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?

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