Great Dunmow: Coat of Arms Great Dunmow Town Council Great Dunmow Town Hall


Great Dunmow: Armorial BearingsOn 20 April 1956, Great Dunmow became one of the few Parish Councils (probably less than five) to use armorial bearings (commonly called "Coat of Arms") officially granted by the College of Heralds. The Grant of Arms document is a piece of vellum about 21 inches wide by 15 inches deep. At the top is a painting of the newly-granted arms and the arms of the Duke of Norfolk as Earl Marshall, the Sovereign as the Fountain of Honour, and the College of Heralds itself. The grant is authenticated by the signatures of the Kings of Arms: Sir George Bellew, Garter; Sir John Heaton-Armstrong, Clarenceaux; and Sir Gerald Wollaston, Norroy and Ulster. Below each signature is the appropriate seal of office contained in a metal skippet.

The description of the actual arms granted to Great Dunmow Parish Council is in the traditional language still used by Heralds:

'Gules on a chevron between in chief two Fleurs de lys and in base a Lion rampant Or grasping in the dexter forepaw a Civic Mace Argent a Pomegranate slipped leaved and seeded proper between two Mascles chevronwise of the first.'

The crest is described as:

'On a woolpack proper a Boar passant Azure armed unguled and charged on the flank with three Crescents two and one Or holding in the mouth three stalks of Barley and a spray of Hops also proper.'

In modern terms this description means that:

'The shield is red with two golden fleurs de lys at the top. The chevron (the figure like two rafters meeting) is gold, and on it are two hollow diamond shapes (mascles) in red, between them a pomegranate on a stalk with two sprays of leaves all in natural colours. The base of the shield is occupied by a golden lion rampant holding a silver mace.'

The crest is:

'A woolpack on which stands a blue boar with golden hooves and tusks and three golden crescents on his side: in his mouth are hops and barley in their natural colours.'

Armorial Bearings were originally worn to aid identification on the battlefield. Later corporate bodies such as towns, cities, cathedrals and guilds adopted the idea and had armorial bearings designed to show their own connections and functions. Great Dunmow's armorial bearings are a 'potted history' of the town.

There were seven manors of Great Dunmow - those of Great Dunmow, Marks, Newton Hall, Olaves, Martels, Bigods and South Hall - and one reputed manor, Minchins.

The descent of these manors from the time of Domesday was investigated, and it was found that the predominant colours in the arms of the families who held these manorial lordships were red and gold. Chevrons occurred five times, fleurs de lys twice and mascles once.

These devices provided the basis of the design, and a silver mace was placed in the lion's right paw to show that Great Dunmow once enjoyed Borough status. The two red mascles point to the Ferrers family whose shield bore seven masc1es and whose arms were formerly over the West door of the Church.

Alianore de Ferrers married into the Fitzwalter family of Canfield Castle, whose seal matrix at the British Museum also bears the device. Robert Fitzwalter was the leader of the Barons at the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. So we have a hidden reference to another important local family, the Fitzwalters.

Great Dunmow: Armorial Bearings on Town Sign at Threaders GreenThe shape and position of the mascles directs the eye to the pomegranate. This is included to recall the fact that Henry VIII granted the manor of Great Dunmow to Queen Catherine of Aragon as part of her dower in l509. The pomegranate is the badge of the House of Aragon.

The fleur de lys, the emblem of the Virgin Mary, is given a place of honour because Great Dunmow Parish Church is so dedicated. Fleur de lys were also an outstanding feature in the arms of the Beaumont and Jenoure families.

The shield commemorates, either by colour or charges, no less than sixteen families and eight manors or reputed manors; it also contains allusions to the church, to the town as a borough, and to a former Queen of England.

The crest brings the history nearer to our times, although both the brewing and bacon industries are now gone from the town. The boar was put on a woolpack as a reminder that the town owed some of its early wealth to the wool trade, but that it was supported by the brewing and bacon industries.

The boar is blue, a colour which may be found in the arms of six important local families; the animal's feet are gold to signify that it brought prosperity to the parish. His tusks are also gold to conform with heraldic practice, and on his flanks are golden crescents taken from the arms of Henniker, Doreward and Bigod. The reason for the hops and barley is again to commemorate brewing.

The motto, May Dunmow Prosper, is that which occurs on a token, now in the British Museum, which was issued at Great Dunmow in 1793. The "Letters Patent", as the Grant of Arms of is termed, are in the custody of Great Dunmow Town Council. A ceremony to record the granting of Arms to the Council was held in the E.T. Foakes Memorial Hall on Saturday 28 July 1956 at 2.30pm. Guests and visitors were welcomed by Mr F.C. Culf, the Chairman. The Letters Patent recording the Armorial Bearings were presented to the Chairman by the Sponsors, Mr William Edwards and Mr Ernest J. Holloway. Prayers were led by the Vicar of Great Dunmow, the Reverend D.T. Callum. These were followed by expressions of thanks and goodwill by Representative Guests and Visitors to the Sponsors and to Mr Francis W. Steer, Archivist to the County of Sussex, researcher, designer and negotiator with the College of Heralds, of the Armorial Bearings. Mr Steer gave an address and received a presentation in recognition of his voluntary work in obtaining the Armorial Bearings for the Council.