22 May 2008

Birmingham coat of arms - Council House gate

Back to the Council House - this time for Birmingham's coat of arms displayed on the gate. This gate is located on the same side as the Museum & Art Gallery.

Birmingham's first coat of arms was more of a seal and comprised the shield of the de Bermingham family within a wreath, with the motto 'Forward' underneath.

When Birmingham gained city status in 1889, it celebrated by applying for a grant applied for at the College of Arms for supporters (the figures either side of a coat of arms). It was pointed out that as Birmingham's coat of arms had never been officially granted, so in April 1889, the College of Arms granted the city a full, though altered coat of arms.

The alterations included an ermine fess (central horizontal band), taken from the Calthorpe family arms and a mural crown made of bricks which represented local government.

A man's right arm holding a hammer, protruding from another brick-formed mural crown was assigned for the crest to represent industry.

The supporter on the left, representing industry, was a man clad as a blacksmith and holding a hammer, the end of which was resting on an anvil. The supporter on the right symbolised art and was a woman clothed in a white dress and was holding brushes and an artist's pallet in one hand and a red book in the other.

The motto 'Forward' was kept.

This was altered again in between 1930 and 1936 - this time the supporters stood upon a grassy compartment (the area the supporters stand on) and a helm (helmet) with blue and yellow mantling (decorative fabric around the helm) was added underneath the wreath.

In 1974, the old Birmingham corporation changed, this time including the Borough of Sutton Coldfield. This change necessitated yet another alteration of the coat of arms. The fess was exchanged with a cross and the mural crown in the centre of the sheild was replaced by a bishop's mitre (hat). A Tudor rose was added to the mural crown on the crest and the supporters moved to opposite sides of the sheild and the man given a cupel to hold as well as his hammer. A cupel is a tool used in the making of jewellery which is a big part of Birmingham's history. The grassy compartment was removed.

The Birmingham coat of arms is now blazoned thus:

Quarterly first and fourth Azure, a Bend of five Lozenges conjoined Or, second and third per Pale indented Or and Gules overall a Cross Ermine thereon a Mitre Proper. On a Wreath Or and Azure issuant from a Mural Crown Or charged with a Rose Gules charged with another Argent barbed and seeded Proper, a dexter Arm embowed the hand holding a Hammer all Proper Mantled Azure doubled Or. For the Supporters, on the dexter side a Female Figure Proper vested Argent wreathed round the temples with a Laurel Vert tied by a Riband Gules holding in the sinister hand resting on the Shield a Book bound also Gules and in the dexter a Painter's Palette Or with two Brushes Proper and on the sinister side a Man habited as a Smith holding in the dexter hand resting on the Shield a Cupel and in the sinister a Hammer resting on an Anvil all Proper.

Birmingham City Council's website has a short list of heraldic terms used in this blazon, but have a couple of inaccuracies. Here is a more (I hope) accurate list:

argent - silver or white
azure - blue
bend - a band crossing the shield diagonally from dexter chief to sinister base
dexter - the right-hand side (of the wearer, i.e. the spectator's left)
embowed - bent (like a bow)
gules - red
lozenge - a diamond (as on a playing card)
mural - like a wall
or - gold or yellow
per pale - a pale is a vertical band down the middle of a shield. A per pale is a pale consisting only of a line, thus dividing the shield
proper - in natural colours
quarterly - by quarters of the shield in the following order:-
1st - Dexter chief (spectator's top left)
2nd - sinister chief (spectator's top right)
3rd -dexter base (spectator's bottom left)
4th -sinister base (spectator's bottom right)
sinister - the left-hand side (of the wearer, ie. the spectator's right)
vert - green

The gate in the photograph shows the shield from the coat of arms used between 1889-1977.


babooshka said...

This is a really fantastic post. Jam packed with info to illustrate the image.


I have been searching for the coat of arms which corresponds to the medal I acquired a year ago from a friend which states on the obverse MIDLAND BANK ATHLETIC CLUB which surrounds the coat of arms where half of it looks like the one on the gate but the the other half shows a cross with a small sword on the left shoulder of the cross. on the reverse shows a wreath that surrounds the words: 1927 HIGH JUMP WON BY J.G. DAVIES. Pls. give information on. Thanks! my email add is abemb_ph@yahoo.com

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