The Slingsby Serpent
In 1619 the antiquary Roger Dodsworth (born 1585 – died 1654) gave an early account of the dragon: ‘The tradition is that between Malton and this town there was some time a serpent, that lived upon prey of passengers, and which this Wyvill and his dog did kill, when he received his death-wound. There is a great hole half a mile from the town, round within, three yards broad and more, where the serpent lay. In which time the street was turned a mile on the south side, which does still show itself if any takes pains to survey it.’
Apart from a bend in the road, that is, according to ‘Yorkshire Legends and Traditions’ by Rev Thomas Parkinson (1888) no longer present, there could be another physical link to the story. An effigy is in All Saints Church, Slingsby of a knight, (probably that of 14th century Sir Willaim Wyvill) and his dog, which was also described by Dodsworth ‘There is in the choir a monument cross-legged of one of the Wyvills, at his feet a talbot coursing.’ This has been thought to the grave of the dragon slayer and his faithful hound.
The Wyvills had lived in Slingsby since 1215 and it is little wonder that the family and the stone memorial became part of the legend.