Sunday 21 June 2009

When a difference makes no difference.

Earlier this month I made reference to the widow Legh of Adlington and her desire to forego the expensive luxury of an armorial funeral and it brought to mind the fact that students of Cheshire heraldry often encounter curiosities which are probably not unique to the county but which nevertheless illustrate that the science of armory was not invented in a complete and finished form  but evolved and continues to evolve to this day. Let us take but one example of the various armorial bearings of a number of Cheshire Leigh/Legh/Lee families; that of Legh of Adlington.

Illustrated below are the arms recorded in the 1580 Visitations and those later recorded in 1663.

Adlington Differences

Setting aside, for the moment, the fact that the pronominal arms (1st & 4th quarters) are not those of Legh, we must surely notice that the second quarter, which is the coat of Legh, has changed, ever so slightly, over the intervening eight decades.

The armorial bearings of this family are those of Venables (Azure, two bars Argent), differenced by the bend (or bendlet) gobony, to mark the fact that the male line is actually descended from the Venables barons of Kinderton. John de Venables assumed the name of Legh after inheriting the Adlington estates from his mother's family.

The Visitations of 1580 have a number of entries for the arms of Leigh of Adlington: They are first mentioned in the pedigree of Leigh of High Ligh, of the West Hall, where they are recorded as belonging to Robert Leigh of Adlington - Azure, two bars Argent, over all a bendlet gobony Or and Gules. N.B. here the arms have a bendlet the tinctures of which are Or and Gules. Next mentioned in the same Visitations are the arms of Leigh of Adlington as illustrated above viz:
Arms: Quarterly -
1 & 4 Azure, a plate between three ducal crowns Or, within a bordure Argent [Corona]
2 Azure, two bars Argent, over all a bendlet gobony Or and Gules [Legh of Adlington]
3Argent, a cross flory Sable [Belgrave]

Crest: A unicorn's head Argent, couped Gules, armed Or

Here again, the arms feature a a bendlet gobony Or and Gules and yet the next entry, one for Robert Leigh of Adlington, records the arms as being Azure, two bars Argent Over all a bend gobone Or and Gules. The bendlet has become a bend but we must bear in mind that without recourse to the originals this, or any of the others, could be  due to a transcription error.

The Visitations of 1613 record the arms of Legh of Adlington as recorded by the same family in 1580 with a bendlet as illustrated on the left above. Move forward another half century and not only has the bendlet put on weight with age but the tinctures are reversed and are now recorded as Gules and Or (as illustrated above on the right).

Does it matter?

In my view, no. These arms tell a story which, to their original owners was a proud indication of their origins. They are essentially the arms of Venables differenced.  I don't think that for the purposes of differencing the original arms there is sufficient difference between a bend and a bendlet to make any difference whichever is used and if that is the case, it really doesn't matter what order the tinctures come in either.

Friday 19 June 2009

English Pursuivant in the news!

I try to avoid politics in this web log but couldn't resist posting this cartoon, by Peter Brookes, published in today's Times Newspaper. My British reader will know that the full controversial expenses of Members of Parliament have now been published on line but much of the personal information has been blacked out.

It seems we now have a new great officer of state!

It seems we now have a new great officer of state!

Monday 15 June 2009

The Kinsey monument - St. Luke's Church Goostrey

Does anyone have a photo of the monument (said to be) in St. Luke's Church Goostrey described in Earwaker's History of Sandbach as being On a white marble mural tablet in the north aisle. Above is a coat of arms, Kinsey quartering Davenport, Birtles and Eaton: with the Kinsey Crest. Sacred to the memory of Thomas Kinsey Esq. ?

I am interested in the whole but especially the coat of arms which may be incorrectly described by Earwaker. A photo would save me a long trek!

Many thanks,

Saturday 13 June 2009

Sombre but otherwise colourful!

I am quite confident that those of us who share heraldry/armory as a hobby would be quite pleased to have some armorial trappings at our funerals and over the years I have seen one or two tasteful and colourful displays of armory endeavouring to brighten up an otherwise sombre occasion. It probably won't surprise my reader to learn that, although I myself have not gone so far, I do know more than one heraldry enthusiast who has either commissioned or been given their own hatchment in what hopefully will be a long held off anticipation of the acceptance of their mortality. Mind you, I can't see my wife sanctioning my commissioning of a hatchment and, possibly because I might question motives,  I'm somewhat relieved that no one has ever felt the need to present me with my own!

Why, you may well be asking yourself, is he talking about heraldic funerals?

Well, I am just about up to begin the re-hashing of the Leigh arms from the earliest of the Visitations and it reminded me that in her will, dated 1700, Joanna, wife of Thomas Legh of Adlington, daughter of Sir John Maynard, Serjeant-at-law, left instruction that "it is my will and mind that noe Heraldry bee provided or used at my ffuneral nor any drinking to bee made or had." This final request came at a time when heraldic funerals remained practically compulsory but in reality were fading from history. During the time of Queen Elizabeth the College of Arms controlled all of the funerals of the nobility and it placed considerable financial burdens on the family of the deceased but a couple of centuries later the rituals had to all intents and purposes died out.

At its zenith, some funerals, especially those of the higher nobility such as dukes and lesser peers, cost extravagant sums of money and clearly came to be seen as wasteful and unnecessary. No doubt Joanna saved her heirs a bob or two by omitting heraldry and alcohol but it's a pity the pomp and colour was lost.

The armorial bearings of the husband of Joanna Leigh of Adlington

 The armorial bearings of the husband of Joanna Leigh of Adlington, who predeceased her by nine years, are recorded in the 1663 Visitations as being:

Quarterly 1 & 4 Azure, a plate between three ducal coronets Or, a bordure Argent [Legh]; 2 Azure, two bars Argent, overall a bend gobony Gules and Or [Legh]; 3 Argent, a cross patonce Sable.

Thursday 4 June 2009

Crests, Tabbards and Limericks

There once was a Herald from Ireland,

Who presented a patent by hand,

To a Worshipful Mayor

Who had no despair

That the colourful tabard was canned!


Limerick Presentation of Arms

A rather dowdily clad Fergus Gillespie presenting the arms to His Worship the Mayor of Limerick. Image courtesy of Limerick City Council.

Of late, in circles heraldic, one only has to mention the words Heraldry and Ireland and more often than not it generates a rather unsavoury heated argument as to the validity/legality of the office. I confess to being nought more than a sideline witness to these debates although, of course, I commend those who are working hard to bring about a reasoned and reasonable legal solution to the problem.   

I have no desire to add my own views as to the present Irish crisis, indeed, for what it is worth, I have to date had neither the time nor the inclination to delve too deeply into it and I am, for the most part, content to refrain from commenting on matters Irish and legal ... however, I couldn't help but notice recent publicity photo's of The Chief Herald of Ireland presenting Letters Patent for a confirmation of the armorial bearings of the City of Limerick which took place at a ceremony on the 28th May.

I note, with some sadness, from the photograph, that the splendidly colourful tabard so recently presented to the Chief Herald, remained safely locked in his office. I thought for a moment that the photo showed his Worship the Mayor presenting the arms to my former Head Master but on closer examination I was mistaken. I suppose that we get used to Heralds being colourful, or at least I do.


Micheál Ó Comáin wearing a tabard with arms of the Irish State, at 27th International

A somewhat grainy image of Micheál Ó Comáin wearing a tabard with arms of the Irish State, at 27th International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences, St Andrews, Scotland, 2006 - image courtesy of Sean Murphy whose website details the Irish argument from one perspective.


Below is what the City Council refers to as its Crest ... groan. Perhaps the Chief Herald will educate them.

Limerick City Crest (sic)

Quote "This is the Limerick City Crest. The text on the crest reads: "Urbs Antiqua Fuit Studiisque Asperrima Belli" - "An ancient city well versed in the arts of war"." End Quote. Image courtesy of Limerick City Council.

Well versed in the arts of war they may be but a tad lacking in the art of armory.

Oh well, at least the ancient City of Limerick (unlike certain newly created Cheshire Councils) has gone to the trouble of having an official confirmation of its arms; even if there remains some controversy over the validity of the confirming body!

 PS apologies for the appalling limerick at the head of this note.


College of Arms Newsletter April 2024

 The latest College of Arms Newsletter for April 2024 is now online .

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