Bradfer-Lawrence - a rather different kind of collection


Heraldry is a system of symbols used to represent individuals and families. It developed in western Europe in the 12th century. Ancient Greeks and Egyptians had worn crests on their helmets and carried standards into battle, so that troops could distinguish friends from enemies from afar. For the same reason knights had symbols, or ‘devices’ painted on their shields, to identify themselves in battle and in tournaments. When knights from many lands had come together during the Crusades, it was important for them to recognise each other under their armour. The devices on shields and banners were handed down from father to son, and when families were linked by marriage the devices of that other family might be added to the coat of arms. They could get very complicated.
The special words used to describe heraldic symbols are based on old French, as the Normans were among the first to use heraldic symbols.
The knight used the same symbols on his lance flag, shield, surcoat (linen tunic worn over chain mail) and seal. Later on, coats of arms were also carved out of stone and placed over the front door of houses, or were painted on glass windows.

Look at the coat of arms of the Lister family, Barons Ribblesdale

page one
link to full-size image  

This coat of arms is described in heraldic language as:
Ermine, on a fess sable, three mullets or
This means:
Background decorated like ermine fur, with three gold spur shapes on a black
horizontal band.
In heraldry, stars always have six wavy rays. Devices with five straight rays or spikes, like horsemen’s spurs, are called mullets.
The ‘supporters’ on either side are described: Dexter, a stag regardant sable attired and unguled or, charged on the body with an eagle displayed of the last gorged with a collar of SS and portcullises gold. Sinister, a bay horse bridled, saddled, and supporting a staff, proper headed or, with a banner vert fringed and charged with the letters YLD (meaning Yorkshire Light Dragoons).
The crest is described: a stag’s head erased per fess proper and gules attired or, differenced with a crescent.
1. Can you work out what any of it means?

Look at the pages in the volume of Yorkshire pedigrees and coats of arms

heraldry illustrations
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Some symbols seem odd choices for a shield. The yellow object on the middle shield on the bottom row on p119 is a ‘maunch’ the heraldic word for ‘sleeve’.
30 separate coats of arms make up the splendid large shield on p.120. They represent the different families with which the Savile family of Eland were connected.
Animals such as lions and deer, and the fess (a broad horizontal band) and chevrons are commonly found on coats of arms.
1. Find out more about the symbols used on coats of arms
2. Design a coat of arms for yourself: use any symbols you like, or which relate to your family or town.