Monday, October 30, 2023

A Baron Banker's Achievement of Arms

On the corner of New Street and Coney Street in York sits the National Westminster Bank building (now home to a Starbucks with its own semi-heraldic logo of a crowned melusine). On the corner of that bank building is a full achievement of arms: Arms, two crests, motto, and supporters.

The history of this bank, and those arms, goes back to the very early 1800s, when Raper Swann Clough Swann Bland & Raper (Swann & Clough's Bank) moved to this location in 1810. They were taken over by Beckett & Co., an old Leeds family banking firm, in 1879. (Beckett & Co. was amalgamated with the Westminster Bank in 1920.)

In 1816, Sir Edmund Beckett, 4th Baronet, assumed the name and arms of Denison on succeeding to the baronetcy. He resumed the family name of Beckett in 1872.

Sir Edmund Beckett-Denison, 5th Baronet, was created Baron Grimthorpe in 1886. On his death in 1905, he was succeeded by his nephew, Ernest William Beckett-Denison, 2nd Baron Grimthorpe, and the senior partner in Beckett & Co.

So with all that as background, let us take a closer look at this achievement of arms (as always, you can click on the image below to see a larger, more detailed copy of this photograph), the arms of Ernest, 2nd Baron Grimthorpe:

The arms of Beckett, shown here, are blazoned: Gules a fess between three boar’s heads couped* erminois. There are two crests: 1, A sinister cubit arms in bend vested vert cuffed ermine charged on the sleeve with a cross crosslet or the hand proper with the forefinger pointing to an estoile radiated or (Denison); and 2, A boar's head couped or pierced by a cross paty fitchy erect gules (Beckett). The supporters on each side are: A boar erminois gorged with a collar gules pendant therefrom an escutcheon gules charged with a cross pay fitchy or. Below on a scroll is the motto: Prodesse civibus (To benefit my fellow citizens).

I cannot speak for everyone, not even other heraldry enthusiasts, but I personally find researching some of the stories behind these displays of armory to be fascinating. I had no idea when I first photographed this achievement of arms how involved the story of its origins and its placement on the corner of this building in York would turn out.

* I cannot resist adding this little ditty about heraldic boar's heads from C.W. Scott-Giles' Motley Heraldry here:

    The boar's head couped in English fashion
    Includes the neck--a generous ration;
    In Scotland, when this charge appears
    It's cut off close behind the ears;
    But with the herald's wonted tact
    I draw no moral from this fact.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Personal Arms and a Civic Trust Badge

Yet another historical marker in York, England bears, in addition to the badge of the York Civic Trust (Azure a fleur-de-lys dimidiating Gules a crowned leopard's face or), a personal coat of arms.

The arms (on the upper left on the plaque. Feel free to click on the image above to go to a larger version which shows the arms, and badge, much more clearly) are those of Miles Coverdale (c1488-1569), Bishop of Exeter, a native of York, and are blazoned: Quarterly per fess indented gules and or three fleurs-de-lis two and one and three roses one and two all counterchanged. (An equally accurate, though longer, blazon would be: Quarterly per fess indented gules and or in chief a rose between two fleurs-de-lis and in base a fleur-de-lis between two roses all counterchanged.)

The booklet Heraldry and the Buildings of York, p. 81, notes the propriety of the placement of this historical plaque on the part of York Minster which housed its library from about 1420 until 1810.

Bishop Coverdale has his own entry in Wikipedia at Additionally, more information on Bishop Coverdale can be found on the website of the York Civic Trust at

So much information that can be found based on this one little heraldic marker in historic York!

And what an interesting coat of arms, as well!

Monday, October 23, 2023

Some Railway Heraldry in York

I'll just say it right here: The heraldry used by some of the British railway companies is both amazing and a bit appalling.

Amazing, because they both very heraldic and very colorful.

A bit appalling because they are often just collections of other heraldry mashed together onto a single, or as here, three, shields.

The North Eastern Railway, whose very heraldic logo? trademark? (certainly not really "arms") used the combined "arms" of the Leeds Northern, York & North Midland, and York, Newcastle & Berwick Railways, themselves comprised of the arms of different places or otherwise "meaningful" charges.

And I found them on display in a couple of different places in York.

The first (though the photograph here, taken with my old iPhone, is a bit out of focus) was seen, naturally enough, in the iron supports for the roof of the railway station in York.

The other, shown in several photographs from different angles below, was found on the façade of The Grand hotel, located just inside the old city wall and directly across from the railway station just outside the city wall.

Now here's a head-on view, which gives you a much better idea of what a conglomeration this particular arrangement of shields is. (Please click on the image below, or any of the ones above, to go to the full-size picture.)

The "arms" of the North Eastern Railway, consist of three shields conjoined:

1, Argent on a cross gules five lions passant guardant or (York);

2, (to dexter base) for the Leeds Northern Railway: Quarterly: i, Azure a fleece or on a chief sable three mullets argent (Leeds); ii, Azure on a sea vert a ship in full sail proper (West Hartlepool Harbour and Railway); iii, Azure three (should be two) bales (argent) resting on a floor or (should be sable); and iv, Sable (should be Gules) three garbs or. These last two quarters represent the line’s carriage of wool and corn; and

3, (to sinister base) for the York, Newcastle and Berwick Railway: Quarterly: i and iv, Argent on a cross gules five lions passant guardant or (York); ii, Gules three towers (of three turrets) argent (Newcastle); and iii, Argent on a grassy mount vert a bear collared and chained or standing in front of a wych-elm proper in fess two escutcheons of France and England quarterly, on a chief azure a king seated on a throne crowned and habited and holding an orb and scepter all proper (Berwick-upon-Tweed).

A detail that the eagle-eyed among you may notice is that in the Berwick arms, the Royal arms of England (Quarterly France modern and England) are here reversed, with the English (red) quarters in 1 and 4 and the French (blue) quarters in 2 and 3.

All in all, it's an amazing agglomeration of heraldry (and some simplified landscapes), but it's not something that really fulfills one of the underlying principles of heraldry, which is, or at least should be, quick and easy identification.

Still, it is colorful, isn't it?

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Speaking of the White Rose of York

In my last post, we looked at the heraldry on Lendal Bridge over the River Ouse in York.

One of those bits of heraldry was the badge of York, a white rose.

This badge can be found in use in a few other places around the city. For example:

This lovely little piece of heraldic ironwork consists of A double rose argent barbed and seeded proper, surrounded by a ring that says "City of York" and bearing a scroll with the words "C. Dearlove / Fetter Lane York" (the firm that cast this roundel).

Fetter Lane, where Dearlove was located, is in the old medieval city, south of Micklegate Bar, and joins Skeldergate, which runs parallel to the River Ouse. The Dearlove firm is not that old, having been established in the 19th Century.

This particular roundel is affixed to a metal gate on the steps of York's old city walls at Micklegate Bar. (We've looked at the heraldry on Micklegate Bar recently.)

Monday, October 16, 2023

Like an (Armorial) Bridge Over (Historically) Troubled Waters

The Lendal Bridge in York, England, is a Victorian cast iron bridge of a single (175 foot long) span over the River Ouse, which runs through the City. It opened on January 8, 1863, and replaced the Lendal Ferry there.

Being Victorian, and being of cast iron, there is a fair amount of heraldic decoration on the bridge.

In addition to the arms of the See of York (the red shield on the right spandrel of the bridge in the photograph above) and the arms of the City of York, there is also a lot of heraldry on the bridge itself:

Running the length of the bridge are repetitions of two shields and a badge, facing both the interior and the exterior of the bridge.

The first is the arms of England, Gules three lions passant guardant in pale or:

The second is the arms of the See of York, Gules two keys in saltire wards upwards argent in chief a Royal crown or:

And the badge is the white rose of York, A rose argent barbed and seeded proper:

In the center of the span, just above the arms of St. George (Argent a cross gules) that you can see in the first picture if you click on it to go to a larger copy), are two lamp standards, each of which consists of two lamps, a cypher in gold of the letters V and A (for Victoria and Albert), and surmounted by an angel holding the arms of St. George:

Here is a close-up of the angel (in white, with a blue robe and golden wings) holding the shield of St. George (Argent a cross gules), the patron saint of England.

All in all, a great display of heraldry on what is really just a utilitarian object: a bridge over a river. But it still looks good, doesn't it?*

* For some reason, I am reminded of the line that Yoda says to Luke in Star Wars, Episode 5, here slightly modified: "Look so good in 160 years you will not, hmm?"

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Heraldic Commemoration of the End of a Civil War Siege

In today's post, we look at one of the historical markers in York, England that commemorates the end of the siege of the City of York, where the Royalists surrendered the city on July 16, 1644 to the Parliamentary forces under generous terms that spared much destruction.

Like many of the commemorative markers in the city, this one bears the arms of the City of York (Argent on a cross gules five lions passant guardant or) and the badge of the York Civic Trust (Azure a fleur-de-lis dimidiating Gules a crowned leopard's face or) with arms of Fairfax: Or three bars gemel gules overall a lion rampant sable.

The arms are those of Ferdinando Fairfax, 2nd Lord Fairfax of Cameron (1584-1648), who was knighted in 1608, and served as General of the Parliamentary forces in the north during the Civil War. He was Governor of York 1644-48. He has a full page entry in the Dictionary of National Biography, as well as his own page in Wikipedia at,_2nd_Lord_Fairfax_of_Cameron.

Ferdinando's sone, Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax of Cameron (1612-1671) served under his father in the Parliamentary army, and was very likely involved in this siege, but he later supported the Restoration in 1660. Thomas has a page entry in the Dictionary of National Biography, so I’m clearly not going to repeat all of that information about him here. If you want something a little shorter, he, too, has his own Wikipedia page at

It seems to be pretty rare to find the arms of an individual on one of these memorial plaques, in addition to the arms of the City and the badge of the Civic Trust. Still, as the plaque itself notes, in 1994 (on the 350th anniversary of the surrender) it was unveiled by the Lord Mayor of York and Nicholas Cameron, 14th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, so these arms may be here as much because of the 14th Lord as they are because of the 2nd.

Either way, I always find it gratifying to see the use of a coat of arms by members of a family, years or even centuries (here, 3½ centuries) apart, don't you?

Monday, October 9, 2023

Royal and York Arms on Another City Gate

Moving along in my wanderings about the old City of York, England, I came to the next "bar", or gate, of the City which was also decorated with both the Royal Arms of England and the arms of the City of York.

This one was Monk Bar (originally known as Monkgate Bar), and I will let the explanatory plaque there give you the basics of its history:

But of course it was the heraldry on its face that drew me to it, even from a distance:

Above the peaked central arch, we find the Royal Arms of England flanked by two examples of the arms of the City of York:

The Royal Arms are Quarterly: 1 and 4, France modern; 2 and 3, England, the shield hanging from its guige and surmounted by a crowned barrel helmet on which rests the Royal crest, A lion passant guardant or. the whole beneath a Gothic canopy. (Admittedly, the lion looks more "statant" here, but who am I to quibble?)

And then, to the left and to the right placed a little lower than the Royal Arms, also beneath golden canopies, we find the arms of the City of York, Argent on a cross gules five lions passant guardant or:

I daresay, a display of heraldry designed to impress anyone marching up to the Bar.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

The _Other_ Side of Micklegate Bar, York

In comparison to the interior (City-side) of Micklegate Bar in York, England, the exterior (outward-facing) side of the Bar is much more highly-decorated with heraldry, in addition to the dramatic turrets and battlements and narrow windows and arrow slits.

Most noticeable, of course, are the Royal Arms of England as used from the time of King Edward III until King Henry IV reduced the number of fleurs-de-lis in the French quarters from many to three. Quarterly: 1 and 4, Azure semy-de-lis or; 2 and 3, Gules three lions passant guardant in pale or.

The Royal Arms, shown here hanging from the shield's guige, or strap, painted gold, are surmounted by a great helm atop which, issuant from a cap of maintenance, is a lion statant affronty.

The Royal Arms are flanked by two representations of the arms of the City of York: Argent on a cross gules five lions passant guardant or. Here, too, the shields are shown hanging by their golden guiges.

You may wish to click on the image above to see a larger, more detailed image of these shields.

And finally, immediately above the central arch of the Bar, is another shield, this one couched (displayed at an angle instead of upright), but also hanging from its guige:

The arms are those of Sir John Lister-Kaye, 1st Baronet (1772-1827), a noted English amateur cricketer in the late 18th century. An illegitimate son of a baronet, he was created a baronet in his own right in December 1812 when he inherited the Lister estates by will. Sir John's acquisition of the landed estates devised on him was the cause for entitlement for a baronetcy, when George III created a new title by patent on 28 December 1812. His land included the Manors of Burton (or Kirkburton), Woodsham, Shelley and other lands in Yorkshire.

Sir John's arms are blazoned: Quarterly: 1 and 4, Argent two bendlets sable (Kaye); 2 and 3, Ermine on a fess sable three mullets or (Lister); overall on an escutcheon, Argent a sinister hand couped appaumy gules. (The small escutcheon on the shield is, of course, the armorial insignia of a baronet.)

The date inscribed below the shield is incorrect; it should have another "C" in it. Micklegate Bar was renovated in 1827, not 1727.

Sir John's arms have been placed on the face of the Bar because before his death in 1827 he was Lord Mayor of York.

All in all, the arms on Micklegate Bar, the main gate into the City of York, make an impressive display for anyone riding up to the city, whatever their intentions (peaceful or otherwise) might have been.

Monday, October 2, 2023

The English Royal Arms in York

We've seen a number of places so far that display the arms of the City of York, and others that show the arms of the City as well as the badge of the York Civic Trust, and even others that display the badge of the Trust, sometimes alone, sometimes with other insignia.

But, of course, York has a long history, and a place in both the Wars of the Roses and the English Civil War.

Today's entry is the main of four "bars", or gates, to the old City, Micklegate Bar, whose lower portions date to the 12th Century. The stone facade on the upper stories, as is evident in the photo below, replaced a lath and plaster facing in the early 19th Century.

On it interior (toward the City) side, his bar bears the Royal arms of England, used from the time of King Henry IV through Queen Elizabeth I.

But of course it is the coat of arms that first caught my eye:

It was King Henry IV who, in imitation of King Charles V of France, reduced the number of fleurs-de-lis in the first and fourth quarters of the Royal arms to three. (Those quarters had been strewn with fleurs-de-lis from the time that King Edward III made his claim to the French throne.)*

The blazon for these arms is: Quarterly: 1 and 4, Azure three fleurs-de-lis or; 2 and 3, Gules three lions passant guardant in pale or.

Nothing says "This belongs to England!" like placing the arms of the King or Queen prominently upon it, am I right?

* This strewing of a field with an unnumbered set of charges, e.g., semy-de-lis/semy of fleurs-de-lis, has led over the years to the old joke that heralds can only count so high; specifically, "one, two, three, four, five, six, many/semy."