Exploring Coats of Arms

When i’m not studying National Heritage and History I moonlight as a storyteller and one half of a writing team with Kevin Brooke published Children’s author from Worcestershire.

This weekend as part of World Heritage Day [19-20 September] we were invited to Harlebury Castle to make some stories about their history and preform them to visitors on the day.

Hartlebury Castle tells the story of the bishops of a major middle England plot of land and their evolving role in English society, from political and military guardians of a frontier with Wales to active participants in political decision making in modern times. They number a pope (Clement VII) who played a key role in precipitating the establishment of the Church of England; Bishops Latimer and Hooper, Protestant martyrs of the Reformation; and Bishop Hurd, friend to King George III and creator of the Hurd Library.

The great hall at Hartlebury has some of the most interesting and rare examples of Coats of Arms and the Hurd library too contains much of the information in its ancient books on how and why we have Coats of arms.

So, how did shields become Coats of Arms?

The ancient Romans used various symbols called insignia on their shields so that they could identify their different military units of soldiers.

The first real use of what we now know as coats of arms is portrayed in the Bayeux Tapestry which illustrates the Norman invasion of 1066, where some of the soldiers are carrying shields that have crosses and other symbols painted on them. However, by the 1100s, coats of arms came into more general use by feudal lords and knights in a battle to identify their soldiers and their opponents. By the 1200s, coats of arms had become a flag or emblem for noble families and inherited from one generation to the next. In Britain, only the aristocracy had the right to arms, with their serfs, servants and knights having these emblems as part of their ‘uniform’ when fighting on the battlefield for their Lord and Master. Eventually, the use of arms spread to the clergy, to towns, and places such as universities and trading companies; and so flags developed from coats of arms. The coats of arms that we are familiar with today were originally one person’s emblem. They were legal property which passed from father to son; however, wives and daughters could bear modified arms to show that they were related to the current holder. Other relatives of the original bearer of arms could use the family coat of arms but with a little bit of difference; maybe a colour change or an extra emblem. Coats of arms were essential in identifying people and used in seals on critical legal documents, and so their use was closely controlled. All coats of arms were tracked and recorded by heralds or agents to the King or Queen. which is why the study of coats of arms is called ‘heraldry.’

Did you know that the colours, animal, fruits, flowers and other objects used on the coats of arms all have different meanings?

Here are some of the meanings of the most used colours:

  • White stands for purity, innocence, peace and honesty
  • Gold stands for wisdom, glory, generosity and grandness
  • Green stands for happiness, love, and well-being
  • Red stands for strength and bravery
  • Purple stands for justice and is a royal colour used by Kings and Queens
  • Black stands for wisdom and sometimes grief
  • Blue stands for truth, strength and honour

The animals, fruit and flowers on coats of arms also have special meanings, here are some of the most used ones:

  • Apples, berries and grapes mean kindness, happiness and peace
  • Bay leaves stand for a poet or triumph
  • Oak trees or leave mean great strength and age
  • Olive branches or leavesstandfor peace and harmony
  • Roses are the mark of the seventh son -a red rose means grace and beauty; a white rosemeans love and faith
  • Bear stands for strength, cunning and defending your family
  • Dolphinmeans swiftness, love, charity and salvation
  • Dovemeans love and peace
  • Eagle is the sign for someone with a noble nature, bravery, strength and protection
  • Elephantmeans strength, happiness, luck and royalty
  • The horse stands for being ready for anything to do good for King and country
  • Lamb means gentleness and patience
  • The lion stands for great courage
  • Stagger stag’s antlers mean peace, harmony, strength and stamina
  • Swan means light, love, grace and perfection
  • Tiger stands for fierceness, bravery and fury

Mythological creatures are also often used on coats of arms, and these also have special meanings:

  • The dragon stands for a defender of treasure, courage and protection
  • Mermaidmeans eloquence
  • Pegasus (a winged horse)is the sign for inspiration and is considered a messenger of God
  • Phoenix is a symbol of resurrection
  • Sphinxstands for secrecy and knowledge
  • Unicorn(a horse with one horn)stands for extreme bravery, strength and truth

Crosses and angels are a sign of Christianity and stand for dignity, honour and glory.

here are some other meanings of the different angels and crosses you sometimes find on coats of arms :

  • An angel or a cherub means dignity, glory and honour and joyful news
  • Cross is a sign for faith and service in the Crusades
  • Celtic Cross shows heaven and earth as one
  • Cross Flory (flowered at each end)means one who has conquered
  • Seraphim(angel with three pairs of wings)means bearer of joyful news

Some other objects are also included on coats of arms and their meanings:

  • Anchor means hope
  • Bells mean the banning of evil spirits
  • Harp stands for the bridge between heaven and earth and also for a person who has good judgement
  • A plume of feathers is a sign of obedience and peaceful minds
  • Shell stands for a traveller to far off places
  • Sword, dagger or dart shows justice and military honour

Hope this helps you make or enjoy your own Coat of Arms.

Romancing the Gibbet (4) The Morrismen Murder

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‘Romancing the Gibbet’ is a collaboration between poet, Ralph Hoyte and historian, Steve Poole, exploring ‘dark tourism’ at sites of extraordinary public execution in Georgian Britain. Poole explains the historical background of a single public hanging. A case from 1772, when William Keeley was found guilty of murdering Joseph Dyer after spotting him flashing his money at the old Fish Inn on Broadway Hill. Evidence old and new was shown, and the site discussed. Amazingly despite the cost, Keeley was hung at the site of the murder and put on display. Having a hanging gibbet was both fascinating and appalling to folks at the time, and oddly the act of displaying the dead as a deterrent to crime has not proven to lower nor raise the area’s crime rate. The Oxford Journal at the time commented: “It seems that Keeley is a famous Morrice dancer, and on Sunday morning before the fact was committed, he was teaching a set of fellows to dance. Warner used to play on the tabor and pipe to the dancers. It is to be hoped the Justices will suppress such nurseries of idleness and drunkenness as morrice-dancings have generally proved!”, in other words, they considered Morris Dancing especially on a Sunday to be a waste of a good mans time. Hoyte then performs extracts from his poetic responses. Together Poole and Hoyte play some spoken-word imaginative responses too, Influenced by the works of the romantics Coldridge and Wordsworth; their study of nature and human nature combined and compared in verse. We listen to the Ballard and mixed voice performance with a sense of the subline. The project has four free audio trails. At this event, a sample audio-trail was relocated in and around Broadway Tower for us to try out. Adding the performance elements and music to the location even if you are listening through your phone was something extraordinary and very atmospheric. With the day we attended filled with cold mists and temperature in the low 2 degrees, it was easy to imagine being on a ghost trail of long ago folklore.

Remembering to download the app to your phone or GPS-enabled tablet beforehand would have helped me keep up. However, this event has inspired me much on my search for local history stories and folk tales to find and preserve for the next generation of creatives to use.

Falconry in the Wind

“Why don’t you take your birds to shows?” she asked me.

Falconry is actually not displaying birds at shows. The obvious problem with falconry as a display is that these birds are trained to chase down and kill small things, often other birds. So, if James was actually to fly his best bird the first thing Blitz the Harrier Hark would do is…

Yep, kill our Brown Owl Sophie who sits happily on a wooden stump at the park waiting her turn to fetch the dead chick and eat it.

However, Not far from Kidderminster the Falconry Center house and display a wide variety of birds of prey native to the UK, and even some from far off places. (not a pun) They are a small team of really good handlers and It makes great family entertainment.

So if you want a display at your fate or school these are the right kind of people to call. They even offer different bird of prey handling experiences at their centre too!

I took some photos at the resent show…

The Falconry Centre (Hagley)
Kidderminster Road South, Hagley,
West Midlands, DY9 0JB

Tel: 01562 700014   E-mail: info@thefalconrycentre.co.uk

Hartlebury Castle (The Bishop’s Palace)

The land that Hartlebury Castle sits on was granted to the Bishop of Worcester by King Burghred in the late 9th century, although the foundations of the building that now stands here are believed to date back to the 13th century. 

Since the 12th century, it has been a centre of ecclesiastical and administrative power in Worcestershire with its resident bishops involved in some of the significant events of British history from political and military guardians of a frontier with Wales to active participants in political decision making in modern times.

The building is grade 1 listed and it contains the famous Hurd Library was built by Bishop Hurd in 1782. It still contains his extensive and unique collection of books including works from the libraries of Alexander Pope and William Warburton. The copy of the Iliad from which Pope’s translation was made is among them.

The grounds include a period cider mill, A Transport Gallery which has amazing Romney Gypsy wagons and The Worcestershire County Museum which houses the servants’ quarters of Hartlebury Castle. The house also has the period rooms which displays including a schoolroom, nursery and scullery, and Victorian, Georgian and Civil War rooms. The exhibits focus on local history and include toys, archaeology, costumes, crafts by the Bromsgrove Guild, local industry, and area geology and natural history. You are now able to walk along the old moat and enjoy local produce at the shop. 

We had a fantastic time, and hope you will take a trip to Hartlebury Castle too.

 

BRISTOL HARBOUR FESTIVAL 2018

For many people the Bristol Harbour festival is an opportunity to celebrate the heart of the beautiful city, and the harbour itself.

In 1802, famous architect William Jessop proposed installing a dam and lock at Hotwells to create the floating harbour and a £530,000 scheme was approved by Parliament. Construction began in May 1804 and today the Harbour still provides the city with a bustling centre filled with activity. 

The docks used to be a vital part of Bristol’s economy but in the second half of the 20th Century its prominence began to fade, its economic power waned and questions were asked about what to do with the waterway and the land alongside it. Sadly the Port of Bristol Authority decided to close the city centre docks in the 1960s.

Local groups took up the fight to save the docks, and the first Harbour Festival in 1971 was a massive part of the plan. The festival is free for all and brings over 250,000 people together each summer to celebrate Bristol’s rich maritime history and enjoy some of the city’s best music and entertainment. 

“CIRCUS SKILLS. STREET DANCE ACTS. BOLLYWOOD MOVES. FIREBRAND STREET POETS. ALL THESE AND MORE WILL FEATURE THROUGHOUT THE WEEKEND.CATERING FOR ALL AGES, A PACKED PROGRAMME OF ENTERTAINMENT HAS BEEN PUT TOGETHER TO ENSURE THERE’S SOMETHING FUN AROUND EVERY CORNER.”

[https://www.bristolharbourfestival.co.uk/]

Bristol two weeks circus

2018 is the 250th anniversary of modern circus in Britain and there are celebrations taking place throughout the year all over the country. Here Bristol is the UK’s leading City of Circus, with the largest concentration of circus professionals living and working in the city.

Cirque Bijou are Bristol-based show-makers who push the boundaries of contemporary
circus, street theatre and spectacle to make work that is unexpected, unforgettable and
celebratory.

Circomedia (founded in 1993 by Bim Mason and Helen Crocker,) is a school for contemporary circus and physical theatre based in BristolEngland.The school offers a variety of training courses and workshops that teach circus skills in the context of physical theatre, performance and creativity.

 

Travel journal

An Oxford education

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A captured and stolen history can be found in Oxford. Its museums, galleries and universities; pool, collate, and collect culture. Its own British Empire heritage and that of its once discovered or conquered limits. All boxed and viewed in glass. It holds it up showing it off and in its own way Oxford holds itself up in high regard.

Is it always beauty and class?

I hold education in high regard. I am in awe of well cultured and educated people. I want to be educated too. Even if I am only from a council estate in middle England.

We took the opportunity to be on a coach trip to Oxford and see the free wealth of culture. I enjoyed being part of the art class again, only this time not as their art technician but as a student instead.

Architecture in historical abundance is the result of a stone built medieval town in England; small enough to explore on foot. History and education side-by-side in my favourite place, Radcliffe Square. After coffee and delicious homemade cakes in the Vaults & Garden, in the crypt of the University Church we had recovered from the long coach trip. We were now sketching people busy in the open market along the street.

The distance travelled in traffic jams I dislike a great deal. Oxford was built long before the combustion engine was invented. So motor vehicle access is restricted and parking expensive. Walk or cycle instead is the preferred mode of transportation for most.

My academic and creative brain went wild in an atmosphere cram packed with stories and mysteries from the ages gone by. I was so tired when I got back to the coach.

The light of the Ashmolean museum full to the brim with world Art. It made my eyes water they could not physically stare any longer over the patterns and shaped culture and beauty. The natural history museum’s open hall and stone-flagged floors contradicted to the dark and depths of Pitt Rivers snug atmosphere comparable to a Cotswold farmhouse. This one building brought me to the floor in stunned admiration. I had wondered around learning about evolution, and why animals have developed the way they have according to their environments (I felt like a boffin in the making) when I walked haphazardly through a carved archway. This was like having been drinking crisp bitter tea, then shoving a tray of dark chocolate sweets into one’s mouth. Pitt Rivers museum is a part of the natural history building yet is very different. A deep dark jungle of discovery that had belonged to one very enthusiastic collector. Many items are displayed together at once. There is no sorting except for the helpful staff “pots and pans there, boats over here, jewellery, swords, shields, are on the next floor and the Gods are to the left of the big totem pole Madame”- my case in point.

So I don’t know which kind class you may be. However, I’m sure in Oxford you will find beauty.

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Journal entry artist date.

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Malvern Moments

“Even if you start the day late, don’t give up on it.” More of my wise grandad’s advice. When applied to my life the advice becomes punchier. More like – NEVER GIVE IN, NEVER SURENDER!

My son Joshua had a melt down before I even got to the alarm clock to turn off the nagging ring tone. I knew it was going to be a busy day and as I wrestled four children and two dogs into place, the clock was on me. We were supposed to meet as a group at Worcester train station. The black little car I drive beat on surpassing a very surprised looking BMW driver. Just at the edge of the town centre I thought I’d caught up; but Forgate Street was a wall of buses, pedestrians walking in and out of the traffic. It was almost as if the walking masses were laughing at us. We who are in metal cages in an assembly line begging this world to move that bit faster. 2 minutes until they (my group) get on the train to Malvern I had found a parking space. Looking up the hill from the car park to the station a good 3 minutes’ walk away; I decided I best not bother putting by £4.50 in the meter. Jumping back into my warm black car I thought “I could beat that train to Malvern, it’s not that far, and it’s not rush hour now.”

Go on, you can laugh, I don’t mind.

As you can guess of course I didn’t catch up with them. Two wrong turns, and arriving at Malvern Link station and not Great Malvern station where the group had gone to. This meant I had to surrender the one target for today.

However, I am a chirpy and up beat kind of Miss, so I explored Malvern on my own. I knew that our tutor had set one task of travel writing and I was guessing the other was a life writing task. So I set about finding a car park and getting lost some more.

Malvern is brilliant, and very steep. The Worcester Way Walk which I followed was a glute burner of a walking track. Yet all the huff and puff pays off to a remarkable view. Looking down at the town’s mishmash of different styles of buildings from tall spired medieval churches and grand Victorian homes to the jolly clad Georgian and the wacky modern architecture. Then I looked out for miles of Worcestershire countryside. More of the cloud was lifting as the day had now warmed. Bit like me too who was peeling off layers of coat and hoodie.

I found a rose garden on a hillside, and a beautiful park. As I wandered round Great Malvern, I explored the different range of home-grown talent hidden in the art shops and cafés. I found hidden sculptures and hidden springs in the public parks. I may have been traveling downhill to my car but the pleasantness of day was surely picking up. Lazily day dreaming on a wooden bridge over a duck pond was rudely interrupted by that blasted alarm clock on my phone. It was time to head back to the university’s campus.

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4 hours Wyre-ed

  
Took a long autumn walk today for my 4 hours Artist Date. The Wyre Forest is so beautiful in the early morning light. Which also provided some interesting shots and solitary moments.

We love bringing our children to Wyre Forest. We’ve visited a number of times and thoroughly enjoyed the forest walks on both occasions. We visited yesterday and had the same great feeling from the short walk to see the Gruffalo.Joanna Timms, 26th September 

Tara Books visits Worcesters Hive

Tom and I were fortunate to get an invitation to join Worcester universities Illustration students in meeting an inspiring woman named Gita Wolf. Tara books was set up in 1994 its founder Gita Wolf has been traveling around Europe to raise awareness of the project.

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Avid supporters of the children’s library at Worcestershire Hive will know how the university’s English and illustration departments are keen to bring a wide range of new and attractive projects to young people in the area. This new project comes to us from India. Gita is a publisher who goes out into the rural and small towns in India to seek out artist and cultural stories. Her aim is to exchange these for education and money for the artist and the town or village they live in. Gita herself was born in India and then moved to Germany to study retuning to India to begin this new project. Artist and stories are not the only part of this bold project. Tara Books is also an environmentally sourced project and supports local business and training in hand published books with in central India. Part of the fair trade organisation with 25 artisans they produce 3,000 books at a time screen printed and bound by hand.  That’s a 110 screen prints made a day; every page is screen printed including the words and cover art. 

 Talking to Gita you get a real feel for the love and passion in this project. “It’s not just by vision anymore its organic. The artist and community take it up and really infuse their traditional and imaginative energy into each part. We know we are a publishers who straggle two worlds and we love to share the benefits and diversity with both. We are honoured to enable creative voices to be heard. Independent publishing really helps to encourage diversity and awareness in communities.

Our stories are for all walks of life and we love tactile materials. It really matters to us the sense of craftsmanship and quality of production we want some focus to come back to that in today’s industry. There is room for both the digital and the handmade; I myself own an tablet for reading and writing but I truly value what I can hold in my hand. What it feels and smells like a sense that it has be touched by its creator and their own personal spirit is in it.” – Gita Wolf 2015

 

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