventh century English Crusaders discovered the tomb of St George at Lydda. He became popular in England and later became the patron saint of England. The link between St George and dragon slaying may be connected to an earlier legend of dragon slaying from Cappodocia.
Dragons feature in folklore throughout the world. A dragon can be benevolent, fearsome or evil according to the culture in which it occurs. In medieval and early modern England stories about dragons and reported sightings were commonplace. In Christian traditions the dragon or serpent represents evil.
In “British Dragons” (B.T.Batsford publisher 1980) Jacqueline Simpson lists 58 places in England with dragon legends. Two claim to be the site where St. George killed the dragon, Brinsop in Herefordshire and Uffington now inOxfordshire.
The word dragon comes from the Greek drakon meaning dragon or serpent. Another word for dragon is worm from German mythology. A number of English place names contain Drake or Worm for example Drake Howe in Bilsdale, North Yorkshire, Wormingford, Essex.The place name often means Dragon’s Hill and is associated with a burial mound or barrow. The idea of dragons as guardians of treasure horde is reflected in the name Drakenhorde field in Garsington, Oxfordshire.
One legend says that the White Horse will dance on Dragon Hill when King Arthur who is not dead but asleep, returns to lead his people again. In 1670 John Aubrey suggested in “Monumenta Britannica” that Dragon Hill was connected to Uther Pendragon but this is now believed to be unlikely.
In Anglo Saxon charters Dragon Hill was known as Eccles Beorh meaning Church Barrow. It is possible that Dragon Hill was used for gatherings or religious ceremonies. (Oxford Archaelogy Unit pub 203) D Miles, G Lock, C Gosden and AM Cromarty in “Uffington White Horse and its Landscape” describe escavations in the area 1989-1995. They suggest that the hill was the site of a church of late Roman date. A Christian church is likely to have been built on the site of existing preChristian worship. The investigations of 1989-1995 dated the White Horse as 2500 years old. This research did not settle the question of whether Dragon Hill is entirely natural, or questions of its use. The conclusion was that further investigations would be necessary.