Thursday 23 July 2020

Leek's Civic Heraldry (and the finest garden gate in England)

On Monday I had time to spend the best part of the day, camera in hand, walking the streets of the town of my birth, Leek, in the Staffordshire Moorlands, and had the opportunity to spend some time visiting St. Edwards Church, where I was baptised a lifetime ago. This post however, is a continuation of my Civic tributes. The Town Council Offices are on Stockwell Street and the Town's arms are proudly displayed on the swinging sign outside.

Arms : Azure a Saltire patonce between in chief a Stafford Knot in fesse two Suns and in base a Garb all Or. Crest : Out of a Mural Crown Or charged with three Mulberry Leaves proper a Mount of Heather thereon a Moorcock also proper resting the dexter claw on a Leek small-weave Shuttle Gold threaded Gules.  Motto: 'ARTE FAVENTE NIL DESPERANDUM'- Our skill assisting us, we have no cause for despair.

The arms were officially granted on May 7, 1956 to Leek Urban District Council but are now used by Leek Town Council.

The basic colours of the arms are gold on a blue ground, the colours of the Earldom of Chester, Dieulacrcsse Abbey, the Kingdom of Mercia and St. Edward. The cross, is that of St. Edward, patron saint of the parish, here it is set X-wise to recall the golden saltire on blue from the arms traditionally associated with the Saxon earldom and kingdom of Mercia, in which Leek held an important place under Earl Ælfgar. The Stafford Knot, like that in the arms of the County Council, indicates the town's importance in North Staffordshire. The wheat sheaf, is from the arms of the Earls of Chester, from whom the manor of Leek was held by the monks of Dieulacresse Abbey, founded in 1214 by Ranulph, Earl of Chester. The two suns recall the well-known Leek phenomenon of the "double sunset" and also refer to those in the arms of the family of Nicholson who have been so closely connected with Leek's modern development.

The mural crown is a symbol of local government and recalls Leek's traditional title of "Capital of the Moorlands". The mulberry leaves stand for the silk industry and the mound of heather and moorcock refer, to the moorlands, and also to the local archaeological feature, Cock Low. The special type of small-weave shuttle is characteristic of the local Industry.

The motto is that which was in use before the arms were granted.

On February 27, 2008, there was a rather silly and ill informed report in the leek Post & Times on the crest and I have written about this elsewhere in this weblog. Council in flap over Town Crest Fowl Up!

The town has quite a few rather wonderful heraldic seats, a rather innovative way of reflecting the Town's arms. This one is on the elevated section on the junction of Mill Street and West Street.

Whilst on my wee tour, I really couldn't resist taking a photo of what must have a claim to be the finest garden gate in the whole of England. It's not heraldry but who could resist it?   

The entrance gate to Greystones, 23 Stockwell Street, Leek. Greystones is a C.17 grade 2 Listed Building. William Morris stayed here 1875-1878.

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