Arms of some of the English Counties
In total contrast to the system in the USA, the word “county” is not part of the name of English counties, with the sole exception of County Durham, where it precedes the main part of the name in the same way as in all Irish counties. The American form of having the word “county” after the the main name is always wrong in referring to a county in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Many, but by no means all, have the syllable “-shire” as the last part of the name, and in a few cases this was normal use once but is slowly being dropped. Examples of counties which are losing or have lost their suffix in this way are Devon(shire), Dorset and Somerset.
Hundred and Wapentake
These are similar sub-divisions of counties, introduced in the 10th century primarily as a unit of taxation but also having administrative, judicial and military functions. The two names relate to the division of the country into the Danelaw in the north, where the term wapentake was used, and the Anglo-Saxon south which used the term hundred. The name hundred relates to the original size of 100 hides of land (roughly 12,000 acres on average, but very variable).
Most parishes were originally the area served by a local church, and were (still are in many cases) synonymous with the village in which the church was situated, although outlying dwellings and farms away from the main village were normally included. It must be realised, however, that parishes varied enormously in size, some, especially in the wilder, uncultivated areas, extending for many miles. In some areas a single parish covered a great number of separate settlements (up to 35 in one Cheshire example). Urban parishes in older cities tended to be small in area, with quite a number of separate parishes within a single city (over 40 each in Norwich and York, for example), whereas newer cities tended to have a single parish despite their large population, until they were split up in the middle of the 19th century.
Parishes also varied greatly in age. Although most medieval parishes had been formed by 1200, many were already hundreds of years old by that time. Many more were formed during the great growth in population in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The concept of a civil parish was introduced in Tudor times, when they were given responsibility for upkeep of highways, caring for the poor and for the less serious aspects of law enforcement. Where the ecclesiastical parish was reasonably small in population it normally corresponded with the civil one, but if the ecclesiastical parish was very large it was divided up into a number of civil parishes.
Although the original English Counties date back many hundreds of years, their Coats of Arms are of twentieth-century origin, though based on traditional motifs and devices.
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The Arms below relate to those counties that feature most prominently in the genealogy on this site.
The arms were granted in 1903.
The arms are quite simple, showing the famous red rose of Lancaster in a distinctive design. The red rose appears in most Lancashire towns and districts. The crest and supporters are derived from the arms of the Ferrers family, earls of Derby. The lions, mascule and vair pattern all feature in tha arms of the family who have been prominent land owners in the county.
The motto means “There is wisdom in counsel“.
LINCOLNSHIRE (Parts of Holland)
The arms were officially granted in 1977.
Motto : ‘In Unity We Serve‘
The wavy bend symbolises the coastline and the many waterways in the county. The ermine bend symbolises Ermine Street, a Roman road that runs through the county. The two fleur-de-lis are taken from the arms of the city of Lincoln.
The lapwing on the crest is a typical bird in the county. The two feathers on the crest are the symbol of the Prince of Wales and symbolise the fact that on 7th February 1301 King Edward I granted his son the title of Prince of Wales, near Nettleham in the county.The supporters are the so-called Lincolnshire Yellowbellies, or soldiers of the 10th Regiment of Foot.
The arms were granted in 1938.
The shield displays the trio of golden wheatsheaves on blue which have been associated with the Earldom of Chester since the late 12th century. The shield is the same as that known to have been used as the city arms of Chester in 1560 and which can be seen on the bridge at Eastgate, Chester.
The crest is a royal lion between two ostrich feathers, referring to the Principality and Palatinate, upon a red mural crown alluding to Chester’s sandstone walls. The feathers franking the shield are supported by gold lions derived from the arms of the third and fourth Earls of Chester.
Motto : JURE ET DIGNITATE GLADII – “By the right and dignity of the Sword”
The arms were granted in 1937.
The shield shows the natural features of the county. The wave is for River Trent and the oak tree for Sherwood Forest. The crest has a golden mural crown, symbolising local government. A garb rises from the crown, which is itself charged with a black shovel blade. These two charges represent agriculture and coal mining, the two traditional sources of employment in the county.
Motto : SAPIENTER PROFICIENS – “Progress with wisdom“